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Accepted Paper:

The time of the tower: apocalyptic narratives in modern paganisms  
Sabina Magliocco (University of British Columbia)

Paper short abstract:

This paper explores apocalyptic narratives emerging within the last three years in modern Paganisms, a group of New Religious Movements that revive, reinvent and experiment with polytheistic worship. It analyzes these tales as responses to global climate change and political upheavals.

Paper long abstract:

When modern Paganisms emerged in the mid-20th century, they were, uncharacteristically for New Religious Movements, free of apocalyptic narratives. Rooted in romanticism and buoyed by feminism, environmentalism, and the counterculture of the 1960s, Paganisms sacralized nature and the material world, exalting the body, viewing divinity as immanent, and eschewing eschatology. Seventy-five years after their emergence, and not twenty years into the twenty-first century, that has changed. This paper tracks the recent emergence of apocalyptic narratives in modern Pagan religions. These narratives began to be published in Pagan blogs and on websites during the summer of 2016, following the Brexit vote in the United Kingdom and preceding the election of a reactionary administration in the United States in November 2016. They emerged first as visions of individual writers and community spokespersons (modern Paganisms are diffuse networks of individuals without a single prophet or leader), imagining a world wracked by climate change and political disruption in which social structure and infrastructure no longer functioned to maintain order. The image that became associated with these visions was the tarot card of "The Tower:" a tall building stricken by lightning, broken in the center and collapsing as desperate individuals were thrown from its height. The narratives highlight the important role Paganisms have to play in this time of disruption by preserving traditional ways of knowing, building self-sufficiency, and helping to create small-scale communities that could survive in troubled times. This paper analyzes these narratives as responses to global climate change and current political upheavals.

Panel Reli03
Religious in idiosyncrasy. New religious movements in the 21st century [SIEF Ethnology of Religion Working Group]
  Session 1 Wednesday 17 April, 2019, -