Contact

haberger@brandeis.edu

Research Areas

Gender, spirituality and religion; Witchcraft and Contemporary Paganism; Women’s Spirituality.

Education

Ph.D., New York University

M.A., Sussex University (England)

B.A., Brooklyn College of the CUNY

Links

Curriculum Vitae (pdf)

Voices from the Pagan Census

Teenage Witches: Magical youth and the Search for the Self

 

Helen A. Berger

Helen A. Berger

Helen A. Berger

Helen A. Berger is a sociologist who specializes in the study of gender and new religions. Most of her work to date has been about contemporary Paganism and Witchcraft, a new religious movement which venerates the female divine to the exclusion of, or in conjuncture with, the male divine. Her most recent book, Solitary Pagans: Contemporary Witches, Wiccans, and others who practice alone, will be published as part of the religious studies series by the University of South Carolina Press in the spring 2019. She has previously published three books, an edited volume, and numerous articles and book chapters on this topic. Her first book, A Community of Witches: Contemporary Neo-Pagans and Witches in the United States, won the A List Exceptional Books of 1999 Award. She has been interviewed on the topic of Witchcraft and Paganism by numerous newspapers including the New York Times and  the Washington Post. She has lectured in the United States, Europe, and Israel on the topic at both professional and public forums.  Dr. Berger’s research uses both qualitative and quantitative methods. Her first survey, The Pagan Census, is acknowledged as the yardstick for quantitative research on this new religion. The data from this survey is available worldwide on the Murray Institute of  Harvard University website. Her most recent book, is based on a new survey that is a revised, updated, and expanded version of the original survey. The original survey received almost 3,000 responses in the United States; the new one  received over 6,000 responses in the United States and an additional 2,000 worldwide. Her most recent  book explores the most important change that occurred in the religion between her two surveys—the growing proportion of those who practice alone. The changes she documents among contemporary Pagans have broader implications for the growth of those who are spiritual but not religious, or who are unchurched in the United States and other western societies. Dr. Berger is Professor Emeritus of Sociology at West Chester University in Pennsylvania. She has served on council of the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion, the contemporary Pagan section of the American Academy of Religion, and the Association for the Sociology of Religion.

Current Projects

Helen A. Berger’s current research focuses on the response among contemporary Pagans to the growth of one very small, but verbal and politically active, branch of the religion that has been helping populate the Alt-Right. The vast majority of contemporary Pagans are feminists, progressive, and supportive of diversity. The boundaries of this religion have been fluid and open with strong support among practitioners for individual spiritual, social, and political differences. This laissez-faire attitude is being brought into question by the growth of Alt-Right Pagans, which is making at least some contemporary Pagans believe that some borders need to be drawn.  

Representative Publications

Berger, Helen A. and Douglas Ezzy. Teenage Witches: Magical Youth and the Search for the Self. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 2007.

Berger, Helen A., Evan A. Leach and Leigh S. Shaffer. Voices from the Pagan Census: Neo-Paganism in the United States. Columbia, South Carolina: University of South Carolina Press, 2003.