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History of Neo-Pagan Druidism, Requirement 1

Define Paleopaganism, Mesopaganism, and Neopaganism, giving examples of each. (minimum 100 words for each)


Paleopaganism is a term coined by Isaac Bonewits to indicate pre-Christian paganism. It is locative in relative time, primarily, relying on being a catch-all term that more-or-less means "indigenous in their religious practices." Of course, like "paleopaganism", the word "indigenous" can mean many things. Any person, really, who exists in a state of religion before Christian contact can be seen as a Paleopagan according to Isaac's definitions, but the "classic" examples would include the Druids of the Celts and the brahmins of the Vedics. Also, the magi of the Persians and the goes of the Greeks would fit the definition of Paleopagan.


Mesopaganism is a term coined by Isaac Bonewits to indicate post-Christian Masonic reconstruction, accurate or not, of paleopagan beliefs. Its use is somewhat derisive, and a number of people Isaac would consider "Mesopagans" have taken exception to the usage of the term. Primarily, it indicates any group that grows out of the Masonic temples from the 1600's on, whether they are actually Pagan or just re-using the name or symbol sets of Paganism. Example groups include the Order of Bards Ovates and Druids, the Ancient Order of Druids in America, and other similar groups. Bonewits has indicated that mesopagan groups are often Christian and that occasionally insinuates (or insists) that their work is founded on romantic fantasy or forgery.


Neo-Paganism is a term brought into common use by Oberon Zell in the late 60's, and in this context indicates the Bonewitsian classification of groups that refuse to attempt to trace their history through false means and made-up genealogy, but admit that they are new (or "neo") on the stage of world-religions. The classic example is the Reformed Druids of North America, who created their own religion with a sense of humour and in an attempt to show that there was a problem with the rules of the establishment. ADF, of course, is a Neo-Pagan organization, as we don't claim any distant lineage, as are the later offshoots of ADF.

[I'd also like to point out that these terms in general are less popular than we like to think. Many "Mesopagan" groups take real offense to the term, especially the "Mesopagans" who are actually Neo-Pagans. It is, in the end, best to avoid using the words "Mesopagan" and "Paleopagan". There may not be any paleopagans around to take offense, but I think that if we just call them "pagans" with a lower-cased "p", we'll have that covered. I had to use the words to fulfill this requirement, but I don't plan to ever use them again.]


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