Practical magic

The Political Economy of British Paganism, From Religious Affiliation Toward Popular Enchantment


  • Jonathan Woolley University of Cambridge



Economics of religion, anthropology of religion, anthropology of economics, Pagan bookshops, Austerity, Esoteric bookshops, Fandom, Publishing, Neoliberalism, Druidry


While the discipline of Pagan Studies has generated a wealth of research into the content, customs, historicity, and phenomenology of various Pagan traditions, the economic structure of Pagan religions remains mostly unstudied. This paper ventures into this lacuna in the discipline, prompted by a series of recent events in the British Pagan community, asking-what role have economic forces played in these events, and do they mean British Paganism is going into decline? The suggestion of this paper is that the development of Pagan traditions is inextricably linked to economic processes and institutions. Pagan traditions rely upon the market to distribute their teachings and materials. As such, the Pagan community's closest economic analogue is that of a "fandom." Through three semi-structured interviews with the owner-operators of Pagan bookshops, and a case study of the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids, this paper explores how macroeconomic trends have had a detrimental impact on the Pagan community, while popular enchantment continues to flourish. This dynamic represents an important case of the complex relationship between enchantment, economics, and belief in "unbelieving" societies. 

Author Biography

Jonathan Woolley, University of Cambridge

Jonathan Woolley, Affiliated Researcher, Department of Social Anthropology, University of Cambridge, UK.


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How to Cite

Woolley, J. (2019). Practical magic: The Political Economy of British Paganism, From Religious Affiliation Toward Popular Enchantment. Implicit Religion, 21(2), 180–201.