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This article is meant to provide English speaking members of Our Druidry - and other Pagans who might be interested - with an overview of the history and contemporary shape of Neo-Pagan movement in the Czech Republic. It´s not intended to speak from a scholar authority, although I´m preparing grounds for a more comprehensive study. It´s more of an account by somebody who´s been personally involved with some ambitions for objectivity.
I´ve tried my best to collect relevant information and verify the presented claims. Considering the lack of any attempts, scholarly, journalist or Pagan, to summarize this topic there may be unclear places and whole threads omitted. I will therefore appreciate all further imputs from Czech readers at noira[at]centrum.cz.
Our prominent New Religious Movements scholar, author of the first comprehensive study about Neopaganism, wrote in 2007 :
[I]t´s clear that Neo-Paganism is not very succesful in the Czech Republic. Its offer is noticed mainly by teenagers who choose a different spiritual path eventually. The older individuals suffer from inability to agree upon long-term projects that could be have missionary success.
Some pages earlier he characterizes Neo-Paganism by two main attributes: the anti Christian protest and fierce individualism. I feel this statement, unflattering and slightly biased, is true for local Paganism at least. There is a significant hostility towards organized religion in the soul of this country that will become apparent in the following article. For general overview of Czech religiosity please see this paper first.
10/2005: Baptism of Wicca: The First Initiation, the first book
on Paganism to be written by a Czech author.
Photo courtesy Jakub "Zahrada" Achrer
First Pagan groups and websites have come into public sight on the verge of the 21st century. A significant book for early Czech Paganism, Buckland´s Complete Book of Witchcraft has been published in 1998. The earlier and much better translated What Witches Do (1996) went out of print before it could raise attention of the emerging Pagan scene and is now in demand, like many books from that time.
In the first half of the following decade there´s been a boom of Pagan activities, especially years 2003-4. There´ve been public rituals both Wiccan, Slavic and Asatru, public presentations , at least 3 amateur maganizes  one of which was prominent - the The Pagan Circle edited in a semi-professional fashion, legally registered and distributed in affiliated bookstores had an editorial board which consisted of Pagans from various traditions. Six issues were published. 
Following the change of a dicriminatory Church and Religious Societies Act in 2002 certain enthusiasm sprung about registering a pan-Pagan religious society, that would represent 4 branches of Paganism (Wicca, Slavic, Germanic, Celtic). A council has been formed and disbanded shortly after, leaving a lot of wrath behind. Lack of common interest is often cited as the cause of this miserable failure (2003-4). As to my knowledge there´ve been at least two other attempts or ambitions expressed in that era .
I´ve myself entered the Pagan scene gradually during 2005 through e-mail correspondence and by setting up a website. . I wrote about my journey in Musings from the Mountain Mists (Oak Leaves No. 41).
The first website about Wicca is rumored to have been launched somewhere back in 1998. Its creator Eurik used to run a pioneering ecclectic coven that disbanded in 2006, after almost six years. He cited overal poor management and discipline as reasons. The coven practiced something that resembled Seax Wicca most, because that was the only material available here at the time. Gradually an interest developed in the more ceremonial forms (Alexandrian).
Eurik is now an independent ADF Druid, interested in Heathenry, practicing with his spouse Sothis. His website  underwent a major change in 2007, and is now called "Eurik´s website about Magic, Witchcraft and Pagan Faith".
The majority of anything-to-do-with-Wicca in this country is connected to somebody else though, the first Czech Pagan known to be initiated in Traditional Wicca.
Zahrada in a 2007 documentary
Photo courtesy Czech Television
Jakub "Zahrada" Achrer, a civil servant, is among the most well-known faces of Czech Paganism. His past and present activities include but aren´t limited to public presentations about Wicca, speaking to the media, doing handfastings, offering courses in Tarot and organizing a Pagan retreat.
As the chief-editor of the already mentioned Pagan Circle and organizer of The Old Religion Project he´s been through some of the most interesting times in our local Neo-Pagan history. Besides these ecumenical projects he runs a website about Wicca  and perhaps the most popular Pagan blog , although it has become somewhat silent recently.
He´s been the key organizer of Bohemian and Moravian Witches conference (BMWC) and curretly serves as the Pagan Federation´s local National Coordinator.
Between 2003-5 he wrote the first book on Paganism by a Czech author, inspired by his own story. Wicca: The First Initiation (2005), a much expected book, has been received with some ambivalence, mainly because of its focus on initiatory Wicca (that is, understandably, not available to many seekers) and the author didn´t manage to loop gracefully between a telling a personal story and teching the lore.
Following the impact of the book, it is rumored that one or two more Czech Pagans might have been initiated into the coven, located in Austria, as of 2008.
Besides this public face of Wicca there is always a number of chaotic and hardly verifiable rumours about existence of (ecclectic, do-it-yourself) covens in various corners of the land.
These Wiccans are most often teenagers or people interested in general occult and spiritism. The groups are popping in and out of existence mainly because of inexperienced leaders and lack of any long-term aims. Rituas are organized out of sheer enthusiams, but once a group is formed it suffers badly from the internal dynamics.
There is also unidentifiable number of solitary, couple and family practitioners of Wicca.
The famed rune circle in Southern Bohemia
Photo courtesy GreenMan
1999 is commonly cited as the foundation year of Heathen Hearts of Boiohaemum, a Pan-Germanic Neo-Pagan society. (Some members would not identify as Asatruars or Norse, therefore the adjective.) It could be argued that HHOB have been one of the - if not the most succesful local Pagan initiative, in terms of membership and activities. In the best years dozens of people either belonged to one of its kindreds or have attended events.
HHOB were organized as a loose alliance of independent kindreds (clans) with each of the kindreds having vote privilege on the annualy Althing (the council). Each clan would have a different focus.
Their history wasn´t prone to controversy though. Some felt that there is too much emphasis on physical force and the warriors and the environment is attractive for those who tend to bring in radical political ideologies. The truth is, HHOB has always been a male-dominated association, just like the majority of Asatru organizations abroad. There´s been a wide range of attitudes since beginning, so it´s hardly surprising that schisms occured.
Stargard and Illeana Dragonari
Photo courtesy Zahrada
Carpathian Wulfs broke apart after the 2003 Althing to form an independent group that still exists. The group is lead by Stargard and Illeana, two prominent faces of Czech Paganism, who accepted a new name Dragonari after they got handfasted at the rune shrine earlier that year in one of the first Pagan weddings to be documented.
Linda became our first professional Pagan Witch, opening a shop with counseling services in 2004. The shop, nicknamed The Wolf Cave became a center for many Pagan meetings and a contact place, although it never produced significant profit.
Stargard and Illeana parted their ways both as partners and Pagans in 2007.
Villi Svin Kindred disbanded in 2007. The kindred comprised only three members at that time. Lorraine, the group´s gydja joined ADF some time after and cooperated with the Protogrove. Our ways parted and she is currently planning a lot of travelling, just like another prominent female of the kindred (Zmiu), who eventually moved to Island where a thriving Asatru community can be found.
In 08/2006 the HHOB website  went "under construction", but never appeared back. Towards the end of 2007 I´ve received a statement on the connected forum that "it [the website] has fulfilled its role in history, but circumstances have changed and it is not going to be put back." The forum has been archived and almost abandoned. The biggest of the 3 surviving kindreds - Managarm, named by its leader - claims to continue its activities in a private way. Managarm went to study comparative religion and says he keeps in touch with foreign organizations such as Northverg, Asatru Alliance or Troth.
HHOB is currently in a process of reviewing its past and present activities, goals and politics and it´s difficult to determine the future.
There have been groups independent from HHOB such as Dunkelheim, a group formed by the merging of Carpathian Wulfos and historical fencing group Ragnarok. The new group supported The Pagan Circle and focused heavily on historical authenticity. A non-dated account on their website says the group has split in two, further details are unknown to me.
Other minor cells of Asatru practitioners used to be somewhat known, but I have no knowledge about them now.
Lokean (Darken) founded an Asatru study group in 2007, but seems to have abandoned the initial idea. He cited lack of interest and low discipline as reasons. Last time we spoke he asked me to remove the link and indicated he´s currently "working on something different" and one visible outcome could be an Asatru website.
Vítezslav, The Native Faith´s frontman
Photo courtesy Native Faith
The history of Czech Slavic Paganism, or Rodnověří, is intertwined with The Native Faith (2000) , the medially most portrayed Pagan group. Native Faith has currently only one regional group established, the Central Bohemian, with more on they way when enough members gather in each region. The Northern-Bohemian section disbanded before their ambitious plans could be brought to fruition (2002-2005). The Native Faith has a few dozen members and fellow folks, according to a 2007 account :
The interest in history, folklore and patriotism connects all the approximately fifty people who sympathize with the group. It´s impossible to specify their exact numbers, because attendance at rituals is not mandatory and moreoften those who attend aren´t necessarily members. It´s just a group of fellow folk with shared interests from all corners of our country. ... guests from abroad, Russia, Slovakia and Poland can be met too.
Vitezslav, a 5th grade student of Slavic Studies in Prague, is recognized as the group´s frontman. With his typical zeal he reformed the group´s liturgical calendar in 2006. The most important feasts are in spring the festival of Jarovit and Mokosh in autumn.
The group´s strong academic foundation provokes opposition among the adherents of various esoteric currents and those who rely on forgeries like The Book of Veles. Native Faith considers positive influence, stressing real scholarship, one of its missions among the more radical Eastern Slavic Pagans. They also wish to remain apolitical and condone the use of psychoative substances and hard alcohol on their rituals.
Dervan (Giuseppe Maiello)
Photo courtesy Czech Television
Giuseppe Maiello or Dervan, an Italy born Slavic Pagan, is a prominent person among the publicly active Czech Pagans, former leader of Native Faith and a succesful academic, he published a few books in etnology. He left the university in Prague due to disagreements on the Slavic Studies curricula and perhaps because of his open Paganism that was perceived controversial by some conservative students. He now teaches at one of the regional universities. He left Native Faith in 2005.
About his engagemnt in the Worlds Congress of Ethnic Religions, where he was at the board of directors, he said that "he left, because it was all about politics."
Other interesting person from Native Faith was Radek, a key editor of The Pagan Circle who delved into the mysteries of geomancy and sacred sites. His approach didn´t succeed in the group, so went autonomous in 2005.
There are several Slavic groups in the neigboring Slovak Republic (we´ve split in 1992), namely The Grandsons of Dazbog (2006), The Ring of Perun (200?)  and Perun´s Oak Grove (2003). Their loud anti-Christianity gives a tedious impression to me  even though in the largely Catholic and religiously intolerant Slovakia such rhetorics is understandable.  Nevertheless, they do public rituals and generally seem to be doing well.
It is my impression that the term Neo-Pagan is scorned universaly in the Slavic circles.
Celtic and Druidic Paganism
Unlike Slavic and Germanic groups, Czech Neo-Pagans who are interested in Celtic traditions haven´t formed any association comparable to the above described groups. There is a vast Celtic fandom concentrated around cultural associations such as Celtic Brotherhood (1994) , organizers of the popular Beltine musical festival, Keltoi  or Lugh . None of these organizations declares a religious nature, but you can find people who are practicing some kind of Celtic spirituality here and there.
It seems that Czech Druids are rather solitary practitioners, although three of them joined their forces to form the Druids of Boiohaemum (2006) . One of the members runs a remarkable website about Druidry.  (2007).
Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids (OBOD)
Amairgill the Bard, probably reciting one of his
Photo courtesy Amairgil
There is a 3rd degree Druid, who joined the Order in England. She has about a dozen students in the Bardic degree training . They are not very visible in the community, because the activities are members-only and from what I gather most Czech members are somewhat secretive solitary Druids.
I think that although there is high demand for study programs in Czech, OBOD is not very succesful here because of the financial burden, that equals 6.000,- CZK for students and retired and 8.000,- for adults / Bardic level training. That´s some $ 374 even with the current unprecedented low cost of $ 1 = 16 CZK.
Recently, a somewhat eccentric marital couple of OBOD Celtic Christians (Falka and Amairgil ) have gone somewhat public, making a few gigs and joining the PFI. Amairgil is a bard, perceived as Cantorix of the Pagan scene. They founded a Seed group (The Covenant of Brigid of the Triple Flame), tried some advertising at the university... and dissolved. Falka told me about the pains of organizing a group back in 2007 and that they are still too few to meet the policies required by the Order, and unable to reach an agreement.
In 2007 a "Bardic Grove" has supposedly been created, but it doesn´t show in OBOD´s records on the main website.
Czech OBOD Druids are currently getting a positive inducement, because of Phillip Carr Gomm´s books that are being translated and published. So far, the Druidcraft and Druid Animal Oracle is out, with more one the way.
The Fellowship of Isis has at least a few fellows here and I´ve talked to a Kemetic Pagan who is aware of a small number of other solitary followers of the Egyptian path. They´re together preparing a more comprehensive website in Czech.
The Carpathian Wulfos developed into a somewhat closed initiatory tradition with its own liturgy performed in Gothic, a liturgical calendar not resembling any contemporary Germanic tradition and a spirituality centered around what they call The Wolf Cult . One of the leaders, Adrian, said recently that he "doesn´t feel as an Asatru practitioner, although he´s been marked as one by others for years."
A Witch who called herself Nephra used to run a popular website (The Book of Magic, ?2005 - 2006) and a loosely affiliated community of witches. She was also active around the Pagan Circle magazine and went silent some time ago.
Another Witch I personally knew, Nimue, brough with her the traditions of her home country (Russia), practiced witchcraft and offered counseling here and there mainly through her website. She later converted to Asatru and is now doing a research about the runes.
Living history troupe Skjaldborg, the chieftain´s birthday
Photo courtesy Skjaldborg
There is a significant living history movement in Czech Republic with plentiful Slavic, Celtic, Germanic and general Medieval groups. Among these aficionados is a certain number of individuals and groups who have some interest in the religious side, but mostly it´s a surface cover only (e.g. performing "ancient rituals" or setting up altars at gigs). It´s doubtful whether all the living history freaks mumbling about berserks and Valhalla would be considered Pagan by the general community. It is my experience that historical fencers are just down-to-earth, practical, crafty folks with a strong sense of romanticism.
Also a liminal phenomenon with growing popularity in Europe is the Pagan metal music, especially Germanic or Slavic, but one could also find other local styles (e.g. Finnish). These bands have Pagan themed lyrics, costumes and shows that may encourage people to inquire more about the contemporary Paganism. For a vast majority of these bands its just a matter of fashion, except unfortunately the ones that have direct links to the political extremism movements with "Slavic" or "Germanic" overtones - the lyrics speak for themselves, just as news headlines such as "A number of weapons confiscated on The Pagan Reing concert". This type of music is nevertheless popular among Pagans.
The Pagan Federation logo
Besides the bankrupted projects of The Old Religion and The Pagan Circle there is no real inter-tradition dialogue or initiative. The Pagan Federation Int. fulfills the role of a networking platform to some extent but fails to unite Czech Pagans in the means of cooperation or political activism. One wonders, whether is it the sheer lack of any public discrimination that forces Pagans to fight one another here. The current spokesperson imagines PFI´s vision to "create more tolerance between one another, because fortunately public discrimination has never been an issue here and hopefully won´t be".
The Czech website  tells us that first Czech PFI members appeared not sooner than in 2002. It could be said though that the PFI came to general attention only towards the end of 2006, when a Czech National Coordinator has been appointed. Zahrada created a Czech website with some translated material and invited people to join the newly-founded Czech chapters. For various reasons the initiative hasn´t been received very well, forcing the PFI into silence only a few months later.
PFI-CZ now publishes regular quarterly newsletters available for download online. The graphic layout is professional, but the scale of readers and editors very limited, so there´s still no medium quite as The Pagan Circle used to be back in 2003-4. Apart from the newsletter a few trips have been organized and PFI runs regular pubmoots in Prague. (See below.)
The most medially portrayed Pagan event was the 2006 wedding of Sokol and Villona that took place on Beltine musical festival (and was promoted as a chief attraction, one might add). A short report appeared in many newspapers and a TV series about alternative lifestyles Kosmopolis.
There´s been a few articles in the national newspaper, favourable although with an accent of sensation. Native Faith is the most reporter-friendly group that considers good public relations a key to promoting their goals.
Silver Raven Wolf´s Teen Witch in Czech
Photo courtesy of Knizni web
Cunningham´s Wicca: A Solitary Practitioners Guide went out in 2002 under the gruesome title Wicca: Natural Celtic Magic, with the sequel Living Wicca (2007). These publications along with Silver Raven Wolf´s Solitary Witch: The Ultimate Book of Shadows for the New Generation (2005) and Teen Witch (2008) marked a new trend - major occult publishing houses have greedily started buying and producing Llewellyn production. These publishers unfortunately have zero links or interest in the Pagan community and the translators make no efforts to look up the trivia.
Dingir 1/2002 Cover
Dingir 1/2002, a popular science journal about contemporary religion brought interviews with adherents of Asatru and Slavic tradition in an issue devoted to Neo-Paganism.
Neo-Paganism was also featured in the revolutionary 2004 Encyclopedia of Religious Movements in Czech Republic, compiled and written by my tutor and colleague ThD. Zdenek Vojtisek, who´s also editor-in-chief of Dingir. He classifies Neo-Paganism under a large category (an overloaded one, say some) of "Western Esoterism".
He´s also responsible for the famed Society for the Study of New Religious Movements´ public debates with representants of various religions, where Neo-Pagans starred too in 2004. His 2007 study is the best and only comprehensive scholarly writing about the topic.
Pub Moots (also pubmoots and some other spellings) - this word, coming from British Pagan lingo, marks a type of networking event. Basically it´s a meeting in a pub, organized or attended by Pagans. There´s no schedule set up, people just mingle freely and make new friends eventually. Most pubmoots have been organized by Czech Chapters of the Pagan Federation, advertised online.
Besides PFI pubmoots, that run regularly in Prague and sometimes other big cities, there are various meetings of other interest groups, e.g. general occult meet-ups, that are popular among Pagans too.
Pre-ritual briefing at Bohemian-Moravian Witches Conference IX.
Photo courtesy of BMWC
"Retreat" is a type of 3 and more days event, taking place outside of the city, usually in some sort of retreat facility. Usually there´s some sort of programme organized in a Do-It-Yourself way, i.e. those attending prepare a lecture or workshops for others in the field they are interested in. The organizers are only responsible for some promotion (online) and booking the accomodation.
Among these retreats Bohemian-Moravian Witches Conference  is prominent. Initially a rather informal holiday retreat of friends who were intersted in magic, Paganism and stuff, it grew into a kind of do-it-yourself community retreat or a proto-festival with amateur workshops and lectures during the day and socializing at night. BMWC has been attended by approximately a few dozens of people since its opening to the public in 2006. Common attendance is 15-20. It takes place twice a year. Due to the roots of BMWC and considering it´s still a relatively small-sized group, there´s a focus on community building, with shared symbols and memories. The core group of attendees is relatively stable. s
Besides BMWC there are other reatreats in same fashion that don´t declare Pagan affiliation, but rather general occult and spirituality focus.
Public and Semi-public Rituals
The era of abundant public rituals seemsto have passed. Now-a-days the only really publicly advertised and open rituals are those held by Native Faith.
Semi-public rituals, usually with a single organizer-host are more common. These are advertised among friends and other Pagans.
I´ll get a little bit controversial by saying that Czech Republic is the "last Western country". By this statement I mean that East of here the Neo-Pagan movement is very politically fueled and exclusivist. A good example may be fact that these organizations do not consider themselves to be a part of a larger Neo-Pagan movement that started in the 50´s in UK and now the centre has shifted to the United States. There is a culture boundary, I feel, that goes throught this very country and sets it apart from Poland a Slovakia, two countries with very high rates of Catholicism. believe it´s still somewhat legally recognized as the main religion in both countries. Also, nationalism against ethic minorities is a bigger problem in Slovakia than here. Homophobic and antisemitic attitudes in Polish Radio Mary have been so outrageous that they´ve been admonished by Vatican. With this stuff in mind, one would be allured to think that very high level of atheism is perhaps not the worst environment for Neo-Paganism to grow in.
Our German speaking neibouring countries, are not promised land for the Pagan either. It might be surprising to reveal that the first real Asatru group was established in Germany only towards the late 1990´s - by an American! Spokesman of Eldaring, a sister organization to The Troth, says "that 9 out of 10 Asatruars in the country are the "bad ones", that is Nazism fascinated esoterics." There are Traditional Wiccan covens in both Autria and Germany, but my impression is that they have little interest in the general Pagan community and consider themselves a classic initiatory secret society.
Both Slavic and Germanic Pagans in our country have struggled for their identity to be based on religion rather than political ideologies and I would say they largely succeeded. The nearest centres of Neo-Pagan movement are far from here, in United Kingdom and to a lesser extent in Northern Europe.