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Contemporary Paganism

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Reconstructionism · Ethnocentrism · Neotribalism · Neoshamanism · Eclecticism · Technopaganism · Witchcraft
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Paganism, which is also referred to as contemporary Paganism, Neo-Paganism and Neopaganism,[1] 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.[2][3] Contemporary Pagan religious movements are extremely diverse, and there is no set of beliefs shared by all of them, although there are commonalities shared by most of them. These include an approach to theology that embraces such beliefs as polytheism, animism, and pantheism. Many Pagans practise a spirituality that is entirely modern in origin, while others attempt accurately to reconstruct or revive indigenous, ethnic religions as found in historical and folkloric sources.[4]

Contemporary Paganism is a development in the industrialized countries, found in particular strength in the United States and Britain, but also in Continental Europe (German-speaking Europe, Scandinavia, Slavic Europe, Latin Europe and elsewhere) and Canada. The largest Contemporary Pagan religion is Wicca, though other significantly sized Pagan faiths include Neo-druidism, Germanic Neopaganism, and Slavic Neopaganism.

Terminology and definitionEdit

The word "pagan" comes from the Latin paganus, originally meaning "rustic" or "from the country", and later also used for "civilian". The term eventually developed a pejorative meaning, "uneducated non-Christian", which emerged in Vulgar Latin from the 4th century.[5] The term neo-pagan was coined in the 19th century in reference to Renaissance and Romanticist Hellenophile classical revivalism.[6]

"Pagan religions... have the following characteristics in common:

  • They are polytheistic, recognising a plurality of divine beings, which may or may not be avatars or other aspects of an underlying unity/duality/trinity etc.
  • They view Nature as a theophany, a manifestation of divinity, not as a 'fallen' creation of the latter.
  • They recognise the female divine principle, called the Goddess (with a capital 'G' to distinguish her from many particular goddesses), as well as, or instead of, the male divine principle, the God."
Prudence Jones and Nigel Pennick[7]

"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.[8] 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.[8] 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,[9] or that revive or reconstruct aspects of historical polytheism. Increasingly,[citation needed] 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.[citation needed] 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.[10] Some Reconstructionists reject the term "Neopagan" because they wish to set their historically oriented approach apart from generic "Neopagan" eclecticism.[11][12] "Heathen", "Heathenism" or "Heathenry" as a self-designation of adherents of Germanic neopaganism (Theodism in particular) appeared in the late 1990s.[13]


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.[14]


Sociologist Margot Adler noted that one of the "most important principles" of the Pagan movement was polytheism, the belief in, and veneration of, more than one god and/or goddess.[15]

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.[16]

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.[17] 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.[18]

File:Horned God and Mother Goddess (Doreen Valiente's Altar).jpg

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.[19] 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.[20] Other Neopagans reject the concept of binary gender roles.

Sociologist Margot 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.[21]


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."[22] 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."[23]


A third pivotal belief in the Pagan community is that of pantheism, the belief 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."[24]


File:Sigurblót 2009.JPG

Worship and ritual Edit

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.

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."[25]

Adler also 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".[26]


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).



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.[27]

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[28] 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.[29]

Occultic RevivalEdit

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.[30] 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.[citation needed]

Witchcraft RevivalEdit

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.[31] 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.

Germanic MysticismEdit

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."[32] 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.

Contemporary Pagan emergenceEdit

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.[33] 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.[34]

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.[35]

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.[35]

Historicity Edit

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.[36] 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[citation needed]. 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"[37] 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,[36] 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.[4]

Main currents and traditionsEdit

File:Pagan religions symbols.png

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.

Gardnerian and Alexandrian Wicca, British Traditional Wicca, and variations such as Dianic Wicca are examples of eclectic traditions, as are Neo-druid groups like Ár nDraíocht Féin.

Wicca and Pagan WitchcraftEdit

Main article: Wicca

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.[38]

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".[39]

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.[40]


Main article: Neo-Druidism
File:Three female druids.jpg

Neo-Druidism forms the second largest Pagan religion after Wicca, and like Wicca in turn shows significant heterogeneity.[citation needed] 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[citation needed], 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 nature worshipEdit

Main article: Syncretism

Contemporary Paganism emerged as part of the counter-culture, New Age and Hippie movements in the 1960s to 1970s.[41] 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).[42]

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."[43]

Occultism and ethnic mysticismEdit

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.[44]

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[citation needed] 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).


Main article: Polytheistic reconstructionism

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.[11][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.[citation needed]

Paganism in societyEdit


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"."[45] 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."[46]

Adler went on to note that from those she interviewed and surveyed in the USA, she could identify a number of common factors that led to people adopting Pagan faiths: 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.[47]

Class, gender and ethnicityEdit

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.[48] 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.[49]

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.[50]

DemographicsEdit estimates that there are roughly one million Pagans worldwide (as of 2000), including "Wicca, Magick, Druidism, Asatru, neo-Native American religion and others".[51]

High estimates by Pagan authors may reach several times that number.[52] A precise number is impossible to establish, because of the largely uninstitutionalised nature of the religion and the secrecy observed by some traditions,[53] – sometimes explained by fear of religious discrimination.

North AmericaEdit

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.[54] This would bring the total of groups largely accepted under the modern popular western definition of Pagan to 307,000.


Main article: Neopaganism in the United Kingdom

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.[55]

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.[56] 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.[57]

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.[citation needed] 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.[58]

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 are officially recognised by the Government. Irish Paganism is often strongly concerned with issues of place and language.[59]

File:Neopagan graveyard.JPG

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[60] 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.[61]

See alsoEdit



  1. Adler 2006. p. xiii.
  2. Lewis, James R. The Oxford Handbook of New Religious Movements (Oxford University Press, 2004). p. 13. ISBN 0-19-514986-6.
  3. Hanegraaff, Wouter J. New Age Religion and Western Culture: Esotericism in the Mirror of Secular Thought (Brill Academic Publishers, 1996). p. 84. ISBN 90-04-10696-0.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Adler, Margot (1979, revised and updated 1986, 1996, 2006). Drawing Down the Moon: Witches, Druids, Goddess Worshippers and Other Pagans in America. New York, NY: Penguin Books. pp. 3–4 (1986 ed.). ISBN 0143038192. 
  5. Augustine, Divers. Quaest. 83.
  6. 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)
  7. Jones, Prudence and Pennick, Nigel. (1995). A History of Pagan Europe. Page 2. Routledge.
  8. 8.0 8.1 Adler (1996) p.295
  9. OED, s.v. "pagan"
  10. Adler, Margot. Drawing Down the Moon: Witches, Druids, Goddess Worshipers and Other Pagans in America. 
  11. 11.0 11.1 Adler (2006) pp.243–299
  12. Bonewits (2006) pp.128–140
  13. Eric Wodening, We Are Our Deeds: The Elder Heathenry, Its Ethic and Thew (1998), ISBN 1-929340-00-1
  14. Adler 2006. p. 22.
  15. Adler 2006. p. 22.
  16. Adler 2006. p. 29.
  17. Adler 2006. pp. 26-28.
  18. Adler 2006. pp. 31-32.
  19. York, Michael. Pagan Theology: Paganism as a World Religion. New York: NYU Press, 2003. Pg 22–23. ISBN 0-8147-9708-3.
  20. Clifton, Chas. "A Goddess Arrives." Gnosis Fall 1988: 20–29.
  21. Adler 2006. p. 23.
  22. Adler 2006. p. 22.
  23. Adler 2006. pp. 22-23.
  24. Adler 2006. p. 23.
  25. Adler 2006. pp. 335–354.
  26. Adler 2006. pp. 355-371.
  27. e.g. Johannes Hirschberger, Geschichte der Philosophie vol. 2 (1952), ch. 1.
  28. "The Viking Revival" by Professor Andrew Wawn. BBC Homepage.
  29. 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
  30. Myth, Romantic approach Retrieved 14 July 2009 from Encyclopedia Britannica Online
  31. Hutton, Triumph of the Moon pp.194–201
  32. Tolkien, JRR, Letters, pp.55–56
  33. Adler (2006) pp.178–239: "Women, Feminism and the Craft"
  34. Adler (2006) p.ix
  35. 35.0 35.1 Adler (2006) p.429-456: "Pagan Festivals – The Search for a Culture"
  36. 36.0 36.1 Adler (1986) p.23
  37. Telesco, Patricia (ed) (2005) Which Witch is Which? Franklin Lakes, NJ, New Page Books. ISBN 1-56414-754-1 pp.94–8
  38. Doyle White 2010. pp. 193-205.
  39. Harvey 2007. pp. 36-37.
  40. Telesco (2005) p.114
  41. 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."
  42. Letcher, Andy, "The Scouring of the Shire: Fairies, Trolls and Pixies in Eco-Protest Culture", in Folklore (Oct, 2001)
  43. Official Website of CUUPS
  44. Hakl 2010.
  45. Adler 2006. p. 13.
  46. Adler 2006. pp. 15-19.
  47. Adler 2006. pp. 20-21.
  48. Adler 2006. p. 19.
  49. Adler 2006. p. 34.
  50. Oboler 2010. pp. 182-183.
  52. 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.
  53. 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."[1]
  54. ARIS 2001 study
  55. Hutton (2001)
  56. Pagans and the Scottish Census of 2001. Retrieved 18 October 2007.
  57. National Statistics Office (2001): '390,000 Jedi There Are'. Retrieved 18 October 2007.
  58. [2]
  59. Butler, Jenny, "Irish neo-paganism". 111 - 130 in Olivia Cosgrove et al. (eds), Ireland's new religious movements. Cambridge Scholars, 2011
  60. Forklaring til Forn Siðr´s ansøgning om godkendelse som trossamfund.
  61. 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.[3]


Academic BooksEdit

  • 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. 
  • Blain, Jenny (2002). Nine Worlds of Seid-Magic: Ecstasy and Neo-Shamanism in Northern European Paganism. London and New York: Routledge. 
  • Gardell, Mattias (2003). Gods of the Blood: The Pagan Revival and White Separatism. Durham, North Carolina: Duke University Press. 
  • Pearson, Joanne (2007). Wicca and the Christian Heritage: Ritual, Sex and Magic. Abingdon, Oxfordshire: Routledge. 
  • Wallis, Robert J. (2003). Shamans/Neo-Shamans: Ecstasy, alternative archaeologies and contemporary Pagans. London and New York: Routledge. ISBN 978-0415302036. 
  • York, Michael (2003). Pagan Theology: Paganism as a World Religion. New York: New York University Press. ISBN 978-0814797020. 

Academic Anthology ArticlesEdit

  • 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 (Eds: Dave Evans and Dave Green) (United Kingdom: Hidden Publishing): pp. 129-151. ISBN 978-0955523755. 

Academic Journal ArticlesEdit

  • 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. 

Further readingEdit

  • 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. 
  • 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. 

External linksEdit


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