What IS Paganism And Neo-Paganism?

One of the purposes of the this article is to disseminate true and factual information concerning Paganism to not only the general public, but also Law enforcement agencies, religious organizations, governmental agencies, etc.

In the past there have been many misconceptions about Paganism or Neo-Paganism. Therefore, I have prepared this article, which I hope will help you to understand this religious movement.

Paganism has existed in all cultures, from the paleolithic era to the current time period. The ancient Egyptians are an example of a highly pagan society; so are the ancient Romans; and all paleolithic cultures from the Old Stone Age to the present have strong pagan elements.

But, for the last thousand years or so, since the centuries following the Fall of Rome, Western culture has been influenced more and more by mainstream religions, and driven most true pagan religions underground.

Wiccans and Witches sometimes call themselves "Pagans" or Neo-pagans" when talking about Wicca or Witchcraft. But this is confusing to others who may not be familiar with the complexity of different religious belief systems. Just as all Christians are not Lutheran or Baptist or Catholic, so not all pagans are Witches or Wiccan.

Pagans do not "recruit" outsiders into their midst by promising a heaven or threatening a hell. those practices, obviously based on fear, only spawn mis-understanding. Pagans (generally) practice what is often referred to as "Earth Religions"

In the not-too-distant past, pagan witches and mystics were burned at the stake, and some great Pagan teachers were ridiculed, rebuked and even crucified! Thus, in the late middle ages, when the ruling political forces in Europe, came into major conflict with the powerful religious leaders of those times, Politics and Religion became "friends", and both were corrupted. The formation of The United States of America had (at the time) as much to do with religious freedoms as political. The "outcasts" of the time were those who believed in the "Earth Religions", as they were thought to possess magical powers.

Those that were not burned and jailed were forced underground to practice their beliefs, and those teachings, coupled with other Ancient Mystery Schools beliefs (such as Masonic teachings) fall within the spectrum of these once illegal and feared practices. Interestingly, the majority of our "Founding Fathers" were secretly practicing Masons, and that symbolism still exists on our paper currency today.

Pagan practices and beliefs cause harm to no one, and the concepts behind the terms Pagan and Neo-Pagans are, in fact, older than mainstream religions and the political power systems on the planet today. If there is one common behavior of all Pagans and neo-Pagans, it is NOT to follow a personal belief system simply because it is convenient to the King, or the Pope, or the Potentate, or even your mom and dad... it is to follow a belief system that is meaningful to their lives, ... so, They do tend to be a rather rebellious lot !

There are as many paths to inner truth and understanding as there are people, and no-one outside of yourself possesses your answers. Once you grasp "your truth", hold on to it tightly, let no-one take it from you, and need no-one to validate it for you. Seeking your own inner truth and living it honestly and completely is not only your right... it is your responsibility as a human being!

Confusion arises when two or more people communicate without understanding the meaning of the words each other are using. Some people talk about paganism without reflecting on what they and others really mean by that term.

The word "Pagan" originally comes from the Latin word "paganus" which meant "country dweller." However, this meaning is not used at present. There is no generally accepted, single, current definition for the word "Pagan." In fact, it has so many mutually exclusive definitions that the term is almost devoid of meaning. A reader must often look at the context in which the word is used in order to guess at the intent of the writer. I recommend that the term never be used unless it is carefully defined in advance. Given that there are hundreds of definitions regarding the meaning of the word paganism, I have settled on five categories which seem to be the most inclusive:

Wiccans and other Neopagans sometimes treat the words Pagan and Neopagan (a.k.a. Neo-pagan) as synonymous. Neopagan religions are modern faiths which have been recently reconstructed from beliefs, deities, symbols, practices and other elements of an ancient religion. For example, the Neo-Druidic religion is based on the faith and practices of the ancient Celtic priesthood class; followers of Asatru adhere to the ancient, pre-Christian Norse religion; Wiccans trace their roots back to the pre-Celtic era in Europe. Other Neo-pagans follow Roman, Greek, Egyptian and other traditions. Some typical quotations which demonstrate this meaning of the word "Pagan" are:

"Witchcraft, or Wicca, is considered part of the occult, but has no real relationship to Satanism. Wicca is pagan (pre-Christian, as opposed to anti-Christian) and is currently gaining popularity."

"Witches do not worship the devil...Witches are more interested in magical arts and the divinity of nature...Wiccans are considered pagans because they worship several nature gods instead of a single god."

"The World Christian Encyclopedia estimates 6 million Americans profess to be witches and engage in practices like these. They are a sub-group of over 10 million persons the encyclopedia says call themselves pagans, who practice "primitive" religions such as Druidism, Odin worship and Native American shamanism."

Religious fundamentalists and social conservatives sometimes use "Pagan" as a general purpose "snarl" word to refer to cultures or religions that are very different from the speaker's. There is no general consensus as to its meaning. It can be seen directed at any religious or cultural group that the speaker hates. Some examples:

"Gods and goddesses are beginning to re-inhabit the Western world. Infant sacrifice -– there are 52 million a year. It is paganism." Dr. John Patrick, professor at the University of Ottawa, Canada. (He was referring to the number of abortions performed worldwide)

"We went into post-Christian and neopaganism very quickly...We want the culture to change, we want some spiritual sanity, but we need to understand that this is a pluralistic and even neopagan society." Dr. Richard Swenson, director of the Future Health Study Center.

The term "Pagan" is sometimes used to refer to ancient polytheistic religions:

The Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) contains many references to the societies surrounding the Israelites -- Babylonians, Canaanites, Philistines, etc. These are commonly referred to as Pagan: There are allegations that these societies engaged in human sacrifices:
II Kings 3:26-27: "...the king of Moab...took his eldest son that should have reigned in his stead, and offered him for a burnt offering upon the wall."

Psalms 106:37-38: "Yea, they sacrificed their sons and their daughters unto devils, And shed innocent blood, even the blood of their sons and of their daughters, whom they sacrificed unto the idols of Canaan: and the land was polluted with blood."

Their altars were often referred to as "high places:"
II Kings 16:4: "And he sacrificed and burnt incense in the high places, and on the hills, and under every green tree."

Surrounding tribes were viewed as committing idolatry by worshiping golden images of animals:
II Kings 17:16: "And they left all the commandments of the LORD their God, and made them molten images, even two calves, and made a grove, and worshiped all the host of heaven, and served Baal."

Some examples of this usage are:
Referring to sun wheels and obelisks: "...These symbols of pagan sun worship were associated with Baal worship, or Baalim, which is strongly condemned in scripture. So why are they so prevalent in the Roman Catholic Church, if they are associated with paganism and apostasy?" An anti-Catholic essay on a conservative Christian web site.

Ancient faiths of ancient Celtic, Egypt, Greece, Norse, Rome, and other cultures are frequently referred to as Pagan religions. Even though many of these religions had strict social and sexual behavioral codes, their followers are often portrayed as hedonist and immoral:

1 Peter 4:3: "For the time past of our life may suffice us to have wrought the will of the Gentiles, when we walked in lasciviousness, lusts, excess of wine, reveling, banquets, and abominable idolatries."

Paganism is occasionally used to refer to animistic, spirits-and-essences filled belief systems. It is based upon direct perception of the forces of nature and usually involves the use of idols, talismans and taboos in order to convey respect for these forces and beings. Many native, aboriginal religions fit this definition.

A rare use of "Pagan" is to describe a person who does not follow an Abramic religion. That is, their faith does not recognize Abraham as a patriarch. The individual is neither Christian, Muslim or Jew. This includes Agnostics, Atheists, Buddhists, Hindus, Humanists, Taoists, etc. About 45% of the people of the world are Pagans, by this definition.

Today's average person thinks of Wicca, Druidry, Witchcraft, Asatru and other pagan religions as synonymous with Satanism, Orgies, and Drugs, and believe that Pagans practice a mishmash of Devil Worship, Ungodly Rituals, Inhuman Cruelty and Human Sacrifice. Most Fundamental ministers will tell you that pagans are evil people who have sold their souls to the Devil, and who work to destroy traditional religions. These images certainly do not depict any form of "Pagan" practice, and are obviously presented from a position of fear and ignorance. Ironically, this fear based presentation is perhaps the main reason that most students who are able to think for themselves, take the time to explore the many forms of paganism, and understand the "truths" for themselves.

In order to inform you what paganism is, I must first tell you what paganism isn't. Paganism isn't the Devil's work; it isn't Satanism; it doesn't involve Sacrifices of humans or animals; it isn't becoming bound to Demons; it isn't dark, dangerous or evil; it isn't anti-Christian, anti-religion, or anti-anything. These are myths simply born from those who fear the unknown, and unfortunately most fundamental theologies have been brainwashed their "believers" into believing that their version of "Truth" is the only real religion.

In reality, paganism is a class of ancient earth religions which have existed in many forms for thousands of years. In prehistoric times, people respected the great forces of the Universe and celebrated the cycles of the seasons as they related to agriculture, animal husbandry and so on. They saw divinity in the Sun, Moon, the Earth, running water, and all life. The creative energies of the universe were personified: masculine and feminine principles and became interpreted as gods and goddesses. These were not semi-abstract, superhuman figures set apart from nature: they were embodied in earth and sky, women and men, and plants and animals. This viewpoint is still central to present-day paganism and neo-paganism. To most pagans, everything in nature -- and all gods and/or goddesses -- are true aspects of the Deity. In this respect, paganism is similar to many Native American spiritual traditions, as well as other Earth Religions. Some pagans believe that paganism had its beginnings in Atlantis before the deluge.

There is some evidence that Pagan Earth Religions existed in all parts of the world during Paleolithic times (from at least 7,000 B.C.). Hence the common symbols of the Earth Mother Goddess and the Sky Father God representing the vegetable and animal life of the Earth, and the light and life giving Sun, respectively. These religions were very much in harmony with Nature and its celebration of life, birth and death, expressed seasonally.

Pagans practice their understanding of truth as individuals, as well as in active congregations (covens or groves) throughout the British Isles, the United States, Canada, Australia, Germany, Denmark, Finland, Sweden, France, Italy, Spain and even Russia. There is no central authority or doctrine binding on all congregations, and individual groups vary. But most meet for services once or twice a month, hold adult religious instruction on a regular basis, and celebrate eight major holy days throughout the year. Services are highly participatory, and may include meditation, prayer, singing and occasionally circle dances not unlike some Native American ceremonies. Though some pagans practice their faith alone or with only their families, many pagans are organized into congregations of from three to twenty-three members. Clergy are called priests and priestesses, and many groups are led by a priestess/priest couple. Other congregations are less formal, and share leadership roles among the participants. In either case, membership is considered to be an important commitment, and often extensive instruction is required before full membership is conferred. There are many branches or traditions of paganism in the United States, Great Britain and elsewhere.

Most Pagans adhere to a code of ethics. Pagans welcome sisters and brothers, but not disciples or victims. Pagans are encouraged to question, to grow spiritually, and to assume responsibility for their own lives. This includes mastering various psychological and spiritual skills such as meditation and energy-channeling, which are used for positive goals such as healing or insight. These techniques have much in common with the shamanic spiritual traditions of the native peoples of the world. Pagan beliefs do not include such Judaeo-Christian concepts as original sin, vicarious atonement, divine judgment or bodily resurrection. Most do believe in a beneficent universe, the Law of Karma, reincarnation, and divinity inherent in every human being and all of nature. They tend to have a cheerful outlook on life; and while their services can be very dignified, laughter and pleasure are an important part of their spiritual tradition. All of the great festivals of the Pagan religions, wherever found, correspond to natural cycles of Nature (animal mating, seasons, planting and harvest) or the cycles of the Sun (Solstices and Equinoxes). Most remain today in the more or less disguised form of: Christmas (Yule), Valentines Day (Candlemas), Easter (Spring Equinox), May Day (Bealtaine), St. Johns Day (Midsummers), Loaf Mass Day (Lammas), Fall Equinox (Harvest Home), and Halloween (Samhain), comprising a total of eight festivals. The Church renamed these festivals because of it's intolerance for competition and it's need to establish holidays of it's own.

Despite sensational headlines, pagans do not worship Satan, never perform Black Magick, do ill toward others, or desecrate any person, place or thing. Pagan religions do not have a place in their belief systems for a Satan, or evil protagonist. They do believe in Evil. But, They believe that evil is the result of choice by people, not a devil or a Lucifer. Evil is created by letting the selfish side of human nature control the decision making process. This results in the mental and physical abuse of people and all criminal behavior. Satan is really only a symbol for Humankind's inhumanity to others and its inability to control its base instincts. An Evil Satan was invented by the Roman Catholic church in the first century A.D. in order to explain the erratic behavior of Humanity, and blame an outside agent for all human ills. This allowed the Church to keep its members, even though they continually sinned, but now they could blame it on: The Devil made me do it! If the Church had to admit that the blame for all humanities ills rested squarely on the shoulders of humanity, the guilt would be too much to bear.

The church adopted the good god vs evil god philosophy of Mithra and Zoroaster and blamed a Satan for all evil, the church relieved their members of accountability and set itself up as the Good half of the duality. Pagans reject this philosophy. They take responsibility for all their actions. There is no Devil or Satan to make them do anything. Humans do evil things by choice. Everyone has the free will to sin or do good, to heal or hinder. Most Pagans are guided by ethical systems which preclude the harming of others for gain or animosity. Paganism is a system of religions which teach love, nurturing, healing, and creativity. As you will learn in their the section on definitions, the word Pagan is derived from the Latin paganus (peasant) deriving, in turn, from the Latin pagus, (village).

There are many groups of Priests and Priestesses practicing what I call Paganism or Neo-(from the Greek word for new) Paganism. You may hear their many names: Dynion Mwyn, FeraFeria, New Reformed Order of the Golden Dawn (NROGD), Huna, Amerindian, Gardnerian Wicca, Alexandrian Wicca, Saex-Wicca, Irish Witta, Dianic, Scots-Gaelic, Pagan Way, Celtic Traditional, Continental Traditional, Strega and others.

Pagan religions are natural religions both in origin and in mode of expression as opposed to artificially created ideological religions. Ideological religions are like buildings: an architect (prophet) gets an inspiration (revelation) and lays down his visions in blueprints (ideology/scriptures); then contractors, carpenters, masons, etc. (disciples/followers) build the buildings more or less according to specifications. It is assembled, but when it is finished, it cannot grow and begins to deteriorate (unless it is rebuilt or renovated) until it is eventually an outmoded and rundown building. It is then demolished and way is made for new buildings that better serve a new generation of needs.

Paganism on the other hand, better resembles a tree. It emerges from the Earth, grows, changes (both cyclically in seasons and continually upward and outward), bears flowers/fruit, and shares its life with other living creatures. It is not made, it becomes. When its time ends (for many trees are potentially immortal, never dying of old age,) it does not pass from this world, for its "children" have, in the interim, sprung up from the Earth, each similar yet unique. The religions of paganism are like a forest: NATURAL! Most Pagans have a distaste for rigid religious organizations and so called messiahs and gurus. Obviously, this places their priesthood in an awkward position: It needs enough religious authority to guide it's organization, but not so much as to allow it to become oppressive. Since most Pagans deny the existence of any One True and Only Way, and since most Pagans insist upon being fallible, paganism is steered gently between totalitarianism and chaos.

Pagan religions do not seek converts! It is up to each seeker to convince a coven or grove that they are sincere and worthy of membership. Paganism and neo-paganism offer a New/old way of life, free from pain, guilt and fear. They offer love, good will, friendship and the teaching of the Universal Laws of Truth. Their religion guides them no matter where They are and what They are doing. It's teachings encompass every aspect of their physical, mental and spiritual experience. These guidelines help them to make the right decisions. Foremost among these guidelines are: If it harms none, do what you will. This teaching is similar to: "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." Many pagan traditions have beliefs in common with Native American Shamanism, but They have also adopted concepts from other sources.

Pagan Religions are committed, as a religious movement, to attempt to change humanities interaction with Nature, from one of fear, separation, arrogance, domination and destruction, to a relationship of mutuality, empathy, conscious evolution and respect for the ancestors of the human species. They feel they are helping to transforming humankind's human-to-plant interaction from one of greed motivated exploitation, non-sustainable agriculture and ecological destruction to a Right Relationship that preserves and protects habitats, optimizes bio-diversity and acknowledges mutual interdependence. They also wish to transform the interaction of humans with the elemental environments of earth/land, water and air from the present state of "chemical warfare", pollution, toxification and degradation to a Right Relationship in which they acknowledge, re-balance and repair the disastrous destruction that has already occurred. Pagan Religions are natural religions which find spiritual values in reason, nature, and the direct experience of the Gods.

Pagans are individualists, and have no central holy book, prophet or church authority. They draw insight and inspiration from nature, tradition, the arts, science and personal experience. Their religious organizations are usually loose federations of autonomous local congregations, structured in a way similar to Congregational churches. To pagans, every religion is seen as having its own valuable perspective on the nature of Deity and humankind's relationship to it.

Pagans believe there is no One True Faith: rather, pagans feel that religious diversity is necessary in a world of diverse societies and individuals. Because of this belief, pagan groups do not actively recruit or proselytize: there is an assumption that people who can benefit from the pagan way will find their way home when the time is right. Despite this lack of evangelistic zeal, many congregations are quite willing to talk with interested people, and even make efforts to inform their communities about the beliefs and practices of paganism Pagans view nature as a manifestation of Deity. The male divinity revered without the female divinity is, at best, only half of the whole. Both sexes exist in nature. As nature is a manifestation of divinity, then divinity is manifested in both male and female forms. Therein lies paganism - centered around reverence of the Goddess and the God as aspects of the universal spirit - both halves creating the whole. Most pagan religions are founded upon the duality of the Goddess and the God. The duality is balancing energies or non-physical manifestations of the Great Spirit.

Pagans believe the Goddess and the God are the primal female and male forces. They are two equal but opposite aspects of the Great Spirit. Pagan ritual celebrates this duality. Contained within the God and the Goddess are all the deities that ever existed. The Goddess is: maiden, mother, crone; she is all-women, all fertility; she is seen in the moon, waters, love and life. The God is: male force; grain in the fields; the Sun; fire; passion and life. pagans often cultivate personal relationships with the God and Goddess. Pagan deities are not cold or distant - they are real - as real as rain, trees, people and the Earth.

Pagan traditions are varied and usually linked to a specific culture or country. Each tradition possesses its own qualitative set of rituals, laws and magickal rites. A pagan group’s information is sometimes collected in its sacred books or oral traditions.


1. Most Internet references to Paganism refer to Wiccans and other Neopagans.

2. Conservative Christians generally use the term Pagan to refer to a large variety of polytheistic, shamanistic, and mystical non-monotheistic religions, that in their mind adversely affected the spread of Christianity.

3. In modern day usage the word 'pagan' has been corrupted to reflect the prejudices of Christian religious dogma. Historically, a pagan was simply a rural person whose life style was guided by a respectful co-existence with nature. This was reflected in both their religions and social organization. Eventually, the word was used to define individuals who would not convert to Christianity. This was then corrupted to define a person whose spiritual aspect was decadent and immoral.

4. For most purposes the word 'paganism' should be correctly defined as 'a religion which encourages a spirituality whose life style tends to reflect the intention of living in harmony with all of existence' .

5. Paganism has existed in all cultures, from the paleolithic era to the current technological period, but Paganism has historically also waxed and waned in its popularity. The ancient Egyptians are an example of a highly pagan society; so are the ancient Romans; and all paleolithic cultures from the Old Stone Age to the present have strong pagan elements. An example of a less pagan culture would be the West for the last thousand years or so, since the centuries following the Fall of Rome. The domination of the Middle East by Christians and Moslems have also largely repressed pagan ideas.

6. Pagans practice a variety of positive life affirming faiths that are dedicated to healing the people of the Earth as well as the Earth. As such, they do not advocate or condone any acts that victimize others, including those proscribed by law. They absolutely condemn the practices of child abuse, sexual abuse, and other forms of abuse that do harm to the bodies, minds or spirits of individuals.

7. Pagans do not acknowledge, believe in, or worship a "Satan" or "Devil". These are Old Testament Christian symbols that have been connected in many ways to Pagans and New-Pagans out of fear and misunderstanding. Pagans do not practice "Black Magick," or desecrate any person, place or thing.

8. Pagans do not proselytize. No-one will try to convince you to become a pagan.
They have simply created this Web platform to provide you with what They believe to be their truth in the hopes that it will correct some of the erroneous mis-perception about their type of religion. They encourage you to search these pages and possibly it will help you validate your own path.

Finally, You will find that this article contains a very "generalized" introduction to Paganism that (hopefully) will answer most of your questions as openly and honestly as possible. I also hope I have created a roadmap of sorts which you can use to explore those things that are most interesting to you and your needs. I did not push a particular path or tradition, but if this article can help point you in a direction of sincere interest and real understanding, then I have done my job.

Author's Bio: 

Rhuddlwm Gawr is an author, Lecturer and Earth Religion Consultant. He has researched Alternative and Earth Religions, Cults, and the Occult since 1976. He has acted as a consultant on the subjects of Witchcraft, Wicca and Paganism for law enforcement and other government officials. His in-depth training workshop regarding "Understanding Alternative and Earth Religions" has been presented to law enforcement and other social service organizations. His collection of ritual implements has been used in workshops to show their religious significance and further understanding of various religions discussed. He has degrees in Environmental Design and Psychology. He developed the Law Enforcement Training Program, which is dedicated to the instruction of law enforcement on Pagan, Wicca and Witchcraft matters. He is author of "Understanding Earth Religions - a Law Enforcement Guide" and various other books on the subject of Witchcraft, Wicca, Magick. He was initiated in 1966 into a Welsh Pagan Religion and has mastered the required levels of knowledge and ritual. He has over thirty years experience in researching Earth Religions and the Occult.