Descriptions of Neopagan religions
Just as the term "Eastern religions" refers to Buddhism, Hinduism,
Taoism, etc., the term "NeoPagan" refers to a collection of separate religions which share a few common themes.
Most Neo-Pagan traditions have many of the following factors in common:
- their faith was almost or completely wiped out in the past and has since been
reconstructed from ancient information sources.
- a duotheistic or polytheistic belief system (they recognize a Goddess and God, and/or
believe in many deities).
- many followers are solitary practitioners.
- others are involved in small groups, which various traditions call circles, covens,
garths, groves, hearths, kindreds, etc.
they celebrate four main seasonal days of celebrations each year, associated with the
equinoxes and solstices.
- many also celebrate four additional days, each between a solstice and equinox.
- they prefer to conduct their religious rituals outdoors where practical.
many do not practice their religion publicly because of the danger of abuse from very
devout but misinformed Christians who have associated them with an evil and non-existent
form of Satanism.
- they have a minimal or no hierarchical structure.
- they have a concern for the environment.
- They feel close to nature and its cycles.
- They follow a behavioral code that requires them to avoid hurting
themselves or others.
Many Wiccans and other Neopagans refer to themselves as "Pagans."
Unfortunately, there is little consensus on the meaning of the term
"Pagan" outside the Neopagan community. Four
main, unrelated definitions have been identified.
Tara Miller writes...
The largest Neo-Pagan group are believed to be Wiccans. The following description of
Neo-Paganism from a Wiccan perspective is generously contributed by Tara Miller,
from "Druidry Knowledge of the Oak."
Paganism is based on the worship of nature. Modern Paganism, or Neo-Paganism,
incorporates twenty-first century knowledge with the traditions of ancient indigenous
cultures. 1 Pagans believe that no one belief system is correct and that
each person should have the freedom to chose the path that is right for them.’2
Paganism is usually non-centralized, non-hierarchical, and doesn’t posses a strict
set of dogma. (The Odinist groups of northern European Pagan tradition are an exception in
that they do have a hierarchy.) 3
The Pagan Federation statement 4 reflects the basic principles
Love for and Kinship with Nature: Rather than the more customary attitude of
aggression and domination over Nature; reverence for the life force and its ever-renewing
cycles of life and death.
The Pagan Ethic: "Do what thou wilt, but harm none". This is a
positive morality, not a list of thou-shalt-nots. Each individual is responsible for
discovering his or her own true nature and developing it fully, in harmony with the outer
The Concept of Goddess and God as expressions of the Divine reality: female and
male, rather then the suppression of either the female or the male principles. 2
The main branches of Paganism in the U.K. and United States are Shamanism, Goddess
Spirituality, Sacred Ecology and other various Magical Groups. 2
The two predominant and public of these is Wicca and Druidry 5.
"...Neo-Pagans...often make up their own forms of group ritual [and attempt to
draw on] divine inspiration for these new ceremonies.’ 6
Recently, Pagans have been holding more rites than just those associated with the eight
season feasts. They have introduced rites of passages for births, deaths, marriages, along
with self growth rituals for relinquishing conflict, depression, low self-esteem and many
Margo Adler writes:
"We are not evil. We don't harm or seduce people. We are not dangerous. We are
ordinary people like you. We have families, jobs, hopes, and dreams. We are not a cult.
This religion is not a joke. We are not what you think we are from looking at TV. We are
real. We laugh, we cry. We are serious. We have a sense of humor. You don't have to be
afraid of us. We don't want to convert you. And please don't try to convert us. Just give
us the same right we give you -- to live in peace. We are much more similar to you than
you think." 7
Tara Miller writes:
"As Americans continue the ancient quest for the meaning of life, Pagan and
Mystical religions are experiencing a resurgence. According to Margot Adler, there are
50,000 to 100,000 self-identified Pagans in the United States. When polled, many people
identify themselves with another religion, and so these religious polls are lower. These
people are exploring the mystical aspects of 'mainstream religions' including Mystic and
Druidic Christianity, Jewish Kabbalism and Islamic Sufism. Others are modern-day witches
Why is there a resurgence of such religions? Charlotte Hardman says, ‘The interest
in Paganism today in the UK and USA may be interpreted as a response to an increased
dissatisfaction with the way the world is going ecologically, spiritually and materially;
people are disillusioned by mainstream religion and the realization that materialism
leaves an internal emptiness.' " 8
Charlotte Hardman & Gram Harvey, "Paganism Today: Introduction",
- Hardman, Page XI
- Hardman, Page XIV
The Pagan Federation "Federation Information Pack:. Page 14
- Hardman XV
Mary P. Fisher, "Living Religions", Prentice Hall, Inc. Englewood
cliffs, NJ, (1991), Page 379
Margot Adler, "Drawing Down the Moon, Beacon Press, Boston, MA, (1986), Page
Tara Miller, "Pagan Misconceptions." First published in the Capaha
Arrow at Southeast Missouri State University and then at Earth Spirit ,
1997-MAY. See: http://members.tripod.com/~TaraMiller/pagan.html
Copyright © 1997 to 2008., by Ontario Consultants on
Religious Tolerance and by other authors as noted.
Last update: 2008-JUL-15
Written by B.A. Robinson, and others.