Modern Paganism also called Contemporary Paganism developed within occultism, and includes religious movements such as Wicca.
Contemporary Paganism has been defined as “a collection of modern religious, spiritual, and magical traditions that are self-consciously inspired by the pre-Judaic, pre-Christian, and pre-Islamic belief systems of Europe, North Africa, and the Near East.”
The origins of paganism
Paganism derives from classical Latin pagus and pagans. The term itself stems from the Latin paganus translated loosely along the lines of “country dweller” or “rustic”; thus it was initially a word describing a person of locality rather than a religion.
Early Christians referred to the diverse array of cults around them as a single group for reasons of convenience. Because of its usage in ancient texts, medieval authors mistakenly believed it referenced a religious sect and thereby gave it the corresponding connotation.
This effort of combining all non-Christian religions under one umbrella was, in fact, a clever strategy by the early Christians to remove the “pagan” faiths altogether.
In the early thirteenth century, Pope Gregory IX created the holy police force known as the Inquisition, to combat heresy. In 1252 Pope Innocent IV formalized the Inquisition and authorized it to use torture to force confessions and to burn people alive for their heretical beliefs.
About two hundred years later, Pope Innocent VIII authorized two inquisitors, Jakob Sprenger and Heinrich Kramer, to accelerate the holy work of the Inquisition. Sprenger and Kramer wrote a book entitled Malleus Maleficarum (The Witches’ Hammer), which essentially turned witch-hunting into a religiously sanctioned sport.
Hundreds of thousands of people, perhaps as many as a million, were arrested, tortured, and killed at the hands of the Inquisition. These horrific acts forced esoteric interests deep underground.
Despite the hundred of years persecution and the catholic church, Interest in pagan traditions and Greco-Roman magic was revived during the Renaissance.