Contemporary Resurgence in America

During the last few decades, the American PaganThe term “pagan” (from the Latin paganus) originally meant “peasant” or “country dweller.” For many Pagans, the term suggests a life lived close to the land. Today, nature spirituality is an important thread in contemporary Paganism. Some Paga... community has multiplied dramatically. Many PagansThe term “pagan” (from the Latin paganus) originally meant “peasant” or “country dweller.” For many Pagans, the term suggests a life lived close to the land. Today, nature spirituality is an important thread in contemporary Paganism. Some Paga... attribute the movement’s growth to the attractiveness of a life-affirming spirituality in an alienating society. Some people are drawn to Pagan ways because of the celebrations of the seasonal holidays, the participatory rituals, or the prospect of a living relationship to the elements of nature: earth, air, fire, water, and spirit. Others hope to build a connection to the polytheisticPolytheism is a belief in many gods. Most Pagans are polytheistic. Some are soft polytheists, believing that all gods are aspects of one greater God/dess (or sometimes aspects of two greater deities, a Goddess and a God). Other Pagans are hard polytheists... religious practices of their ancestors or seek a religious community that specifically welcomes gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgenderTransgender is a term that refers to a range of unconventional relationships to gender. Transgender people do not identify with the sex and gender roles they were assigned at birth, and they may feel that their psychological gender and physical bodies are... people as full participants.

Contemporary PaganismThe term “pagan” (from the Latin paganus) originally meant “peasant” or “country dweller.” For many Pagans, the term suggests a life lived close to the land. Today, nature spirituality is an important thread in contemporary Paganism. Some Paga... also attracts people because of its reverence for the GoddessGoddess is a term used to refer to the female deity, either in the singular as the supreme divine reality, or in the plural as one of many particular or localized feminine deities. In the Hindu tradition, the Goddess refers to the very powerful, even supr... or goddesses. Many women, especially during the feminist movement of the late 1960s and early 1970s, were drawn to Pagan traditions. They found connection with GoddessGoddess is a term used to refer to the female deity, either in the singular as the supreme divine reality, or in the plural as one of many particular or localized feminine deities. In the Hindu tradition, the Goddess refers to the very powerful, even supr... imagery to be empowering and welcomed the leadership opportunities that existed for them within Pagan circlesIn some Pagan traditions, a “circle” refers to the people who gather for a ritual. When standing in a circle, all the participants are able to see each other, with no one member elevated over any other. This practice is often felt to encourage egalita.... More recently, queer-identified Pagans have undergone a similar process. Today, there is a growing movement within Paganism to develop queer“Queer” is an umbrella term for a wide variety of sexual minorities and their allies, but primarily for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people (GLBT). Because many Pagan groups hold sex-positive and body-affirming values and accept queer and G... and transgender traditions and to recover images of gender-fluid deities from ancient mythologies.

Since Paganism is a grassroots religious movement, it is difficult to study comprehensively. Pagan journalist Jason Pitzl-Waters estimated in 2008 that over one million Americans identify as Pagan. In the mid-1990s sociologist Helen Berger led the first attempt to document the size and diversity of the American Pagan community. In 2003, Berger et al published the results from the Pagan Census Project under the title Voices from the Pagan Census. Their research revealed that Pagans tend to be somewhat more educated, politically liberal, and politically active than their neighbors; they also tend to identify as gay, lesbian, or bisexual much more frequently than the general population. At the same time, the survey also noted a growing percentage of younger, solitaryA solitary is a Pagan who does not regularly practice with a group. Solitaries may join groups for special occasions, but the bulk of their practice occurs alone. Today, solitaries make up the majority of self-identified Pagans. practitioners who are less politically active than their older counterparts. In 2012, Berger and her team completed a second census, and the data is currently in review for publication.

In the 1980s and 1990s, local Pagan or New AgeNew Age refers to a wide variety of late twentieth century religious movements. Many of these movements are based on a holistic cosmology which does not see the world as the scene of dualistic conflict between good and evil, sin and salvation, but rather ... supply stores selling herbs, candles, and books served as social centers where people met, exchanged information, and publicized their gatherings. Today, some of these shops still exist, but Pagans have moved much of their buying and networking online. The Witches’ Voice (Witchvox.com) offers listings of groups, events, legal Pagan clergyClergy are the body of ordained men (and in some cases women) who are authorized to perform the priestly, pastoral, or rabbinical duties of the community—as distinct from the laity whom they serve., shops, and community centers by city and state, as well as an extensive collection of resources describing different Pagan traditions and a regularly updated set of articles on Pagan life and practice.

Pagans also make use of social media outlets like Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ to keep in touch and exchange news. Given twenty-first century technology and the degree to which it facilitates communication, Pagans experience far less isolation than in the past. Pagans who do not regularly study with in-person groups learn about their religion through books, online chat rooms, websites, and blogs. Some may also take workshops or engage in distance training with a teacher using e-mail, video conferencing, and online classrooms. Many Pagan practitioners host blogs on their personal websites, but some are associated with larger media outlets. The magazine Witches & Pagans hosts dozens of blogs at PaganSquare, as does Patheos.com through its Pagan Channel. Online schools also offer training at a variety of levels.

Some Pagan groups have organized at the national level, with branches across the United States that connect individuals with groups, provide training for practitioners and clergy, and engage in public relations outreach. The CovenantA covenant (or brit) is a mutual promise or compact between two parties. In the Jewish and Christian traditions, covenant is of deep significance in describing the mutual relationship of God and the people of faith. The major covenants in Jewish scripture... of the Goddess, incorporated in 1975, is organized at the national level and dedicated to training Pagan clergy, with branches in Europe and Australia as well. The Covenant of Unitariana belief in one God that rejects the three persons of the Trinity that has much in common with the belief in the early Christian church about the superiority of God over Jesus and the Anti-Trinitarian writing that emerged during the Protestant Reformation... Universalist Pagans (CUUPS), begun in 1986, networks Pagans who are affiliated with the Unitarian Universalist ChurchThe term church has come to wide use to refer to the organized and gathered religious community. In the Christian tradition, church refers to the organic, interdependent “body” of Christ’s followers, the community of Christians. Secondarily, church .... Ár nDraíocht Féin (ADF) is a Druid organization incorporated in 1990 to educate Druids in the U.S. and internationally.

Not all Pagans feel positively about the growth of Pagan infrastructure. Those who left other religious traditions are sometimes suspicious, fearing that the institutionalization of their adopted religion will cause it to become like the unsatisfying religious communities of their youth. Others feel that Pagan institutions such as templesA temple is a house of worship, a sacred space housing the deity or central symbol of the tradition. The Temple in Jerusalem was the holy place of the Jewish people until its destruction by the Romans in 70 CE; now the term “temple” is used by th. Ref... and schools are necessary, but that they must be structured differently so as to reflect egalitarian, grassroots Pagan values. Today, several different Pagan organizations are raising funds to establish permanent Pagan research libraries, as is the case with the New Alexandrian Library in Georgetown and the Adocentyn Research Library in San Francisco. Pagans can pursue a master of divinity degree at online institutions such as Cherry Hill Seminary, or join Pagan community centers such as the Open Hearth Foundation in Washington, D.C. Some Pagan groups are also working to buy land on which permanent temples can be established.

The question of whether Pagans need paid, professional clergy is ongoing. While many value the participatory nature of Paganism and the decision-making power they hold as active volunteers in their communities, entirely volunteer-run organizations are difficult to sustain. Many Pagans also want access to professional services from people who share their religion: counselors, hospital and prison chaplainsA chaplain is a member of the clergy who serves in a prison, a hospital, a college, or some other institution outside the context of the normal congregational life of a religious community., legal clergy for weddings and funerals, and trained teachers for youth and adult education. At the same time, Pagans continue to struggle with the question of whether paid clergy will undermine the egalitarianism of Pagan communities.

While there are some Pagans who were brought up in their faith, most find their way to Paganism as adults. As more parents raise their children as second-, third-, and fourth-generation Pagans, however, the question of whether and how to build Pagan infrastructure may become less contentious.


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