A Note from the Editors Regarding Loki in the White House
December 2nd, 2018
Dear Readers of The Wild Hunt:
Since the publication of Loki in the White House, the column has been discussed at length across the Pagan internet. To say that its portrayal of Loki, and its comparison of Loki to Donald Trump, has been regarded as controversial would be an understatement. The Lokean community in particular has strongly criticized the column, with many feeling that it was tantamount to a call for Heathens to cut ties with Lokeans altogether. (A group of Lokeans sent a letter to The Wild Hunt calling for amendments or a retraction to the column; that letter can be read here.)
At The Wild Hunt, we are proud to have writers from many different backgrounds represented in our roster of regular columnists, including multiple writers of color, writers from outside the Anglosphere, and writers of queer identities – not to mention writers from many different approaches to Paganism. We see our commentary section as a place for these voices to have the freedom to analyze, critique, and debate issues of interest to Pagans in deep and challenging ways.
[The following is a guest post from Sabina Magliocco. Sabina Magliocco Ph.D. is professor of Anthropology and Folklore at California State University, Northridge (CSUN). She is an author of non-fiction books and journal articles about folklore, religion, religious festivals, foodways, Witchcraft and Paganism in Europe and the United States. A recipient of fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, National Endowment for the Humanities, Fulbright Program and Hewlett Foundation, Magliocco is an honorary fellow of the American Folklore Society.]
I am very grateful to Jason Pitzl-Waters for making this blog available to me to expand upon Prof. Patrick Wolff’s summary of my keynote presentation, entitled “The Rise of Pagan Fundamentalism,” at the Conference for Contemporary Pagan Studies at the Claremont Graduate Institute in Claremont, California on January 26, 2013. It’s exciting that people have been discussing some of the ideas I presented, because that was exactly my goal: open discussion and critical self-reflection are healthy in any religious movement, and can help prevent the kind of rigidity and dogmatism that I critiqued in my talk. At the same time, certain questions have been raised about my work, and I hope that I can address some of them here. Let’s start with the first one: what did I mean by “Pagan fundamentalism,” and how can a concept that developed to describe a Protestant movement based on literal biblical interpretations and tenets of faith even apply to modern Paganisms? The application of the term “fundamentalism” to modern Paganisms is problematic, and I adopt it with some caution, because I’m well aware that it has often been used by those in power to stigmatize worldviews that differ from the mainstream. I defined it as a form of ideology, religious or secular, characterized by a black-and-white, either-or, us-vs.-them morality that precludes questioning. It generally involves insistence on belief in the literal truth of some canon, as well as a concern with identity politics and boundary-setting. Fundamentalisms are inflexible and have difficulty adapting; they have a strong need for certainty and a clear sense of belonging, and anyone who disagrees is labeled an enemy or heretic. My adoption of the term was both descriptive and provocative: I wanted to foster awareness and discussion about strains of ideology that could be deleterious to modern Paganisms.
So, are modern Paganisms fundamentalist according to this definition? On the whole, no. Dogmatism and rigidity are rare among most modern Pagans. Nevertheless, there have been some discussions, mainly on Pagan Internet blogs and responses to them, which show some of the characteristics of fundamentalism, particularly an insistence on a single correct form of belief, and the demonization of those who hold different beliefs and opinions. These have centered around two hot-button topics: the historicity of Wiccan foundational narratives, and the nature of the gods. Is any form of belief fundamentalist? Of course not. Belief only courts fundamentalism when it becomes dogmatic, when we say “it’s my way or the highway,” when we attribute malice and ill intent to those whose beliefs differ from ours. Ironically, those very sentiments were expressed towards me by a few respondents to Patrick’s post last week, confirming my hypothesis that there is a trend towards fundamentalism among a small number of Pagans.
[I’m away at the Florida Pagan Gathering, and won’t return to normal blogging activity until November 10th. In the meantime, I’m presenting some of my favorite posts to tide you over, consider it a “greatest hits” of The Wild Hunt. Today, I’m re-printing an interview I did with author and journalist Jeff Sharlet. Since first conducting this interview in July of 2008, his book “The Family” has become a New York Times best-seller, and he’s appeared several times in major media outlets like the Rachel Maddow show and the Bill Maher show. Enjoy!]
If you have been around the religious blogosphere for awhile, you have most likely heard of Jeff Sharlet.
If you have been around the religious blogosphere for awhile, you have most likely heard of Jeff Sharlet. An author and journalist, he helped found two seminal web sites full of insightful commentary on faith in today’s world (Killing the Buddha and The Revealer), co-wrote a book about religious subcultures in America (which included a trip to a Pagan festival), and filed dispatches on the intersections of religion and power for such publications as Rolling Stone, Harpers, and Mother Jones. His most recent book is “The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power”, an expose of elite fundamentalism’s avant-garde. I was lucky enough to conduct a short e-mail interview with Jeff about his new book, what Pagans have to fear from The Family, and what we can do about it. Some members of modern Pagan faiths have long warned of a theocratic Christian cabal bent on taking over America, often with the usual suspects of conservative Christianity playing a part.
Science & Spirit Magazine has a commentary by David Gibson that looks at the history of the term “fundamentalist” in America. Gibson postulates that the term “fundamentalism” may have become so over-used as to be useless as an adjective.”If anything is certain about the word “fundamentalist,” it is that, with the possible exception of “fascist,” no epithet is more commonly invoked today, more pejorative, or more misunderstood. Anyone who seems too bull-headed to concede what “everyone else” considers the obvious fault in their position will reflexively be dismissed as a fundamentalist – an obtuse obscurantist who refuses to yield in the face of overwhelming reason. That is, if they haven’t already been dismissed as a some kind of fascist.”The article then tries to discover who qualifies for the term “fundamentalist” in today’s world, and cites the groundbreaking academic study “The Fundamentalism Project”, a five-volume overview of fundamentalism throughout the world.”Their research went a long way toward understanding fundamentalism largely by exploding many myths … ‘For all the current focus on fiery Islamic extremists, religious fundamentalists are not confined to any particular faith or country, nor to the poor and uneducated,’ they wrote.