History of Neo-Paganism and Druidry

1. Define Paleopaganism, Mesopaganism, and Neopaganism, giving examples of each. (minimum 100 words for each)

Paleopagans were the oldest followers of the old Gods, for our purposes specifically, that of the Indo-European world.  The term “Paleopagans” does however include the entire gamut of the original polytheistic religions of not only Europe but also of Africa, Asia and the Americas and technically this also includes Hinduism, Taoism and Shinto (Bonewits, Defining Paganism: Paleo-, Meso-, and Neo- (Version 2.5.1)).  These were the “first” Pagans.  Under this definition it may be assumed that Paleopagans are not necessarily extinct but that there are modern day Paleopagans following those Eastern philosophies (i.e. Taoists) still today.  Isaac Bonewits defines Celtic Paleopagans as the first Celtic people living in central Europe around 750-500 BCE during the first phase, and then lists a second phase he calls “La Tene” after a lake in Switzerland around 500 BCE to 50 CE (Bonewits 41).

Mesopaganism (term coined by Isaac Bonewits) refers to the revival movement of Paganism (and those that continue today following this vein of Paganism) that attempted (or continues to attempt) in recreating Paleopaganism fueled by a spectrum of motives and methods ranging from the well meaning and honest desire to rediscover and restore the “ancient ways,” to in a few cases, unsavory manipulations.  These were founded on assorted combinations of scanty archeology and unclear historical facts, romanticism and romanticized fiction, unproven “family traditions” and in some cases downright forgeries.  This “flavor” of Paganism was and in many cases still is heavily influenced by dualistic, monotheistic and non-theistic religions (Bonewits, Defining Paganism: Paleo-, Meso-, and Neo- (Version 2.5.1)) as well as the “high magic” or ceremonial traditions. These Mesopaganism traditions include the aforementioned “family traditions” as well as but not limited to:  Hermeticism, Golden Dawn, Rosecrucian, Gardnerians, Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids (which in ways can be also classified as Neopaganism), the RDNA (Reformed Druids of North America), Mahayana Buddhism and Freemasonry. It cannot be assumed that any or all of these varieties of Mesopaganism are worthless in building current traditions, however, simply because they are not necessarily based on hard facts.  Paleopaganism was not founded on factual evidence either and unverified personal gnosis goes a long way in any spiritual path.

Neopaganism (coined in the ’60’s and ’70’s by Oberon Zell) refers to the movement starting around 1960 CE which also came about as an attempt to recreated and revive Paleopaganism but blended modern aspects and in some cases political agendas such as fighting for changes in the treatment of the environment and equality in genders and sexual orientation while making an effort to weed out the influence of dualism and monotheistic ideals. This included bringing back the practice of acknowledging a multitude of gods.  ADF Druidry falls into this category (Bonewits, Defining Paganism: Paleo-, Meso-, and Neo- (Version 2.5.1)).

Not all modern groups practicing Paganism today can fall strictly into only one of the above classifications as they are not truly clear-cut, the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids (OBOD) being a classic example.


2.   Name and describe several of the literary sources that contributed to Neopaganism in the first quarter of the 20th century, and discuss their impact on its development. (minimum 300 words)

The first and foremost I believe to be The Golden Bough and was first published in 1890 as a two volume set and then later in 1906-1915 in twelve volumes.  It can be currently found in a hefty paperback abridged version.  This book was penned by Sir James George Frazer, a Scottish anthropologist, and is said to have influenced Margaret Murray, whom I will discuss in a moment.  The Golden Bough is written in promotion of the idea that the ancient Pagan religions were founded on fertility worship and supported this thesis using mythologies that revolved around the idea of the cyclical worship and sacrifice of the sacred king.  This book became a catalyst that spawned a romanticized “revival” of goddess and fertility groups which bred much of the later Wiccan movement.

Margaret Murray was an anthropologist and Egyptologist who was known to be influenced by Frazer’s work.  Though she is known primarily for her Egyptology, she is known for several bodies of her written work supporting the “Witch-cult Hypothesis” which was started by other authors such as Karl Ernst Jarcke and Jules Michelet with her own “The Witch-Cult in Western Europe” which was first published in 1921 and is still in print.  Based on her scientific background as an anthropologist and Egyptologist, her work was generally believed to be accurate, became quite popular and came to inspire the founding of small modern (modern as of the 1940’s) covens and is said to have inspired Gerald Gardner who is generally thought of as the father and founder of Wicca.  Though Murray’s work in regard to witchcraft and Paganism has been criticized heavily to the point of making it more of a fiction than a book of factual study, the influence it spawned cannot be discounted.  Any Neopagan groups that hold to the year’s 8 sabbats and monthly lunar esbats can look back to Murray’s work.

This brings us to Gerald Gardner, an amateur anthropologist and archeologist who developed Gardnerian Wicca and initiated others who would go onto notoriety such as Patricia Crowther and Doreen Valiente and Sybil Leek. He was also later associated with Aleister Crowley.  Gerald Gardner claimed to have met practicing witches in the 1930’s and supported the witch-cult hypothesis of the ’20s and ’30’s.   His “Witchcraft Today” was first printed in 1954 and his “The Meaning of Witchcraft” in 1959.  While his work was not that of the first quarter of the 20th century as is required of this question posed for this course, I think it’s important to mention as a line can be drawn from Frazer to Murray to Gardner who then spawned a plethora of Wiccan branches.

Another important literary source that cannot be missed is “The White Goddess” by Robert Graves which being first published in 1948, which again, does not qualify as falling in the first quarter of the 20th century as is asked for in answering this course’s question, but it is an important literary source in the development of Neopaganism for its inspiration factor with its poetry in goddess worship.

One more book that actually does qualify as coming from the first quarter of the 20th century would be “Aradia” (aka “Gospel of the Witches”) by Charles Godfrey Leland in 1899.  Aradia is a book that Leland wrote as a translation of what he believed was a tale of Diana, Queen of the witches who bore a child sired by Lucifer.  Diana named the daughter Aradia and the child’s purpose in life was to teach the oppressed peasants how to use witchcraft to battle against their oppressor, the Catholic Church.  He claims the story was brought to him by a woman named Maddalena who claimed she was a descendant from a witch family (Adler 54-55).  In the story, when Aradia is born and descends to Earth, she becomes the first witch. The historian, Ronald Hutton challenges the authenticity of Leland’s sources.  Regardless, this book became important to Neopaganism, particularly in Wiccan sects that came to use Aradia’s name as their Moon Goddess.  Leland’s book is said to have influenced Gerald Gardner (particularly his Charge of the Goddess in his book “Gardnerian Book of Shadows”) as well as influencing Alex Sanders, the Farrar’s, and Z. Budapest (Nachete93).

The most important book to me personally, however, that took me on a side-trip away from Wicca and the Goddess Worship strains of Neopaganism is a book I found in 1984 titled “The Druids” written by Stuart Piggott and published in 1968.  This is well beyond the timeline of the question presented but influenced me personally nonetheless as it was the first book that made me examine the previous books I’d read in a different light and I started mentally categorizing them as to what could be called romanticized poetry or conjecture opposed to what could possibly be supported by archeological facts.



3. Describe several examples of authentic folk customs absorbed into Neopaganism, and describe how they have been adapted. (minimum 300 words)

This is a tricky question because one has to decide how far back a custom must be a practiced tradition before it can be called authentic.  The first legal reference to the Maypole may be in 1583 when a puritan named Phillip Stubbs wrote negatively about them in his “The Anatomy of Abuses”[1] (Stubbes).  The Maypoles had been banned as heathen totems at the time period of Stubb’s writings, and he speaks of it again in part II, Chapter 1 in “The Maner of Maie-Games in England” where he says “Folks spend the night in the woods, draw the Maypole home with oxen, and dance around it” (Archives).  They are phallic representations of fertilizing Mother Earth around Beltaine. 

Clootie trees and wells are associated with Scotland and Ireland where strips of cloth are tied to branches of the trees and prayers and offerings are made to the wells which may be a continuation of a Celtic custom of leaving offerings at wells and pits. Piggott points to a the tradition of depositing offerings into wells and pits dating into the second and third century BC, finding nearly two thousand objects at a sites such as La Tene, Lake Neuchatel and Llyn Cerrig Bach in Anglesey (Piggott 83).

That bonfires are a part of pagan past celebrations that have been revived or adopted into Neopagan times is quite common and one would have to be blind to not trip over the multitude of references towards the bonfires and their meanings.  For Beltane the fires are specifically for purification as Bonewits states, “…to the ancient Celts, as with all the Indo-European Paleopagans, fire was a physical symbol of divination, holiness, truth and beauty…Whether in Ireland or India, among the Germans or the Hittites, sacred fires were apparently kindled on every important religious occasion” and it still is to this day (Bonewits, Bonewit’s Essential Guide to Druidism 182).

Another lovely tradition is the corn dollies made of straw and has been a part of European custom since before Christianity.  They can be found in Prussia where they are called Old Woman” and were said to also be found in 7th century Germany.  They were made of straw, wheat, barley, rush leaves and in the south of France area they were made of palm leaves. Though commonly in modern paganism they are mostly associated with Brigid and Imbolc where a corn dolly is made, dressed with ribbons and decorations is laid in a little bed made for it.


4.  Of the following names, identify and explain the importance each has had in Neopagan history and/or the magical revival (minimum 100 words for each):

1.         Gerald Gardner: (1884-1964) Gardner was an anthropologist, archeologist, nudist and writer, he is most importantly known to Neopaganism as the Father of Wicca, founding Gardnerian Wicca and he influenced the likes of Valiente, Crowther and Aleister Crowley.  He wrote Witchcraft Today in 1954 and The Meaning of Witchcraft in 1959. He claimed to have been initiated into The Craft by a wealthy woman named “Old Dorothy” Clutterbuck who may (if she actually ever existed) or may not have actually been a teacher named Edith Woodford-Grimes (aka Dafo), who actually did exist and was a friend (and/or secret lover) of Gardner for a great many years. He coined the phrase “cone of power” and later he joined the Ordo Templi Orientis with Crowley and ran a museum dedicated to magic and witchcraft (Midnightblueowl) (Adler 58-61).

2.         Robert Graves: (1895-1985) Graves was an English poet producing over 140 works, a writer and translator, he is best known of importance to Neopaganism for his “The White Goddess” published in 1948 in which depicts a “White Goddess of Birth, Love and Death” (LaaknorBot) and he is said to have inspired Gerald Gardner along with a great many others interested in Goddess worship, and thus, was important to invention and evolution of Wicca. His more commercially successful writings include King Jesus, and The Golden Fleece, as well as two works, I, Claudius and Claudius the God of which he won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize. Something new that I learned in researching Graves is that in 1927 he wrote Lawrence of the Arabs which was a very successful biography of Thomas Edward Lawrence, a story of which in 1962 was filmed as Lawrence of Arabia staring Peter O’Toole (Ebrambot) (Bovineboy2008).

3.         Dion Fortune: (1890-1946) Fortune was born Violet Mary Firth Evans but was better known as Dion Fortune, a name taken from her family’s motto of “Deo, non fortuna” meaning “by God, not Faith.) She was a writer of fiction tales such as Sea Priestess, The Secrets of Dr. Taverner, and Moon Magic as well as non-fiction titles such as The Mystical Qabalah, Applied Magic, and Psychic Self-Defense, all of which were seeped in the occult.  Dion Fortune is said to have inspired Marion Zimmer Bradley with the writing of Bradley’s book, Mists of Avalon which in itself inspired a great many more to Neopaganism.  She is also credited with organizing a meditation group that attempted to fight for Britain during the 2nd World War which is documented in letters to students and was later published as Dion Fortune’s Magical Battle of Britain (Cydebot).

4.         Oberon Zell: (1942-   ) One of the more colorful characters in Pagan history, Oberon was born Timothy Zell in St. Louis Missouri and has gone by several names including Otter G’Zell and currently as Oberon Zell-Ravenheart.  He describes himself as a wizard and Headmaster of the Grey School of Wizardry.  He is one of the founders of the Church of All Worlds, a Neopagan religious order inspired by a fictional church of the same name written in Robert A. Heinlein’s “Stranger in a Strange Land” (Adler 300-334). Rather than looking to the past, the CAW focuses on science fiction, fiction of the future.  Another of Zell’s accomplishments, one of which is particularly important in Neopagan history is that he is the publisher of the Green Egg Magazine, which in its apex was an extremely important publication for networking Pagans before the rise of the internet.  He has authored a great many books and of his artistic sculptures, I’d predict that his Gaia is the most well known, and is quite lovely indeed (Zell-Ravenheart) (Rosencomet) (Adler 300-301).

5.         Starhawk (1951 –    ) Born Miriam Simos, she has penned eleven books including Neopagan works as well as science fiction.  The most well known of her books is “The Spiral Dance” and this book along with many of her others has had a huge influence on Goddess worshippers.   Her writings have been translated in many languages across the world (Starhawk).  She was involved in politics and as of Drawing Down the Moon’s 2006 publication, Starhawk had been arrested more than twenty times in her protests.  She has been listed as a leader in teaching ritual and leadership skills to covens across the United States and Europe (Adler 406-407).  Besides her influence to Wicca, spiritual feminism and the Goddess movement, she is one among the numbers who have joined the service of Pagan Clergy, where rather than taking on the roll of Priest/ess leading at small Coven rites, there is a now a growing emergence of Clergy and congregation, with the Clergy serving a bigger role than leading those High Day rites but in also serving in community building and as members of larger organizations than small covens (Adler 450).

6.         Isaac Bonewits:  (1949-2010) Phillip Emmons Isaac Bonewits was a prominent Neopagan and influential force in the Neopagan and Druidry movement, publishing several books, one of which really stuck a chord with me, “Real Magic.” He was the first and only person to graduate from UC Berkeley with a Bachelor of Arts in Magic, the only kind of degree in Magic ever from any accredited university.  He coined phrases such as Paleopagansim, Mesopagansim, and wrote the Advanced Bonewits Cult Danger Evaluation Frame (ABCDEF) which is still in use with some governments (Saretto).

He founded Ár nDraíocht Féin: A Druid Fellowship in 1984 and ADF was incorporated in 1990 as a U.S. 501©3 non-profit organization.  He was loved in some circles and hated in others, particularly because of his debunking Neopagan groups professing to claims of traditions passed down unbroken from Paleopagan times.  While he pointed out nothing ill of the “traditions” themselves, it was their claims of restoring a secretly surviving craft of a universal “Old Religion” and their lack of historical proof that he spoke out against as he set forth in trying to establish legitimacy in Neopaganism founded in facts rather than romanticized fantasy.   He argued that there was never such a thing as the “Unitarian Old Religion of White Witches,” as he called it (Adler 65) and that while he conceded that there may have been some richer families (the rich don’t get persecuted as often) that may have retained some of their old traditions, there was actually no proof of any secret organized religious movement keeping the “old religion” alive in the Middle Ages (Adler 67).

This argument to establish proof and base tenets  on more concrete facts rather than fantasy was an important step, I believe, in moving Neopagan spirituality/religions towards a more widely accepted  ligitmacy into the mainstream.   A foundation based on fantasy is easily scoffed at and dismissed.  A foundation based in honesty in regard to their creation has more solid legs to stand on, and for me personally, Bonewits’ humor and spiritual outlook founded on his demand to ground one’s variety of esoteric beliefs found in Neopaganism in an envelope of public honesty towards their backgrounds and history rather than cloak it in secrecy and fabrications, is the very reason I looked to ADF as my own choice in religion.

7.         Ross Nichols: (1902-1875) Nichols was the founder of the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids (OBOD) in 1964 and was a chairman of the Ancient Druid Order (ADO) which by some accounts claims a lineage tracing back to 1717 (see question 9 below.)  Ross was a friend of the aforementioned Gerald Gardner and while Gardner was putting breath to Wicca, Ross was stirring interest in Celtic spirituality, Druidry in particular (Yobot).  OBOD embraced teaching their members through a mail order course which now employs not only written material but offers the each course on DVD format.  This mail order method made it possible for members to participate in the program at long distances and has since survived its founder (led now by Phillip Carr-Gomm) and is believed to be the largest Neodruid organization in the world with an estimated 8,000 members (The Order of Bards, Ovates & Druids, FAQ page).

8.         MacGregor Mathers: (1854-1918) Born Samuel Liddell Mathers, he was one of the three founders of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn (Cathbhadh).  More simply called “The Golden Dawn,” (not to be confused with a newer incarnation of the now defunct original order that currently also goes by “The Golden Dawn”) and in some circles called the “Holy Order of the Golden Dawn” (Alder 80).  The order was quite a large magical order in Great Britain in the late 19th century to early 20th century and though none of the temples of this original order continue today, there are several organizations that have revived the teachings including the Rosecrucian Order of the Golden Dawn (ROGD) and the aforementioned newer descendent of the order, Order of the Golden Dawn. The original order had a large influence on Western occultism combining traditions of Thelema and Wicca with High Ceremonial Magick, with an initiation process akin to Freemasonry’s Lodges.  Mathers was, in fact, once a member of a Freemason Lodge which is where likely borrowed his ideas from .  Of the three founders of the HOGD (the others being William Woodman and William Westcott),  Mathers became more well known due to his translations of books such as “The Key of Solomon”, “The Lesser Key of Solomon” and “The Kabbalah Unveiled.” He was also, notably, an enemy of Aleister Crowley, another heavy hitter in the history of magical revivals.


5. Compare and contrast your understanding of three various forms of Neopaganism, such as Wicca, Asatru, eclectic Neopaganism, shamanism, and discordianism. (minimum 300 words):

All of these forms fall under the umbrella of Neopaganism that they do not embrace the dualistic religious philosophy of good versus evil and they are all a type of reconstructionism except perhaps for Discordianism.

Wicca is rooted in the worship of God and Goddess, the sexual duality of male and female in divinity, and quite often the Goddess is depicted in one of three aspects, Maiden, Mother or Crone.  They hold the 8 High Days common to Neopagans, with rites that involve drawing a circle either to keep out evil influences or to contain a cone of power that is built up within the circle.  They connect many aspects such as directional points with colors and elements (blue, green, red and yellow with water, earth, fire and air) and often include invoking the Watchtowers in their invocations.

Asatru is based in a Germanic hearth culture, also called Norse Heathenism and has grown a great deal in popularity since the 1970’s.  Asatru is polytheistic with a basis in existing historical records such as the Norse Eddas with deities such as Odin, Thor and Frigga who fall into one of three categories, the Aesir, the Vanir and the Jotnar.  Modern Asatru followers point to the Hávamál for a list of Nine Virtues, those of Courage, Truth, Honor, Fidelity, Discipline, Hospitality, Industriousness, Self-Reliance and Perserverance.  Their religious celebrations fall closely in line with modern Pagan holidays (i.e. Valpurgis falls on April 30th rather than celebrating the Wicca Beltane of May 1st) and they call these holidays “blots.”  These celebrations do not involve the ritual drawing of a circle, though an area is sanctified, mead (or drink) is hallowed, a blessing is performed and there is a sharing of the hallowed drink, and an offering is made to the deities. This falls more in line with the ADF style of rituals than Wicca.

Eclectic Neopaganism is an umbrella term for Neopaganists who combine the best elements (for them) of a variety of NeoPagan systems to one that works individually for their personal spiritual practice.  This may combine Wicca, Asatru, High Magic and Kitchen Witchery among the mix.  In my search for finding a defined path that worked for me, this is precisely where my own spiritual practice fell and the path I raised my children in, taking pieces of philosophies and different traditions and combining them into a system that worked well for teaching my children a variety of Pagan workings, neo-traditions and beliefs.  Before the internet, when Neopagans found themselves far apart and communication wasn’t instant as in today’s times, many found themselves solitary, without teachers, and it’s estimated that a great majority of NeoPagans in North America were of the self taught, Eclectic variety, combining pieces of paths from whatever they could get their hands on and minds into.

Shamanism: Shamanism is quite often mis-defined and attributed to either the North American tribal “medicine man” or African “witch doctor” but in truth the reality is the Shaman comes historically from the Tungusic cultures of ancient Siberia.  They played an important part of belief systems of ancient Turkic, Hungarian and Bulgar people.  Magic practitioners in other parts of the world with similar practices are often called Shamans, but the earliest archaeological evidence shows shamans in what is now the Czech Republic in the Upper Paleolithic era.  Shamans of the past and modern Shamans of today, regardless of location across the globe, play the role of healers by entering into the spirit world.  Ecstatic trance is often involved, and the Shaman traveled the Axis Mundi to get there.  Their spirit guides are said to be always present within the shaman and enables the Shaman to enter the spiritual dimension where they do their healing work. They also act as mediators between the living community of this world to the community of the spirit world, and they preserve traditions by telling stories and songs and leading sacrificial rites.

Discordiansim: This is the one I actually had to look up for information as I’ve rarely heard this term in the 30 years I’ve been practicing Paganism beyond reading about it in “Drawing Down the Moon” by Margot Adler.  Discordianism is a religion that believes that chaos is all there is.  There is no balance or war between disorder and order, it’s just Chaos, Chaos is all.  Discordians follow the diety Eris (Greek) or Discordia (Latin).  Adler calls these “Erisians” a “Neo-Pagan phenomenon that will never become too serious: the Erisian movement and groups connected with it have been engaging in absurdist and surrealist activities for many years” (Adler 343) and that one of their mottoes is “We Discordians Shall Stick Apart” (Adler 347). .  She goes on to state that the Discordian Society was founded in 1957-58, and that there was an Erisian notice in the Green Egg publication that stated that “the Erisian path generally appealed to those who have ‘an affinity toward taoisim, anarchy and clowning around…'” She believes that Discordianism is a “satire on human intelligence and is based on the idea that whatever your map of reality, it’s ninety percent your own creation” (Adler 349).

6. Discuss the origins and practices of hermetic or ceremonial magic, and how they have influenced Neopaganism. (minimum 300 words):

Hermetic/Ceremonial or High Magick (that is magic spelled with a K at the end per Aleister Crowley) are the labels to the description of intricate, lengthy and detailed ritual theater enacted by occultists that incorporates many movements, symbols and elements where metaphysics combine with spirituality. It became popular in the19th century which influenced the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn I’d talked about previously while pointing out MacGregor Mathers as an important name of influence to the NeoPagan movement that would follow.  Where spirituality once came in the form of influence of religion and the deities, Ceremonial Magic on the other hand brought in the “science” of attributes that could be found in the astronomic geometry of astrology, the science of chemistry with the influence of alchemy and herbology, the science of varying physical composition of stones and gems attributing to the varying magical attributes that could be assigned to those gems.

This all occurred in an era where science was gaining over religion in the measurement of what made man a civilized creature.  Rationality and reason became popular with the human sciences of Freud and Jung, the study of the mind and “altered states” that were studied as well as the paranormal investigations of Oliver Lodge  and Frederic Myer’s “Human Personality and Its Survival of Bodily Death.”

Society quit looking at “how to go to heaven” but instead looked to “how the heavens go” and all this science flavored High Magick in the 19th century which in turn affected Neopaganism as it began its infant stirrings in the so-called modernity of the times.  Spirituality combined with science became popular with the society clubs that sprung up across England in those times, and they came forth with a mix of heraldry to old mythologies combined with these new magical “sciences” of the 19th century’s High Magicians, incorporating these things such as astrology, elemental assignments and the power of gems and herbs, numerology and the “science” of studying the bumps on one’s head (phrenology) combined into the physical acts of ritual, the practices of spiritual works and traditions of country folk and their healers, along with the romanticized pageantry of the medieval days of knights and wizards (and forgetting the medieval horrors of poverty, disease and mistreatment of the poor) congealed into what would become the foundation of modern day Neopagansim today.


7. Discuss the influence of the Pagan festival movement, and how the festivals changed Paganism in the 1980s. (minimum 100 words)

This question and the one that follows are connected, as they both touch on the importance of communication and the power of numbers.  Communication pre-internet was slow, Neopagans were separated by distances, and most practiced their religion privately and because they kept their religion closeted, they wore very little in the way of identifying themselves as Neopagans in the form of jewelry or clothing (where in contrast, any Christian could identify another with wearing a cross, a Jew by wearing a Star of David) so finding each other was difficult.  When the Pagan Festivals started in the 1980’s, suddenly people were able to find each other, come out of their closets and began the slow process of opening up about their beliefs with others.  They discovered that they were not alone, that there were others out there sharing in their beliefs with enough people to carry out successful attendance to these festivals.  Strength and confidence came with those growing numbers, and more people were able to come out of their closets and declare their Neopagan beliefs. In attending these festivals, the movement grew, the numbers grew, and more people became more confident to stand out of their closets and declare who they really were, what they really believed in, with the emotional security that they were no longer alone.

8. Discuss the influence of the Internet, and how it has changed Paganism in the 1990s (minimum 100 words)

The internet caused an explosion of information in every aspect, including Neopaganism.  Communication and organization of those festivals came quicker and more efficient.  More people had access to larger vaults of digital information on Paganism, and more pagans found other pagans to join together with in common ideology.  Mail-order courses in pagan schools became online courses.  The growth of available information saw with it a growth of Neopagan followers as they were more readily able to explore the variety of paths, the many opportunities to find spiritual learning and the camaraderie of others through Pagan forums, Pagan chat rooms, Pagan dating sites, and online shopping to find those books on Neopaganism and online places to purchase deity statues of whatever pantheon the creative pagans could sculpt.

I think most importantly however, is the effect of “exposure.”  Not only are Neopagans exposed to others, but non pagans are as well are exposed to the Pagans, and with consistent and continual exposure, eventually a society comes to accept that something is not just going to go away if they close their eyes.  Furthermore, this accelerated exposure of Paganism to non paganists can act towards dissolving unwarranted fears of the unknown.  More people are seeing other choices than their great grandmother’s religion, and more people are seeing there are other religions that are moving into the mainstream and that perhaps it’s time to learn to coexist.

I have to be honest here, a little something about the internet…were it not for the internet I’d have been unable to answer question eleven of this course with the required 600 words, because all I could find with the reference material that I could actually get my hands on in the recommended reading list in the way of branches coming away and from the ADF is the Henge of Keltria.  But behold the wonders of the internet…I “googled” and “Binged” myself bloodshot until I “googled” Isaac Bonewits and Carleton (where the RDNA started) together and found http://orgs.carleton.edu/Druids/ARDA/.   I think I’d really like to print and bind the full copy of the set of documents on that site because it’s a pretty darn good read.  This is but one example of its effect on paganism, not to mention that were it not for this magical conduit of data and information called “the web,” it might have been yet another score of years before I’d have even found ADF at all, which would have been a damn shame for me, as I’ve spent 45 of my near 52 years searching for a religious home that fit my personal gnosis with such perfection as I discovered here with ADF.

Information and choices, networking and connecting, the internet has been a huge boon for Paganism across the world. So all hail the internet and it’s magical web, because with proper use and attention to protecting one self’s and security, “the web” is a thing of knowledge and freedom.



9. Discuss the origins of the Druidic revival in 18th and 19th century England, naming its key players and describing their contributions. (minimum 600 words)

When England moved out of the Medieval eras of oppression by the Church, it moved first to the Age of Reason of the 17th Century, then into the Age of Enlightenment in the early 1800’s with its focus on Western philosophy and scientific rationalization of nature, and then civilization moved in the mid 1800’s into the Romantic era which was a bit of a revolt of that focus on the scientific and turned to the enjoyment of the arts of music and literature, and also turned to an intellectual movement to revive some of the medieval elements through a romanticized outlook.  Medieval oppression was forgotten and knights were viewed in shining armor with tales of chivalry.  While people were listening to Mozart and Beethoven, they were also reading books based on the supernatural and occult mixed with human psychology such as tales authored by Nathaniel Howard and Edgar Allen Poe, and translations of the medieval writings of Táin Bó Cúailnge.  A popular interest in Celtic stories and history arose and people became interested in the ancient writings of Caesar, Cicero and Strabo who spoke in those writings of the poets and singers in Celtic society called the bardoi.

John Aubrey had been the first modern writer to connect Stonehenge to the druids and his ideas reached a bigger audience with William Stukeley.  In 1969 Aubrey published “Templa Druidim” (Bonewits, Bonewit’s Essential Guide to Druidism 68).  From there, a man named John Toland (1670-1722) became famous for a book he wrote, “Christianity Not Mysterious” which was prosecuted in London and burnt by the public hangman in Dublin (Nelson).  This is the same John Toland that in 1726  published “History of the Druids,” depicting druids as con artists just nine years after helping a friend found a druid order, the Ancient Druid Order (ADO) in 1717 and not to be confused with the AOD group listed later) though some accounts place the birth of the ADO in the late 1800’s) and yet other accounts connect the founding of ADO and AOD to the same 1717 date and tavern (Bonewits, Bonewit’s Essential Guide to Druidism 71).

John Toland had embraced John Aubrey’s work (without giving Aubrey credit).  Next enter Henry Hurle who in 1781 was said to have founded the Ancient Order of Druids (AOD) which is sometimes referred to as simply “the Druid Order.”   The AOD (Hurle’s group) would later split into two groups by 1964 and boasted the names of past chiefs such as Willaim Stukeley,  Godfrey Higgins (writer of “The Celtic Druids” published in 1827 and 1829) and Gerald Massey (Egyptologist who wrote about the parallel between Jesus and the Egyptian god Horus in his “The Natural Genesis”).

In 1964, this split in the ADO became the United Ancient Order of Druids (UAOD) and the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids (OBOD) founded by Ross Nichols who used the concept of the three druidic orders of bards, ovates and druids from the ancient Greek historian, Strabo who wrote of the bardoi, o’vateis and druidai in his “Geographica” (Yobot).

As for written works, the first of which comes to mind for me is the work of  “The Iolo Manuscripts” which is a collection of written work by Edward Williams who was better known as Iolo Morganwg who lived from 1747 to 1826.  Theses manuscripts were compiled by his son, TaliesinWilliams, after his father’s death.  These manuscripts included collections of poetry and hymns, mostly great works of fraud and fabrications, marrying old Arthurian influences with Christianity with a mix of metaphysics and his own personal philosophies including his own runic system called the “Bardic Alphabet”(Picapica).  With his quite extremely popular and yet inaccurate creative works he webbed fiction and fact together into masterful works of forgeries that went far in recreating and reinventing, romanticized history Welsh spirituality. Despite the fact that a great deal of his work has been debunked, to this day there are Mesopaganists that cling to his Welsh “druids” and bardic traditions.  He held a ceremony, the Gorsedd in 1792 with a dozen other poets that in 1819 became a part of the Eisteddfod in Wales, claiming it to be an unbroken tradition (Bonewits, Bonewit’s Essential Guide to Druidism 74-75). The Eisteddfod is still going on strong in modern times. Despite that a great deal of the body of Iolo Morganwg’s literary work is now accepted as forgeries, and he is still often pointed to as a large influence to the neo-druid movement (Hare).


10. Discuss the origins of the RDNA, and the influence of Isaac Bonewits, and the founding of ADF. (minimum 600 words)

Part protest, part rebellion, part joke, the Reformed Druids of North America began in 1963 in response to Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota, requiring all students to spend a mandated minimum amount of attendance (chapel credits) in a church or religious service of their own religion.  A group of students were sitting around in the campus cafeteria and one of them, David Fisher, told a tall tale of his family having been druids.  They decided this could be a way around those chapel credits requirements, if they created a “church” of their own.    The RDNA never intended to be a real church.  They called themselves “reformed” to cover any errors they made on reconstruction of a druid religion and wrote up scriptures that were only half serious, written to read much like the King James Bible.

They met on Sunday afternoons and performed rituals that gradually got the attention of other students who would attend to get their chapel credit slips to turn in.  Two years later the college dropped the chapel attendance requirement and with the win of that protest, the RDNA was no longer needed.  Much to the surprise of the founders, however, a lot of the people who’d been a part of that protest wanted to continue with the RDNA and keep it going.  They’d brought to it a mish mash of Mother Earth, Celtic gods and goddesses, a little bit of Zen, a little bit of Christianity, and an “open ended philosophy” that had quickly become an important part of their spiritual lives (Bonewits, Bonewit’s Essential Guide to Druidism 87).

After students graduated, they took the RDNA with them, one of which was Robert Larson, who met up with Isaac Bonewits while attending Berkeley University in California.  By then the RDNA had 40 plus congregations they’d called “groves” which were run as either Mesopagan or Neopagan.  Bonewits became an ordained priest on the RDNA in 1969 (Bonewits, Bonewit’s Essential Guide to Druidism 89) and he worked at trying to convince the members that they were pagans.  This met with a lot of resistance.  The RDNA had been made up of Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Agnostics, a cross section of a great many religious paths, of people who still clung to their spiritual roots, despite the fact that they were enacting pagan rituals, celebrating pagan holidays and calling on pagan gods.  They believed that what they were creating was not a real religion in itself but a philosophy that that was compatible with a great many mainstream religions and could be practiced along side whatever religious path they’d declared themselves to be (Adler 337).

A great many branches grew from the RDNA including Isaac Bonewit’s Schismatic Druids of North America (SDNA) who had an eclectic Gaulish and Celtic bend and was described as “…the embodiment of Isaac’s reforms…” (ARDA  664).

The New Reformed Druids of North America (NRDNA) and a multitude of other branches that did not survive.  The Hasidic Druids of North America (HSDA) where another branch, which concentrated on Jewish culture and was also helped by Bonewits in creating their “Mishmash of Hasidic Druidism” also called the HDNA’s Theory of Couthness (a play on the Jewish concept of Kosher.)  Bonewits also helped the HDNA creat a book of commentaries and arguments akin to the Jewish Torah and they called the book “The Te-Mara.”

Bonewits left the RDNA after 1982 and most of the RDNA groves broke away form each other, dissolved, or nearly died off including the original Carleton branch until some students found some of Bonewits’ writings left in the attic of a house off campus.  These papers inspired  another round of RDNA groves and as Bonewits writes, “By 1993, a new era of Reformed Druidism was vigorously underway, much to the credit of one of the Archedruids, Michael Scharding, who began the International Druid Archives and collected much of the RDNA, ADF and Keltrian materials (among a dozen groups), re-establishing communications between the RDNA groves and other offshoot Druid groups” (Bonewits, Bonewit’s Essential Guide to Druidism 99-100).

Bonewits became the Archdruid of Mother Grove of the NRDNA (one of the aforementioned branches that broke off from the RDNA)  in Berkeley, possibly out of frustration with the RDNA refusing to accept that they were practicing Neopaganism and thus started the New Reformed Druids of North America to be born specifically as a Pagan organization.  He is quoted in Adler’s “Drawing Down the Moon” as saying, “They (the RDNA) had a philosophcal approach, applicable to any relgion.  Most of the RDNA were not Pagans.  They resented me and felt I was infiltrating their group” (Adler 341).  So, he created a new group, a new reformed group, that would not resent being called Pagan, that would accept that Paganism is what they were doing.

By the time Isaac Bonewits had started his publication, “The Druid Progress” and  had founded ADF, he’d already had a long resume of work and experiences behind him that he’d fueled into growing the Druidism movement in America, and in doing so, Isaac Bonewits had a strong hand in forming and shaping exactly what American NeoDruidism is today.


11. Describe the groups that have split off from ADF, their history and work. (minimum 600 words)

According to Bonewits (Bonewits, Bonewit’s Essential Guide to Druidism 117), The Henge of Keltria was the first branch to break from ADF and they did so in 1988 after five people decided they didn’t like the direction ADF was going.  In 1986 they’d taped a list of thirteen issues that they thought wasn’t being handled properly to the outside of the door of the camper Isaac had been sleeping in during the Pagan Spirit Gathering in Wisconsin.  One of their concerns was that ADF focused on Indo-Europeon cultures and these five wanted a strictly Celtic focus.  Another issue is they wanted to keep their rituals private like much of the other practicing Neopagan groups rather than ADF’s requirement of having the rituals public.  Isaac Bonewits quotes one of those dissenters, Pat Taylor, with saying “You know all those bureaucratic rules in ADF that we objected to so much in the beginning?  We’ve wound up having to institute most of them in Keltria!” and then he comments “Time, tide, and the Internal Revenue Service affect all public religious organizations, sooner or later” (Bonewits, Bonewit’s Essential Guide to Druidism 118).   They are a healthy group to this day with a large web site and with a focus on study and research, dividing the paths into categories of Bard, Seer and Druid (Keltria).

Though Bonewits writes in his “Bonewits’s Essential Guild to Druidism” that the Henge of Keltria was the first group to break away, I’ve read there was a Shadow Path Grove that broke from ADF earlier in the mid 1980’s (ARDA  673) because they didn’t want to have public rites either, but continued to have ADF style rites in private and they are listed as possibly inactive by 1993.

In 1988 a group left ADF and formed Uxello-Druidactios in 1988, founded by Tom Cross going by the name of Tadhg MacCrossan.  It had a Gaulish focus and the founder apparently had a personal habit of sending “poisoned pen letters” around trashing the shortcoming of all the other Druid groups as being infected with Wicca and Neo-Pagan garbage (ARDA 673).

In 1991 Janette Copeland tried using ADF’s “A Druid Fellowship” booklet to recruit for her own “Divine Circle of the Sacred Grove” and using fake ADF credentials.  After gettting in trouble with tax authorities the group left the Twin City area and moved to Arizona, forming a new group calling themselves “The American Druid Church” in 1992 founded by Jay Tibbles and Patricia Fields (ARDA 673).

In Seattle in 1992 the Primitive Celtic Church broke off from ADF to focus on Celtic Druidry, much like the Henge of Keltria with some help offered from ADF and OBOD (ARDA 673), and though they had a webpage, I’d found the webpage closed and the ARDA PDF file I’d found much of the information for these branches states they believed the group to be also disbanded.

The Reformed Druidic Wicca is a bit cloudy. It may have broken off from RDNA directly (Bonewits, Bonewit’s Essential Guide to Druidism 99), or it may have broken off from ADF or might have been an attempt to create a new NRDNA protogrove or even an ADF protogrove.  They renamed themselves “Missionary Order of the Celtic Cross” (ARDA 673).  They are listed on an unofficial RDNA web sight of one of their members as being an offshoot of RDNA as well as of the Order of the Mithral Star (Mikerdna) which according to the ARDA document may have founded in 1993 (ARDA 674).

There is a website for the Order of the Mithral Star as well (Order of the Mithral Star), where they offer online courses, and like the Church of all Worlds, they apparently use ideas found in the Heinlein novel, “Stranger in a Strange Land” as stated on their faq page (Mithral Star FAQ)  and according to the ARDA document their roots can be pointed to have grown both from the CAW as well as the RDNA, that they came from the CAW and adopted elements of the RDNA. Though they do not appear to have been sprouted from ADF directly, Issac Bonewits had a pronounced influence on the RDNA that Order of the Mithral Star came from, a system which the ARDA document claims to have been overhauled and used as a blueprint by Bonewits to create the ADF organization.


Works Cited


Adler, Margot. Drawing Down the Moon. New York: Penguin Books, 2006.

Archives, Scanned by American Libraries Internet. Full Text of Phillip Stubbe’s Anatomy of abuses in England in Shakspere’s youth…. 24 October 2010 <http://www.archive.org/stream/phillipstubbessa00stubuoft/phillipstubbessa00stubuoft_djvu.txt&gt;.

ARDA . The New Reformed Druids of America, Part Eight, A General History of Reformed Druidism in America, aka The Gregarious Epistle of Michael or the Adventures of Prolix the Druid. Ed. Drynetemtum Press. 2004. <http://orgs.carleton.edu/Druids/ARDA2/ARDA2part8.pdf&gt;.

Author, Unknown. Rosecrucian Order of the Golden Dawn. unknown. 8 December 2010 <http://www.rogd.org/&gt;.

Bonewits, Isaac. Bonewit’s Essential Guide to Druidism. New York: Citadel Press Books, 2006.

—. Defining Paganism: Paleo-, Meso-, and Neo- (Version 2.5.1). 1979, 2007. 24 October 2010 <http://www.neopagan.net/PaganDefs.html&gt;.

Bovineboy2008. Wikipedia: Lawrence of Arabia (film). 30 September 2010. 25 October 2010 <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lawrence_of_Arabia_%28film%29&gt;.

Cydebot. Wikipedia: Dion Fortune. 30 September 2010. 25 October 2010 <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dion_Fortune&gt;.

Cymru, University of Wales: Prifysgol. Iolo Morganwg and the Romantic Traditions in Wales. 24 October 2010 <http://www.wales.ac.uk/en/CentreforAdvancedWelshCelticStudies/ResearchProjects/CompletedProjects/IoloMorganwgandtheRomanticTraditioninWales/IoloMorganwgFullerDescription.aspx&gt;.

Ebrambot. Wikipedia: Robert Graves. 23 October 2010. 25 October 2010 <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Graves&gt;.

Foxbot. Wikipedia: Margaret Murray. 3 October 2010. 24 October 2010 <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Margaret_Murray&gt;.

Hare, John B. Sacred Texts: The Barddas of Iolo Morganwg by J. Willaims, Ab Ithel. 6 November 2005. 24 October 2010 <http://www.sacred-texts.com/neu/celt/bim1/index.htm&gt;.

Hutton. Blood and Mistletoe: The History of Druids in Britain. New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press, 2009.

III, Cathbhadh. Wikipedia: Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. 21 November 2010. 8 December 2010 <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hermetic_Order_of_the_Golden_Dawn&gt;.

Keltria. The Henge of Keltria. 8 December 2010 <http://www.keltria.org/&gt;.

LaaknorBot. Wikipedia: The White Goddess. 23 October 2010. 25 October 2010 <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_White_Goddess&gt;.

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Midnightblueowl. Wikipedia: Gerald Gardner. 26 September 2010. 24 October 2010 <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gerald_Gardner&gt;.

Mikerdna. The Reformed Druids (And Their Spin-Offs too!). 8 December 2010 <http://rdna.info/&gt;.

Mithral Star FAQ. 7 December 2010 <http://www.mithrilstar.org/druidfaq.htm&gt;.

Nachete93. Wikipedia: Aradia (goddess). 22 October 2010. 25 October 2010 <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aradia_%28goddess%29&gt;.

Nelson. Wikepedia: John Toland. 7 December 2010. 8 December 2010 <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Toland&gt;.

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Picapica. Wikepedia: Iolo Morganwg. 6 October 2010. 24 Octoeber 2010 <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iolo_Morganwg&gt;.

Piggott, Stuart. The Druids. New York: Frederick A. Praeger, Inc., Publishers, 1968.

Rosencomet. Wikipedia: Oberon Zell-Ravenheart. 8 December 2010 <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oberon_Zell-Ravenheart&gt;.

Saretto. Wikipedia: Isaac Bonewits. 10 November 2010. 8 December 2010 <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Isaac_Bonewits&gt;.

Starhawk. Starhawk’s Bio and Bibliography. 8 December 2010 <http://www.starhawk.org/starhawk/bio.html&gt;.

Stubbes, Phillip. Anatomy of the Abuses in England in Shakspere’s Youth A.D. 1883. 15 November 2010 <and with a focus on study and research, dividing the paths into categories of Bard, Seer and Druid>.

The Order of Bards, Ovates & Druids, FAQ page. unknown. 8 December 2010 <http://www.druidry.org/modules.php?op=modload&name=PagEd&file=index&topic_id=2&page_id=6&gt;.

Yobot. Wikipedia: Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids. 8 September 2010. 8 December 2010 <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Order_of_Bards,_Ovates_and_Druids&gt;.

Zell-Ravenheart, Oberon. Biography of Oberon Zell-Ravenheart. 8 December 2010 <http://www.oberonzell.com/biography.html&gt;.


[1] The full text of Phillip Stubbe’s Anatomy of the Abuses of England in Shakspere’s Youth A.D. 1582 can be found as Part I at http://www.archive.org/stream/phillipstubbessa000990mbp/phillipstubbessa000990mbp_djvu.txt and Part II at http://www.archive.org/stream/phillipstubbessa00stubuoft/phillipstubbessa00stubuoft_djvu.txt


~ by Spider Lily on March 20, 2011.

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