What is Neo-Paganism?


Neo-Paganism refers to a group of Eurocentric religions that focus on reviving the pre-Christian practices of Europe and/or developing new and borrowed practices compatible with ancient pagan worldviews.

These religions include:

~ The many Traditions of Wicca,

~ British Traditional Witches,


~ Asatru (the worship of ancient Norse and Germanic deities),

~ Hellenismos (the worship of Greek gods),

~ Druids, and

~ Many others.

Aboriginal faiths, Santeria, Voodun, major non-Abrahamic faiths from Asia, and other scripture-based religions are not included. Satanism is also not included as it is viewed by most Neo-Pagans as an antithetical perversion of Christianity.

Pagan religions today incorporate both ancient pre-Christian European beliefs as well as newly invented procedures. Many followers of these Eurocentric religions borrow practices from around the world, while retaining distinctly Pagan identity and worship patterns. Neo-Pagans are distinct from the New Age movement, although many practices and tools (crystals, astrology, etc.) are shared between the two.

Beliefs vary widely but in general include:

1. Immanence of deity and the interconnectedness of life;

2. Predominant focus on the here-and-now rather than the after-life;

3. The earth is considered sacred, not a trial, punishment, or exile from the Divine;

4. A religious interest in and rites to acknowledge the seasons of the year, and other sacred natural processes such as birth, growth, dying, and fertility;

5. Exploration of ancient wisdom for its relevance to the modern world;

6. Direct personal deity contact with little to no church hierarchy;

7. Personal responsibility for spiritual growth and mundane world affairs;

8. The extensive use of tools and props in religious ritual;

9. Subdivision of the Divine into components for easier understanding and more personal relationship (gods and goddesses, nature spirits, ancestor spirits, elemental forces, etc.);

10. A belief in magic, which may be best thought of as prayer that is enhanced through the use of tools and rituals; and


11. A “harm none” philosophy (especially in Wicca), and strong ethical code in all cases.

Wiccan Traditions are often duo-theistic, worshipping the Lord and Lady. Some feel that all of the various gods and goddesses are alternative names for the Lady and the Lord, while others are “hard polytheists” who work with a pantheon of discretely separate deities. Some groups place a stronger focus on the Goddess in their workings. Many Pagans believe in inherent divinity, that we are perfect and divine, only needing to grow into our full expression. The ideas of reincarnation and the earth as a training school for evolving souls are prevalent.

Some people are “generically” Pagan. That is, they are not members of a particular Pagan religion (like Wicca), but rather are solitary practitioners. This is made easier by the common community that this cluster of religions hold in common. Pagan festivals and conferences typically invite all Pagans to play, learn, and worship together.

Well-known, early 20th-century occultist Dion Fortune (otherwise known as psychotherapist Violet Firth) defined magic as “the art of bringing about change in consciousness in conformity with the will”. The overlap between magic, psychotherapeutic techniques, and self-hypnosis is considerable. Not all Pagans use magic – Wiccans almost always do. Usually the intended effects of such are akin to what prayer is used for – healing, good fortune, guidance requests, and the like. In order to better focus the will and mind, tools like wands, stones, and robes are utilized. Successful magic is thought to have energy behind it, and so chanting and dancing may be used to whip-up energy. As people themselves are a part of the Divine, magic may be accomplished through their own power as well as by requesting the aid of the gods.

Neo-Pagans generally look like anyone else. There may be a tendency towards fantasy symbols (like dragons & fairies) on clothing. Some may sport symbols such as a pentacles, goddess symbols, triple moons, and spirals on jewelry or tattoos. Not all people wearing pentacles are Neo-Pagan – some wear them for shock effect or other reasons.

Further quality information can be obtained from the following websites:

~ Covenant of the Goddess (CoG): http://www.cog.org – See especially the articles under their “About Our Religion” section at http://www.cog.org/wicca/about.html and http://www.cog.org/wicca/faq.html

~ The Witches’ Voice: http://www.witchvox.com/basics/wfaq.html

~ The Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids: http://www.druidry.org/

~ Proteus Coven Library: http://www.draknet.com/proteus/library.htm

~ Raven Kindred (Asatru): http://www.ravenkindred.com

~ The Shadow of Olympus (Hellenismos): http://www.iskios.com


© 2007 Michael Reeder, all rights reserved.