Witchcraft and Magic: Contemporary North America

Witchcraft and Magic: Contemporary North America

Witchcraft and Magic: Contemporary North America

Witchcraft and Magic: Contemporary North America

Synopsis

Witchcraft and Magic Contemporary North America Edited by Helen A. Berger Magic, always part of the occult underground in North America, has experienced a resurgence since the 1960s. Although most contemporary magical religions have come from abroad, they have found fertile ground in which to develop in North America. Who are today's believers in Witchcraft and how do they worship? Alternative spiritual paths have increased the ranks of followers dramatically, particularly among well-educated middle-class individuals. "Witchcraft and Magic" conveys the richness of magical religious experiences found in today's culture, covering the continent of North America and the Caribbean. These original essays survey current and historical issues pertinent to religions that incorporate magical or occult beliefs and practices, and they examine contemporary responses to these religions. The relationship between Witchcraft and Neopaganism is explored, as is their intersection with established groups practicing goddess worship. Recent years have seen the growth in New Age magic and Afro-Caribbean religions, and these developments are also addressed in this volume. All the religions covered offer adherents an alternative worldview and rituals that are aimed at helping individuals redefine themselves and make their interactions with the environment more empowered. Many modern occult religions share an absence of dogma or central authority to determine orthodoxy, and have become a contemporary experience embracing modern concerns like feminism, environmentalism, civil rights, and gay rights. Afro-Caribbean religions such as Santeria, Palo, and Curanderismo, which do have a more developed dogma and authority structure, offer their followers a religion steeped in African and Hispanic traditions. Responses to the growth of magical religions have varied, from acceptance to an unfounded concern about the growth of a satanic underground. And, as magical religions have flourished, increased interest has resulted in a growing commercialization, with its threat of trivialization. Helen A. Berger is Professor of Sociology at West Chester University in Pennsylvania. 2005 216 pages 6 x 9 ISBN 978-0-8122-3877-8 Cloth $49.95s 32.50 ISBN 978-0-8122-1971-5 Paper $24.95s 16.50 ISBN 978-0-8122-0125-3 Ebook $24.95s 16.50 World Rights Anthropology, Religion Short copy: In original essays the book explores both religions that incorporate magical or occult beliefs and practices and contemporary responses to these religions in North America and the Caribbean.

Excerpt

Helen A. Berger

Magic, always part of the occult underground in North America, has experienced a resurgence since the 1960s. Religions such as Witchcraft, Neopaganism, Goddess Worship, the New Age, and Yoruba (also known as Santería), which incorporate magic or mystical beliefs, have gained adherents, particularly among well-educated middle-class individuals. Some of these religions, such as Witchcraft and Neopaganism, openly embrace magic. Others, most notably Yoruba, do not define their practices as magical, although outsiders have viewed the religion as incorporating and using magic. For example, healing within the Yoruba tradition involves both herbal remedies and divination to determine and address the underlying spiritual cause of the illness.

Magic and religion have traditionally been conceptualized as two separate entities (Malinowski 1954; Durkheim 1965). Religion is viewed as more complex than magic, involving the worship of and prayer to the divine, who can choose either to answer or deny those prayers. Magic, to the contrary, has been perceived as a series of techniques to control or manipulate the spirit world. The distinction is flawed, as magic neither in traditional societies nor in contemporary magical religions is solely a matter of manipulation. Shamans in traditional societies have always practiced their techniques within a larger spiritual framework. Similarly, contemporary magical religions define their practices within a religious or spiritual cosmology, not separate from it. There are some exceptions to this. Most notably, some non-Native American Shamans and some branches of the New Age believe their techniques can be separated from a larger spiritual cosmology. For these groups, magical techniques form an alternative technology that relies on tapping into natural sources that have been overlooked by science. The distinction between magic and religion is further blurred by the fact that mainline religions often have magical components—such as the belief in miracles or angels. For magical religions, the interweaving of magic and religion is stronger than it is in more mainline religions. Most of the religions discussed in this volume openly embrace magic as an important element of their spiritual path that empowers the . . .

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