Modern European Paganism

Just as Christianity, Judaism, and Islam can be grouped together as monotheistic “Abrahamic” religions that believe in a single all-powerful god, polytheistic religions that honor a multitude of deities also form religious “families.” Among them we find the myriad Hindu sects, Buddhism, which is nontheistic in its theology but includes polytheistic elements in its practice, tribal traditions from the Americas and Asia, the African and Afro-diasporic faiths, which include modern Umbanda and Santeria, and European paganism.

Until very recently, the possibility that a Native European polytheistic faith could be a viable option would have been met with incomprehension. Today, however, a linear worldview that includes an inevitable progress toward a cataclysm decreed by a single, all-powerful God is proving dangerously attractive to some, and to the rest of us, simply dangerous. Instead of a worldview in which neither humanity nor nature have intrinsic meaning because all such meaning derives only from God, or polarizes into a conflict between absolute Good and absolute Evil, we need a worldview that sees holiness in everything, recognizes that spirit takes many forms, and believes that history moves in circles, not a straight line.

The first European polytheistic religion to become well known in Europe and North America in the twentieth century was Pagan Witchcraft, or Wicca, which includes a multitude of traditions derived from or inspired by survivals from European folk religion and the work of Gerald Gardner.  However, Wicca is by no means the only kind of European paganism to flourish today. A second, and rapidly growing, branch of the family consists of the “reconstructed” traditions based on the practices and beliefs of specific cultures. These include the Celtic traditions, among them the different kinds of Druids; the Hellenic traditions, which draw from ancient Greece; the Kemetics, who base their practice on the religion of Egypt; Baltic traditionalists, who have revived their native religions in their newly independent nations; and the religions of the Germanic peoples in Scandinavia, on the Continent, and in England.

Sources: Diana L. Paxson from “Essential Asatru”

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