“Has Paganism Become Exclusive?”
Is the umbrella term “Pagan” now obsolete?
Michael Lee-Price
~ The Wayfinder ~

Foreword Note: Any statements within the context of this article are in no way meant to denigrate the great work that the organisation PAN Inc has achieved in the promotion of “Paganism” here in Australia, however, it is the author's personal belief and request that this article should be used as a “discussion paper” to further advance the development of OUR individual paths (which come under the umbrella term) for future generations. The author wishes to firmly and earnestly state that he is supportive of what PAN Inc has achieved and is still achieving. It is not the purpose of this article to undermine the Pagan Awareness Network but is an advocation for change.

I write this article/ essay as a white paper/ a discussion paper and the whole premise for this publication is to academically discuss the terminology which our own individual beliefs, practices and paths come under. Much of what I write is personal experience and my own opinions, perceptions and observations and as such my intent is not to be construed as discourtesy and certainly not to offend.

In restrospect the title of this article “Has Paganism Become Exclusive?” was originally designed to concentrate on solely the Australian Pagan community, however, after many months (if not years) of research and discussions in various forums, other relevant facets and discussion on similar topics and the prevailing need for global unity and religious tolerance, I have broaden the contents of this article for global distribution.
Rather than to leap head long into a generalisation and to present more presumptions and assumptions which have been pervasive through the largly uneducated broader community (and not just the “Pagan” community), I will attempt to simplify any connotations implied to the context of this article and any misconceptions from the title.

The purpose of this article is not to challenge the subject matter of “lineage” of the various Wiccan traditions such as Gardinarian, Alexandrian, Correlian, Golden Dawn etc, it is my earnest belief that to do so would be fool-hardy and as I am not an authority on any of the initiations and or secret practices of these orders it is not my place to do so.

The original purpose of this article was to look at the almost shadowy, secretive and exclusive nature of so-called “Public” gatherings which are held by various “Pagan” organisations, covens, associations and orders in Australia. Unlike the “Public” gatherings held in the USA, United Kingdom and other countries in Northern Hemisphere these gatherings are not widely advertised outside the community as a whole and as such can not and should not be classified as “Public” gathering. It is false representation to term them as such. As it is, even if you label yourself “Pagan” and unless you are in the know such gatherings even go unknown to any person who classify themselves as Pagan or even a member of the organisation which is holding the event.

To validate this statement, I wish to share the following communication which took place between my partner, Dragonfly (Louise O'Brien) and several representatives of the organisation which was holding an event:

In response to Louise's query **** Wrote:

" The AWC venue is never given out beforehand at any AWC, and they only given to paid up attendees closer to the date. This is for the protection and privacy of all involved. So there'll be no hints or handouts on this. In fact, in reality, "Adelaide Hills" is probably too much information."

Louise responded:

“I have never heard this happen in the past. Would it not be
counterproductive to allow members of the organisation running the
event to know where it was and how much it would cost? That way they
can decide if it is affordable and accessible.

Or does the executive not trust it's members?

Sorry if that sounds a bit aggressive but how is a pensioner supposed
to plan for an event when all they know is that it is in SA and on the
weekend near the Equinox? Especially if they have to take into account
accomodation arrangements and travel and babysitting and purchase
costs of tickets without being aware where it is or who is talking at it.

And the location of the event in "The Adelaide Hills" is no where near

specific enough as they extend from Gawler down to Aldinga all the way
round Adelaide and that is a big area.”

In response to Louise:

“All I know is that it has always been kept private in the past - I have attended several AWCs and was never told the venue until we paid. I can't say I have necessarily agreed with it, but I understand it, with so many people still preferring to keep their beliefs and activities private.”

Another party involved in the same organisation wrote to Louise with:

“My first AWC was back in 1992 and I've attended many since then. During all of that time it has always been the policy of the organisers to give out venue details only after an attendee has paid their fees. Apart from the reasons given by ***, the other reason for this is that some people might decide to turn up at the venue on that weekend, expecting that they might be able to "pay on the day" - which is awkward for all concerned when it's fully booked and catered for only a set number of people.This might seem like a stretch of the imagination, or a case of being overly cautious, but I've seen similar things happen when details were not kept under wraps!On one occasion, a guy found out about the location and decided to turn up unannounced just for the ritual on the Saturday night. He hadn't paid anything; he hadn't been involved in the pre-ritual briefing; no-one knew where he was from or what he was doing there. And he'd driven a long way to attend because he knew where it was held and he'd simply made assumptions about his eligibility to be there.This was difficult for the organisers and for those who had paid for the privilege of being part of a special event.There's lots of reasons why it's best to keep final details under wraps. When the event has been fully organised, I'm sure there'll be advertising that gives an overview of what people need to know before they decide to make a booking. When the money has been paid, more details will then follow in due time.It's the way it's always been, and I imagine it's the way it's going to stay! And there's very good reasons that it is this way.”

Now this is not the first time that both my partner and I have experienced such secrecy when it came to such so-called “Public” gathering and there has been many. Many months earlier we were kept out of a Beltaine gathering because of originally the same excuse of “keeping the venue private” and then, when we were finally informed of the location of the event, and went to purchase tickets to the event we were informed that “No” tickets were left.

Make of this what you will, needless to say both my partner and I were paid up members of the organisation which was running the event.

Whether this be discrimination on the organisations part or not is irrelevent to this discussion however it does point to an underlying attitude and secretiveness that is counterproductive, exclusive and not condusive to a strong sense of community. I am not attempting to use this article as a whinge or as a venue to air my personal grievences only to use my personal experiences as examples of the exclusive nature of Paganism today and to highlight some of the current community attitudes within Pagan organisations.

How can a “Public” gathering be kept “private”? Is that not an oxymoron?

Now in England and America especially when it comes to Paganism and Organisations promoting and supporting paganism, Australia might be believed to be a back water and in many ways Australia is. Would it suprise you to know that in NSW the "Witchcraft Act" was not repealed until 1979 and in Queensland and
Victoria the "Witchcraft Act" was not repealed until 2005. Northern Territory and Western Australia have pulled away from the Eastern States long ago because no one could agree how best to further Paganism or Alternative Spiritual practices in Australia. The only state which could be termed Pro-Active and Progressive would be South Australia but even that has an arcane hierachical organisation who are really only out to
make money.

Now, I am using this as an example but having been to America and Ireland in my youth and participated in different Gatherings whilst there, I have had time to assimilate much knowledge ... and I have witnessed that even in America, England, Canada etc that Pagans and Wiccans are still fighting to establish their "chosen" belief systems. Small towns in bible belt communities still have persecution and hate crimes occurring but generally, the “Pagan” Community in these countries show a willingness to be “OPEN” about their spirtual practices and promote and advertise Gatherings openly and widely.

In response to the above statement my friend Amber Adept wrote:

“I can't really speak for the UK, EU or Australia regarding religious freedom. At this point in time, they seem to have more religious freedom than people living in the US. The US has a problem with the First Amendment which guarantees freedom of religion. I have not seen a poll on this but a good guess would be that 90% of the population is some form of Christian. Every other religion in the world makes up the remaining 10%. Many in the bunch are cradle or submarine Christians but the alignment still holds. The problem with this is, in America, you're outnumbered 238 (approximately) to 1. An example, I live in Georgia. within 2 blocks of where I live, there are 15+ churches. Everything from Catholic to Baptist and anything in between. The only "occult shop" that I know of is totally pathetic. I really don't know anyone in the non-Christian circle here. I'm told they're here but I've not found one yet.

The other problem is some people are demanding compensation for things that happened 200 years ago to 2000 years ago. The Blacks are still angry about the whole slave issue, which to me seems rather pointless as it's dead and not likely to ever return. Pagans here in the US seem to hate Christians by wrote for everything from the Inquisition and Burning times to a dispute that happened yesterday over nothing particularly important. Christians hate Pagans because of ignorance and the fact that they've been taught that anyone not like them works for the Devil. This is true even within Christian sects. Baptists don't like Catholics and so on.
Surely, having the “hiding in the shadows” mentality is not conducive of building a stronger community, promoting paganism to the wider community, educating the non-pagan community to our individual paths and beliefs and showing any who may be inspired to enter our community that we as a community are fearful of persecution orselves.

In any event, the commonality you're looking for will be difficult to find unless it's something simple like "Your enemy is my enemy" which, of course is something we don't want. Another part to this is they have to have a reason to band together. You're asking these folks, who barely trust anyone outside their own coven to trust total strangers who might not even reside on the same continent. You need to build a leader who can reach everybody in your target area.

I know I sound negative but in truth, I'm just presenting the facts. If you want all of those who belong to alternative religions on 3 continents to follow one "governing council", if you will you're going to have to stage events that are, to be blunt, huge to attract as many Pagans as possible. You need to get noticed and noticed in a big way. You also have to take into account the nutters who will be wearing wizard robes and pointy hats casting spells at people who laugh at them. That needs to be limited or positioned somewhere where they do the least damage. You also need to have attorneys on call for the inevitable arrest that will happen in a public arena. If possible, and I know there are a few out there already, we need some kind of voice on the airwaves and internet. You need someone who can take Christian opposition on and beat them when they get annoyed and start their own verbal campaign to stop what we're doing. A web cast would work where Pagan ideas are explained and discussed and perhaps even questions taken. The reason you need someone versed in both Pagan Lore and Christianity is simple, If Christians attack with any verbal challenge, we need someone to be able to accept that challenge and win the inevitable debate. For me, that's alway been the fun part.”

Hiding in the shadows and being secretive about gatherings shows nothing but distrust and acting “Exclusive” in Nature especially towards other pagans, heathens, wiccans and alternative spirutalists only serves to alienate.

How can we as a Community show unity and strength under an umbrella term, if we ostracise our brothers and sisters?

There is NO “Us or them”. We are the Us and Them!

We alienate each other and persecute each other far worse than what the Christians do. We show NO tolerance to others chosen paths and practices within our umbrella community unless it is similar or has a commonality to the path or practice that we have.

The only Commonality that Pagans share is the label "Pagan", We all have our different Rituals; our different festivals; a Different Wheel of the Year; Our different order of Hierarchy; our different ways of doing things; our different pantheons etc. This is not a generalisation or assumption but a factual statement.

As an example, my partner just returned from Melbourne, Victoria (Australia) after attending a Conference on "Freedom of Religion and Belief in Australia" there. I have only been given a brief report of the conference and the discussion in a Witches Meetup that she attended afterwards. In summary, one and I mean one of her
statements, which she reported was:."Victorian paganism is seriously fragmented" and it is my belief “Australian paganism” is seriously fragmented and this is something I have known for over 15 years.In the state of New South Wales the "hierarchical" organisations that have been set up have either out-lived their political usefulness, or have became more money making ventures or have floundered and cease to exist altogether. Combined this with the rivalry of each state and the fact that the other states do not like being "dictated" to by NSW or even another state, then, you have Fragmentation of a horrific kind.

Governments (which are usually controlled by Christianized values etc) are not or will not acknowledge that the Pagan Religion(s) exist.The reason, as I see it is because, we as a body of people are Fragmented. I
always like to say that getting Pagans (Wiccans) to agree on anything substantial is "Like Herding Cats" and sometimes I feel, that I rather herd Cats.It is basically because of the Hierarchical and Dictatorial platforms that is here in Australia that we see a lot of people becoming solitaries ... and unfortunately solitaries (hiding in the shadows or on-line) do not become percentages in the Government Census and as such here especially, Paganism will NEVER become a recognised religion.

When we continuely persecute, ostracise or denigrate those within our community who prove to be visionaries and valuable assets we will continue to fragment and create opposing views and alienation.

If we can't take ourselves seriously and treat each other with a modicum of respect how can we ever expect other faiths and people to take us seriously and treat us with respect?

The advent of the Internet has greatly enhanced communication with the outside world and given us the opportunity to communicate with like-minded people and kindred communities overseas. Yahoo egroups, Ning egroups and (once upon a time) MSN egroups and various other forums such as the Witchcraft and Paganism forum, Mysticwick etc. abound and if you haven't noticed ( and this is my opinion) there is much discussion on previously published books, dogmas, philosophies, opinions and ideologies infinitum ... there is also, a lot of general chit-chat, irrelevant discussions and often just "witch wars" and flaming expressed. There are many lurkers and seekers and I don't think it would surprise many here to discover that many of those seekers and lurkers are actually young people hiding behind pseudonyms.

My partner Dragonfly, reported back to me that a representative of PAN Inc who was present during the recent Conference on "Freedom of Religion and Belief in Australia" she attended, stated that: "... the Demographic of Pagans (Australia wide) are aged between 30 to 40." I dispute that. Having Youth Work qualifications; having
had young accolytes in the past; going by people on my friends list in my MySpace account, my Facebook account and my various Ning groups account, I have found many of the young people on these friends list identify themselves as "pagan" or "other". Many are Goths or Emos and from my own calculations I have
found that 10 % consider themselves Satanists (and as we know that is not pagan but anti-christian), 25 % consider themselves "Pagan" or "Other", 45 % consider themselves "Wiccan", 15 % consider themselves "Asatru" or "Druids" (Celtic) and only 5 % consider themselves Atheists.

So through personal observation, I believe his statement incorrect.Another statement that another pagan gentleman at the conference made was, in my opinion, completely unfounded. He told the Co-conveners of the Conference that it is his belief that children under the age of 18 should not and can not be allowed to participate in Rituals. Of course this depends largely on the ritual and if he was referring to a ritual of a sexual nature, he is indeed correct ... But to deny a child or young person in a family the right and freedom of
participation in a family's spiritual practice flies in the face of The Declaration of the Rights of the Child: http://mystic-grove.com.au/danu/childrights.html

... so this is the conundrum.

Everyone has the right and freedom to have individual spiritual beliefs and all humanity should have the right and freedom to practice their own spiritual belief within their own family unit, clan, kindred and community as long as it is not harmful, denigrating to others, socially unacceptable or illegal. Our one Common thread and whether our chosen belief or spiritual practice coincides with someone else is that we, in my opinion, have the right and freedom to believe, practice and participate in our OWN belief system.

Another statement made by a “lovely lady” that Dragonfly meet at the Witches Meetup afterwards was that she doesn't attend gatherings because she doesn't believe in group ritual.

I doubt it would surpirse anyone to know that we have more solitaries within the “pagan” community than actual active participants and this is due largely because of the interwoven politics and the “bitchcraft” which continually transpires within the organisations which have been set-up to represent the community.

The “Tall-Poppy” syndrome is prevalent within ALL Organisations and Associations, both business and community focused, and this is generated by both those within hierarchial power who refuse to relinquish their power and control, embrace young blood, the visionaries, and up-coming free-thinkers and those who believe that they can do a better job or wish to gain power themselves. Of course there are some in hierarchical positions who mentor some of those that are up-and-coming “loyalist' but not at the expense of their own lose of “power.” However, from my own personal observation, the end result of such turmoils in organisations, associations and communities is a lost of crediblity, fragmentation, splintering of groupsand alliances, continual hostilities and the driving away of potential new members and supporters and finally stagnation within the organisation/ community and its ideology that the organisation was originally set up to represent the majority of members.

The sheer complexity of showing a united front under an umbrella term which represents a minority of people is huge and when you have continual fragmentation within a minority you will eventually find yourself at a party by yourself.

Words and languages I believe are often inadequate in describing the true nature of things; the feelings we have; the emotions we strive to control, both Positive and Negative -the Yin Yang. As a wordsmith (poet), I struggle often to find the words to get a message across. I write from the heart and find that words often fail to project my true feelings or the true meaning of what it is I am trying to convey.

As such I find myself often researching words and definitions in an attempt to present an academic argument and discussion.

Another of the statements that Dragonfly made on her return from Melbourne after attending the aforementioned conference was, that several of those in attendence when asked by the co-conveners what a “Pagan” was, stated that ALL Pagans practice “Earth-based' religions. My partner in response asked : “What about Techno-Pagans?” and got the response from one gentleman in attendance that there was “No Such Creature.”

As such I have listed below a rather lengthy list of definitions as best to vindicate my argument and postion.

 Definitions of paganism on the Web:
  • any of various religions other than Christianity or Judaism or Islamism

  • Paganism (from Latin paganus, meaning "country dweller, rustic") is the blanket term given to describe religions and spiritual practices of pre-Christian Europe, and by extension a term for polytheistic traditions or folk religion worldwide seen from a Western or Christian viewpoint. ...

  • Local religions practiced before the introduction of Christianity; A class of religions often associated with nature rituals.

  • pagan - heathen: a person who does not acknowledge your god

  • pagan - a person who follows a polytheistic or pre-Christian religion (not a Christian or Muslim or Jew)

  • pagan - hedonist: someone motivated by desires for sensual pleasures

  • pagan - heathen: not acknowledging the God of Christianity and Judaism and Islam

Definitions of neo paganism on the Web:

  • Neopaganism or Neo-Paganism is an umbrella term used to identify a wide variety of modern religious movements, particularly those influenced by ...

  • A modern or revived form of paganism; modern pagan religion

  • a modern Earth Religion which borrows and adapts from the best of pre-Christian Pagan religions, sometimes with additions from contemporary ...

  • ( in Neo-Paganism ) any of several spiritual movements that attempt to revive the ancient polytheistic religions of Europe and the Middle East. These movements have a close relationship to ritual magic and modern witchcraft. ...

  • A generic term for all the nature-centered movements that are rapidly growing in momentum across the planet. ...

  • Often used interchangeably with Pagan. A collection of diverse contemporary religions rooted in indigenous traditions or deriving inspiration therefrom, characterized by a belief in the interconnection of all life, personal autonomy, and immanent divinities. ...

Definition of Techno-paganism

“Technopaganism is an umbrella term that characterizes several different beliefs and practices in Neopaganism (which includes faiths such as Wicca and Neo-druidry) in reference to the place of technology in Neopagan practice. It is somewhat contrasting with the general ethos of paganism which has an emphasis on the natural world. “

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Technopaganism

Just to hammer home my opinion, position and “theological belief” and I have no qualms of using these definitions as Lorelei Siegloff assisted by Louise O'Brien (AKA Dragonfly, my partner) were the original researchers and compilers of this information (if not the original designers of the website):

“What is Paganism?”

“Paganism is the oldest religion known to humankind. Its origins are obscure, but it is thought to have arisen with humanity’s desire to explore the unknown and seek unity with the divine force. Therefore Paganism has no founders, no earthly leaders, no prophets, no messiahs and no saints.

The word Pagan is derived from the Latin Paganus, meaning “a civilian”, and Pagus meaning “a village”, and it was the term the Romans used for the village or country dwellers whom they found when they invaded Britain. Likewise, Heathen was the term used for those living in the heath lands.

Modern Pagans follow a religion that is as old as humanity, but whose practices have been adapted to suit life in the modern world. The concepts which are vital to sustain life in the by-gone days, are revered and their principles have been retained. The term “Pagan” describes the Pagan heritage, and the affinity that modern Pagans feel with nature.

Pagans see divinity expressed in every part of the universe. The Earth, the plants, the stars, and the void are all part of one great, divine source to the Pagan. Pagans do not “worship” trees or rocks, however they do revere the divine life force which is contained within every part of the universe. Many religions teach that divinity is present everywhere - in ourselves, in animals, plants, rocks, the oceans, and can easily be seen in the phases of the Moon and changing seasons. It is not something which is abstract and aloof - divinity is a part of the very fabric of our being.

Because divinity to Pagans is a reality, not an abstract concept, it is perceived in many forms, but primarily as a Goddess and God, who have many names and aspects.

There are many different paths of Paganism, just as there are many different traditions within Christianity, Islam etc. Pagan religions include Hinduism, Wicca, Shinto, Druidry, Asatru and Witchcraft. Paganism is a valid and spiritually fulfilling path for many thousands of people, from all over the world.

Paganism does not claim to be the “one true way”, nor does it suggest that other religions are somehow wrong, or misguided, or inappropriate in today’s world. All spiritual paths lead to the divine source - Paganism is but one way.

Examples of Pagan Traditions

There are numerous traditions under the generic classification of Paganism. Whilst they all share a common thread, their individual practices and beliefs may differ greatly. Most traditions emphasise the equality of men and women. However, some traditions are more specifically geared towards exploring either the male, or the female, mysteries. A brief summary of the Pagan traditions most commonly practised today follows. Please note that this is not an exhaustive list, simply a guide to the more popular paths within the religion.

Asatru / Norse Paganism
With its origin in Northern Europe, this tradition is practised today by those who feel an affinity with their nordic and teutonic ancestors, and who wish to study the Sagas, Eddas and Runes. Asatru and Norse Paganism encourages a sense of responsibility and spiritual growth, often within the context of noble warrior traditions.

Celtic Paganism
This is native to the Celtic and Gaelic races, and is practised by a great many people in Australia and New Zealand today, who still feel a strong connection to their Celtic-Gaelic roots. The essence and the teachings of the Celtic religion were encoded into the ancient legends, which were transmitted orally by the bards to the people. Modern Celtic Pagans are seeking to re-introduce this wealth of myth and knowledge into our modern world. (With thanks to Clan Dalriada)

Dianic Witchcraft
A tradition which honours and celebrates the feminine aspects of divinity. Women are accorded great respect, and rituals are often designed to empower women with a sense of their own inherent spirituality and value.

The modern tradition of Druidry emphasises artistic skills such as poetry and music, and often encourages its members to undertake a study programme in these, and other more academic disciplines.

Environmental Paganism
Many Pagans today do not follow, a specific tradition, but actively work to save the Earth from further desecration, and honour the land upon which we live as a sacred representation of the Earth Mother. This style of religion often has no formal rites or methods of worship, but encourages each individual to honour divinity by caring for the Earth and all its creatures.

Ethnic Paganism
Many modern Pagan traditions are based upon the practices of a particular ethnic group, some modern, some ancient. In this category would come traditions such as Hellenic, Roman or Egyptian Paganism, as well as modern traditions continued by their ethnic groups; for example, voodoo, Santeria and Native American Indian traditions. This would also include the native Pagan traditions of the Pacific, and Australia’s Aboriginal people.

Male Mysteries
A collection of practices which have become popular with modern male Pagans, seeking to explore their own sacred manhood. Different to patriarchal religions, these mysteries are focused towards spiritual growth gained through solitary or small group practice.

Shamanism utilises skills and practices such as travelling in the spirit realms, tree lore, herb lore, and the use of totem animals. The tribal shaman was often responsible for spiritual matters within the tribe, and also for matters connected with birth, death and healing. Shamans are able to speak with the tribal ancestors and gain knowledge for the use of the tribe. These same practices are used in non-tribal societies today by many modern Pagan men and women.

This is a modern revival of the ancient folkloric and magical practices of Europe. Wiccans generally perceive divinity in the form of a Goddess and a God, who have many different aspects. Most Wiccans celebrate eight Festivals each year, and hold meetings in accordance with the phases of the Moon. There are several traditions within Wicca, and each has its own set of rituals and practices.

The popular revival of European Witchcraft (an ancient fertility religion) honours the Horned God and Goddess. Also called The Old Religion, its modern practitioners are often skilled herbalists and healers; their practices and techniques are similar in many ways to those of the tribal shaman, the village Wisewoman and Cunningman.


The spiritual or religious beliefs of Pagans are that deity is both imminent and transcendent. Deity is therefore a part of the fabric of our being, of our environment, and of that which is beyond anything we can imagine.

Deity is perceived as both male and female. God is seen in many ways, and expressed in our worship as the male principle; all of the male Pagan deities are accepted as aspects of God. Goddess is seen in many ways, and expresses the female principle. All of the female Pagan deities are accepted as aspects of Goddess.

Pagans do not believe in a dualistic viewpoint of absolute opposites; of “good versus evil”. Pagans believe that all things exist in their own place, and that we should strive for dynamic balance and harmony. Extremism of any form does not have a place within the Pagan philosophy.

Most Pagans believe in reincarnation. There is a strong affinity with the idea of cyclical life patterns, which do not cease with the death of the physical body. Most Pagans have no concept which could be described as heaven or hell in the commonly-used Christian sense. However, Northern Pagan traditions encompass both a heaven and a hell, with a sophisticated philosophy which describes the operation of these realms. Briefly, Heaven (Asgard) is a final resting place, and Hell (Hel) is a place of rest, from where souls may chose to be re-born. In the Northern Traditions, Hel is not a place of damnation or torture.

The Wiccan religion has what is called “The Summerlands”; a place where souls find rest before being re-born into the physical world. The Druid belief in reincarnation is confirmed many times in classical sources; e.g. Posidonius (quoted by Diodorus): writes that the Druids believe that “...the souls of men are immortal, and that after a definite number of years they live a second life when the soul passes to another body.” Julius Caesar wrote: “The cardinal doctrine which they seek to teach is that souls do not die, but after death pass from one to another; and this belief, as the fear of death is thereby cast aside, they hold to be the greatest invective to valour.”

Each Pagan religion has its own philosophy about the afterlife, and about reincarnation. Individual Pagans may also have their own philosophy about these subjects, for the Pagan religions do not have a dogma, or strict set of teachings, which all Pagans must follow.

Paganism is one of the so-called “Mystery Paths”, where each individual has direct experience of divinity. Although it is becoming more common for Pagan Priests and Priestesses to administer rites to a group of people, individual experience of divinity remains the primary objective for most practising Pagans. This differs significantly from most State religions, where a figure of authority performs rites, and mediates the divine force, on behalf of a congregation. In most Pagan religions, each individual is a Priest or Priestess in his or her own right.

Pagans do not “worship” trees or rocks; however, they do revere the divine force which is contained within trees, rocks, and within every part of the universe. Pagans do not worship a saviour, or other spiritual leader. The emphasis is upon each individual’s spiritual enlightenment, and responsibility for this is not abdicated to another person. The practice of Paganism is a voyage of self-discovery, and the discovery of one’s own place within the divine realm. Paganism is not, therefore, a cult, for a cult has a leader, and Paganism has none. Individual groups will often be led by one or two people who are experienced in the practice of the religion, but such people have no influence outside of their own group or tradition.

Religious Practices: Worship

Pagans believe that each individual has the right to worship in their own way; there is no legislation that requires Pagans to follow any prescribed manner of worship. Some Pagans worship in a formal manner; others have a more instinctive and unconscious mode of acknowledging and communicating with Goddess and God. Some Pagans prefer to make their worship a private affair; others gather in groups and make their worship a communion with each other, as well as with Goddess and God.

Like most religions, Paganism has Rites of Passage, with some traditions having a formal set of rituals for birth, marriage and death. Those Pagan religions which adhere most closely to the “Mystery Path” will also have rites of initiation. These are designed to effect a spiritual awakening within the initiate, and do not include such practices as animal or human sacrifice, nor any activity which is against the wishes or ethics of the initiate.

Rituals to celebrate a birth, which often include a naming ceremony, do not promise the child to the religion, in the way of a Christian baptism. The parents of the child will often ask for divine guidance and protection for their child, but will not make any promises about bringing the child up in a particular faith.

It is a strong Pagan belief that each individual must follow his or her own path. Children are taught to honour their family and friends; to have integrity, honesty and loyalty; to treat the Earth as sacred, and to love and respect all forms of life. Other than these basic teachings, children are encouraged to question, and to find their own spiritual path. Many Pagan parents will ensure that their children are exposed to the teachings of a number of religions, so that the child receives a well-balanced spiritual education.

Religious Practices: Holy Days

To Pagans, every day is a holy day, but there are a number of Festival celebrations which are held throughout the year. The Festivals, and the time on which they are celebrated, varies. Within each tradition, there are commonalities, but these are by no means definitive across the whole religion. Perhaps the best known is the cycle of Festivals celebrated by many Pagans, including the Wiccan tradition, and modern Druids. There are eight Festivals, being Samhain, Yule, Imbolg (also known as Candlemas), Spring Equinox (also known as Eostre), Beltane, Litha (Midsummer), and the Autumn Equinox (also known as Mabon). These festivals are derived from Celtic and Saxon sources, and their essence has remained in modern society through folk memory, and in many rural traditions. Other Pagan traditions celebrate the turning of the seasons with four Festivals to mark Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter. As always with Paganism, the emphasis is upon what is meaningful for each individual, rather than a strict adherence to a rigid doctrine.

Paganism in Australia

The earliest incidence of revived European Paganism in Australia is unknown, but there are reports of witches meeting in Canberra, ACT, during the 1920’s. Many immigrants brought their own traditions and practices with them, and since the 1970’s, numerous books have been published about the revived Pagan religions and their practices.

Although laws against “the pretence of witchcraft” remain on the statute books in a few places, the modern Pagan in Australia can practice his or her religion without fear. Pagans remain the target of mainstream fundamentalist fanatics, but thankfully, fewer and fewer rational people are taking fundamentalist absurdities seriously. However, for this reason, and because bigotry still exists in many places, some Pagans practise their religion privately, and prefer not to make their beliefs public.

Some Pagans are prepared to be public spokespersons for their religion, and through the Pagan Alliance, and other similar organisations, have provided accurate and sensible information to the media, police forces, local government organisations, child care agencies, health centres, and so on.

Pagan Customs

Because Paganism stresses the importance of individuality, there are few, if any, widespread customs. A sense of the sanctity of the natural world, concern for the environment, and acceptance that we are socially responsible to our fellow-creatures, dictates the kind of customs which most Pagans follow.

There are no dietary requirements, or any prohibitions within the Pagan philosophy. Those who follow a vegan / vegetarian diet, or who abstain from alcohol, tobacco, etc., do so out of choice, not tenets of faith. There are no laws of blasphemy, and conflict between individuals remains the responsibility and concern of those who are involved. There are no penances, or any other form of religious punishments.

Paganism does not legislate where matters of morality and ethics are concerned. It is up to each individual to be responsible for their own viewpoints and decisions. The religion itself does not promote nor condemn practices related to sexual activity, procreation, use of alcohol and other mind altering substances. Individual Pagans may hold viewpoints on one or more of these issues, however, they are PERSONAL viewpoints, and not the considered opinion of the religion per se.

Pagans have a high regard for the equality of the sexes, and do not suppress the feminine principle in the way that many other religions seem to do. Pagan Priestesses have the same status as Priests; in sorne traditions, they have primacy in leading the religious practices.

Many Pagans acknowledge the concept of “Elders”; those from the community who, by virtue of their training or experience, have a greater understanding of social, moral and practical matters. Pagans who gather together (either formally or informally) as a group, will often look to those who lead the group for guidance on moral issues and socially accepted behaviour. However, it is a fundamental aspect of Paganism that each individual must accept full responsibility for their own actions. There is no “confession” or other absolution to devolve responsibility to another person, or to God and/or Goddess.


Pagans are not concerned with perverting the sacred symbols, beliefs, or practices, of any other religion.

Pagans do not perform sacrifices (other than of their own energy and time), and are not opposed to any other religious beliefs.

Pagans do not sexually abuse children; quite the contrary. Despite many hysterical claims of sexual abuse by witches and other occultists, none has ever been proven to be true. For a Pagan to abuse a child is total anathema. It is contrary to everything that we hold close to our hearts. Our children are our future, and a part of the ultimate divine source. Pagan children are born in love and unity; they are sacred, and are treated as such.”

Source: http://paganalliancesa.drak.net/aboutus.html

I have utilised this definitive work as it is the best to date that I have came across to define the definition "Paganism".

As such, and I mean no disrespect or offence, but the general assumption that ALL Pagans are
ALL Earth based religions and have a “ reverence of the earth (hence being refered to as Earth centered religions/spiritualites)” is technically not totally correct and is a general assumption, as Techno-pagans (amongst several others) for example are not Earth based.

The general assumption that “understanding that everything in the world is connected and should be respected” is debatable at the very least if not technically incorrect, as Odinists and Asatru folk for example do not adhere to the same belief as Wiccans for instance, and thank the cow for it's meat and milk, or the trees for the wood for their houses, ships and fires and therefore could only be taken as another assumption.

Although, in passing, I should mention that Techno-pagans believe that the world is interlinked and connected through the “Internet” and hence the term “ethernet”, much of what other “Pagans” believe and practice are as a whole not practiced by them.

The general assumption that the “belief that we are responsible for what we say and do and how it affects the world around us (call it Karma or personal responsibility, but the majority of Pagans follow the concept)” are quite often disregarded especially by those who claim to be Wiccan. As from personal experience and observation, I have witnessed many who do not adhere to their own Rede or Crede which I consider hypocracy and very akin to what the followers of Chritianity tend to do.

Odinist and Asatru and some Shamanic paths do not believe in the “Three-fold” or “Ten-fold” for instance and their view on “Karma” is largely defined by the sacred book the Havamal and the ancestral belief that it is in the hands of their Gods, if not the hands of the “All-Seeing Father (Woden/ Odin/Wotan)”.

As I wrote in my essay/ white paper/ thesis “Individualaism – The Anti-Heathenism ideology” [http://ancientways.org.au/individualism.html]:

" … If we were all TRUE to our heritage and wished to be TRUE
resonstructionist and rekindle the ways of our ancestors, why don't
we ALL turn our back on Modern Society and its Technology ...
Can we walk away from our computers and cars and television sets???"

"Would you trade 'consciousness', 'self awareness' and the 'narrative
I' for a greater sense of spiritual well being? Would you trade
modern technological Western society, with all of its material
wonders (including this computer!) for a near guarantee of spiritual
happiness? Is it necessary to trade; is this concept of gains and
losses beside the point? Can we have it all? Can we have great
technological understanding with its unavoidable, intense use of the
ecology and a Unicameral Mind that is at ease with communication with
the gods and is capable of benefiting from such a relationship? Can
you imagine a technological West with compassion towards Gaia and all
the beings?"
[ http://mystic-grove.com.au/aeonist/preface2.html]

It was a simple series of questions designed to make people think.

If True Reconstructionists and Traditonal practitioners of the “Craft”, Druidry and Asatru, and again, this is my own opinion, were true to the ways of their ancestors and if in fact, held the Mother (Earth) in reverance; if their spiritual belief and practices were truly definable as defined in the genalised definitions aforementioned then, the onus is on these “Pagans” to turn their back on the mod-cons and technology of the 21st century and persue the ways of their Ancestors in reverance to their Deities and the preservation of The Mother.
What I have discovered through many years of research is a great deal of generalisation, assumptions and ill-defined definitions and in fact, only one definition holds true:

If we revisit that wonderful contructed definition as structured by Lorelei Siegloff and Louise O'Brien, and under the title Fallacies, we find yet another misnomer and misinformation:

“Pagans do not perform sacrifices (other than of their own energy and time), and are not opposed to any other religious beliefs.” Whereas, Pagans (in the general term) might be more tolerant (in comparison to the Abrahamic religions) of others spiritual paths, the statement “... are not opposed to any other religious beliefs” is not entirely accurate, and I have experienced and witnessed many times the complete opposite of this. To get “Pagans” from other practices and paths to totally agree on anything is very hard work... refer earlier comment on "herding cats".

As an umbrella term, “Paganism” might work but it can not be defined and therefore, there is not a lot that can fall in the shared middle ground. In my humble opinion and the conclusion that can be reached is that the word “Pagan” itself is a Generalised term full of mixed connotations, many assumptions, mis-information, ill-defined terms, has became exclusive in some instances and is an obsolete word and umbrella term to described the spiritual practices and paths of many vastly different and unique beliefs.

To conclude I would like to publish some excellent statements/ questions that my good friend Helel sent in response to reading the first draft of this article. Helel wrote:

“My  First Statement, Comment, and/or Question is:  "Why would Pagans feel the need to be counted or accepted by a Governement Census, and What is the pressing thought that some may feel that they need to be Recognized, or Accepted, outside of their own particular belief system as a Religion?"
   My Second Statement, Comment, and/or Question is:  Does Community or Governmental Recognition make ones Personal Belief System, or Practice of that Belief System any more Valid to that Person, or Practitioner, or do we feel that if we can get outside Community, or Governement Acceptance as a Recognized Religion, does this make our Personal Beliefs and Practices any more Valid Subjectively to Us, and Why?"

 Somethings to think about!

As previously mentioned, much of what I write is personal experience and my own opinion, my perceptions and observations and as such my intent is not to be construed as discourteous, I do not intend to cause offence. It is not meant to be construed that this article was used in a method to air grievances. If there are those readers who wish to “label” me as the “Ministry of Misinformation” they do so at their own peril and because of their own agenda, and show to the wider community they have a closed-mind; are fundamentalist thinkers; have a tendancy to stifle constructional debate; an aversion to change and are advocates for the stagnation of the evolutionary process; and overwelmingly prove my point.

"If you want to change the world my friend, change your thinking first!"

© July 2009 by Michael Lee-Price