Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Academic Stream Presentations

We are excited to announce the details of our peeer-reviewed academic stream. The academic stream presentations will take place on Sunday morning from 9:00 am until 2:30 pm. Here are the titles and abstracts:

Sunday 9:00 – 10:15: Classroom 2
Academic Stream Block A: Esotericism in the Modern Time

  • My Wax Wings: Or, How I am Pursuing the Academic Study of Magic in Canada.
    Presenter: RA Priddle
  • The Mosaic of Neo-pagan studies, the emerging academic discipline of Western Esotericism, and Religious Studies: What is the relationship?
    Presenter: Shya Young

Sunday 10:45 – 12:00: Lecture Hall
 Block B: Witchcraft

  • Double, Double, Toil and Trouble: Representations of Witchcraft in Contemporary Documentary Cinema
    Presenter: Aradia Rosa James
  • The role of Handmaiden in Witchcraft.
    Presenter: T. Scarlet Jory
  • Text A: Teasing out the early influences on Gardnerian Witchcraft as demonstrated in the personal writings of Gerald Gardner
    Presenter: Lisa Crandall

Sunday 1pm: Classroom 2
 Block C: Pagan Studies Panel

As a finale to the academic stream of this year's conference, some of the academics in our community will discuss the current state of the academic study of paganism. What achievements have been made so far? What questions still remain to be asked? What are the basic research challenges, and what are the rewards? What is the relation between the one who researches the pagan movement, and the one who participates in it? What if the researcher is a participant, too? Join us for a hearty and intelligent examination of these and related questions.

 Presentation Abstracts
TITLE My Wax Wings: Or, How I am Pursuing the Academic Study of Magic in Canada.
BY: R.A. Priddle, H.BA, MA (Ottawa 2012), MI (Toronto 2013)
The cautionary tale of Daidalos and √ćkaros tells us neither to fly to high nor fly too low lest our wings fail and we crash into the sea below. A careful reading of the myth tells a story of knowledge and control and provides a vital departure point to compare the myth to the academic study of magic by reflecting on how I have learned to traverse the atmosphere between the sun of my academic goals and the seas of material realities that I must cross to safe shore. There are three main themes that I will reflect on, the first is on my Canada mentors and their project asks questions about the cunningly crafted labyrinth of academics that I must learn to navigate. The second theme is how I gathered my materials for my wings asking questions about the education training I have been given to make my own project in the academic study of magic in Canada. The third theme is about the future of the academic study of magic in Canada, and reflects on the sorrow of Daidalos as he watched his son and his future drown in the sea.

TITLE: The Mosaic of Neo-pagan studies, the emerging academic discipline of Western Esotericism, and Religious Studies; What is the relationship?
BY: Shya Young, Instructor, Religious Studies, University of Alberta
I will argue that the study of Neo-paganism fits within the field of Western Esotericism, and that together both can play an important role within the discipline of religious studies by deconstructing the grand narratives of who we are and how we arrived there. I will do this by talking about my experience teaching Witchcraft and the Occult at the University of Alberta, delineating the emerging discipline of Western Esotericism, and summarizing the argument of Wouter Hanegraaff as to the importance of Western Esotericism within the Academy. I will also touch briefly on the work of Sabina Magliocco and Ronald Hutton, who both place neo-pagan witchcraft within the lineage of western estoric traditions.

TITLE: Double, Double, Toil and Trouble: Representations of Witchcraft in Contemporary Documentary Cinema
BY: Aradia Rosa James
The representation of witchcraft and witches in contemporary documentary often contribute to the dissemination of misinformation about what witchcraft is and what witches believe. Many of these ethnographic documentary films incorrectly essentialize the practice and technique of witchcraft as being synonymous with the new religious movement of Wicca. As the subjects speak to their own experiences, this essentialization is not due to misrepresentation of the filmic subjects of themselves, but is instead a shortcoming of the filmmakers in question, who often use their conversations with individual subjects to generalize the beliefs of many myriad practitioners. In the language used by narrators, reporters, and interviewers, the filmmakers incorrectly establish their subjects as delegates speaking on behalf of all witches. While it is vital that popular conceptions of witches (which, as explained by entertainment critic Dean Richards and historian William Monter in The Biography Channel’s Witches, largely remain in the middle ages and with Margaret Hamilton’s portrayal of Elphaba in The Wizard of Oz) are challenged and deconstructed and that practitioners of witchcraft today have the agency to represent themselves in popular media, it is important that that one type of misinformation is not replaced by another.

TITLE: The role of Handmaiden in Witchcraft
BY: T. Scarlet Jory, MA Concordia University
The history of the handmaiden is seen throughout our past. They were lady attendants, otherwise known as ladies in waiting, or handmaidens. In Japan, they served as concubines to the emperor. The history of the Robin (or Fetch or Page) is similar to that of the Handmaiden, except that it is a male assistant to a man. The role of the handmaiden in Wicca stems from the historical references to handmaidens in both the male and female sense. They were the intimate aid that was crucial for the smooth continuation of a practice. I propose to look at the various historical references and roles of the handmaiden (both male and female) as seen in history and compare these to the traditional practices of the handmaiden role in Wicca and Witchcraft. I will conclude with some of the issues and concerns facing this tradition in today's contemporary Pagan practices.

TITLE: Text A: Teasing out the early influences on Gardnerian Witchcraft as
demonstrated in the personal writings of Gerald Gardner
BY: Lisa Crandall, MA Candidate, University of Ottawa
Gerald Brousseau Gardner (1884-1964), generally acknowledged within Wicca as the founder of Gardnerian Wicca (Witchcraft), claimed that in 1939 he had been initiated into a highly secretive religious tradition that had a lineage dating back hundreds of years, possibly even predating Christianity. This claim has been energetically debated in academic and pagan circles for decades but it still constitutes an "origin myth" of contemporary witchcraft. Part of the debate is fueled by the lack of published analysis of early Gardnerian documents. Over the past three years I have been transcribing, sorting and analyzing the contents of Text A, Gerald Gardner's assumed first Book of Shadows. Building on textual and source analysis I will present some of the more startling discoveries I have made regarding the origins of some of Wicca's most cherished rules and words. How early was he using the word "athame"? When did the phrase "Book of Shadows" enter his, and our, lexicon? Was Gardner a goddess worshiper? Breaking Text A down into themes I have recognized some elements that have left their trace in today's rituals and beliefs and even the language we use. I look forward to sharing with you my fascinating journey through the literary elements that Gardner researched, pondered and compiled into the notebook that is now known as Text A. This research forms the basis of my Master's thesis work at the University of Ottawa.

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