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Internet Book of Shadows, (Various Authors), [1999], at



                              M O D E R N   P A G A N I S M : 
                                  QUESTIONS    &    ANSWERS

                 To promote community harmony and freedom of religious practice.
          Distributed  by : The Committee for Religious Freedom, Salt Lake City,

                        Thanks to LesleyPhillips andLinda Pinti ofThe Covenantof
          Unitarian Universalist Pagans for original material.

                        Contemporarysociety isexperiencingaresurgence ofinterest
          in earth-  and nature-centered spirituality. Modern Paganism is a rich
          and  diverse  religious movement  drawing the attention  of the media,
          law-makers, and  spiritual  seekers. This pamphlet attempts  to answer
          some of the questions  frequently asked about modern Pagan beliefs and

          What is Paganism?
                        Theterm"Pagan" comesfrom aLatinword for"country dweller"
          first  used  in  early  Christian  times to  refer  to  those  not yet
          converted to Christianity. "Pagan" was an epithet that cast aspersions
          on those  not seen as  "true believers." Today, it refers more general
          to the  faith of those whose  spiritual  center is drawn to native and
          natural religions,  usually pantheistic   or polytheistic,  and almost
          always earth-centered.

          What then is "Modern Paganism"?
                        ModernPaganism,orNeo-Paganism, isamodern, Earth-centered
          religious   perspective  which borrows  and adapts  from pre-Christian
          paganism  as  well  as   from  contemporary  religious  thought. While
          reconnecting with ancient wisdom,   it speaks eloquently to  the needs
          and concerns of the present.

          What is meant by "The Old Religion"?
                        The term describes the pre-Christian religion of much of
          western  and northern  Europe,  which was  based  on the  agricultural
          cycles  and  other natural  rhythms of  the  Earth. It  coexisted with
          Christianity for centuries,  from the so-called  "Dark Ages" up  until
          the  Inquisition and  the "Burning  Times" (witch  hunts) of  the late
          Middle Ages. It also can refer more generally to other 
          native and tribal religions of the world.

          What is the difference between Paganism and Witchcraft?
                        SomecontemporaryPagans callthemselvesWitches.The termhas
          many   meanings,  some   carrying   rather  heavy   negative  baggage.
          "Witchcraft"  or "The Craft" is  most properly applied  to three broad
          categories: Descendants of  the European witches  of the Middle  Ages,
          practitioners of  the "reconstructed" Witchcraft of  the 20th century,
          and  "feminist Witches"  whose  religion and  politics  center in  the
          contemporary womens'  spirituality movement. It can  generally be said
          that  all modern  Witches are Pagans,  but not  all modern  Pagans are
          Witches. At least one writer,  Aidan Kelly, has begun to use  the term
          "Neo-Pagan  Witchcraft"  to  describe   the  largest  portion  of  the
          contemporary Pagan community.


          What is meant by the term "Wicca"?
                        Oftenused asa synonymfor Witchcraft,"Wicca" isthought to
          derive from an Anglo-Saxon root meaning to bend or to turn. It is more
          properly applied only to  those Witchcraft traditions which originated
          in or derive from  practices in the British Isles.

          What about Shamanism?
                        Shamanismisnot areligion, butaset ofspiritual techniques
          used for  healing and the acquisition of knowledge through forays into
          non-ordinary  states     of  consciousness.  Now   gaining  increasing
          attention  in the counseling   profession, this  journeying is usually
          aided by sonic driving  (such as repetitive drumming or  chanting) and
          often involves interactions with totemic and archetypal figures. These
          techniques are used in  virtually every tribal society and  are widely
          used by contemporary Pagans.

          What do modern Pagans believe?
                        The centralbeliefs ofmodern Pagansdiffer in specificsyet
          share  many   fundamentals.  Deity is  seen  as immanent  rather  than
          transcendent.   Experience  is preferred over doctrine. It is believed
          that there are and should be   multiple paths to the Divine. There  is
          no prescribed creed, but there are a  number of beliefs shared by most
          contemporary Pagans, summarized at the end of  this pamphlet.

          Isn't this just Humanism by another name?
                        Noand Yes.Likereligious Humanists,modernPagans havealove
          and reverence for  this world  and the physical  plane generally.  The
          rational is  seen as important. Great  emphasis is also placed  on the
          intuitive, however, and the belief that the  physical and non-physical
          worlds  are equally  real, and   are  interconnected, interpenetrating
          manifestations  of nature.  This means  that  spiritual  work, whether
          called  meditation, prayer,  or  magic, and  whether  done as  ritual,
          worship, or celebration, is  efficacious and can result in  changes in
          the  physical  world.  The majority  of  Pagans  also  believe in  the
          survival of the consciousness or soul after physical death.

          How do modern Pagans worship? 
                        Some groups have formalworship services or similar group
          meetings.  Others  conduct rituals  that have varying  degrees of  set
          forms. Some Pagans worship  by themselves without formal ritual.  Most
          contemporary Pagans hold  rituals corresponding to the  turning of the
          seasons  and the phases of the moon.  Rituals are often performed in a
          sacred space defined by the demarcation  of a circle, within which the
          celebration  and worship take place. Celebrations  include eight major
          seasonal holidays,  sometimes collectively referred to  as  "Sabbats".
          These  Sabbats, as  most  frequently observed  by  North American  and
          European  Pagans,  follow  the  agricultural cycles  of  the  northern
          temperate zone,   and include the  solstices and equinoxes  as well as
          four intermediate festivals   which fall in between, sometimes  called
          "cross-quarters," on or near the first  days of February, 
          May, August, and November. Regular public  Sabbat rituals,  reflecting
          a variety of contemporary Pagan styles, are held in many  communities.
          Rituals  may   include  meditation,  chanting,   drumming,  myth-  and
          story-telling, ritual drama, dance,  and so on. Deeper ritual  work is
          most  often practiced at private gatherings, which for many traditions
          coincide  with   the phases  of the  moon. The  work may  include more
          intense  raising  of energy,    healing work,  and  personal spiritual


          What about Satanism? 
                        Contrary   to  the  claims   of  ill-informed  Christian
          fundamentalists,  the practices of modern Pagans are in no way related
          to Satanism.  Most Pagans  do  not even  believe  Satan exists.  As  a
          profanation  of  Christian symbolism,  Satan  worship  is a  Christian
          heresy, not a Pagan religion. 
          Do Pagans proselytize? 
                        No,Pagansdo notproselytize.Most modernPagantraditions do
          welcome newcomers.  Most modern  Pagans also  do not  discourage other
          Pagans from  integrating other  religious and spiritual practices  and
          beliefs into their practice. 
                             WHAT CONTEMPORARY PAGANS BELIEVE 
          while there  is no set  of beliefs  shared by all  Pagans, most  would
          agree that similarities far  outweigh differences. There are  a number
          of beliefs held  by the vast majority of modern  Pagans. Some of these
          1. Divinity is seen as immanent. 
          2. Divinity  is as likely to  manifest itself in female  as male form,
          the God or  the Goddess, in the interconnectedness of all life. 
          3. Multiple paths to the divine exist, as symbolized by many goddesses
          and gods.  These  are often  seen  as archetypes  or  gateways to  the
          4. We respect and love Mother Earth as a living being, Gaia,  of which
          we are a part. 
          5. The physical world,  as an emanation of the divine, is  good and to
          be enjoyed by all living beings in love and harmony. 
          6. Ethics and morality are based on avoidance of harm to other beings,
          including Earth as a whole, which mandates environmental activism as a
          spiritual responsibility. 
          7. Human interdependence implies the need for community cooperation. 
          8.  The  solar and  lunar  cycles  and the  cycles  of  our lives  are
          celebrated.  This  leads to the maintenance and revival of old customs
          and the creation of new  ones. 
          9.  A strong commitment  to personal and  planetary growth, evolution,
          and balance are vital. 
          10.  One's  lifestyle  must  be  consistent  with one's  beliefs.  The
          personal is political. 
          11. A minimum  of dogma and a maximum of  individual responsibility in
          all things are goals to strive for. Thus a healthy skepticism is to be
          fostered,   and  ideas  are  not  to   be  accepted  without  personal
          investigation of their validity. 
          12. Messiahs  and gurus are  to be  avoided. The mediation  of another
          being  is  unnecessary  for  an  individual  to  commune  with  Deity.
          Power-from-within is preferred to power-over. 
          13.  All  beings  are personal  emanations  of  the  Divine. Thou  art
          Goddess, thou art God. 


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