They believe in witches but are catholics at the same time. In a forthcoming book, anthropologist Kathryn Rountree describes surprising links between paganism and traditional Catholicism in Malta. It will be the first book to explore neo-paganism in an overwhelmingly Catholic society, Rountree tells Massey University News:
What fascinated Dr Rountree was the observation that although Maltese pagans and witches shared a kind of global pagan culture with feminist and New Age spiritual movements elsewhere through books and the internet, they did not share the same antipathy towards orthodox Christianity.
Maltese pagans maintain an affinity with Catholicism simply because they are so deeply imbued with it.
“There is little choice about being Catholic in Malta,” she says. “It is not so much a religion which an individual accepts (willingly or not) or rejects as it is the cultural ‘ground of being’ for all Maltese.” As one of the pagans she interviews says: “For me, trying not to be Catholic would be like trying not to be Maltese.”
By accepting an invitation to attend a Summer Solstice celebration, Dr Rountree met other pagans and witches in Malta who gathered to participate in these and other pagan rituals.
But because of Catholic disapproval of alternative religions, she has had to conceal the identities of those she interviewed to protect them. She believes the people she interviewed for a book could risk losing their jobs if they became known as practising pagans in the strongly Catholic country.
Kathryn Rountree: Goddess pilgrims as tourists: inscribing the body through sacred travel (Sociology of Religion, Winter 2002)