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Earth Day and afterwards: American paganism’s appropriation of ‘nature religion’

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Chapter Summary

The creation of a new American Paganism in the 1950s and 1960s had its roots in a European literary paganism, in the arrival of new Pagan texts, primarily from Britain, in a longstanding American metaphysical tradition but also, equally importantly, in the American tradition of seeing nature as a source of sacred value. Thus, as American Paganism-particularly Wicca, its largest and most robust segment-developed a new identity as nature religion, it was able to connect to a pre-existing American spiritual current. Given their self-proclaimed magic-working components, Pagan religious traditions are often placed first in the metaphysical group. In practice, contemporary Pagan nature religion has three loci: the cosmos, the planet, and the body (Clifton, 2006). Wicca and other forms of new American Paganism stepped right through the door that Earth Day had opened for them-or perhaps more accurately, the door whose opening the first Earth Day merely marked.

Keywords: American metaphysical tradition; American Paganism; Wicca

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