Making the Strange Familiar


  • Sarah M. Pike California State University, Chico



Pagan festivals, sacred space, childhood


From studying Pagan festivals as a graduate student to writing about Burning Man, Hare Krishna hardcore music, ecstatic dance and so-called eco-terrorists twenty years later, this essay describes my journey as an academic through what many other religious studies scholars might consider the fringe of our academic purview. In the essay I consider the ways in which the concerns that emerged in my earliest work in Pagan Studies—sacred space, the role of memory in identity construction, relationships with the more-than-human world, ritual creativity, religious freedom, childhood experience and religious improvisation—continue to be central to my scholarship over two decades later.

Author Biography

Sarah M. Pike, California State University, Chico

Sarah Pike is professor of comparative religion at California State University, Chico.


Bivins, Jason. Religion of Fear: The Politics of Horror in Conservative Evangelicalism. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008. 0195340815.001.0001.

Foucault, Michel. “Of Other Spaces.” Diacritics 16 (1986): 22–27. 10.2307/464648.

Orsi, Robert. Between Heaven and Earth: The Religious Worlds People Make and the Scholars Who Study Them. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2006.

Pike, Sarah M. “Dark Teens and Born-Again Martyrs: Captivity Narratives After Columbine.” Journal of the American Academy of Religion 77 (2009): 647–72. http://

——. Earthly Bodies, Magical Selves: Contemporary Pagans and the Search for Community. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2001.

——. New Age and Neopagan Religions in America. New York: Columbia University Press, 2004.

——. “No Novenas for the Dead: Ritual Action and Communal Memory at the Temple of Tears.” In Afterburn: Reflections on Burning Man, edited by Lee Gilmore and Mark Van Proyen, 195–213. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2005.

——. “Performing Grief in Formal and Informal Rituals at the Burning Man Festival.” In Ritual Dynamics and the Science of Ritual. Vol. 2. Body, Performance, Agency and Experience, edited by Jan Weinhold and Geoffrey Samuel, 525–40. Wiesbaden, Germany: Harrassowitz, 2010.

——. “The West Memphis Three: Demons in the Dock… Or the Press Box?” Trans/ Missions August 24, 2011.

Sontag, Susan. Where the Stress Falls. New York: Farrar, Strauss and Giroux 2001.

Sussman, Mick. “Nonfiction Chronicle.” New York Times Sunday Book Review, August 13, 2010.



How to Cite

Pike, S. M. (2016). Making the Strange Familiar. Pomegranate, 17(1-2), 170–179.



Special Section - Paths into Pagan Studies: Autobiographical Reflections