1. Define Paleopaganism, Mesopaganism, and Neopaganism, giving examples of each. (minimum 100 words for each)
Paleopaganism is the original, polytheistic, nature-centered faiths of the ancient tribes across the world, including Europe, Asia, Africa, the Americas, and Australia
(Bonewits, Defining Paganism:
Paleo-, Meso-, and Neo- 2.5). The Shinto religion of Japan is one that
falls into this category. This faith has no founder or sacred texts. However, Shinto is a polytheistic faith,
which is still practiced today. It focuses
on the belief in “kami” which are the spiritual essences of divine beings and
nature spirits (Patheos). The Shinto religion is one of the very few
Paleopagan religions that have managed to survive to modern day while
maintaining the original polytheistic and nature-centered beliefs, and not
being influenced by popular monotheistic or dualistic religions.
Mesopaganism is the re-creation or revival movements of some Paleopagan religions with the influence of monotheistic, dualistic, or nontheistic views
(Bonewits, Defining Paganism: Paleo-, Meso-, and Neo- 2.5). One practice that falls into this category is
Vodun, which is a faith that is built upon traditional African faiths combined heavily
with the influence of Christianity.
Vodun includes the belief in many types of nature-based or elemental
spirits. However, the impact of
Christianity is also easily seen in Vodun through the worship of the Loa, or
saints, and angels. Many practitioners
of Vodun also believe in a single “Supreme Being” (ReligiousTolerance.org). The influence of both the traditional tribal
beliefs and monotheism are evident in nearly every aspect of the Vodun
religion, which makes it a perfect example of a Mesopagan religion.
Neopaganism is the modern movements starting since the 1960s that work to revive or re-create Paleopagan religions in a modern context, while also trying to eliminate the influence of Western monotheism, dualism, and puritanism. Neopagan paths include a “multiplicity of deities of all genders”
(Bonewits, Defining Paganism: Paleo-, Meso-, and Neo- 2.5). These paths also frequently incorporate
nature worship or awareness into their practices. Ár nDraíocht Féin easily falls
into this category. ADF focuses on
recreating a public religion based upon the research and modern scholarship of
the practices of ancient Indo-European cultures, including polytheism and
nature worship (Bonewits, Frequently Asked Questions about Neopagan Druidism). The practices of Neopaganism work with existing
lore and traditions from Paleopagan faiths to create religions that works with the
contemporary standards of society.
2. Name and describe several of the literary sources that contributed to Neopaganism in the first quarter of the 20th century, and discuss their impact on its development. (minimum 300 words)
There are numerous literary sources that can be said to have contributed to Neopaganism in the 20th century. Below you will find a description of a few of them, but there are numerous others that could easily be mentioned.
The Golden Bough by James Frazer (1890)
Originally published in 1890, The Golden Bough by James G. Frazer was republished throughout the first quarter of the 20th century. This book compared mythology and religious rites in an effort to find common symbols and practices. It described the cult of a god who dies and is reborn in a cycle reflective of the cycle of the seasons through the year
(Adler 47). Although the book was not originally
published in the 20th century, the influence of it is evident in the
works of philosophers throughout the 20th century, including
Margaret Murray and W.B. Yeats.
Margaret Murray wrote The Witch-Cult in Western Europe in 1921. In this book, Murray described a line of witchcraft that could be traced to pre-Christian times where she believed it to be “the ancient religion of Western Europe”
(Adler 47). This religion was described as a “fertility
cult” similar to that was described by Frazer in The Golden Bough, with the presence of a god who dies and is reborn
through the seasons.
Throughout his writing, Yeats also visits the idea of a god who dies and is reborn, relating Christ to Dionysos and other gods who died and were reborn
(Hutton, The Triumph of the Moon 157). The rebirth of a god explored by Frazer was present
throughout the 20th century, and is still seen in some modern Pagan practices.
The Candle of Vision by George Russell (1910)
George Russell wrote The Candle of Vision in the 1910s. This book was a collection of essays on Celtic mysticism, describing Russell’s beliefs and experiences with Celtic cosmology. The book proclaimed a belief in a single deity that later divided into the Great Father and Great Mother. It is from these deities that he believed all gods and goddesses were formed
(Hutton, The Triumph of the Moon 158). His influence can be seen in the later work
of Gerald Gardner. In The Meaning of Witchcraft written by
Gardner in 1959, he even recommends Russell’s book in a list of resources that
“give a complete account of the ancient Irish and Welsh pantheons” (Gardner 170). Dion Fortune also wrote about the idea of the
Great Mother and Father in her books in the 1930s.
The Rainbow by D.H. Lawrence (1915)
The Rainbow by D.H. Lawrence was published in 1915. The story in this book describes the characters search for spiritual independence through the stories of the Brangwen family. This book is well known for combining femininity, both in women and divinity, with the moon, which is a theme that continued through the 20th century into modern Neopaganism. Lawrence was also fascinated with the “forces of love and law”
(Hutton, The Triumph of the Moon 171). The influence of Lawrence can be seen in The White Goddess by Robert Graves who described
“One Goddess” in a triple form, relating them to the waxing, full, and waning
moon, as well as the Mother, Maiden, and Crone (Hutton, The Triumph of the Moon 41).
The Witch Cult in Western Europe by Margaret Murray (1921)
Margaret Murray initially published The Witch Cult in Western Europe in 1921. She viewed the Pagan religion as a fertility cult with a focus on a horned god, similar to that described in The Golden Bough. She described these groups as covens, and explained their organization and practices throughout her book
(Hutton, The Triumph of the Moon 194). Murray’s
writings had a large influence on modern Neopaganism. She was one of the 20th century
authors who popularized the idea that Witchcraft was a religion that had
survived from pre-Christian times.
The White Goddess by Robert Graves (1948)
The White Goddess was written by Robert Graves, and published in 1948. While this book technically falls outside of the first quarter of the twentieth century, I believe that the influence is important enough to mention here. This book looked at mythology as a form of distorted history, and viewed the gods and goddesses the myths described as real beings. He also emphasized the idea that the deities were empowered by the faith of their believers
(Hutton, The Triumph of the Moon 187-189). This book was
very influential on the modern image of Pagan gods and goddesses, and includes
the description of a triple goddess related to the cycles of the moon and the
symbolism of the Mother, Maiden, and Crone.
Unfortunately though, this book was not strongly based on scholarship.
Each of these books has played a part in the development of modern Paganism by influencing the ideas and thoughts of the people that were involved with the movement. Ultimately, each work has strengths and weaknesses, but the influence is evident nonetheless.
3. Describe several examples of authentic folk customs absorbed into Neopaganism, and describe how they have been adapted. (minimum 300 words)
Within the Neopagan community there is a large diversity of beliefs, which makes identifying specific folk customs a challenging and interesting process. What one path may do regularly, another group may ignore completely. Neopaganism is a religion that gives people the freedom to practice in the way that works best for them, so there aren’t any forms of folk custom that are present in all Neopagan communities. With that in mind, there are some customs that are practiced by large groups and may be viewed as folk customs.
Beltane was originally a Celtic festival celebrating the beginning of summer and the strength of life. During this festival, hearth fires were extinguished and re-lit from a bonfire at the nearest signal hill
(Monaghan 41). In some modern Pagan practices, Beltane is
celebrated as a fire festival. During
these festivals, bonfires are lit in celebration of the coming summer months.
Yule Gift Exchange
Gift exchanges were done in many Indo-European cultures for many different celebrations. One specific example is the Roman festival of Saturnalia, which was held in December. During this festival schools and shops were closed in celebration, and gifts were exchanged between friends
(Hutton, The Stations of the Sun 2). This is one particular folk custom that is
present not only in the Neopagan community, but throughout many different
cultures across the globe.
Purification by Water
Purification has become a very important part of Neopaganism, and takes many different forms. The use of water as purification is a folk custom that can be seen in the practices of the ancient Greeks. The Greater Eleusian Mysteries were a set of rites dedicated to Demeter and Persephone and their journey through the cycle of the year. Each year the members of this cult would hold a nine-day festival. On the second day of this festival was a purification rite. All of the participants of the festival would walk to the sea near Athens in order to cleanse themselves in the waters. They also took a pig along with them on this journey, and cleaned the pig in the waters of the sea in order to make it ready for sacrifice. The participants would then make the journey back to Athens where they would use the pig as a sacrifice to the Gods as a start to their festival
Today the purification rites are typically much simpler, often involving
washing the hands of participants, or taking a ritual bath, but the custom is
very important to those who use it.
4. Of the following names, identify and explain the importance each has had in Neopagan history and/or the magical revival (minimum 100 words for each):
Gerald Gardner (1884-1964)
Gerald Gardner was a very prominent figure in the rise of Wicca in the 1950s and 1960s. After the repeal of the Witchcraft Acts of Britain in 1951, he began to publish novels about Witchcraft and Paganism as a modern religion
(Adler 61-62). He worked to try to propagate the religion
and through his writings and activities he gained a lot of publicity. It is this push that is vitally important to
the history of Neopaganism. Many regard
Gardner as the “father of modern
and his writing definitely influenced the modern Pagan movement. He was an author, and was best known for his
book Witchcraft Today. This book expresses Gardener’s thoughts about
witchcraft and the religious rites of those practicing it. He explained a set of rites, which included
“dances intended to promote fertility and feasting on consecrated food and
drink” (Hutton, The Triumph of the Moon 206).
Many modern Wiccan and Pagan ideas are still based upon the writings of Gardener. He frequently discussed his belief that rites should be performed in the nude, and also popularized the idea that worship should be done in sacred circles. Gardner also professed a belief in re-incarnation, and frequently discussed the development of “latent psychic powers” that he believed to be possible in all people practicing witchcraft
(Hutton, The Triumph of the Moon 206). Many of these ideas can still be seen in many
modern Pagans, most frequently those practicing Wicca.
Robert Graves (1895-1985)
Robert Graves was a poet and “member of a pantheon of mainstream modern liturgists”
(Hutton, The Triumph of the Moon 187). Graves is most frequently known in the Pagan
community as the author of White Goddess,
which was a book that discussed goddess worship and how it was represented in
both mythology and poetry. Graves was also a translator of classical Latin and Greek writing, working on many
different texts, including The Golden Ass.
The White Goddess is the foundation of many modern Pagan ideas, including the mythology of the Great Goddess that is so prevalent to the Wiccan path. The Great Goddess is described as “One Goddess” in a triple form, which were related to the waxing, full, and waning moon, as well as the Mother, Maiden, and Crone
(Hutton, The Triumph of the Moon 41). This book
looked at mythology as a form of distorted history, and viewed the gods and
goddesses the myths described as real beings.
He also emphasized the idea that the deities were empowered by the faith
of their believers (Hutton, The Triumph of the Moon 187-189). Unfortunately, this writing is not based upon
scholarly work, and is written as a work of poetry. ADF has even declared that
they will not accept his writing as “scholarly”, but does allow them as poetic
What Ar nDraiocht Fein Will and Won't Be ).
Dion Fortune (1890 – 1946)
Dion Fortune was a British psychoanalyst and author that became very active in 20th century occultism. She wrote several books that were influential to the Pagan movement. The Winged Bull expressed her belief that all of the Pagan deities were different facets of a single Deity. This belief can be seen reflected in the practices and beliefs of many Pagans today. She also wrote Goat-Foot God, which honored Pan as the “prime symbol of Paganism needed to heal the modern world”
(Hutton, The Triumph of the Moon 185). She also
proclaimed that medieval churches were built upon Pagan temples, and that
medieval saints were “really the Old Gods with a coat of whitewash” (Hutton, The Triumph of the Moon 185).
Fortune was also a very active teacher, often training initiates in western esoteric mystery traditions. In 1946, she founded The Society of the Inner Light, which focused on the “expansion of consciousness”
(The Society of the Inner Light). This group is still accepting and training
members today, which shows just how far her influence has reached.
Oberon Zell (born 1942)
Oberon Zell is the founder of the Church of All Worlds, whose mission is to “to evolve a network of information, mythology and experience that provides a context and stimulus for reawakening Gaia and reuniting Her children through tribal community dedicated to responsible stewardship and the evolution of consciousness”
(Church of All Worlds). Zell’s work with the Church of All Worlds had
a large impact on the general Pagan community.
While CAW was not the first Neo-pagan group that existed in the United
States, they definitely helped to unify the Pagan community. It was Zell who was starting to use the terms
“Pagan” and “Neo-Pagan” publically to describe their organization. These terms allowed a lot of different groups
to realize “they shared a common purpose, and gave the phenomenon a new
meaning” (Adler 295). He was also one of the first people, if not
the first, that expressed the idea that the Earth was a living organism and
deity. The work of Zell has effectively
helped to build a more unified Pagan community, instead of the numerous smaller
groups that existed throughout much of the 20th century.
Zell also the created and patented a procedure to create unicorns
Kindle Location 6011). This process involved moving
the horn buds of a goat to the center of their head very early in the animal’s
life. Zell believed that creating a
unicorn would be a powerful magical symbol.
Eventually, he ended up selling these animals to the circus, and
creating an organization called the Ecosophical Research Association. The ERA was dedicated to studying legends and
cryptozoology (Adler Kindle Location 6068).
Starhawk (born 1951)
Starhawk is an author that focuses on “celebrating the Goddess movement and Earth-based feminist spirituality”
(Starhawk). One of her most popular books is The Spiral Dance, which changed the image of modern witchcraft
for many people. She expressed the idea
that covens could be used to liberate women and re-educate men in order to free
them from gender stereotypes. In her explanation of the Goddess, she described
her as transcendent, saying “we connect with Her; through the moon, the stars,
the ocean, the earth, through trees, animals, through other human beings,
through ourselves. She is here. She is within us all” (Hutton, The Triumph of the Moon 346). This idea of
the goddess existing within each individual has been repeated throughout
Starhawk viewed magic “as a set of techniques for self discovery, self-fulfillment, and the realization of true individual human potential”
(Hutton, The Triumph of the Moon 345). She viewed witchcraft as a positive, bright
path that would allow people to build the best relationships possible with
themselves and the world around them, and tried to abolish the dark, secretive
nature of witchcraft. However, her writings also incorporated the idea that
witchcraft was the “Old Religion” of Europe re-emerging from hiding after an
extended history of persecution (Hutton, The Triumph of the Moon 345-346).
Isaac Bonewits (1949 – 2010)
Isaac Bonewits is an author, a scholar, and the founder of Ár nDraíocht Fein. Bonewits had strong opinions on the importance of scholarship within the Pagan community, and often worked to disprove the teachings of those authors that he felt were lacking factual information. He described the Witch-Cult of Western Europe as “non-existent” and “a mish-mash of half-forgotten superstition, Christian concepts, and Hindu beliefs”
After continual exploration and work with different organizations, including the Reformed Druids of North America, Bonewits founded ADF in 1983. This organization focused on the polytheistic religions of the ancient Indo-European cultures. Through this organization, Bonewits continued to emphasize scholarship and educated Pagans. He viewed ADF as “the only neo-Pagan tradition that is based on the idea of continual research and on changing and adapting our policies and procedures based on the results of that research”
(Hopman and Bond, Being a Pagan 4).
Margaret Murray (1863-1963)
Margaret Murray was an English archaeologist and anthropologist, known in the Neopagan community for her book, The Witch Cult in Western Europe. This book was originally published in 1921. In her book, Murray describes a fertility cult with a focus on a horned god. She described the groups of these as covens, and explained their organization and practices throughout her book
(Hutton, The Triumph of the Moon 194). Murray’s
writings had a large influence on modern Neopaganism. She was one of the 20th century
authors who popularized the idea that Witchcraft was a religion that had
survived from pre-Christian times.
Murray is also believed to have invented the term “esbats.” Esbats are the meetings held by covens either
on the full or new moon (Adler Kindle Locations 2029-2030).
Margot Adler (1946-2014)
Margot Adler was an author and a correspondent for National Public Radio. She wrote Drawing Down the Moon, which was initially published in 1979
(Hutton, The Triumph of the Moon 370). This book took a journalistic approach to
modern Paganism, exploring the history and activities of the community, and
introducing the diverse personalities of those people who were involved in the
world of the Pagan movement. Adler showed
the diversities within the Pagan community, and explored the development of
different Pagan paths. She appreciated
the mythology found in Paganism, but also worked to make a clear distinction
between myth and fact. She was one of
the first people to acknowledge the idea that Wicca has been built upon a
“pseudo-history” and explained that this was a normal progression for religions
(Hutton, The Triumph of the Moon 370). This scholarly approach to Pagan writing helped
to build respect between different Neo-Pagan traditions, and became an
important reference for people wanting to educate themselves.
5. Compare and contrast your understanding of three various forms of Neopaganism, such as Wicca, Asatru, eclectic Neopaganism, shamanism, and discordianism. (minimum 300 words)
Neopaganism is a very diverse group of religious paths across many different cultures. These paths include a “multiplicity of deities of all genders”
(Bonewits, Defining Paganism: Paleo-, Meso-, and Neo- 2.5). They also frequently incorporate nature
worship or awareness into their practices. Three different forms of Neopaganism
are Druidry, Wicca, and Asatru.
Neopagan Druidry is a polytheistic practice, which believes in many gods and goddesses from many different cultures existing as separate beings. Practitioners of Druidry also view the natural world as something to be honored and worshiped. Druidry practiced by people in groups such as Ar nDraiocht Fein (ADF) and the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids (OBOD) is considered to be Neopagan, while other organizations, such as the Ancient Order of Druids have taken a more Mesopagan approach. However, for the sake of this writing we will be focusing on Neopagan Druidry.
Druidic ritual focuses on the understanding of hospitality in Indo-European cultures
(Dangler). Through this understanding, Druids work to
build a reciprocal relationship with the Kindreds. These relationships are considered throughout
each magical action within the ADF Core Order of Ritual, including the invocations,
opening of the Gates, and Blessing the Waters.
Working magic in an ADF ritual is done with these reciprocal
relationships in mind because of the understanding that our actions affect the
cosmos around us. I believe Rev. Dangler
says it best when he states: “standing in ritual is not about the individual
doing the work, but about the relationships formed and strengthened by the work
that is done” (Dangler).
In some Neopagan Druid organizations, such as OBOD, the focus of worship is exclusively on the Celtic pantheon. However, ADF focuses on recreating a public religion based upon the practices of ancient Indo-European cultures, including polytheism and nature worship, based on research and modern scholarship
(Bonewits, Frequently Asked Questions about Neopagan Druidism). ADF also follows the eight Neopagan holidays,
which are known as High Days within the organization (ADF). Within Neopagan Druidry, local groups of
people are often called “Groves.”
Typically, Neopagan Druid practices focus on honoring the existing lore and traditions from ancient people, while making them functional within the confines of contemporary society.
Wicca is defined as “a religion influenced by pre-Christian beliefs and practices of western Europe that affirms the existence of supernatural power (as magic) and of both male and female deities who inhere in nature and that emphasizes ritual observance of seasonal and life cycles”
(Merriam-Webster). This religion is typically
dualistic in nature, viewing each God or Goddess as a separate facet of the
same deity, instead of a polytheistic view like Druidry. However, there are some exceptions to that
with both mono- and polytheistic Wiccans.
One example is Dianic Wicca, which is focused on the purely feminine
aspect of Pagan spirituality (Greer).
The first Wiccan groups in the US were founded in the 1960s, beginning with Gardnerian and Alexandrian covens. However, from there Wicca has continued to grow and become more diverse. Wiccan practices are not limited any specific cultural ties and influences from Greek, Roman, Egyptian, and Celtic are easily seen in the Horned God and Triple Goddess
The rituals of Wiccans also tend to focus more on magical workings than on spiritual connection with spirits. However, similar to Druidry, Wiccans do tend to honor nature in their beliefs. Also, both groups tend to worship the cycle of the year through eight specific holidays
(Dafydd). In Wiccan practices, these holidays are
called “Sabbats,” which is the term used to describe the solstices, equinoxes,
and four cross-quarter holidays celebrated throughout the wheel of the year (Greer).
Within Wicca, local groups are often
Wiccan practices are quite diverse in their beliefs, but typically all hold a belief in magic and a reverence for nature.
Asatru is defined as “The most common modern term for Norse and Germanic Pagan religion, primarily used for its modern revivals but also applied, mostly by Asatruar (followers of Asatru}, to the ancient worship of the Germanic
(Greer). Asatru is a religion that focuses on Germanic
and Norse pantheons exclusively as opposed to pulling from many different
cultures like many Neopagan paths do. The
first significant movement of Asatru into the modern Neopagan movement was in
the 1970s, beginning with the publication of The Book of Runes by Ralph Blum.
Asatru focuses on the pantheons of northern Europe, including Scandinavia, England, Germany, France, and the Netherlands
However, while some practitioners will follow the eight high days seen in
Druidry and Wicca, there are some groups that don’t see them as traditionally
Germanic and prefer to follow a calendar that is more attuned to their path (Greer 38-39). These celebrations are often called “blots”
or “sumbels.” Within Asatru, local
groups are often referred to as “Kindreds.”
Their practices tend to be more polytheistic in nature, and include balance
between the worship of the deities and magical rituals.
Each of these three paths has their own practices and beliefs, which make them unique, but there is also a significant amount of overlap between them all, including the use of the Wheel of the Year, and the creation of modern practices from ancient religious beliefs and mythology.
6. Discuss the origins and practices of hermetic or ceremonial magic, and how they have influenced Neopaganism. (minimum 300 words)
Hermetic magic is one of the core elements of the Western occult tradition. It began as a fusion of Greek philosophy and Egyptian magic in Egypt after the conquest by Alexander the Great in 332 BCE
(Greer 223). The Greek philosopher Iamblichus of Chalcis
adopted these Egyptian mysteries as a way to unify the separate Pagan groups
during the growth of Christianity. Early
Christians and the Muslims invaded Egypt during the eighth century. Both of
these groups adopted several of the Hermetic teachings into their own practices. It is through Muslim and Christian documents,
such as Picatrix and Corpus Hermeticum, which much of the
knowledge we do have has survived (Greer 223).
One of the most important sets of texts is Corpus Hermeticum. Cosimo de Medici obtained this text around 1460 and from there it became the foundation for the magical revival during the Renaissance
(Greer 223). Popularity of the text waned when it was
discovered that it was written in the current era and not during the biblical
period. However, during the 1960s,
occultists began to again explore Hermetic traditions through the writings of
Dame Frances Yates, which again sparked an interest in Western occultism, and
the magical traditions of Hermeticism (Greer 224). This text brought with it the four classical
elements found in modern Wiccan traditions.
These elements are described in the creation story of the first text,
“[Thereon] out of the Light [...] a Holy Word (Logos) descended on that Nature.
And upwards to the height from the Moist Nature leaped forth pure Fire; light
was it, swift and active too. The Air,
too, being light, followed after the Fire; from out of the Earth-and-Water rising
up to Fire so that it seemed to hang therefrom.
But Earth-and-Water stayed so mingled with each other, that Earth from
Water no one could discern. Yet were they moved to hear by reason of the
Spirit-Word (Logos) pervading them” (Mead).
Another important text in Hermeticism is the Emerald Tablet. The modern phrase “As above, so below” originally came from this tablet, which says “True, without error, certain and most true: that which is above is that which is below, and that which below is that which is above, to perform the miracles of the One Thing”
One of the most influential Hermetic organizations is the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, which was founded by William Westcott and Samuel Mathers in 1888 after Westcott came into possession of a set of ciphered documents
The Golden Dawn grew and members began be taught occult theory, astrology,
geomancy, and tarot divination. This organization has survived to modern day,
and several of the people who influenced the modern Neopagan movement were
members of it, including Aleister Crowley, Dion Fortune, and Israel
The influence of Hermetic practices on Neopaganism is most clearly seen through the Seven Hermetic Principles found in The Kybalion. This book describes the principles as: Mentalism, Correspondence, Vibration, Polarity, Rhythm, Cause and Effect, and Gender
The Principle of Mentalism is the idea that everything that exists is made of spirit. This type of view can be seen in Neopaganism in practices such as animism. Vibration is the principle that everything is constantly in motion, which has become a fact in modern science. Polarity is a theory that everything is dualistic in nature with distinct poles and opposite values. This theory seems quite similar to many of the practices of dual-theistic Neopagans, where they view the deities as balanced, but opposite in their nature.
Rhythm is described as “everything flows, out and in; everything has its tides”
(Three Initiates). This principle describes the
ebb and flow of the universe, and the rise and fall of all things. It seems reminiscent of the cycle of the year
where time continues to move forward, but through it we watch each of the
seasons come and go. Cause and Effect is
the principle that explains, every action has a reaction, and every cause has
an effect. This principle can be seen in many Neopagan beliefs, including Karma
and the Wiccan “Rule of Three.”
The final Hermetic principle is Gender, which is defined as “everything has its Masculine and Feminine Principle.”
This principle shows the balance of the genders, and the existence of
them in everything. I think this idea of
balance is evident throughout many different Neopagan traditions. It’s evident that hermetic practices have had
a large influence on not only the practices, but also the beliefs of many
7. Discuss the influence of the Pagan festival movement, and how the festivals changed Paganism in the 1980s. (minimum 100 words)
Paganism prior to the festival movement of the 1980s was much more secretive and private in nature. It was a challenge to find other Pagans during this time period because many of them practiced either alone or in small groups that were not publicly known. However, the festival movement was one of the first steps toward building a more unified Pagan community.
In 1977 the Midwest Pagan Council organized a pan-Pagan festival that celebrated “unity in diversity”
(Adler 424). These festivals included lectures, workshops,
and rituals. Each year, the festival
continued to grow and by 1980 there were nearly 600 participants. From there, other groups began to build
festivals all across the country. By
1985 there were at least fifty annual gatherings (Adler 424). That number has continued to grow, and with
it the Pagan community has become much easier to find.
At these festivals, people had the opportunity to experience numerous ritual types, attend workshops on several topics, and meet hundreds of other Pagans. It made the community much more interconnected, and also helped information spread between groups much more effectively and quickly. It also opened up many people to the realization that the local group wasn’t the only option available, and that there were many different paths that existed.
8. Discuss the influence of the Internet, and how it has changed Paganism in the 1990s (minimum 100 words)
The Internet has had a huge influence on my personal path toward Paganism, so it’s hard to imagine what Paganism would have been like prior to the 1990s. Through the expansion of the Internet we have gained the ability to communicate and interact with people all over the world. This alone has made a huge impact on Paganism, taking it from small, local groups with occasional festivals to online organization with thousands of members that are spread all across the globe. In addition to this, we have seen an increase in the amount of information and resources available to people wanting to learn about Paganism. I grew up in a tiny town in Nebraska, which meant that my only resource to learn about Paganism was the Internet, and I know that there are many people who have had similar experiences. The Internet has given people the ability to meet others who follow a similar path, and to learn from resources that would not otherwise be available to them.
Unfortunately, while there were numerous positive changes in the Pagan community, the Internet also brought with it some negative experiences as well. The Internet made it very easy for people to pretend to be someone they are not, which can make it more of a challenge to validate information and qualifications that people claim to have. The Internet also gave some people the ability to make their connections only online, so they may not look for people in their local community.
9. Discuss the origins of the Druidic revival in 18th and 19th century England, naming its key players and describing their contributions. (minimum 600 words)
The Druidic revival of the 18th and 19th century England actually got its start in 16th century France. France was seeing a rebirth in the interest of ancient Greek and Latin writers, such as Caesar and Pliny, and began translating their works into different languages including English. These works helped the people of England rediscover the world of the Druids
(Ellis 252). This rebirth led to the publication of many
texts on the Gauls and Druids, helping them gain popularity and improving their
reputation over time. During this time,
John Aubrey began to claim that the Druids had built Stonehenge (Ellis 256).
The interest in the Druids continued into the 17th century where we see more works published and the modern myths of the Druids spreading. It is during this time that John Toland wrote Critical History of the Celtic Religion, which explored the physical characteristics he believed the Druids to have. He described them as having “hair cut short but long beards and white surplices over their habits”
In 1717, Toland , along with a group of his peers, held the inaugural assembly
of the Ancient Order of Druids, also known as the Druid Order. This
organization was established as the “Unifying Centre of the Druid Unity;
independent of but allied to all other Druid Groves” (Bond).
William Stukely was the second leader of the Druid Order, and became one of the most prominent people in the revival of the Druids. Between 1719 and 1724 he took annual trips to Stonehenge to build upon the work originally started by Aubrey. These trips inspired him to write two books on the subject, one of which was Stonehenge, a Temple Restored to the British Druids in 1740
(Ellis 260). His interest in the excavation and
research of Stonehenge lead him to believe the Druids had built them. He was the first person to realize that the
alignment of Stonehenge correlated to the solstice. It was through his activities, and the poems
of poems of John Thomson, William Collins, and Thomas Gray that the idea of the
Druids began to change. By the mid-18th
century the Druids began to be viewed as nature worshippers with much knowledge
about the world (Ellis 259).
Another important figure in the Druid revival was John Wood. He was the architect of Bath and was highly influenced by Stukely’s work. In 1740 visited Stonehenge and surveyed the entire monument, recording the measurements incredibly accurately. Wood recorded this survey and the measurements it entailed in 1747 in a book called Choir Gaure, Vulgarly called Stonehenge, on Salisbury Plain Described, Restored, and Explained
William Cooke was another notable figure in the Druid revival. Cooke was a rector in Gloucestershire, and was the first person to officially give Christian approval of the Druids. He claimed that even though the Druids had built Stonehenge before the birth of Christ, they were “so morally high-minded they were not ethically different from Christians”
Over time, the nature religion of the Druids began to appeal to the intellectual community of the 18th and 19th century. Writers and artists alike began to look to the Druids for inspiration. Thomas Gray wrote a poem titled “The Bard” in which he describes the Druids as “prophetical poets” while Dr. John Ogilvie wrote “The Fane of the Druids” which once again paints the image of Arch Druids as silver-haired men with long beards and white robes
(Ellis 265). With the aid of these poets, and many other
artists, the interest and speculation about the Druids and Stonehenge continued
The growth in interest of the Druids continued through the late 18th and early 19th centuries to the point that Druid temples became a popular thing to build. Henry Seymour Conway built a Druid circle in 1788 in Berkshire, and George Henry Law built a semi-circular shelter called “Druidic Temple” in his gardens in Avon in 1820. William Danby also wanted to build his own Druid temple in North Yorkshire, so in 1820 he recreated Stonehenge, as well as Cheesewring, which was located in St. Clair
Several of these temples are still standing today.
In 1781, Druid enthusiasts got together to create the Ancient Order of Druids. This organization was created with a structure similar to Freemasonry. It grew in size and popularity throughout the 18th and 19th century, and helped popularize the idea of the Druids in English society. This organization continued to thrive throughout the 19th century and is still active today. However, as many organizations experience, some of the members were not satisfied with how the vision of AOD, and in 1839 a schism happened, creating the United Ancient Order of Druids. This group grew quickly, establishing lodges in both the United States and Australia.
There were many other people who were influential to the Druid revival, including artists, poets, writers, and archeologists, but no single person can really be given full credit for this revival. It was the culture as a whole exploring the history of the Druids that brought their stories back to life.
10. Discuss the origins of the RDNA, and the influence of Isaac Bonewits, and the founding of ADF. (minimum 600 words)
The Reformed Druids of North America is the oldest Druid organization in the United States. It started in 1963 as a “quasi-religious Mesopagan protest” against Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota, which was forcing students to attend church
(Bonewits, The Reformed Druids of North America and Their Offshoots 2.1). It was started by a group of students
including David Fisher, David Fangquist, Howard Cherniak, Jan Johnson, and
Norman Nelson (Clifton 153). However, despite its beginnings as a type of
protest, many members wanted to continue with the Druid movement that had
started with RDNA. They began to form
congregations called “groves” which acted as individual practices and
Many of the members viewed RDNA as a philosophy or global outlook instead of a religion. They do not have a dogma or orthodoxy, no formal training, and really no actual membership requirements. However, they do have two basic tenets for their members:
1. The object of the search for religious truth, which is a universal and a neverending search, may be found through the Earth Mother, which is Nature; but this is one way, yea, one way among many.
2. And great is the importance, which is of a spiritual importance, of Nature, which is the Earth Mother; for it is one of the objects of Creation, and with it we do live, yea, even as we do struggle through life are we come face to face with it.
However, these are frequently shortened to:
1. Nature is good.
2. Likewise, Nature is good
These tenets are the foundation for the organization. They are an incredibly laid-back organization with very few limitations for their members. Instead they try to emphasize positive interactions between members and sum up their expectations with three simple words: “No Bad Stuff”
(RDNA). The rituals of RDNA were varied, but they do
have an “Order of Worship” which includes hymns to the Earth Mother,
invocations of nature spirits, and the “waters of life” (Adler Kindle Locations 6157-6169). During these rituals, the officiating Druids
frequently wear white robes.
Additionally, RDNA festivals followed the eight sabbats found in most
Neopagan practices. Bonewits later
adopted many aspects of these traditions for his Neopagan organization,
Isaac Bonewits enrolled at the University of California at Berkely in 1966. His roommate, Robert Larson, soon introduced him to RDNA. Together, they established a grove at Berkeley and in 1969 Bonewits was ordained as a Druid priest
(Guiley). He was a participant in many of the offshoots
of RDNA, which gave him the opportunity to learn and grow in his own
practices. He moved to Minneapolis and
while there he established a splinter group called the “Schismatic Druids of
North America” (Guiley). He also worked with some friends to establish
the Hasidic Druids of North America in St. Louis.
Ultimately, Bonewits was interested in building RDNA into a Neo-Pagan organization, and he helped form the New Reformed Druids of North America, which was “avowedly Pagan”
(Adler 325). This offshoot of RDNA was intended to be an
eclectic Neopagan group with a Gaulish and Celtic focus. Ultimately, Bonewits became the Arch-Druid of
the Mother Grove of NRDNA at Berkeley (Adler 325). However, he wanted to build an organization that
was more organized and offered training of its members along with “rituals and
fellowship, art and music” (Bonewits, The Origins of Ar nDraiocht Fein 3.1). It is from this desire that Ár nDraíocht Fein
Started in 1983, ADF was established as an Indo-European practice that promoted strong scholarship without an established dogma. It began as a network of scholars who were interested in “legitimate research about the ancient Druids and their Indo-European colleagues”
(Bonewits, Questions and Answers
about ADF ). ADF works to combine research with artistry
to create a modern Neopagan tradition. The
organization has grown to include multiple training programs, ranging from the
initial Dedicant Path to a full Clergy program, and covering a variety of
topics from the history of Neopaganism, to modern brewing techniques. Since 1983, the organization has continued to
grow and expand. It now has over 1300
active members in different countries all across the globe, as well as 75
active Groves and Protogroves.
11. Describe the groups that have split off from ADF, their history and work. (minimum 600 words)
There have been several groups that have either split of from ADF, or been founded by former ADF members. Several of these groups use teachings or ideals similar to ADF, while others seem to have taken a completely different direction. The most well known schism is the Henge of Keltria.
Henge of Keltria
Pat Taylor and Tony Taylor founded Henge of Keltria in 1987. Both were members of ADF, but as their membership continued they began to have several concerns. They presented these concerns to Isaac Bonewits, but when they felt that they had not been adequately addressed they decided to leave and form group of their own. Their primary concern was the acceptance of Indo-European practices as opposed to Celtic specific Druidism. The Henge of Keltria also believes that rituals and spiritual activity should be a private affair and should not be open to “casual gawkers”
(Hopman, The Origins of the Henge of Keltria). Today, the Henge of Keltria publishes “Henge
Happenings,” and has three paths of study and development: Bard, Seer, and
Druid (The Henge of Keltria).
Celtic Traditionalist Order of Druids
The Celtic Traditionalist Order of Druids is a teaching organization designed to preserve the worship of the ancient deities and nature spirits of the Celtic nations. It was initially founded in 1987 and began to grow. It was this quick growth and change that ultimately led to the central grove of CTOD being dissolved. The founders all went on to be active participants in other organizations, including ADF. Isaac Bonewits spurred the founder of CTOD, Vickie Meith, to get more involved with ADF, and she eventually ended up being elected to the position of Vice-Archdruid. However, she still felt drawn to revive CTOD, and returned to the organization to help bring it back to the Pagan community. They began to offer a program of study that promoted “harmonious existence with the natural world” in the areas of health, hearth, history, creativity, compassion, communication, magic, musecraft, and management
(Meith and Meith).
While this group may not be a direct schism of ADF, it was Meith’s
participation in ADF that helped the rebirth of CTOD to happen. Unfortunately at this time I am unable to
locate any sources for this organization, which leads me to believe that they
may now be defunct.
Divine Circle of the Sacred Grove
The Divine Circle of the Sacred Grove was one group that doesn’t claim to have any affiliation with ADF, but the history is there nonetheless. Janette Copeland, who had originally joined ADF in 1987, founded Divine Circle of the Sacred Grove: A Druid Fellowship, A Non-Profit Religious Association. In addition to “borrowing” part of the name of ADF she used part of the organization’s logo, as well as their stationery design. All of their promotional materials were either ADF materials, or stolen from other organizations. This group was one that Bonewits personally worked to discredit, and disband because of the numerous claims of plagiarism and mistruths about her credentials
(Bonewits, Why I Don’t Recommend the Divine Circle of the Sacred Grove). DCSG had their own schism caused by members
who were dissatisfied with the organization called the American Druidic
Church. Neither of these groups appears
to have an online presence, so I question whether either is still functioning.
Robert Barton, a former ADF Priest and preceptor, founded Comhaltacht Draoicht in 2005. They are “a religious fellowship made up of individuals and local congregations who adhere to a religion that we call Draiocht, or Gnatha na Sinsear”
(Comhaltacht Draiocht). This group practices Celtic specific
Druidism. Their website provides many
articles, an order of liturgy, rituals, and several training courses, including
a clergy program.
Fellowship of Druidism for the Latter Age
Fellowship of Druidism for the Latter Age is a legally organized church founded in 2006 by Todd Covert. FoDLA is “a Druidic religious community for polytheist Neopagans in the United States of America”
Covert was previously a member of ADF where he held many offices, including
Administrator, Pursewarden, and Non-Officer Director. FoDLA appears to have offered a Druid
training course to their members, as well as several articles written by
Covert, Linda Costello, and Eva Gordon.
However, their website has not been updated since October 25, 2012, so I
believe this group may faltering if not completely defunct.
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