Programme

13 June

  • 8.30-8.45

    Registration

  • 8.45-9.00

    Conference opening speech

  • 9.00-10.00

    1st keynote lecture

    Michael Francis Strmiska

    Michael Strmiska has a PhD in Comparative Religion from Boston University and is an Associate Professor in World History at Orange County Community College (SUNY-Orange) in New York State in the USA. He has conducted research and published numerous articles on Pagan revival movements in Iceland, Eastern Europe and the USA, and has been a visiting professor at colleges in Japan and Lithuania as well as Masaryk University, right here, in 2015! Most recently, Dr. Strmiska was a visiting professor in Social Anthropology at Riga Stradins University in Latvia in 2020-21. He is working on one book with the title "Unchristian Eastern Europe: Pagans, Jews, Gypsies and Muslims" and a second book about "Gun Religion" in the USA.


    Paganism and its Others in Historical, Comparative and Theoretical Perspective

    Dr. Strmiska will discuss the relationship of Paganism and its Others from historical, comparative and theoretical perspectives, noting past episodes of Pagans in Europe and elsewhere, exhibiting both tolerance and intolerance, inclusion and exclusion, coexistence and antagonism toward religious, ethnic and other sorts of Others; parallels with how other religions have dealt with similar issues; and theoretical quandaries resulting from modern Paganism drawing on two contradictory strands of contemporary thought: both universalist conceptions of religion as something that transcends ethnic particularity and more particularist, nativist conceptions of religion as a support for particular ethnic identities.

  • 10.00-10.20

    Coffee break

  • 10.20-10.50

    Michal Puchovský: "Actually, I’m Pagan thanks to music: The role of Žiarislav’s music in the life of modern Pagans in Slovakia"

  • 10.50-11.20

    Miroslav Vrzal: "Czech Pagan Black Metal and its Others"

  • 11.20-11.50

    Matouš Vencálek: "Kolovrat and Kalashnikov: The Role of Paganism in the War in Ukraine"

  • 11.50-12.20

    Oksana Smorzhevska: "Neo-pagan warrior of Ukraine: theory and practice" (online)

  • 12.20-13.30

    Lunch

  • 13.30-14.00

    Ross Downing: "Weaponising Odin: Russian state interference in Far Right heathenry" (online)

  • 14.00-14.30

    Anita Stasulane: "Paganism and the radical right: a historical insight on the Dievturi movement" (online)

  • 14.30-15.00

    Stanislav Gubančok: "Christian perception of Lithuanian pagans in medieval sources"

  • 15.00-15.15

    Coffee break

  • 15.15-15.45

    Jūratė Rzeznik: "Challenges of Building Ethnic Faith Community in the Diaspora" (online)

  • 15.45-16.15

    Uģis Nastevičs: "Religious persecution of Dievturi in Latvia" (online)

  • 16.15-16.45

    Rasa Pranskevičiūtė-Amoson: "The Process of State Recognition of the Old Baltic Faith Romuva Movement" (online)

  • 16.45-17.00

    Coffee break

  • 17.00-17.30

    Manca Račič: "Staroverstvo in Slovenia and its Internal Others"

  • 17.30-18.00

    Jedidja van Boven: "Gods and Goddesses in the Low Countries: Contemporary Paganism and the European Religious Identity Crisis" (online)

  • 18.00-18.15

    Coffee break

  • 18.15-18.45

    Muhammad Amirul Haqqi: "LGBTQ+ Wicca flexible interpretation and question of inclusivity"

  • 18.45-19.15

    Giuseppe Maiello: "Considerations of the Members of a Czech Contemporary Pagan community on a Pagan Transgender man"

  • 19.30-??.??

    Social event: Stregobor

14 June

  • 9.00-10.00

    2st keynote lecture

    Scott Simpson

    Scott Simpson is a Lecturer at the Institute of European Studies at the Jagiellonian University in Kraków, where he teaches courses on Religion in Poland and Central and Eastern Europe. His academic interests include Ritual Studies, Contemporary Paganism in CEE, and the Sociology and History of food and drink. He is the author of “Native Faith: Polish Neo-Paganism at the Brink of the 21st Century” (2000), co-editor of “Modern Pagan and Native Faith Movements in Central and Eastern Europe” (together with Kaarina Aitamurto) (2013), and had been a curator of several exhibitions covering the topic of Modern Paganism.


    From a Global Perspective, Can We Talk About “Contemporary Paganism” yet?

    Where are the borders of the notion of “Contemporary Paganism”? On the one hand, Anglophone contemporary Paganisms often enthusiastically reference Old World places and cultures far afield of today’s English-speaking countries: Ancient Greek, Ancient Egyptian, Ancient Germanic, etc. Some scholars like to demonstrate contemporary Paganism’s legitimacy by warmly embracing parallels to other religions in the world today that could be construed as earth-centred polytheisms such as Hinduism or Shinto. On the other hand, the exemplars of what constitutes the essence “Contemporary Paganism” are usually drawn from a short list of those found most frequently in Anglophone countries, and therefore the rich diversity of movements found around the world threatens to shatter the conceptual unity and hope for a shared definition of “Contemporary Paganism”. Some of these forms may be conveniently ignored or bracketed as corruptions of “real Contemporary Paganism”. In spite of our increasingly globalised world, some international forms have only recently found themselves increasingly taken into account such as Afro-Caribbean religions or the Baltic and Slavic native faiths of Central and Eastern Europe. Others have not yet often been brought into the discourse, such as the rich range of contemporary Tengrisms and Shamanisms of Central Asia. Who should be in the definition, and who should be “the others”? Are we ready to think about a Global Pagan Studies?

  • 10.00-10.30

    Coffee break

  • 10.30-11.00

    Natalie Mathews: "The shallowness of youth: metaphor in the construction of Pagan "other” in the early 21st century" (online)

  • 11.00-11.30

    Rune Hjarnø Rasmussen: "Finfara; Interacting with Other as a way to recover Traditional religiousity, the Afro-Nordic Example" (online)

  • 11.30-12.00

    Pavel Horák: "Christianity and Paganism: On a Statue and its Shadow"

  • 12.00-13.30

    Lunch

  • 13.30-14.00

    Abhiraman Poonaram Kuzhiyil: "The Lotus Cross: Hindu-Christian Interactions in the Southern Indian State of Kerala" (online)

  • 14.00-14.30

    Jarken Gadi: "Religious beliefs among the Galo tribe: Changes & Continuity" (online)

  • 14.30-15.00

    Tomáš Kubisa: "Vedic Slavism in Slovakia. Truly Paganism?"

  • 15.00-15.15

    Coffee break

  • 15.15-15.45

    Joanna Malita-Król: "From Catholicism to Paganism – some insights on the conversion of Polish Pagans" (online)

  • 15.45-16.15

    Robert-Catalin Barbu: "Ritual and Orthodox religion, a short introduction of their relation in Romanian context. Funerary rites and magic charm ritual, as two short case studies" (online)

  • 16.15-16.45

    Márk Nemes: "An atypical base-community in past 50 years: research findings and corrected perspectives for the Icelandic Ásatrúarfélagið" (online)

  • 16.45-17.00

    Coffee break

  • 17.00-17.30

    Mariusz Filip: "Native Faith, the bastard sister of anthropology???"

  • 17.30-18.00

    Jakub Jahl: "Comparison of pagan and satanic festivities"

  • 18.00-18.30

    Malcolm J. Brenner: "A Witch Among the Navajos: 8 Years on the Big Rez" (online)

  • 18.30-18.45

    Conference closing

Abstracts:

ABHIRAMAN, Poonaram Kuzhiyil (University of Hyderabad)

The Lotus Cross: Hindu-Christian Interactions in the Southern Indian State of Kerala (online)

The state of Kerala lies in the south-western coast of India, having a heritage of maritime trade since third millennium BCE. It is home to a community of Christians who call themselves nasranis or Saint Thomas Christians and trace their origin to the evangelical activities of Saint Thomas the Apostle. This paper shall chiefly explore the transactions in the realm of religion between the aforementioned group of Christians and Hindus, who are the native pagans of Kerala. This ranges from Christian perception of Hindu deities, their adoption of Hindu rituals in the personal and the ecclesiastical domains, Christian occultists incorporating Hindu practices, encountering beings in the local Hindu mythos such as Yakshis and giving birth to a syncretic Christo-Pagan occult lineage called the Kadamattom Sampradayam, and Hindu veneration of Christian Saints. The way nasranis situated themselves with respect to the local social and political institutions such as the caste system and the polity shall also be examined. The most recent development in the political sphere, a collaboration between the Hindu nationalists and the emerging Christian right as a reaction to the Pan-Islamist assertion and resulting shared anxieties will also be briefly dealt with.

 

BARBU, Robert-Catalin (University of Northampton)

Ritual and Orthodox religion, a short introduction of their relation in Romanian context. Funerary rites and magic charm ritual, as two short case studies (online)

Folkloric practices that fall outside the spectrum of institutionalised religion and have survived throughout the harsh test history put them up to are in alignment with what we today call pagan practices. Common language and history give us the brief understanding of the word pagan: An element, phenomena, individual etc, that falls outside the area of institutionalised religions with preponderance Christianity. Would folkloric rituals of any nature therefore fall into the denomination of pagan practice? Certainly, provided they meet the criterion requiring them to have less to do with institutionalised faith and having survived within the societies for hundreds of years. The present work aims to briefly explore the way in which Folkloric ritual and Orthodoxy in present Romania have co-existed and influenced each other. The latter attempting to supress the former and, in the end, accepting its existence, at times even supporting it. Romania presents a curious case of Orthodoxy acting occasionally as a protector of certain pre-Christian rites. And yet even more curious is that although Christianity attempted to abolish them, it failed, beginning to coexist and have pagan elements and rites intermingle with Orthodox ones. This led to a beautiful relation that academics like Eliade themed “Cosmic Christianity”. Whilst Eliade’s denomination puts emphasis on Christianity rather than the Folk rites, in reality Christianity had no choice but to coexist and intermingle with these, given the eagerness of common folk to continue practice them despite intense pressure from the Church. In order to understand better the way in which they have interacted and the nature of their relationship, two short case studies of rituals will be presented. One will be the funerary ritual, which consists of a complex web of sub-rituals some of which are in majority, as we will see, pagan. The second, one of the most spread ritualic practice on Romanian land, the ritual of magic charm (descântec). A magical ritual of healing and harming practiced by initiated individuals of society called enchanters(descântători). Both these rites survived in the urban landscape, but they are primarily to be found close to their original form in the rural areas. By presenting the two case studies we will grasp a better understanding of how pagan elements can intermingle with Christian Orthodoxy and furthermore understand the factors that led to the existence of these rites until present times on Romanian territory. Lastly, put in a broader context, the current study could elucidate some of the questions related to the survivability of paganism in modern times.

 

BRENNER, Malcolm J. (New College of Florida)

A Witch Among the Navajos: 8 Years on the Big Rez (online)

This was originally published as an article in Gnosis #48, Summer 1998. In it, the author contrasts his experiences as a modern Neo-Pagan practicing his religion with no pretensions of its origins, to those of the Paleo-Pagan Navajo Tribe, among whom the author lived and worked as a news-gatherer. The Navajo practice their tribal religion, known as "the corn pollen way" for its sacrament, with a devotion to their mythology, and an interweaving of landscape and story, that seems at once ancestral and Medieval. There is abundant fear, for instance, of the practice of the dark arts and sorcery. What is considered taboo is never discussed, because it is taboo! The author relates how, as a modern Pagan, he could relate to the plight of Navajos to practice their traditional religion without the interference of well-meaning but ill-behaved missionaries. As he became more and more involved with his reporting on tribal matters, he found that practicing Navajo magick had its rewards and its dangers. This essay describes some of the adventures, missteps and near-misses on that route, which lead the author to a new appreciation of the Navajo people.

 

DOWNING, Ross (King’s College London)

Weaponising Odin: Russian state interference in Far Right heathenry (online)

In late 2016, the Swedish Security Service (SÄPO) seized recordings of terror suspects praying Odin Allfather to “help us take back our land” from Jews and Muslims, and “you who have plagued our country”. The suspects were later convicted of three bombing attacks, two against asylum-seeker camps, and one against a Syndicalist trade union office. One person was seriously injured as a consequence. All three men were members of the Nordic Resistance Movement (NMR). SÄPO later confirmed that the three men had received paramilitary training in Russia. The founder of the group which had trained the three men was himself charged with political coordination of the pro-Russian separatist movement in eastern Ukraine in 2014, the group has also trained German and Syrian national socialists. Further research has uncovered a network of complex interference, sponsorship, propaganda narratives and military activity with Swedish Far Right heathens. This provides an acute case study of the ways in which heathenry is vulnerable to security threats and radical ideologies in a wider and increasingly important geopolitical battleground.

 

FILIP, Mariusz (Adam Mickiewicz University)

Native Faith, the bastard sister of anthropology???

My paper explores the relationship between Modern Paganism and anthropology which represent hierarchically distinct – if not oppositional – domains of knowledge about the world, respectively magic/religion and science. By building on the Polish case, I reveal that in spite of this, both of them build on the same work by a renowned folklorist and a Slavophile, i.e. Zorian Dołęga Chodakowski (1818). Nevertheless, I will demonstrate that this a bit surprising (and largely unrecognized) point of identity should be seen also as the moment of alterity, since it was precisely the moment when Counter-Enlightenment movement started to grow, laying foundations under contemporary Paganism; respectively it is Enlightenment which triggered the formation of contemporary anthropology. However it is tempting to understand Counter-Enlightenment in terms of magic/religion, for a significant amount of time Modern Paganism had not so much to do with it, evolving rather in the fields of philosophy, literature or politics. Actually in some cases the re-enchantment of the world is a very recent feature of it. Yet despite of all hierarchical differences between science and magic/religion, new points of convergence do appear: some ethnographers and other scholars engage in the development of contemporary Pagan movement, Pagans pursue some of their views in the field of science in numerous ways.

 

GUBANČOK, Stanislav (University of saint Cyril and Methodius in Trnava)

Christian perception of Lithuanian pagans in medieval sources

In this paper, we will focus on medieval sources which describe pagan tribes of medieval Lithuania and their religious worldview. It is crucial to talk about the narrative called “interpretatio christiana” in historiography. Notes and chronicles of Christian scholars along with notes of Islamic and Judaic merchants are viewpoints from the “other side of the barricade” of the pagan worldview in medieval Europe. The first clashes of Baltic pagans with Christianity are brought up with the death of bishop Adalbert who was trying to baptize Prussians. The following sources are of late periods, but those are mainly connected with missionary activities. How are pagans and their deities depicted in sources, but can we trust them? It is one of the most frequent questions in the problematics of the historiography of early medieval history. Besides that, we will try to display the existence of tolerance in Grand Dutchy of Lithuania, where sources prove that many churches were standing even in times of the most famous and last pagan kingdom of Europe.

 

HAQQI, Muhammad Amirul (University of Szeged)

LGBTQ+ Wicca flexible interpretation and question of inclusivity

Wicca is one of the fast-growing New Religious Movements (NRM) of the 21st century, although its roots can be traced back to the early 20th century. My thesis will focus on the analysis of LGBTQ+ Wicca practitioners’ personal practices, with a special interest in the representative aspects, such as home altars. This element of the material dimension (from the seven dimensions of Ninian Smart), will illustrate how LGBTQ+ practitioners challenge the binary aspects of Wicca and how they utilize the liminal aspects of gender. With guided interviews and questionnaires, I aim to illustrate and provide a deeper understanding of how the traditional Wicca binarity – of a God and Goddess – is changed according to the given individuals’ own sexual orientations and how these individuals innovate their altars, reinterpret the traditional Wicca worldview and religious practice to create a closer, more personal religious attachment. With the help of religious trauma, I will examine some interviewees regarding their experience with Wicca. Hypothesis: In the case of those individual Wicca practitioners who are also members of the LGBTQ+ community, the solitary rituals provide an opportunity to reinterpret/reinvent the binary gender principles of the traditional Gardnerian Wicca, allowing experimentations of fluidity in rituals. Religious trauma also takes part in their journey through Wicca.

 

HJARNØ, Rune Rasmussen (independent scholar)

Finfara; Interacting with Other as a way to recover Traditional religiousity, the Afro-Nordic Example (online)

The American phenomonologist Tomas Czordas suggests Otherness as a foundational motor in religion itself. The idea that the powerful is Other is reflected in many ways in history of religious, from ancient ideas of gods as migrating from somewhere else to the many shades of contemporary fascination with cultural Others. One example is the Norse concept finnfara, the pre-christian Scandinaivan idea, of visiting the other, the Sámi, for exchange of cultural knowledge. In this paper I suggest finfara as a contemporary strategy to recover traditional polytheism in a western context by creolization, learning from Afro-descendant knowledge in order to produce “ontological decolonization”. I will take as a starting point my own finfara into Afro-Brazilian religion and how this process of engaging this cultural Other brought me back to the Nordic polytheism whose tales I grew up with as a child. I ended up going through Candomblé-based initiation to a Nordic deity, or indeed a creole Afro-Nordic deity. I believe that the Afro-Diasporic religions have a particular capacity to produce resilience to modern epistemological domination, because of the way they create ontological “safe spaces” in modernity in order to maintain the efficacy of their theurgic technologies. This was the topic of the Ph.D that I completed in 2019. I will describe the possibility of contemporary creolization with other, “finnfara” for ontological decolonization through my own process and through the work of my ritual group in creating Nordic re-enchantment based on Afro-Atlantic ritual technology.

 

HORÁK, Pavel (Czech Academy of Science)

Christianity and Paganism: On a Statue and its Shadow

Christianity has constructed Paganism as its other – idolatry, polytheism, and wicked practices epitomised its allegedly false beliefs diverting people from God. On the contrary, Christianity portrayed itself as vera religio and the only right way of approaching the divine. The narrative of wicked Paganism has been used throughout the centuries just till nowadays to interpret modern Paganism. The otherness of (ancient and modern) Paganism to Christianity has been constructed by pointing out its different beliefs. Thus, to understand Paganism vis-a-vis Christianity, it is essential to tackle the notion of belief. How do modern Pagans think of belief? Margot Adler established a narrative, followed later by scholars and Pagans themselves, that practice is more important than belief in modern Paganism. Also, Modern Paganism is imagined as a doctrine-free religion. I am reconsidering these narratives. I argue that while delineating boundaries or in situations of conflict or pressure, vague and general beliefs are enforced and become solid doctrines. Also, doctrines gatekeep Paganism against other religions or secular bodies. Generally, doctrines serve as authoritatively defined theoretical components of religion, comprising teaching, beliefs, and confessions. Their authoritative character has roots in Christianity, where it tried to keep the doctrinal contents fixed using a dynamic of truth and falsity, which determines orthodoxy – distinguishing right faith from error. As modern Paganism partially took over the notion of beliefs from Christianity, one can witness doctrinal fights among, for instance, Heathens and Wiccans. The reason is that Christianity represents an exemplary model of religion in our society, and hence people took over some of its features while constructing new and notably other religions to Christianity. Using the symbolic language: Christianity is the statue, and Paganism is the shadow it casts. Hence, we can only understand ancient and modern Paganism if we understand Christianity since they are intrinsically bound.

 

JAHL, Jakub (Charles University)

Comparison of pagan and satanic festivities

This article deals with Satanist holidays and their relationship with pagan and neo-pagan traditions. The topic is explored on 3 levels. First, the traditional satanic holidays established by Anton LaVey at the founding of the Church of Satan are examined, followed by modern satanic holidays practiced in the 21st century by The Satanic temple, and finally the Czech satanic holidays celebrated by a local organization called Community of Satan. All these annual holidays are compared to eponymous or similar pagan holidays and celebrations that are celebrated at the same time or have the same purpose. Finally, this article summarizes how Satanists transform traditional pagan festivities and reinterpret them in a new (modern) way.

 

JARKEN, Gadi (Gokhale Institute of Politics and Economics)

Religious beliefs among the Galo tribe: Changes & Continuity (online)

This paper deals with the religious beliefs of the Galo tribe of Arunachal Pradesh, India. They are one of the major tribes of Arunachal Pradesh. They believe in co-existence of human kind with nature. Hence practices a tribal way of life where in they believe in worshipping of embodiment of natures. Here, the researcher has tried to discuss the relation of their religion with their daily life and their belief in supernatural power. This is simply an elementary study with a purpose to persist broad research in future. 

 

KUBISA, Tomáš (Slovak Academy of Sciences)

Vedic Slavism in Slovakia. Truly Paganism?

My contribution deals with religiously oriented groups, with the preliminary name of the Slavic-Aryan vedas Movement (HSAV). This movement that has only gained a stronger membership in recent years. HSAV is unique in it ´s teachings, that is basicly neo-pagan at its core, but it is significantly modified, incorporating other, mostly oriental, traditions. In many aspects, these are atypical groups in the innitial phase, respectively formation, with atypical structure and manifestations. That is why one of the aims of this contribution is to provide a structured qualitative statement about a specific non-traditional religious movement in Slovakia, including its historical and cultural context and the genesis of its formation in the country of origin, through its subsidiary branch in Slovakia. Also I will focus on ethnography and the divison of these groups and key elements in teaching of their leaders. Methodologicly, data presented in this contribution comes from field research in the years (2019 – 2021) using qualitative methods such as participatory observation, online ethnography and eutoethnography.

 

MAIELLO, Giuseppe (University of Finance and Administration)

Considerations of the Members of a Czech Contemporary Pagan community on a Pagan Transgender man

Among the most active personalities in the first wave of pagan contemporary activism in the Czech Republic, that is, starting from the late 90s of the twentieth century, we find a personality who over time turned out to be a transgender individual. It was a period in which gender issues were not particularly discussed within the "traditionalist" pagan communities and therefore it was deemed appropriate to carry out a series of interviews to detect how the community to which the transgender individual belonged reacted to his presence. It was found that the key to accepting his identity as a transgender man was to connect him with the American transgender shaman Raven Kaldera. Our presentation reports the results of the interviews and the reaction of the subject in question to the fact of being associated with the famous American shaman.

 

MALITA-KRÓL, Joanna (Jagiellonian University in Kraków)

From Catholicism to Paganism – some insights on the conversion of Polish Pagans (online)

The number of people who have been brought up in contemporary Pagan families and follow similar paths as adults keeps on growing in the whole world. In Poland, however, the majority of Pagans are still Pagans rather in the first generation who at a specific time in their lives decided to engage in one path or another. Most of them come from Roman Catholic families, which is not surprising, as the majority of Poles identify themselves as Catholic and the Roman Catholic Church is still thought to be the most influential religious institution in the country. What is important, though, is the fact they reject Catholicism at the certain point of their lives and turn to various Pagan paths, including Rodnovery (Slavic Native Faith), Wicca, or Druidry. In the proposed paper I will tackle briefly theoretical background, namely, the old and new conversion paradigms, as well as the “coming home” metaphor. Then I will provide some insights from my field research among Polish Pagans (especially Wiccans, but also Rodnovers and Druids). I will analyse their conversion narratives, showing firstly, the reasons of leaving the Catholic Church and secondly, reasons of choosing Paganism along with engaging in specific paths within it.

 

MATHEWS, Natalie (Massey University)

The shallowness of youth: metaphor in the construction of Pagan "other” in the early 21st century (online)

In the early 21st century, following a surge of interest and media representation, the "teenaged Witch" served as a "polluting category", an Other, through which authentic Pagan Witchcraft was negotiated. Research with twelve teenaged Witches in Auckland, New Zealand, revealed this sanction as not imposed from the outside, but utilised as a conceptual resource by young people themselves to understand their peers and their own, presumably more authentic Pagan identities. While this polluting category could in part be understood as a response to recent historical trends within Witchcraft, further analysis showed that it played heavily on already-established characteristics of youth, adolescence, and authenticity. Here, I extend on previous work to suggest that the seemingly common-sense nature of this Othering was made stronger and more persuasive through an underlying metaphor of depth/shallowness. Using Cognitive Metaphor theory, I detail ways that this metaphor lends ready emotional vitality to argument and offers pre-constructed conclusions to judgements about the authenticity of practices, paths, and people. Connecting embodied experience to the conceptual, “depth” organises discursive binaries of authenticity in a way that gives these life and weight. I argue for the importance of identifying these underlying bodily metaphors in the Othering process due to their often-hidden capacity to persuade, and suggest potential applicability to other forms of Pagan Othering.

 

NASTEVIČS, Uģis (University of Latvia / Latvian Academy of Culture)

Religious persecution of Dievturi in Latvia (online)

Religious persecution includes any hardship, physical abuse, and martyrdom endured due to one’s religious affiliation, within a broad spectrum of physically, psychologically, or socially and politically hostile unjust actions such as torture, isolation, imprisonment, ostracism, restriction, or discrimination, resulting in varying levels of harm as it is considered from the victim’s perspective. (Grim and Finke 2007; Tieszen 2008). There is a lot of research on the persecution of Christians, yet so far there has been disproportionately little attention paid to the persecution of autochthonous religions. Dievturība, the modern continuation of a primeval ethnic religion systematized into a folklore-based Latvian national religion, in 2025 celebrates the centenary of its name in print. Although the colonial history of religion and religious persecution in Latvia dates back to the 12th century Crusades, the focus of this research is to study cases of persecution of Dievturi from Latvia during the three periods — the first independence, occupation, and contemporary challenges — between 1925 and 2022.

 

NEMES, Márk (University of Szeged)

An atypical base-community in past 50 years: research findings and corrected perspectives for the Icelandic Ásatrúarfélagið (online)

In the past 60 years researchers have observed and recorded an unparalleled resurgence of so-called neopagan movements. Among these historical folklore- and mythology-based new religious formations, we may find ones that are turning for inspiration to the massive complex of Scandinavian cultural heritage. This particular branch of new religious movements is usually referred as asatru, or ásatrú. The first asatru community was officially recognized in 1973 in Iceland. Over the span of the last 50 years, this congregation grew to be one of the most covered minor religious communities by international media in Iceland, with a registered membership of more than 5100 individuals. These articles usually reflect to the steady growth of the movement, the interesting re-takes of former cultural and historical traditions, the building of the so-called “first pagan temple in a millennium” amongst many other typical themes. Parallel to this elevated media attention towards “one of the fastest growing congregations in Iceland”, the phenomenon also attracted eyes from the field of the academic study of religion. Several authors – such as Stefanie von Schnurbein, Terry Gunnell, Ross Downing, Lotte Dijk and the conference’s keynote speaker Michael Strmiska – have recognized this movement, creating articles, complete titles, and field reports about specific aspects the movement. This presentation aims to synthetize these former findings and add a new block of processed information based on a field study and its evaluation from 2018, done in two Icelandic local asatru communities (Reykjavík and Akranes).

 

PRANSKEVIČIŪTĖ-AMOSON, Rasa (Vilnius University)

The Process of State Recognition of the Old Baltic Faith Romuva Movement (online)

The paper presents a research into the process of state recognition of the Old Baltic Faith Romuva movement focusing on the perspectives of this process among diverse social groups. In order to reveal the dynamics of the relationship between Lithuanian religious minorities and the state and society, the narratives and the (political) strategies of the interpretations of the role of the Old Baltic Faith Romuva community in Lithuanian society are analyzed. The paper reveals the peculiarities of formed by Romuvans and other groups’ perceptions on religion and state, actuality of the status of recognized by the state religious organization, the strategies of Romuvans for an achievement such a status, and counteracting activities of other groups. The paper addresses the dynamics of diverse alternative religiosities starting from the communist regime period up to today. It also studies the past and current socioreligious processes, discussing diverse manifestations, changes and disruptions of religious phenomena concerning individual religiosities in (trans)national levels.

 

PUCHOVSKÝ, Michal (Masaryk University)

Actually, I’m Pagan thanks to music: The role of Žiarislav’s music in the life of modern Pagans in Slovakia

The paper presents findings regarding the role of music in the community and teachings of the Slovak modern Pagan leader Žiarislav based on ethnographic research carried out between 2016 and 2018. The paper discusses three inter-related themes: (a) the role of music in the community of Žiarislav’s followers; (b) the role of Žiarislav’s music in the process of shaping modern Pagan identity; and (c) music as an instrument for the spreading of alternative or dissenting ideas. The conclusions are based on an anthropological investigation into the lives and music-related customs of Žiarislav’s followers. The paper also explores the significance of music in Žiarislav’s spiritual teachings. Research into modern Pagan music is a thriving field and all such research assists with an understanding of a living form of modern Slovak Paganism. It also represents an ideal research space for the study of strategies regarding the (re-)actualisation of Slovak national identity among modern Pagans in Slovakia, one pillar of which is traditional Slovak folk culture, including music.

 

RAČIČ, Manca (University of Ljubljana)

Staroverstvo in Slovenia and its Internal Others

Pavel Medvešček-Klančar (1933 – 2020) first introduced Staroverstvo to the broader Slovene public in two of his most essential publications: “Flight into the Shadow of the Moon: Tales of Old Beliefs” (Slo. Let v Lunino senco: Pripovedi o starih verovanjih) and “From the Invisible Cardinal Direction: Unveiled Secrets of Staroverstvo” (Slo. Iz nevidne strani neba: Razkrite skrivnosti staroverstva). Today, many associations, religious communities (with their charismatic leaders), and individuals mould their content from the writings about Slovene pre-Christian, pagan traditions, and beliefs. The term itself is gaining ground today as a broad umbrella concept within which very different groups and individuals find meaning. Some associations and communities, which are inspired by Medvešček’s work, have expanded their area of interest into other geographical regions (to other parts of Slovenia, and the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region in Italy) and topical areas (Eastern spiritual traditions, politics, ecology, history). In this sense, Staroverstvo has become a specific spiritual phenomenon with various public and private faces. Naturally, the diversity among groups, as well as diverse membership within them, creates fractures. The paper observes these factures within Staroverstvo, as well as potential successful or unsuccessful strategies for dealing with them.

 

RZEZNIK, Jūratė (Independent)

Challenges of Building Ethnic Faith Community in the Diaspora (online)

With the focus on Romuva, the modern interpretation of the ancient Lithuanian pre-Christian faith, this paper will outline unique challenges of building ethnic faith communities in the diaspora. Romuva has a strong and growing community in Lithuania, but unique challenges present themselves in growing similar communities in the diaspora. Leaders in the country of origin may struggle to appreciate and support these challenges as leaders in diaspora find themselves teaching the community not just about the faith, but the culture and language as well.

 

SMORZHEVSKA, Oksana (Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv)

Neo-pagan warrior of Ukraine: theory and practice (online)

Neo-paganism in Ukraine is a diverse religious and cultural phenomenon. Neo-pagan communities of Ukraine operate in the community and association. Every year the stratum of single neo-pagan confessors becomes more and more noticeable. "Virtual neo-paganism" is gaining momentum. But despite this diversity, there are commonalities that unite neo-pagans. This is a respectful attitude to war, the defender of one's family, people, faith, and land. Russia's armed aggression against Ukraine has exacerbated this issue. Let me say at once that a warrior is not just a man with a weapon in his hands who has dedicated his life to military affairs. A real warrior, according to Ukrainian neo-pagan beliefs: “In any population-nation there is a certain percentage of innate defenders, warriors in spirit. They are genetically programmed to protect the survival environment of their peace-loving brothers. And they make it a center - with the blessing of the national (as the state should be) or without it "(Kurtyak Volodar People with kshatriya genes // Svarog 2007 № 21 p. 51.). In general, attention to the role of the warrior, military prowess and honor is one of the biggest differences between Ukrainian neo-paganism and Western neo-paganism. During the war, the image of a warrior in the worldview of neo-pagans also found a practical embodiment. For many neo-pagans, the events in Ukraine have become an opportunity to realize themselves as defenders of their homeland and their ideals. Many Ukrainian neo-pagans became active participants in the Revolution of Dignity. Many went straight from the Maidan to the front. February 24, 2022 was a new milestone in the war between Russia and Ukraine. Ukrainian natives, like the Ukrainian people in general, defend Ukraine from the racist invasion both at the front and in the rear.

 

STASULANE, Anita (Daugavpils University)

Paganism and the radical right: a historical insight on the Dievturi movement (online)

Dievturība occupied a special place in the political and religious life of Latvia, as its origins are connected with the search for national identity that followed the founding of the Republic of Latvia (1918). In the first part of the 20th century, Dievturība tried to supply a religious answer to the question about the place of ethnic Latvians in the newly created Latvian state. The social milieu in which paganism re-emerged in Latvia is closely connected with the growth of a romanticized Latvian folk culture promoted by urbanized intellectuals who appreciated harmony with the natural environment. It might seem that their activity would have put Paganism into a politically favorable situation, as the authoritarian regime of Kārlis Ulmanis (1934-1940) accentuated national values and promoted the development of an ethnically oriented Latvia. However, the Dievturi movement failed to strengthen its position, since Ulmanis prioritized the growth and development of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Latvia, which opposed Dievturi. In its search for allies in the sphere of politics, the Dievturi leaders established contacts with the Pērkonkrusts (Thunder Cross) organization, which was governed by the ideology of Latvian nationalism. The political program of Dievturi fully coincided with the founding principles of the radical right political organization Pērkonkrusts. The cooperation of Dievturi and Pērkonkrusts clearly illustrates the attempts of religious nationalism to gain political influence in pre-war Latvia.

 

VAN BOVEN, Jedidja (University of Groningen / Jagiellonian University)

Gods and Goddesses in the Low Countries: Contemporary Paganism and the European Religious Identity Crisis (online)

Scholarly works on contemporary paganism, with their frequent focus on European and North American contexts, have often approached this growing community as a sociocultural phenomenon which is very distinct from those studied most frequently under the broader category of religious studies. While valuable as cultural-anthropological approaches, these studies are often limited in their considerations of paganism in the wider context of the societies in which they develop and the religious trends that occur on a greater scale. The goal of the proposed paper is to outline changes in the European religious landscape from the perspective of the contemporary pagan community in the Netherlands, and thereby explore the extent to which the European religious landscape represents an “other” for this particular community. The Netherlands in particular constitutes a relevant case study, considering its initially pervasive Protestant culture and subsequent rapid decline of traditional Christian institutions. In order to support a bottom-up approach grounded in a broader sociological context, the research relies on semi-structured interviews with members of contemporary pagan groups based in the Netherlands. It builds on a theoretical framework rooted in insights from the study of secularization and its associated processes, and explores the ways in which these processes are experienced by the Dutch pagan community. The main research question is as follows: How do Dutch contemporary pagans experience processes of religious change, most notably secularization and its associated phenomena?

 

VENCÁLEK, Matouš (Masaryk University)

Kolovrat and Kalashnikov: The Role of Paganism in the War in Ukraine​

The Russo-Ukrainian war – ongoing since 2014 – is generally considered mostly a political and military conflict, but there are other factors coming into play on both sides of the conflict, religion being one of them. Beside Orthodox Christianity (and Churches), Islam and others, this is also the case of Modern Paganism, as there were and are Pagan soldiers and military groups and battalions consisting solely or mostly of Pagans. Are the motivations and actions of these individuals and groups affected by their faith? Does their faith affect the way they perceive the war?

 

VRZAL, Miroslav (Masaryk University)

Czech Pagan Black Metal and its Others

At the end of the 1990s, in the Czech Republic, as in other European countries, a branch of pagan and subsequently folk metal was made of black metal, within which many bands and their fans identify with Paganism. The contribution deals with prominent Czech pagan black metal bands and asks the question which Others are created in their art and interviews. Because this branch of pagan metal was founded on strong anti-Christianity, it will be specifically focused on the construction of Christianity as an enemy. With regard to the formation of Others, the paper also mentions the recent initiative to help Ukrainian pagan and black metal bands (especially from the Kharkov area) through benefitial concerts in the context of the defensive war against Russia's hostile invasion of Ukraine.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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