Jump to ContentJump to Main Navigation
Show Summary Details
More options …

Open Theology

Editor-in-Chief: Taliaferro, Charles

Covered by:
Elsevier - SCOPUS
Clarivate Analytics - Emerging Sources Citation Index

CiteScore 2018: 0.37

SCImago Journal Rank (SJR) 2018: 0.275
Source Normalized Impact per Paper (SNIP) 2018: 0.975

Open Access
See all formats and pricing
More options …

Paganism and Counseling: The Development of a Clinical Resource

Kevin A. Harris / Kate M. Panzica / Ruth A. Crocker
Published Online: 2016-09-30 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/opth-2016-0065


Sensitivity to religious diversity is an important part of multiculturally competent psychotherapy in the United States, but few resources exist for working with Pagan clients. Using a simultaneous parallel interviewing procedure, we reviewed the literature, conducted qualitative interviews with, and solicited online feedback from Pagans, to write a manuscript on culturally-sensitive therapy with followers of Paganism. Our participant-informant experts indicated that Paganism is nature-oriented, rooted in historical beliefs and practices, polytheistic, and revering the feminine divine. Pagans believe in harming none and judging no one, celebrate many different holidays and worship rituals, believe in multiple deities, cosmic balance, Magic, and an afterlife, and often have spiritual or mystical experiences. Pagan character traits include open-mindedness, individualism, multiculturalism, experientialism, feminism, sex, and sexuality. Participants described encountering many stereotypes of Pagans, including evil Pagans, teenaged Goth chicks, witches, New Age Hippies, just a phase, sex-crazed perverts, and within- Pagan stereotypes. They described their attitudes about mental health and psychotherapy, and (perhaps idiosyncratic to our sample) they also described a process of religious identity development similar to the sexual identity development of people who are GLBT (gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgendered). We discuss recommendations for counselors and psychotherapists, including assessment and diagnostic issues, the client/counselor relationship, sense of humor, autonomy and personal responsibility, stigmatization, relationships, sex and sexuality, identity issues, ethical issues, and Pagans as healers.

Keywords: Pagan; Paganism; simultaneous parallel interviewing; participant-informant experts; multiculturally competent psychotherapy; culturally-sensitive religiously-sensitive therapy


  • Adler, Margot. Drawing Down the Moon: Witches, Druids, Goddess-Worshippers, and Other Pagans in America Today (Rev. ed.). Boston: Beacon Press, 1986. Google Scholar

  • Albrecht, Robert. “The Virgin, the Princess, and the Goddess: A Field Report and Analysis of Pagan and Christian Symbolism in a Roman Catholic Religious Celebration of Northern Chile.” Atlantic Journal of Communication, 15 (2007), 171-193. Google Scholar

  • American Counseling Association. ACA Code of Ethics. Washington, DC: Author, 1995. Google Scholar

  • American Psychological Association. APA Code of Ethics. Washington, DC: Author, 2010. Google Scholar

  • Arredondo, Patricia, Toporek, Rebecca, Brown, Sherlon Pack, Jones, Janet, Locke, Don C., Sanchez, Joe, and Stadler, Holly. “Operationalization of the Multicultural Counseling Competencies.” Journal of Multicultural Counseling & Development, 24 (1996), 42-78. Google Scholar

  • Association for Spiritual, Ethical, and Religious Values in Counseling [ASERVIC]. Competencies for Addressing Spiritual and Religious Issues in Counseling. Alexandria, VA: Author., 2009. Retrieved from www.aservic.org/resources/spiritual-competencies/. Google Scholar

  • Berger, Helen A., and Ezzy, Douglas. “Mass Media and Religious Identity: A Case Study of Young Witches.” Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 48 (2009), 501-514. Google Scholar

  • Berger, Helen A., Leach, Evan A., and Shaffer, Leigh S. Voices from the Pagan Census: A National Survey of Witches and Neo-Pagans in the United States. Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 2003. Google Scholar

  • Brown, Vanessa F. Voices of Pagan Oppression (Doctoral dissertation). Dissertation Abstracts International: Section B: The Sciences and Engineering, 74(11-B), 2014. Google Scholar

  • Cameron, Alan G. The Last Pagans of Rome. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2011. Google Scholar

  • Carpenter, Dennis D. Spiritual Experiences, Life Changes, and Ecological Viewpoints of Contemporary Pagans (Doctoral dissertation), 1995. Retrieved from University Microfilms International. Google Scholar

  • Christ, Carol P. Rebirth of the Goddess: Finding Meaning in Feminist Spirituality. New York, NY: Routledge, 1997. Google Scholar

  • Coleman, Kristy. “Why ‘God’ as ‘She’ Provokes Us: Semiotically Speaking: The Significance of the Divine Feminine.” Pomegranate, 7 (2005), 117-127. CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Cookson, Catharine. “Reports From the Trenches: A Case Study of Religious Freedom Issues Faced by Wiccans Practicing in the United States.” Journal of Church & State, 39 (1997), 723-748. Google Scholar

  • Cornish, Helen. “Spelling Out History: Transforming Witchcraft Past and Present.” Pomegranate, 11 (2009), 14-28. CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Crocker, Ruth A. In the Cards: A Qualitative and Quantitative Investigation of Divination Practice and Creativity within the Feminist Spirituality Movement. Dissertation Abstracts International, 64, 2004. Google Scholar

  • Davies, Owen. Paganism: A Very Short Introduction. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2011. Google Scholar

  • Davy, Barbara J. Introduction to Pagan Studies. Lanham, MD: AltaMira Press, 2007. Google Scholar

  • Ezzy, Douglas. “Popular Witchcraft and Environmentalism.” Pomegranate, 8 (2006), 29-53. CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Ezzy, Douglas, and Berger, Helen A. “Witchcraft: Changing Patterns of Participation in the Early Twenty-First Century.” Pomegranate, 11 (2009), 165-180. CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Flexner, Stuart B., and Hauck, Leonore C. (Eds.). Random House Unabridged Dictionary (2nd Ed.). New York: Random House, 1993. Google Scholar

  • Foltz, Tanice G. “Women’s Spirituality Research: Doing Feminism.” Sociology of Religion, 61 (2000), 409-418. CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Fox, Selena. Introduction to the Wiccan Religion. Mt. Horeb, WI: Circle, 1989. Google Scholar

  • Goldenberg, Naomi. Changing of the Gods: Feminism and the End of Traditional Religions. Boston: Beacon, 1979. Google Scholar

  • Gordon, Francis V. The Magic of Magick: An Examination of the Use of Ritual for Pastoral Counseling Among Some Neo-Pagan Groups (Doctoral dissertation), 1992. Retrieved from University Microfilms International. Google Scholar

  • Harvey, Graham. Contemporary Paganism: Listening People, Speaking Earth. New York: New York University Press, 1997. Google Scholar

  • Harwood, Brandon. “Beyond Poetry and Magic: The Core Elements of Wiccan Morality.” Journal of Contemporary Religion, 22 (2007), 375-390. Google Scholar

  • Hill, Clara E., Thompson, Barbara J., and Williams, Elizabeth Nutt. “A Guide to Conducting Consensual Qualitative Research.” The Counseling Psychologist, 25 (1997), 517-572. Google Scholar

  • Hume, Lynne. “Creating Sacred Space: Outer Expression of Inner Worlds in Modern Wicca.” Journal of Contemporary Religion, 13 (1998), 309-319. Google Scholar

  • Hutton, Ronald. “The Status of Witchcraft in the Modern World.” Pomegranate, 9 (2007), 121-131. CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Hutton, Ronald. The Triumph of the Moon: A History of Modern Pagan Witchcraft. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 1999. Google Scholar

  • Jade. To Know: A Guide to Women’s Magic and Spirituality. Oak Park, IL: Delphi Press, 1991. Google Scholar

  • Jensen, Gary, and Thompson, Ashley. “‘Out of the Broom Closet’: The Social Ecology of American Wicca.” Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 47 (2008), 753-766. Google Scholar

  • Jorgensen, Danny, and Russell, Scott. “American Neo-Paganism: The Participants’ Social Identities.” Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 38 (1999), 325-338. Google Scholar

  • Kelly, Aidan A. “An Update on Neopagan Witchcraft in America.” In James R. Lewis & J. Gordon Melton (Eds.), Perspectives on the New Age (pp. 136-151). Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 1992. Google Scholar

  • Kennedy, Angela. “Nature’s Children: Counseling Those who Follow Earth-Based Religious Paths.” Counseling Today, November (2003), 22-23. Google Scholar

  • Kermani, Zohreh. “Don’t Eat the Incense: Children’s Participation in Contemporary Pagan Practice.” Pomegranate, 11 (2009), 181-196. Google Scholar

  • Kirkpatrick, R. George, Rainey, Rich, and Rubi, Kathryn. “An Empirical Study of Wiccan Religion in Postindustrial Society.” Free Inquiry in Creative Sociology, 14 (1986), 33-38. Google Scholar

  • Kraemer, Christine H. “Gender and Sexuality in Contemporary Paganism.” Religion Compass, 6 (2012), 390-401. Google Scholar

  • Lewis, James R., and Tollefsen, Inga B. “Gender and Paganism in Census and Survey Data.” Pomegranate, 15 (2013), 61-78. Google Scholar

  • Luhrmann, Tanya M. Persuasions of the Witch’s Craft: Ritual Magic in Contemporary England. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1989. Google Scholar

  • Lynch, Frederick R. “‘Occult Establishment’ or ‘Deviant Religion’?: The Rise and Fall of a Modern Church of Magic.” Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 18 (1979), 281-298. Google Scholar

  • McCarn, Susan R., and Fassinger, Ruth E. “Revisioning Sexual Minority Identity Formation: A New Model of Lesbian Identity and its Implications for Counseling and Research.” The Counseling Psychologist, 24 (1996), 508-534. Google Scholar

  • McColman, Carl. The complete idiot’s guide to Paganism. Indianapolis, IN: Alpha Books, 2002. Google Scholar

  • Moe, Jeffry L., Cates, Keith, and Sepulveda, Victoria. “Wicca and Neo-Paganism: A Primer for Counselors.” Journal of Professional Counseling: Practice, Theory, and Research, 40 (2013), 38-48. Google Scholar

  • Olsson, Peter A. “The Psychotherapy of a Modern Warlock: Rapprochement in a Coven of White Witches.” American Journal of Psychotherapy, 39 (1985), 263-276. Google Scholar

  • Patton, Michael Q. Qualitative Evaluation and Research Methods (2nd ed.). London: Sage, 1990. Google Scholar

  • Patton, Michael Q. Qualitative Research and Evaluation Methods (3rd ed.). London: Sage, 2002. Google Scholar

  • Pike, Sarah M. New Age and Neo-Pagan Religions in America. New York, NY: Columbia University Press, 2004. Google Scholar

  • Reid, Sian. “Renovating the Broom Closet: Factors Contributing to the Growth of Contemporary Paganism in Canada.” Pomegranate, 7 (2005), 128-140. CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Salomonsen, Jone. Enchanted Feminism: Ritual, Gender, and Divinity Among the Reclaiming Witches of San Francisco. New York: Routledge, 2002. Google Scholar

  • Shukla, Wagish. “Body, Health, Paganism, and Faith.” Psychological Studies, 45 (2000), 131-135. Google Scholar

  • Smith, Brandy, and Horne, Sharon. “Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgendered (GLBT) Experiences with Earth-Spirited Faith.” Journal of Homosexuality, 52 (2007), 235-248. CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Spretnak, Charlene. “Green Spirituality.” Resurgence, 124 (1987), 24-27. Google Scholar

  • Starhawk. Dreaming the Dark: Magic, Sex, and Politics. Boston: Beacon Press, 1982. Google Scholar

  • Starhawk. The Spiral Dance: A Rebirth of the Ancient Religion of the Great Goddess (Rev. ed.). San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1989. Google Scholar

  • Stoller, Paul, and Olkes, Cheryl. In Sorcery’s Shadow: A Memoir of Apprenticeship Among the Songhay of Niger. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1987. Google Scholar

  • Strauss, Anselm, and Corbin, Juliet. Basics of Qualitative Research: Techniques and Procedures for Developing Grounded Theory (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 1998. Google Scholar

  • Sue, Derald W., Arredondo, Patricia, and McDavis, Roderick J. “Multicultural Counseling Competencies and Standards: A Call to the Profession.” Journal of Counseling and Development, 70 (1992), 477-486. Google Scholar

  • Tairu, Teemu. “Religion as a Discursive Technique: The Politics of Classifying Wicca.” Journal of Contemporary Religion, 25 (2010), 379-394. Google Scholar

  • Vaz, Kim M. “A Woman in the Grip of the Archetype of the Sexual Priestess.” Arts in Psychotherapy, 28 (2001), 57-69. Google Scholar

  • Warwick, Lynda L. “Feminist Wicca: Paths to Empowerment.” Women and Therapy, 16 (1995), 121-133. Google Scholar

  • Wise, Constance. “A Process Epistemology of Wiccan Occult Knowledge.” Pomegranate, 6 (2004), 199-211. CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Yardley, Meg. “Social Work Practice with Pagans, Witches, and Wiccans: Guidelines for Practice with Children and Youth.” Social Work, 53 (2008), 329-336. CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Yip, Andrew K. T. “The Persistence of Faith among Nonheterosexual Christians: Evidence for the Neosecularization thesis of religious transformation.” Journal of the Scientific Study of Religion, 41 (2002), 199-212. Google Scholar

  • Yip, Andrew K. T. “Researching Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Christians and Muslims: Some Thematic Reflections.” Sociological Research Online, 13 (2008), 2. Google Scholar

  • Yip, Andrew K. T. “Spirituality and Sexuality: An Exploration of the Religious Beliefs of Non-Heterosexual Christians in Great Britain.” Theology and Sexuality, 9 (2003), 137-154. Google Scholar

  • Yip, Andrew K. T., and Page, Sarah-Jane. “Religious Faith and Heterosexuality: A Multi-faith Exploration of Young Adults.” Research in the Social Scientific Study of Religion, 25 (2014), 78-108. Google Scholar

About the article

Received: 2016-02-20

Accepted: 2016-07-19

Published Online: 2016-09-30

Citation Information: Open Theology, Volume 2, Issue 1, ISSN (Online) 2300-6579, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/opth-2016-0065.

Export Citation

©2016 Kevin A. Harris et al. . This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 3.0 License. BY-NC-ND 3.0

Comments (0)

Please log in or register to comment.
Log in