Patheos Looks at the Future of Paganism

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Patheos.com, a web site dedicated to religious and spiritual dialog, has been running a special series this Summer looking at the future of religion. Each week focuses on a different religious tradition or movement, including Hinduism, Buddhism, Catholicism, Islam, and several others. This week the focus is on modern Paganism. I spoke with Star Foster, Patheos.com’s Pagan Portal Manager, who stressed to me how important it is for our communities to consider our collective future(s).

“The Future of Pagan religions is even more fascinating because we’ve never conformed to the future laid out for us. We were saying we would remain a fringe, occult community and now one of the cast members of the most popular cartoon show for the past 20 years has become Wiccan. We were insistent about transmitting information orally or by handcopying and now the internet has made Paganism an open-source community. You can find our classics at your local library. We’re growing and diversifying yet the concept of our future is very hazy to most of us. There are people who have been active in the community for decades who have no idea just how diverse we have become or how much we have grown. It’s safe to say that there are millions of us worldwide. Even if we only number 2 million, that’s still huge compared to 10 years ago. How many of us will there be 10 years from now? How will we respond to and accommodate that growth? How do we enter the mainstream without out losing our dynamic, autonomous qualities?”

Star Foster and Patheos.com have assembled an impressive line-up of modern Pagans from a wide array of faiths, traditions, and perspectives to give their input on the subject. This week will see contributions from scholars like Helen Berger and Sarah Pike, renowned Pagan journalist Margot Adler (check out The Wild Hunt interview), author Christopher Knowles, mystic and ritualist T. Thorn Coyle, and several prominent clergy and leaders, including M. Horatius Picinus, Pontifex Maximus of Nova Roma. Right now you can already read entries from Ellen Evert Hopman, Elder of the Order of Whiteoak, K.C. Hulsman, Gythia of Urdabrunnr Kindred, Haitian Vodou initiate Kenaz Filan, Northern Tradition shaman Galina Krasskova, Wiccan author Mya Om, and Ekklesía Antínoou co-founder P. Sufenas Virius Lupus (a guest-poster at The Wild Hunt) who discusses the importance of “specialized, localized, niche religious groups” to the future of the modern Pagan movement.

“The plurality, as well as the success, of many ancient religions was in their particularity, not in their universality. Cultic action was directed toward specific divinities, not “the divine” in general. Moving from a discourse that speaks in terms of “the divine” instead of in specific, personal, and individual terms about specific, personal and individual deities, will make these niche religious situations far more effective and relevant to individual communities. There are doctors and other medical professionals who can be reached in most communities at any time, and this is important to know; but it’s also important to have a relationship with an individual doctor who knows your health history and your own specific needs in order to get those needs met more fully. Calling “Doctor!” might get you some assistance in certain situations, but knowing the name and the number of a specific doctor will be more likely to turn up results. The same is true of the divine world. There has been too much emphasis on the unity of divinity, when there needs to be more emphasis on the plurality of divinities for future effective Pagan theologies to take root in niche religious contexts.”

Many more contributions will be rolled out as the week progresses. This is an audacious undertaking on the part of Star Foster, and she’s done us a great service by making the Pagan contribution to this project at Patheos.com so robust and far-reaching in its scope. I hope you’ll take the time this week to read the many fine essays in the Future of Paganism series. The Pagan Portal at Patheos.com has become something truly special within the larger Pagan media ecosystem, and we are all the richer for its presence.