Award Date


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Committee Member

William Jankowiak

Number of Pages



American Neo-Paganism is a new religious movement imported to the states from Britain in the 1930s. As a new religious movement, Neo-Pagans are, for the first time, dealing with the death of members, and as such have had to create funeral ritual of whole cloth. This study is, first and foremost, an ethnographic field account of seven funeral rituals in American Neo-Pagan communities in diverse locations throughout the United States. On basis of this ethnographic evidence, I show that Neo-Pagans visualize their dead as retaining agency, while participants in the American civil religion do not. I describe the American civil funeral cycle and the changes that have been imposed upon it by technological advances over the past 40 years. I propose that the Neo-Pagan changes to the American civil funeral cycle are informed by a theology of immanence that is juxtaposed against, and placed in competition with, the civil religion. This has the effect of creating plural, competing afterlives for any decedent who participated in both an intentional community and the American civil religion. On basis of this data, I revisit Arnold van Gennep's classic model for the rite of passage and propose an emendation that allows for the decedent to be incorporated into plural afterlives in a plural society. I propose a model for post-mortem identity formation consistent with the plural afterlives that appear in the ethnographic record. (Keywords: Neo-Paganism, Civil Religion, Death, Funeral, Identity, Rite of Passage).


American; Community; Dying; Living; Neo; Pagan

Controlled Subject


File Format


File Size

5130.24 KB

Degree Grantor

University of Nevada, Las Vegas




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