Categories: alternative religions, alternative religious traditions, new books, religion and scholarship, religion and the environment, wicca
Posted by Paul Harvey
Posted by Paul Harvey
Here's an offbeat choice for a course text: Chas S. Clifton, Her Hidden Children: The Rise of Wicca and Paganism in America (AltaMira Press, 2007). From the book's website:
The history of any religious movement can get murky. But the history of American Paganism--with so many invented lineages, so many solitary practitioners, so much resistance to staid definition, so much hiddenness--is especially hard to decipher. But here in Her Hidden Children Chas Clifton tells many never-before-told stories of the origins of Paganism and Wicca in the United States. The people, publications, and organizations that allowed Paganism and Wicca to set roots down in American soil and become "nature religion" are revealed in delicious detail. With a timeline, glossary, and photos of important figures,Her Hidden Children is compelling and important for any student of Paganism or American Religion.
Sean McCloud, author of Divine Hierarchies, has reviewed the book for H-AMSTDY. He writes:
In seven chapters, Clifton utilizes primary source books and magazines, personal interviews, and secondary scholarly works to produce a historical narrative of Wicca's (particularly) and Paganism's (secondarily) modern births and transformations. Though not explicitly fronted in his book, Clifton's narrative suggests a persuasive three-part historical periodization. First, in the 1950s and 1960s, the American movement reflected its debt to English occultism by presenting itself as an ancient mystery craft of the British Isles. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Wicca's American branch came to view itself as an earth-based "nature religion." The decade of the 1970s saw the influential rise of American feminist Wicca, which combined with the new nature religion identity and moved back across the Atlantic to shape British Wicca and Paganism. In this manner, the small occult tradition became the rapidly growing new religious movement.
The history of alternative religious traditions is booming, including the new book by Molly McGarry on Spiritualism recently noted here on the blog, and encapsulated as well in Catharine Albanese's synthesis on America's metaphysical religions and Leigh Schmidt's recent work on American spiritualities. I wonder if this bespeaks something of a response to, or even backlash to, the dominant evangelical synthesis that has been so influential in American religious history in the last generation?