Irish neo-paganism: worldview, ritual and identity

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Butler, Jenny
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University College Cork
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Neo-paganism is a vibrant, dynamic global movement, which has had a significant cultural impact. Neo-paganism is an umbrella term for a wide range of spiritual practices, often described as nature- or earth-based spirituality. There are different “paths” or spiritual traditions within this movement, of which Druidry, Wicca and other forms of Pagan Witchcraft are included in this research. The present work is an ethnographic study of the worldview and ritual practices of the Irish neo-pagan community. It is an enquiry into (a) what characterises the neo-pagan worldview and (b) how this worldview is expressed through ritual behaviour. In order to collect data, the methodology of participant observation and ethnographic interviewing was employed. The thesis comprises a collection of “insider” accounts of what it is like to be a neo-pagan in Ireland and analysis of these narratives, which gives insight into different aspects of neopagan culture. In the discussion, the use of mythology is examined in regard to how mythic narrative is connected to identity formation. Irish cultural symbols are observed as resources utilised in the construction of the movement’s overall character. The interconnectedness of the natural landscape, the numinous and mythology gives rise to creative expression through various forms of neo-pagan artworks, which are discussed herein. The identifying features and key issues of Irish neo-pagan culture are addressed. These key issues are expressed as prominent themes and symbols of their discourse. Neo-pagan dialogue often features discussion of the relationship that this cultural group has with the Irish landscape, history, and indigenous and popular Irish religion. Some of the specific aspects of neo-pagan culture examined are magical worldview, the notion of holism, different types of ritual practices (festivals, life cycle rituals, healing), and material culture. The thesis presents an in-depth analysis of neopagan cultural expressions and their significance as cultural processes
Neo-paganism , Irish religion , Nature-based spirituality
Butler, J. 2013. Irish neo-paganism: worldview, ritual and identity. PhD Thesis, University College Cork.
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