Contemporary Paganism

Authored by: Jodie Ann Vann

The Routledge Companion to Religion and Popular Culture

Print publication date:  March  2015
Online publication date:  March  2015

Print ISBN: 9780415638661
eBook ISBN: 9781315724478
Adobe ISBN: 9781317531067


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Any thorough understanding of the relationship between religion and popular culture must consider those varieties of expression that have traditionally been understood as “alternative.” Contemporary Paganism and alternative religions offer a rich source of data that is simultaneously beneficial and problematic. They help us understand how religion functions in the context of the now, and yet they challenge almost every notion upon which popular definitions of religion rely. One of the biggest challenges is determining who can accurately be considered “Pagan” or “alternative.” Some Pagans practice in communities with a designated leader; others are solitary. Some groups claim a particular creed; others are essentially eclectic. Many Pagans include a variety of gods and goddesses in their practice, while some may have only a few, and others, none at all. The definitions of these groups are highly flexible and their boundaries are highly permeable, making a strict categorical description not only impossible, but in direct conflict with the foundational elements of most of these groups. For the sake of clarity, we will include in Paganism those varieties of religion—including, but not limited to, Asatru, Druidism, Heathenism, New Age, Wicca, and other forms of “nature religions” or “spiritualities”—that view nature as inherently meaningful, and draw from ancient, usually indigenous forms of practice aimed at a comprehensive understanding of the cosmos.

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