Paleopaganism is a term defined by Isaac Bonewits in his book, Rites of Worship: A Neopagan Approach, as being “the original tribal religions of Europe, Africa, Asia, the Americas, Oceania, and Australia, when they were (or, in rare cases, still are) practiced as intact belief systems” (Bonewits, Rites of Worship: A Neopagan Approach 14). There are several examples of these types of religions still in existence today. Though Hinduism started out as Vedism and changed into its current state, it is considered a Paleopagan faith. Hinduism is one of the oldest living religions in the world. It is unique in that it does not have a single founder, but evolved over a period of about 4,000 years. Buddhism, founded in India around 525 B.C.E, is another example, along with Taoism, which was founded around mid-3rd century B.C.E. with the writing of the Tao-Te-Ching, and Shinto which has an unknown founding date.
Mesopaganism is defined by Bonewits as “religions founded as attempts to recreate, revive, or continue what their founders thought of as the Paleopagan ways of their ancestors (or predecessors), but which are heavily influenced by the monotheistic and dualistic worldviews of Judaism, Christianity, and/or Islam. (Bonewits, Rites of Worship: A Neopagan Approach 14).” Spiritualism is a movement that believes that spirits who reside on a higher plane of existence than humans can be contacted to guide people in worldly and spiritual matters. The movement started around the 1840’s in upstate New York. The religious practices of most British Traditional Wiccan groups fall
s into this
category as well. Founded as early as 1920’s, the practice was brought into main
stream by Gerald Gardner. Wicca is a practice that claims to be the revival of
the ancient practices of pre-Christian Paganism, though is very much influenced
by dualistic worldviews. Other examples include Freemasonry, Rosicrucianism,
Theosophy, Voudoun, Santeria, Sikhism, and Mahayana Buddhism along with others.
Neopaganism is defined by Bonewits as “those religions created since 1940 or so that have attempted to blend what their founders perceived as the best aspects of different types of Paleopaganism with modern ‘Aquarian Age’ ideals, while consciously striving to eliminate as much as possible of the traditional Western monotheism and dualism” (Bonewits, Rites of Worship: A Neopagan Approach 15). Ár nDraíocht Féin, founded by Isaac Bonewits in 1983, centers on the polytheistic cultures of Indo-European religions and falls into the Neopaganism group. ADF pulls from historical records and writings to bring traditional practices of these Indo-European religions into the present, while adapting them so that they fit more fully into a modern world. Some traditions of Wicca, other Neo-Druid groups, as well as groups like the Radical Fairies falls into the Neopaganism description as well.