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The Origins of Neopaganism and Prof. Ronald Hutton

By Reggie

Neopaganism is a modern movement that is inspired by and/or seeks to reconstruct the ancient pagan religions of Europe and other parts of the world.

Many modern pagans are reconstructionists – people who are consciously engaged in reviving pagan traditions (from ancient Greece and Rome, the Germanic countries, the Celtic countries or elsewhere) without making any claim that their religion is a direct lineal survival from past times. Many others don’t much care about the historical origins of their faith, viewing the origin-stories of Wicca and other traditions as myths and metaphors rather than literal truth.

Some neopagans, however, claim that their religion is a direct, lineal survival of ancient paganism. This applies particularly to some followers of the tradition of pagan witchcraft known as Wicca. Wicca was popularised by the retired British colonial official Gerald Gardner (1884-1964), who claimed explicitly that the religion was a survival of an ancient fertility cult which had persisted since palaeolithic times. This claim drew on the theory that the “witches” who had been executed in the early modern witch hunts had been not unfortunate social misfits but followers of a pre-Christian pagan religion.

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