Welcome, 2014! The calendar New Year may be the only holiday celebration that nearly the entire world experiences or collectively recognizes. Despite this universality, our New Year’s traditions are as diverse as our world cultures. Therefore this unique period of time offers the opportunity to witness and compare foreign practices that have a similar meaning and purpose to our own. This includes cultural traditions that are not normally in the global spotlight.
Ghosts have become popular in the last decade or so. Paranormal investigation, or “ghost hunting,” shows chronicle the adventures of people armed with an assortment of sensory equipment, most of which is easily available online in case you want to start your own investigative team. Or you can apply for admission to one of the many teams already in existence. For those who want to dabble in exploring hauntings, but not jump into the life of a researcher, there are scores of haunted sites and ghost tours you can pay to visit. What has stirred up this interest in ghosts?
Under the light of a full moon, four teens creep through the crooked iron gates of a long-forgotten cemetery hoping to witness a vampire emerging from his scared crypt. They carry candles, matches, and a package of dime-store incense…
Does this story sound like the beginning of a teenage thrasher film? A Scooby Doo episode? It’s neither. The narrative is actually an example of a very common-place phenomenon: “legend-tripping.” Gail de Vos, storyteller and adjunct professor, defines legend-tripping as:
…an organized journey to an isolated area to test the bravery of the group when faced with supernatural phenomena.
Although I came back from Pantheacon with lots of anecdotes and experiences (most of which were extremely positive and fun), I find that the only story I have to tell you right now is one I didn’t want to tell. It won’t leave me alone, however. It’s just this: I had a dreadful time with the Morrígan devotional ritual, “The Heart is the Only Nation.” I know many people who attended absolutely loved it. Teo Bishop, in particular, seems to have been deeply affected by it, and I envy him. I went to the devotional hoping to be moved by it.
In the past decade I’ve noticed a rapid increase in the number of modern Pagans who have taken initiations in African diasporic religions like Santeria, Vodou, and Palo Mayombe. Likewise, a growing number of elders and teachers in those traditions have started to attend Pagan events like PantheaCon in San Jose, California. I’ve long been interested in the shared struggles our faiths face, and find the increasing interactions a fascinating and under-studied phenomenon. What will this growing trend mean both for modern Pagan religions and for the African diasporic faiths? To address some of these questions I’ve interviewed Stacey Lawless (Ngueyo Ndumba Kunayanda), who lives in the Southeastern United States where she is currently reinventing herself.