Y is for… Young

It’s sometimes said of Paganism that it’s a very young religion. I think there are ways in which that’s true: neo-paganism, as a matter of fact, has only become a religion – as opposed to a rumoured secret society, a heresy, or an occasional leaning of an individual or isolated small group – in the very recent past. I won’t summarise the history here (you should read Ronald Hutton and Margot Adler and Cynthia Eller if you want to know), but it’s less than a century old. Futhermore, the more eclectic and solitary kinds especially often attract teenagers and young adults, so that it is sociologically young (compared with other religions – Christian churches tend to have ageing populations in the countries where western neo-paganism is on the rise).

In other ways, of course, Pagan religions are very old; indeed, it sometimes seems that antiquity is all that the major neo-pagan sources of inspiration have in common. One can trace connections – the Norse and the Egyptians both had contact with the Romans – and some patterns – the Celts, the Greeks, and Hinduism have known triple deities – but it is really being old which they have in common. Often, too, they have been extinct and neo-paganism is a revival, reconstruction, or reconstruct-and-reform movement.

Perhaps it is most obvious in the deeper matters. Neo-paganism, as a community, is only beginning to explore these issues, although there are many trailblazers; Quakers, at only 350 or so, are relatively young in global terms but have had three and a half centuries to work on such things. I think the youth of the movement is what we see when more advanced practitioners complain about the wealth of beginners’ books and the dearth of publications for the already expert. The answer is to publish them, and it is happening, but the process takes time especially in such a scattered community – if it can be called a single community at all.


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