Looking into the Future: Paganism in 2063

Predications are like promises from politicians, not worth very much, but I couldn’t resist an opportunity to peer into my crystal ball to see what the future might hold. If I end up being right my name could end up there with that of Nostradamus, if (when) I’m wrong . . . well no one will remember this post in 2063 anyways. I can’t say that I’m excited about all of my predictions and I hope that several of them don’t come to pass, but only time will tell.

People will still use the term “Pagan” but the tribes won’t gather together all that often.

Over the last fifty years it’s become easier and easier to communicate with people of a like mind. At first that connection was rather broad (remember the days of the Green Egg Forum?), but now it’s relatively easy to narrow your focus. Instead of interacting with Wiccans, Druids, and Asatru you can simply interact with only one of those groups if you so choose. Why would a Druid need to visit a “Pagan page” in 2063 when a Druid-only page might contain hundreds of links dealing with that specific tradition?

Using Patheos as an example we currently have four Christian channels (Evangelical, Catholic, Mormon, and Progressive), and all of those groups think of themselves as “Christians” even though they all have their own separate traditions, liturgies, etc. It’s easy to envision Paganism in 2063 behaving in much the same way. Perhaps by 2063 Patheos will have separate sections for Wicca, Druidry, Asatru, and Afro-Caribean faiths. That means a lot of us would probably pay lip-service to the idea of Greater Pagandom, and we’d probably still bump into each other at some of the larger festivals, but there would be a lot less cross-over.

The Pagan Umbrella has been leaking since the moment we put it over our heads. There have always been people uncomfortable with the word Pagan and it’s become more pronounced in the last ten years. I can’t think of a major world religion without at least a couple of schisms, I don’t see why we are going to be any different.

The major downside of these changes will be that smaller Pagan groups become even more marginalized. Right now aggregate Pagan sites (like Patheos Pagan and The Wild Hunt) host a diverse amount of views. What happens when there aren’t enough Hellenic Re-constructionists to justify their own page on major platforms? The larger Pagan subdivisions will be fine, but the smaller ones will be left out in the wilderness. Perhaps some of those “smaller Paganisms” will make guest appearances on the pages of larger groups, but I still fear that some traditions will get lost in the re-arrangement.

As a result of these changes the walls separating Pagan traditions will become higher. Right now there are a lot of people who move back and forth between various Pagan groups. I for instance work with an eclectic circle, do Hellenic style rites, practice with a Traditional coven, and help to lead the rituals of a small group I started. If individual Paganisms all start to operate on different islands instead of one large continent being a part of several unique traditions will become more difficult, perhaps even frowned upon. (How many Methodists also worship at the Jehovah’s Witnesses hall?)

The more I peer into my crystal ball, the more frightened I become. Let’s move on.

Pagan Festivals will become smaller and more regionalized, and there will be more of them.

As the price of gas continues to rise (and places like the United States stubbornly resist infrastructure improvements that would make travel over long distances easier) driving ten hours or taking a plane to a festival will become too expensive for most people. A few of the larger festivals will hang-on, but for the most part Pagan festivals and gatherings will become smaller and more regional. Most of them won’t be at private campgrounds either, they’ll be at hotels and convention centers.

There are some advantages to this. More people will get a chance to participate in the festival experience, and moving things mostly indoors will decrease the barriers that keep some people from outdoor gatherings. The downside to this will be increased geographical isolation, and drum circles never sound as good indoors as do they outside.

Blogs will surpass traditional books in terms of influence.

I think we are already starting to see this a little bit, but it’s going to take several decades before us mostly online writers surpass our paper and Kindle peers. In 2013 there’s still a bit of stigma attached to “blogging,” even though many of us have more readers in a given year/month/week than traditional authors. I can’t imagine a world where books are unimportant, but there’s an immediacy to the Internet that’s just not possible with traditional publishing. Online you can read a Mabon Ritual, leave a comment or a question, and have it answered by the author in a matter of minutes. I haven’t been able to do that with Uncle Bucky’s Big Blue Book. In addition to articles and opinion pieces blogs will also feature live content such as workshops, face to face chats, and other assorted things.

Right now we have thousands of people who share Pagan blog posts and articles, in fifty years that number will swell into the millions. Books aren’t going to sell millions of copies ever again, but millions of people will all read the same articles and links.

Mystery traditions will survive, and probably thrive.

Every once in a while an elder in The Craft will tell me that they don’t think initiatory groups will survive in the long-term. I don’t see it that way. There will always be a group of people drawn to tradition and looking for initiation and teachers as a part of their journey. Social media and the internet in general have made it easier to find traditional groups and they exist all over the country and in Europe. Not everyone is going to run out and join a mystery tradition, but they aren’t going anywhere.

How about a Dragon Ritual Drummers reality show?

There will be more media directly aimed at Pagans.

I’m not looking forward to the first Witch Dynasty or Off-Road Druids reality show, but it’s probably inevitable. I just hope whoever stars in those shows isn’t a complete idiot. In addition to a few Pagan-centric TV shows/streaming programs there will also be more (and increasingly better) music by Pagans for Pagans. As we continue to grow in numbers more people will be able to make a living singing about the gods and the Earth they hold dear. Perhaps with the increase in local festivals there will even be a “Pagan touring circuit” nearly year round.

A major celebrity will come out as Pagan, with very little backlash.

There have already been a few celebrities who have hinted at being Pagan, but by 2063 being a part of an alternative religious path won’t be a big deal. There will still be a few idiots on the far-right who will complain, but they will be a small and mostly ignored minority in fifty years. I think we are moving towards an era of greater acceptance when it comes to our differences, but also an age of less privacy. Even if someone wanted to stay in the broom closet our lives are such open books at this point that it would be near impossible.

There will be full-time Pagan clergy, probably.

Gather a bunch of Pagan writers together and one of the first questions you’ll hear is “What’s your day job?” Paganism is not a lucrative business to be in (nor should it be), but I think we’ll all benefit when Pagandom and its individual traditions can begin to support full time teachers and clergy. Hopefully someone can figure out a way to make writing online profitable, or at least get it to pay something close to minimum wage (forget a living wage at this point, let’s take this one step at a time). I’m comforted by the success of several KickStarter and Indiegogo campaigns, there are people in this community who want to support things they feel are important, and that seems likely to continue.

And with that the glow of my crystal ball has faded . . . . . .

(I’ll be gone the rest of the week, headed for the Earth Warriors Festival in Ohio. I’ll see you all in October!)

Finding the Common Ground at PantheaCon
Pagan Festivals and the .25%
Endings and Beginnings
Finding the Common Ground at PantheaCon
About Jason Mankey

Jason Mankey has been involved with Paganism for the last twenty years, and has spent the last ten of those years as a speaker, writer, and High Priest. Jason can often be found lecturing on the Pagan Festival circuit, so you might just bump into him. When not reading and researching Pagan history he likes to crank up the Led Zeppelin, do rituals in honor of Jim Morrison (of The Doors), and sing numerous praises to Pan, Dionysus, and Aphrodite. He lives in Sunnyvale CA with his wife Ari and two hyper-kinetic cats.

  • http://dashifen.com/ dashifen

    That first point … frankly scares the hell out of me. Maybe it’s because I haven’t found a home within Paganism to call my own (other than Paganism itself). I’d like to think that some how we could buck the trend of creating pigeonholes in which we act in similar but largely disconnected ways, but I’m not sure such a thing is even possible, let along possible considering the differences one finds within the largest version of our community.

    • JasonMankey

      Actually, it scared the piss out of me to write! I had never thought about what the break-up of the Pagan Umbrella would mean until I sat down to write this last night. I don’t like it at all, but it just feels inevitable.

      • http://dashifen.com/ dashifen

        I’m not sure that it’ll represent the end of anything that we find familiar, though. After all, if you read the four different Christian channels you listed above, you’ll find a lot that’s similar even though there are a lot of differences. What I worry about more than the break up of the umbrella is that we’ll destroy it by focusing too much on trying to figure out how to create a taxonomy for ourselves.

        • Sunweaver

          As a taxonomist, I must praise your use of the word “taxonomy.”

          One of the mysteries you learn in taxonomist school is that when you are constructing a phylogeny (a “family tree” of sorts), what you are doing is not imposing a structure on your taxa (the group of organisms you’re studying), but rather trying to figure out what nature has done and applying names to that to the best of your ability. And it’s never cut-and-dry. It’s never clear where to delineate a species from a subspecies or one genus from another. Your hypothesis of relationship, no matter how well researched, is probably not entirely “right” and, as evolution progresses or more information is available, more species discovered, your hypothesis necessarily must change.

          I would imagine that a Pagan phylogeny would function the same way (though one wonders what characters you’d code for and what the outgroup would be).

          And if none of this makes any sense, it’s because I’m still working on Thesis edits. Just smile and nod.

          • http://dashifen.com/ dashifen

            Makes perfect sense :) Then again, I’m pretty familiar with the process by which taxonomists do their thing.

          • Sunweaver

            Parsimony rulz, Maximum Likelihood droolz

  • Lēoht Sceadusawol

    “People will still use the term “Pagan” but the tribes won’t gather together all that often.”

    Think of it as moving from intrafaith to interfaith.

    You likened Pagandom to a continent, that’s not a bad analogy -lots of independent countries that each do their own think and have distinct borders.

    There is no reason why the (formerly) Pagan religions could not still hold joint festivals and other forms of social events. The labels are mostly for outsiders, and communication with them.

    I don’t think the term ‘Pagan’ really applies to me, any more. If only because I disagree with the majority of people about what it means. (Which obviously means I am wrong, and should probably avoid self defining by a term I an little comprehension of.)

    Pagan Festivals will become smaller and more regionalized, and there will be more of them.

    That would be awesome, so long as it is mirrored by an increase in numbers to make them viable.

    Blogs will surpass traditional books in terms of influence.

    I’m not convinced on this one. I think blogs, in a way, compare more favourably to talks and presentations than books. It is like going to a seminar where you observe/listen to what is being presented and are then given an opportunity to discuss it, both with the presenter and with the rest of the audience.

    Mystery traditions will survive, and probably thrive.

    Agreed. I don’t see that ever changing. People thirst for mystery, not just to find out things that others do not know but also to bask in romantic ignorance.

    There will be more media directly aimed at Pagans.

    I am less concerned about reality shows, but it would be interesting to see fictional characters from non-fantasy shows/movies as living Pagans/Heathens/whatever. You know, normal.

    A major celebrity will come out as Pagan, with very little backlash.

    That will be an interesting one. I have to wonder from which ‘arena’ they will come from.

    There will be full-time Pagan clergy, probably.

    I fervently hope so. I think, for that to happen, there will need to be a shift to a more organised form of religion. That said, It is actually a personal goal. (I am working towards it, slowly.)

  • http://www.forgingthesampo.com/ Kauko

    Personally, I just tend to assume that by 2063 humans will have ruined the planet and we’ll all be living in some post-apocalyptic scenario- well, not we, really, because I’d likely be dead in that case.

    • Lēoht Sceadusawol

      I do think that is at least as likely as not. Probably moreso.

  • Angus McMahan

    I don’t see the smaller branches of the pagan tree withering and dropping off in the future, because the modern world makes it much easier for individuals and groups (of any size) to find each other.
    Also, I am not freaked out at the pagan umbrella being ‘leaky’. Methodists and Lutherans seem to get along fine – I think the Heathens and Nroogds will become decent neighbors too.
    Finally there may be more pagan musicians and pagan music in the future, but I think it will become increasingly more difficult for ANY band to make a decent living, giving the lack of promotion by labels, the inability for any group to get noticed online, and the laughable payout rates by Pandora and other streaming sites.

    • JasonMankey

      I don’t think things will wither and die, but right now there’s a lot of cross pollination. If we all go to our separate camps that cross pollination will be a lot less.

      Methodists and Lutherans do seem to get along fine, but they don’t hang out and they don’t cross pollinate. “Hey, want to check out the Lutheran Church today?!” said no Methodist ever. That’s the problem.

      There are a lot of bands who make their living playing live music, not recording music. Lots of festivals means lots of gigs. I never said it would result in anyone becoming rich.

      • Lēoht Sceadusawol

        That is a subjective view. Not everyone likes that level of ‘cross pollination’.

        I think that there is a fair amount of idea sharing between the different sects of Christianity. The debates on female priests and homosexual marriage demonstrates that one pretty well.

        Consider, though, that many consider pan-Christian conferences to be interfaith, not intrafaith.

        They tend to respect (or grumble about) each others differences and unite when they have mutual interest.

        It’s not a made model to work with, so I don’t really see what the problem is.

  • http://www.rjosephcapet.com/ Race Joseph Meredith Capet

    I am super-excited about that first point; it has been a long time coming!

    I don’t say that because I have anything against Pagans; many of you are very nice folks and I have gained a lot by your conversation. I say it simply because I am not one of you. Although there has been a lot of crossover and idea exchange between our traditions, on the great historical taxonomy of world faiths, Paganism (which I use here to indicate the practice of pre-Christian, pre-Islamic religions) diverges from what eventually becomes modern Witchcraft and Druidry (themselves separate but closely related) at the very first fork in recorded religions, where the indigenous religions of the Middle East and Europe divided from the religions of India and East Asia (following Joseph Campbell’s model), from which British Traditional Witchcraft and Revival Druidry are mostly drawn in their actual teachings and practice (and hence, everything downstream from them). As a Wiccan and a Druid, my observation in conversing with my Pagan friends is that we do not, on the whole, share similar theologies, we do not share similar ritual formats, and we do not share similar conceptions of the role of religion in human life or its relationship to other societal and cultural institutions.

    I look forward to having a lively interfaith dialogue with all of you–Ásatruar, Celtic Reconstructionists, Hellenists, Kemeticists, Slavic Revivalists, and all and sundry. But it already is an INTERfaith dialogue, and not an INTRAfaith one, and I will be pleased when we can call a spade a spade on that point, because it will only be then that each of us will grow institutions strong and coherent enough to support professional clergy, to present ourselves coherently to outsiders as legitimate and thoughtful religious traditions (instead of the incomprehensible hodgepodge we look to be huddled under this ridiculous umbrella), and to dialogue with one another in full respect of our differences without bickering about who is subsuming whom under whose ‘watered-down’ forms, or misrepresenting whom in the quest to be all things to all people whenever ANY of our religions are mentioned. I am excited to see what your religions will be when they finally claim their own identities at the interfaith table… almost as excited as I am to make mine what it will be then.

    • Living The Wheel

      This says it better than I ever would be able to. +1

  • http://www.forgingthesampo.com/ Kauko

    “I for instance work with an eclectic circle, do Hellenic style rites, practice with a Traditional coven, and help to lead the rituals of a small group I started. If individual Paganisms all start to operate on different islands instead of one large continent being a part of several unique traditions will become more difficult, perhaps even frowned upon.”

    I don’t personally see any problem with anyone hopping between groups like that, as long as each group’s differences and separateness is respected. It would be like if I went to a local Buddhist temple for weekly Zen meditation, I’d respect the rules of the temple and try not to impose any other religious practices and ideas I have on the people there.

  • Joanne Dunster

    It won’t take 50 years. I Give it 10.

  • Living The Wheel

    Hellenic recons already have their own niche market online. A great many of them don’t even interact with the greater pagan community as it is, not considering themselves pagans. Some recon groups have reported better results when they disconnect from larger paganism. I can’t really see groups having a problem connecting.

    I, for one, look forward to the term “pagan” becoming rather obsolete. It’s tiring to be put into a box that doesn’t fit you. I think it would behoove many groups to get out from under it and strike out under their own titles. I’d rather see Hellenics and Wiccans, etc., actually using those terms. If we’re going to be diverse, let’s not dawdle. It’s time, in my opinion, to leave the pagan nest behind and start our own lives.

    So to speak.

    • Lēoht Sceadusawol

      I don’t think “Pagan” should become an obsolete term. I genuinely believe that, by making the different traditions distinct, the term will actually gain meaning.

      People want to save “Paganism”? Get all the non-Pagans out of the descriptor.

      • Living The Wheel

        Right. And, who shall we appoint to determine who the “NON pagans” are, exactly? Which criteria will they use to decide that? Who believes they have the authority to determine such a thing?

        I don’t want to save paganism, I want to move beyond it. I want to be seen individually, with my own world view standing on it’s own two feet. With the state of the pagan community right now, I would expect a lot of people do or should, anyway.

        • Lēoht Sceadusawol

          Define Paganism. In a succinct and positive (what it is, not what it isn’t) manner.

          That will then automatically determine who is a “non-Pagan”.

          If you want to move beyond Paganism, then do so. Simply do not identify with the term. It’s what I have done.

  • Griffin

    I seem to be the odd man out. I’m against the idea of pagan clergy. Leaders, for sure, but I see zero need for clergy. I think it sends the wrong message about paganism. I’m not even comfortable with all the “pagan celebrities” I see out there – people selling my religion.

    A religion for the common person, by the common person. If I have to work a real job and live in the real world, and can still find my faith as rewarding as it needs to be, then everyone else should be able to as well.

    Money changes everything (Cyndi Lauper taught me that).