P.2: Celts and Druids Speaking

Although for example many South American shamans incorporate elements of Catholicism, astrology, mesmerism, Kardecism, etc. to enhance their power and authority. Misappropriations of shamanism like in the case of Eliade (as seen in p.1 yesterday on SESN), reproduce pervasive themes such as evolutionism. But as in the case of Michael Harner and neo-Shamanisms other critiqical issues explained for example in M.D.Jakobsen, Shamanism, 1999 are:

1 Decontextualising and universalising

2 Psychologising and individualising

3 Reproduction and reification of cultural primitivism

4 Romanticising of indigenous shamanisms.

Harner's journey, as he tells it, from 'outside observer' to practitioner of shamanism, began with his fieldwork among the Untsuri Shuar of Ecuador.

He reports also studying briefly with North American shamans among the Wintun and Pomo in California, the Coast Salish in Washington State, and the Lakota in South Dakota. (Harner, The Way of the Shaman, 1990, pp. 1-20.)

Since an article on SESN already followed up on the above “

We will next move on SESN to contemporary forms of Paganism.

For example among British Europeans there three categories, in order of popularity: Wicca, Druidry and Heathenry. Practitioners in all three are diverse, making definition of them difficult, but it may be agreeable to most to describe Wicca (derived from the Anglo-Saxon wicca, probably meaning witch) currently as an initiatory religion in which practitioners revere divinity in nature as manifest in the polarity of a goddess and god (with female often privileged over male). Wicca has been considerably influenced by shamanisms in a number of respects, as are neo-Theosophical ideas. 

But practices such as inducing trance, working magic, divination, interacting with spirits and animal familiars, and healing via supernatural means are certainly also reminiscent of many shamanistic practices. Of interest to archaeology is the way in which some Wiccans claim descent from prehistoric European shamanisms. This idea was popularised by Margaret Murray, whose book The Witch Cult in Western Europe (1921) argued that those persecuted during the late medieval witch trials were members of an extant ancient pagan religion. 

Her second contribution, The God of the Witches (1933), 'asserted the doctrine that the horned god of the greenwood had been the oldest deity known to humans, and traced his worship across Europe and the Near East, from the Old Stone Age to the seventeenth century.

Murray’ s arguments, and his presentations at major Pagan conferences have done much to disseminate these findings among those Wiccans who had previously held Murray's interpretations as fact. Vivienne Crowley , Wiccan High Priestess, and more recently Ronald Hutton, have considerable influence on contemporary Witchcraft's evolving view of itself. 

The more feminist and goddess-oriented branches of Wicca, in many ways resonate with the so-called Goddess movement, heavily influenced by the work of Marija Gimbutas, for whom for example the Turkish site of Catalhuyuk is a Goddess site par excellence. 

Recent engagements between adherents to Goddess Spirituality and archaeologists at the site (and off-site over the Internet) are somewhat strained due to conflicting approaches and interpretations. Despite Hodder's claims for a self-reflexive archaeological process at the site, which accommodates both archaeological strategies and alternative goddess views ( http://catal.arch.cam.ac.uk/). The differences between Pagans and academics are so fundamental that there is little room for fruitful negotiation. 

While some archaeologists today might rather forget the fact, their predecessors are strange but intimate bedfellows with neo-Shamanic approaches to the past, a past that cannot be ignored due to its repercussions in the present.

Druidry is a case in point. It is perhaps, after Wicca, the second most popular branch of contemporary paganism in Britain today. From medieval and romantic Welsh and Irish literature to archaeology and the legacy of early antiquarians such as William Stukeley, aka Archdruid Chyndonax

The idea that Druids claim descent from ancient Iron Age orders, is increasingly being replaced - among both Druids and academics - by recognition that Druidry is very much a tradition situated in the modern era. 

The plethora of Druid Orders illustrates how diverse contemporary Druidry is; sixteen alone are listed for Britain in the Druids Voice magazine 'Druid Directory', and there are more orders in Europe, the USA and Australia. Regarding relationships between Druidry and neo-Shamanism, Kaledon Naddair, for instance, founded the shamanic-based College of Druidism in 1982. He describes the use of native shamanistic Celtic incenses formulated from native plants which revives the ‘power smoke of the [Druid] shamans' without the use of entheogens. He also recounts how, on one occasion, 'just like a traditional Shaman I acted as a channel ... and whilst I allowed a mighty Keltic God to speak through my body, my own higher consciousness was instantaneously teleported to a far-off steep hillside' (“Pictish and Keltic Shamanism, 1990: 94)

The Northern tradition, with such terms as Asatru (discussed elsewhere critiqually on SESN, due to its involvement with neo-Nazi elements), Odinism or Odinist and Vanatru, denoting preferences for specific deities. Contemporary Heathens utilise Norse and Icelandic literature and mythology, and Viking and Anglo-Saxon migration period history and archaeological sources to revive and reconstruct a Heathen religion for the present. 

In the UK there is Odinshof, the Odinic Rite and Hammarens Ordens SdIlskap (see their web site: http://www.geocities.com/hammarens/); in the UK and USA the Ring of Troth, in Europe the Ring of Troth European Branch, in the USA the Asatru Alliance, the Odinist Fellowship, Rune Gild and Asatru Folk Assembly; and in Iceland/ Reykjavik localised groups known as 'Hearths' meet regularly and are comparable, in size and function, with a Wiccan 'Coven' or Druidic 'Grove'. 


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June 27, 2003






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