The Birth of the Public Pagan Movement in South Africa
This article was first published on 9 August 2011.
I don’t think it is possible for there to be a definitive telling of the birth of public Paganism in South Africa without retelling hundreds, if not thousands of individual accounts from the Pagans who themselves were instrumental in achieving this. These stories remain to be told.*
My own piece-meal tale is therefore not in any sense definitive of the momentous ‘awakening’ that took place in South Africa between 1994 and 1996 and which in many respects is still taking place as South African Pagans strive daily to achieve true equality and dignity in a new and free democracy.
My own involvement in the birth of the public Pagan movement in South Africa began in 1995 with the publication of Penton Pagan Magazine. The first issue in December 1995 featured articles on the Horned God and Nature, the Gardnerian revival of Wicca and Goddess spirituality. Subsequent issues explored Paganism and Pagan related spiritualities and paths.
I saw through Penton an opportunity to connect self-identified Pagans and an opportunity to break the strangle-hold of Christian apartheid propaganda on the social and religious psyche. It was and still is a platform to educate, inspire and explore ancient and modern Pagan spiritualities and related religious expressions.
In its second year of publication Penton was approached by Donna Vos to publish a questionnaire on a proposal to form the first representative Pagan Federation of South Africa. The Pagan Federation of South Africa (PFSA) was formed in 1996 with the support of many Pagans. Its first Annual National General Conference took place in Cape Town in June 1996.
Many other diverse Pagan groups have been formed since 1996 reflecting the independent spirit of diversity so characteristic of the modern Pagan movement in South Africa.
The Grove was founded in 1996 in Gauteng by Morgainne Emrhys and myself. The Grove is the oldest South African Pagan Mystery School dedicated to the exploration of Pagan gnosis and the practice of neo-Paganism. The order is an initiatory tradition founded on the praxis of ancient and modern Pagan traditions. The Grove is currently administered by High Priestess Shannon McCardle.
CORD was founded in Gauteng in 1997 by Mayrek, Rufiki, Era and Spiral. In 2000 CORD began networking nationally with the Pagan community, coordinated gatherings with other established Pagan groups and facilitated in the sharing of information and ritual experiences with other groups in Johannesburg and Pretoria. The coven “went public” in 2001 and began publishing the CORD Newsletter. CORD was dissolved in 2003.
The Clan of the ShaddowHorse was founded in Gauteng by Carol Nowlan (Epona Moondancer) in 1998. The Clan is no longer in existence but members went on to form the House and Temple of Ouroborus in Cape Town.
The Clan of Ysgithyrwyn was founded by me in 1998 in the southern Cape. The Hearth of Ysgithyrwyn was formed as a Pagan circle of fellowship and ceremony and is the foundation stone of an eclectic Witchcraft coven.
The Order of the Circle of Stones was formed by Marius Silverwolf Heath in February 2000.
The Lunaguardia Tradition was founded in December 2000 by Aurelius Rex Maximus and Morgause Fontléve in Nelspruit. Lunaguardia is an eclectic coven aimed at personal identification with Divinity and the Solitary path.
The Circle of the African Moon (CAM) was founded in 2001 by Donna Vos, President of the Pagan Federation of South Africa from 1996 to 2001 and author of ‘Dancing under an African Moon ‘ (Struik, 2002). CAM promotes itself as a proactive educational network dedicated to correcting misinformation about Paganism through interaction with the media and engaging in dialogue and interfaith activities. CAM was dissolved shortly before Vos’ death in 2017.
The Celestine Circle was founded in 2001 by Fey Fand in Kwazulu-Natal.
Clan Odha and The House of Ouroborus (THO) was founded in Cape Town by Epona Moondancer and Arias Ndlovu in 2001. In 2002 the Temple Of Epona was registered as the first Pagan Church in South Africa. The House of Ouroborus and Temple no longer exists.
In 2002 the Correlian Nativist Church (CNC) was launched in South Africa with a visit from Ed Hubbard, founder of the American Correllian Nativist Tradition.
The Pagan Freedom Day Movement was founded on 11.11.2003 by me, through the cooperative efforts of the Pagan Federation of South Africa, CORD, The Grove, Lunaguardia, The House of Ouroborus and other non-aligned Pagans. The Pagan Freedom Day initiative was launched to facilitate an annual national and regional Pagan celebration of 10 years of Religious Freedom in South Africa on Freedom Day 27 April 2004. In January 2004, this initiative was formerly chartered by me as the Pagan Freedom Day Movement (PFDM). PFDM is currently administered by the South African Pagan Council. The Council retains sole copyright over all trademarks of PFDM.
The Notrenlim Phoenix Tradition was founded by Arch-Priest Martin ‘Zeo’ Frost. Notrenlim Phoenix Tradition is the result of the progression in thought and accumulative development of a Spiritual study group setup in 2004.
The South African Pagan Rights Alliance (SAPRA) was founded by me in 2004 as a Pagan human rights activist alliance. In 2006 Sapra was reformed as a democratically constituted body with an elected executive. The Alliance was constituted to promote the guaranteed liberties and freedoms enshrined for all South African Pagans in the Bill of Rights, Chapter 2 of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa (Act 108 of 1996), and to assist South African Pagans, whose constitutionally guaranteed rights and freedoms have been infringed due to unfair discrimination, to obtain appropriate redress. SAPRA is now a Paralegal Advocacy Non-Profit Company.
The Clan of Kheper Temple was formed by the Rev Raene Adams in Cape Town in 2005. The Clan of Kheper is a Temple of the Correllian Tradition dedicated to the study of Correllian Philosophy and Training in the Correllian degree’s of Clergy.
The South African Pagan Council (SAPC) was inaugurated in 2006 as a unifying body of like-minded Pagans with a vision of co-operative unity. The SAPC is a Section 21 Public Benefit religious organisation. The SAPC currenty represents the largest number of independent Pagan solitary practitioners, covens /groups, and independent but affiliated Pagan organizations (including SAPRA and CNTSA).
In September 2007, representatives of existing South African Pagan covens and organizations, met in Melville, Johannesburg to discuss the imminent threat of the tabling of a bill known as the (2007) Mpumalanga Witchcraft Suppression Bill. That meeting elected five self-defined Witches to act as representatives, under the auspices of the South African Pagan Council (SAPC), in order to fulfill what has become known as the ‘Melville Mandate’.
Since February 2008 the South African Pagan Rights Alliance’s (SAPRA), the South African Pagan Council (SAPC), and the Correllian Nativist Tradition South Africa (CNTSA), have been designated as religious organisations in terms of and in accordance with section 5 (1) and (2) of the Civil Union Act (Act 17 of 2006).
* If you have played a part in the birth of the public Pagan movement in South Africa please contact me. I’d like to help you tell your story.
 To date – up to and including the 2001 Census – there is no accurate census of the number of Pagans in South Africa. Official government Census’s have not listed Paganism as a census choice. It may be assumed that Pagans, who registered for the 2001 Census, were collectively lumped with ‘others’ under either one of these listed figures:
Other beliefs 283815 – No religion 6767165 – Undetermined 610974