Do Satyrs Wear Sneakers? : Hellenic Polytheism and the Reception of Antiquity in Contemporary Greece – a study in serious play

Sammanfattning: This dissertation investigates the reception of ancient Greek religion (and to some extent also renaissance Platonism) among contemporary Pagans in Greece - a phenomenon the author refers to as contemporary Hellenic polytheism. The study looks at how and why historical narratives and notions of Hellenicity are constructed by contemporary Hellenic polytheists. Furthermore it describes the contemporary Hellenic landscape, introducing more than ten religious communities in Greece, which have not been studied previously, and provides an overview of the most central ideas and practices of contemporary Hellenic polytheists. The author describes contemporary Hellenic polytheist rituals and discusses how, and why, they are designed and performed. Throughout the discussion of groups and practices, the author analyses how contemporary Hellenic polytheist identities are balanced against the practical circumstances of (urban) life in the 21st century. In Song One the author introduces a fieldwork methodology based on Renato Rosaldo´s method of Deep Hanging Out and provides an extensive background to, and innovative development of the Ludic Theory of Johan Huizinga. In Song Two the author addresses the question of how historical narratives and notions of Hellenicity are constructed by contemporary Hellenic polytheists and shows that despite being a religious minority in Greece, their basic historical outlook is the product of the same historical factors that have influenced the construction of majority narratives about history, national identity and Hellenicity in modern Greece. Discussing the contemporary Hellenic landscape the author argues that there is a huge variety of receptions and reinterpretations of the role and relevance of ancient Greece in contemporary collective and individual identity constructions. Verse two in Song Two shifts the perspective from a bird's-eye view of the landscape, to eye-level and discusses a selection of representative concepts, things and practices. The author shows that contemporary Hellenic polytheist theologies vary, to a point that warrants the question if they are in fact polytheistic at all. The author discusses material culture and texts and shows how the meaning of altars, food, texts and paraphernalia is negotiated through practice and how they are partially cleansed of their ancient Greek meaning and re-inscribed with new and often more fluid content, effectually becoming palimpsests and analyses the role of practices such as music, dance, theatre and therapies, which all play with interpretations of antiquity and constitute subcultures that offer sensory immersion that facilitates identity play and time-travel. Song Three contains a further elaboration on Ludic Theory and presents two cases that analyse specific rituals. The author underlines the importance of understanding ritual as play, but often serious play, and emphasises the importance of religious musicality and improvisation as a key to understanding the dynamics of ritual and ritual change. In the discussion of cases the author shows how particular rituals selectively forget and remember elements of their ancient Greek “counterparts.” Finally, the author summarises and discusses the results of the dissertation, presents potential suggestions for further research, and answers the title-question of the dissertation.

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