a collection of diverse contemporary religions rooted in or
inspired by indigenous traditions worldwide. Pagan
religions are characterized by Earth-centered spirituality,
belief in the interconnection of all life, personal
autonomy, polytheism, and immanent divinity. Pagans value
personal responsibility, gender equity, spiritual
development, individual freedom, living lightly on the
Earth, diversity, good works, and community service.
the largest segment of the Pagan population is Caucasian,
highly educated, and middle class, Pagans come from all
walks of life. Most are avid readers with interests in
ecology, creativity, and personal growth. Many work in
scientific and computer-related disciplines. Others work in
the caring professions such as medicine and teaching. Since
Paganism is not an organized movement, it is difficult to
determine the number of practitioners. Estimates range from
100,000 to several million in the US alone.
religions may draw on ancient historical practices or be
entirely new. In the case of the former, Pagans look to the
beliefs, practices, Gods, symbols, lands, music, and myths
of a particular historical culture and adapt them for
contemporary needs. Anachronistic elements, such as ritual
violence, are rejected. Elements such as reverence for the
natural world, honoring the ancestors, and responsibility to
the community are retained. Pagan religions which are not
historically based take their inspiration from visionary,
artistic, and libertarian traditions to create vibrant
spiritual systems centered on Pagan values.
Characteristics of Pagan faiths
a movement grew out of the growing environmental awareness
of the 1960s, though it encompasses some traditions from the
Middle Ages and earlier. Consequently most Pagan religions
are nature-centered. Rather than seek dominance over the
environment, Pagans work to live as a part of Nature,
finding a balance between the self, the biosphere, and
society. Part of this rethinking includes Goddess-worship,
which is widespread in the Pagan movement. Many Pagans look
to the Goddesses of old and find vibrant, dynamic models for
ecological balance. The myriad Goddesses from the past also
provide Pagans with a vision of powerful feminine divinity
which is missing from other Western religions.
many mainstream religious traditions, Pagans view Divinity
as immanent rather than transcendent. Rather than pray to
something “out there,” Pagans view all living things as
sacred. Diversity is seen as an expression of the divine
order. People are viewed as essentially good and holy,
although still capable of acting unethically.
view the relationship with Divinity as a deeply personal
calling. It is up to each individual to develop a
relationship with the Divine as s/he defines it. Because of
this, there is no institutionalization within Paganism.
There is no single holy book, common creed, or hierarchy of
religious representatives. Spiritual communion, even when
in groups, is direct and immediate. Each congregation is
autonomous, as is each individual within that congregation.
While leaders are respected for their wisdom or service,
there are no charismatic gurus within the movement. There
is no one spokesperson for Pagans, All Pagans value
choosing one’s own path and beliefs and consequently do not
seek to convert others. Pagans self-identify; there is no
one body or rite which confers membership in the Pagan
community. However, almost all Pagan organizations require
members to abide by specific ethical guidelines and
emphasis on personal exploration and development creates a
highly dynamic culture of diverse people who share values of
intellectual and spiritual freedom. Rather than conform to
a specific set of beliefs or practices, Pagans participate
in a vibrant marketplace of ideas where people contribute
and take away what resonates most deeply with them.
Community is created through regular gatherings and
festivals, numerous publications, and an extensive internet
presence. While specific ethics are discussed at length
within the Pagan community, the most common summation is “if
it harms none, do what you will.” This combines personal
freedom with responsibility to the community.
religions are dynamic, changing systems based on timeless
values of faith, freedom, justice, honesty, responsibility,
creativity, caring, courage, and respect. Specific beliefs
and practices vary as people adapt concepts to their
particular needs. Pagans celebrate rituals to mark the Wheel
of the Year, as well as life transitions such as marriage,
moving, birth or death. Some traditions celebrate rituals
to commemorate specific historic events, while others
celebrate natural transitions such as lunar phases or the
first snowfall of the year. Pagan religions are a way of
life affecting choices from how we pray to where we shop.
Pagans believe religions must change to meet the needs of
people on an everyday basis, while connecting them to their
most deeply held spiritual beliefs. While some Pagan
religions can be quite esoteric, most Pagan beliefs and
practices are rooted everyday, natural experience.
American Pagans practice adaptations of ancient ethnic
traditions, the most popular of which are Celtic,
Greco-Roman, Native American, ancient Egyptian, Baltic, and
Norse Pagan religion based on the principles of courage,
truth, honor, fidelity, discipline, hospitality,
industriousness, justice, self-reliance, and perseverance.
Promotes celebration and honoring of all life and the planet
as a living divine organism, Gaia.
Many types of Druidism are practiced with varying emphasis
on scholarly research into the original Druids who were the
priest/ess and judicial class of the ancient Celts.
Focuses on recreating as accurately as possible the religious
practices of ancient (primarily Egyptian or Roman)
Honoring of Goddess and God (some traditions honor the
Goddess alone), use of magic, and healing all within the
context of “if it harm none, do what you will.”
religions follow the Wheel of the Year for celebrations and
holy days. They celebrate the solstices and equinoxes, plus
the “cross quarter days” of Feb 1, May 1, Aug 1, and Nov 1.
The names and exact dates of the holidays may vary and not
all traditions celebrate all of the holidays. Most also
mark the different phases of the moon.
Down the Moon,
Pagan: Druids, Wiccans, and Witches Today,
Truth about Neo-Paganism,
History of Pagan Europe,
Jones and Nigel Pennick
PO Box 24072
Portage IN 46368
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