A Note on Terminology

66830438-paganism-word-cloud-concept-vector-illustrationIn 2017, Neo-Paganism celebrated its 50th anniversary* as a new religious movement. Some people believe that Neo-Paganism is old enough now to question the appropriateness of the “Neo-” pre­fix. But in the history of religions, Neo-Paganism is still a rela­tively young religion and religious studies scholars continue to refer to much older religions (like Mormonism, which dates to 1830) as “New Religious Movements” (NRM).

Furthermore, the term, “Paganism,” without the qualifying prefix, has come to be understood as an umbrella term, referring to a wide variety of related, but distinct religious movements, in­cluding Neo-Paganism, as well as Wicca and various reconstruc­tionist Paganisms and devotional polytheisms. These latter fall under the Pagan Umbrella, but are distinct from Neo-Paganism.**

Where “Pagan” is used herein, without the “Neo-” prefix, it refers to the family of religions under the broad Pagan Umbrella. Where “Neo-Pagan” is used herein, with the “Neo-” prefix, it refers to a specific religion under the Pagan Umbrella, related to, but distinct from, Wicca and the rest. It is the purpose of this book to describe Neo-Paganism in its broad outlines.

“Pagan” and “Neo-Pagan” are capitalized herein where they refer to the contemporary Pagan and Neo-Pagan religious commu­nities. The words are capitalized when used as nouns or adjectives for the same reason that “Christian,” “Catholic,” “Mor­mon,” “Hindu,” “Buddhist,” and so on, are capitalized. Where “pagan” is not capitalized herein, it refers to ancient pa­gans predating the modern era, like the ancient Celts, Egyptians, and Norse, who did not refer to themselves as “Pagan.” Various spellings of “Pagan” and “Neo-Pagan” are used by other au­thors who are quoted here, sometimes capitalized, sometimes not, sometimes hyphenated, sometimes not. These spellings have been left intact where those authors are quoted directly (ex­cept where indicated by brackets).

* In New Age and Neopagan Religions in America (2004), religious studies scholar, Sarah Pike, marks 1967 as the beginning of the Neo-Pagan move­ment, with the incorporation of Fred Adams’ Feraferia and the founding of the New Reformed Orthodox Order of the Golden Dawn (NROOGD). This is also the year that the Church of All Worlds filed for incorporation. The following year, it would become the first state-recog­nized Neo-Pagan church.

** Isaac Bonewits described both British Traditional Wicca and reconstruc­tionist forms of Paganism as forms of “Meso-Paganism,” in contrast to Neo-Paganism. Isaac Bonewits, “Defining Paganism: Paleo-, Meso-, and Neo-” (1979, 2007)

Updated 2019