Certainly, there is nothing new about Paganism per se. From Halloween to May Day to Yuletide, said Prof. Diana L. Eck of the Harvard Divinity School, “there’s a way in which all of us, especially in the Christian tradition, follow a religious calendar that is pegged to ancient Pagan festivals.”Full NY Times article here
But in the grand scheme of the Western world, polytheism was seen as being superseded by monotheism and faith itself by science, leaving Paganism as some kind of atavistic orphan of history. The fact that its practitioners lacked any formal denominational structure added to the religion’s relative invisibility, except as the object of fears or the butt of jokes.
In several ways, though, Paganism was waiting for modernity to catch up with it. The emphasis on the worship of nature in virtually all variations of Pagan faith, and the embrace of a female divinity in many, situated the religion to mesh with the environmental and feminist movements that swept through the United States in the 1970s.
In the 1970s, Wiccan groups began seeking and obtaining tax-exempt status from federal and state authorities, said the Rev. Selena Fox, the founder and spiritual leader of an early, influential Wicca church, Circle Sanctuary in Barneveld, Wis. By the decade’s end, Wicca was included in the handbook for military chaplains and had been written about in such popular books as “Drawing Down the Moon,” (Penguin, 2006), by Margot Adler.