Reli006
Making a better future with ancient pasts: heritage and utopia in neo-paganism and neo-shamanism

Convenors:
Viola Teisenhoffer (LESC (CNRS) / Université Paris Ouest Nanterre La Défense)
Denise Lombardi (GSRL )
Stream:
Religion
Location:
A228
Start time:
23 June, 2015 at 10:30
Session slots:
3

Short abstract:

This panel addresses the issue of social change in the New Age. We welcome ethnographically grounded papers that examine the specific ways in which remote past and exotic present are mobilized in modern pagan and neo-shamanic practices and put in the service of utopian change.

Long abstract:

Grounded in the vaster ideology of the New Age, modern paganisms and neo-shamanism turn to remote pre-Christian eras and cultures as sources of inspiration for practices meant to insure a fulfilling present and a sustainable future. In this context, individual and collective rituals, therapeutic practices and body techniques are the means of triggering a "shift of consciousness", i.e. a more or less radical change of thought and habits that intend to break with the values of Western society, deemed devoid of spirituality, and thus destructive and limiting. In this vision of an implicitly utopian future, ancient and/or exotic traditions perceived as heirs of an ancient past play a major role. Germanic gods, Roman goddesses, South American or Altai shamans, Mexican, Celtic or Peruvian ruins appear as mediators of individual spiritual development and personal empowerment which are purported to eventually elicit wider social transformation. In this panel we would like to reassess the issue of social change in the New Age by analyzing the specific ways in which remote past and exotic present are mobilized in modern pagan and neo-shamanic practices and put in the service of utopian change. How "sacred sites", archaeological artifacts and purportedly ancient practices are rallied in neo-pagan and neo-shamanic rituals? What kind of relationships practitioners establish with figures of the past? What kinds of experiences do they narrate? How are these aspects articulated to visions of a utopian future? This panel welcomes ethnographically grounded papers that explore these questions in different contexts of neo-paganism and neo-shamanism.