Meet the pagans

In both guises, as an individual practitioner and a credentialed expert, Mr. York embodies the increasing mainstream acceptance of Pagan religion. From academia to the military, in the person of chaplains and professors, through successful litigation and online networking, Paganism has done much in the last generation to overcome its perception as either Satanism or silliness…

Over the course of those 11 years, the survey went from tabulating 8,000 Wiccans nationally — that branch of Paganism was the only one to turn up — to 134,000 Wiccans, 33,000 Druids and 140,000 Pagans. (Others identify as Heathens.) The sociologist Helen A. Berger, who is doing research on Pagan demography, said she believed that a more accurate current number would fall between 500,000 and one million…

Nothing did more to secure Paganism’s place in the religious mainstream, though, than a highly serious, indeed somber, court battle. Brought by Americans United for Separation of Church and State on behalf of Circle Sanctuary and several widows, the decade-long litigation sought permission from the federal Department of Veterans Affairs to have the gravestones of deceased Wiccan soldiers marked with the symbol of the pentacle.

Since winning that right as part of an out-of-court settlement two years ago, Wicca followers have marked more than a dozen military graves with the five-pointed star.