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Resident Scholar, Brandeis University

Helen A. Berger began researching contemporary Paganism in 1986 when, based on her earlier work on the witch trials, she was asked to give a series of talks at the Boston public library on witchcraft in New England. As she began to prepare for the five lecture series her interest was piqued by news articles about the Witches Anti-Defamation League protesting the negative portrayal of witches in the film, the Witches of Eastwick. Initially she thought she would do enough research to be able to conclude her lecture series with a discussion of contemporary Witches, particularly in Salem, Massachusetts where the Witches Anti-Defamation League is based. But as she began exploring it, she realized that here was a rich and exciting research area in which she could study issues about social change, concepts of the self, political attitudes and behaviors, and changing notions of community. She became hooked, changed her research agenda and has spent more than thirty years studying and learning about this religious group. After four books (two co-authored), an edited volume, and many articles she still finds the topic gripping and ripe for sociological exploration. Having just completed a book on solitary practitioners, she is turning her critical attention to the contemporary Pagan response to the Alt-Right.

Experience

  • –present
    Resident Scholar, Brandeis University