A History Of Neo-Paganism and Druidry: 4 – Of the following names, identify and explain the importance each has had in Neopagan history and/or the magical revival…

6 08 2017

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):

Gerald Gardner

Gerald Gardner (1884 – 1964), a retired British civil servant, was the founder of the modern Wicca movement. He was also an anthropologist and folklorist who was very interested in magic. He spent time in the Far East and after returning to settle in Hampshire, he joined a naturist society. He claimed that, in 1939, he contacted a coven in England and was initiated into it by a woman named “Old Dorothy.” However, Ronald Hutton has demonstrated that while Dorothy Clutterbuck existed, it’s unlikely she had anything to do with Gardner. In 1949, he published a novel called “High Magic’s Aid” in order to teach what he claims he learned in the coven.

With the repeal of the Witchcraft Acts in 1951, Gardner was able to be more open about the religion. He published two more books – Witchcraft Today and The Meaning of Witchcraft, and joined Cecil Williamson at the new Museum of Witchcraft.

In my opinion, Gardner is the most influential person in the history of the Neo-Paganism. He was the one who created Wicca, and arguably sparked the beginnings of the movement. He was the creator (or reformer) of Wicca. He openly publicised Witchcraft and Francis King argues that while there may have been covens before Gardner, it was his influence which led to the massive growth of Wicca.

Aidan Kelly, creator of NROOGD writes “almost all the current vitality in the movement was sparked by…… Gardner.” He argues that Gardner “instituted a major reform” so that it was as different to the Old Religion, as the first Christians were different from the Jews. In particular, Gardner added new concepts such as focusing on the goddess, women being priestesses who can become the goddess and new ways of magic working such as the circle and raising power. He also introduced the concept of naturism in rituals.

Today Wicca is still the largest grouping within the Neo-Pagan movement, and one version of Wicca is named after Gardner himself. Despite his death, Wicca has continued to thrive and is now one of the fastest growing religions in the West. This is his legacy.


Robert Graves

Robert Graves (1895 – 1985), was a Celticist and novelist who wrote a couple of books that had a major influence on the direction of Neo-Paganism. The books were “The White Goddess” published in 1948 and Watch the North Wind Rise, published in 1949. Margot Adler argues that the books “had an enormous impact on people who later joined the craft” and that The White Goddess, “has had an enormous influence on women, the Witchcraft revival, and the creation of groups such as Feraferia.”

His books promoted the idea of goddess worship, matriarchy and a druidic alphabet with the months related to tree names (an idea still influential in some Celtic groups today). He emphasised poetry as a “religious invocation of the goddess” and his works were important sources for rituals and theology for Wicca, Feraferia and NROOGD. He also had an influence on the feminist movement and believed that “the return of goddess worship is the only salvation for Western civilisation.” In fact, he saw such goddess worship as an important part of British heritage.

Despite this influence, Bonewits argues that Graves is a “sloppy scholar” who caused “more bad anthropology to occur among Wiccan groups than almost any other work.



Dion Fortune

Dion Fortune (1890 – 1946), was an occultist and ceremonial magician who founded the Fraternity of the Inner Light. She was heavily influenced by Theosophy, Mediumship and the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. She wrote many books and articles for Occult magazines. She also corresponded with Aleister Crowley and Israel Regardie.

She had a big impact on Wicca with her emphasis on “all the gods are one god, and all the goddesses are one goddess” as well as her teaching that magical workings required a masculine and feminine polarity. She was influential in making Glastonbury a central site for magic with her claim that Ascended Masters had told her that Glastonbury was once the site of a Druid College. And her writings and novels were owned by many Pagans, having a particularly strong influence on Starhawk.

Ronald Hutton said when it came to Occultism in Britain in the early 20th century, she was the “foremost female figure” in the movement.


Oberon Zell

Tim “Oberon” Zell (1942 – ), also known as Ravenheart, had a major influence on Neo-Paganism through his creation of the Church of All Worlds.. The CAW was born out of the Atl movement in 1967, and based on the book “Strangers in a Strange Land.” Within a few years, it had evolved into an earth centred Neo-Pagan religion “dedicated to the celebration of Life, the maximal actualisation of Human potential, and the realisation of ultimate individual freedom and personal responsibility in harmonious eco-psychic relationship with the total Biosphere of Holy Mother Earth.”

The CAW set up the Green Egg magazine which “connected all the evolving and emerging goddess and nature religions into one phenomenon, the Neo-Pagan movement.” Through the Magazine, Zell created and publicised his idea of “planet earth as deity, as a single living organism”, an idea which was later taken up by scientist James Lovelock in the Gaia Hypothesis.

Zell has also made other contributions, from the creation of Unicorns and the Grey School of Wizardry, to adopting the term “Neo Pagan” from Young Omar and being responsible for the popularity of the term “Neo-Paganism.”



Starhawk (1951 – ), an author, activist and creator of the reclaiming tradition, has probably been one of the most influential Pagans of the last 50 years. She began in the Feri tradition, but eventually created the reclaiming tradition in the 1980’s which married Feri, feminism and politics in one. She wrote two very popular books – The Spiral Dance and Dreaming the Dark, which Margot Adler says, “have perhaps reached more women and men than any other books written by a Pagan.”

In 1982, she was part of the blockade of a proposed nuclear plant. The group held the first Spiral Dance, and came together to form the Reclaiming Collective. This eclectic witchcraft movement emphasised spirituality, political action and personal empowerment. Starhawk become its most important theologian, although the movement has no set pantheon or liturgy. They teach that “all systems of oppression as interrelated and rooted in a structure of dominance and control”, that the Earth is alive, a goddess imminent in the cycles of the earth that everything is interconnected and sacred. Ecological awareness is very important, as is a non-hierarchical structure with decisions made by consensus, and the use of chanting and breathing to raise energy.

Her books, as well as the many Witch-camps run by the Reclaiming group, has “led to the creation of hundreds of covens, many of them women’s covens, not to mention an enormous amount of political activism, much of it with a feminist tinge.” Starhawk has taught about ritual and leadership all over the western world. She also wrote an essay on the persecution of witches called “The Burning Times” which was very political, and she has been arrested more than 20 times.


Isaac Bonewits

Isaac Bonewits (1949 – 2010), a magician and occultist, is best known as the creator of ADF. He started out in the RDNA as a priest in 1969, and later became the Arch-Druid of the NRDNA. He wrote the “Druid Chronicles” for the RDNA and achieved a degree in Magic from UC Berkeley. He has written influential books including Real Magic, Bonewits’ Essential Guide to Druidism and Neopagan Rites: A Guide to Creating Public Rituals That Work. He has often had a stormy relationship with Wicca because of his emphasis on scholarship. He also worked with others to create the Aquarian Anti-Defamation League which fights against anti-occultism laws and for Witches religious rights.

In 1983, he founded ADF, becoming its first Arch-Druid, as he wanted to create a Neo-Pagan religion, inspired by what the Paleo-Pagans actually did, and that was therefore based on scholarship and focused on excellence. This has now grown into the largest Druid organisation in America, and like Wicca, it is a legacy that has survived the death of its founder.


Z Budapest

Zsuzsanna Budapest (1940 – ) is a very influential member of the feminist Wicca movement. After moving from Hungary to Los Angeles, she became involved in the Women’s Liberation Movement. In 1971 she set up the Susan B Anthony Coven, a coven that has since led to many others and by 1976 it had around 20-40 members, with over 300 others attending from time to time. She also set up a shop called The Feminist Wicca.

She is very outspoken and combined spirituality with politics. She was arrested for engaging in a tarot reading in 1975. She used the trial to bring Witchcraft to the public’s attention. She believed in Matriarchy and claimed that Wicca was a women’s religion not for men.

Her biggest influence, however, was in the creation of Dianic Witchcraft in the early 1970’s. This was a women’s only mystery tradition, which focused on the life passages of women, particularly the “five blood mysteries.” It emphasised belief in the goddess as Maiden, Mother and Crone, and held healing rituals designed to counter the effects of Patriarchy. Dianic Witchcraft, along with the Feri tradition, was to later influence Starhawk.


Carl Jung

Carl Jung (1875 – 1961) was a psychiatrist who founded analytical psychology. He has had a wide influence on many subject areas including anthropology, philosophy and religion. Though he was not a Pagan, his ideas about Archetypes, the Collective Unconscious and Synchronicity have had a major influence on the beliefs that Neopagans hold about Deity. In particular, the view of gods as archetypes in the collective unconscious.

He believed spirituality and religion was important, that our goal in life was to fulfil our inner potential and that at the heart of religion is a process of transformation or Individuation. He recommended spirituality and religion as a path to this Individuation.



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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