BAHAR Seminar, Thursday October 20, 2011: Léon van Gulik

Drs Léon van Gulik of Radboud University, Nijmegen will give a seminar, ‘Making sense of talking to trees and barking at the moon: Explorations of the ritualized exchange of self and cosmos in the Greencraft tradition’ on Thursday October 20, 2011. Humanities Building, Cardiff University from 5.10 p.m. to 6.45 p.m. All welcome. Room 3.48, Humanities Building.

Greencraft Wicca is one of the newer branches of contemporary Paganism that emerged in response to the perceived lack of awareness of nature in a tradition that always considered itself to be a green religion. Based on Alexandrian Wicca, the predominantly Flemish Greencraft can be seen as an internal development in modern Pagan witchcraft, in that it firmly reasserts the role and meaning of the natural world in its rituals and cosmology. Added to the belief system, then, are the Celtic tree calendar, a reinterpretation of the Cabbalistic Sephirot, and a self-developed tarot system, which are all built-up from newly constructed correspondences between deities, trees and power animals. Part of the ritual activity has taken the form of a so-called tree walk: a walk dedicated to a specific tree that will be the object of meditation, interspersed with episodes of chanting, dancing, and stone-singing. The full moon walks are more introspective. In the first part of my presentation will offer a brief outline of the Greencraft movement, and offer an impression of these walks.

In addition to the descriptive-ethnographic perspective of the first part, I will employ a explanatory-psychological approach in the second part. Here I will discuss narratives based on in-depth interviews with Greencrafters about their meditations, divinations, and spirit encounters, trying to gain an understanding of these personal narratives by putting an emphasis on the motives, intentions and imagination of these believers. Using Winnicott’s notion of the imaginal as the area of transition between inner and outer world, I will then offer an interpretive analysis of the stories to show how personal meanings emerge from the interactions between person and cosmology and how these become attuned in ritualized action. Briefly touching upon functions like the effort after meaning, biographical reconstruction, and validation of belief, I will demonstrate how both the adherents and religious system are potentially changed by these repetitive interactions. From these observations I will conclude my presentation with a few generalising points on the creative nature of intention and imagination, showing them to be the engine of ritual renewal, thus relating these particular findings to my overarching ethnographic research project on ritual creativity among Flemish and Dutch Pagans, as well as hinting at the role of psychological processes in religious change at large.

Léon’s personal website can be found here.

For further information see BAHAR News and Events Page or contact Geoffrey.

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