Neo-Paganism Timeline: 1980s

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[Note: Dates in the same year are not listed in chronological order.]


1980: The largest Pagan festival to that time is held in Indiana, the Pan-Pagan Festival, sponsored by the Midwest Pagan Council and the Covenant of the Goddess. Almost 800 people attended the four-day festival. Th festival is attended by Raymond Buckland, Isaac Bonewits, Z Budapest, Margot Adler, and Selena Fox. Z. Budapest leads an all-women’s circle which creates controversy and confrontation. The governing council then split, forming three different organizations and festivals, including the Pagan Spirit Gathering led by Circle.

1980: Michael Harner publishes The Way of the Shaman: A Guide to Power and Healing, the first practical text on shamanism, which argued that shamanism and the shamanic journey were legitimate Western practices connected with an altered state of consciousness and entrance into another reality. Harner is largely credited with the introduction of shamanic practices into Neo-Paganism.

1980: Carol Merchant publishes The Death of Nature, which identifies the Enlightenment as the beginning of the paradigm shift to viewing nature as inert, rather than vital.

1980: EarthSpirit is founded by Andras Corban Arthen to provide networking for Pagans and others following an Earth-centered spiritual path.

1980: Earth First! is created.

1980: The Superfund or Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act o(CERCLA) is passed to clean up contaminated sites.

1980: Jean Auel publishes Clan of the Cave Bear.

1981: Paul Winter composes the “Missa Gaia” or Earth Mass for the Episcopal Diocese of New York. The mass was recorded in the Cathedral of St. John the Divine and in the Grand Canyon, combining human voice and instruments and non-human voices of whales, wolves, and the wind, in order to create an experience of a more-than-human community.

1981: Janet and Stewart Farrar publish the Alexandrian Book of Shadows as The Witches’ Bible: The Complete Witches’ Handbook.

1981: Pagan Spirit Gathering, which eventually becomes one of the oldest and largest of the Pagan festivals, holds its annual gathering, a week long festival over the summer solstice.

1982: Thomas deLong, aka Gwydion Pendderwen, dies in a car accident.

1982: The Georgia Supreme Court rules, in Roberts v. Ravenwood Church of Wicca, that Wicca is a religion and that the Ravenwood church was entitled to tax exempt status.

1982: Archeologist Marija Gimbutas republishes her 1974 book The Gods and Goddesses of Old Europe with the new name The Goddesses and Gods of Old Europe. She later publishes The Language of the Goddess (1989) and The Civilization of the Goddess (1991). With these books, she becomes the archaeologist most closely linked with the Goddess Movement.

1982: Explosion of a pesticide factory in Bhopal, India, causing methyl isocyanate leakage.

1983: The Re-formed Congregation of the Goddess–International is incorporated and became the first legally recognized religion serving the women’s spiritual community.

1983: Isaac Bonewits forms Ar nDraiocht Fein (ADF) (“Our Own Druidism”), which eventually became the largest Neo-Druidic organization in North America.

1984: Arne Naess and George Sessions go on a camping trip in Death Valley where they articulated the deep ecology platform.

1984: E. O. Wilson coins the term “biophilia” to describe the biological drive of human beings to seek connection with the rest of life.

1984: Marion Zimmer Bradley publishes The Mists of Avalon, a feminist and pagan retelling of the myth of King Arthur.

1984: Janet and Stewart Farrar publish The Witches Way, which fleshes out some of the philosophy of Wicca. It is strongly influenced by Jungian psychology.

1985: Three pieces of federal legislation, including the Helms Amendment, are introduced in both houses of Congress which would have taken away tax exempt status for Wiccan churches.  Lady Liberty League emerged as a result of the nationwide networking that emerged and successfully defeated this legislation.

1985: The Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans (CUUPS) is organized. CUUPS provides education and credentials for Pagan clergy. This signals the growth of Pagan membership in the Unitarian Universalist, which had been predominately humanist/atheist. CUUPS received its charter from the UUA in 1987.

1985: Robert Graves dies.

1985: John and Caitlin Matthews begin publishing on Ceremonial magic, Arthurian and Celtic myth, and Neo-Shamanism. This could be considered the beginning of a non-denominational Neo-Paganism.

1985: The use of the terms “Paganism”, “Wicca”, and “Magick” in published works begins a gradual increase which continues until around 2003. This marks the blossoming of what has been called “Generation Hex”, a subgroup of Generation X.

1985: Roger and Crystal Tier change the the name of their New York Coven of Caerlleuad (Castle of the Moon) to the Gaia Group, reflecting its transformation into a more universal tradition, including changing the names of its deities from Welsh names to the “Great Earth Mother” and “Great Sky Father”. Its practices shift from the magickal to the devotional, and the group becomes increasingly concerned with political, social, and environmental concerns. Gaia Group ceased to exist as a functioning entity in 1998.

1985: Lady Liberty League is founded by Selena Fox and others. Sponsored by Circle Sanctuary, LLL is a resource center which promotes the religious freedom of Neo-Pagans and others.

1985: Antarctic ozone hole discovered.

1985: Joanna Macy and John Seed hold the first Council of all Beings in a camp near Sydney, Australia. The Council of All Beings is a ritual process which helps participants to see the world from the perspective of non-human beings.

1986: The Fourth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals determines, in Dettmer v. Landon, that Wicca is a religion for the purposes of the Free Exercise Clause, in a prisoner’s rights case. Although ultimately denying the prisoner’s claim on the grounds of safety, the Court determined that “the Church of Wicca occupies a place in the lives of its members parallel to that of more conventional religions. Consequently, its doctrine must be considered a religion.”

1986: The UK band, the Pretenders, releases “Hymn to Her” which becomes #8 in the UK. The song, written by Meg Keane, is a Wiccan ode.

1986: Witches League of Public Awareness is created by Laurie Cabot in Salem, MA to help correct the misconceptions surrounding Witches and Witchcraft.

1986: Margot Adler publishes a revised and expanded edition of Drawing Down the Moon.

1986: The World Wildlife Fund brought together religious authorities representing the five major world religions (Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, and Judaism to prepare declarations identifying the responsibilities towards the care of nature expected of followers of each religion thus providing spiritual motivation for environmental action.

1987: Charles Arnold, formerly a member of the Wiccan Church of Canada, wins a legal battle in a Canada which results in the ruling that Wicca meets the definition of a religion.

1987: World human population reaches 5 billion.

1988: Scott Cunningham publishes Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner, which becomes one of Llewellyn’s best-selling publications. He credited with making solitary practice respectable.

1988: The year following Joseph Campbell’s death, PBS broadcast a series of interviews with Campbell by Bill Moyers, which presentes his theories regarding myth and psychology to a much wider audience.

1988: Alex Sanders dies.

1988: Tim (Otter/Oberon) Zell revives the Green Egg, 12 years after it became defunct.

1988: The hottest summer in history. Global opinion begins to change about climate change.

1988: The term “biodiversity” first appears in a publication by sociobiologist E. O. Wilson. The term may have been coined by W.G. Rosen in 1985.

1988: Atmospheric CO2 levels exceed the upper safety limit of 350 parts per million. This upper limit to avoid a climate tipping point is identified by James Hansen in 2007, almost 20 years after the fact.

1989: Elan Shapiro, one of Robert Greenway’s (the “wilderness effect”) graduate students organizes a psychoecology discussion group that met every other week at Berkley.  In 1990, Theodore Roszak asks to join the group.

1989: Starhawk publishes a revised and updated edition of The Spiral Dance.

1989: The Canadian National Film Board’s documentary Goddess Remembered premiers. Starhawk and Merlin Stone are featured.

1989: The Exxon Valdez creates the largest oil spill in U.S. history.

1989: Edward Abbey, author of Desert Solitaire, dies. In his last act of desert consecration, he arranged for his body, unpolluted by embalmer’s artifice, to be spirited away and illegally buried in the desert that was sacred to him.


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