"Religion is about creation, and for that reason religion should be
about the earth. To many people this comes as a surprise because
modern religious thinking emphasizes salvation over creation and
focuses on heaven and hell rather than earth. But Pagans believed that
biological processes are spiritual processes and that there is divine
meaning in every natural event".
- Laurie Cabot
(Power of the Witch, Penguin books 1992)
What is Paganism?
It can be a complex
question "What is Paganism", but the answer need not be so. In
simplest terms Paganism is a religion of place, or a native religion.
Under this definition, for example, the Native American's religion is
Pagan, Hinduism is a form of Paganism, as are Australian Aboriginal
customs and beliefs; even though they may not view themselves as such.
All Pagan religions are characterised by a connection and reverence
for nature, and are usually polytheistic i.e. have many Gods and/or
Modern Paganism as
practised in the west is particular to the native peoples of the west
and although there are many forms most are descended from Celtic
origins. Modern Paganism or 'neo-Paganism' has the following
is a religion of nature, in other words Pagans revere Nature. Pagans
see the divine as immanent in the whole of life and the universe; in
every tree, plant, animal and object, man and woman and in the dark
side of life as much as in the light. Pagans live their lives attuned
to the cycles of Nature, the seasons, life and death.
the patriarchal religions (Christianity, Islam, Judaism) the divine is
female as well as male and therefore there is a Goddess as well as a
God. These deities are within us as well as without us (immanent);
they are us. They are not simply substitutes for the Muslim or
Judeo-Christian God. This is because the Gods of the major religions
tend to be super-natural i.e. above nature whereas Pagan deities are
natural, symbolizing aspects of nature or human nature. Having said
that God and Goddess are split from the Great Spirit or Akashka which
probably equates to the God of the patriarchal religions.
Goddess represents all that is female and the God represents all that
is male. But because nature is seen as female the Goddess has a wider
meaning. Often called Mother Earth or Gaia she is seen as the creatrix
and sustainer of life, the mother of us all which makes all the
creatures on the planet our siblings.
4. There are
sub-groups of named Gods and Goddesses called Pantheons, drawn from
the distant past, for example Isis and Osiris from Egypt or Thor,
Odin, Freya et al from Norse religion and mythology. Ancient Pagans
would have worshipped one or a small number of Gods and Goddesses,
whilst often recognizing the validity of other people's deities. The
concept of an overall, un-named Goddess and God, the sum totals of all
the others, appears to be a recent one but individual named deities
represent particular human qualities or archetypes and are often used
as a focus for celebrations and spiritual rites.
has developed alongside mankind for thousands of years; as cultures
have changed so has Paganism, yet it is grounded in deep rooted
genetic memories that go back to neolithic times and before. Thus
Paganism is not just a nature religion but a natural religion.
in the west takes a number of forms including Witchcraft/Wicca, Druidism, and
7. To Pagans
the four ancient elements, Earth, Air, Fire and Water have special
significance. The importance of these is hard to define because they
have so many correspondences, for example they are associated with the
four directions, North, East, South and West. Each element is a kind
of spiritual substance from which all things are made especially
ourselves and at the same time are Guardians both of ourselves and of
the Goddess and God, and guarding the gateways between this world and
the other world.
Pagans believe in reincarnation in some form. It gives Pagans a
substantially different view of life. Early Christians saw Karma as a
kind of treadmill, trapping people in endless reincarnations, never
free. But Pagans see reincarnation as, at best, a chance to improve or
to continue unfinished work, and at worst just a simple re-cycling of
There are so many
different paths and traditions that one may choose from. Here is a
partial listing of what appears to be the top ranking traditions. As I
locate more and more paths to follow I will add to this list!
Click here to go to the list.