My head is still processing many great discussions and presentations at the American Academy of Religion (AAR) conference in Montreal last weekend. Certainly I've got the ingredients for 'brain food' for the winter months, and most likely through to next year's conference. It was also great to meet many of the Pagan scholars informally at the various receptions where Canadian scholars were definitely well-represented.
Chas Clifton has a brief summary of the Contemporary Pagan Studies Group sessions (here). I also agree that the presentations in the idolatry session just "nibbled at the edges" of the topic. Particularly intriguing was the discussion around what is actually being worshipped or revered: the idol, the divine present in the idol or the divine of which the idol is representative. I suspect that the reality varies by the flavour of the Paganism and the intent of the idol. Later that afternoon, I attended a session in the Religion in South Asian Studies on "Trees and Plants in Hindu Thought." A couple of the presentations really followed-up well to idolatry. One described the tree marriage and the other tree worship. In both cases, the question once again is who or what is being worshipped or revered. It'd be interesting to see a combined South Asian/Contemporary Pagan session; but that might just be my bias.
I also really enjoyed the Literature and Contemporary Paganism session. It was a very mixed bag. A couple of presentations looked at how rituals and worldviews from works of fiction have worked their way in contemporary spiritual practice. Certainly the influence of Stranger in a Strange Land on Church of All Worlds was no surprise to me, but it seems that some Pagans continue to inspired by modern fiction writing. I'm not sure if I'm intrigued or disturbed.
Aside from the presentations, local scholars arranged at Magical Mercantile Tour of Montreal, which included stops at Le Mélange Magique and Charme et Sortilege following a tour of the John Waterhouse exhibit at the MMFA.
Other sessions I attended over the 4-day conference included a couple on Western Esotericism, one on religion and ecology, and one on South Asian studies. It was interesting to note the considerable cross-over between the participants and panelists in all the sessions. Some of the presenters in the South Asian session I remember seeing in at least one of the Contemporary Pagan Sessions. There was also cross-over between the South Asian and Ecology groups.