Earlier this week I overheard a discussion about the connection between Paganism and New Age, alternative healing methods. The speaker was talking about how angry he was to find things like chakra charts and gem elixir kits in the Pagan shops because they’re not magical and have anything to do with Pagan practices. This got me thinking. Why do Pagan shops carry New Age things and vis versa? Where does the Pagan Movement start and the New Age Movement begin? How do they connect? So I did a little research!
Just to give a little background, the New Age Movement began in the early 1970’s and peaked in the late ’70s and early ’80s. The ethos of the Movement is that for 2,000 years humanity has been in the Age of Pisces, and we are entering the Age of Aquarius. This “new age” will be marked by more personal liberation and healing. Through this philosophy, alternative lifestyle options such as yoga and herbalism have become more mainstream.
The Pagan Movement, which formally began with the publication of Witchcraft Today in 1954, and the New Age Movement have several philosophical similarities, which makes sense because Paganism is a parent philosophy of the New Age Movement. Belief in reincarnation is common in both communities. So is the idea of personal spirituality. Also both philosophies have a core belief in the respect and preservation of the natural world. Of course, both movements aren’t the same. The New Age Movement has no distinct religious category due to its emphasis on personal faith. For example, my great-uncles are all New Agers, but all hail from different religious and spiritual paths ranging from Methodism to Evangelical Christianity to Paganism to the zen and art of microbrewing beer (that uncle finds it quite meditative). In addition, the New Age Movement does not widely believe in magic and the Other Worlds the way many Pagans do. Also something I didn’t know is many members of the Pagan community are critical about the patriarchal elements of the New Age Movement.
In the Pagan community, there are several New Age practices that aren’t Pagan per say but are commonly performed by Pagans. Examples include crystal healing, past life regression, yoga, herbal medicine, and certain forms of energy work. A lot of Pagans approach New Age activities as part of their spiritual practice, sort of an extracurricular extension of their faith. Although I feel it’s important to note that New Age practices are not required of Pagans, just something extra. For myself, I don’t hold a lot of faith in crystal therapy and Reiki (bad experiences with both) but I am an active yogi and a budding herbalist. It’s all about finding what works for you.
So, dude in the Pagan shop, the reason New Age and Pagan shops carry similar items is because they serve a similar demographic. While being a Pagan and a New Ager is not the same thing, the Movements overlap in practices and tools.
© Ariadne Woods