Paganism is alive and well in America, according to author and National Public Radio correspondent Margot Adler.
She spoke in Jamrich Tuesday night about the history of the pagan movement and how it has changed since she became involved in the ’60s and ’70s.
Adler kicked off her presentation by telling a humorous anecdote about her first visit to Michigan in the 1980s to appear on a Detroit morning show.
Adler explained that she took extra care to look good for the television cameras and had cut herself shaving as she prepared for the event. At the end of the television appearence the audience was allowed to ask questions.
“A question that came up from the audience was ‘Is that mark on your leg from some ritual?’ I had to explain that, I had just cut myself shaving while getting ready.”
Adler, a priestess of the Gardnerian Wiccan tradition, wrote “Drawing Down the Moon: Witches, Druids, Goddess-Worshippers, and Other Pagans in America Today.” The book, first published in 1979, was one of the first publications to document the history and modern practices of various Earth-based religions.
Adler explained that paganism is a term that is used to refer to many worldwide religions that celebrate nature. She also said that everyone has pagan roots – it just depends how far back you have to go to find them.
“If you go far enough back, all of your ancestors were pagans,” she said. “You may not think that, but you’d be wrong.if you were black you lost those beliefs because of slavery. If you are Native American you lost those views because of government oppression. If you are some other European heritage you lost it when your grandparents or great grandparents or further back decided that it would be in their best interest to Americanize. All of us are rooting around in the ashes searching for something we have lost.”
She said almost all cultures started out with religions based on the Earth’s seasonal cycles, nature based ceremonies and rituals based on actions rather than pedantic beliefs.
Adler talked about how she took a break from being involved in the pagan movement for about 14 years. When she returned to the movement in 2004, she noticed the vast changes that had taken place.
“There’s this huge coming-of-age into being a worldwide religion,” Adler said.
She explained that when she joined the movement in the ’60s the majority of members were young. As the movement aged so did the members.
“We’d always paid some attention to funeral rites, but now the conversation has shifted to whether we should have Wiccan retirement homes,” she said.
The movement also had grown significantly in the 14 years that Adler spent inactive. She attributed this to changes in society and the spread of information through the internet.
“The pagan movement I entered was a closed one. People felt you had to be in the closet because of the very real fear of losing your job, custody of your kids, being seen as a social pariah,” she said.
Adler then went on to say that today more information is available than ever before. She talked to the audience about how she went on Stumbleupon, a program that generates random Web sites based on selected interests. She spent two hours on the program looking at random pagan and Wiccan Web sites and found only two groups she had heard of previously.
“We are seeing explosive growth of this movement,” she concluded.