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Title: Where the Goddess and God walk : an examination of myth and ritual in revivalist Pagan Sabbat celebrations with particular reference to the Temple of the Sacred Craft
Author: Kupperman, Jeffrey Stuart
ISNI:       0000 0001 3603 0488
Awarding Body: University of Liverpool
Current Institution: University of Liverpool
Date of Award: 2007
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This study explores how myths and rituals are conjoined within the practices of the coven of American Eclectic Wiccan Pagans called the Temple of the Sacred Craft. In order to understand how these two apparently distinct areas, myths and rituals, are related this thesis examines the relevant areas of the fields of ritual studies, myth studies and myth-ritual theory. The relatively new field of Pagan studies is also investigated. This leads to an historically and contextually grounded approach to each of these subjects. An emically and etically balanced approach to definition theory is employed, for as is argued here it is only within the context of such a balanced methodological framework that a fuller understanding of how Pagans understand themselves, and not only how others have represented them, can be attained. The primary methodology of this thesis is that of anthropological participantobservation, which has been the mainstay ofAmerican anthropology since Franz Boas. Such fieldwork allows for the direct observation and experience ofPagan seasonal celebrations and their attendant rituals. This in tum leads to a better understanding ofthose rituals. The thesis is also exploration ofhow living Pagans understand and experience their own praxes. Thus the thesis focuses on the eight Sabbats, or seasonal holidays, and their accompanying rituals, of the Temple ofthe Sacred Craft, an Illinois-based coven of Eclectic Wiccans. This fieldwork is combined with an examination and analysis of several relevant and influential texts written by popular Pagan authors that highlight their own approach to·their individual Paganisms, typically Wiccan or Wiccan-derived in nature. This allows the practices of the Temple ofthe Sacred Craft to be placed in the broader area of Wiccan practice and belief. This thesis hence reveals several challenges to theories ofritual, myth and myth-ritual. It finds that by themselves the major schools of ritual theory fail to understand or to explain the practices and beliefs ofthe Temple of the Sacred Craft. The thesis further challenges popular contemporary understandings ofmyth as a reified category. Finally it will show how the classical myth-ritual theories that have so influenced the development ofWiccan ritual practice and thealogy are now incapable of accounting for those same practices and thealogies. As such, this dual methodology ofparticipant-observation and textual analysis explores and develops new approaches to all ofthese subjects, including the development of a theory of what this thesis calls 'embodied myth-rituals'. Under certain circumstances such a theory collapses the reified categories ofmyth and ritual to reveal a new and holistic praxis. One ofthe ways in which this thesis is an original contribution to learning, is that it applies general methodological insights to this particular Pagan coven. As will be seen, this testing ofthe method against this specific example of the Temple ofthe Sacred Craft indicates certain weakness with the theories in question and thus necessitates major modification, ifnot a complete recasting, ofprevious myth-ritual studies, at least within the context ofthis particular Pagan coven. The very specific new work presented in this thesis clearly needs to be set within a broader context of the study ofreligious practice, particularly as related to Pagan studies. In order to do this the following topics are closely described and examined: the etymology and history ofthe term 'pagan' and its differentiation from modem 'Pagan' religions; ways of categorizing modem Paganisms and the history of ritual theory and its two main schools ofthought. Pagan usages and understandings of what ritual is and what rituals are also explored, as is the history and etymology of the term 'myth' in academic and philosophical thought. Attention is also given to: Pagan understandings ofwhat myth is and what myths are; the classical myth and ritual theories ofWilliam Robertson Smith, Sir James Frazer and Jane Harrison and the Ritual Dominant School (theories which are significantly questioned here); a full cycle of the Temple of the Sacred Craft's eight Sabbat rituals; and, finally, the Sabbat rituals found in four important and influential Pagan texts. These areas of study gives rise to an analysis ofmyths within the Temple ofthe Sacred Craft's seasonal ritual cycle and the Pagan texts consulted, all of which leads to a fundamental critique ofthe ability of classical myth-ritual theories to understand the Temple ofthe Sacred Craft's ritual praxis and, finally, the development of a theory of embodied myth-rituals. This thesis consists of seven chapters. Chapters one through three are largely concerned with theoretical and definitional issues. Chapter one will introduce the Temple ofthe Sacred Craft, which is at the centre ofthis thesis. It will also be concerned with the methodological issues surrounding participant-observation. Chapters and three focus upon definitions of 'Pagan', 'ritual' and 'myth' as well as provide an overview of classical myth-ritual theory. Chapter four begins the ethnological examination of the Temple of the Sacred Craft's Sabbat rituals after providing a wider context ofPagan ritual practice. This chapter is a transition between the general and the specific and allows for chapters five and six to focus on the Temple of the Sacred Craft and its relation, especially, to the concerns of chapters two and three. In these chapters the theory of embodied myth-rituals is developed and connected to communication theory. The final chapter summarizes and offers specific conclusions to the first six.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available