Did It All Happen in the 1980s?

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  December 27, 2010 — 53 Comments

Technoccult uses Google’s new Ngram Viewer, which searches for trends among various corpus of books Google has scanned, to track a seeming explosion of interest in the occult and “magick” in the mid-1980s. So I decided to do my own search, and compare the terms “Wicca”, “Paganism”, and “Magick.”

Both Wicca and Magick, as terms in published books, experienced a dramatic period of growth starting around 1985, not starting to decrease again until around 2003. Paganism, as a more general term used in many different contexts, also saw a rise of interest, but didn’t experience the downturn of the other two. This could be because of the non-religious contexts, but also because many books targeting the modern Pagan community started using “Paganism” in titles instead of “Wicca” or “Neopaganism.”

Searching for the terms “Asatru” and “Heathen” you also see growth, though not as dramatic in nature.

In the case of “Asatru” it’s the 1990s where you start to see growth, and then seems to level off around 1995 and stays there. For “Heathen,” again a general term used in many contexts, it also rises in the 1990s and seems to have enjoyed a resurgence of use since then.

So it does seem something sparked in the publishing world in the 1980s, not only within Pagan/occult publishing contexts, but, as Technoccult points out, with the “Satanic Panics” pushing up interest as well. Anyone involved in the Pagan publishing world in the mid-1980s, perhaps you can shed some more light? Another interesting question is the rapid decline in mentions of “Wicca” and “magick” starting in the mid-2000s. Is this an artifact of the books Google has scanned, or a larger trend in an ongoing downturn?

I encourage my readers to use the Ngram Viewer to check for other terms of interest, and see if they can spot any pertinent trends for our communities.

Jason Pitzl-Waters