Neopaganism in the United States is represented by widely different movements and organizations. The largest Neopagan religious movement is Wicca, followed by Neodruidism. Both of these religions or spiritual paths were introduced during the 1950s and 1960s from Great Britain. Germanic Neopaganism and Kemetism appeared in the US in the early 1970s. Hellenic Neopaganism appeared in the 1990s.


Paganism first arose in the United Kingdom, with individuals like Charles Cardell and Gerald Gardner popularizing their nature-based beliefs. The spread of Neopaganism in the United States started in the 1960s with the introduction of Neodruidism (or Druidry) and Wicca from Great Britain. In the 1960s throughout the 1970s multiple variations of the craft (with a more centered structure) began sprouting up within the US.[1] Neodruidism had begun in 1912 in the United States, but was more a fraternal order at that time.[2] Germanic Neopaganism (or Heathenism) entered during the 1970s, developing into new denominations proper to the US, notably Theodism. In the same period the first Kemetic groups were formed, with the tradition itself originating in the US.

Wicca, introduced by Gerald Gardner in 1954, is the best known of the Neopagan movements. Charles Cardell, Gerald Gardner's rival during the 1950s Pagan Witchcraft Movement in England, actually coined the term "Wiccens" referring to Pagan Witches.[1] Men were not the only founders of Pagan beliefs. Feminist based practices were on the rise during the 1960s and 1970s. The Pagan Organization, WITCH, an acronym for Women's International Terrorist Conspiracy from Hell, was formed during the 1960s.[1] Another instance of such practices was Dianic Witchcraft, mothered by Zsuzsanna Budapest who published a 1979 piece tilted "The Holy Book of Women's Mysteries".[1]

The 1980s and 1990s saw the emergence of a number of reconstructionist and other ethnic traditions. Hellenic Neopaganism (Dodekatheism), for example, has flourished since the 1990s, along with parallel developments in Greece. Hellenism was soon legally recognized as a 'known religion' in 2017 within Greece, when granted it more religions freedoms such as the freedom to open houses of worship and the freedom for clergy to officiate weddings. [3]


Further information: List of Neopagan movements

Notable US Neopagan organizations:


Further information: List of Neo-Pagan festivals and events


Wiccan churches and other Neopagan institutions are becoming more common in the US. However, estimates of their numbers vary widely. The 2014 Pew Research Center's Religious Landscapes Survey included a subset of the New Age Spiritual Movement called "Pagan or Wiccan," reflecting that 3/4 of individuals identifying as New Age also identified as Pagan or Wiccan and placing Wiccans and Pagans at 0.3% of the total U.S. population or approximately 956,000 people of just over 1,275,000 individuals in the New Age movement.[10] Most of the 1990s studies put the number of US Neopagans between 200,000 and 1 million (0.1% to 0.5% of the total population).[11] A 2008 Pew Forum survey put "New Age" religious believers, including Neopagans, at about 1.2 million.[12]

According to David Waldron (2005),[13] roughly 10 million Wiccan-related books were sold in 2000 (up from 4.5 million in 1990), as reported by the American Booksellers Association. However this gives only a rough guide to the size of the Wiccan-related economy and he comments that the added complexity of determining the boundary between Wiccan or Neopagan products and New Age products makes determining the size of the movement from this rather problematic.

More conservative estimates included Helen Berger and Craig Hawkins in Exploring the World of Wicca, who guessed from 150,000 to 200,000. Melton, J. Gordon, Jerome Clark and Aidan A. Kelly in New Age Almanac (1991, p. 340) estimated a total of about 300,000 people associated with the "overall movement" of Wicca, with "tens of thousands" of members active in between 1,000 and 5,000 covens. Conservative estimates in 1993 arrived at about 50,000 Wiccans in the US (Religious Requirements & Practices of Certain Selected Groups: A Handbook for Chaplains, 1993) while Wiccan high estimates claimed several million (Phyllis Curott, The Book of Shadows: A Modern Woman's Journey into the Wisdom of Witchcraft and the Magic of the Goddess). In 2008, U.S. Today estimated 1 million Wiccans,[11][14][15][16] a fast growth compared to the 100.000/200.000 estimated in late 1990s and early 2000s.[14]

The United States Census Bureau's American Community Survey found 342,000 Wiccans and 340,000 Pagans in the United States in 2008.


"Emblem of Belief" #37
"Emblem of Belief" #37

Wicca was introduced to North America in 1964 by Raymond Buckland, an expatriate Briton who visited Gardner's Isle of Man coven to gain initiation. Interest in the USA spread quickly, and while many were initiated, many more non-initiates compiled their own rituals based on published sources or their own fancy.[17] Another significant development was the creation by feminists in the late 1960s to 1970s of an eclectic movement known as Dianic Wicca, or feminist Dianic Witchcraft.

The United States Department of Veterans Affairs in an out-of-court settlement of 23 April 2007 with the family of Patrick Stewart allowed the pentacle as an "emblem of belief" on tombstones in military cemeteries.[18][19][20]


Druidry is also known as Druidism and Neodruidism. The Ancient Order of Druids in America was founded in 1912 as the American branch of the Ancient and Archaeological Order of Druids.[21] Coming from the Druid cultural revivals in the UK in the 18th and 19th centuries, Neodruidry in the U.S. has a long history.

Celtic Reconstructionism, while not associated with Druidry directly, is also part of the cultural diaspora of Celtic Paganism. Celtic Reconstructionists place a greater emphasis on scholarly approaches, reviving and reconstructing the old practices of the Celts in the modern day.[22][23][24]


Main article: Ásatrú in the United States

Ásatrú in the United States began in the early 1970s with Stephen McNallen's 1974-1986 Asatru Free Assembly, formerly Viking Brotherhood, 1971-1974.

In 1986, the "folkish vs. universalist" dispute regarding the stance of Ásatrú towards white supremacism escalated, resulting in the breakup of the Asatru Free Assembly. The "leftist" (universalist) branch reformed as The Troth, while the "rightist" (folkish) branch became the Ásatrú Alliance (AA). McNallen re-founded his own organisation as the Ásatrú Folk Assembly (AFA) in 1994.

In 1997, the Britain-based Odinic Rite (OR) founded a US chapter (ORV). This means that folkish Asatru is represented by three major organizations in the US, viz. AA, AFA and OR. The three groups have attempted to collaborate within an International Asatru-Odinic Alliance from 1997 until 2002, when it dissolved again as a result of internal factional disputes.


See also: Religious discrimination against Neopagans

According to feminist pagan Starhawk "religious discrimination against Pagans and Wiccans and indigenous religions is omnipresent in the U.S."[25]

Controversies mostly surround religious rights in US prisons and the US military. Prison inmates' right to practice minority religions was asserted in 2004 by the Supreme Court in Cutter v. Wilkinson.[26]

Some neopagan groups, particularly Germanic ones, have themselves been accused of racial discrimination. See Nordic racial paganism.

See also


  1. ^ a b c d White, Ethan (2010). "The Meaning of "Wicca": A Study in Etymology, History, and Pagan Politics". The Pomegranate. 12: 185–207 – via Academic Search Complete.
  2. ^ Ancient and Archaeological Order of Druids ((cite web)): Missing or empty |title= (help)
  3. ^ "Hellenism legally recognized as religion in Greece". Wildhunt. 18 April 2017.
  4. ^ Encyclopædia Britannica, s.v. "Neo-Paganism
  5. ^ Article Title
  6. ^ "Hellenion".
  7. ^ "The Troth".
  8. ^ "American council of witches, pagans, and friends".
  9. ^ "American Council of Witches". Facebook.
  10. ^ "Religion in America: U.S. Religious Data, Demographics and Statistics".
  11. ^ a b "". Archived from the original on 2 October 2003. Retrieved 16 May 2008.((cite web)): CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  12. ^ "- Religion in America: U.S. Religious Data, Demographics and Statistics".
  13. ^ David Waldron (2005). Witchcraft for Sale!: Commodity Vs Community in the Neopagan Movement.
  14. ^ a b "Estimated 1 Million Wiccans in U.S. Today - Technology - redOrbit". Retrieved 16 May 2008.
  15. ^ "Major Religions Ranked by Size". Archived from the original on 16 August 2000. Retrieved 16 May 2008.((cite web)): CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  16. ^ USA Census: Self-Described Religious Identification of Adult Population: 1990 and 2001
  17. ^ Holzer, Hans (1972). The New Pagans. Garden City, NY: Doubleday. OCLC 281240.
  18. ^ "Wiccans symbols allowed on grave markers in government cemeteries". International Herald Tribune. Associated Press. 23 April 2007. Retrieved 11 July 2007.
  19. ^ "Veterans Affairs Department Must Accommodate Wiccan Symbol on Memorial Markers at Government Cemeteries, Says Americans United" (Press release). Americans United ( 8 June 2006. Archived from the original on 8 October 2007. Retrieved 11 July 2007.
  20. ^ "Available Emblems of Belief for Placement on Government Headstones and Markers". Retrieved 19 December 2012.
  21. ^ Ancient Order of Druids in America
  22. ^ Gallagher, Eugene V (2006). Introduction to new and alternative religions in America. Wesport, Conn: Greenword Press. pp. 178. ISBN 0-275-98713-2.
  23. ^ Bownman, Marion (1996). Cardiac Celts: Images of the Celts in Paganism. London, U.K. p. 244. ISBN 0-7225-3233-4.
  24. ^ Littlefield, Christine (November 2005). "Rekindling an ancient faither". Las Vegas Sun.
  25. ^ Washington Post: Discrimination Against Pagans
  26. ^ "Cutter v. Wilkinson". Oyez.

Further reading