Maps of our own making: practicing divination in 21st century Canada

Sawden, Kari (2018) Maps of our own making: practicing divination in 21st century Canada. Doctoral (PhD) thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland.

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Divination in 21st century Canada is rooted in paradox. Frequently the site of challenge, reductionism, and dismissal, it continues to thrive in individual lives and defy cultural expectations. Through an ethnographic study of over thirty divination practitioners (those who use tools such as tarot cards or astrology charts to uncover information deemed otherwise unknowable), primarily located in central Alberta, I explore the ongoing functions of this practice within individual lives and the larger communities they serve. In doing so, this thesis counters claims of divination’s erroneous, at best, and harmful, at worst, presence within this modern, rational country. Built on the personal narratives of my participants and the research of scholars from multiple disciplines on divination and folk belief, I explore what the term divination means within both academic frameworks and lived experiences. Once terminology is established, I examine how it fits within the worldviews constructed by those who undertake divination and the ways they reconceptualise ideas of proof and truth. Recognising that a key role of the diviner within their community is that of storyteller, this thesis goes on to explore the literary strategies they utilise and the means by which their rituals, and the tools used within, form alternative languages through which identity is constructed and communicated. Divination as a site of power contestation is an essential part of this thesis, and I focus particularly on the ways diviners confront the larger social narratives that cast them into the role of charlatan by reframing the relationship between the monetary and the spiritual. Furthermore, the role of gender, significant due to the large number of women who participate in this act, and divination’s role in claiming personal power, in general, are also addressed. Finally, the relationship between divination and that of good and evil is explored, revealing how the concept of darkness is transformed through these practices to support a deeper process of individual development. It is impossible to understand divination and its ongoing presence within Canada without listening to the voices of those who choose to practice it. By engaging with them and bringing their stories into academic spaces, I challenge the stereotypes of divination that emerge from popular culture and the ivory tower. This thesis provides a new framework for divinatory discourse beyond that of the pre-established vocabularies and theories of other disciplines and cultures. In doing so, I explore the paradox of divination in Canada and how this practice is proving to be a growing alternative resource for knowledge, healing, and hope.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral (PhD))
Item ID: 13479
Additional Information: Includes bibliographical references (pages 359-389).
Keywords: Divination, Folk Belief, Folklore, Canada
Department(s): Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of > Folklore
Date: October 2018
Date Type: Submission
Library of Congress Subject Heading: Divination--Folklore--Canada; Occultists--Canada--Social life and customs--21st century.

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