the green fuse /Harris






key words:

Embodiment, Eco-Paganism, Neo-Paganism, ritual, activism

Research Questions

Given that their spiritual beliefs are much the same, how does Eco-Pagan practice differ from that of non-activist Pagans, those Andy Letcher calls ‘virtual’ Pagans? (Letcher 2000)

Rituals of Resistance
Most contemporary pagans engage in reflective ritualization: Rituals are self-consciously constructed as a mechanism to shift consciousness and to achieve an explicit purpose. (See ‘Invented Rituals’ in Bell, 1997:223-242).

Eco-Pagans explicitly use such invented ritual as a technology of political resistance. As we might expect from a belief system that celebrates sensuality and physicality, the body is fundamental to Eco-Pagan ritual.

Body as a site of symbolic resistance
The term ‘ritual’ can be usefully expanded beyond its traditional bounds, and we can describe some Eco-Pagan activism as ritualization.

Contemporary direct action emphasises what Szerszynski calls the 'politics of vulnerability' (Szerszynski 1998). The tactics used emphasise the protesters vulnerability: They are chained by the neck to equipment, hung in nets high above the ground, or buried in tunnels. The body thus becomes the primary 'tool of resistance' (Jordan 1998).

For activists this is "literally embodying your feelings, performing your politics" (Jordan). So it’s more than just a means to an end: By placing their bodies at risk activists dramatically highlight the contrast between a 'technocratic culture' disconnected from the body and their own interconnected, fluid 'Festival of Resistance'.

Eco-Pagan protestors explicitly identify their own vulnerable bodies with that of the environment. The human body is the body of nature (Jordan 1998), and therefore challenges the dominant ideology at both a physical and symbolic level. Protestors express their belief in the essential unity of bodies through placing themselves at "a point of resistance in the flow of power" (Jordan 1998).

As Radley says, “the body is not merely a vehicle for departing from social norms, for escaping from the strictures of moral codes. It is, in its positive aspect, the grounds for configuring an alternative way of being that eludes the grasp of power”.
(Radley, 1995: 9).

Last updated: 17-01-2005

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