Neo-Paganism Timeline: Early 20th century

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[Note: Dates in the same year are not listed in chronological order.]

Early 20th century

1902: Ernest Seton founds the neo-pagan Woodcraft movement in the United States.

1903: John Muir spends the night camping with President Theodore Roosevelt in Yosemite. Considered the most significant camping trip in conservation history, Muir persuaded Roosevelt to return Yosemite Valley and the Mariposa Grove to federal protection.

1905: The Neo-Druidic group, the Ancient Order of Druids, makes use of Stonehenge, performing a mass initiation ceremony there.

1908: Kenneth Grahame publishes The Wind in the Willows, containing the episode, “The Piper at the Gates of Dawn,” which describes a benevolent and awe-inspiring figure of Pan.

1908-1912: A small group of intellectuals and artists who called themselves the “Neo-pagans” gather around the young poet, Rupert Brooke, with the intent of rebelling against Victorianism. The group practiced intellectual-equality for women, co-ed campouts, and bathing together.

1915: Aleister Crowley writes to an adept, Frater Achad, about the revival of a natural pagan religion.

1916: Ernest Westlake founds the Order of Woodcraft Chivalry, a Quaker-inspired pacifist alternative to the militaristic Baden-Powell scouting movement. Westlake sought to revive the old gods of paganism, including Pan, Dionysus, Artemis, and Aphrodite. He did not view this religion as antithetical to Christianity.

1921: Margaret Murray publishes The Witch-Cult in Western Europe. She theorizes that an underground pagan resistance to the Christian Church survived across Europe until exposed by the Inquisition. They organized in covens of 13 people, dedicated to a male god, and held ritual sabots.  Murray’s conception of the witch cult was foundational for Gerald Gardner’s revival of witchcraft.

1922: Harry (“Dion”) Byngham takes over the Order of Woodcraft Chivalry. He introduces phallic worship and naturism (nudity). It also included ritual circle with four quarters corresponding to elements; three degrees of initiation; a horned god and moon goddess; and practiced ritual nudity — in these ways closely resembling Gerald Gardner’s Wicca. Members referred to its practice as Witancraft (“Craft of the Wise”). He was influenced by Aleister Crowley.

1922: James Frazer’s a single-volume abridged edition of The Golden Bough is published, making it more accessible to the general public.

1923: Rolf Gardiner writes “Youth and Europe” in the October volume of Youth, describing the rise of a new culture and a new religion, driven by an impulse to reconnect with our bodies, with the tangible world of sense, and with the sensual rhythm of life.

1930: Somerset Maugham retrospectively describes the rise of Pan in literary circles in 1910.

1931: Ella Young, co-founder with Yeats and Maud Gonne of the “Fellowship of the Four Jewels” founds the “Fellowship of Shasta” in California, celebrating four annual rites and worshiping the Celtic goddess Brigid.

1933: Eranos is founded as an intellectual discussion group dedicated to the study of spirituality as it relates to depth psychology, comparative religion, folklore etc., which met annually in Switzerland, and included Karl Kerenyi, Mircea Eliade, Carl Jung, Erich Neumann, and Joseph Campbell.

1933: Margaret Murray publishes The God of the Witches in which she claims that the witch cult she had described in in 1921 dated back to prehistoric times. Murray describes the god of the witches as a Horned God. This archetype becomes central to the Neo-Pagan mythos.

Mid-1930s: A student group at Cambridge is purported to have tried to reconstruct pagan witchcraft from Murray’s The Witch-Cult in Western Europe.

1937: The secret traditions and rituals of the Golden Dawn are made public by Israel Regardie, former secretary to Aleister Crowley.

1938: Gleb Botkin founds The Church of Aphrodite in New York, worshipping in monotheistic fashion a female goddess who gave birth to the universe. One of Botkin’s followers, W. Holman Keith, went on to found a Neo-Dianaic Faith in Los Angeles.

1939: Lady Raglan, a member of the Folklore Society, coins the name “Green Man” to describe the leaf- or vine-covered faces peering out from many medieval European cathedrals. She links these to folk traditions of Jack-in-the Green, Robin Hood, King of the May, etc. Later writers link these images to the Frazier’s Dying and Rising God archetype.

1939: Gerald Gardner joins the Folklore Society.

1939: Gerald Gardner later claims to have been initiated into the New Forest coven in the home of “Old Dorothy” this year.

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One thought on “Neo-Paganism Timeline: Early 20th century

  1. Good start! Though you should include Vera Chapman, Kibbo Kift member, Inklings founder, Pendragon of the Universal Bond, and one of OBOD’s founders. The dancers Martha Graham, Ruth St. Denis and Isadora Duncan, Delsartians, danced as priestesses of various Goddesses through their lives. The Tableau movement that derived from Delsarte enacted rituals in the first 4 decades of the 20th Century. Green Forests and blue skies!

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