צילומי הווידאו מערב הדיון לכבוד צאת האנתולוגיה שערכתי בנושא רוחניות אלטרנטיבית עכשווית בישראל

ב-1 בדצמבר התקיים במכון ון ליר ערב דיון בנושא רוחניות אלטרנטיבית עכשווית בישראל לכבוד צאת האנתולוגיה שבעריכתי

Contemporary Alternative Spiritualities in Israel

פרקי האנתולוגיה מתמקדים במגוון רחב של תופעות רוחניות וקבוצות דתיות חדשות, כגון ניו אייג’ יהודי, אנתרופוסופיה, ניאו-קבלה, תקשור, יוגה נשית, ניאו-פגאניזם, כנסיות של מהגרי עבודה ופליטים, טקסי חתונה אלטרנטיביים ועוד. כתבתי כמה דברים על האנתולוגיה בפוסט הקודם, בו גם ניתן לקרוא את המבוא לאנתולוגיה

אני שמח לעדכן כי ערב הדיון צולם בווידאו, וכעת ניתן לצפות בהרצאות בדף היוטיוב של מכון ון ליר. הנה הלינקים להרצאות:
– ד”ר אדם קלין אורון (מכון ון ליר): דברי פתיחה.
– פרופ’ בועז הוס (אונ’ בן גוריון): ישובים רוחניים בישראל.
– ד”ר שי פררו (אונ’ תל אביב והאגודה הישראלית לחקר דתות): דברי סיכום.

Contemporary Alternative Spiritualities in Israel, eds. Shai Feraro and James R. Lewis (Palgrave Macmillan, 2016)

I am very happy to announce that Contemporary Alternative Spiritualities in Israel, co-edited by myself and Prof. James R. Lewis (University of Tromsø, Norway), has finally been published by Palgrave Macmillan, as part of their ‘Palgrave Studies in New Religions and Alternative Spiritualities‘ series.

This volume is the first English-language anthology to engage with the fascinating phenomena of recent surges in New Age and alternative spiritualties in Israel. It covers a variety of groups and movements, such as Theosophy and Anthroposophy, Neopaganism, Channeling, Women’s Yoga, the New Age festival scene, and even Pentecostal churches among African labor migrants living in Tel Aviv. Chapters also explore more Jewish-oriented practices such as Neo-Kabballah, Neo-Hassidism, and alternative marriage ceremonies, as well as the use of spiritual care providers in Israeli hospitals. In addition, contributors take a close look at the state’s reaction to the recent activities and growth of new religious movements.

Palgrave Macmillan have generously allowed me to upload the volume’s Introduction to this blog. You can read it here below (here is a link to the pdf on my Academia.edu page), and I hope it will leave you wanting more and help you in deciding to purchase the book 🙂

Shai.

 

 

Introduction

 

The study of New Religious Movements (NRMs) developed during the 1970s as a plethora of non-traditional religious movements were beginning to gain public visibility in the West in the wake of the decline of the Sixties counterculture. Initially, these movements held the attention of Western sociologists of religion, primarily due to the disputes that arose as a reaction to their rapid expansion. Religious studies scholars—who were then still in the process of establishing their discipline as a legitimate field of study distinct from theology and traditional biblical studies—for the most part showed no interest in the phenomenon, and preferred to leave NRMs to sociologists. This situation began to change in later decades, however, and presently NRM scholars from religious studies backgrounds outnumber those who hail from the social sciences; even historians have now begun to venture into the field.

Three academic journals currently focus on NRMs, Nova Religio, the International Journal for the Study of New Religions, and the Alternative Spirituality and Religion Review. There are furthermore at least three book series dedicated to the study of New Religions, and annual conferences and workshops organized by CESNUR and INFORM have been held continuously since the 1980s. Recently, an academic association devoted to the study of NRMs, the International Society for the Study of New Religions (ISSNR), was formed, and courses on NRMs are popular offerings in most religious studies programs of any size.

But despite the growth of this field of study, some NRM scholars—at least in North America—maintain that the longer-range prospects of the discipline are unfavorable, basing their argument, in part, on the perception that relatively few younger scholars are choosing to specialize in the study of NRMs. Instead, it seems that most new research continues to be produced by the same scholars who joined the field back in the seventies and eighties. In Israel, though, the study of NRMs seems to be developing with gusto, as younger researchers join the field and many graduate students present new findings from their dissertations yearly.

In recent decades, Israel has become home to a bustling scene of New Age and alternative spiritualities, ranging from homegrown phenomena to overseas imports that are either adopted wholly, or adapted in varying degrees to Israeli Jewish culture. These new forms of spirituality also differ in their level of penetration into contemporary Israeli society. Some, as shall be seen below, are the preserve of foreign refugees and work migrants, and their existence is virtually unknown to most if not all Israelis. Others—while practiced by Israelis—similarly remain under the public’s radar, while certain groups and practices (whether imported from the West or produced locally) have permeated deep into the Israeli mainstream. In response, three academic journals have dedicated special issues(1) to the study of these phenomena in Israeli society, and a short edited volume has been published in Hebrew (Tavory 2007). The present anthology, however, is the first of its kind to have been published in English. One of its goals, therefore, is to supply scholars with an opportunity to learn how New Age and alternative spiritualities—produced in Western countries within a predominantly Protestant or secular culture—transform and adapt themselves in Israel. Positioned in a strategic location connecting Europe, Asia and Africa, Israel is an ethno-national state which views itself as a Western enclave situated at the heart of the Arab Middle East, constantly attempting ‘to reconcile the two conflicting principles of a “Jewish and democratic state”’ (Ben-Porat and Turner 2011, 1).

Founded in 1948, Israel was built on an overwhelmingly secular vision. While Orthodox Judaism was (and still is) designated as the state religion, most Israeli Jews did not identify as religious, and were quite disinterested in either mainstream or alternative forms of spirituality. This situation changed in the wake of the 1973 Yom Kippur War, which substantially destabilized the secular, modernist Zionist ethos on which the vast majority of Israelis based themselves (Ariel 2010, 4).

During the 1970s, several New Religious Movements were imported into Israel, and homegrown alternative spiritualities began to form as well. Masua Sagiv’s Chap. 7 demonstrates, from a Legal Studies point of view, how the state reacted to NRM phenomena through the actions of its legislative, executive and judicial branches. Building on Marianna Ruah-Midbar’s and Adam Klin-Oron’s work (2013), Sagiv outlines governmental attempts to control the activity of NRMs by inter-ministerial reports examining the ‘phenomenon of cults’. She illustrates the existing legislation and proposed bills involving NRMs, and describes the judiciary’s approach to NRMs, as reflected in three central criminal law cases from the last decade. In trying to curtail or control the activities of NRMs and New Age religiosities, government authorities are obviously fighting a losing battle. In Chap. 5, Nurit Zaidman analyzes the recent growth of the spiritual care movement and its incorporation into core institutions of mainstream Israeli society—hospitals and homes for the elderly. Zaidman shows how this phenomenon is embedded within New Age spirituality in Israel, and is shaped by the specific characteristic of Israeli society on the macro level, as well as by the particular features of specific organizations.

The last 25 years have featured an explosion in both the variety of different groups and the sheer number of participants. Indeed, each year dozens of New Age festivals take place, with the primary festival drawing over 50,000 participants (Ruah-Midbar 2006, 144–146), enough to populate an average Israeli town. Ruah-Midbar and KlinOron (2010) suggested recently that New Age phenomena in Israel are located along two axes: one ranging from shared global (Western) forms to homegrown cultural products, while the other focuses on the relational approaches between New Age spirituality and traditional Jewish praxis, ranging from indifference and opposition to adaptation and preservation. Global New Age discourse is thus adapted in many cases into an Israeli ‘Jew Age’ through the use of Jewish symbols and practices. This ‘Jew Age’ spirituality is a direct outcome of Israel’s unique and complicated politics of identity as the nation state of the Jewish people. A good example of such mingling of New Age alternative spirituality and Judaism in Israel can be found in Joseph Loss’ (2007) research on Jewish-Israeli practitioners of Buddhism.

In Chap. 2 , Tomer Persico focuses on expressions of Neo-Kabbalah in Israeli society, and describes the rise of what he terms the ‘Utilitarian Self’—a social reality which originated in late nineteen-century American religiosity, and began to play a significant role in Israeli contemporary spirituality in the 1990s. Einat Ramon’s chapter presents the story of Yemima Avital (1929–1999), a female mystic and student of psychology, who is recognized today as the leader of a contemporary ‘female – Hassidic’ movement. Avital developed a spiritual discipline known as ‘cognitive thinking’, which she taught in Tel Aviv during the 1990s. She left no manuscripts, and her teachings were later published by her various students.

Chapter 1, written by Rachel Werczberger, focuses on the ways in which Jewish history is recovered, reinterpreted and remolded in Israeli New Age Judaism. New Age Judaism, argues Werczberger, maintains a spiritual neo-Canaanite narrative of the past by reformulating the biblical period as a sacred time, distinguished by non-institutionalized forms of religious experiences, indigenous pagan and nature worship, prophecy, as well as direct divine revelation. This reconfiguration of the past underpins New Age Judaism’s radical ideas and provides them with a sense of cultural continuity and authenticity. Its narrative emulates and subverts the ‘classic’ Zionist narrative, and ignores its particularistic and nationalistic constituents, emphasizing instead a universal spirituality, realized by indigenous religions and practices. This strategy caters to the identity needs of contemporary, non-Orthodox Jewish Israelis. Non-Orthodox forms of Judaism—which make up the majority of Jews in the USA—are not recognized as legitimate by the State of Israel, which grants Orthodox Judaism a monopoly in all official matters pertaining to religion in the country.

In Chap. 4, Anna Prashizky deals with an issue that has become highly contested in Israeli society in recent years—unorthodox wedding rituals. Prashizky explores the central characteristics of these ceremonies in modern Israeli society from a post-modern and post-secular perspective, and finds that they combine secular and antireligious components with religious components of Jewish orthodox rituals, basing their inspiration on Jewish texts and ritual practices. Her principal claim is that in contrast to the orthodox wedding rituals, which remain within the province of the Jewish collective and are replete with collective meanings, alternative rituals manifest a process of individualization, and mostly focus on the individual’s biographical memory, which joins or replaces collective Jewish memory.

To assume that the Israeli ‘enclosure’ remains unaffected by its ‘othered’ neighborhood would be tragically wrong—as the last 70 years would attest. Both mainstream (Jewish) religion and alternative spiritualities generally shy away from engaging with (primarily Muslim and Christian) practices or beliefs that either originate in the outlining Arab nations or are maintained by the country’s significant Arab minority. The interest in Sufism is a notable exception to this rule (Bram 2014). Indeed, while the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is frequently covered by world media, outsiders generally forget that Israel proper (meaning, if we excluded its contested hold in large parts of the West Bank) is not a religiously-monolithic state, and that roughly twenty percent of its population is (predominantly) Muslim, Christian or Druze. One hundred and thirty thousand adherents of the ethnoreligious and esoteric Druze faith live in Israel and have maintained a close alliance with the country’s Jewish population since the foundation of Israel. The Druze, however, do not accept converts (both in Israel and worldwide), and most Druze do not undergo the initiation that would entitle them to view the religion’s holy scriptures. It should also be noted that Haifa—Israel’s third largest city—functions as the World Centre of the Baha’i faith, though its adherents do not proselytize to Israelis.

In light of the above, we accept that one of the drawbacks of the present anthology—one that will hopefully be amended by future scholarship—is its lack of coverage of engagement with alternative forms of spirituality among Israeli Arabs. This lacuna was caused largely due to a shortage of available contributions that would be based on original research during our canvassing stage, but it should be noted that in recent years there has been some pioneering work done among traditional women healers in Israeli Arab society, as well as Israeli Arab women who engage in complementary medicine (Popper-Giveon 2009; Popper-Giveon and Weiner-Levy 2013). Israeli Arabs, however, generally do not take part in the country’s buffet of alternative spiritualities. This seems to be due to the fact that Arabs usually come from a lower socio-economic and relatively traditional background (Israeli New Age culture appeals mostly to the middle classes), but also because New Age festivals reflect a Jewish-Israeli sense of belonging. Dalit Simchai’s study of Israeli New Age festivals, presented in Chap. 6, attempts to problematize the ways in which the organizers of the Israeli New Age festival construct their identity as distinct from those whom they perceive to be part of Israel’s dominant society. They view the festival as an opportunity to meet with Israeli hegemonic society and influence it from within, without being limited or influenced by its containment and exclusion mechanisms. The organizers’ concerns for ‘authenticity’ and the ‘commercialization’ of the festival are also discussed.

Many of the NRMs and alternative forms of spirituality active in Israel are overseas products, and don’t necessarily adopt Jew Age values and ideas in order to compete in the local alternative spirituality market. Space limitations prevent us from devoting specific chapters to most of them, but individual studies can be found on Israeli Shamans (Yavelberg 2004), Rainbow festival goers (Tavori and Goodman 2010), Neo-pagans (Feraro 2014b) and ISKCON (Zaidman-Dvir and Sharot 1992). In Chap. 8, Isaac Lubelsky provides a pioneering survey of Theosophy and Anthroposophy in Israel. He elaborates on the unique interest that both doctrines and movements have gained, and summarizes both movements’ current status in Israel. In Chap. 11, Orly Salinas Mizrahi examines the ways in which Israeli Neo-pagans reinterpret and adapt the Mabon festival—a Celtic- inspired seasonal festival developed and celebrated by British and North American Neo-pagans—into the local Israeli climate and agricultural setting. Adam Klin-Oron’s research, presented in Chap. 9, examines eschatological inclinations among Israeli Channelers, while Chap. 10 features Carmit Rosen Even-Zohar’s research into discourse about menstruation in Israeli Yoga for Women courses. Rosen claims that this new discourse attempts to ‘re-enchant’ the menstruation experience and to ritualize it. Simultaneously, she argues that the Israeli social order limits this new discourse and shapes it to conform to such principles as fertility and the modern project of self. Rosen’s chapter is also exploratory in its examination of this important facet of the country’s emerging women’s spirituality scene. A fuller examination of it remains to be written, but a short historical description of its development since the early 1990s can be found in Feraro (2014a).

Finally, Galia Sabar’s Chap. 12 deals with new forms of spirituality among African labor migrants living in Israel and centered mostly in Southern Tel Aviv, which takes on a distinct Pentecostal character. This Afro-Israeli Christian arena, Sabar maintains, has proved to be flexible and fluid enough to accommodate the majority of its varied members (albeit within certain limits), juxtaposing global trends with local realities and the needs of its members. One of the groups on which Sabar concentrates— the Nigerian-based Brotherhood of the Cross and Star—can arguably be construed as an NRM.

 

Shai Feraro

James R. Lewis

 

 

NOTE

  1. See Nova Religio (2010), Alternative Spirituality and Religion Review (2014), and Israel Studies Review (2014).

 

 

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Ariel, Y. (2010). Paradigm shift: New religious movements and quests for meaning and community in contemporary Israel. Nova Religio, 13(4), 4–21.

Ben-Porat, G., & Turner, B. S. (2011). Introduction: Contemporary Dilemmas of Israeli citizenship. In G. Ben-Porat & B. S. Turner (Eds.), The contradictions of Israeli citizenship: Land, religion and state (pp. 1–22). London: Routledge.

Bram, C. (2014). Spirituality under the shadow of the conflict: Sufi circles in Israel. Israel Studies Review, 29(2), 118–139.

Feraro, S. (2014a). “And not a word about the goddess”: On processes of making and displaying a pagan identity in Israeli women’s spirituality festivals and workshops by Israeli pagan women. Alternative Spirituality and Religion Review, 5(1), 9–30.

Feraro, S. (2014b). Two steps forward, one step back: The shaping of a community building discourse among Israeli pagans, 1999–2012. Israel Studies Review, 29(2), 57–77.

Goodman, Y., & Tavory, I. (2010). Crafting selves, building community, erasing the nation: A pragmatist reading of New Age gatherings in Israel [in Hebrew]. Israeli Sociology, 12(1), 29–56.

Loss, J. (2007). Universal experiences in Israel: On local modes of adaptation of the global path of the Buddha [in Hebrew]. PhD dissertation, University of Haifa.

Popper-Giveon, A. (2009). Adapted traditions: The case of traditional Palestinian women healers in Israel. Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 10(2).

Popper-Giveon, A., & Weiner-Levy, N. (2013). Returning to ourselves Palestinian complementary healers in Israel. Qualitative Health Research.

Ruah-Midbar, M. (2006). The New Age culture in Israel: A methodological introduction and the ‘conceptual network’ [in Hebrew]. PhD dissertation, Bar Ilan University.

Ruah-Midbar, M., & Klin-Oron, A. (2010). Jew Age: Jewish praxis in Israeli New Age discourse. Journal of Alternative Spiritualities and New Age Studies, 5, 33–63.

Ruah-Midbar, M., & Klin-Oron, A. (2013). “Tell me who your enemies are”: Government reports about the “cult” phenomenon in Israel. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 52, 810–826.

Tavory, I. (Ed.). (2007). Dancing in a Thorn field: The New Age spirituality in Israel [in Hebrew]. Tel Aviv: Hakibutz Hameuhad Press.

Yavelberg, Y. (2004). Shamanism, rationality and womanhood in contemporary Israel [in Hebrew]. M.A. thesis, Tel Aviv University.

Zaidman-Dvir, N., & Sharot, S. (1992). The response of Israeli society to new religious movements: ISKCON and Teshuvah. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 31, 279–295.

 

 

 

I finally got my PhD :-)

So after 5.5 years I finally got my PhD from Tel Aviv University’s School of Historical Studies ! It was an amazing – albeit at times arduous – stage in my journey within academia, and produced a dissertation titled ‘The Priestess, the Witch, and the Women’s Movement: Women and Gender Issues in British Magical and Pagan Groups, c. 1888 – c. 1988’. Here is a link to the dissertation’s synopsis, for those of you who are interested. I hope you’ll all be able to read it in book form in the near future, so stay tuned for updates.

This dissertation could not have been written without the help and support of the following organizations and individuals: My deep gratitude goes to my PhD advisor, Prof. David S. Katz, whose insightful comments throughout the years spent working on this project helped me transform my initial, more modest, idea into a dissertation spanning a whole century. His commitment to my progress as a student and as a scholar has been truly unwavering.

The Zvi Yavetz School of Historical Studies – under the consecutive leadership of Profs. Billie Melman, Leo Corry and Aviad Kleinberg – has been an academic home in the full sense of the word, and provided me with the best possible conditions for conducting my research, including a generous monthly scholarship, a research allowance that enabled me to visit crucial archives in Britain, and funding for interlibrary loans from the University library. Eilat Shalev-Arato, The School’s Secretary, was ever so kind and informative, and Iris Grunfeld and Daphna Aronheime-Amar of the Sourasky Central Library Interlibrary Loans Department provided immeasurable help. Between 2013 and 2016 the Planning and Budgeting Committee of the Israeli Council for Higher Education granted me the prestigious Lev-Zion Scholarship for Outstanding Ph.D. Students from Peripheral Areas, which – in addition to a generous monthly scholarship – provided me with a substantial annual sum towards acquiring books, attending overseas conferences, and visiting relevant archives.

Profs. Ronald Hutton and Ursula King, who served as the external reviewers of my dissertation, provided me with insightful comments and vital notes which allowed me to further perfect my work. I would like to extend my immense gratitude to Prof. Hutton, whose books on contemporary and historical forms of witchcraft – and especially The Triumph of the Moon – inspired me to embark upon this study almost six years ago. His continuous encouragement and advice over the years have been instrumental to my work. I furthermore wish to thank Dr. Isaac Lubelsky, who has provided me with unremitting philosophical support and guidance for the better part of a decade. Graham and Hannah at the Museum of Witchcraft and Magic, and Hannah Lowery at the Special Collections Department of the Bristol University Library, were of enormous help during my visit to the archives under their care.

Many other individuals provided crucial support over the course of this study, and while it would be impossible to name all of them, some deserve special mention: Ilan Weiler gave me unlimited access to his occult book collection (especially the works of Aleister Crowley) and shared with me his immense knowledge of British Wicca and witchcraft. Orly Salinas Mizrahi, my ‘partner in crime’ in the study of contemporary forms of Paganism in both Britain and Israel did so as well, and as a fellow PhD student provided sympathy and emotional support in difficult times. Hila Benyovits-Hoffman loaned me her copy of an obscure yet important work by Aleister Crowley, and Ron Rosenfeld provided critical technical support when I was preparing the dissertation for printing. Sheer Yoskovitz kindly allowed me have a book I purchased sent to her US address and then brought it to me when she visited Israel. Haifa resident Nuri McBride, who turned out to be the great-great granddaughter of Maud Gonne, transcribed several letters written by Florence Farr in cursive English. Ethan Doyle White provided me with much needed scans of certain back issues of The Cauldron. Prof. Kayoko Komatsu generously provided me with a copy of her 1986 MA thesis and mailed me her personal archive on the Matriarchal Study Groups, which turned out to be vital for my research. Prof. Henrik Bogdan shared with me a critical fact regarding one of Crowley’s OTO degrees when we met at a conference on Western Esotericism at Colgate University.

This dissertation – and indeed my entire academic activities – could not have been written without the continuous support and encouragement of my family, and particularly my parents, Avi and Hanna, and my grandparents, Ephraim and Batya, whose constant financial support the last decade was instrumental to my ability to devote myself to academia and scholarship. Lastly, but most importantly, I wish to thank Tom, my loving wife and best friend, for believing in me and in my abilities and for never letting me forget my worth throughout the writing process of this dissertation and the MA thesis that preceded it. Her ability to lift me up from the darkest of moments, her comments on earlier drafts of my work and our shared interest in Paganism were invaluable for my success as a scholar.

 

 

Dissertation finally submitted :-)

So, after five years, I’ve finally submitted my dissertation for review! The title is “The Priestess, the Witch, and the Women’s Movement: Women and Gender in British Magical and Pagan Groups, c.1888 – c.1988”.

While this is the culmination of a very long (albeit very enjoyable) process, the journey for the final approval of the dissertation is rather arduous on its own: On the first of March, the doctoral committee of the School of Historical Studies will convene in order to discuss recently submitted dissertations. Assuming all will go smoothly, they will send the work to (probably) two external reviewers. My thesis adviser, Prof. David Katz, gave them a list of 4-5 people who would be the best choice as readers (go, Ronald and Henrik!), but they are not obligated to choose them and could decide on someone else entirely.

Assuming the external reviewers the committee approach are available, it would still take them several months (or more) to go over the dissertation properly and write back to Tel Aviv University’s School of Historical Studies with their review. They might say that the dissertation is approved, or that it can be approved with several minor corrections, or even decide that they want to review it for a second time after whatever major rewrites they would require me to do.

After the dissertation passes that particular hurdle, it goes to the general Tel Aviv University doctoral committee, to be discussed over by scholars from the social and exact sciences in addition to representatives from my own faculty – the Humanities. I hope the new Dean of Humanities Leo Corry (who just finished his tenure as Head of the School of Historical Studies) won’t have too much trouble explaining to the representative from the Physics Department why the University committee should approve a dissertation of Witches J

Then, the dissertation goes back to the School of Historical Studies’ doctoral committee, for final approval… This long process takes an average of six months (!!) but in its aftermath, I would have passed the Third and final initiation into my guild, and will be able to call myself Dr. Shai Feraro.

What happens then? Hopefully a year or two abroad at a good university (go, Cambridge!) as a postdoctoral researcher, pinning for a secure academic job that may or may not ever becomes available… Was it worth it, one might ask? Well, there is simply no other profession I see myself wanting to practice in the next 35 years. Writing my own books and articles, teaching young students about the study of religion in general, and of Paganism and Witchcraft in particular, is a dream I am determined to see made manifest, and that dream simply trumps the (very real and ever-present) fears I have regarding what the future holds for me. So, was it worth it? HELL YEAH !!!

הכנס הישראלי השביעי לחקר דת ורוחניות עכשווית

!עברה שנה, והכנס הישראלי לחקר דת ורוחניות עכשווית שוב ממשמש ובא

  אני שמח לבשר לכם שהכנס יתקיים גם הפעם באוניברסיטת תל אביב, בתאריכים 3-4 במאי 2015. הכנס הבינ”ל יכלול מעל לשבעים הרצאות במגוון רחב של נושאים מרתקים: מיסטיקה יהודית, קבלה ורוחניות עכשווית, בריאה וטבע בדתות המזרח, תורת הנסתר ואזוטריקה מערבית, דת עכשווית בישראל, הציונות הדתית, אנימיזם ופגאניזם מודרני, מרטין בובר והרוחניות העכשווית, ריטואלים מאגיה ואינטרנט, חסידות וניאו-חסידות, טיפול רוחני, היבטים רוחניים של זקנה ומוות, בריאה וטבע בדתות המזרח, יהדות רפורמית, רוחניות בחינוך, ועוד

:במסגרת הכנס נארח שלושה חוקרים מובילים להרצאות מליאה

פרופ’ שאול מגיד, חוקר דתות, חסידות ויהדות מודרנית, אוניברסיטת אינדיאנה, ארה”ב

פרופ’ גרהאם הארווי , הנשיא התורן של האגודה הבריטית למדעי הדתות, מומחה עולמי לדתות ילידיות, ניאו-פגאניזם ואנימיזם, האוניברסיטה הפתוחה, בריטניה

פרופ’ דן מירון, חוקר הספרות העברית וספרות היידיש, זוכה פרס ישראל לחקר הספרות העברית [תשנ”ג], האוניברסיטה העברית

אתם מוזמנים לבקר באתר הכנס כאן, לעיין בתוכנייה ולקרוא את תקצירי ההרצאות שמעניינות אתכם. הציבור מוזמן להגיע ! הכניסה למושבי הכנס ולהרצאות המליאה כרוכה  בתשלום דמי הרשמה לקהל הרחב בסך 50 ש”ח לשני ימי הכנס (30 ש”ח לאחד מן הימים), ולסטודנטים במוסדות להשכלה גבוהה הכניסה בחינם, בהצגת תעודת סטודנט בתוקף. התשלום יתבצע במזומן בדוכני ההרשמה ביום הכנס

.אני מצרף כאן למטה לינק לפוסטר הכנס. אנא הפיצו אותו במייל וברשתות החברתיות

הכנס הישראלי השביעי לחקר דת ורוחניות עכשווית

,נתראה בכנס

    🙂 שי

A fascinating turn of events in my research on the women of the Golden Dawn

“We know that attention acts as a lightning rod. Merely by concentrating on something one causes endless analogies to collect around it, even penetrate the boundaries of the subject itself: an experience that we call coincidence, serendipity – the terminology is extensive.”    Julio Cortázar (1914-1984)

Do you often experience moments in which connections that you would never have thought possible (or though about at all) suddenly materialize? Ever since I began my research into the various forms of modern forms of Western Paganism(s) and Feminist Spirituality I’ve experienced my fair share of these kinds of coincidences (or ‘coincidences’?), but these would have to be subject of another post. Here I wish to share with you a most recent and exciting one…

Past readers of this blog know that my ongoing PhD research focuses on women’s involvement in British magical and Pagan groups, c. 1888 – c. 1988.  An important part of the first chapter of my dissertation will be devoted to the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, which influences Western occultism to this day, and was the first occult society in late Victorian Britain to include women in its ranks. Some of these women – specifically Moina Mathers (1865-1928), Annie Horniman (1860-1937) and Florence Farr (1860-1917) – rose to prominent positions within the Order.

In addition to her membership in the Golden Dawn, Florence Farr was a gifted actress, and a feminist. In one of several archival research trips in the UK, I photographed some letters sent to Florence Farr from several noted individuals, such as Nobel laureate William Butler Yeats (1865-1939) – a key member of the Order – and George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950), who based many of his writings on ‘The New Woman’ on Farr – his one-time mistress.

But alas, most of the letters where handwritten, and the cursive writing was mostly illegible to me. Israelis write in Hebrew letters, which – even when written in cursive – are much more square shaped and less ‘flowing’ than English letters – and we never learn to write or read in cursive writing during English lessons at school. I therefore needed to find someone local who was raised – or at least spent a significant amount of years – in an English-speaking country, and – almost as important – would be willing to do the transcribing of the letters for free.

Initially I contacted one of my wife’s best friends, who lived for many years in the United States with her family. She happily helped with one fragment of a letter, and so became a ‘victim of her own success’ when I sent her 6 more letters for transcribing. Being a good sport and genuinely interested in my research, she agreed without hesitation, but as the weeks went by it became clear that her newborn baby girl and an approaching relocation to America where making it impossible for her to work on the letters anytime soon.

I therefore decided to approach Nuri McBride, the lovely fiancée of another one of my wife’s close friend, who was born and raised in the United States. She of course was happy to help, and provided me with synopsis of all the letters I sent to her, but her replying email took me by complete surprise when I read these lines: “So funny story about Farr, she was a very good friend of W.B Yeats. Yeats was in love with my great great grandmother Maud Gonne McBride, who was his muse as well as a political radical, Irish freedom fighter, feminist and also a member of the Golden Dawn. Which Yeats got her involved in. Yeats asked Maud to marry him several times and she turned him down, then he asked her daughter who also turned the guy down. Maud went on to marry my great great grandfather whom Yeats hated, accused of all sorts of things and even after he was executed for his involvement in the Easter Uprising, wrote mean poems about him. Apparently, Maud and Florence didn’t care for each because of this whole affair.”

Wow! I was of course aware of Maud Gonne’s brief involvement in the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, but could you imagine the odds of me looking for someone to transcribe some Florence Farr letters for me, and finding out that that same person is actually descended from Maud Gonne, Farr’s fellow initiate at the Order? And in this part of the world, no less? Furthermore, according to Nuri, the family keeps an archive which may indeed contain some unpublished letters and other materials belonging to Maud. So who knows… if all goes well, maybe if the future I’ll be able to publish a book containing an annotated version of these materials, thereby contributing to our knowledge of Gonne life !

Just one day before I got the reply from Nuri, I finished reading Brother Curwen, Brother Crowley: A Correspondence. This volume presents the annotated letter correspondence between the famous occultist Aleister Crowley (1875-1947) and David Curwen (1893-1984), with a Forward by Curwen’s grandson and a scholarly Introduction by Dr. Henrik Bogdan of the University of Gothenburg. Everything is falling into place…

My blog summary for 2014

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for my new blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 540 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 9 trips to carry that many people.

Considering he fact that this blog has been in existence for little over 4 months and is written in English (most people in my home country of Israel prefer not to read books, news, blogs in English, even though they understand the language good enough), I am very pleased feel encouraged to continue posting 🙂

The top referring sites to this blog in 2014 where facebook.com, wildhunt.org, museumofwitchcraft.blogspot.co.uk, humanities.tau.ac.il and paean-network.org .

Visitors were based in 18 different countries !!  Most visitors came from Israel. The United States & U.K. were not far behind. Other visitors hailed from Canda, South Africa, Australia, Russia, Sweden, Norway, Germany, France, Spain, Italy, The Netherlands, Poland, Moldova, Brazil and Turkey 🙂

Click here to see the complete report.