Paganism itself is an umbrella-term, much like there are many forms of Christianity under the title of Christendom, Paganism consists of Celtics, Asatru, Wiccans, druids, shamans and heathens. These sub-groups make up the diverse community that is Paganism. The word Pagan stems from the word ‘Paganus’ which is Roman Latin for ‘country dweller’ and the Romans had a deep mistrust of these people. This could possibly contribute to the religious persecution of pagans by Christians, as Christianity itself was largely spread to Europe by the Roman Empire when Emperor Constantine converted to Christianity from his native Hellenism. Paganism in the modern times is on the increase, according to the 2011 UK census as 53,172 people self identify as Pagan. In the United States estimates range from 200,000 to over 1 million people identifying as Pagan.

To understand the rise of neo-paganism I found that less and less people are identifying as Christian, and so people could be finding faith in their ancestors religions, especially in the United States whom a lot can trace their ancestry to Ancient Europe. For example northern states such as Minnesota were settled by Scandinavians, as so Viking culture will be embedded in their history and this leads to a form of Paganism known as Asatru. Asatru, meaning ‘the old gods’ in ancient norse, has many splinter groups such as Odinism or Forn Sidr but all predominantly focus on the old Norse tales and legends. This form of paganism has found its way into a niche group of metal, known as Viking metal and has become very popular with bands such as Amon Amarth and Tyr gaining recognition around the globe. This could contribute to the rise of neo-paganism as people are susceptible to what they listen to. However, Asatru is merely a front for heathenism in general.

The fact that paganism is a loosely cobbled together religion of separate, often more distinct sub-religions often appeals to many, as paganism allows the worshipper to follow a more personal moral-code. For example, a problem for paganism is that during the Nazi occupation  of Germany from 1933 to 1945 they used allot of Norse symbology in their propaganda and were the first real revival of neo-germanic paganism. This has caused neo-nazis to self-identify with Paganism and bring a bad reputation to the religion as a whole. Despite this, paganism is growing rapidly across the globe with druids and Asatru priests alike coming out against neo-nazis.

Paganism has been cited as ‘the fastest growing religion in Britain’ according to the Yorkshire post. Paganism is growing very rapidly in Britain, as it can be said that Paganism originated in Britain and has spread from there, however most ancient cultures had their own pantheon of gods and thus would be deem pagan by todays modern standards when addressing religion. This pagan fascination in the UK could stem from its ancient druidic and Celtic ways which have never really left Britain since the dark ages, for example people have been performing rituals around Stonehenge on and off again since its creation 5000 years ago. These factors have contributed to the spread of Paganism from the UK.

The spread and subsequent rise of Paganism began in the UK and Scandinavia, especially the northern parts of Norway, Sweden and Finland in which they never really left their old Norse ways. In different forms and sub-religions Paganism is spreading with some sort of founding in most countries around the world as more developed countries are reaching back to their traditional roots and developing countries still with their traditional ways.

Sam Johnstone

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