Church Militant reported last week about the rise of neo-paganism in Iceland. Another matter worthy of comment is the growth of paganism around the world, with special emphasis on formerly Christian countries in Europe and the Americas.
In recent years, exorcists and other Catholic priests have observed an outburst in demonic possessions. They attribute it to the growth of neo-paganism, satanism, witchcraft and certain strains of syncretism (religion-blending).
Neo-paganism is, broadly speaking, an effort to return to Europe's pagan, pre-Christian days. Neo-pagans see themselves as rebelling against the Christian tradition and returning to something older, more natural and organic.
Some neo-pagans, like Iceland's Ásatrúarfélagið or Ásatrú Society, strive to recreate ancient pagan rituals with strict historical accuracy. Other modern pagans are more concerned with bringing heathenism into the present, formulating their own rituals for worshipping pagan deities, only loosely based on the ancient traditions.
Within satanism, meanwhile, there are two distinct blends. Firstly, there are theistic satanists, who actually believe in our ancient enemy the devil; they strive to serve him by committing grave sins and engaging in ritualized Satan-worship. Secondly, there are atheistic satanists, who are actually just agnostics and atheists who want to mock Christianity, using the "satanist" label to be controversial and offend Christians.
The most common form of modern witchcraft is Wicca. It often falls under the umbrella term of paganism, as Wiccans believe in pagan deities rather than the One True God (of the Judeo-Christian tradition).
As for syncretism, the New Age movement is perhaps the most popular form today. It is a glossy, modernized mixture of Gnosticism and pseudo-Eastern mysticism created in the 1970s. New Age practitioners emphasize individualism and meditation. New Ager practitioners often look to tribal, pagan traditions from around the world for inspiration in formulating their own ceremonies and rituals.
There is also renewed interest in pagan architecture and symbolism. Last year, there was concern among some Christians when a reconstruction of the arch from the temple of Baal was placed in New York City. Baal was a pagan "god" at whose altars newborn children were often sacrificed.
According to the Old Testament, Baal worship among the Israelites repeatedly led to the downfall of God's people at the hands of their enemies. God withheld the protection of His grace from those who rejected it and turned to idolatry.
As recently as February 2017, the Baal temple archway reconstruction continued being placed in major cities around the world.
Aphrodite or Venus, the Greco-Roman goddess of lust, has devotees in the United States. Earlier this year, the Getty Museum in Los Angeles encouraged children to write prayers to Aphrodite in connection with an ancient statue of the goddess on display.
The god Dionysus, a god of drunkenness and debauchery adored by ancient mystery cults, has been picked up by the homosexual crowd.
To them, much like his ancient worshippers, devotion to Dionysus involves an escape from civilization and societal norms — a wild unleashing of the appetites of the flesh.
In the United States, it is not uncommon to find "psychic" retail outlets, like the Boston Tea Room in Michigan. This store specializes in "holistic and spiritual gifts," and every member of its all-female staff claims to be a psychic medium. When visiting this store's website, the small icon that appears on the "tab" bar appears to be a pentagram — the five-pointed star employed in various forms by Satanists, Wiccans, neo-pagans and New Age practitioners.
Some feel that the decline of Christian, especially Catholic, identity in the West is responsible for causing this rise of paganism and superstition. Pope St. Pius V is often quoted as saying, "All the evil in the world is due to lukewarm Catholics."
Many have grown lukewarm, and people are looking for a religion that they can take seriously, a religion that demands something out of them and offers something in return. When Catholics fail to present the One True Faith in such a way, people will tend toward debauchery and paganism instead.