Power Un/Dressing: Revealing the Goddess in Contemporary Occult Religion
The Ordo Templi Orientis, Wicca, and the Church of Satan are three new religious movements that are part of the occultist stream of Western esotericism. Female nudity features prominently in their most important rituals. Priestesses disrobe in order to represent incarnate goddesses and become objects of worship. While unclothed in these rituals, the priestesses are not undressed; various supplements to the body are incorporated in their ritual costume such as veils, belts, jewellery and tiaras, and objects are held and carried. The adorned female body of the priestess situated within the ritual mise en scène is laden with symbolism and functions as a visual didactic assemblage that communicates essential tenets of the religions. Theories of glamour are used as investigatory lenses to examine the effects on ritual participants, and the wider public, of the occult priestess’s nudity-as-dress. The priestesses’ glamour is a form of powerful magic that enchants the viewer and an empowering feminist reclamation of the body as the locus of an immanent deity, simultaneously juxtaposed with the phenomenon of the glamour girl or pin-up and the objectification of women.
I'm also on a panel on 'Magic and Museums: Scholars and Practitioners' chaired by Amy Hale in the Contemporary Pagan Studies Unit at the American Academy of Religion annual meeting, Monday 22 Nov, 9:00-11:00am (CST).