Religious Minorities' Web Rhetoric: Romanian and Hungarian Ethno-Pagan Organizations

Article excerpt

Abstract: The comparative study of Romanian and Hungarian Neopagan organizations with an ethnocentric or "Ethno-pagan" ideology is an exploratory research aimed at mapping the similarities and the differences between these religious minorities, with a highlight on their level of institutionalization, their core values and degree of political mobilization. Zalmoxian groups and organizations promote the revival of Romanian spirituality through a process of reconnection to its ancient, supposedly Dacian and Thracian roots; by the same token, Hungarian Shamanist movements are aimed at recovering a supposedly lost spirituality, built-in into the deepest layers of Hungarian language and cultural practices. A web rhetoric analysis of these organizations is carried out in order to assess audience involvement, communication style and the use of multimedia tools to convey their messages.

Keywords: Romanian and Hungarian Ethno-pagans, web rhetoric, religious minorities

Introduction

Religion and spirituality are important dimensions of social life from the earliest stages of its existence. Traditional agrarian society has placed religion at the core of its organizing principles and in the centre of the public sphere for more than two thousand years. Industrialization and the development of modern states have changed the position of religious institutions by separating them from the state and placing them in the private sphere in the 19th and the 20th Century.

Nowadays, globalization has brought about not only the revival of religiosity, but also an intense process of creation and re-creation of spiritual movements and organizations around the world. Information society has reshaped the structure of public sphere and gave increasing space for private groups and institutions, including religious ones. Beyond mainstream, well established and acknowledged religions such as Christianity, Islam or Judaism, a large variety of more or less organized groups have sprung in the last decades of the twentieth century. These entities - generically tagged as "religious minorities" because they represent only a small percentage of a country's population - have strengthened their voices in the Twenty-first Century through the rise of the internet revolution and have created "a myriad of cybertemples"1. Neopaganism is perhaps the fastest growing religious minority and part of the "modern magical revival"2 both in traditionalist, rural spaces and in urban environments,3 and therefore worth to explore.

At first glance Neopaganism seems to be an insignificant stream even among religious minorities compared to other contemporary spiritual movements (here in Romania many of the average citizens may not have even ever heard of it). The question might arise, if modern Pagans are so insignificant in numbers why should be they of any concern, public or scientific whatsoever. Still specialists all over the world try to find the reasons and circumstances for the formation and proliferation of its various expressions. Their answers to this question vary just as the explanations they offer for the phenomenon itself. Depending on the affiliation of an author analyzing the issue, some discuss Neopaganism as a threat to the religious status quo4, or as a threat to the healthy nationalhistorical consciousness5, others treat it as a menace to the social-political order or to given elements of society6, while still others see it as delirious phantasmagoria spoiling the mainline historical, linguistical, ideological discourse7 - either overemphasizing its impact or dismissing it as ridiculous.

The comparative study of Romanian and Hungarian Neopagan organizations with an ethnocentric or "Ethno-pagan" ideology is an exploratory research aimed at mapping the similarities and the differences between these religious minorities, and highlighting their level of institutionalization (their degree of being "religions") as well as their ideologies' and practices' impact on a personal level (their way of being "spiritualities"). …