What will Paganism look like in 100 years?

Cara Schulz —  January 26, 2016 — 65 Comments

TWH – The Pagan, Heathen, and Polytheist communities are in a very dynamic time and who knows what the future for these religions may be. The Wild Hunt asked community members to guess the future by having them answer this question:

“What do you think Paganism in the USA will look like 100 years from now?”

[Courtesy Photobucket]

[Courtesy Photobucket]

Phaedra Bonewits, 60’s, Occult Generalist

“I think about where we were a hundred years ago, still in the throes of German Romantic Neopaganism, folklore obsessions in Britain, the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn fallen apart, and America still fascinated with 19th-century Spiritualism and Theosophy, plus the Eastern religions to which they’d been exposed a scant 23 years earlier at the first World’s Parliament of Religions. Wicca wasn’t yet a gleam in Gerald Gardner’s eye, and Heinlein was still in rompers. Magical lodges were still popular, but a vast amount of occultism and magical practice was firmly rooted in a Christian paradigm.

“Now, we’ve got hard polytheists, public rituals to the old Gods, major conventions, scholarly works, Internet research, and more solitaries than at which you could shake a stang. All were unimaginable 100 years ago. Heck, I couldn’t have imagined the Pagan world looking like this forty years ago — forty years ago, we didn’t even have camping festivals!

“Here’s a few guesses, though, assuming our overpopulating, invasive species hasn’t driven ourselves to extinction by then! A hundred years from now, the Neopagan/Pagan umbrella will be a thing of the past. It’s fragmenting even now, and in a century, those fragments will have taken up independent lives. Generic, nature-focused Pagans may be seen as a quaint artifact from the 20th century. Those who attempt 20th-century coven-based, initiatory mystery religion Wicca will be a tiny minority, just as members of magical lodges are today. The Wheel of the Year may become quaint, too, lost in favor of holy days specific to deities being honored.

“Occult practitioners in general may be pushed far to the outside of Paganism as worship-focused Paganism becomes more the norm. Bad news for old-fashioned occultists such as myself, but great for hard polytheists. Temple or shrine-based Paganism may become unremarkable, just as it is now on continents that are not historically dominated by Abrahamic religions.

“About twenty-five years ago, I was walking up the steps of the Field Museum in Chicago, a spectacular example of neoclassical architecture, with a small child in tow. He the son of the high priestess of our little magical working group. As we trudged up the sweeping outdoor staircase, I said to him, “Did you know we used to worship the Gods in buildings like this instead of in our living room?” He looked at me with big eyes and a wondering expression, and said, “We did?” Since then, I’ve wished for the day when one can tell a child, “Did you know we used to worship the Gods in our living rooms instead of in buildings like this?” and the child will respond with the same startled wonder, “We did?” Maybe in a hundred years.”

Selena Fox, Wiccan, 60’s

 “As I reflect on what Paganism in the USA will look like in 2116, here are some thoughts:

  • Paganism will continue to grow in size and forms with more practitioners and paths.
  • There will be more Pagan sacred places established, owned and cared for by Pagan organizations — more stone circles, shrines, temples, retreat centers, libraries, cemeteries, groves, and Nature sanctuaries.
  • There will be chaplains of various Pagan paths and organizations serving in the military, hospitals, hospices, universities, prisons, and other institutions.
  • There will be more Pagans serving in elected public office in local, state, and federal forms of government. Having one’s Pagan orientation known will seldom be a concern raised as an issue during elections as it has been in the 20th & 21st centuries.
  • There will be more understanding and acceptance of Pagans and Pagan paths in society as a whole, and less need to fight religious freedom battles in courts.
  • Paintings, films, music, theater, and other forms of art with Pagan imagery created by Pagans will be more widespread in society.
  • New forms of Pagan ritual practice and meditative imagery will develop as Pagans venture forth and live off planet.  
  • Croning, Saging, and other forms of Senioring Passage rites developed within Pagan communities will be more commonplace among people of many spiritual and philosophical orientations.
  • Pagans and Paganism may be also known by other terms.

“I think it is important to reflect on possible Pagan futures and to have conversations about this. To contribute to this process, I have been facilitating Visioning the Pagan Future workshops, rituals, and discussions at festivals and conferences around the nation. In addition to envisioning the future, may we find ways to share our visions and work together to help Paganism in all its colorful diversity to thrive.”

[Image By: Stgspi / DeviantArt]

[Image By: Stgspi / DeviantArt]

John Beckett50’s, Druid

“The environmental and social factors that gave rise to the emergence of Paganism in the 19th century and to its explosion in the 20th century will continue in the 21st and 22nd. Paganism will continue to grow in both breadth and depth over the next 100 years.

“Paganism will grow in breadth as more and more people begin to recognize the sacredness of Nature and begin to pay attention to the natural world. Pagan concepts and holidays will become generally recognized in the mainstream culture. Witchcraft will continue its growth, as increasingly disenfranchised people look for ways to influence their world. Paganism will remain a minority religion, but it will become a significant minority, even if much of its growth will be at the pop culture level.

“Paganism will grow in depth as a few dive deeper into their beliefs and practices. The witchcraft traditions will focus on individual growth and personal power, while the polytheist traditions will focus on developing robust devotional practices and building strong communities around them.

“But two things are sure about predicting the future: something we think is certain will fail, and something we aren’t even considering will arise. If we are wise, we will focus on being the best Witches, Pagans, polytheists, and such as we possibly can. Strong practices and resilient communities can succeed in any environment.”

Jason Mankey, 40’s, Gardnerian Witch:

“Imagining Paganism one hundred years from now is difficult. I think it will still exist (at least as we define it today) and probably in greater numbers, but I think it will be extremely fragmented. Today we sometimes talk about the Pagan umbrella having some ‘leaks,’ in one hundred years I think the umbrella will be long gone, with many groups and traditions distancing themselves from the word ‘Pagan.’

“I don’t think that’s all necessarily bad. Many traditions under today’s Pagan umbrella will undoubtedly grow because of these changes. Out there, on their own, many communities will create new infrastructures, mythologies, groups, and festivals; those are the good parts. On the downside, the break-up of the umbrella will make us even less strong politically, and limit the give and take that comes from being a part of wide-ranging coalition. (Think of all the things we share right now: festivals, blog-space, magazines, ritual space, etc. I for one find those shared moments beneficial.)

“I love my own tradition (Gardnerian Witchcraft), but the traditions of my friends (Druidry, Heathenism, and many more) have made my Pagan experience all the stronger, and richer. I think we will lose something when Re-constructionists no longer dance under the moon with Witches and Neo-Pagans. I think we are far stronger together, but see the divisions that are emerging among us as unfortunate but probably inevitable.”

[Image By: Stgspi / Deviantart]

[Image By: Stgspi / Deviantart]

Xochiquetzal Duti Odinsdottir, 30s, polytheist with initiations in a variety of traditions:

“It’s hard to imagine but when I do I hope that it’s in a place where the current struggles against oppression are no longer as necessary or as vital as they are now to the engagement of pagans who identify as part of communities typically marginalized by the overculture.

I hope that my tradition is thriving and handling their rites and their W/work as best as they can with the guidance of the Elders who came from my teachings and from the guidance of Spirit (of which I hope I am called on). I hope we’re in a place where the ability to care for each other extends beyond what we do in circle to outside of circle.

I hope that polytheists, pagans, Wiccans, ceremonialists, heathens, ADR/ATR practitioners, and myriad of faiths have found strength in each other from a place of mutual respect and admiration versus the grudge that we seem to have when forced to interact with each other now. I hope there is a space we carve out for each other and for the G*ds. I hope that we think outside the box of who shows up to really look at how we can be the kind of movement where there is no hierarchy of faiths, but rather a mutual understanding and solidarity in struggle.

I hope for a lot, don’t I? Well, why not? It’s good to want things. It builds character, I’m told.”

Lāhela Nihipali, 30’s, Indigenous Hawaiian polytheist:

“If paganism bucks the trend and learns to be USEFUL to their fellow human, *and* gains a foothold with regards to public policy (ie. better enforcement of environmental and citizen protections) then it can have a huge impact on where the country and the world will be in 100 years. Better health and better land management for one. Polytheists will continue to be an insular but growing part of the population of the US with its own personalised political goals and groups. More often than not, at odds (if only in principle) with pagan politicians/civil servants/policies. Polytheists will bridge the gap over the course of the 100 years with Indigenous and First Nations peoples whereas pagans will not. This will be important in the political divides of the century after the first 100 years.

“If paganism continues on its pursuit of USELESSNESS to general society and the country itself, we could very well see a rise in harmful but technologically manageable environmental disasters as well as civil liberty breaches manageable by political pandering continue. Simultaneously the US will see an increase in divisive groups nationwide as clean resources lessen and prices increase. Paganism and pagans in general become easy targets as they did zero realistic community building and will by this time be rejected by Polytheist organizations which have prepared by becoming more and more insular as resources have diminished.

“Pagans will now finally try to flower power their way into activism, now that they are being used as the boogeyman to rile up the populace. Lack of genuine organization is their downfall; their activism is labeled as unpatriotic troublemaking. Pagans will be politically and socially targeted as perfect scapegoats for the newly elected (some flavour of fascistic) ruling party. Lynching type incident occurs which sets in motion a general notion that its the patriotic thing to target pagans and other “undesirable trouble makers”–itʻs important to clean up the streets after all. Polytheists will by the end of the 100 years, in an act of self preservation, also reach out to other Polytheist organizations as well as Indigenous & First Nations. The next 100 years start with an uneasy tension between the allied Polytheists and the now heavily indoctrinated populace, by the end of this 100 years civil war looms.”

[Image By: Stgspi / Deviantart]

[Image By: Stgspi / Deviantart]

Elizabeth Zohar, 20’s, Wiccan:

“I can only hope that Paganism will continue to spread knowledge to anyone who wishes to learn the practices as we are now. However, I feel that in the changing world we live in that it may become more of a trend than an actual look on life. With the up coming generations, being who you want to be without being judge is what the new teachings are. However that also allows people to take advantage of that. They may begin to look at Paganism as something that is “cool” or “in” instead of actually learning the practices of the different religions or doing it to find peace and spirituality in yourself. 100 yrs from now we may have young adults assuming that Paganism is cool because it’s not Christianity or any other common religion. All I can hope is that our generation now will continue to teach the generations after us what Paganism really is and how it can help them in their day to day life.

Aubri, 20’s, Hellenic Pagan:

I believe that in the next 100 years Paganism will flourish because of how attractive it is for people of all ages, sex, race, etc. The thing with being Pagan is that your journey is your own, you can choose what path you want to follow. You can figure out what you want your focus to be as you learn. That’s very refreshing and comforting especially for the younger crowd, myself included. As a young adult your life is cluttered with all kinds of pressures and deadlines that it can be overwhelming. So I think that the biggest attraction to Paganism is the community. I’ve gone to Pagan festivals and picnics my entire life. They’re like vacations from the ‘muggle’ world where you can focus on yourself and your own growth. With the relaxed and welcoming atmosphere of the Pagan community, I believe that Paganism will continue to grow throughout the globe and one day make a come back as one of the top “religions” of the world.

*   *   *

But what about you? What do you think your religion, or our collective religions, will look like 100 years from now? 

Cara Schulz

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Cara Schulz is a journalist and author living in Minnesota with her husband and cat. She has previously written for PAGAN+politics, PNC-Minnesota, and Patheos. Her work has appeared in several books by Bibliotheca Alexandrina and she's the author of Martinis & Marshmallows: A Field Guide to Luxury Tent Camping and (Almost) Foolproof Mead Making. She loves red wine, camping, and has no tattoos.
  • Baruch Dreamstalker

    I foresee the future of Paganism in the context of the future of the country. Extreme floods, blizzards, wildfires, tornados, and another big mid-continent quake will provoke a tide of internal refugees as the insurance industry goes toes-up and can no longer underwrite rebuilding in place. This massive shift of population will create circumstances in surviving cities crying out for private as well as public relief efforts. Pagans will have the opportunity to prove their mettle as providers of religious-based charity to refugees. That will be a key turning point: Christian efforts will certainly be in the mix as they always have been, and Pagans will either prove themselves worthy as embodying religion in action — or won’t. Whether Paganism goes on to be a cohort with institutional strength, or remains a marginal movement dancing in each other’s living rooms and partying on rented fairgrounds, will be determined by that response. (The crystal ball is gloomy today.)

  • Anne Newkirk Niven

    I answered a similar question at Patheos Pagan last year, and recently reprinted my answer in Witches&Pagans: the magazine. Hopefully it has some usefulness. http://www.patheos.com/Topics/Future-of-Faith-in-America/New-Religions/The-Future-of-Paganism-Anne-Newkirk-Niven-08-26-2015

    • Anne, I love your vision of all coming together to support life! Do we though, need to do it under the same religious framework? Does it really foster visibility, understanding, or respect among their various adherents to have so many varied and distinct traditions called by just one term? One name typically implies one definition and theology, which has the effect of normalizing it, while ‘othering’ the rest as an expense. Can we consider how we might all dismantle this sort of religious normativity (ironic, given what was often being challenged earlier) and monistic theology, while also coming together from our various traditions to support life? I don’t think we really need the umbrella in order to do so. 😉

      • Anne Newkirk Niven

        I beg to differ. “If we do not hang together, we shall surely hang separately.” Benjamin Franklin

        • I don’t think we were ever really together in the first place; it was a mirage. Wicca was never Asatru was never Druidism was never New Age was never Voudun was never Goddess Worship. Let each be what each is, and come together to work as needed, when needed. We don’t need to all the time, and we certainly don’t need to worship together, which is nigh impossible given the variety of traditions and attendant customs, to work effectively together.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            What you describe, quite accurately, is parallel to the situation in the country regarding its religions. Catholics do not hold church with Lutherans do not hold church with Jews do not hold church with Muslims. And yet, from time to time, just these groups will get together for an interfaith service to express solidarity as religious bodies interested in the common good, and as a physical mark of respect for at least the sincerity of one another’s spiritualities. I have, as a Pagan, participated in more than one. A practice like that assembling the “umbrella” faiths could have the same positive effect. It need not attempt to substitute one participant’s religion for another’s, or replace any tradition’s worship with a joint event.

          • Yes, just so, Baruch. 🙂 I’m glad what I described made sense to you, and you found a reasonable parallel with which to compare and illustrate it. That is just what I mean. Difference doesn’t have to mean animosity or war, and commonalities don’t have to mean forced assimilation to some monist model.

      • Franklin_Evans

        My personal vision is that the framework need not be religious to be effective and sustainable. I worked with some local Pagans and Heathens to try to make it work, and it didn’t last very long (and seems to be reviving a bit the last couple of years). I don’t know what it should look like, but I do believe it can work.

        • Franklin, what exactly are you meaning when you say ‘it can work’? What can work, and in what way, to what ends? Are you implying a shared pagan framework can exist which does not center on religious definition or identity? How do you see the term being used differently, and how do you see that having a unifying effect? Very curious. 🙂

          • Franklin_Evans

            My belief is subjective and based on my personal experiences, so it also deserves the label of anecdotal.

            My childhood religious education was at a Unitarian congregation (they joined UUA in the middle there somewhere). It was as eclectic as it could be. During my time there, the congregation were nearly all either ex-Catholics or erstwhile Jews. None of them abandoned their faiths, but instead brought them as contributions. They didn’t and don’t have a CUUPS chapter, but American paganisms are included in their RE curriculum, taught by local Pagans. I’ve held or attended many rituals in and around their church.

            I’ve lived nearly all of my life near Friends meetings. I’ve attended several over the decades. One of my dearest local Pagan friends identifies herself as a Quaker Pagan. I’m as familiar with their community and social programs as I have been with my children’s schools.

            Those two descriptions come to a single point: I watched very diverse groups of people create and sustain frameworks that included religion as a point of importance, but didn’t make or require religion as a defining attribute.

            I hope that answers your questions, but certainly ask more if you can stand my lecturing. My children put up with me, but just barely, so I could use the outlet. 😀

            Edit: I didn’t mean to be cryptic about locations. My congregation was (and sort of is again) the Unitarian Universalist Church of Delaware County, PA. I’ve lived nearly my entire adult life, raised three children and am currently doting over two grandchildren (so far) in Philadelphia.

          • Your family sounds lovely. Thanks for those examples. I think I can jive with that– it is similar to what I am envisioning– a larger social community in which the many pagan and polytheist religious groups can come together for fellowship, social justice work, political action, and sharing traditions with the other groups in a learning, rather than a forced worship fashion, for greater religious literacy and bonding purposes. I think this would go a long way towards respecting and giving space to the various pagan and polytheist traditions, which would reduce frustration and resentment in those areas, while also building up points where various adherents are happy to intersect and work communally. Thanks for elaborating for me.

  • Matt Sloane

    What if Paganism decided to get in on the ground floor of human movement into space? Honoring the Earth and looking to the stars?

  • Uraniabce

    Given that Iceland is beginning construction on a full blown temple to the Old Gods, I think we will see more and more public acceptance. I think the Pagan emphasis on environmental responsibility will play a huge role in drawing more and more people toward the various Wiccan traditions. Beyond that, I just want to be able to say I’m a Pagan, and not have people look at me like I’ve just sprouted an extra head. That day may finally be coming.

  • Sam Wagar

    It’s entirely possible that the neo-Pagan movement will collapse in the same way that its ancestor the Theosophical Society did. After being immersed in the social reform movements of the day (anti-imperialism, first-wave feminism, socialism) the movement retreated into a “more-spiritual-than-though” and spawned the New Age and then rapidly and thoroughly collapsed,

    There are reactionary and lots of New Age tendencies pushing into Paganism, and there is a great deal of resistance to effectively dealing with them, or getting organized to hold onto our spiritual insights and pass them along to newcomers and our children. Religions that do not keep their children die. Religions that are not effective ethically and do not lead people to connect with society as well as support the activist members, become irrelevant. The pressure to merge back into the Christian norm is very substantial so we need to be better at our thing in order to survive and thrive.

    • g75401

      And it won’t matter if you call yourself a pagan or a polytheist at that point. Seriously, the native Hawaiian needs to understand that, according to dominant Abrahamaic religion of her home, she is just “as bad” as I am. I realize in her mind that “pagan” means “white” but, really, we have plenty of evidence to show pagan Europeans were traders who respected indigenous cultures. I wish we could go back and see what would have happened if opportunistic rulers hadn’t seen xtianity as a way to solidify control over the population, but we can’t. In the meanwhile, this pagan will continue to recycle, donate to worthy causes, and change people’s behavior, one person at a time. The fact you don’t see me standing beside you hardly makes me “useless”

      • Lamyka L.

        Do not speak FOR me. Do not think FOR me. I, Lāhela Nihipali, have my own brain, my own mindset, and my own mouth. So go throw the net of YOUR OWN perceptions back on yourself. I didnʻt once write about pagan = white.

        I wrote answering a question about a span of 100 years of possible history, stipulated to be centered around the USA. Neither the question nor my answer were directed at you personally. Furthermore, hiding your insulting comment on someone elseʻs thread instead of where I or others would more likely see and address it is chicken shit.

        You want to disagree with what I actually wrote, thatʻs fine. You want to put bullshit into my mouth and complain that Iʻm personally not giving you enough credit for all the great recycling and donating you do, kiss my ass.

        • Franklin_Evans

          Lāhela, I would be interested in learning about the background of your anger. Please note: I’m not suggesting that you do so here. I know I’m asking a personal question. I found some of the things you speculated about accurate from my point of view (and others with which I disagree), but I have a general comment to offer: you describe a descent into violent repercussions that have long existed for us in the US and Europe, if not precisely as you describe them. Things are not so bad as they used to be, and you expect them to get worse again. That’s certainly possible, but I don’t agree that it’s very likely.

          Our lack of even a very simple organizing structure is my personal focus. I’ve tried to “solve” it locally to no avail. Better minds than mine have found some success there.

          I don’t have a personal prediction, but there is a work of fiction that has some interesting speculations in it: “The Masters of Solitude” by Marvin Kaye and Parke Godwin. The culture of the central characters is directly derived from Wicca. It’s a work of the post-apocalypse genre, set in a rather distant future.

          • Lamyka L.

            A better question is why wouldnʻt I be angry in my reply to g75401? This person has completely thrown out everything I wrote, and interjected their own racist slant into the void created. Then proceeds to blame me for their lack of acknowledgement at “good deeds” that quite frankly regardless of religion a good person would do anyways.

            I gave a measured and rather sedate response considering how I was singled out and insulted. Not only for the implications and flaccid blame but ERASURE of my own words and point of view.

            Iʻm glad you disagree with certain portions of what I wrote. I tried to be concise but I looked at the question from a US political standpoint. I actually told Cara that I was writing the 2 most positive I could imagine LOL I end up looking like Iʻm writing a dystopian novel.

            For me personally, I donʻt think theyʻre as impossible as they seem. 100 years is not a long time from the perspective of our people. 100 years ago, the Kingdom of Hawaii had been freshly invaded and occupied by the USA, citizens who were adults watched as their rights were taken away. Their children were denied proper education like they had been given for free in the Kingdom. The national heathcare given was now abolished by the US along with the right to speak the national language Hawaiian for all our citizens in any public space. Indoctrination schools where my Mother and others like her were beaten for speaking Hawaiian or questioning the “history” they were taught became the norm. Divisions between citizens by race were emphasized and enforced through US policy. Later on in the 1970s ethnic Hawaiians fought back and we have the Hawaiian Renaissance. But everything has a consequence–wanting to re-instill pride gave birth to a generation that was further divided into “take care of our own” and those like me who say “take care of all our citizens”.

            And that battle rages even now with some of us who say “Hawaiians need help first, and should take care of our own” and those like me who say “Hawaii Kingdom Citizens need help, restore our countryʻs independence for us ALL.” The fight for freedom from occupation and tyranny continues.

            100 years is merely 3 generations. People really need to think about that.

          • Well put, Lamya– these are important political realities, and very few are able to interject them into the consciousness of modern pagan and polytheist discourse. Voices like yours from within the broader community will help raise the needed awareness. I support your voice and hope you keep talking and teaching! More of us need to know that occupation and tyranny didn’t happen once, in some distant past, but are ongoing today, and into perpetuity so far as US policies are concerned, and real people deal with their racial consequences every day, while others of us passively benefit through unearned privilege, and we who do need to start seeing it and calling it out.

          • Franklin_Evans

            it’s difficult to convey a sense of friendly inquiry, especially in a topic that generates intense feelings. I hope I wasn’t too awkward — your reply here implies I wasn’t — but it really was as polite a prying inquiry as I could muster.

            I asked about the anger, because I know enough — which isn’t very much — about Hawaii’s history to know it’s justified in many ways. I’m very grateful you took the time to expand on your original contribution.

      • Are we defining ourselves according to Christian norms and attitudes? I’m not. There never was any one single paganism– ever. There are many paganisms– many pagan traditions, and many polytheistic traditions, from many lands and cultures. Following one does not make one an automatic adherent of any, or all, the others, nor are the traditions we follow anything to do with Christian concepts. There was no singular, ancient ‘European paganism,’ there were myriad tribes, each with its own deities, customs, and traditions, with many of those peoples indigenous to their regions, not just friendly to indigenous peoples, as though they were never indigenous peoples themselves. The current existence of our traditions challenges religious norms in part by challenging the very concept of religious normativity itself, to stand as viable, honorable traditions in our own rights, not to be in juxtaposition to an almighty monotheistic religion, to exist as ‘others’ by its side, or across a line.

        I’m glad you are recycling, donating, and affecting people’s thoughts and choices for the better. How else can we, as adherents of our various pagan and polytheist traditions, take care of our lands, each other, and our fellow non-human beings?

    • Jules Morrison

      Theosophy and the new age are like dinosaurs and birds, very much a continuity even if the form has changed. They’re both basically Christianity stripped of scripture and substituted with an appropriation-tastic hodge podge of borrowed religious concepts attributed to stereotypes of “the exotic other”. Theosophy became uncool. The new hotness replaced it. I forsee the new age becoming uncool too (too unsubtle in its borrowing, built on made up history, just embarrassing) but I have hope that it won’t be replaced. Enough people will be exposed to non Christian religious ideas that they don’t run straight from Christianity to a “crystal dragon Jesus” simulacrum thereof. Which is a positive for paganism and polytheism.

      • Northern_Light_27

        The way I see it, Native American appropriation was cool for a while, but Native anger made it uncool for at least some people (sadly nowhere near all), and ATR appropriation is the new cool, especially among Neo-Pagans. The endless search for authenticity, always defined as someone else’s culture and never what’s in our own backyard.

        • Jules Morrison


          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            African Traditional Religions.

    • Damiana

      Sam – you make some excellent points. As a childless keeper of a tradition, Im curious as to how to pass it on without getting involved in Pagan politics and drama. I haven’t taught in a long time and have mixed feelings about resuming.

      So far I’ve found that expressing my values via community, civic and social justice work is very useful because it benefits the lives of many. Unfortunately, the current trend of Pagans getting involved in the cause du jour means the less interesting but very vital work us every day activists witches do is ignored by our larger community, who might actually benefit from knowing about it.

      But my activism isn’t the same as directly passing on specific practices, ideas, values and lore.

    • The idea that “religions that do not keep their children die” is not entirely true. There is absolutely a generational retention problem in modern Paganism–lots of our kids leave their childhood religions behind them as adults–but we do have many converts to fill those gaps in our numbers. What’s more, Paganism is not unique in this situation: The Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) also has problems with generational retention, but, like Paganism, has had enough of an influx of new members through conversion that their numbers are not declining (at least among liberal Friends). That’s been true since the WWII or a little later for both of those religions, as near as I can tell, and that’s not a bad track record.

      Don’t get me wrong: I’d have loved to have passed my athame on to my own child. But passing it on to someone else’s child is also meaningful, and so far, I think we can make a good case that it’s working. (I do hope we find ways to more effectively transmit our religions across generations, mind you, and I’ve been active both among Pagans and Quakers trying to do that.)

      On the question of needing to become more ethically engaged with the surrounding world? Oh, yes. I dearly hope we do manage that.

    • Considering the bulk of the neo-pagan movement is founded on ceremonial magic, it doesn’t really lend itself to including children, and most neopagan groups I have seen don’t actively invite them. A few do try, and there are some websites aimed at this, but ceremonial magic isn’t actually intended for children. Those pagan and polytheist traditions which are based in seasonal and family custom, or cultural tradition, are more family friendly, designed to be shared among the many generations, and will have a better chance of retaining their youth into adulthood, if strong communities around those traditions can be built and sustained. It takes a village, and where the village is lacking, there is no place for the child learner to belong upon reaching adulthood. Communities of solid tradition are needed, but the present umbrella that is more like a patchwork quilt doesn’t lend itself to strong community; it’s too fragmented. Each tradition on its own needs to define and build its own social infrastructure, and the various traditions can support each other in such endeavors. Clearly mainstream religions won’t be supportive, so we must be towards each other, but while also honoring our various traditions and what each needs to be strong within themselves.

      • Baruch Dreamstalker

        We should be mindful that many churches in this country suffer a drop-off in allegiance of young adults. Some of them come back later, sometimes for Sunday School for their kids. We shouldn’t expect to be different.What I tell UU religious education directors is that the Sunday School should be aware of the experiences it’s giving the kids, to the point of whether they would as adults and parents wish those experiences on their kids and take them to a UU Sunday School.

        • That’s a good point, yes, and also telling that those who return often do when they have kids themselves– when we are raising the next generation, we are keenly aware of a need for communal and generational support.

          I don’t know whether actual cultural communities experience the same phenomenon, which are grounded in cultural tradition in which religion is a part, but is not the totality of the tradition, such as indigenous communities.

        • Northern_Light_27

          Why wouldn’t you expect Pagans to be different, and why use church as a model? Our ancestors for the most part didn’t understand the concept of a “religion” that was separated from culture, that could be defined as anything other than “our way”. That’s still the model for most indigenous world religions, and if many Pagan religions are to be successful at all, that’s what will happen to them. Even mystic and mystery cults were grounded within a larger cultural milieu that supported them, they weren’t completely on their own. I think if it’s endless converts for the forseeable future, given the roots Pagan religions are drawing from that’s a failure, not a success.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            Because modern Pagans are grounded in the present milieu, and these are its patterns of religious allegiance.

          • Franklin_Evans

            You and Northern have opened a “can of worms” that I’ve been wishing had been examined starting a very long time ago. Pagans (and many Heathens of my acquaintance) seem to assume that we must find a patch of ground outside the mainstream, and hope for a few crumbs of support from sympathetic mainstreamers. That attitude was a serious obstacle to my local efforts to organize some sort of framework in which Pagan diversity can become a strength.

  • Janet McCulloch

    I think that, as the world’s infrastructures and community standards are increasingly stressed by climate change and extreme climate events, political upheaval, and social restructuring, the natural world will become more and more vital to the survival of those in urban as well as rural environments. The Wheel of the Year will be increasingly honoured as an example of how to understand the natural rhythms of the Earth and how to live better lives by connection and understanding of the dependency of systems in the plant, animal and human world. The time of human dominion over the natural world is coming rapidly to an end as the Earth rejects it and creates inhabitable conditions. I think and hope that this will give rise to more acceptance of Pagan spirituality by the world’s major mono-theistic religions. I do, however, also think that we will have many decades of religious based struggles before the desire for peace washes over the war-fatigued of the world.

  • Jules Morrison

    100 years is a long time, longer than it sounds, but trends I expect to see play out are the seeming opposites of direct personal contact (UPG) and archeological accuracy. Rubbish passed off as history will be swept away, people will have access to up to the minute AI assisted synthesis of academic archeology as a matter of course. But a recognition that “the age of myths never ended” will replace reliance on scripture or lore. For example, “if you want to know what Thor has been getting up to, ask Thor (or ask Loki, he has the best gossip)” will replace going back to the same handful of eddas and sagas. Intercommerce between the physical and the astral will become normalized, in at least some strands of paganism and polytheism. The very Christian idea of faith without reciprocity will either fade, or schism hard with the more dynamic ferment of UPG driven, live action religion.

    • “people will have access to up to the minute AI assisted synthesis of academic archeology as a matter of course”

      I would actually disagree with that. Archeology is a very complex field which is critically underfunded and often blatantly inefficient. There are countless arguably very important excavations that took years to complete that have simply been forgotten simply because no reports have ever been written or completed.

      Archeology, ironically enough, still lags decades behind compared to other academic fields. I don’t think it will be as efficient as you said a 100 years from now. Maybe a little bit better, but not quite as fast as that.

      • Jules Morrison

        Eh, have you looked at Watson, the once Jeopardy winning, now general purpose research AI? Provided that archeological information becomes digitally accessible at all, even in the most abstruse and crude format, you can reasonably expect AIs of 100 years from now to be able to paw through and summarize such records with utter ease.

        • I wasn’t aware of its existence actually. But it is true that AI could become very powerful in 100 years. But the actual work of archeological research (scouting, digging, preserving, archiving, comparing, writing) will still have to be done by humans in much the same way it is done now. I don’t really see how AI would help in this very practical field.

          • Jules Morrison

            I suggest you haven’t read enough science fiction. I could easily imagine the unchanged job being done much faster, more precisely and methodically by robots. Or even, archeology could done in quite radically different ways – bacteria-scale biological robots worming their way through undisturbed soil, cataloguing undisturbed artefacts in 3D, analyzing them and the subtle chemical haloes of decay around them, reconstructing utterly rotted away artefacts from their traces, performing noninvasive structural assays of solid items, sequencing DNA, and all this data streaming in to be collated and placed in context and put up online.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            I agree that AI and nanobots are going to change the world in ways not instantly anticipated. (If we survive as a species to fully develop them…)

          • I have to admit I read little science fiction. The things you mentioned look awesome and could maybe work indeed, but I’m worry to think that future will be all so much different than today. If we were to believe people in 1900 we would all go vacation to the moon on flying bicycles today.

  • ChristopherBlackwell

    I certainly see the splintering continuing. I don’t think anything else is possible. All I can hope for is that we can allow for our differences and stop attacking each other for our differences. If we can do that we will be fine, if we cannot, then it will be religious warfare all over again. The main thing is we must avoid the very problems that all of the mainstream religions went through as they developed, including the push toward orthodoxy.

    • Agreed; differentiation is inevitable, and not negative. Besides, there never was any single pagan religion anyway, there were always various alternative and indigenous religious traditions about, and still are. Differences need not be threatening just because each tradition desires its own space and identity. When those are respected, we will more easily work together as allies from the vantage of our various traditions, where our interests align. We don’t need to insist on false conformity in order to work effectively together when necessary, and we don’t need to worship together to be political allies. Part of challenging religious normativity is calling out the normativity itself; the idea of one single Paganism creates a new ‘normal’ which then ‘others’ the non-conforming traditions as naughty factions not supporting the team captain. We’re not all Wiccans and Druids; we never were. Be who we are, and support each other in a society which regularly contends with ongoing religious oppression via fundamentalist-driven legislation and policy, and perpetual agendas of colonization, racism, misogyny, and LGBTQ-phobia. We really can take care of each other without being identical at the same time..

    • Damiana

      It would certainly help if Pagan publications quit giving voice to so many nasty, out of control BNPs and those without a firm grasp of relevant historical paganism and religion.

  • Tim

    What I see happening is the possibility of a great awakening of human consciousness, caused partly by disillusionment of the “book religions”. People will be looking for a meaningful personal relationship with Deity to help with life’s questions and deeper issues, and Pagan practices can fulfill that need. However, for that to happen, we need to shed the image of a bunch of adults playing dress up and pretend in hippie type gatherings. We need to offer something tangible to the average person seeking a worship path. People still flock to the ancient temples, and would use modern day active temples and shrines as well. Problem is, we do not have any real active temples or shrines with the exception of a very few sites. Paganism as it is now is mainly an academic study, and without some serious infrastructure to lend credibility to the academia, I do not look for a bright future for us. We are in a golden time of opportunity to make great progress for the future of the Pagan paths, and if we fritter away these times of great opportunity with the petty nitpicking and discord I see so much online, then in a hundred years, all that may be left is a few academic footnotes in the journals of religious history and the remains of a temple to Goddess Hathor in the deep woods of southwest Wisconsin. The future is entirely up to our input and efforts.

    • kenofken

      Infrastructure is a chicken and egg problem. I don’t think it should be built for the sake of drawing in more people off the street, and much more important than what I want, the economics of present-day Neopaganism simply won’t allow temples, or much other physical infrastructure, in most instances. The dominant models of organization to date – small covens/groves and loose confederations of ecclectic solitaries, cannot support free standing temples, and in most cases have no desire to do so. Many who do push for them are unrealistic about the financials, want to be a full time paid pastor, and want to ape Christian churches in varying degrees for the sake of “mainstreaming” us.

      We will only have temples if and when have fully developed theologies and traditions which consider them integral to Pagan life. If that happens, it will probably arise from some of the more devotional forms of Polytheism which are starting to come to the fore. Even still, there are strong barriers to such infrastructure. It is expensive. If you aren’t prepared to tithe a serious chunk of your earnings every month, you don’t really want a temple. Today’s Pagans/Polytheists are a fiercely independent bunch, and not kindly disposes to hierarchies or religious authority figures. Americans, certainly those from Gen X on, are not joiners in general.

      To have temples, we will have to evolve a culture which requires them. Traditions which successfully build and run temples would have to seem communal worship and dedicated space as integral to their beliefs. The temples, I think, would also have to serve as important centers of gravity for culture, economics and even politics within their communities. It would have to provide tangible secular benefits and a sense of identity which its members cannot readily find elsewhere.

      Infrastructure will determine our visibility and impact in the larger society, but it will not determine whether Pagan religion survives. So long as these deities speak to humanity and some of us hear them and speak back, it will persist.

  • Good article Cara. Thanks for getting the responses from these folks and gathering it into the article. 🙂

  • The crowd will look back on the day when once upon a time there was a concept called The Pagan Umbrella, and regard it as a social myth in line with the tendency to normalization, by having created, in its zeal to flout established religions of its day, a New Normal to which various adherents were expected to conform, and expected to support. By now nation states will have disintegrated, along with umbrellas, and corporations, as resources have become depleted, globalization came to a halt, and people had to localize to maximise regional resources, including each other. No longer will the emphasis be on the developing individual, but the thriving locality, and people will be forced to look up from themselves and at their neighbors, of various races, traditions, and preferences, and need to respect them in order to set aside useless contentions in order to work together to take care of each other and meet each others’ needs, including the Wiccan and the Asatruar, the Druid and the Helenic, the New Ager and the Christian fundamentalist, the white settler and the indigenous tribalist. Normativity and privilege will be a lost luxury as living becomes a new daily challenge, but within this crucible, many past and new traditions will flourish with the innovative thinking required of the times, as power infrastructures are dismantled, colonization fades, and people find that taking care of each other was the way forward together all along, whatever persuasion we may happen to be, which by its nature includes understanding and respecting different ways of being in the world. Such people will be banding together in support and solidarity against the popular fascist movements attempting to scapegoat those they deem the ‘outsiders.’ Lack of resources means fewer people will be swayed by such tyrants who do little to ensure the needs of the people and the land are actually met in ways which support life. They will be outnumbered and overpowered by the sheer innovation of new social forms, new religions, new uses of infrastructure, new places of worship, populated with many and varied gods and their adherents, of many and varied traditions of various names, where the terms pagan and polytheist will be irrelevant, as they will no longer be compared to, or othered against any monotheist religious norm. Their communal aims will be the support life in all the ways in which they can work together to do so.

    • I am very clear that Internet Paganism is leaving “The Pagan Umbrella” behind.

      However, that’s not at all what I’ve seen on the ground. In my 30 or so years as a Pagan, I have performed ritual with Druids and shamanic practitioners, Norse Pagans of several distinct varieties, Witches of more kinds than I can list without being tedious, and others who self-identify simply as “Pagan,” as their practices do not conform to any of those other traditions.

      Despite the sense online that all these traditions are trying to overwrite one another or to escape one another, I’ve already seen a good deal of the kind of respectful mutual support among different traditions in my time around bonfires in the woods, and I’ve seen a lot of powerful community built over horns of mead and cups of coffee. What online are endless battles over how many deities can dance on the head of a pin, out in reality becomes rational discussion, laughter, and camaraderie. Diversity, not forced norming seems to be how we roll, too, at least over the decade I’ve spent in Pagan community.

      I can’t speak to your other predictions, though. Too far over my “pay grade” for me to offer an opinion.

      • I’m glad so many are comfortable coming together, both in worship and discussion. It does sound like the concern over forced norming is increasingly becoming an issue at events like Pantheacon, which in turn spawned the new conference, Many Gods West, and another like it on the east coast, so it isn’t confined to the interwebs, either. Diversity does imply differences, and those diverse traditions deserve visibility and dedicated space to pursue their traditions. Supporting each other is something we can do, because we know we aren’t going to get that support from the mainstream religions around us. I’d love to see the development of public spaces co-owned or co-leased by a variety of pagan and polytheist tradition groups, to each use as each needs, with regular social gatherings like dinners and picnics for all, to grow camaraderie among everyone. Events too which are held by one tradition and invite those of the other traditions to attend, in order to share and teach customs, would also be wonderful. Then there might also be social justice and political action groups, which would be open to and include members of any of the traditions who would like to participate. These ways make much more sense to me to come together, build wider community, and do needed work.

        • Baruch Dreamstalker

          You gave me an unexpected nostalgia pluck. I spent one wonderful summer week for twenty summers on an island co-owned by Unitarians and Congregationalists. It was there that I first told the story the Goddess slapped into my brain in Golden Gate Park.I like your picture of showcasing the elements of a tradition for others’ benefit, but I’m mindful of strong feelings about appropriation in some quarters of the shredding umbrella, and would expect resistance.

          • The nostalgia sounds sweet. 🙂 Can you help me better understand what you mean about appropriation here? I’m not following.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            Two things whites have done with Native American culture: Make smudging sticks a commodity. And offer supposedly authentic sweat lodges when the provider has no connection with the tribe in question and charges big bucks for it.Clearly the second example is a form of criminal fraud. Some would call the first example also culpable, while others argue that cultures borrow from each other all the time. Those who hold both actions culpable use “appropriation” to label what they’re talking about.

          • Oh yes, I am familiar with those forms of appropriation. I guess I am not understanding how you are applying them in the above framework of the shredding umbrella.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            I meant that, if a tradition considered showcasing itself for the benefit of other graduates of the shredded umbrella, some within the tradition might well say, “Bad enough they appropriate our stuff, you want to invite them to take it?”

          • OK, but which traditions are you considering to be doing such showcasing? Your example of indigenous traditions doesn’t fit here, since they were never a part of the so-called umbrella to begin with. And considering contemporary pagan and polytheist traditions, which ones would be offering up their traditions to others, or have any sense of their traditions being potentially appropriated? The Asatru? Traditional witches? Probably not neoshamans, as much (though not all) of that is already appropriated, and not *from* them, but *by* them. So exactly how to you see this potentially playing out, and among which parties?

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            Allow me to point out that I did not invent the showcase scenario. I merely commented on some complications.

          • What? Are you suggesting Native Americans showcased their traditions to Euroamericans deliberately? Mostly, they didn’t, barring some known plastic shamen. As well, indigenous tribes don’t consider themselves part of the pagan or polytheist communities, so I don’t consider them relevant to the discussion of the future of these traditions, unless you mean, appropriation will continue, which is sadly, yes, likely, but I don’t see said appropriation changing in direct response to pagans and polytheists realizing their umbrella is a mirage.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            I think we’re talking past each other. Someone in this thread suggested events at which one tradition shows its elements to others. I am simply skeptical that it will get past appropriation skeptics.

          • Perhaps we are. If you are implying it was me who suggested that, my suggestion was in the spirit of building inter-community support through religious literacy, the way a group of curious and open-minded Christians might be invited to visit a Hindu place of worship on a Hindu feast day, with the Hindu extending hospitality, and the Christians broadening their horizons of wider understanding. The Christian isn’t actually interested in becoming Hindu, or importing Hindu customs into the Christian tradition. I don’t think a traditional witchcraft coven invited to an Asatru event as guests would feel compelled to appropriate Asatru customs as a result of being their having attended the Asatru event. Is this what you are suggesting may happen as a result of extending hospitality?