“How can concepts from pagan spirituality and belief about the Celtic afterlife be used to consider and mediate our ancestral connections through new ritual design?”


Project Description:

The Otherland is a digital ritual space which blends insights from primary research and existing ritual practices into specific online rituals to rediscover ancestral connections and knowledge. Inspired by modern witchcraft movements, new paganism and Celtic art, the concept of this project is drawn from the Celtic vision of the afterlife. In pre-Christian Celtic traditions of Ireland, Wales and Scotland, the veil between the worlds of the living and dead was thought to be thin, and a crossable threshold. This place called “The Otherland”, was conceptualised as a mirror of our world, and a place home to spirits, monsters and deities; a place mortals can cross into at their own risk (Wood, 1998, 66). Therefore, the connection to ancestors and the spiritual plane was much more tangible than in the Christian moral universe. Furthermore, the neo-pagan turn (which presents itself in art, culture, and media, ranging from fantasy gaming to new forms of worship), one can argue, offers an attractive way to reconnect to our community identity and resist social individualisation (Blackie 2016, Ramsteldt 2007, Funnell 2021). 

A significant part of the Celtic world which is also being revived is ritual. I conducted research with spiritual practitioners of Wicca and paganism, experts on new healing practices and people exploring intergenerational connections to their ancestry. What I discovered is that ritual is not only for our own introspection, but helps us process our own past experiences, and connects us to our communities. Furthermore, many of us perform rituals every day without calling them that. Rituals can be understood as everyday mundane acts of care which maintain the body through medicine or movement, or an act of pleasure which nourishes us and allows us to live well (Dokumaci 2020, Sakellariou 2015). The sacred and mundane are blended into craft and practice.

My initial research examined how ritual could be used to access ancestral memory, particularly intergenerational experiences of traumas and historical events. This remains an influence on the project, illuminating the social need for acts which honour these experiences and process them. However, the focus has become broader, encompassing different types of rituals which explore the interaction between personal narratives and the shared bond between ourselves, our ancestors and the communities we live in today. 

This project takes place in the digital realm, taking influence from existing digital community spaces, accessible spaces of connection for many people which can reach across many borders. It is a collection of creative activities, blended into rituals which can be performed in a group or alone. This space is a work in progress, being honed and defined by user response to these rituals. It is an anti-capitalist, changeable project which should be reshaped according to need, sustained and nurtured, echoing how rituals have changed and been remade through their transmission throughout the ages. 


Blackie, Sharon. (2016) 2016. “If Women Rose Rooted”. September Publishing. https://www.perlego.com/book/2707608/if-women-rose-rooted-pdf.

Dokumaci, Arseli, People as Affordances: Building Disability Worlds through Care Intimacy. Current Anthropology 2020 61:S21, S97-S108

Funnell, A. “ As some in the Western world reject traditional religion, they’re redirecting their faith — not losing it” ABC Radio National/  for Future Tense. 24 Oct 2021

Ramstedt, Martin. “METAPHOR OR INVOCATION? THE CONVERGENCE BETWEEN MODERN PAGANISM AND FANTASY FICTION.” Journal of Ritual Studies 21, no. 1 (2007): 1–15. 

Sakellariou, Dikaios. “Home Modifications and Ways of Living Well.” Medical anthropology 34, no. 5 (2015): 456–469.

Wood, J. “The Celts: Life, Myth, and Art”. 1998 by Stewart Tabori & Chang