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Neo-Pagan Worlds: From Ancient Beliefs to Modern Movements

Duration 10 weekly meetings
Tutor Dr Juliette Wood
Course code FOL24A5525A
Fee £196
Concessionary fee £157 (find out about eligibility and funding options)

John Percival Building
Colum Drive
CF10 3EU

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The popular idea of paganism conjures up images of ancient rites and exotic beliefs with a distinct whiff of magic, but it also forms a rich and complex heritage that has influenced artists, writers, philosophers, and scholars.

This heritage has become more relevant to contemporary cultural and spiritual life through various movements that incorporate aspects of the pagan past into new and often creative systems of belief.

This course focuses on the emergence of these new (neo-pagan) impulses as systems of thought in their own right, and as a source of influence for other areas of culture such as art and literature.

In order to understand these spiritualities, we shall examine the classical paganism of the Graeco-Roman era, its development during the mediaeval and Renaissance periods and its revival from the late-nineteenth century to the present day.

The course will explore legends about famous magicians and eccentric scholars such as John Dee, Paracelsus, Faust, and Aleister Crowley.

Modern Neo-paganism has been linked to ancient religion, the occult, Celtic magic and to a renewed interest in ecology.

This course will look at how these factors have affected popular culture in order to understand how attitudes to paganism have changed over time.

Learning and teaching

The module will be delivered through ten 2-hour sessions.

These sessions will consist of a lecture followed by class discussion and group work on specific topics relating to the module.

The discussion and group work will enable students to think critically and contribute to the debates and topics presented during the lectures.

The discussion-led sessions and the lectures will be supplemented by resources available to students via Learning Central.


  1. The Emergence of the Neo-Pagan Universe
  2. Magicians – Then and Now
  3. The Occult Revival and its Continuing Influence
  4. Popular Magic and Cunning Folk
  5. Modern Paganism – Thelema, Wicca, Asatru and New Spiritual Movements
  6. Magic in Film and Popular Culture
  7. Witches and Mother Goddesses – The Role of Women
  8. The Tarot from Card Game to Mystical Magic
  9. Neo Druids and their Forbears
  10. Witchcraft is Real! The World of Montague Summers

Coursework and assessment

You will be expected to complete two pieces of assessed work:

  • a short critical review
  • a 1000-word essay.

There will be lots of help and support available for both assignments.

Reading suggestions

  • Ronald Hutton, The Triumph of the Moon: A History of Modern Pagan Witchcraft (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999).
  • James R. Lewis, Magical Religion and Modern Witchcraft (Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 1996).
  • Sabina Magliocco, Witching Culture: Folklore and Neo-Paganism in America (Philadelphia PA: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2004).
  • Juliette Wood, ‘The Creation of the Celtic Tarot’, Folklore 109 (1998) 15-24.

Library and computing facilities

As a student on this course you are entitled to join and use the University’s library and computing facilities. Find out more about using these facilities.


Our aim is access for all. We aim to provide a confidential advice and support service for any student with a long term medical condition, disability or specific learning difficulty. We are able to offer one-to-one advice about disability, pre-enrolment visits, liaison with tutors and co-ordinating lecturers, material in alternative formats, arrangements for accessible courses, assessment arrangements, loan equipment and dyslexia screening.