Contemporary Paganism, Modern Paganism, or Neopaganism, is an umbrella term referring to a variety of contemporary religious movements, particularly those influenced by or claiming to be derived from the various historical pagan beliefs of pre-modern Europe. Although they do share commonalities, contemporary Pagan religious movements are diverse and no single set of beliefs, practices, or texts are shared by them all.
Contemporary Paganism has been characterized as "a synthesis of historical inspiration and present-day creativity", in this manner drawing influences from pre-Christian, folkloric and ethnographic sources in order to fashion new religious movements. The extent to which contemporary Pagans use these sources differs; many follow a spirituality which they accept is entirely modern, whilst others attempt to reconstruct or revive indigenous, ethnic religions as found in historical and folkloric sources as accurately as possible.
Neopagan movements emerged in Europe during the 19th and early 20th centuries, influenced by the wider occult movement; these included Thelema, Wicca and Adonism. With the rise of the counterculture during the 1960s, Paganism continued to adapt and spread, particularly throughout the U.S., where radical new approaches emerged that dealt with contemporary social issues and interests, such as Neoshamanism, the Goddess movement and the Radical Faeries. At the same time, some ethnic nationalist groups began to adopt pagan religions during the 20th century, leading to the rise of forms of Heathenry and Slavic neopaganism, which were centered primarily in Scandinavia and Eastern Europe. Today, there are active Pagan groups in the United States, the United Kingdom, Continental Europe and other parts of the world.
Although the Pagan movement is extremely disparate in its beliefs and practices, a number of sociologists and religious studies scholars involved in Pagan studies have highlighted commonalities shared within many, if not all, pagan groups. Most modern Pagan groups hold to a theology that embraces such beliefs as polytheism, animism, and pantheism, although there are groups who have instead advocated forms of Goddess-centred monotheism, agnosticism or atheism. Similarly, beliefs about an afterlife vary widely, as do conceptions on ethics and morality. Ritual plays a prominent part in pagan religious movements, where it is typically employed to induce an altered state of consciousness in the participants. The choice of festivals and days of special commemoration again differs widely among Pagans, although a majority adhere to a set of eight seasonal-based festivals, which are collectively referred to as the Wheel of the Year.
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“If she belongs to any besides the present, it is to the next world which artists want to see, when paganism will come again and we can give a divinity to every waterfall.”
—Henry Brooks Adams (18381918)