The Pagan Studies consultation began as a simple social meeting at the American Academy of Religion-Society of Biblical Literature joint annual meeting in Philadelphia in November 1995, hosted by Selena Fox and Dennis Carpenter of Circle Network.
The following year, Chas S. Clifton took over as facilitator and began the "natrel" e-mail list for what was now called the Nature Religions Scholars Network. After the AAR-SBL meeting in San Francisco in 1998, a group of network members proposed a "consultation," which in the AAR is an temporary program unit with a three-year lifespan, designed to test the depth of interest in a particular area of religious studies.
That proposal was rejected on the grounds that we had not demonstrated sufficiently that our concerns were not being met in other program units, such as Ritual Studies or New Religious Movements.
From 1999-2002, we met as an "additional meeting" for two and a half hours each year. Members presented papers just as in a regular program session.
In 2003, with Clifton accepting the editorship of The Pomegranate: The International Journal of Pagan Studies, Cat McEarchern, an American doctoral student at Stirling University (Scotland), stepped forward and organized a day-long Pagan Studies Conference preceding the AAR-SBL meeting.
Meanwhile, the leaders of the AAR and SBL decided to split their combined annual meeting after 2007. This change made the AAR more open to proposals for more program units. In addition, we had demonstrated that we could produce enough substantive material to fill a session each year. Following the 2004 annual meeting, we again proposed a consultation, and this time the proposal was accepted.
Our first official session as a consultation was during the 2005 AAR-SBL meeting in Philadelphia. In December, 2007, we were granted Group status, three years ahead of schedule.