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Dr Marion Bowman

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Profile summary

  • Senior Lecturer in Religious Studies
  • Faculty of Arts
  • Religious Studies
  • marion.bowman

Professional biography

I joined the Religious Studies department at The Open University in 2000, having worked for ten years in the Study of Religions department at Bath Spa University. (I had worked previously as an archivist, and also taught English for Academic Purposes while living in Bahrain and Hong Kong.)  

I have had the great pleasure of spending varying periods of time as a visiting lecturer at the University of Tartu, Estonia (2014), University of Bayreuth, Germany (2009), University of Pecs, Hungary (2007), Abo Akademi, Finland (2006) and University of Bergen, Norway (2002).

I currently chair the review group for the QAA subject benchmark statement for theology and religious studies and serve on the executive of Theology and Religious Studies UK.

I am Vice-President of the European Association for the Study of Religions and former president of both the British Association for the Study of Religions and of The Folklore Society, of which I remain a Director. I am on the Executive Board of the Working Group on Ethnology of Religion of SIEF (Société Internationale d'Ethnologie et de Folklore).

Research interests

 As an undergraduate, I started by studying Archaeology, Medieval History and Drama at the University of Glasgow, but in my second year took Principles of Religion. I became totally hooked on the study of religions, and transferred to Lancaster University to specialise in Religious Studies! A studentship enabled me to spend two years at Memorial University of Newfoundland studying for the MA in Folklore. 

Working at the interstices of religious studies and folklore/ ethnology, my research interests are very much rooted in contemporary vernacular religion - religion as it is lived; the experiences, worldviews, beliefs, practices and material culture of individuals and groups in in specific locations and contexts. The extent to which vernacular religion is conceptually valuable was demonstrated by the range of chapters in and positive response to Vernacular Religion in Everyday Life: Expressions of Belief. (Sheffield, Oakville CT: Equinox, 2012), co-edited with Ulo Valk.

My research tends to be fieldwork-based, with people within, on the margins of and outside institutional religion. I have conducted long term research in Glastonbury, a significant pilgrimage destination and microcosm of contemporary spirituality and vernacular religiosity. Other research interests include pilgrimage; spiritual economies; airport chapels; contemporary Celtic spirituality; the creation, adaptation and revival of myth, ritual and tradition; religion and healing; religion in Newfoundland; methodology.



Click here to listen to a podcast on vernacular religion:

Click here to listen to a podcast on airport chapels:





 European Association for the Study of Religions - Vice-President

British Association for the Study of Religions – President (2006-2009); Conference Organiser, 2001-06.

The Folklore Society – President, 2002- 2005; Vice-President, 2005 - 2011, Director, 2002-

SIEF (Société Internationale d'Ethnologie et de Folklore); member of the Executive Board of the SIEF Working Group on Ethnology of Religion (2010 - ); SIEF Working Group on The Ritual Year; SIEF Working Group on Cultural Heritage and Property.

Theology and Religious Studies UK - formerly The Association of University Departments of Theology and Religious Studies (AUDTRS).  Committee Member AUDTRS, 2009-2013; TRS UK, 2013 - 

British Sociological Association Sociology of Religion Study Group

Life Member, Charles Rennie Mackintosh Society


Publications include

Bowman, M. and Valk, Ü. eds. Vernacular Religion in Everyday Life: Expressions of Belief. (Sheffield, Oakville CT: Equinox, 2012). Download information about this book [PDF, 1 MB]

Vernacular Religion, Contemporary Spirituality and Emergent Identities: Lessons from Lauri Honko. Approaching Religion, 4, 2014.  <>.

‘Vernacular/ Lived Religion’ in The Bloomsbury Companion to New Religious Movements, George D. Chryssides and Benjamin E. Zeller, eds. London, New Delhi, etc.: Bloomsbury. 2014, pp. 253-269.

‘Valuing Spirituality: Commodification, Consumption and Community in Glastonbury’ in Religion in Consumer Society: brands, consumers and markets, Francois Gauthier and Tuomas Martikainen, eds. Farnham and Burlington, VA: Ashgate. 2013, pp. 207-224.

 ‘Raising the Dead: Revisiting Letters to Diana’ Acta Ethnographica Hungarica. 2013, 58 (1): 221-228.

‘From sanctity to celebrity? Relics in contemporary contexts’, in Tremlett, P.-F. (ed.) Afterlives (A151 Book 3) Milton Keynes: The Open University, 2012, pp.1-54. 

‘Folklore, Religion and Contemporary Spirituality’ Introduction to Virtual Special Issue of Folkore, Folklore, Religion and Contemporary Spirituality 2011. Read this in PDF format

‘Understanding Glastonbury as a Site of Consumption’ in Gordon Lynch, Jolyon Mitchell, Anna Strhan (eds.), Religion, Media and Culture: A Reader. London: Routledge. 2011, pp.11-22

'Learning from experience: The value of analysing Avalon. Religion, 2009 39(2), pp. 161–168.

Glastonbury festival and the performance of remembrance’. DISKUS, 10. Read this online.

‘From Glastonbury to Hungary: Contemporary Integrative Spirituality and Vernacular Religion in Context’ in Passageways. From Hungarian Ethnography to European Ethnology and Sociocultural Anthropology. Gábor Vargyas, ed.  Department of European Ethnology and Cultural Anthropology, The University of Pécs - L’Harmattan Publishing House, Budapest, 2009. pp.195-221

‘Glastonburytől  Magyarországig. Kortárs integratív spiritualitás és vernakuláris vallás’ in Átjárók. A magyar néprajztól az európai etnológiáig és a kulturális antropológiáig. Szerkesztette) Vargyas Gábor. L'Harmattan - Pécsi Tudományegyetem Néprajz - Kulturális Antropológia Tanszék, 2009 pp. 181-208.

‘Going with the Flow: Contemporary Pilgrimage in Glastonbury’ in Shrines and Pilgrimage in the Modern World: New Itineraries into the Sacred Peter Jan Margy, ed. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2008, pp. 241-280.

Arthur and Bridget in Avalon: Celtic Myth, Vernacular Religion and Contemporary Spirituality in Glastonbury Fabula, Journal of Folktale Studies, 48 (1/2) 2007: 1-17

‘A tale of two Celticities: sacred springs, legendary landscape and Celtic revival in Bath’ Australian Religious Studies Review, Special Issue on "Tradition as a Resource: Invention, Innovation, Inheritance", ed. Michael Hill, 20 (1), 2007: 95-117

‘The Holy Thorn Ceremony: Revival, Rivalry and Civil Religion in Glastonbury’ in Folklore 117, Issue 2, 2006:123-140 Read this online or download in PDF format.

‘Ancient Avalon, New Jerusalem, Heart Chakra of Planet Earth: Localisation and Globalisation in Glastonbury’ Numen, 52:2, 2005:157-190

‘Taking Stories Seriously: Vernacular Religion, Contemporary Spirituality and the Myth of Jesus in Glastonbury’ Temenos, 39-40, 2003-2004:125-142

‘Healing in the Spiritual Marketplace: Consumers, Courses and Credentialism’ reprinted in The Encyclopedic Sourcebook of New Age Religions, James R. Lewis, ed (Amherst, New York: Prometheus Books, 2004), 339-348

‘Phenomenology, fieldwork and folk religion’ reprinted (with newly written Afterword) in Religion: Empirical Studies, Steven Sutcliffe, ed. (Aldershot: Ashgate 2004), 3-18

‘Procession and Possession in Glastonbury: Continuity, Change and the Manipulation of Tradition’ Folklore (2004) 115:3, 1-13

‘Vernacular Religion and Nature: The “Bible of the Folk” Tradition in Newfoundland’ Folklore 114:3 (2003), 285-295

‘From Keltoi to cybercelts: continuity and change in Celtic identities’ in Globalization and Europe, Mark Pittaway, ed. (Milton Keynes: The Open University, 2003),107-165

‘Contemporary Celtic spirituality’ in Belief Beyond Boundaries, Jo Pearson, ed. (Aldershot & Milton Keynes: Ashgate & The Open University: 2002), 55-101

‘The People’s Princess: Religion and Politics in the Mourning for Diana,’ in Politics and Folk Religion, Gabor Barna, ed. (Szeged, Hungary: Department of Ethnology, University of Szeged, 2001)

‘Introduction’ (with Steven Sutcliffe) and ‘More of the same?: Christianity, Vernacular Religion and Alternative Spirituality in Glastonbury,’ in Beyond New Age: Exploring Alternative Spirituality, co-edited with Steven Sutcliffe (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2000),1-13; 83-104

‘Introduction’ and ‘The Need for Healing: A Bath Case Study’ in Healing and Religion, Marion Bowman, ed. (Middlesex: Hisarlik Press, 2000), ix-xii and 95-107

Pagan Identities, Special Issue of DISKUS, co-edited with Graham Harvey, DISKUS 6, 2000 (electronic journal)

Nature, the Natural and Pagan Pluralism,’ DISKUS 6, 2000

See also Open Research Online for further details of Marion Bowman’s research publications.



Teaching interests

Since joining The Open University I have contributed to the production and presentation of AA100 The Arts Past and Present, A151 Making sense of things: an introduction to material culture, A217 Introducing Religion, AD317 Religion Today: Tradition, Modernity and Change, AA300 Europe: Culture and Identities in a Contested Continent, and AD281 Understanding Global Heritage. For our new module A332 Why is Religion Controversial? I wrote units on ‘Consuming religion: materiality, markets and spiritually shopping around’ and ‘Religion, sexual abuse and controversy: a case study’.I co-chaired the MA Religious Studies in production, and chair A880.

I have supervised 9 doctoral students to completion, and have examined 21 doctoral theses for UK, European and Australian universities.

Research Activity

Research groups

NameTypeParent Unit
Contemporary Religion in Historical Perspective Research GroupGroupFaculty of Arts
Cross-Cultural Identities Research GroupGroupFaculty of Arts
Heritage Studies Research GroupGroupFaculty of Arts
Material Cultures Research GroupGroupFaculty of Arts