Our interview tonight: Animals and the Spiritual Imagination with Dr. Sabina Magliocco, PhD, Professor of Anthropology at California State University, Northridge, CA. Throughout history and in many different cultures, animals have been imagined as totems, spirit guides, divine messengers, even goddesses and gods. But how do we imagine our spiritual relationship to other animals today? My work explores this question by examining both mainstream cultural and religious practices and those of contemporary Pagans, a group of religions that revive some practices of pre-Christian cultures, finding surprising confluences between the two. My conclusion is that as animals, especially domestic ones, are increasingly granted a place in our family lives, their role in our spiritual imagination is also shifting. And given the danger to all living species on our planet today, that could be a very good thing.
Dr. Magliocco, a recipient of Guggenheim, National Endowment for the Humanities, Fulbright and Hewlett fellowships, and an honorary Fellow of the American Folklore Society, has published on religion, folklore, foodways, festival and witchcraft in Europe and the United States, and is a leading authority on the modern Pagan movement. She is the author of numerous books and articles, including The Two Madonnas: the Politics of Festival in a Sardinian Community (1993, 2005), Witching Culture: Folklore and Neo-Paganism in America (2004), Neopagan Sacred Art & Altars: Making Things Whole (2001), and with filmmaker John M. Bishop produced the documentary film series “Oss Tales,” on a May Day custom in Cornwall and its reclamation by American Pagans. Her current research is on animals in the spiritual imagination