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Modern Paganism In World Cultures * Michael Strmiska (editor) (2005)

Michael Strmiska is a scholar with a genuine interest in contemporary paganism. He is one of the founders of the World Congress Of Ethnic Religions and when the congress was held in Belgium I met Strmiska. Even though this book is only of 2005 it is sold out and an expensive buy nowadays. Strmiska wrote a lengthy introduction about modern paganism and the investigation of it. He tries to clear some misunderstandings from the first pages. After the introductionary chapter an essay follows of Sabrina Magliocco about American Stregheria and Wicca. Stregheria is traditional Italian witchcraft en Magliocco investigated American immigrees and how they (re)connect to their ancestral prechristian faith. Similar essays about Druidry in contemporary Ireland (Jenny Butler), Asatru: Nordic paganism in Iceland and America (Strmiska and Baldur Sigurvinsson), The revival of Ukrainian native faith (Adrian Ivakhiv) and an essay about Romuva (Lithuanian paganism by Strmiska and Vilius Dundzila) fill the pages of the book. All investigators did extensive “field investigations”, meaning that they visited the groups they write about, spend time with them and were a part of them. The red thread is the problem of reviving an old religion in a modern world, the broken thread, the considerations of the practitioners, the meaning of authenticity, ethnicity, etc. The essays give some historical perspective, but they are mostly focussed on the current heathen, saying something about the festivities, rituals, habbits, ways of recruiting and keeping contact, attracting members, bonds with kindred groups, etc. More than once the bad name of heathenry because of political misuse is written about. The last essay kind of sums up all that came before. It is about pagans in the American army (written by Stephanie Urquhart) with their particular problems. This last essay is also the broadest of the book, since it does not focus on a particular group. Here Wiccas are interviewed alongside with Asatruar, Nova Romas and the like. The last essay is also interesting because it holds a mirror to some often (thought of) typical pagan ideas which gives a nice perspective.
The book is a nice read, even though I find it hard to relate to 90% of the interviewed people. Sometimes I just do not get how they got to their particular kind of paganism, at other times I have my doubts about their considerations. It is interesting to see how other people answer questions that I also ask myself though, but it proves that most of the groups out there would be nothing for me and this also goes for the so-called “Asatru” groups. Because the books says nothing about groups in my own area, actually nothing about the whole of Northern Europe save for Iceland and Ireland, I figured I would make a little introduction myself for Strmiska’s next book (France, Germany and the rest of Scandinavia would be interesting too of course).
A nice book which there are too few of. I hope it will be reprinted some time soon, so you can also read it for a normal price.
2005 ABC-Clio, isbn 1851096086

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