Fieldwork in Religion, Vol 5, No 1 (2010)

The paranormal market in the Netherlands: New Age and folk religion

Frans Jespers
Issued Date: 5 Nov 2010


In the Netherlands, the paranormal circuit has been evident in “paranormal fairs” (psychic fairs) for the past twenty-five years. Sociologists consider such fairs to be no more than commercialized New Age practices, but there must be more to it than that. In this article, eight characteristics of New Age are summarized, and then a typical paranormal fair and the complete circuit around it are described. From that, some remarkable differences between such fairs and New Age can be deduced. The people who attend the fairs have a directly thaumaturgical expectation, especially when clairvoyants invoke spirits. These visitors combine a more or less dualistic worldview with practices from various religions (e.g. reincarnation, amulets). Of note is the sociological classification of these visitors: the majority belong to the lower working class and are female. The conclusion of this study is that paranormal fairs represent a special form of “the spiritual revolution” (Heelas and Woodhead, 2005), namely, New Age in its most popular and traditional version, hardly secularized, but rather re-enchanting or re-sacralizing. In summary, the paranormal “market” may show a takeover of a segment of New Age by folk religion.

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DOI: 10.1558/firn.v5i1.58

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