A History of Neo-Paganism and Druidry: 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.

6 08 2017

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)

In 1921, Margaret Murray, an Egyptologist, folklorist and anthropologist, published “The Witch Cult in Western Europe. In the book, she looked at the Inquisition’s witch trial documents and argued that in Pre-Christian times, the ancient religion of Europe was Witchcraft. She argued that they had a deity who could incarnate in male and female forms. The male being a two-faced horned god, and the female being named Diana who was the leader of witches. She said that it was a fertility cult with the god dying and being reborn according to “the cycle of the seasons and the cycle of crops.” She said they had eight main festivals called Sabbats and met in covens of 13. Her writings had a major influence on later Paganism, especially on Gerald Gardner and his new religion of Wicca. In fact, it formed a major basis of the myth of Wicca. However, her theories have been discredited by scholars, especially by Norman Cohn.

Another very influential book was “The Golden Bough”, published by anthropologist James Frazer. This was originally published in 1890 but again in 1900 and 1906-15. Frazer argued that ancient Pagan religions were originally fertility cults. This study of comparative religion, looked at a large number of spiritual beliefs and practices worldwide and argued for an evolutionary progression “from magic to religion to science.” His theories are now rejected by scholars but still had a major impact in contributing to the Myth of Wicca.

Finally, is Arcadia: The Gospel of the Witches by Charles Leland, published in 1899. In this work, he describes a Pagan religion in Italy which had apparently survived through the ages and included a Witch cult worshipping the goddess Diana and her daughter, Aradia, who was sent to earth to teach Witchcraft. Again, it had a big influence on Gardner and through him Wicca. In particular, passages influenced Doreen Valiente in writing the modern Wiccan rite “The Charge of the Goddess.” It is also where the often-used phrase “the Old Religion” first appears. A final influence was the books emphasis on women having an equal or superior role to play. It has therefore played a prominent role in feminist versions of Wicca.


Ellis, Peter B. The Druids. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Pub Co, 1998. Print.

Adler, Margot. Drawing down the moon witches, Druids, goddess-worshippers, and other pagans in America today. New York, N.Y: Penguin/Arkana, 2006. Print.

Hutton, Ronald. The Stations of the Sun: A History of the Ritual Year in Britain. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996. Print.

Bonewits, Isaac. “Defining Paganism: Paleo-, Meso-, and Neo-.” Web.

Bonewits, Isaac. “Frequently Asked Questions about Neopagan Druidism.” Web.

Bonewits, Isaac. “The Origins of Ár nDraíocht Féin.” Web.

Bonewits, Isaac. “What Neopagans Believe.” Web.

Bonewits, Isaac. “The Reformed Druids of North America and their Offshoots.” Web.

Hopman, Ellen Evert. “The Origins of the Henge of Keltria.” Web.

Meith, Vickie, and Howard Meith. “The Origins of the Celtic Traditionalist Order of Druids.” Web.

Thuin, Dylan Ap. “The Origins of the Insular Order of Druids.” Web














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