Think Free

NeoPaganism – Re-imagining the past for contemporary needs


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NeoPaganism is an umbrella term for diverse spiritual movements that reimagine beliefs and practices from the Middle Ages and pre-Christian era.

The overall purpose is to restore and develop apparently lost and repressed forms of spiritual knowledge and practice.

Goddess religion can be a part of NeoPaganism. Some adherents believe that a golden era of humanity existed when Goddess worship was dominant.

NeoPaganism has some spiritual leaders who may express the core beliefs of many adherents, but most describe themselves and the movement as anti-authoritarian. There are, however, big fish and little fish. In academic circles, for instance, Starhawk figures prominently and inspires lesser known seekers who try to emulate her example.

J. Gordon Melton argues in The Encyclopedic Handbook of Cults in America (1992) that NeoPagans differ from the New Age movement.

New Age enthusiasts often generalize diverse religious ethics, cosmologies and practices to a single belief in Universal Love within All That Is.

Image by Lunireal via Wikipedia

NeoPagans, on the other hand, practice within a variety of relatively small groups or Circles, such as Church of Circle Wicca (later renamed Circle Sanctuary).

But this comparison is subject to debate. One thing that seems common among NeoPagans is a kind of pantheistic belief in connectivity. Alongside this, animism may figure prominently.

Some contemporary Pagans believe that there are specific spirits that 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.¹

Many NeoPagans are women, finding a place to express symbols and themes close to women’s daily experience.

In Canada and the US only the most basic religious data is collected. So it’s hard to say exactly how many NeoPagans exist in North America. Different worldwide estimates are given here.

A Slavic Rodnover ritual in modern Russia, c. 2000 via Wikipedia


Related » Pagan, Starhawk, Theism, Barbara G. Walker, Witch


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5 thoughts on “NeoPaganism – Re-imagining the past for contemporary needs

  1. I hate to nit pick but, being a Pagan myself, I can tell you that the symbol pictured in this post is not pagan at all…it’s a Star of David.


  2. That’s a good question. I know that there is a lot of mysticism in Judaism, but I’m not well enough versed it in to know what kinds of ceremonies they hold. The interesting thing about this picture is that it is a very precisely laid out Star of David on what looks like a derelict tennis court. I’d be willing to bet that perhaps some newbies who didn’t have any formal training decided to cook up something for themselves and got it wrong. Oh well…live and learn!



    • Yeah, that sounds like a reasonable hypothesis. It’s such a good picture that I’m hesitant to change it just yet, even if technically wrong. Maybe these folks were trying to synthesize different beliefs, or, more likely, were unconsciously doing so.

      In any event, thanks for the correction. I’ll leave it for now. Your comments should help to clarify and perhaps stimulate debate.


  3. Note – images have been updated since this thread. Image for the above discussion is here:
    Holy Cross Campus - Rhinebeck, NY - 10, Mar - 02


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