March 29

Different Branches of Paganism

Annette James
Core Spirit member since Dec 24, 2020
Reading time 4 minutes

The Contemporary Pagan Movement is hard to pin down by design. Paganism is a very big (and often literal) tent and those inside form and un-form groups freely. The Pagan belief in the supremacy of nature is general enough that it leaves room for specific faiths to emerge from specific beliefs. In a sense, what unites Pagans is also what divides them, a deconstructionist view of what it means to have religion in modern society. Most do not have a unifying text and do not have a central governing body. Modern Pagans flesh out modern faiths using the bones of ancient religions.

In the United States there are between 500,000 and a million self-identified Pagans, a small fraction of the number of people who identify as Pagans worldwide. The breadth of Pagan faiths is debatable — just because someone may call themselves the same thing, it doesn’t mean they share an understanding — but it’s hard to argue with those who want to join the faith. The core tenant of being a Pagan is being a Pagan. That said, here’s a guide to what that means for those within the religious movement.

Wicca

Wicca is the fastest growing form of religious identification in the United States. But the label itself means something to different people — some Wiccan see themselves as witches; other witches see their practice a part of an ancient folk practice, unaffiliated with the idea of religion. Wiccans practice Witchcraft with a capital W — a distinguisher that marks it as modern faith.

It’s thought that Wicca was developed as a Pagan religion around 1950 in England by Gerald Gardner — a controversial figure seen as either the High Priest or a creep. Gardner’s idea of Wicca is a combination of pagan deities, rituals, folk magic, and ceremonial magic. A movement reflective of its times, Wicca reflects much of the counter-culture movement of the late 1950s and 1960s. Feminism, environmentalism, self-development and a distaste for central authority are all pillars within the faith. Both men and women can be Wicca and typically address their deities as God and Goddess. While there are no central authorities in covens, membership is typically attained via an initiation by a High Priestess or Priest.

Neo-Druidism

While some academics say Neo-Druidism is rooted in the seventeenth century, slowly became more noticeable in the early 1900s, and entered into more mainstream consciousness over the next century, the actual pioneer of this religious movement is contested. Some credit George Watson MacGregor Reid for combining ancient Druidism with modern ideas of faith to create Neo-Paganism; others consider Gardner’s friend Ross Nichols to be the first Neo-Druid and founder of the Order of the Bards, Ovates, and Druids. Regardless, popularity for Neo-Druidism has been slowing building — today thousands of people still gather at Stonehenge to celebrate and renew their faith. Since 2010 Druidry has been recognized as an official religion in the United Kingdom.

Many Druids believe that nature is fundamentally spiritual and that Druidism is the spiritual path allowing a connection to this cosmic force. The majority of Druids believe that the soul goes through a process of reincarnations and that lives alternate from existing solely in this world and existing in the Otherworld.

“One of the things that attracts people to Druidry is the sense that it provides a link with the past,” Philip Shallcrass, founder of the British Druidic Order, is quoted to have said. “For the Druid, the past is not a static thing that held fast within the dry and dusty pages of history books, but a living part of our reality; it is how we become who we are and a blueprint for what we may yet become.”

Gaia Theorists

James Lovelock, a British scientist, environmentalist and iconoclast, came up with the Gaia hypothesis while working for NASA in the 1960s. The idea was that Earth is a living organism with a functioning self-regulating system which allows all other life to exist. This theory was further developed in tangent with his peer, the biologist Lynn Margulis, and named by The Lord of the Fly’s William Golding.

This hypothesis was essentially shunned from the scientific community from the beginning, since it basically goes against everything already established in biology and evolution. But the general public embraced the idea — joining Gaia groups; creating Gaia churches. The idea that the Earth was a powerful entity and the use of Gaia — historically, a powerful pre-Titan Greek goddess — appealed to those already connecting with the humanistic Pagan movement.

Lovelock has publicly said that this was not his intention: He was implying that Earth acted like a single, living being but was not actually a conscious and personal being. But people had already connected their spiritual inclinations with a more ecological perspective that pressed the idea that living “green” was a spiritual cause.

“Pagans were already discovering and uncovering the power of evoking and communicating with Nature as a living, personal, and autonomous being,” writes Graham Harvey in Contemporary Paganism. “The scientists’ Gaia resonated with Pagan inclinations about the nature of deity and seemed to suggest appropriate means of building relationships.”

Neo-Norse Paganism

Neo-Norse Paganism is reiteration of an ancient polytheistic religion, most commonly broken into two two branches of faith: Asatru and Odinism. This belief system also focuses on living in harmony with nature and follows gods like Thor. It is increasingly popular where it first began — Norway, Sweden, Denmark, and Iceland — but is gaining steam in the United States as well, where it is now legal for Thor’s Hammer to be carved on military gravestones and inmates can receive special accommodations to perform Norse rituals.

Most adherents are nonviolent and inclusive — particularly followers of Asatru, which emphasizes less of a indigenous origin story than Odinism. But much like other religions, some people have determined their own interpretation of the faith to suit their needs. While nothing about Neo-Norse paganism speaks to race, the faith has appealed to those looking for a militantly racist religion — particularly in the United States where it has been interpreted by some as more “purely” white than Christianity.

This is a stark contrast to the 3,000 Asatru followers in Iceland, where their faith is the fastest growing religion in the country. They emphasize tolerance and individual liberty while being open to all ethnicities, cultural backgrounds, and sexual and gender identifications.

by Sarah Sloat For Inverse

Comments

Leave your questions here

To write a comment you must
or
Services
Category filter
Concern filter
Type filter
Sort
 
All categories
Art Therapy
$50 USD
Artist Teacher Workshop Or Tutoring

“Life Force” guiding our history, our body and spirits. Self portrait art, life drawing from the live model, gesture, and plein air painting. And extended cont…

Bryan Prillwitz
United States of America flag icon
Tarot Reading
$100 USD
Timeline Reading

EGYPTIAN TAROT READINGS using unique methods developed by Nelise Carbonare, a Brazilian healer with more than 40 years of experience in tarot consultations, as…

Nelise Carbonare
United States of America flag icon
Tarot Reading
$120 USD
THE SYNERGY OF THE PYRAMID

THE SYNERGY OF THE PYRAMID focuses on a specific relationship: One side for the consultant and one for their partner. (the partner does not need to be present …

Nelise Carbonare
United States of America flag icon
Tarot Reading
$10 USD
Pick one card

Many questions can be answer with just one Arcane.

Do you want to try?

Nelise Carbonare
United States of America flag icon
Personal Development Coaching
$50 USD
Spiritual Coaching - Removing Energy Blocks - Expansion

> “Who looks outside dreams. Who looks inside awakens.” Jung

Spiritual coaching is about moving you into a profound state of empowerment and involution m…

Kimla Rose (Kim Desrosiers)
United States of America flag icon
Life Coaching
$10 USD
Life Purpose and Soul Wisdom

What is your deeper truth, your deeper knowing, your MOJO, your deepest desires, those feelings that you can’t explain but that are so pure and so clear…or may…

Anna Beale
United States of America flag icon
Wellness Coaching
$10 USD
Your Missing Manual for Health & Life!

Are you constantly reading books, blogs and listening to podcasts trying to figure out what to do to be healthy?

With so much conflicting information out ther…

Pamela Malo
United States of America flag icon
Nutritional Therapy
$150 USD
Nutritional Therapy Consultation

Hi my name is Aria and I am the founder of Heal with Nutrition. I am a registered Nutritional Therapist and a Naturopath who has a passion on Nutrition and Hea…

Aria Alexandrou
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland flag icon
Tarot Reading
$10 USD
THOTH AND HERMETIC DECKS READING

With a deep knowledge of hermeticism and being introduced to the kabbalah tradition of the emanation process from the tree of life, I provide a deep insight co…

James Marchiori
Ireland flag icon
Personal Development Coaching
$55 USD
The Bridge to Your Desired Life

This is were you get real help with your struggles and life challenges. As life gets harder to cope with, we tend to look for external ways to get through. And…

Mina Mikhail
United States of America flag icon
Naturopathy
$10 USD
Intake Consult

short introduction consult to Integrative Medicine

Femke Neervoort
Netherlands flag icon
Career Coaching
$300 USD
Reset Coaching and Mentoring Programme

12 weeks of bi-weekly 90 minutes 1:1 Coaching and Mentoring. Total cost USD1800 (6x90minutes career coaching and mentoring session)

Are you returning to work …

Carla Martins
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland flag icon
Personal Development Coaching
$120 USD
Spiritual Life Coach Session-Personalized Session

Personalized Sessions

Because Everyone Is Unique

Client-centered sessions based on the area of focus requested by the client.

Each session is a LIVE Sessio…

Deborah Lucero
United States of America flag icon
Reiki
$55 USD
Guidance, Inspiration & Healing

This type of session is a favorite among many of my clients, as it is often times one of the smoothest way to address a challenge to reach a happier and health…

Mina Mikhail
United States of America flag icon
Mediumism
$10 USD
Psychic Readings

I specialize in love, past present future, future, past life, general, tarot, dream interpretation, specific, social, and career readings! Book today for clari…

Holly
United States of America flag icon
Life Coaching
$399 USD
1-on-1 Coaching

The journey started with our discovery call, and You decided: ” I’m ready! Let’s do this!”.

We will engage in 1-on-1 coaching sessions for 90 minutes. In this…

Carla Martins
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland flag icon
Ascension
$88 USD
Ascension Mentor Support

In this session, we come together with similar to a healing session but face to face.

We talk about what issues you are facing at the moment and we delve deep…

Claire C.
Australia flag icon
Spiritual Healing
$177 USD
Energy Healing

I am honored to assist you with intuitive channeled energy healings that support and nurture you on a physical level as well soul and energetic level, each ses…

Claire C.
Australia flag icon
Reiki
$375 USD
Usui Reiki 1st Degree Course

FIRST DEGREE COURSE - The ultimate Reiki course.

Have you ever wondered if you can heal? Have you felt a burning desire to help others? Then you’ve come to th…

Step Into Your Light - Christina Moore
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland flag icon
Life Coaching
$10 USD
Hand Analysis - Startup Session

What does a hand analysis do for me? ​

You will understand yourself and your life purpose. ​You will understand the roots of your triggers and reactionary be…

Brent Bruning, Master Hand Analyst
Switzerland flag icon
Shamanism
$10 USD
Sample Akashic Records Reading for Your Burning Issue

I connect to your Akashic Records and listen to what your guides want to bring to your conscoius attention at this time. Perhaps, it is an insight into why you…

Olga Aydınoğlu
Turkey flag icon
Shamanic Healing
$300 USD
Shamanic Healing Art

What is Shamanic Healing Art?

It is a physical artwork (usually a pastel drawing) I make for you based on the outcome of our online session. This artwork will…

Olga Aydınoğlu
Turkey flag icon
Shamanic Healing
$70 USD
Heal to say "No"

A limits and boundaries shamanic healing session to help you heal relevant wounds and traumas from this and/or other lifetimes, let go of false beliefs, judgem…

Olga Aydınoğlu
Turkey flag icon
Shamanic Healing
$70 USD
Writer's Block Shamanic Healing Session

Before the Session

I do my pre-meditation to find out the main reasons for your writer’s block. (This happens psychically, where I generally just need your na…

Olga Aydınoğlu
5
Turkey flag icon

Related Articles