Contemporary Pagan Pilgrimage: Ritual and Re-Storying in the Irish Landscape

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Jenny Butler College of Arts, Celtic Studies and Social Sciences, University College Cork Cork Ireland

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In an examination of contemporary Pagan pilgrimage in Ireland, based on longitudinal ethnographic research, this article identifies and analyzes different cultural processes at work, focusing on the sacralization of the landscape through ritualization and re-storying. Correlations and differences between modern Pagan pilgrimage and the popular Roman Catholic pilgrimage tradition are identified since the way in which modern Pagan pilgrimage manifests is most similar to traditional Catholic site-specific pilgrimage. Contemporary Pagan activities and discourses are contextualized within Irish history and within other meaningful layers constructed over time in relation to Ireland’s sacred landscape. Counterheritagization processes and the contestation of meanings connected to pilgrimage sites is discussed as regards the process of Celticization in how a Celtic past is reactivated in the present by journeying to, and engaging with, significantly reclaimed and “re-storied” sites. For this new religious movement, the land itself plays a vital role as a dynamic and active space.

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