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Religious Studies: Neopaganism

Religion 101


“We are not on this planet to ask forgiveness of our deities.” (Scott Cunningham)


An umbrella term encompassing a broad swath of folk or nature-based religions, typically (but not limited to) European or North African in origin. The term "pagan" is a Christian creation, but has been reclaimed in recent years by the modern pagan (or neopagan) movement.

  • Eclecticism: Referring to a form of neopaganism that pulls from different pagan and potentially New Age traditions to create a personalized spirituality. Often includes practices like ancestor veneration, tarot, witchcraft, and astrology, although eclectic practices do not need to include and are not limited to this.
  • Reconstructionism: A form of neopaganism that seeks to recreate an ancient folk tradition to the greatest extent possible. Unlike eclecticism, Reconstructionists only pull from one tradition and seek to venerate spiritual figures as closely as possible to worshippers at the time the tradition was thriving.

"Neopaganism is a new religious movement in which devotees appropriate one or more pre-Christian forms of nature religion usually from northern Europe, inculding Druidism, but also from ancient Greece, Egypt, or a variety of indigenous cultures. The primary goal of neopagan practitioners is to reharmonize and reunite with the sacred, which is seen in pantheistic, polytheistic, and/or animistic terms. Most neopagans believe that the rejection and repression of pagan spiritualities in the Christian West has alienated humans from knowledge of their authentic selves as beings embedded in a sacred cosmos."

In modern pagan movements, "witchcraft" usually refers to a practice, rather than a religious tradition, in which practitioners use their will to enact change upon their circumstances (financial, interpersonal, health, etc.).

Witchcraft. (2005). In B. Lenman & H. Marsden (Eds.), Chambers Dictionary of World History. Chambers Harrap. Retrieved December 7, 2023, from

Types of Paganism

Definition: Neopagan movement centered around the religious beliefs and practices of the ancient Celts.

Neopagan movement based on the ancient Celtic practices of the Druids, or the Britannic Celtic spiritual learned class. Although Druids as a class were highly exclusive, the modern movement "means following a spiritual path rooted in the green Earth...participating in a living Western spiritual tradition drawn from surviving legacies of Celtic teachings."
John Michael Greer, Druidry – A Green Way of Wisdom

Definition: Gaulish (ancient French and German) paganism.

Definition: Paganism and mythology pertaining to the ancient Greek world.

Definition: Paganism and mythology pertaining to the ancient Egyptian world.

Definition: Paganism and mythology pertaining to the ancient Norse world, or modern-day Scandinavia.

"A modern nature-based religion with strong links to mainly European mythologies. Although Wicca lays claim to some continuity of beliefs and practices with pagans of the past, it is actually a new religion, a major part of the neopagan and counter-cultural movement of the late 20th century. The word ‘wicca’ is usually traced back to a Saxon root meaning ‘to bend’."

Wicca. (2007). In U. McGovern (Ed.), Chambers Dictionary of the Unexplained. Chambers Harrap.


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