All Beliefs are Welcome Here!
What I did - and did not do - at the American Academy of Religion 2011 annual meeting in San Francisco
Thursday 17 November, 5.00pm
I was actually at the American Schools of Oriental Research annual meeting – an archaeology conference – at this stage, having just presented my paper for that conference. On this night however, my friend Sam and I went out to dinner and the opera (Carmen) with Pagans, Fritz Muntean and Deborah Bender. I did not officially transfer over to the American Academy of Religion conference until the Saturday night, as per below:
Saturday, November 19, 9.00pm – 11.00pm
Northern California Local Council of the Covenant of the Goddess welcomes the American Academy of Religion and the San Francisco Bay Area Pagan Community! (Hilton Hotel).
This was an amazing event that included representatives of Afro-Diasporic, Ceremonial Magic, Druid, Heathen, Pagan, and Wiccan groups. There were over 30 different groups, organisations, and distinguished Elders present, representing the Bay Area’s diverse Pagan and Heathen scene.
Sunday, 20 November, 7.30am
Got up extremely early to attend a young scholars breakfast organised by the Academic Dean of Cherry Hill Seminary, Wendy Griffin (it wasn’t necessarily for ‘young’ people, more early career researchers). Then we all went over to the first session, listed just below:
Sunday, 9.00am – 11.30am
AAR Contemporary Pagan Studies Group and Religion and Ecology Group
Whitney Bauman, Florida International University Presiding. Theme: Elemental Theology and Feminist Earth Practices. Panelists: Rosemary R. Reuther, Claremont Graduate University; and Starhawk, Earth Activist Training. Responding: Marion S. Grau, Graduate Theological Union; Jone Salomonsen, University of Oslo; and Heather Eaton, Saint Paul University.
Lunch 11.30 – 1.00pm
I had lunch with Reclaiming Witch, Macha NightMare, who I have known online for years. It was great to get to chat intensively with her and I can see that if we had more time we could go on and on talking for hours. Hope to do that some other time!
1 – 2.30pm
AAR Contemporary Pagan Studies Group
Graham Harvey, Open University, Presiding. Theme: West Coast Pagan Practices and Ideas. Papers: Christopher W. Chase, Iowa State University. Building a California Bildung: Theodore Rozak’s and Alan Watts’ Contributions to Pagan Hermeneutics; Kristy Coleman, Santa Clara University and San Jose State University. Re-riting Women: Dianic Wicca; [and unfortunately cancelled] Kerry Noonan, California State University, Northridge. “Wish They All Could Be California Grrrls?”: The Influence of California Women on the Goddess Movement and Neo-Paganism. Responding: Fritz Muntean, Pomegranate: The International Journal of Pagan Studies.
3.00 – 4.30pm
Simply had to go rest in my hotel room.
5.00pm – 6.30pm
Indigenous Religious Traditions Group
Jace Weaver, University of Georgia, Presiding. Theme: behind Enemy Lines. Papers: Lee Gilmore, California State University Northridge, and Sabina Magliocco, California State University Northridge. Pagans at the Parliament: Interfaith Dialogue between Pagan and Indigenous Communities; Carmen Landsdown. “Dances with Dependency”: An Indigenous Theological Exploration of Dependency and Development Theories and Their Influences on Liberation Theology for the Twenty-first Century; [and an unfortunate no-show] Comfort Max-Wirth, Florida International University. The Occult and Politics in Ghana: Tapping into the Pentecostal Discourse of Demonizing African Traditional Religion as a Political Strategy; [and another no-show!!!] Orenda Boucher, Concordia University. Violence and the Grotesque of Sacred Bodies: Iconography of Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha.
Collapsed from tiredness in my hotel room.
Monday 21 November
Through lack of sleep, unable to rise early enough to attend the Cherry Hill Seminary breakfast. (Grrr!) Slept in sufficiently to be fresh for presenting my paper today.
1.00pm – 3.30pm
AAR Contemporary Pagan Studies Group
Shawn Arthur, Appalachian State University, Presiding. Theme: Pagan Analysis and Critique of “Religion”. Papers: Suzanne Owen, Leeds Trinity. Definitions, Decisions and Druids: Presenting Druidry as a Religion; Christine Kraemer, Cherry Hill Seminary. Perceptions of Scholarship in Contemporary Paganism; Helen Berger, Brandeis University. Fifteen Years of Continuity and Change within the American Pagan Community; Caroline Tully, University of Melbourne. Researching the Past is a Foreign Country: Cognitive Dissonance as a Response by Practitioner Pagans to Academic Research on the History of Pagan Religions. Business Meeting: Chas Clifton, Colorado State University, Presiding.
4.00pm – 6.30pm
Western Esotericism Group
Cathy Gutierrez, Sweet Briar College, Presiding. Theme: Western Esotericism and Material Culture. Papers: Egil Asprem, University of Amsterdam. Technofetishism, Instrumentation, and the Materiality of Esoteric Knowledge; Shawn Eyer, John F. Kennedy University. The Use of Tracing Boards and Other Art Objects as Physical Aids of Symbolic Communication in the Rituals and Practices of Freemasonry; Stephen Wehmeyer, Champlain College. Conjurational Contraptions: “Techno-gnosis”, Mechanical Wizardry, and the Material Culture of African American Folk Magic; Henrik Bogdan, University of Gothenburg. “Objets d’Art Noir”, Magical Engines, and Gateways to Other Dimensions: Understanding Hierophanies in Contemporary Occultism; Joseph Christian Greer, Harvard University. Storming the Citadel for Knowledge, Aesthetics and Profit: The Dreamachine in Twentieth Century Esotericism.
European Society for the Study of Western Esotericism and Aries Reception
The European Society of the Study of Western Esotericism and its associated journal Aries invite[d] current and potential members of ESSWE and current and potential contributors to Aries to a reception to hear briefly about plans for ESSWE and Aries, and to renew or extend contacts within the field.
(There was also a session on Saturday 19 November from 8.30am – 12.30pm that I was invited to present in but which I could not attend, as I was still at ASOR: Phoenix Rising Academy. Theme: Demons in the Academy? Renouncing Rejected Knowledge, Again. Description: Join us for a special session exploring the transdisciplinary options for balanced and integrative approaches to Western Esotericism, while drawing attention to issued relating to the focus on disinterested empiricism as the sole acceptable method for the study of these topics. Integrative models and approaches combining scholarly rigor with imaginative and sympathetic engagement have long been established in many areas of the humanities and social sciences. Yet the question of scholarly overengagment with their topic continues to be a point of contention, while voices calling from channels of dialogue and mutual understanding between scholars and practitioners in order to better explore the application and potential of such epistemologies are frequently met with suspicion in academic circles. In this session we seek to explore ways to build bridges of fruitful communication and mutual understanding between seemingly disparate voices and perspectives. Topics include: Legitimate ways of knowing: experiential knowledge and/or symbolic perception; How can we learn from each other? Bridging the practitioner-scholar divide; Is history and discourse analysis enough?; Paradigms for integration and applied transdisciplinary methodology.