Sites, Texts, Contexts and Inscriptions of Meaning: Investigating Pagan Authenticities. in a Text-Based Society


  • Jenny Blain Sheffield Hallam University
  • Robert J. Wallis Richmond, The American International University in London



sacred sites, contemporary paganism


Questions of texts and ‘scripture’ sit uneasily with Paganisms. Most Pagans do not have ‘sacred scriptures’ and point to different constructions of spirituality that do not privilege conventional ‘texts’. Further, popular or political perceptions that a ‘religion’ should or must have ‘sacred texts’ can become a means of denying various Paganisms—or indeed some indigenous spiritualities elsewhere—the official stamp of authenticity being ‘a religion’ in a legal or institutional sense. Yet Pagan meanings and practices are constituted with respect to written or verbal forms that may be regarded as sacred, practical, authentic or inauthentic, according to practitioners and their Paganisms. If we regard ‘text’ as that which can be ‘read’, Pagans may claim authority for practices rooted in, for instance, inscriptions of meaning in places or ‘sacred sites’ rather than in the written word. We investigate and problematise Pagan engagements with such conveyors of meaning: sacred sites, mediaeval literature and folklore, and present-day emergent verse or sung forms, which, used on either a national/international or local scale, may contribute to structuring meanings and practices. We also point to issues in the relationship of ‘text’ and ‘performance’, and re-embed analysis within the context of the hegemony of ‘text’ within social organisation, by questioning extents to which practitioners fall back on the authority of the text for legitimation of self, practice and developing context.

Author Biographies

Jenny Blain, Sheffield Hallam University

Jenny Blain leads the MA Social Science Research Methods at Sheffield Hallam University, teaches qualitative methods, discourse and critical ethnography, and is co-director of the Sacred Sites, Contested Rights/ Rites project ( Her publications include Nine Worlds of Seid-magic: Ecstasy and Neo-Shamanism in North European Paganism (Routledge, 2002) and Researching Paganisms (ed.) (AltaMira Press 2004).

Robert J. Wallis, Richmond, The American International University in London

Robert J. Wallis is associate director of the master.s degree program in art history at Richmond,the American International University in London and co-director of the Sacred Sites project. Publications include Shamans/Neo-Shamans: Ecstasy, Alternative Archaeologies and Contemporary Pagans (Routledge 2003) and A Permeability of Boundaries? New Approaches to the Archaeology of Art, Religion and Folklore (ed.) (BAR 2001).


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How to Cite

Blain, J., & Wallis, R. J. (2007). Sites, Texts, Contexts and Inscriptions of Meaning: Investigating Pagan Authenticities. in a Text-Based Society. Pomegranate, 6(2), 231–252.