Pagans adopt apocalyptic tone in Trump era and beyond

American Pagans have increasingly been adopting an apocalyptic worldview and spirituality, especially during the Trump era, according to Sabina Magliocco of the University of British Columbia. Presenting a paper at the early December virtual meeting of the American Academy of Religion, attended by RW, Magliocco said that the apocalyptic narratives taken up by Pagan leaders and writers place Paganism closer to other new religious movements in the U.S. This apocalyptic shift is somewhat different than the magic “resistance” mounted by Wiccans and other Pagan groups during the Trump presidency, where practitioners cast spells against the administration. Rather, the trend is marked by visions of the collapse of America, capitalism, and “patriarchy” under the pressures of the pandemic, climate change, and political unrest, Magiocco said.











Source: Haukurth, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

This tendency is most clearly seen in the writings of H. Byron Ballard, especially in her book, Earth Works: Ceremonies in Tower Time. It is also evident in the recent work of Starhawk, a longtime Wiccan leader and author. Ballard writes of creating “circles on the ground,” which means establishing alternatives, such as permaculture and ethnobotany. The Pagan apocalypse portrayed in this literature shows considerable borrowing from other religious movements and even Christianity. In her book, The Fifth Sacred Thing, Starhawk foresees a utopian matriarchal oasis in San Francisco in an authoritarian America circa 2048. “Pagans play a key role in rebuilding society and retrieving lost kinds of knowledge. [In such scenarios, Pagans] play the long game rather than casting spells,” Magliocco said. While the Trump presidency is seen as the catalyst for societal collapse, Magliocco expects the apocalyptic trend to continue into the Biden years, since the “system that allowed for Trump to come into power still exists.”