Neo-Paganism Timeline: Before the 20th century

Entire Timeline

Before the 20th century  |  early 20th century  |  1940s  |  1950s   

1960s  |  1970s  | 1980s  | 1990s  |  21st century

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

Before the 20th century

1752: On Walpurgis Night, Sir Francis Dashwood founds a “Hellfire Club” called the Brotherhood of the Friars. Its practice was outwardly pagan, worshiping Bacchus and Venus. An inner circle performed rituals and initiations, which they referred to as the “British Eleusinian mysteries”.

1792: Iolo Morganwg founds the Gorssedd Beirdd Ynys Prydain

1792: Thomas Taylor publishes his translation of The Hymns of Orpheus. He also published The Eleusinian and Bacchic Mysteries in 1790. Taylor practiced his own private reconstruction of Classical pagan religion.

1800s: The German Romantic movement begins. Romanticism valued emotion and nature over reason and science. Out of this milieu came the seeds of modern Neo-Paganism.

circa 1820: Romantic poet Leigh Hunt associates and corresponds with Percy Bysshe Shelley, Thomas Jefferson Hogg, and others about the revival of pagan religion.

1836: Ralph Waldo Emerson publishes his essay “Nature”, setting forth the foundation of Transcendentalism.

1854: Henry David Thoreau publishes Walden, a reflection upon simple living in natural surroundings which was to inspire generations of future conservationists and environmentalists.

1855: Walt Whitman publishes Leaves of Grass.

1859: Darwin publishes On the Origin of the Species.

1860: Henry David Thoreau delivers an address to the Massachusetts Agricultural Society, entitled “The Succession of Forest Trees,” in which he analyzes aspects of what later came to be understood as forest ecology.

1861: J. J. Bachofen publishes Mother Right, an investigation of matriarchy in the ancient world. Bachofen’s theory later influences early neo-pagans and feminists.

1862: Iolo Morganwg’s forgery, the “Barddas”, is first published.

1866: The term “ecology” is coined by Ernst Haeckel, from the Greek oikos, meaning house or dwelling, and logos, meaning discourse or the study of.

1868: Francis McDowell forms the Patrons of Husbandry, a farming fraternity devoted agrarian deities (Ceres, Flora, Pomona) and employing agricultural symbolism. He was made the first High Priest of Demeter.

1869:  John Muir enters the Yosemite Valley.

1870s: The alleged “Cambridge Coven” may have performed rituals based on classic tradition, including Apuleius’s Golden Ass.

1872: The world’s first national park, Yellowstone National Park, is created.

1872: Arbor Day is founded in the U.S.

1878: The Folklore Society is founded, which helped advance the idea that folk customs are survivals of old pagan religions.

1882: Friedrich Nietzsche publishes The Gay Science, which declares that “God is dead”.

1885: W. H. Seddon, the vicar of Painswick, England, begins an annual procession in honor of Pan and has a statue of Pan erected near the Church tower. The tradition survived until 1950.

1889: Edward Carpenter publishes Civilization: It’s Causes and Cure, in which he promotes a vision of a pagan revival.

1890: James Frazer publishes the first edition (2 vols.) of The Golden Bough. The second edition (3 vols.) is published in 1900. The third 12-volume edition was published between 1906 and 1915. Frazer theorizes that ancient peoples believed in a dying and rising god, representing the animating spirit of vegetation, represented in human form as sacral kings, who are sacrificed after a term or when their power of mind or body failed, in a cyclical renewal of life. Frazer influenced later writers including T.S. Eliot, W.B. Yeats, Robert Graves, and D. H. Lawrence. The archetype of the Dying and Rising God becomes central to the Neo-Pagan mythos.

1890s: W.B. Yeats, a member of the Golden Dawn plans to establish an alternate form of spirituality to Christianity, including mysteries like those of Eleusis and Samothrace. Looking back, he wrote “I had created a new religion, almost an infallible church of poetic tradition, of a fardel [bundle] of stories.”

1892:  The Sierra Club is founded by John Muir.

1897: The Cosmic Circle is formed by Alfred Schuler, Ludwig Klages, Stephan George, and Karl Wolfskehl, after reading J. J. Bachofen’s study of matriarchy, Mother Right. They conduct ceremonial invocations and rites to worship the Great Mother Earth. George later formed an artistic mystery cult of his own. Schuler and Klages joined with other volkisch forms of German neo-pagan spirituality.

1899: Godfrey Leland’s Aradia, Or The Gospel of the Witches is published. It later influences Gerald Gardner’s conception of the goddess of the witches.


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