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Neopaganism (from Latin paganus "pagan") or neo-paganism describes religious and cultural currents that have emerged since the 19th century, which are primarily oriented towards ancient, Celtic, Germanic and Slavic paganism as well as non-European ethnic religions .

The number of followers of neo-pagan world views is difficult to determine statistically because these are often not grouped together in large organizations. The estimates are at several million worldwide. According to various estimates of several thousand with up to 100,000 followers in Germany, Wicca and related movements are the largest neo-pagan movement. By 1990, the number of Wiccans was estimated at more than 200,000 in the US, 30,000 in the UK, and 800,000 worldwide.


Modern Greek temple in Thessaloniki
Zuist (Mesopotamian and Semitic Neopaganism) altar of the deity Pazuzu

The term "neopagan" first appeared in the English-speaking world in the 19th century in connection with philhellenism and romanticism . Thus “neo-paganism” was perceived in neoclassicism and as an influence in the painting of the Pre-Raphaelites . Literary circles used the term, for example the "Grantchester Group" around Rupert Brooke , who was called "Neo-Pagans" by the poet Virginia Woolf , the British MP Frank Hugh O'Donnell used the term "Neopagan" disparagingly for the 1904 Works by William Butler Yeats , whom he accused of wanting to revive the Celtic religion. As a self-designation of neo-paganists, the term "Pagan" appeared in the United States since the 1960s in connection with the new witch movement, the self-designation "Neopagan" analogous to "Pagan" was first used in 1967 in connection with the American "Church of all worlds" and the Green Egg Magazine use.

The German term Neuheidentum is used synonymously with Neopaganism - in some cases, however - but especially in the Anglo-American area, the equivalent "Heathenry" or "Heathenism" is used especially for followers of the New Germanic orientations, to distinguish themselves from followers of the Wicca religion or delimit neoceltic currents. Sometimes both terms, neo-paganism and neo-paganism, even as pejorative foreign names, are completely rejected, for example by Hellenism and some old-pagan-Germanic and neoceltic groups. As a proper name favor this, as well as parts of the Wiccan movement, the term "Old Religion" or "natural religion" (not to be confused with the " outdated technical term nature religion " which, however, still remains synonymous with the unwritten traditional religions cultures used will) .

Today, neo-paganism or neo-paganism, as distinct from older paganism in the narrower sense, is understood to mean new religious movements that are based on certain beliefs and mythologies of ancient cultures such as

British Druids of the "Order of Bards Ovates and Druids"

In addition, there are also new religions such as the various modern forms of belief in witches ( Wicca , “ Dianic ”, “ Stregheria ”, “Feri”), some of which are also to be regarded as neopagan, the modern goddess spirituality (“Pandea”, “ Gaia religion "), The left-wing political" Reclaiming Tradition ", pantheistic groups like the" Church of all worlds ". Historically, there has always been and still is overlap between neo-pagan groups and occultist currents such as Aleister Crowley's Thelema , Luciferianism , the Temple of Set and other teachings that are primarily based on elements of Gnosis , alchemy , astrology , Kabbalah and Hermetics , but partly also have at least neo-pagan influences, primarily elements from ancient Greek, ancient Egyptian and Semitic religions . The neoshamanism syncretized partially Asian and Indian elements with ancient European symbols and develops them into new forms ( "Celtic shamanism" neugermanischer " Seiðr "). Some neo-paganists also join currents that represent a variation on the Christian religion, such as the union of North American Unitarians and Universalists to form the Unitarian Universalist Association . There is a pagan-Unitarian current of its own, the “Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans”.

Neopaganism experiences an ironic break in semi-satirical religions or religious parodies such as Discordianism , Jediism or the Church of the Sacred Vagina .


The neo-pagan association Ásatrúarfélagið, which is officially recognized in Iceland, at a ritual in 2009.

The terms “neopagan” and “Neuheide” are sometimes used today as self-names, but sometimes also viewed and rejected as derogatory external names. Although the esoteric- neo-religious movement has a multitude of different and independent - often polytheistic - directions, its followers often deliberately refer to themselves as pagans in order to use their common (religious) group identity as an antithesis to the Christian-Jewish tradition or to all world religions and to emphasize the " convinced disbelief ". According to Otto Bischofsberger, Christianity has "excluded and demonized paganism for centuries". Above all, dogmatism and the (alleged) hostility to life of the Judeo-Christian tradition are rejected .

Neuheiden mostly live in the western industrial countries . They distinguish themselves from the revitalization movements of indigenous religions in other countries through the reference to “paganism” . Early representatives were intellectuals, writers and artists. Influences on Western (popular) culture at the end of the 19th and 20th centuries are attributed to Neopaganism. It was and is also received by individual right- and left-wing political currents.

Neopaganism is seen by its followers as a revitalization (revitalization) of ethnic-pre-Christian religions, which due to Christian proselytizing , Christianization and forced baptism - partly persecuted and violent - perished. The neo-pagan doctrines and practices are regarded by their followers as both the "primordial religion" of humanity and a religion for the future. Since there are almost no historical records from the time of pre-Christian Europe, Nordic and Celtic myths, fairy tales and legends, among other things, are used as sources as well as the traditions and exotic rituals of the "natural religions". Asian, Indian and Celtic elements in particular are taken up and - often regardless of the historical or geographical context - adapted to one's own ideas. According to this, an authentic reconstruction of lost religions is not possible, but in the best case only a "spiritual connection" interpreting sources.

The flood of publications and courses enables open-minded people to consume a multitude of neo-pagan ideas, to put them together individually and to change them. There are also a number of representatives of indigenous groups in the scene who sell their “archaic knowledge” profitably to new pagans. Many of these neo-shamans are not recognized as religious authorities in their homeland and, in North America, for example, are disparagingly labeled plastic shamans . In addition, their knowledge of their own traditions is incomplete in the course of the often compulsory Christian proselytizing , so that they often build on more recent developments (see, for example, the peyote religion ) , which, however, are already syncretistic mixed religions made up of various ethnic and Christian elements.

Statements and goals

Central to Neopaganism are the following self-statements and goals, which are shared by many - but not necessarily all groups in their entirety:

  • Experience the forces of nature, which can be invoked in the form of the goddesses and gods and are also recognizable to the individual believer
  • Particular importance of the feminine principle, e.g. B. Widespread worship of female deities
  • Turning away from a priestly religion, emphasis on the direct experience of faith and a decentralized form of organization
  • No dogmatic creed, instead an individualized experience of piety and diversity of cults with equal rights
  • The most natural way of life in a highly technical civilization
  • Protection of the environment and fellow creatures
  • Reference to Germanic, Celtic, Wendish neo-paganism. In addition, new pagans feel particularly connected to the still practiced “tribal religions” of other continents, but also to animistic movements in Hinduism , Shintoism in Japan and others
  • Emphasis on the freedom of the individual
  • Appreciation of art and creativity, such as taking up old cultural techniques, handicrafts etc. as part of the re-enactment , e.g. B. at Viking and Middle Ages markets ; intensive music awareness (listening to music, making music, music life)
  • Criticism of monotheistic , hierarchical and dogmatic religions such as Christianity

The spectrum of members of neo-pagan groups is heterogeneous. So far there are only a few uniform, comprehensive organizations or institutions in which the various religions are united. Some are, for example, the Kulturgeister e. V. , the Rabenclan or the Pagan Federation International .

Deities in neopaganism

Many different concepts of the divine exist within Neopaganism . Often, especially pantheism (world = God) is ascribed a great influence on neo-paganism or a neo-pagan tendency is generally attested to pantheism. Currents, which the gods only perceive as allegories , images, principles , embodiments of natural forces or symbols , can be viewed as principally atheistic , on the other hand neo-pagan currents, in which the real existence of the deities is neither affirmed nor denied, can be described as agnostic . While in the goddess spirituality or Wicca the cosmos or the earth is more or less identified with the divine, other directions like Ásatrú are principally cosmotheistic and the gods are not omnipotent , but in principle, like humans, are subject to the laws of the universe.

Some examples:

  • Witchcraft and Wicca: The Wicca belief is sometimes referred to as "duotheism" or "bitheism" due to its focus on the worship of God and Goddess , but in practice this can have different effects, from pantheistic or monistic concepts to Polytheism and henotheism and, where the gods are primarily understood as principles, even as a form of atheism.
  • Goddess Spirituality: Both monotheistic and polytheistic views exist within the Gaia religion or Pandea. Sometimes the goddess is also identified with the female self .
  • Celtic religion: Celtic reconstructionism regards itself as a polytheistic and animistic religion, whereas Druidism has its roots in universalistic and pantheistic beliefs, but is now also open to polytheistic, duotheistic or monistic beliefs. The OBOD even explicitly accepts Christians and Buddhists into its ranks.
  • Germanic religion: Asatru and theodism see themselves primarily as polytheistic religions, whereby in Ásatrú there are also henotheistic tendencies with the concept of "fulltrui". The Ariosophy other hand, is geared monotheistic or even agnostic in the special case when a special reference to God plays no more role.
  • Thelema: Since in Thelema the divine is mostly identified with the ego , Thelema often regards itself as an atheistic teaching, the gods only have roles as principles.
  • Discordianism: The Discordianism has its roots in atheism, and now, however, some fans have begun to understand Discordia as a real goddess.

The theories of the psychologist Carl Gustav Jung , who interpreted the various deities as archetypes of the soul of all people , also had a great influence on Neopaganism . C. G. Jung is used in many currents, such as B. Wicca, received: Thus his mother archetype is identified with the goddess and the father archetype with God and even Jung's theory itself attests to an inherent paganism. On the other hand, however, there are also sharp rejection of a pure view of the gods as parts of the human soul.

Many neo-pagans, however, flatly reject this theological speculation. As in the ancient religions, for them a particular creed and set of dogmas have no particular relevance in practice. Correct action is much more important to them, i.e. that cult activities are carried out carefully and reverently.


Renaissance and Humanism

The roots of Neopaganism date back to the Renaissance when ancient mythology and philosophy were rediscovered. The Byzantine philosopher Georgios Gemistos Plethon , who founded a second Platonic academy and wanted to revive the ancient Greek religion on a Neoplatonic basis, took firmly anti-Christian positions . With the fall of Constantinople Opel in the 15th century, many ancient texts were first known in the West of Europe, was told by the rescue of the Corpus Hermeticum the hermetic a revival as well as astrology and the tarot game came on the first time that today in the occult and parts of modern witchcraft play a major role. Because of their preoccupation with the ancient pagan philosophers, many humanists were accused of being "pagans", especially Epicureans . In fact, this reproach can usually not be substantiated, although many humanists were critical of the church and in particular the classical deities were often mentioned in allegorical form. In some humanists such as Michael Marullus, who was strongly influenced by Neo-Platonism, or Giovanni Pico della Mirandola , one can find forms of worship of nature and pantheism .

18th and 19th centuries

During the French Revolution , attempts were made to create artificial revolutionary cults that were detached from Christianity and that were partly influenced by ancient ideas, such as the cult of reason , in which an allegorical goddess reason was worshiped (e.g. Maximilien de Robespierre with the goddess Isis identified), and the deistic cult of the Supreme Being . Especially in the classical and romantic ages, poets and philosophers took up the Greco-Roman mythologies again. The British Neo-Platonist Thomas Taylor , who openly opposed Christianity, called for a revival of pagan spirituality and Platonic theurgy and sparked the nineteenth-century neo-pagan movement. In search of the early roots of their own national poetry, poets and artists first began to join the Druid Order in Great Britain, whose initially pantheistic, universalistic ideas were more and more influenced by Celtic mythology . The "Gesänge des Ossian ", a work by the Scotsman James Macpherson (1736–1796), triggered a whole series of adaptations of supposedly ancient national epics. From pagan poetry in England some representatives of the neo-pagans moved on to pagan spirituality. The English poet Thomas Jefferson Hogg was known for holding ceremonies in honor of the Greek gods in his home; the history painter Edward Calvert sacrificed to the god Pan and built an altar for him.

Other well-known personalities who devoted themselves to a mixture of romanticism, mythology and occultism at that time included William Butler Yeats , Maud Gonne and Arthur Edward Waite . Paganism, especially the Hellenistic religion, and pantheistic ideas played a major role in the work of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe , and at times also in Heinrich Heine . A pagan tendency is sometimes seen in Friedrich Nietzsche's work , especially in his work The Birth of Tragedy from the Spirit of Music , in which he promises the return of the gods Apollo and Dionysus .

Rodnovian ceremony in Poland

While British Romantics devoted themselves to ancient religion and philosophy, as well as the Celtic heritage, or erroneously misunderstood as Celtic, like Stonehenge , German late Romanticism, misunderstanding Jacob Grimm's “German Mythology” and Johann Gottfried Herder's idea of ​​a folk spirit , began to develop into “Teutonic paganism” reconstruct. At the same time, the “Rodnoverei” movement developed in the Slavic area, a national-romantic, partially Pan-Slavic neo-paganism, as well as the romantic-neo-pagan Romuva Church in the Baltic region. The national romanticism prevailing in Scandinavia also showed neo-pagan traits by concentrating on pre-Christian traditions such as the Finnish Kalevala .

The rediscovery of supposed pre-Christian traditions was received through state propagation of a neo-romantic homeland culture, among other things in popular and folk culture, in the resurgence of carnival and carnival customs, which are essentially a product of the late 19th and 20th centuries. Art Nouveau and the life reform movement partly referred to allegedly pre-Christian traditions, for example with Ludwig Fahrenkrog .

20th century

Key publications in the Anglo-Saxon region

Influential publications of that time included "The Golden Branch" by James George Frazer , "The White Goddess" by Robert Graves and "The Witches Cult in Western Europe" and "God of the Witches" by Margaret Alice Murray as well as "Aradia, or the Gospel of the Witches ”by Charles Godfrey Leland . These books turned out to be particularly important for the goddess spirituality and modern witchcraft, Wicca and Stregheria, but partly also for modern Druidism, as many elements that later appear in Gerald Brosseau Gardner's , among others , were anticipated here for the first time.

Gerald Gardner founded the Wicca religion in the 1920s, which was further developed by Vivianne Crowley and Doreen Valiente . In contrast to most neo-pagan movements, many of the different Wiccan schools developed syncretistically .

Volkish movement

The Externsteine in the Teutoburg Forest , among other things a Germanic place of worship for ethnic groups

German and germanischgläubige communities devoted to the nationalist movement is attributable to the early 20th century, turned away from Christianity and were looking for a species-specific religion. This led to very different religious designs that wanted to tie in with Germanic and German traditions.

Ariosophy was developed in Germany and Austria by Guido von List and Jörg Lanz von Liebenfels , which combined racism and anti-Semitism with Germanic mythology and also made use of elements of modern theosophy . List tried through his writings and the "Hohen-Armanen-Orden" (HAO) to revive a Wotan religion. Runic inscriptions and rites based on Germanic mythology were important; these were also continued by the Germanic Order . The German-believing community and the groups later united in the German Faith Movement , on the other hand, generally did not want a naive resumption of the old Wotan cult, but tried a "synthesis of Germanic spirituality from the Scandinavian sagas and the Icelandic Edda with the German mystical tradition and idealistic philosophy".

Individual National Socialists like Heinrich Himmler were influenced by ariosophical and neo-pagan ideas. Altogether, religious-folk organizations like the Artamanen played an existence as a sectarian splinter group within National Socialism . Under Himmler's protection, neo-pagan standpoints had an intensive influence on individual research projects, for example in the Research Association of German Ahnenerbe or in the subject of legal history .

The history of the impact of ariosophy and völkisch neo-paganism continued in individual groups today, for example in the species community - Germanic faith community with a way of life in keeping with its nature . Some Odinist cults, especially in the USA, go back to Ariosophy , as well as the Arman and Goden orders. Representatives of the New Right with neo-pagan aspects include the French publicist Alain de Benoist and Roberto Fiore ( European National Front ), who refers to Corneliu Zelea Codreanu .

Sigrid Hunke , who was a member of the German Unitarian religious community and later of the Federation of German Unitarians, was the representative of a Unitarian Neopaganism .

Munich cosmologist

Karl Wolfskehl, Alfred Schuler, Ludwig Klages, Stefan George, Albert Verwey

The neopagan-inspired circle of cosmists around Ludwig Klages , Stefan George (at times), Karl Wolfskehl and the mystagogue Alfred Schuler had an impact on various contemporary actors in the esoteric scene and far beyond. Attempts have also been made to revive or construct pagan cults.

Ludwig Klages was received in parts of the nature and homeland movement in the 20th century . Corresponding authors emphasized a nature conservation idea based on the assumed originality, in particular German nature in the tradition of national heritage and landscape protection and an ancient, neo-pagan "natural philosophy".

International renaissance from the 1960s

After the Second World War it was primarily the pagan-occult religious orders and modern Druidism, like the various offshoots of ethnic esotericism, that lived on. It was not until the 1960s and 1970s that the New Age movement brought about a revival of Neopaganism, which has left its mark on international pop culture since the 1980s .

From the early Mesopagan Druid orders, explicit neo-pagan groups such as the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids (OBOD) emerged. The Wicca movement spread across the UK, Europe and the US. In their wake, other forms and expressions of modern witchcraft such as Stregheria or Dianic were popularized and mixed with feminism and ideas of the political left . Since the 1970s, various new forms of Germanic neo-paganism continued to spread, above all the Asatru movement, which arose from the reconstruction of Scandinavian customs. In Germany she tries to break away from " Nazi esotericism ". There are neo-pagan groups that expressly distance themselves from right-wing extremist tendencies and anti-Semitic-racist ideology. Examples of such groups are the stone circle or the raven clan . Reclaiming is a neo-pagan organization for which political commitment to environmental awareness in the sense of deep ecology , feminism and international understanding is part of its self-image. The neo-pagan movement has enjoyed considerable popularity since environmental social criticism in the 1970s. Ecology , holism and spirituality play a central role everywhere . Mostly by way of individual "expansion of consciousness" one would like to arrive at a way of life or at least a worldview "in harmony with nature".

Since the 1980s there has been a trend towards reconstructing religions that attempt to revive the ancient religions from sources, including Celtic reconstructionism and Hellenismos . In today's paganism there is a process of continual differentiation between “traditionalists” and “modernists”. The “traditionalists” try to reconstruct and revive the pre-Christian religions as faithfully as possible with the help of historical science and the old, incomplete traditions. The “modernists” try, based on the current state of scientific knowledge, to live a religion of harmony between nature and human beings - as in animistic religions. They are committed to creating new religious forms. A process of institutionalization has been in place since the 1990s, leading to the formation of umbrella organizations (e.g. "Pagan Federation"). Many neo-pagans, however, reject any form of association as "non-pagan".

Reception of the witch hunt

In the völkisch movement, rationalistic and romantic images of witches from the 19th century were taken up. Most important for the neo-pagan image of witches is the interpretation of Jacob Grimm , who in his German mythology interprets the belief in witches as an expression of the natural cult of our ancestors and traces the witches back to wise women who fulfill a central function in pagan society as healers, seers and priestesses would have. This view has found its way into that of neo-paganism and feminist esotericism and feminist theology . According to the literary scholar Stefanie von Schnurbein , this interpretation has little to do with the modern witch hunt , which also affected men.

Conflicts with monument preservation

Occasionally there are conflicts between neo-paganism, the archeology of prehistory and early history, and the preservation of monuments . On the one hand, “places of power” play an important role in various neo-pagan currents. According to the neo-pagan understanding, special forces emanate from these places, which make them particularly attractive for performing neo-pagan rituals . These include protected soil and natural monuments , actual or supposed cult sites and prehistoric settlement and burial sites such as megaliths , barrows , Iron Age square entrenchments and exposed individual trees .

Some forms of cultic use, such as the construction of stone circles, ditches or similar structures, lead to damage that accumulates in the context of special days such as winter or summer solstice. In particular, heavily frequented “places of power” such as Stonehenge or the Externsteine ​​are tampered with and destroyed. In the 19th century, a direct continuity of Celtic elements into the population structure was sometimes assumed, which on closer inspection usually does not come true.

The practice of neo-pagan religions should and cannot be prevented by the state preservation of monuments and archaeological research institutions, at least as long as it is non-destructive. The concrete use as well as the assumed misuse of archaeological and written sources for the reconstruction of allegedly ancient religions are viewed critically.

Meanwhile, a special charisma, the magic of a place, object or building is an essential prerequisite for the protection status according to the rules and guidelines of monument preservation, whether according to the age value of Alois Riegl or the modern or postmodern monument cult according to Michael Petzet . Petzet sees admiration and respect for monuments as an essential prerequisite for keeping them available for future generations.

Neopagane high strength

meeting Germanic Baltic irish-celtic Alternative name Christian
1st – 2nd February Disting (light festival) Perkūno diena Imbolg Light meas
21-23 March Ostara Pavasario saulėgrįža Latha na Cailliche Spring equinox Easter
April 30–1. May Walpurgis Night Beltane Night on May 1st Labor Day
21-22 June Midsummer , Litha Rasa (Joninės, Lyguo) Oiche Fheile Eoghain Summer solstice St. John's Day
July 31–1. August Reaper Festival Lammas Lughnasadh St. Peter ad Vincula
21-22 September Autumn festival Rudens saulėgrįža Blow to Fhomair Autumn equinox Thanksgiving
October 31–1. November Winter night Vėlinės Samhain Halloween All Saints' Day , Reformation Day
21-22 December Jul , midwinter Žiemos saulėgrįža , Kūčios Dubluachair Winter solstice holy Evening

The dates given are guidelines and are variable due to the position of the sun and moon. For information on the design, see the Celtic annual circle and Wicca annual circle and list of Germanic-Neo-Pagan holidays .

Cultural reception

Popular culture

Some sociologists perceive modern neo-paganism and its use in popular culture as a postmodern phenomenon. In contrast to historical pagans, neo-pagan groups use supposed or traditional set pieces of historical pagan cultures, but they remain part of modern industrial culture , from which they also set themselves apart. In modern witches, for example, a longing for spirituality, the need to rediscover one's own power and strength, as well as an occasional escapist self-staging are noted. In addition, there is commercial use in the sale of services from herbal courses to card reading as well as publications from novels to advice and instruction books.

In the context of the Gaia hypothesis and deep ecology , neo-pagan, animistic beliefs of a continuously animated or animated nature experienced a resumption. In addition, neo-pagan beliefs were more broadly resumed in the 1960s as part of the hippie movement. The close and environmentally friendly relationship of non-Christian, especially Indian cultures to nature, assumed by various sides, does not stand up to closer scrutiny. Individual neo-pagan symbols and anti-Christian affects can be found in countercultural phenomena such as the hippie movement as well as in mass events of totalitarian regimes as well as under the conditions of democratic societies.

For some nationalist European groups, Germanic myths, places like the Externsteine or the Wewelsburg , runes and symbols like the black sun are important. In the mid-1990s, neo-pagan right-wing symbols, forms of expression and the corresponding cultural industry spread into general youth culture , for example through the Thor Steinar fashion brand .

For Camille Paglia , neopaganism is not an outsider culture, but rather expresses itself intensely in popular and pop culture. Paglia denies a social secularization of modernity. The Judeo-Christian culture never defeated paganism, but at most pushed it underground or masked it in a modernist manner.

Literature and theater

According to Karin Hagenguth, neo-Pagan thinking permeated nineteenth-century English literature to a considerable extent. This romantic tendency, as an important representative among others, Samuel Taylor Coleridge , not only rejected rigid cultural and especially ecclesiastical Christian norms, it also gained its strength in the intensive critical monitoring of technical and scientific progress. Among other things, an intensive impetus for modern tourism (cf. Rheinromantik and “ German Forest ”) can be traced back to the works of the English Romantics . Even in modern times, the neo-pagan elements are interpreted as a regularly recurring return to the Dionysian principle , to the rediscovery of access to intoxication .

Fernando Pessoa (drawing by João L. Roth)

A specific expression in the Romance area can be found with the important Portuguese poet and author Fernando Pessoa . On the one hand, Pessoa tried to reconstruct a worldview using the keyword heteronymy that could do without Christianity. He himself not only wrote under a wide variety of heteronyms, but also assigned fictional people with their own biographies, writing styles, topics, motifs and philosophical contexts to them. In addition, he interprets Iberian Catholicism with its extensive veneration of saints as a disguised polytheism, as the continued existence of paganism, which should be worked out, for example, within the framework of a national religion. He referred to Neoplatonism such as Julian the Apostate , as whose reincarnation he felt at times.

In one of his novels, the important Japanese writer, homosexual and right-wing extremist political activist Yukio Mishima has a main character glorify the three-power pact as an alliance of the German forest , the Roman pantheon and Japanese mythology , as the meeting of the pagan male gods of East and West.


Showing the mano cornuta at a metal festival

Neopagan contents and influences can be found in many forms both in pop music and in the musical underground since the 1960s . British R&B and jazz musician Graham Bond played a pioneering role here . Magical-occult content, influenced by Aleister Crowley's Thelema teaching, can be found in the pieces of music. The British hard rock band Led Zeppelin was partly influenced by occult and Celtic themes, and the progressive rock band Black Widow took advice from the well-known Wicca priest Alex Sanders , who designed rituals for their stage show, among other things. Another member of the Wicca movement was the American folk bard Gwydion Pendderwen , who dedicated his albums to the “old religion” and still serves as a model for numerous Wicca or Wicca-influenced progressive and psychedelic folk groups. Today, prominent Wicca and neodruids such as Isaac Bonewits or Ian Corrigan also perform as singer-songwriters in the field of folk music.

At the end of the 1970s, the first neo-pagan-inspired New Age music appeared , which, as well as the incipient industrial movement and the genre of ritual music derived from it, took up pagan and occult content, as well as later the related neo- folk scene and the like. a. Death in June , Rose McDowall or Sixth Comm . Even in the metal sector, pagan and mythological content was processed early on, for example from Black Sabbath with Odin's Court and The Battle of Tyr , or bands like Manowar or Bathory , who often dealt with the Norse legends in their songs. In the early 1990s the sub-genres Pagan Metal and Viking Metal emerged around groups such as Enslaved , In the Woods… , Primordial , Falkenbach and Skyclad , in which neo-pagan content not only plays a role in terms of content, but also mostly understands itself as neopagan Musicians are produced. But also outside of the metal genre, neo-pagan content has made itself felt since the 1990s. B. with the alternative rock bands Godsmack and Rockbitch or the Icelandic singer Björk . Since the mid-1980s, however, neo-pagan themes have also appeared more and more in the context of right-wing extremist music , both in Viking rock , which is considered to be rather "apolitical", and in some openly neo-Nazi right-wing rock and NSBM groups. On the other hand, neo-pagan topics are also dealt with in the context of left-wing radical anarcho-punk and crustcore , for example in the bands The Dagda , Oi Polloi or Earth Culture or the post-punk groups New Model Army . and Killing Joke To groups like Hagalaz 'Runedance , Qntal , Mediæval Bæbes , Omnia or Faun exists with the Pagan-folk now own neopaganes subgenre within the folk and medieval music . There are also some neo-pagan influences in the Gothic scene, such as Dead Can Dance , the shamanic and thelemic inspired Fields of the Nephilim , the death rock group Faith and the Muse or the British Gothic rock band Incubus Succubus who calls her style "Pagan Rock". There are numerous pages of music fans, groups and record labels on the Internet that are specifically aimed at a neo-pagan audience. In the USA, the "Heartland Spiritual Gathering" is a separate neo-pagan music festival for the neo-pagan music market. Neopagan influences can also be found increasingly in the rave scene, where music styles such as trance and Goa refer to ecstatic, shamanoid, trance and states of consciousness changed by psychoactive substances, so experiencing trance mixes with esoteric and pagan ideas to form a form of “techno -paganism ". Pagan elements are also discovered in festivals such as Burning Man .

With fans and outsiders there is sometimes a point of contention as to what can be described as "pagan" and what is not yet. In some cases, the pagan content can be reduced to mere symbolism or relatively superficial gimmicks in the context of New Age esotericism. So use z. For example, some metal bands use neo-paganism for purely aesthetic reasons to constitute the archaic and masculine, such as as a constituent element of the sub-genres Viking Metal and Pagan Metal . In the metal scene, the gesture of the devil's horns , a raised fist with an outstretched index finger and little finger, is sometimes used. In right-wing rock bands, neo-paganism, especially ariosophy, is used for reasons of provocation or in the context of right-wing radical symbolism. However, other groups deal with and identify themselves seriously with pre-Christian religion and philosophy or consist of devout neo-pagans, the German band Rabenschrey , for example, which expresses their convictions in the song Wodans Wölfe, serves as an example . In some cases, music that is definitely not intended by Neo-Pagan, such as Clannad , Enya , Jethro Tull or the Swedish folk rockers Garmarna von Neuheiden, is perceived and referred to as “pagan”. Mythological, spiritual or folkloric content is processed, which appeals to pagan audiences as well as the mainstream.

politics and society

The political orientation of neo-pagan groups is very different. The wiccatum and related movements such as the goddess spirituality are the largest neo-pagan trend according to different estimates of several 1,000 with up to 100,000 followers in Germany. At least in terms of their habitus, they tend to belong to the left part of the political spectrum. Feminism and the protection of the natural environment are important concerns for her. These groups are particularly attractive for women because, unlike the major monotheistic religions, a female deity is also worshiped here and their spiritual needs are specifically taken into account. Some Wicca groups and related directions such as the reclaiming tradition around Starhawk are politically active in the environmental and globalization-critical movement and participate e.g. B. acts of civil disobedience . Within the American neo-pagan scene, Pagan Pride has been a movement since 1997 that seeks to create a positive public image of Neopaganism. For this purpose, Pagan Pride Day festivals are organized around the world , the proceeds of which go to charitable purposes such as environmental protection, animal welfare and victims of domestic violence .

In neugermanischen Paganism next explicitly exist anti-fascist groups like the Nornirs ätt also racist or those biologistic , bioregionalistische and ethnopluralistische ideas represented, the Odinic Rite , the from in Germany Association for Germanic paganism seceded. The species community is part of the right-wing extremist scene and represents racist ideas. Neo- pagan annual circle celebrations at the summer and winter solstice are also an important element of the activities of right-wing extremist youth groups. These celebrations serve to strengthen your own identity and inner cohesion and to set yourself apart from other groups. The neo-pagan ideology also allows women in right-wing extremism to play an essential role.

Terms and symbols from Norse mythology such as the Thor's hammer are used in Neuheiden as well as in many youth cultures, e.g. B. those that are attributed to the black scene , widespread. They have been increasingly used by right-wing extremists since the second half of the 1990s, but are not per se any indication of right-wing extremist attitudes. Due to the problem of right-wing extremist movements within Neopaganism, individual initiatives arose to counteract ideological appropriation, including the campaign paganism is not fascism. Gentiles for human rights .

Racist Wotan cult in the USA

In the US one has to distinguish between the cosmopolitan Ásatrú associations, which make up the majority of the neo-pagans, and some smaller racist sects, which reject the Christian heritage of the West. In their sometimes brutal demarcation policy, the latter resemble the even more influential representatives of a racist Christian identity movement , which also includes the Ku Klux Klan and the terrorist organization Aryan Nations . The "front line of racist paganism" - with supporters also in Europe, South Africa and Australia - forms an Odin - (Wotan) cult, whose origins lie in the German and Austrian folk movement, with the ariosoph Guido von List, the Armanen Order and the German-believing community .

Racist Odinism in the USA was founded in 1969 with the Odinist Fellowship Else Christensens, who had belonged to the left Strasser wing of the Danish National Socialist Workers' Party in the 1930s . It was influenced by Carl Gustav Jung , among others , and saw archetypes of the unconscious in his terminology as being race-specific.

Steve McNallen's Ásatrú Free Assembly (AFA) was more interested in rituals and Nordic magic than in systems of thought . Its attempts from 1978 to remove racists and neo-Nazis from the AFA led to more radical activities in the Odinist movement. Wyatt Kaldenberg published vulgar, violence-glorifying tirades in his magazine Pagan Revival during the 1990s, in which he expressed his Manichean worldview: He saw history as a battle between the divine Aryans and the anti-nature forces of Judean Christianity.

The neo-Nazi organization White Aryan Resistance was founded by the former Ku Klux Klan leader Tom Metzger, who was influenced by Aryan Nations and leads them to this day. Kaldenberg also wrote articles for White Aryan Resistance . Mention must also be made of Wotansvolk , founded in 1995 by David and Katja Lane and Ron McVan.

See also



  • Jürgen Beyer: The center of Europe is on the edge of the West. Estonia at the center of European cultural influences . In: Kathrin Pöge-Alder, Christel Köhle-Hezinger (Eds.): Central Europe, Central Europe. Europe as a cultural construction (= series of publications by the Collegium Europaeum Jenense, vol. 36). Collegium Europaeum Jenense, Jena 2008, ISBN 978-3-933159-14-4 , pp. 111-134.
  • Hubert Cancik : Neuheiden and total state. Ethnic religion at the end of the Weimar Republic. In the S. (Ed.): Religious and intellectual history of the Weimar Republic. Patmos-Verlag, Düsseldorf 1982, ISBN 3-491-77248-6 , pp. 176-212.
  • Henning Eichberg : Are the old gods coming back? Germanic paganism in 19/20. Century - On the Genesis of Alternative Myths. In: Bernd Thum (Ed.): Presence as a cultural heritage. A contribution from German studies to cultural studies in German-speaking countries. Iudicium, Munich 1985, pp. 131-172, ISBN 3-89129-022-5 .
  • Ulrich Kaiser: Esoteric on the Internet: the complete information highway offer: Cyber ​​religions, neo-paganism, Freemasons, I Ching, new witches, PSI, Voodoo, Tarot and much more ... , Heyne, Munich 1997, ISBN 3-453-12302 -6 .
  • Aidan A. Kelly: Neo-Pagans and the New Age. In: John Gordon Melton, Jerome Clarke, Aidan A. Kelly (Eds.): New Age Encyclopedia . Gale Research Publ. Detroit 1990, ISBN 0-8103-7159-6 , pp. 311-315.
  • Uwe Puschner : Weltanschauung and religion, religion and worldview. Ideology and forms of ethnic religion. In: Zeitblicke , Vol. 5 (2006), No. 1. online .
  • Stefanie von Schnurbein: The search for a "specific" religion in 'Germanic' and 'German-believing' groups. In: Uwe Puschner, Walter Schmitz and Justus H. Ulbricht (eds.): Handbook on the “Völkische Movement” 1871–1918. Saur, Munich a. a. 1996, ISBN 3-598-11421-4 , pp. 172-185.
  • Marc R. Spindler: Europe's Neo-Paganism. A perverse inculturation. In: International Bulletin of Missionary Research 11/1 (1987), ISSN  0272-6122 , pp. 8-11.
  • Justus H. Ulbricht: German-believing and German-believing groups. In: Diethart Kerbs, Jürgen Reulecke (Ed.): Handbook of German Reform Movements 1880-1933. Peter Hammer, Wuppertal 1998, ISBN 3-87294-787-7 , pp. 499-511.


  • Otto Bischofsberger et al. (Ed.): The new paganism. A return to the old gods or a new message of salvation? Contributions by Otto Bischofsberger, Peter Hölzle, Stefanie von Schnurbein (= Weltanschauungen im Interview , Volume 14), Paulusverlag, Friborg 1996, ISBN 3-7228-0383-7 .
  • David Burnett: Dawning of the Pagan Moon. Eastbourne 1991
  • Richard Faber , Renate Schlesier (ed.): The restoration of the gods. Ancient religion and neo-paganism . Königshausen + Neumann, Würzburg 1986, ISBN 3-88479-211-3
  • René Founder: Germanic (new) paganism in Germany. Origin, structure and symbol system of an alternative religious field (= Perilog 2), Logos, Berlin 2009, ISBN 978-3-8325-2106-6 .
  • Charlotte Hardman, Graham Harvey (Eds.): Paganism Today. Wiccans, driuds, the goddesses and ancient earth traditions for the twenty-first century . Thorsons Press, London 1996, ISBN 0-7225-3233-4 .
  • Victoria Hegner: Witches of the Big City. Urbanity and new religious practice in Berlin. transcript, Bielefeld 2019, ISBN 978-3-8376-4369-5 .
  • Ronald Hutton: The Triumph of the Moon. A History of Modern Pagan Witchcraft . University Press, Oxford 2000, ISBN 0-19-820744-1 .
  • Joanne Pearson (Ed.): Nature Religion Today. Paganism in the Modern World . University Press, Edinburgh 1998, ISBN 0-7486-1057-X .
  • Shelley Rabinovitch, James Lewis (Eds.): The Encyclopedia of Modern Witchcraft and Neo-Paganism . Citadel Press, New York 2003, ISBN 0-8065-2407-3 .
  • Uwe Puschner: The nationalist movement in the Wilhelmine Empire. Language - race - religion. Scientific Book Society, Darmstadt 2001, ISBN 3-534-15052-X
  • Sian Reid (Ed.): Between the Worlds. Readings in Contemporary Neo-Paganism. Canadian Scholars' Press, Toronto 2006, ISBN 978-1-55130-314-7 .
  • Stefanie von Schnurbein: Religion as a cultural criticism. New Germanic paganism in the 20th century. Carl Winter, Heidelberg 1992, ISBN 3-533-04582-X .
  • David Waldron: The Sign of the Witch. Modernity and the Pagan Revival. Carolina Academic Press, Durham, NC 2008, ISBN 978-1-59460-505-5 .
  • Karlheinz Weißmann : Druids, Goden, wise women. Back to Europe's old gods. Herder, Freiburg im Breisgau 1991, ISBN 3-451-04045-X .

Web links

Commons : Neopaganism  - collection of images, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Neuheide  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Wiktionary: Neo-Paganism  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

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