- Paganism (contemporary religious movements)
Paganism, which is also referred to as contemporary Paganism, Neo-Paganism and Neopaganism, is an umbrella term used to identify a wide variety of modern religious movements, particularly those influenced by or claiming to be derived from the various pagan beliefs of pre-modern Europe. Although they do share commonalities, contemporary Pagan religious movements are extremely diverse, and there is no set of beliefs, practices or religious texts shared by all of them.
Contemporary Paganism has been characterised as "a synthesis of historical inspiration and present-day creativity", in this manner drawing influences from pre-Christian, folkloric and ethnographic sources in order to fashion new religious movements. The extent to which contemporary Pagans use these sources differs; many follow a spirituality which they accept is entirely modern, whilst others attempt to reconstruct or revive indigenous, ethnic religions as found in historical and folkloric sources as accurately as possible.
The movement's origins can be traced to the Renaissance of Early Modern Europe, when artists and writers turned to the pre-Christian Classical World for inspiration, something which intensified under the Romanticist movement of the 18th century, when across Europe, artists increasingly glorified the pre-Christian past. At that time, several Pagan religions were founded in an attempt to ressurect pre-Christian religion, particularly in Britain and Germany, namely forms of Neo-druidism and Heathenism. Further groups emerged in Europe during the 19th and early 20th centuries, influenced by the wider occult movement; these included Thelema, Wicca and Adonism. With the rise of the counterculture during the 1960s, Paganism continued to adapt and spread, particularly throughout the U.S., where radical new approaches emerged that dealt with contemporary social issues and interests, such as Neoshamanism, the Goddess movement and the Radical Faeries. At the same time, some ethnic nationalist groups began to adopt Pagan religions during the 20th century, leading to the rise of forms of Heathenry and Slavic Neopaganism. Today, Paganism remains particularly strong in the United States and the United Kingdom, although there are also groups active across Continental Europe and to a lesser extent other parts of the world.
Although the Pagan movement is extremely disparate in its beliefs and practices, a number of sociologists and religious studies scholars have highlighted commonalities shared within many, if not all, Pagan groups. Most modern Pagan groups hold to a theology that embraces such beliefs as polytheism, animism, and pantheism, although there are groups who have instead advocated forms of Goddess-centred monotheism, agnosticism or atheism. Similarly, beliefs about an afterlife vary widely, as do conceptions on ethics and morality. Ritual plays a prominent part in Pagan religious movements, where it is typically employed to induce an altered state of consciousness in the participants. The choice of festivals and days of special commemoration again differs widely among Pagans, although a majority adhere to a set of eight seasonal-based festivals, which are collectively referred to as the Wheel of the Year.
- 1 Terminology and definition
- 2 Beliefs
- 3 Practices
- 4 History
- 5 Historicity
- 6 Encompassed religions and movements
- 7 Paganism in society
- 8 References
- 9 Further reading
- 10 External links
Terminology and definition
Etymology of "paganism"
The origins of the modern English word "pagan" come from the Latin paganus, an adjective originally meaning "rural", "rustic" or "of the countryside." For decades, it was widely believed by scholars that the early Christians who were living in southern Europe had adopted this paganus to refer to those people who were not worshippers of a monotheistic God (thereby not being either Jews or Christians). It was argued that Christians called these people paganus (implying that they were "rustics" or "rural folk") because the non-monotheistic cults of various deities lingered on in the rural villages and hamlets after Christianity had been accepted in the towns and cities of the Roman Empire.
An alternative reason for the adoption of paganus in reference to those who were not followers of Judaism or Christianity was later put forward by French scholar Pierre Chuvin (1990). He argued that soldiers in the Roman Army had used the word paganus contemptuously to refer to civilians and non-combatants. Following on, he proposed that the early Christians, considering themselves to be 'soldiers of Christ', began referring to those who did not worship their God as the pagani.
Etymology of "Neo-paganism"
"Pagan" as a self-designation appeared in 1964 and 1965, in the publications of the Witchcraft Research Association; at that time, the term was in use by "revivalist Witches" in the United States and the United Kingdom, but unconnected to the broader, counter-culture Pagan movement. The modern popularisation of the terms "Pagan" and "Neopagan", as they are currently understood, is largely traced to Oberon Zell-Ravenheart, co-founder of "the 1st Neo-Pagan Church of All Worlds" who, beginning in 1967 with the early issues of Green Egg, used both terms for the growing movement. This usage has been common since the Pagan revival in the 1970s, and is now used by academics and adherents alike to identify new religious movements that emphasize pantheism or nature-worship, or that revive or reconstruct aspects of historical polytheism. Increasingly, scholarly writers prefer the term "contemporary Paganism" to cover all new polytheistic religious movements, a usage favoured by The Pomegranate: The International Journal of Pagan Studies, the leading peer-reviewed journal in the field.
The term "Neopagan" provides a means of distinguishing between historical Pagans of ancient cultures and the adherents of modern religious movements. This category of religions includes syncretic or eclectic approaches like Wicca, Neo-druidism, and Neoshamanism at one end of the spectrum, as well as culturally specific traditions, such as the many varieties of polytheistic reconstructionism, at the other. Some Reconstructionists reject the term "Neopagan" because they wish to set their historically oriented approach apart from generic "Neopagan" eclecticism. "Heathen", "Heathenism" or "Heathenry" as a self-designation of adherents of Germanic neopaganism (Theodism in particular) appeared in the late 1990s.
Beliefs and practices vary widely amongst different Pagan groups, however there are a series of core principles common to most, if not all, forms of contemporary Paganism.
One of the "most important principles" of the Pagan movement is polytheism, the belief in, and veneration of, more than one god and/or goddess. Polytheism was a trait common to the pre-Christian religions of Europe, and is also common to a wide variety of religions around the world, from which contemporary Pagans draw on.
For many in the Pagan community, these polytheistic deities are however not viewed as literal entities, but as Jungian archetypes that exist in the human psyche. Many Pagans adopt attitudes similar to that of American theologian David Miller, the professor of religion at Syracuse University who argued, in his book The New Polytheism, that the adoption of a polytheistic worldview would be beneficial for western society, replacing the dominant monotheism that both Miller and many Pagans believe is by its very nature politically and socially repressive. Adler remarked that many Pagans informed her of how they had adopted polytheism because it allowed a greater freedom, diversity and tolerance of worship amongst the community than that permitted in monotheistic religions. Adler noted that it was this belief in polytheism that had allowed the "multitude" of different Pagan religions to "exist more or less in harmony", as in enabled them to accept the existence and worship of one another's deities. Indeed, most Pagans adopt an ethos of "unity in diversity" regarding their religious beliefs.
In Wicca, (especially Dianic Wicca) the concept of an Earth or Mother Goddess similar to the Greek Gaia is emphasized. Male counterparts are usually also evoked, such as the Green Man and the Horned God (who is loosely based on the Celtic Cernunnos.) These Duotheistic philosophies tend to emphasize the God and Goddess' (or Lord and Lady's) genders as being complementary opposites analogous to that of yin and yang in ancient Chinese philosophy. Many Oriental philosophies equate weakness with femininity and strength with masculinity; this is not the prevailing attitude in Paganism and Wicca. Among many Pagans, there is a strong desire to incorporate the female aspects of the divine in their worship and within their lives, which can partially explain the attitude which sometimes manifests as the veneration of women. Other Neopagans reject the concept of binary gender roles.
Another pivotal belief in the contemporary Pagan movement is that of animism. For modern Pagans, this "is used to imply a reality in which all things are imbued with vitality." Many Pagans believe that there are specific spirits which inhabit various features in the natural world, and that these can be actively communicated with. Some Pagans have reported experiencing communication with spirits dwelling in rocks, plants, trees and animals, as well as power animals or animal spirits who can act as spiritual helpers or guides. Animism was also a concept to common to many pre-Christian European religions, and in adopting it, contemporary Pagans are attempting to "allow their participants to reenter the primeval worldview, to participate in nature in a way that is not possible for most Westerners after childhood."
Pantheism and panentheism
A third pivotal belief in the Pagan community is that of pantheism and panentheism, both beliefs that divinity and the material and/or spiritual universe are one and the same. For Pagans, it means that "divinity is inseperable from nature and that deity is immanent in nature."
Dennis D. Carpenter noted that the belief in a pantheistic or panentheistic deity has led to the idea of interconnectedness playing a key part in Pagans' worldviews. The prominent Wiccan priestess Starhawk related that a core part of Goddess-centred Pagan Witchcraft was "the understanding that all being is interrelated, that we are all linked with the cosmos as parts of one living organism. What affects one of us affects us all."
Afterlife and the soul
A number of Pagan religions purport the existence of a spirit or soul that inhabits the human body and which survives bodily destruction.
Ethics and morality
Views of ethics and morality differ widely throughout the Pagan movement. The most prominent and widespread moral code to be found in the contemporary Pagan movement is the Wiccan Rede, which states that those who follow it should "do as you will, as long as you harm none". First developing in the Gardnerian tradition of Wicca, the Rede spread throughout much of the Pagan movement in the 1960s.
Alternative ethical codes can also be found within the Pagan movement. The Pagan religion of Thelema, founded in 1904 by the English occultist Aleister Crowley, instead advocated the law of "Do What Thou Wilt", arguing that Thelemites should attune themselves to follow their own True Will, and therefore the Cosmic Will of the universe.
Contemporary Pagan ritual is typically geared towards "facilitating altered states of awareness or shifting mind-sets." In order to induce such altered states of consciousness, Pagans utilise such elements as drumming, visualization, chanting, singing, dancing, and meditation. American folklorist Sabina Magliocco came to the conclusion, based upon her ethnographic fieldwork in California, that certain Pagan beliefs "arise from what they experience during religious ecstasy".
Sociologist Margot Adler highlighted how several Pagan groups, like the Reformed Druids of North America and the Erisian movement refuse to take their rituals seriously, instead incorporating into them a great deal of play. She noted that there are those who would argue that "the Pagan community is one of the only spiritual communities that is exploring humor, joy, abandonment, even silliness and outrageousness as valid parts of spiritual experience."
Most modern Pagan religions celebrate the cycles and seasons of nature through a festival calendar that honours these changes. The timing of festivals, and the rites celebrated, may vary from climate to climate, and will also vary (sometimes widely) depending upon which particular Pagan religion the adherent subscribes to (see Wheel of the Year).
Magic and witchcraft
Several Pagan religions incorporate the use of magic into their ritual practices. Among these are Wicca, Shamanism, Druidism, and other Pagan belief systems, the rituals of which were at least initially partially based upon those of ceremonial magic.
Renaissance and Romanticism
The roots of contemporary Paganism begin with the Renaissance, and the reintroduction of Classicism and the resurgence of interest in Graeco-Roman polytheism in the wake of works like the Theologia mythologica of 1532 as well as a revived interest in Greco-Roman magic, studied systematically in Renaissance magic. Although apart from the practice of magic, this was not a revival of pagan cultic practice, the Renaissance was a "rebirth" of the philosophy of pagan antiquity especially Platonism (or Neo-Platonism, Plotinism), but also Epicureanism, re-introduced by Baroque philosopher Pierre Gassendi, described as a "new paganism" in the history of philosophy.
The Romantic movement of the 18th century led to the re-discovery of Old Gaelic and Old Norse literature and poetry. Neo-druidism can be taken to have its origins as early as 1717 with the foundation of The Druid Order. The 19th century saw a surge of interest in Germanic paganism with the Viking revival in Victorian Britain and Scandinavia. In Germany the Völkisch movement was in full swing. These pagan currents coincided with Romanticist interest in folklore and occultism, the widespread emergence of pagan themes in popular literature, and the rise of nationalism.
During this resurgence in the United Kingdom, Neo-druidism and various Western occult groups emerged, such as the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn and the Ordo Templi Orientis, who attempted to syncretize "exotic" elements like Egyptian cosmology and Kabbalah into their belief systems, although not necessarily for purely religious purposes. Influenced by the anthropologist Sir James George Frazer's The Golden Bough, several prominent writers and artists were involved in these organizations, including William Butler Yeats, Maud Gonne, Arthur Edward Waite, and Aleister Crowley. Along with these early occult organizations, there were other social phenomena such as the interest in mediumship, magic, and other supernatural beliefs which was at an all time high in the late 19th century and early 20th century.
Another important influence during this period was the Romantic aesthetic movement, which venerated the natural world and frequently made reference to the deities of antiquity. The Romantic poets, essayists, artists and authors who employed these themes in their work were later associated with socially progressive attitudes towards sexuality, feminism, pacifism and similar issues.
Early 20th century
In the 1920s Margaret Murray theorized that a Witchcraft religion existed underground and in secret, and had survived through the witchcraft prosecutions that had been enacted by the ecclesiastical and secular courts. Most historians now reject Murray's theory, as she based it partially upon the similarities of the accounts given by those accused of witchcraft; such similarity is now thought to actually derive from there having been a standard set of questions laid out in the witch-hunting manuals used by interrogators. Murray's ideas nevertheless exerted great influence on certain Pagan currents; in the 1940s, Englishman Gerald Gardner claimed to have been initiated into a New Forest coven. Gardnerian Wicca is used to refer to the traditions of Neopaganism that adhere closely to Gardner's teachings, differentiating it from similar traditions, such as Alexandrian Wicca or more recent Wiccan offshoots.
In the meantime, Germanic mysticism in Germany and Switzerland had developed into baroque forms such as Guido von List's "Armanism", from the 1900s merging into antisemitic and national mysticist (völkisch) currents, notably with Lanz von Liebenfels' Guido von List Society and Ostara magazine, which with the rise of Nazism were partially absorbed into Nazi occultism. Such distortions of Germanic mythology were denounced by J. R. R. Tolkien, e.g. in a 1941 letter where he speaks of Hitler's corruption of "...that noble northern spirit, a supreme contribution to Europe, which I have ever loved and tried to present in its true light." Because of such connections with Nazism, interest in Neopaganism was virtually eclipsed for about two decades following World War II.
Other Germanic mysticist groups, such as the Germanische Glaubens-Gemeinschaft of Ludwig Fahrenkrog were disendorsed by the Nazi regime. Another of these German Neopagan groups was Adonism, founded in the nineteenth century.
Late 20th century
The 1960s and 1970s saw a resurgence in Neodruidism as well as the rise of Germanic Neopaganism and Ásatrú in the United States and in Iceland. In the 1970s, Wicca was notably influenced by feminism, leading to the creation of an eclectic, Goddess-worshipping movement known as Dianic Wicca. The 1979 publication of Margot Adler's Drawing Down the Moon and Starhawk's The Spiral Dance opened a new chapter in public awareness of Paganism.
With the growth and spread of large, Pagan gatherings and festivals in the 1980s, public varieties of Neo-Wicca continued to further diversify into additional, eclectic sub-denominations, often heavily influenced by the New Age and counter-culture movements. These open, unstructured or loosely structured traditions contrast with British Traditional Wicca, which emphasizes secrecy and initiatory lineage.
The 1980s and 1990s also saw an increasing interest in serious academic research and Reconstructionist Pagan traditions. The establishment and growth of the Internet in the 1990s brought rapid growth to these, and other Pagan movements.
Many Pagans and Pagan traditions attempt to incorporate elements of historical religions, cultures and mythologies into their beliefs and practices, often emphasizing the age of their sources. Thus, Wicca in particular is sometimes referred to by its proponents as "The Old Religion", a term popularised by Margaret Murray in the 1920s, while Germanic Neopaganism is referred to in some of its varieties as Forn Sed ("Old Custom"). Such emphasis on the antiquity of religious tradition is not exclusive to modern Paganism, and is found in many other religions. For example the terms Purana, Sanatana Dharma, and the emphasis on the antiquity of the Ancient Egyptian sources of the Hellenistic Mystery religions.
Some claims of continuity between contemporary Paganism and older forms of paganism have been shown to be spurious, or outright false, as in the case of Iolo Morganwg's Druid's Prayer. Wiccan beliefs of an ancient monotheistic Goddess were inspired by Marija Gimbutas's description of Neolithic Europe. The factual historical validity of her theories has been disputed by many scholars, including historian Ronald Hutton.
While most Pagans draw from old religious traditions, they also adapt them. The mythologies of the ancient traditions are not generally considered to be literally factual by Pagans, in the sense that the Bible and other Abrahamic texts are often thought of by their followers. Eclectic Pagans in particular are resistant to the concept of scripture or excessive structure, considering personal freedom to be one of the primary goals of their spirituality. In contrast, some Reconstructionist movements, like those who practise Theodism, take a stricter religious approach, and only recognize certain historical texts and sources as being relevant to their belief system, intentionally focusing on one culture to the exclusion of others, and having a general disdain for the eclectic mentality.
The mythological sources of the various Pagan traditions are similarly varied, including Celtic, Norse, Greek, Roman, Sumerian, Egyptian and others. Some groups focus solely on one cultural tradition, while others draw from several. For example, Doreen Valiente's text The Charge of the Goddess used materials from The Gospel of Aradia by Charles G. Leland (1899), as well as material from Aleister Crowley's writings.
Some Pagans also draw inspiration from modern traditions, including Christianity, Buddhism and others, creating syncretisms like "Christian Witchcraft" or "Buddheo-Paganism". Since many Pagan beliefs do not require exclusivity, some Pagans practise other faiths in parallel.
Eclectic Pagans take an undogmatic religious stance, and therefore potentially see no one as having authority to deem a source "apocryphal". Contemporary Paganism has therefore been prone to fakelore, especially in recent years as information and misinformation alike have been spread on the Internet and in print media. A number of Wiccan, Pagan and even some "Traditionalist" or "Tribalist" groups have a history of "Grandmother Stories" – typically involving initiation by a Grandmother, Grandfather, or other elderly relative who is said to have instructed them in the secret, millennia-old traditions of their ancestors. As this "secret wisdom" can almost always be traced to recent sources, tellers of these stories have often later admitted they made them up.
Encompassed religions and movements
The term "Contemporary Paganism" encompasses a very broad range of groups and beliefs. Syncretic or eclectic approaches are often inspired by historical traditions, but not bound by any strict identification with a historical religion or culture. These are contrasted by a focus on historicity (reconstructionism), on folklore, or on occultist or national mysticist claims of continuity from racial memory.
Wicca and Pagan Witchcraft
Pagan Witchcraft is the largest contemporary Pagan religion, having originally developed in the United Kingdom and since spread across the world. It is commonly called "Wicca", a term that came to be adopted in the early 1960s, although in the late 1970s and 1980s certain Pagan Witches began to instead use that term purely in reference to specific traditions of the Pagan Craft, and in the contemporary Pagan community both definitions are now employed, causing some confusion.
The Wiccan religion revolves around the veneration of a Horned God and a Goddess, elements of a variety of ancient mythologies, a belief in and practice of magic and sometimes the belief in reincarnation and karma.
The scholar of Religious Studies Graham Harvey noted that a poem known as the Charge of the Goddess remains central to the liturgy of most Wiccan groups. Originally written by Wiccan High Priestess Doreen Valiente in the mid-1950s, Harvey noted that the recitation of the Charge in the midst of ritual allows Wiccans to gain wisdom and experience deity in "the ordinary things in life".
It was first publicized in 1954 by Gerald Gardner. Gardner claimed that the religion was a modern survival of an old witch cult, originating in the pre-Christian Paganism of Europe and existing in secret for centuries. He claimed it was revealed to him by a coven of witches in the New Forest area of southern England. Various forms of Wicca have since evolved or been adapted from Gardner's British Traditional Wicca or Gardnerian Wicca such as Alexandrian Wicca. Other forms loosely based on Gardner's teachings are Faery Wicca, Kemetic Wicca, Judeo-Paganism or "jewitchery", Dianic Wicca or "Feminist Wicca" – which emphasizes the divine feminine, often creating women-only or lesbian-only groups.
Neo-Druidism forms the second largest Pagan religion after Wicca, and like Wicca in turn shows significant heterogeneity. It draws several beliefs and inspirations from the Druids, the priest caste of the ancient pagan Celts. With the first Druid Order founded as early as 1717, the history of Neo-Druidism reaches back to the earliest origins of modern Paganism. The Ancient Order of Druids founded in 1781 had many aspects of freemasonry, and practised rituals at Stonehenge since 1905. The Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids was established in 1964 by Ross Nichols and the British Druid Order in 1979. In the United States, the Ancient Order of Druids in America (AODA) was founded in 1912, the Reformed Druids of North America (RDNA) was established in 1963 and Ár nDraíocht Féin (ADF) in 1983 by Isaac Bonewits.
New Age syncretism and Eco-Paganism
Contemporary Paganism emerged as part of the counter-culture, New Age and Hippie movements in the 1960s to 1970s. Reconstructionism rose to prominence in the 1980s and 1990s. The majority of Pagans are not committed to a single defined tradition, but understand Paganism as encompassing a wide range of non-institutionalized spirituality, as promoted by the Church of All Worlds, the Feri Tradition and other movements. Notably, Wicca in the United States since the 1970s has largely moved away from its Gardnerian roots and diversified into eclectic variants.
Paganism generally emphasizes the sanctity of the Earth and Nature. Pagans often feel a duty to protect the Earth through activism, and support causes such as rainforest protection, organic farming, permaculture, animal rights and so on. Some Pagans are influenced by Animist traditions of the indigenous Native Americans and Africans and other indigenous or shamanic traditions.
Eco-Paganism and Eco-magic, which are off-shoots of direct action environmental groups, have a strong emphasis on fairy imagery and a belief in the possibility of intercession by the fae (fairies, pixies, gnomes, elves, and other spirits of nature and the Otherworlds).
Some Unitarian Universalists are eclectic Pagans. Unitarian Universalists look for spiritual inspiration in a wide variety of religious beliefs. The Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans, or CUUPs, encourages their member chapters to "use practices familiar to members who attend for worship services but not to follow only one tradition of Paganism."
In the western world, distinct forms of Paganism have developed for members of the LGBT community. Margot Adler noted how there were many Pagan groups whose practices revolved around the inclusion and celebration of male homosexuality, such as the Minoan Brotherhood, a Wiccan group that combines the iconography from ancient Minoan religion with a Wiccan theology and an emphasis on "men-loving-men", and the eclectic Pagan group known as the Radical Faeries. Similarly, there are also groups for lesbians, like certain forms of Dianic Wicca and the Minoan Sisterhood. When Adler asked one gay Pagan what the Pagan community offered members of the LGBT community, the reply was "A place to belong. Community. Acceptance. And a way to connect with all kinds of people, gay, bi, straight, celibate, transgender, in a way that is hard to do in the greater society".
Other forms of Wicca have also attracted queer people, for instance, the theologian Jone Salomonsen noted that there was an unusually high number of LGBT, and particularly bisexual individuals within the Reclaiming tradition of San Francisco when she was doing her fieldwork there in the 1980s and 1990s.
Occultism and ethnic mysticism
Historically the earliest self-identified revivalist pagans were inspired by Renaissance occultism. Notably in early 20th century Germany with Germanic mysticism, which branched into Ariosophy and related currents of Nazi occultism. Outside Germany, occultist Neopaganism was inspired by Crowleyan Thelema and Left-Hand Paths, a recent example being the "Dark Paganism" of John J. Coughlin.
In 1925, the Czech esotericist Franz Sättler founded a Pagan religion known as Adonism, devoted to the ancient Greek god Adonis, whom Sättler equated with the Christian Satan, and which purported that the end of the world would come in the year 2000. Adonism largely died out in the 1930s, but remained an influence on the German occult scene.
In the United States, ethnic mysticist approaches are advocated in the form of anti-racist Asatru Folk Assembly founder Stephen McNallen's "metagenetics" and by David Lane's openly white supremacist Wotanism.
Occultist currents persist in neo-fascist and national mysticist Neopaganism, since the 1990s revived in the European Nouvelle Droite in the context of the "Integral Traditionalism" of Julius Evola and others (Alain de Benoist, Werkgroep Traditie; see Neopaganism and the New Right).
In contrast to the eclectic traditions, Reconstructionists are very culturally oriented and attempt to reconstruct historical forms of Paganism, in a modern context. Thus, Hellenic, Roman, Kemetic, Celtic, Germanic, Baltic and Slavic Reconstructionists aim for the revival of historical practices and beliefs of Ancient Greece, Ancient Rome, Ancient Egypt, the Celts, the Germanic peoples, the Balts and the Slavs, respectively.[Need quotation to verify]
In the early 2000s, a "Traditionalist" or "Folklorist" current of Neopaganism emerged in Scandinavian Neopaganism, advocated by Jon Julius Filipusson (of Foreningen Forn Sed, Norway), Paul Jenssen (Denmark) and Keeron Ögren (Samfälligheten för Nordisk Sed, Sweden), which rejects Reconstructionism and syncretism alike, advocating a strict focus on regional folklore and folk religion.
Paganism in society
Based upon her study of the Pagan community in the United States, the sociologist Margot Adler noted that it is rare for Pagan groups to proselytize in order to gain new converts to their faiths. Instead, she argued that "in most cases", converts first become interested in the movement through "word of mouth, a discussion between friends, a lecture, a book, an article or a Web site." She went on to put forward the idea that this typically confirmed "some original, private experience, so that the most common experience of those who have named themselves Pagan is something like "I finally found a group that has the same religious perceptions I always had"." A practicing Wiccan herself, Adler used her own conversion to Paganism as a case study, remarking that as a child she had taken a great interest in the gods and goddesses of ancient Greece, and had performed her own devised rituals in dedication to them. When she eventually came across the Wiccan religion many years later, she then found that it confirmed her earlier childhood experiences, and that "I never converted in the accepted sense. I simply accepted, reaffirmed, and extended a very old experience."
Folklorist Sabina Magliocco supported this idea, noting that a great many of those Californian Pagans whom she interviewed claimed that they had been greatly interested in mythology and folklore as children, imagining a world of "enchanted nature and magical transformations, filled with lords and ladies, witches and wizards, and humble but often wise peasants." Magliocco noted that it was this world which Pagans "strive to re-create in some measure." Further support for Adler's idea came from American Wiccan priestess Judy Harrow, who noted that amongst her comrades, there was a feeling that "you don't become Pagan, you discover that you always were."
Many Pagans in North America encounter the movement through their involvement in other hobbies; particularly popular with U.S. Pagans are "golden age"-type pastimes such as the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA), Star Trek fandom, Doctor Who fandom and comic book fandom. Other manners in which many North American Pagans have got involved with the movement are through political and/or ecological activism, such as "vegetarian groups, health food stores" or feminist university courses.
Adler went on to note that from those she interviewed and surveyed in the U.S., she could identify a number of common factors that led to people getting involved in Paganism: the beauty, vision and imagination that was found within their beliefs and rituals, a sense of intellectual satisfaction and personal growth that they imparted, their support for environmentalism and/or feminism, and a sense of freedom.
Class, gender and ethnicity
Based upon her work in the United States, sociologist Margot Adler found that the Pagan movement was "very diverse" in its class and ethnic background. She went on to remark that she had encountered Pagans in jobs that ranged from "fireman to Ph.D. chemist" but that the one thing that she thought made them into an "elite" was as avid readers, something that she found to be very common within the Pagan community despite the fact that avid readers constituted less than 20% of the general population of the United States at the time. The folklorist Sabina Magliocco came to a somewhat different conclusion based upon her ethnographic research of Pagans in California, remarking that the majority were "white, middle-class, well-educated urbanites who find artistic inspiration in folk and indigenous spiritual traditions."
The sociologist Regina Oboler examined the role of gender in the Pagan community of the United States, arguing that although the movement had been constant in its support for the equality of men and women ever since its foundation, there was still an essentialist view of gender engrained within it, with female deities being accorded traditional western feminine traits and male deities being similarly accorded what western society saw as masculine traits.
High estimates by Pagan authors may reach several times that number. A precise number is impossible to establish, because of the largely uninstitutionalised nature of the religion and the secrecy observed by some traditions, – sometimes explained by fear of religious discrimination.
In the United States, the ARIS 2001 study, based on a poll conducted by The Graduate Center at The City University of New York found that an estimated 140,000 people self-identified as Pagans; 134,000 self-identified as Wiccans; and 33,000 self-identified as Druids. This would bring the total of groups largely accepted under the modern popular western definition of Pagan to 307,000.
A study by Ronald Hutton compared a number of different sources (including membership lists of major UK organizations, attendance at major events, subscriptions to magazines, etc.) and used standard models for extrapolating likely numbers. This estimate accounted for multiple membership overlaps as well as the number of adherents represented by each attendee of a Pagan gathering. Hutton estimated that there are 250,000 Neopagan adherents in the United Kingdom, roughly equivalent to the national Hindu community.
A smaller number is suggested by the results of the 2001 Census, in which a question about religious affiliation was asked for the first time. Respondents were able to write in an affiliation not covered by the checklist of common religions, and a total of 42,262 people from England, Scotland and Wales declared themselves to be Pagans by this method. These figures were not released as a matter of course by the Office of National Statistics, but were released after an application by the Pagan Federation of Scotland. From a British population of 59 million this gives a rough proportion of 7 Pagans per 100,000 population. This is more than many well known traditions such as Rastafarian, Bahá'í and Zoroastrian groups, but fewer than the 'Big Six' of Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Sikhism, Judaism and Buddhism. It is also fewer than the adherents Jediism, whose campaign made them the fourth largest religion after Christianity, Islam and Hinduism.
The UK Census figures do not allow an accurate breakdown of traditions within the Pagan heading, as a campaign by the Pagan Federation before the census encouraged Wiccans, Heathens, Druids and others all to use the same write-in term 'Pagan' in order to maximise the numbers reported. The PaganDASH campaign actively worked with the ONS to amend the rules for The 2011 UK Census, allowing Pagans to write their denomination in the form "PAGAN — path". This was to reduce problems as encountered in the 2001 Census such as a range of Neopagan paths being counted under atheist.
Census figures in Ireland do not provide a breakdown of religions outside of the major Christian denominations and other major world religions. A total of 22,497 people stated 'Other religion' in the 2006 census; and a rough estimate is that there are 2,000–3,000 practicing Pagans in Ireland as of 2009. Numerous Pagan groups – primarily Wiccan and Druidic – exist in Ireland though none is officially recognised by the Government. Irish Paganism is often strongly concerned with issues of place and language.
Paganism in Scandinavia is dominated by Ásatrú (Forn Sed, Folketro). The Swedish AsatruSociety formed in 1994, and in Norway the Åsatrufellesskapet Bifrost formed in 1996 and Foreningen Forn Sed formed in 1999. They have been recognized by the Norwegian government as a religious society, allowing them to perform "legally binding civil ceremonies" (i.e. marriages). In Denmark Forn Siðr also formed in 1999, recognized in 2003 and in Sweden Nätverket Gimle formed in 2001, as an informal community for individual Heathens. Nätverket Forn Sed formed in 2004, and has a network consisting of local groups (blotlag) from all over Sweden.
In German-speaking Europe, Germanic and Celtic Paganism co-exist with Wicca and Neoshamanism. Paganism in Latin Europe (France, Italy, Spain) focuses on Neo-Druidism and Esotericism based on megalith culture besides some Germanic Pagan groups in areas historically affected by Germanic migrations (Lombardy). Paganism in Eastern Europe and parts of Northern Europe is dominated by Baltic and Slavic movements, rising to visibility after the fall of the Soviet Union (except for Latvian Dievturība which has been active since 1925). Since the 1990s, there have been organized Hellenic groups practising in Greece.
The Church of the Guanche People is a Pagan sect founded in 2001 in the city of San Cristobal de La Laguna (Tenerife, Canary Islands, Spain). According to its followers this organisation aims to revive and spread the Pagan religion of the Guanche people. It was founded by a group of Canarian citizens, devotees of the goddess Chaxiraxi. The Church of the Guanche People performs baptisms and weddings according to aboriginal Guanche forms. On December 14, 2003, the first wedding for more than 500 years was held according to the aboriginal Guanche rite on the island of Tenerife. In 2008 the group had approximately 300 members.
In the latter decades of the 20th century, various academics from a variety of different disciplines began to take an interest in studying contemporary Paganism, thereby creating the Pagan Studies area. Thus the publication of a peer-reviewed academic journal, The Pomegranate: A New Journal of Neopagan Thought (later renamed The Pomegranate: The International Journal of Pagan Studies), has begun, edited by American academic Chas S. Clifton, whilst the academic publishers AltaMira Press began release of the Pagan Studies Series.
- ^ Adler 2006. p. xiii.
- ^ a b Carpenter 1996. p. 40.
- ^ Lewis 2004. p. 13.
- ^ Hanegraaff 1996. p. 84.
- ^ Carpenter 1996. p. 47.
- ^ Adler 2006. pp. 3-4.
- ^ Jones and Pennick 1995. p. 01.
- ^ Watts, Alan W. "Nature, Man and Woman", 1991, Vintage Books, p. 25.
- ^ Jones and Pennick 1995. p. 01.
- ^ Chuvin 1990. p. 17.
- ^ Chuvin 1990. p. 17.
- ^ Jones and Pennick 1995. p. 01.
- ^ The very persons who would most writhe and wail at their surroundings if transported back into early Greece, would, I think, be the neo-pagans and Hellas worshipers of today. (W. James, letter of 5 April 1868, cited after OED); The neopagan impulse of the classical revival. (J. A. Symonds, Renaissance in Italy 1877, iv. 193); Pre-Raphaelitism [...] has got mixed up with æstheticism, neo-paganism, and other such fantasies. (J. McCarthy A history of our own times, 1880, iv. 542)
- ^ Jones and Pennick 1995. p. 2.
- ^ a b Adler (1996) p.295
- ^ OED, s.v. "pagan"
- ^ Adler, Margot. Drawing Down the Moon: Witches, Druids, Goddess Worshipers and Other Pagans in America.
- ^ a b Adler (2006) pp.243–299
- ^ Bonewits (2006) pp.128–140
- ^ Eric Wodening, We Are Our Deeds: The Elder Heathenry, Its Ethic and Thew (1998), ISBN 1-929340-00-1
- ^ Adler 2006. p. 22.
- ^ Adler 2006. p. 22.
- ^ Adler 2006. p. 29.
- ^ Adler 2006. pp. 26-28.
- ^ Adler 2006. pp. 31-32.
- ^ Adler 2006. p. 23.
- ^ Carpenter 1996. p. 61.
- ^ York 2003. pp. 22–23.
- ^ Clifton, Chas. "A Goddess Arrives." Gnosis Fall 1988: 20–29.
- ^ Adler 2006. p. 22.
- ^ a b Carpenter 1996. p. 54.
- ^ Adler 2006. pp. 22-23.
- ^ Carpenter 1996. p. 50.
- ^ Adler 2006. p. 23.
- ^ Carpenter 1996. p. 50.
- ^ Starhawk 1989. p. 10.
- ^ Carpenter 1996. p. 55.
- ^ a b Carpenter 1996. p. 66.
- ^ Magliocco 2004. p. 09.
- ^ Adler 2006. pp. 335–354.
- ^ e.g. Johannes Hirschberger, Geschichte der Philosophie vol. 2 (1952), ch. 1.
- ^ "The Viking Revival" by Professor Andrew Wawn. BBC Homepage.
- ^ Hutton, Ronald (2001). The Triumph of the Moon: A History of Modern Pagan Witchcraft. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-285449-6. p.22
- ^ Myth, Romantic approach Retrieved 14 July 2009 from Encyclopedia Britannica Online
- ^ Hutton, Triumph of the Moon pp.194–201
- ^ Tolkien, JRR, Letters, pp.55–56
- ^ Adler (2006) pp.178–239: "Women, Feminism and the Craft"
- ^ Adler (2006) p.ix
- ^ a b Adler (2006) p.429-456: "Pagan Festivals – The Search for a Culture"
- ^ a b Adler (1986) p.23
- ^ Telesco, Patricia (ed) (2005) Which Witch is Which? Franklin Lakes, NJ, New Page Books. ISBN 1-56414-754-1 pp.94–8
- ^ Adler, Margot (1979). Drawing Down the Moon: Witches, Druids, Goddess-Worshippers, and Other Pagans in America Today. Boston: Beacon Press. pp. 94–5 (Sanders) p.78 (Anderson) p.83 (Gardner) p.87 (Fitch) p.90 (Pendderwen). ISBN 0-8070-3237-9. Author quotes Alex Sanders claim of initiation by grandmother as a child in 1933, yet the Alexandrian rituals, "so resemble the Gardnerian rituals [written in the 1940s] that Alex's story of their origin is often questioned." Victor Anderson of the Feri tradition tells similar story, but his rituals also seem largely based on Gardner's writings. Author adds: "Gardner, for whatever reasons, preferred to maintain the fiction that he was simply carrying on an older tradition. This fiction, wrote Aidan [Kelly], has put modern Craft leaders 'into the uncomfortable position of having to maintain that stance also, despite the fact that doing so goes, I suspect, against both their common sense and better judgement.'" Quoting Ed Fitch, "I think all of us have matured somewhat. After a while you realize that if you've heard one story about an old grandmother, you've heard six or seven just like it." Quoting Gwydion Pendderwen, "Yes, I wrote a fantasy. It was a desire. It was something I wished would happen. Perhaps that's why there are so many of these fantasies running around in the Craft today, and people trying to convince other people that they're true. It is certainly so much more pleasant and 'magical' to say 'It happened this way,' instead of 'I researched this. I wrote these rituals. I came up with this idea myself.'"
- ^ Doyle White 2010. pp. 193-205.
- ^ Harvey 2007. pp. 36-37.
- ^ Telesco (2005) p.114
- ^ Hunt (2003:147–148) writes: "Although as a contemporary movement neo-Paganism can be traced back to the nineteenth-century, it was the counter-culture of the mid-twentieth-century which increased its popularity in the USA where a rediscovery of the ancient cultural traditions of the Native American Indians became popular."
- ^ Letcher, Andy, "The Scouring of the Shire: Fairies, Trolls and Pixies in Eco-Protest Culture", in Folklore (Oct, 2001)
- ^ Official Website of CUUPS
- ^ Adler 2006. pp. 355-371.
- ^ Salomonsen 2002. p. 44.
- ^ Hakl 2010.
- ^ Adler 2006. p. 13.
- ^ Adler 2006. pp. 15-19.
- ^ Magliocco 2004. pp. 40 and 55.
- ^ Harrow 1996. p. 12.
- ^ Rabinovitch 1996. p. 76.
- ^ Rabinovitch 1996. pp. 76-77.
- ^ Adler 2006. pp. 20-21.
- ^ Adler 2006. p. 19.
- ^ Adler 2006. p. 34.
- ^ Magliocco 2004. p. 07.
- ^ Oboler 2010. pp. 182-183.
- ^ Adherents.com
- ^ Curott, Phyllis (1998) The Book of Shadows: A Modern Woman's Journey Into the Wisdom of Witchcraft and the Magic of the Goddess, estimates there are 3 to 5 million Wiccans in the U.S. alone.
- ^ Edwards, Catherine. "Wicca Casts Spell on Teen-Age Girls " in Insight online magazine, Vol. 15, No. 39 – October 25, 1999: "There is much to-do about secrecy, and groups do not release membership rolls."
- ^ ARIS 2001 study
- ^ Hutton (2001)
- ^ Pagans and the Scottish Census of 2001. Retrieved 18 October 2007.
- ^ National Statistics Office (2001): '390,000 Jedi There Are'. Retrieved 18 October 2007.
- ^ 
- ^ Butler, Jenny, "Irish neo-paganism". pages 111–130 in Olivia Cosgrove et al. (eds), Ireland's new religious movements. Cambridge Scholars, 2011
- ^ Forklaring til Forn Siðr´s ansøgning om godkendelse som trossamfund.
- ^ Martin, Veronica (2008) 5% of Canarians profess a minority religion (Un 5% de canarios profesa una religión minoritaria), La Opinión de Tenerife newspaper, 3rd October.
- ^ "Pomegranate: The International Journal of Pagan Studies". www.equinoxjournals.com. http://www.equinoxjournals.com/ojs/index.php/pom/index. Retrieved 2008-05-26.
- ^ "Pagan Studies / AltaMira Press". www.csulb.edu. http://www.csulb.edu/~wgriffin/paganstudies/. Retrieved 2008-05-26.
- Adler, Margot (2006). Drawing Down the Moon: Witches, Druids, Goddess-Worshippers and Other Pagans in America (revised edition). London: Penguin. ISBN 978-0143038191.
- Berger, Helen (1999). A Community of Witches: Contemporary Neo-Paganism and Witchcraft in the United States. University of South Carolina Press.
- Berger, Helen; Ezzy, Douglas (2007). Teenage Witches: Magical Youth and the Search for the Self. New Brunswick, New Jersey and London: Rutgers International Press. ISBN 978-0813540216.
- Blain, Jenny (2002). Nine Worlds of Seid-Magic: Ecstasy and Neo-Shamanism in Northern European Paganism. London and New York: Routledge.
- Blain, Jenny; Wallis, Robert (2007). Sacred Sites Contested Rites/Rights: Pagan Engagements with Archaeological Monuments. Brighton and Portland: Sussex Academic Press. ISBN 978-1845191306.
- Chuvin, Pierre (1990). Chronique des Derniers Païns. Paris: Belles Lettres/Fayard.
- Clifton, Chas S. (2006). Her Hidden Children: The Rise of Wicca and Paganism in America. Oxford and Lanham: AltaMira. ISBN 978-0759102026.
- Cowan, Douglas E. (2005). Cyberhenge: Modern Pagans on the Internet. London: Routledge. ISBN 978-0415969116.
- Gardell, Mattias (2003). Gods of the Blood: The Pagan Revival and White Separatism. Durham, North Carolina: Duke University Press.
- Hanegraaff, Wouter J. (1996). New Age Religion and Western Culture: Esotericism in the Mirror of Secular Thought. Brill Academic Publishers. ISBN 90-04-10696-0..
- Harvey, Graham (2007). Listening People, Speaking Earth: Contemporary Paganism (second edition). London: Hurst & Company. ISBN 978-1850652724.
- Hutton, Ronald (1999). The Triumph of the Moon: A History of Modern Pagan Witchcraft. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0198207443.
- Hutton, Ronald (2009). Blood and Mistletoe: The History of the Druids in Britain. New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press. ISBN 978-0300144857.
- Jones, Prudence; Pennick, Nigel (1995). A History of Pagan Europe. London and New York: Routledge. ISBN 0-415-09136-5.
- Kelly, Aidan A. (2007). Inventing Witchcraft: A Case Study in the Creation of a New Religion. Loughborough: Thoth Publications. ISBN 978-1870450584.
- Lewis, James R. (2004). The Oxford Handbook of New Religious Movements. London and New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-514986-6..
- Magliocco, Sabina (2002). Neo-pagan Sacred Art and Altars: Making Things Work. University Press of Mississippi. ISBN 978-1578063918.
- Magliocco, Sabina (2004). Witching Culture: Folklore and Neo-paganism in America. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. ISBN 978-0812238037.
- Orion, Loretta (1995). Never Again the Burning Times: Paganism Revisited. Long Grove, Illinois: Waveland Press. ISBN 978-0881338355.
- Pearson, Joanne (2007). Wicca and the Christian Heritage: Ritual, Sex and Magic. Abingdon, Oxfordshire: Routledge.
- Salomonsen, Jone (2002). Enchanted Feminism: The Reclaiming Witches of San Francisco. London: Routledge. ISBN 978-0415223935.
- Wallis, Robert J. (2003). Shamans/Neo-Shamans: Ecstasy, alternative archaeologies and contemporary Pagans. London and New York: Routledge. ISBN 978-0415302036.
- Wise, Constance (2008). Hidden Circles in the Web: Feminist Wicca, Occult Knowledge and Process Thought. Oxford and Lanham: AltaMira. ISBN 978-0759110076.
- York, Michael (2003). Pagan Theology: Paganism as a World Religion. New York: New York University Press. ISBN 978-0814797020.
Academic Anthology Articles
- Bernhardt-House, Philip A. (2009). "Pagan Celtic Studies (Or, Throwing the Druidic Baby Out from the Still-Drinkable Sacred Spring Water...?!)". Ten Years of Triumph of the Moon: A Collection of Essays (United Kingdom: Hidden Publishing): pp. 129-151. ISBN 978-0955523755.
- Carpenter, Dennis D. (1996). "Emergent Nature Spirituality: An Examination of the Major Spiritual Contours of the Contemporary Pagan Worldview". Magical Religion and Modern Witchcraft (Albany: State University of New York Press): pp. 35-72. ISBN 978-0791428900.
- Harrow, Judy (1996). "The Contemporary Neo-Pagan Revival". Magical Religion and Modern Witchcraft (Albany: State University of New York Press): pp. 9-24. ISBN 978-0791428900.
- Magliocco, Sabina (1996). "Ritual is My Chosen Art Form: The Creation of Ritual as Folk Art among Contemporary Pagans". Magical Religion and Modern Witchcraft (Albany: State University of New York Press): pp. 93-119. ISBN 978-0791428900.
- Rabinovitch, Shelley TSivia (1996). "Spells of Transformation: Categorizing Modern Neo-Pagan Witches". Magical Religion and Modern Witchcraft (Albany: State University of New York Press): pp. 75-91. ISBN 978-0791428900.
- Tully, Caroline (2009). "Samuel Liddell MacGregor Mathers and Isis". Ten Years of Triumph of the Moon: A Collection of Essays (United Kingdom: Hidden Publishing): pp. 62-75. ISBN 978-0955523755.
Academic Journal Articles
- Crockford, Susannah (2010). "Shamanisms and the Authenticity of Religious Experience". The Pomegranate: The International Journal of Pagan Studies (London: Equinox) 12.2.
- Doyle White, Ethan (2010). "The Meaning of "Wicca": A Study in Etymology, History and Pagan Politics". The Pomegranate: The International Journal of Pagan Studies (London: Equinox) 12.2.
- Hakl, Hans Thomas (2010). "Franz Sättler (Dr. Musallam) and the Twentieth-Century Cult of Adonism". The Pomegranate: The International Journal of Pagan Studies (London: Equinox) 12.1.
- York, Michael (2010). "Idolatry, Ecology, and the Sacred as Tangible". The Pomegranate: The International Journal of Pagan Studies (London: Equinox) 12.1.
- Oboler, Regina Smith (2010). "Negotiating Gender Essentialism in Contemporary Paganism". The Pomegranate: The International Journal of Pagan Studies (London: Equinox) 12.2.
Contemporary Pagan Literature
- Bonewits, Isaac (2003). Rites of Worship: A Neopagan Approach. Miami, Fla.: Earth Religions Press. ISBN 1-59405-501-7.
- Bonewits, Isaac (2006) Bonewits's Essential Guide to Druidism. New York, Kensington Publishing Group ISBN 0-8065-2710-2.
- Clifton, Chas and Harvey, Graham (2004), The Paganism Reader, Routledge, ISBN 978-0-415-30352-1.
- Douglas E. Cowan (2004), Cyberhenge: Modern Pagans on the Internet, Routledge , ISBN 0-415-96911-5.
- Hunt, Stephen (2003). Alternative Religions: A Sociological Introduction. Burlington: Ashgate Publishing Company. ISBN 0-7546-3409-4.
- Hutton, Ronald (2001). The Triumph of the Moon: A History of Modern Pagan Witchcraft. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-285449-6.
- Pike, Sarah M. (2004). New Age and Neopagan Religions in America. New York City, New York, US: Columbia University Press. ISBN 0231124023. http://books.google.com/?id=-vt8nTsS3XUC&printsec=frontcover&dq=New+Age+and+Neopagan+Religions+in+America&q.
- Rabinovitch, Shelley and Lewis, James (2004), The Encyclopedia of Modern Witchcraft and Neo-Paganism, Kensington Publishing Corporation, ISBN 978-0-8065-2407-8.
- Seznec, Jean (1953). The Survival of the Pagan Gods: The Mythological Tradition and Its Place in Renaissance Humanism and Art. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-691-02988-1.
- Strmiska, Michael F. (2005). Modern Paganism in World Cultures: Comparative Perspectives. Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO. ISBN 1851096132.
- York, Michael (2003). Pagan Theology: Paganism as a World Religion. NYU Press. ISBN 978-0814797020.
- What Neo-Pagans Believe (beliefnet.com)
- Neopagan & Pagan religious traditions (religioustolerance.org)
- Wicca and Neo-Paganism (sacred-texts.com)
- The Pagan Federation (paganfed.org)
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