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What is thought of as paganism today is an archaic component of the modern occult. The term “paganism” is from the Latin pagus meaning “country” so that by definition a pagan was a country bumpkin. The term was first used by Roman soldiers as a term of contempt for civilians, people who stayed home. It was later adopted by Christians to distinguish between themselves as “soldiers of Christ” and people who did not embrace the new faith. There was, however, no organized pagan religion as such. Instead, there were thousands of local cults of paleolithic, neolithic, and Bronze Age origin based on the worship of local deities and the invocation of spirits. We only know of these from a few comments by Roman writers such as Julius Caesar in his Gallic Wars. Almost nothing is known about the Druids, for example, save from fanciful accounts written long after they had disappeared.

However, it is quite obvious that, as elsewhere in the world, there were people of antiquity who believed in deities such as Cernunnos, the horned god of the Celts; in goddesses, spirits of the dead, nature spirits, and much else. It is believed that the later beliefs in elves and fairies originated in this way, later becoming folklore. By Shakespeare’s time, these beliefs were beginning to disappear in England. He appears to have drawn on them in Midsummer Night’s Dream, but it is impossible to know how much is Shakespeare and how much authentic folklore. However, the fact remains that pagan beliefs and practises persisted up through the twentieth century in various parts of Europe and, indeed, still do so today.

German Neo-Paganism

Neo-Paganism. can be understood as form of nature mysticism which originated with the Romantic movement during the nineteenth century. In Germany, where Romanticism originated, it grew out of Naturphilosophie (nature philosophy), an intellectual and literary movement of the middle years of the century emphasizing an intuitive response to the natural world. Nature mysticism, which is a more general category, is the view that all natural phenomena is theophany, that is to say, it is a visible revelation of God, an outpouring of divinity.

Other forms of Neo-Germanic religion are based on Richard Wagner’s operas, which, in turn, were his versions of medieval Germanic mythic writings such as the Niebelungenlied. While some National Socialists attempted to revive archaic German religion during the era of the Third Reich, Adolf Hitler’s occultism (and that of the Schutzstaffel or SS) stemmed chiefly from an obscure Viennese occultist by the name of Adolf Lanz who, in turn, based his eccentric notions on the bizarre inventions of Guido von List (1848-1919), a self-styled “private scholar.” Most of the symbols of the Third Reich, such as the swastika, are based on what the young Hitler learned from him.

The “von” in List’s name was an affectation. Born in Vienna, he published a two-volume novel, Carnuntum, in 1888, dealing with ancient Germans and their noble struggle against the Romans. His Deutsch-Mythologische Landschaftbilder (German Mythological Landscape Portraits) (1891) was about ancient German place names that he thought should be restored. He also wrote Walküren-Weihe

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