I undertook a bit of primary research last semester on the topic of unverified personal gnosis among Heathen women. The results of that research became the underpinning of a PhD term paper I’ve uploaded to my Academia.edu account. Here’s the abstract:
Contemporary Northern European-inspired Neo-Paganism (also called Heathenry) is a vernacular religion practiced by individuals and small groups which thrives, in part, on gnostic experiences mediated by the individuals who have them. This gnosticism, sometimes labeled “unverified personal gnosis,” is a nuanced supernatural transmission of knowledge rooted in a substratum of supernatural beliefs and practices which are part of Heathen religion for many adherents.
My research on this topic synthesizes the surveys of six Heathen women about unverified personal gnosis with selected critical literature on the ethnographic study of belief. The gnostic experiences of these women are highlighted in the contexts of their various demographics, the syncretization of their belief systems, and the impacts of unverified personal gnosis on themselves and their communities of faith. Also explored in gnostic contexts are the role of shifting gender dynamics in these communities and the relationship of early Northern European literature to Heathen belief and practice.
As part of the aforementioned synthesis, I utilize David J. Hufford’s work on traditions of disbelief to draw conclusions about the contested nature of both the term “unverified personal gnosis” and the experiences it describes. I also utilize Diane Goldstein’s work on the structure of supernatural narratives to theorize that Heathen narratives about gnostic experience often conform to a four-part structure. Finally, I explore the ways Heathens contextualize discussions of supernatural beliefs and practices with the aforementioned early Northern European literature in mind and propose several directions for further research.