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Why the Rise of Paganism in America Today?

By: Lady Autumn Flame (Teal Mercaeant)

Even in America, where religious freedom is law, many Pagans are still persecuted for their beliefs. Pagans are often misunderstood, misrepresented and sometimes, downright slandered. Myths about Pagans (especially Druids and Witches) abound in our society and culture, however these myths rarely, if ever, resemble the truth.

Before we consider what Paganism is, and some of its "causes", we should clarify what Paganism is not. Pagans are not anti-Christian, nor are they non-religious. Pagans do not proselytize, nor do they recruit "your kids". In the words of one Pagan/Wiccan (Patsy Vickers), "I am not trying to say that Paganism is the "only" way, I donít believe that myself.......Pagans do not condemn those of other faiths, and we would like to receive the same respect in return." Druids are not blood-thirsty savages; in fact, Druids today have very firm rules against animal or human sacrifice. Witches are not ugly, old women who fly around on brooms. Witches do not worship the Christian "Devil"; they do not even believe he exist. A male Witch is not called a Warlock (as Warlock is Scottish for "traitor, turncoat, or oath-breaker"), he is simply called a male Witch (or Wiccan/Wise One). Theses stigmatic misconceptions are something modern Pagans have to battle with everyday. Slowly, ever so slowly, these myths are being re-evaluated and changed.

Paganism is not really new at all, it is many thousands of years old; even Neo- Paganism has existed for over thirty years. The last ten years, though, have seen a rapid growth of the Pagan "movement."

One of the primary reasons people are turning to Paganism is because of Paganismís inclusion of the Goddess. Many people are frustrated with "patriarchy" and are not satisfied with most "orthodox" religions. Some Pagans are completely matriarchal in their worship. Most Pagans believe in equality between Goddess and God; while some Pagans believe in many Goddesses and Gods. In the Past ten to twenty years there has been an ever increasing concern for Mother Earth, they grew to love Her.

Some people discovered Paganism through Sci-fi/Fantasy books, especially J.R.R. Tolkien and Robert A. Heinlein. As one Pagan/ Wiccan (Valerie Stormes) said, in my interview with her, "Fantasy books about Magic and Goddess- Worship have always been my favorites. Eventually, I found non-fiction books on those subjects. These books agreed with what was in my heart. Iím proud to be a Pagan!"

Many Pagans were involved with the "New Age" before they found Paganism. Dawn said, "We sat down and had a long talk about Wicca, and it all made sense to me. I decided that was what I wanted to do with my life."

People come to Paganism for so many reasons that itís dificult to document them all. Larry Littleís story is an example of a unique invitation to the Crafte. "I was nine years," Larry said, "when it happened. My family and I were in church. The Minister prayed that God would give each of us a word. The Minister asked each child what their word was. When I said, ĎAstarte,í he freaked! The minister and all the male congregation picked me up and took me down stairs. They proceeded to perform the laying on of hands and speaking in tongues, the whole gamut. Because of that experiance the word ĎAstarteí was burned into my brain. Searching for the meaning lead me to Wicca and Iíve been here happily ever after since."

The Pagans have but one law, known as the "Wiccan Rede." The Rede states "If You Harm None, Do As You Will." This simple law fulfills every other law ever written. It is simple and poetic, and a reason why some get involved in Paganism.

The rise in Paganism is not a threat to society, nor the orthodox religion as a whole. Paganism offers a path to those who would walk it, and friendship to those who choose not to. As Iíve heard many Pagans say, "There are as many paths to the Divine as there are people to walk them."


Adler,Margot. Drawing Down the Moon. Boston: Beacon Press, (revised, 1986) Firestorm, Miranda. Paganism A Religion? Dancing Thunder News. Spring 1994; pg.3 Cunningham, Scott. The Truth About Witchcraft Today. St. Paul, MN: Llewwllyn Publications, 1992. Little, Larry. Interview on April 21, 1994. Patterson, Bruce. Interview on April 22, 1994. Patterson, Dawn. Interview on April 22, 1994. Starhawk. The Spiral Dance. San Fransisco: Harper San Fransisco, (revised 1989). Stewart, David. Interview on April 22, 1994. Stormes, Valerie. Interview on April 22, 1994.

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I have chosen my path
The choices I made
They thrive as part of my soul
I can never change my roads
For I must make do with this string
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Nor the dimensions of time
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Yet different in choice
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What may have happened
Though We are intertwined
Our roads can never cross
F.W. Vickers

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