The alchemy of life: Magic, anthropology and human nature in a Pagan theology

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Abstract

Reclaiming is a contemporary Pagan tradition rooted in the understanding that sacrality infuses the cosmos. Reclaiming teachers critique the ‘mechanistic’ basis of modern science and its rejection of magical thought, implicating this worldview in oppression, environmental devastation and colonialism. Their concerns resonate with an emerging critique among historians, who argue that the Enlightenment's rejection of Europe's ‘superstitious’ past was tied to the colonial project of refuting the religious and magical beliefs of non-Europeans. Engaging with Reclaiming theology exposes the still-uncomfortable relationship of anthropology to ‘non-rational’ forms of knowledge. In embracing systems of thought profoundly repudiated since the Enlightenment and reimagining what it is to be human, Reclaiming understandings potentially disturb anthropology at its roots, including its very delimitation as a ‘science of humanity’.

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