Classical reception studies have traditionally focused on texts, architecture, music, and other works of art. While in recent years, the study of classical receptions in film and TV has developed into a new dynamic field, contemporary religious movements such as Neopaganism, native faith movements, and Wicca, that in some cases find inspiration in classical antiquity, have primarily been studied by historians of religion, sociologists, anthropologists, as well as by researchers in the emerging field of Pagan Studies. Some classical scholars discard these new religious phenomena as inauthentic and therefore irrelevant. One example of this type of stance is Mary Beard (2007) who concluded that ”until these eager neo-pagans get real and slaughter a bull or two in central Athens, I shan’t worry that they have much to do with ancient religion at all. Meanwhile, others have argued that classical scholars should take an interest in Neopaganism, such as Sarah Iles Johnston (2011) who notes that the bricolage and re-imaginings of contemporary Neopagans is not entirely different from that of ancient Greek religious culture and that even classical scholars ”inevitably re-imagine the gods as we do our work.”
My paper, which is based on approximately one year of fieldwork among Neopagans in Athens, intends to inspire a critical discussion about ideas of authenticity and relevance in relation to the study of Neopaganism as a case of Classical reception. Discussing the modern Greek Neopagan re-appropriation and re-canonisation of ancient Greek texts, the use of archaeological sites and artefacts, as well as the negotiation of cultural and national memory through ritual practice, I will show how contemporary Neopaganism in Greece is an example of a dynamic, new religious phenomenon that reinterprets elements of the religion and culture of Greek antiquity in a wide variety of ways. Furthermore, advocating the inclusion of an interdisciplinary axis, I argue that studying contemporary religious movements and Neopaganism from a reception perspective could provide valuable new perspectives, that may otherwise be overlooked. The research is part of my ongoing Ph.D. project.
Beard, Mary. 2007. ”Paganism without the blood” in A Don´s Life. The Times Literary Supplement. London. January 26.
Johnston, Sarah Iles. 2011. ”Whose Gods are These? A Classicist Looks at Neopaganism” in Rescendi, F. P. and Olokhine, Y. V. (Eds.). Dans le laboratoire del’historien des religions - Mélanges offerts à Philippe Borgeaud. Labor et Fides. Genève.
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