During the first half of the 20th century, the psychoanalyst Carl Jung
studied the world of our conscious and unconscious thoughts. Jung considered
the search for meaningful religious experience to be the driving force of
the human psyche. He also explored the concept of gods and goddesses as
Fantasy and science fiction literature are booming. Easy-reading novels set
in past Pagan societies or future utopias have led many people to explore
neo-Pagan and Wiccan paths. Unfortunately in this space, I can review only a
very limited slice of Pagan-oriented fiction. Works by Robert Heinlein,
Marion Zimmer Bradley, Starhawk, Katherine Kurtz, and others will be briefly
reviewed. These and many other authors present us with positive stories
about our Pagan past and optimistic stories about a future when Paganism is
again a major influence in our society.
Jungian Psychology - Where Deities Only Exist in Our Minds
In Drawing Down the Moon, Margot Adler wrote that much of the theoretical
basis for a modern defense of polytheism comes from Jungian psychologists,
who have long argued that the gods and goddesses of myth, legend, and fairy
tale represent archetypes, real potencies and potentialities deep within our
psyches. Many neo-Pagans see the gods in Jungian terms. For example, Adler
quotes the late Gwydion Pendderwen, a well-known bard, as saying that "the
gods are really the components of our psyche. We are the gods."
Jung examined the role of archetypes, developed the concept of the
anima/animus concept (the undeveloped feminine or masculine side in each
us), and believed we had to explore our dark (shadow) sides in order to
achieve psychic wholeness or "individuation." He defined individuation as
maturation that comes as the psychological opposites in each of us are
resolved. For Jung, the psyche was composed of the conscious and
unconscious. The collective unconscious is that part of the psyche that is
universal and shared among all individuals.
At the beginning of the 20th century, while studying medicine at the
University of Basel in Switzerland, Jung became interested in the occult. As
part of his research, Jung visited a spirit medium, Miss S. W., and read
volumes of occult literature, according to Richard Cavendish. Jung later
applied psychological terminology to the insights that occultists and
mystics described. In later decades, he also studied alchemy while trying to
understand the alchemical symbolism in drawings by one of his patients,
In 1917 Jung wrote the book Seven Sermons to the Dead, which he attributed
to Basildes of Alexandria, a historical Gnostic writer who lived in Alexandria,
Egypt early in the Common Era. Here he equated the importance of obtaining
gnosis (knowledge) with his concept of individuation. The Seven Sermons and
other mystical writings by him in the same period summarized of all his creative ideas, Stuart Holroyd wrote in The Elements of Gnosticism.
Greek goddesses and gods as the personification of Jungian archetypes is the
subject of two popular books, Goddesses in Everywoman (1984) and Gods in
Everyman (1989), by Jean Shinoda Bolen, a trained Jungian psychiatrist. In a
Foreword to Goddesses Gloria Steinem wrote that "we imagine god and endow
her or him with the qualities we need to survive and grow." According to
Bolen, these powerful inner patterns or archetypes representing these
qualities can explain the major differences observed in women's behaviors.
Goddesses express potential patterns in the psyches of all women. Different
archetypes are activated in each woman at any given time. The Great Goddess
of ancient times is one powerful archetype present in the collective
unconscious. Stereotypes of women are based on our culture's positive or
negative images of goddess archetypes. Examples include Persephone as the
maiden, Hera as the jealous wife, Demeter as the mother, and Aphrodite as
the whore or temptress.
While lecturing, Bolen also encountered men who identified a part of
themselves with a specific goddess. Conversely there are also "gods" in
women, she wrote in her book on Greek archetypal gods. Gods and goddesses
represent various qualities in the human psyche that can be expressed in an
individual, regardless of a person's gender.
Greek gods personify some of the following archetypes: Apollo is the
ambitious, rational type whose mottos are "Know thyself" and "Nothing in
excess." Hephaestus is the skilled craftsman and an intense, introverted
person. Hermes is the inner guide or voice and the source of Hermetic
wisdom. Dionysus is the god of eternal youth and drugs. Many rock stars have
imitated this last archetype, too often with tragic results.
Jung helped make the world of our imaginations a respectable academic study
and his views of the gods as archetypes have been adapted by many modern
Myths, Legends and Fantasies in Pagan Fiction
Myths (both old and new) are heroic stories considered by most people as
having never occurred. This does not mean that myths are "false," but only
that to understand them we must separate their metaphysical truth from
literal reality, according to Margot Adler. Myths and fairy tales describe a
culture's popular archetypes also.
Legends are stories that have some basis in historical fact, or possibly
could have been true. Over time, legends become greatly embellished. The
many legends of King Arthur are a good example of how a very few documented
facts and lots of imagination have combined to produce enduring stories.
According to Margot Adler, science fiction and fantasy come closer to each
other than any other type of literature in systematically exploring the
acceptance of diverse behaviors, since science fiction writers are bound
less by the political, sexual, and racial mores of their societies. "Where
anything may be true sometime, someplace, there can be no heresy," Robert
Scholes wrote in an essay on science fiction that Adler quoted. All the
books reviewed here are based on myth, legend, or fantasy rather than on
documented historical events.
Robert Heinlein Inspires a New Pagan Religion
The Church of All Worlds (CAW) is a neo-Pagan group with a unique history
because its origins are based on the ideas in a modern science fiction book,
Stranger in a Strange Land, by Robert Heinlein, and two novels, Atlas
Shrugged and The Fountainhead, by Ayn Rand, a pro-capitalist and
anti-environmental author popular in the early 1960s. CAW's origins go back
to 1961 when a group of high school friends that included Lance Christie in
Tulsa, Oklahoma began discussing Ayn Rand's novels. When Christie attended
Westminster College in Missouri, he led an informal group which explored the
self-actualization concepts of Abraham Maslow.
Later, the group, which now included a fellow student named Tim Zell, read
Robert Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land. This is the story of Valentine
Michael Smith, born on Mars of Earth parents and raised there by Martians.
Smith has come to Earth and feels himself an alien on this planet. He forms
the Church of All Worlds, which is organized in subgroups called nests that
teach "grokking" or the intuiting of the "fullness" of all things and
beings. God is immanent in all things, Smith teaches, and church members
greet each other with the statement "Thou art God," a very Pagan statement
While still at Westminster, Christie and Zell then formed a group called
Atl, an Aztec word for "water" and also meaning "home of our ancestors." The
water sharing ceremony from Stranger in a Strange Land was an important part
of the practices of this group. Atl remained an informal group of friends
living around the country who shared a common desire to explore human
potential and social structure.
In 1967, Zell founded his own version of the Church of All Worlds (CAW),
which gradually transformed itself into a neo-Pagan religion as it evolved
away from the ideas of Ayn Rand, who passionately hated all forms of
reverence for nature and religious expression.
In the late 1960s, CAW was the first ecology-conscious group to apply the
word "Pagan" to itself and helped define the modern Pagan as a nature lover.
Later, Tim (then called Otter) Zell began writing about the earth as a
deity, a single living organism called Gaea. This idea became the CAW's
central myth. Officially CAW has no creed, but an endorsement of the Gaea
hypothesis is accepted by most members.
Starhawk's Utopia by the Bay
In the early 1990s, Starhawk wrote The Fifth Sacred Thing which describes a
threatened Pagan utopia in northern California in the year 2048. The
fascist-run Southlands (based around Los Angeles where water is very
expensive and, consequently, the lives of most inhabitants are miserable)
are planning to invade their peaceful northern neighbor to seize their
timber and water. The northern utopia lacks an army and the weapons to
defend itself, because instead of arming themselves, they have used their
scarce resources to feed everyone for the past twenty years.
Bird, who is about age thirty, has just spent ten years in prison in the
Southlands after being captured during a raid aimed at destroying a nuclear
power plant. He escaped from his prison near Los Angeles and walked all the
way back to the San Francisco Bay just before the invasion. Maya, age 98,
has lived in the Bay Area since the 1967 Summer of Love and is still a
radical at heart. Madrone, around Bird's age, grew up with Bird in Maya's
large cooperative house, the Black Dragon.
Madrone is trained in both conventional and alternative (including herbal
and magickal healing) medicines. When Bird tells her about the need for
healers in the Southlands, she decides to go there and teach natural healing
to the people, whose health depends on drugs, dispensed by their rulers.
The Southlands' invasion army, composed largely of recruits from minorities
who suffer severe discrimination from the ruling class, also depends on these
While the Southlands' army advances north, the utopians debate in lengthy
community meetings about the best means for defending themselves. A few want
to immediately switch their limited industrial production over to arms
manufacturing. The majority, however, agrees to practice only non-violent
behaviors while at the same time they refuse to cooperate with the invaders.
The majority hopes that by displaying open, loving and non-discriminatory
behavior toward the minority recruits enough will question their own unjust
society and desert the Southlands' army.
In her book, Starhawk describes both the delights of a future Pagan society
and the perils it would face while trying to survive in a world populated by
hostile governments pursuing opposing goals.
A New Arthurian Legend in The Mists of Avalon
Marion Zimmer Bradley retells the legend of King Arthur from the perspective
of Morgaine, Arthur's half-sister and the mother of his only son, Gwydion
(later called Mordred). Since early childhood, Morgaine trained on the Isle
of Avalon to become a High Priestess of the Goddess.
She becomes pregnant by Arthur after they mate twice during a sacred ritual
where Arthur, donning antlers, symbolizes the sacred stag. As the candidate
for kingship, Arthur needs to couple with a virgin High Priestess, a
representative of the Goddess, before he can receive the support of his
Soon after their mating, Arthur marries Gwenhwyfar (Guinevere) who becomes
a most Christian queen. Arthur tries unsuccessfully to honor both the old
religion of the Goddess and the new Christianity, but Gwenhwyfar, with the
help of bishop Patricius (St. Patrick), prevails and makes Christianity
exclusive. Eventually Morgaine loses her status as a High Priestess of the
Goddess and is married off to Uriens, a lesser king in Wales.
At the end of the story, however, the Goddess lives on for future
generations in Her role as the honored Virgin Mary. Geoffrey Ashe, the
renowned British scholar of Arthurian legend, noted that Bradley created a
new mythology about King Arthur. I know two women who have said that reading
The Mists of Avalon brought them to Wicca. Undoubtedly many more people
were inspired to look for a Goddess-based religion after reading Bradley's
Other Stories about Past Pagans
The following four novels represent a sampling of fiction with Pagan themes.
In each story a Pagan religion (often described as Gardnerian Wicca) is
central to the plot. Except for Lammas Night, all the plots revolve around
the actions of a strong heroine.
In the Clan of the Cave Bear (the first in a series of four books) Jean Auel
tells the story of Ayla, a young Homo Sapiens girl adopted by a Neanderthal
group, the Cave Bear clan. The story unfolds between the two Ice Ages,
25,000 to 35,000 years ago at a location near the Black Sea. The Others,
Ayla's native people, are growing in influence and numbers while the
Neanderthals are declining.
The Clan, comprised of thirty related individuals, worships Ursus, the huge
cave bear, as their special totem and protector. Only their medicine man,
the crippled Creb, really understands the world of the spirits. During
trance he consults them before all important Clan undertakings, such as a
dangerous mammoth hunt. The Clan also has a rigid patriarchal social
structure. Only the men hunt while the women gather plants and stay near
their home cave.
Ayla's nemesis is Broud, the teenage son of Brun, the Clan's current leader.
Broud expects to become the next Clan leader and wants to rule as the Clan's
unquestioned patriarch. Broud has an uncontrollable temper and cannot stand
the `uppity' Ayla who refuses to be subservient. Entering adolescence, she
grows to be taller than Broud and the other men, learns more quickly then
they do, and secretly fulfills a desire by learning to hunt with a sling
(all hunting is taboo for women under the pain of automatic exile and
The conflict between Ayla and Broud leads to many harrowing experiences for
her, ranging from a month's exile from the Clan to an early pregnancy caused
by Broud. As she overcomes each obstacle Broud imposes on her, he becomes
more infuriated with Ayla.
In The Heart of the Fire Cerridwen Fallingstar tells the story of Fiona
McNair, a Scottish girl growing up in a small rural village during the
Inquisition launched by King James VI in the 1590s. Fiona's grandmother is a
Witch and leads a Gardnerian-style coven. As she grows up, Fiona eagerly
learns the Craft from her grandmother.
Fiona and Annie, a neighbor girl, are best childhood friends and became
lovers when they reached puberty. Annie's father was a Gypsy who passed
through the area. Annie has his dark hair and skin which make her an outcast
in this village of blonds and redheads. Annie knows that Gypsies are
considered natural Witches by King James' Witch hunters and are often the
first to be taken for torture and the stake.
Annie leaves Fiona and joins a traveling Gypsy group hoping to blend in with
them and escape the Witch hunters. Fiona, now alone in her increasingly
hostile village, fears that she will be the Witch-hunter's next victim.
The Inquisition's horrors became more real to me in this fictional story of
two young women struggling to survive, than they had in the numerous
non-fiction books I have read about the thousands of women tortured and
executed over three centuries by the Inquisition.
Clystra Kinstler tells the story of the life of Yeshua (Jesus) from the
viewpoint of Mari (Mary) Magdalene in The Moon Under Her Feet. In this
version of the story, Mari is not a common street prostitute, as the
patriarchal Bible would have us believe. Instead, she is the Magdalene who
serves as the High Priestess in the Jewish Temple on the Mount in
Many other priestesses serve under her. But the Pharisees and Zealots
loath her and her Goddess and call Mari the "Great Whore of Babylon."
Almath Mari (the mother of Yeshua, e.g. the Virgin Mary) is the former
High Priestess of the Jewish Temple on the Mount. Sharon, her late husband of
one night only, is Yeshua's father. He was willingly sacrificed to end a
drought. Seth, Mari's younger consort of many years, is also known as Judas
Iscariot. He leaves Mari in order to follow the wandering Yeshua.
In her story, Kinstler equates the crucifixion of Jesus with the sacrifice
of Osiris in neighboring ancient Egypt. Consequently Almath Mari acts as
both the Virgin Mary and the Egyptian goddess Isis. Mary Magdeline's lover
Seth or Judas also operates as the dark Egyptian god Seth who executed his
brother Osiris. Here he merely betrays Yeshua to the occupying Roman
authorities. Kinstler's interesting book is a product of her imagination,
which draws heavily on the feminist ideas of Merlin Stone and Barbara Walker.
In Lammas Night, Katherine Kurtz tells the fictionalized story of the grand
coven on Lammas, August 2, 1940 (a meeting of British Witch covens at the
same time but in different locations) that raised a protective cone of power
over Britain to ward off Hitler's expected invasion.
Sir John Graham is an MI.6 agent and head of its occult section that is
trying to learn what Hitler's astrologers and black magicians are advising
the Fuhrer at this crucial time. Graham is also a white Witch and member of
the Oakwood Manor coven lead by Lord and Lady Selwyn.
He is a good friend of Prince William, the youngest brother of King George
VI. William, who is kept out of harm's way by Royal orders, feels useless
and is bored with his purely ceremonial role as the Royal prince, who is
only fifth in line for the British throne. Gradually Graham draws his royal
friend into the coven where William finds a meaningful way to contribute to
the war effort.
Kurtz blends two modern Wiccan legends in her story. The first is the
gathering of a grand coven in 1940. The second is based on Margaret Murray's
unsubstantiated theory that British Kings or royal substitutes were
sacrificed well into modern times.
My first three articles examined known facts about Wicca's roots:
contributions from the writings of Gerald Gardner, Aleister Crowley, and
Dion Fortune; the history of important preceding organizations (Golden Dawn
and OTO); the role of secret societies (Masons and Rosicrucians); and
finally religious practices adopted from the Jewish Qabala and the
Eastern-based Theosophy. This last article describes contributions from
Jungian psychology and some interesting Pagan fiction. Wiccan ritual
practices can be directly traced to practices of the Western Magickal
Tradition active in Europe for the last five hundred years.
I believe that Wicca will continue its rapid growth because of its diverse
roots. I don't believe that Wicca should adopt a rigid dogma or creed to be
guarded by a select Wiccan priesthood. Gerald Gardner modified his rituals
as he pleased and had fun being Britain's first public Witch.
Wicca today is much more than the semi-secret cult that Gardner claimed to
have discovered. Its practices are firmly based in the Hermetic Western
tradition as well as on the magick of charms and curses practiced by
generations of solitary cunning men and wise women.
Wicca and similar earth-based religions will continue to survive as long as
they help people see that their lives are a sacred part of Nature's endless
cycles of birth, growth, death, and rebirth of new life.