Has Paganism Become Exclusive?
Is the umbrella term Pagan
~ 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."
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
And the location of the event in "The Adelaide Hills" is no
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"Â - 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 seenÂ similar thingsÂ 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 privilegeÂ of being part of a special event.There's
lots of reasons why it's best to keepÂ 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 toÂ 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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
Local religions practiced before the introduction
of Christianity; A class of religions often associated with
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
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
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.
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?
the oldest religion known to humankind. Its origins are obscure,
but it is thought to have arisen with humanitys 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 todays world. All spiritual paths lead to the divine
source - Paganism is but one way.
Examples of Pagan
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.
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)
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.
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.
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 Australias Aboriginal people.
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
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 individuals 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 ones 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
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.
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 1920s.
Many immigrants brought their own traditions and practices with
them, and since the 1970s, 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.
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
"If you want
to change the world my friend, change your thinking first!"