Accepted paper:

Dealing with doubts in lived crafted rituals


Anna Fedele (CRIA, University Institute of Lisbon)

Paper short abstract:

This paper analyses the role of doubt and uncertainty in vernacular religion and particularly in contemporary crafted rituals. It is based on research about the spread of the Goddess spirituality movement in traditionally Catholic countries of Southern Europe.

Paper long abstract:

This paper is based on fieldwork among Portuguese, Italians, Catalans and Spaniards influenced by the transnational Goddess spirituality movement. It explores the way in which Pagan theories and practices arriving from the United States and the United Kingdom are creatively adapted in traditionally Catholic countries of Southern Europe. Raised in Catholic families the spiritual practitioners I encountered criticized Christianity as misogynist and patriarchal, but kept venerating Christian figures such as the Virgin Mary, Jesus and Mary Magdalene. They worshipped female divinities such as "Mother Earth" and the "Goddess" but did not want to identify themselves as "witches" or "Pagans". With their rituals they tried to combine Pagan and Christian figures, symbols and gestures. Through a detailed analysis of crafted rituals I will show how uncertainty and doubt form an important part of lived religion and ritual. I will argue that invented rituals offer a privileged window upon the uncertainty intrinsic in ritualization because participants feel less constrained by a long lasting religious tradition and talk more openly about their doubts and their strategies to neutralize them.

panel W087
Dealing with doubts, putting to test: the importance of uncertainty in vernacular religion