This question is hotly debated by academics, pagans and scholars alike. Much like Christianity, if you ask fifty pagans what paganism is you will get fifty different opinions. Some approach this question by talking about what paganism isn’t, because paganism and Satanism seem to get confused in the minds of society. Recently, notable pagan authors like Peter Dybing have suggested that we not cater to the discussion about whether or not we are Satan worshippers but insist that paganism be treated for what it is – a completely different theology and spiritual practice that has nothing to do with Satanism.

Additionally,Dybing and Jason Pitzl-Waters atThe Wild Hunt, have noted the rise in the discussion of paganism and paganisms allegedly torrid influence on society, especially here in the United States. Some radical Christians turn toward the growing pagan movement in the US and blame pagans for the decline of society’s sexual morals, promotion of horror movies like “The Conjuring” and even the rise of acceptance of gay marriage.

So what to think? You have stumbled across this page and are wondering what is all this about. Do we really have degenerated morals when it comes to sex? Do we like movies like “The Conjuring?” Are we battling evil like “The Charmed Ones” or “The Craft?” What do pagans “DO?”

Keeping in mind that any explanation of paganism is that writer’s perspective, it may be of help to arm you with a few definitions. Wicca is the legally recognized religion by the United States government. Wicca is defined by the United States government for purposes of protection under the religious rights act as nature based religion where worship of the Devine includes the view that the Devine is male and female. Additionally, Wiccans will typically adhere to either the Rule of Three[1] orThe Wiccan Rede[2]. Monotheism is the belief in one source for the Devine. Polytheism is the belief in many forms of the Devine. Mono-polytheists believe in one source for the Devine with many faces or manifestations of the Devine. Paganism typically delineates itself from Wicca by asserting that they do not follow The Wiccan Rede or the Law of Three. Even if they do no adhere to these specific codes of conduct most pagans will adhere to some type of moral code that they define for themselves or adopt by way of association with some other pagan institute.  Sometimes pagans delineate themselves by saying they do no magical or spiritual workings just worship and meditation. Sometimes pagans delineate themselves by saying that Wiccans meet in groups and pagans are solitary.

Already you can see the problem trying to answer the question, “What is paganism?”

It is simplest to say that pagans and Wiccans and even some who identify themselves as a witch, all celebrate the cycle of birth, life, death and rebirth. They see this cycle in the turning of a physical year from spring to summer to fall to winter. They see these cycles in the ideas for a project, the creation of that project and the completion of a project. They see these cycles in their own lives and the lives of their children and friends. To celebrate this cycle, they will celebrate the Eight Sabbats. These celebrations all explore where the earth is in relation to the cycle of birth, life, death and rebirth.

Another cycle they celebrate is the cycle of the moon. This twenty-eight day cycle is one that is a miniature reminder of the cycle of birth, life, death and rebirth. By celebrating the fullness of the moon, they are celebrating the physical manifestation of prayers, if you will, that need to be made manifest.

Pagans have a great affinity for the natural world and all that is in it. They will often say that the woods, ocean, river or streams is where their church is. They can have a great belief that the natural world has a spirit and life of its own, an order that when studied reveals to human kind lessons and information about order that will teach us how to grow in compassion and love and humility.

Sometimes pagans grow things as a way to stay in touch with the cycle they worship. They often study and like herbs and some are vegetarians. Nearly all are concerned with the genetic altering of foods and with the wastefulness human kind has demonstrated. They live a physical manifestation of their beliefs by recycling, carrying reusable bags and trying to live in harmony with the land.

Some have an affinity for stones and crystals. They study the vibrational level of these different stones and believe that those vibrations can impact the body in very specific ways.

Other pagans look back in time when Christianity and patriarchal societies weren’t the norm. There they explore the archeological and cultural information that survives to find a spiritual path that is more matriarchal centered and centered on Gods and Goddesses that continue to be worshipped even if not in the same way that they had once been. In this exploration some come to call themselves Hellenic, worshiping Greek and Roman deities, Heathen, worshipping Nordic influences, Druid, worshipping from a druidic position or Celtic, Afro-centric, worshipping from an African cultural stand point and/or worshipping from a Celtic perspective. Some pagans retain a Christian background and attend church while worshipping their pagan aspects in quiet and well away from others.

As with any other religion, there are good pagans and bad pagans and the only way to be sure about whom is whom is by watching what they say, do and how they act. A friend once told me it takes a year for the crazy to come out and I believe that statement is applicable to all persons of all spiritual paths and even atheists. Some will tell you that “White Witches or White Pagans” are good. They often mean that these person will do their best to “do no harm.” However, a label is only ever that, a label. It cannot tell someone the motives behind a person’s actions.

Now that you understand some of what paganism is, you may want to surf over to the pagan on Ritual Etiquette, especially if you have decided to attend a group event in the near future.

[1] This is a belief that any energy for good or harm comes back to you three times more than you sent it out. Karma is another example of the Law of Three.
[2] I utilized this reference because it gives the correct history AND credits the proper authors of the Wiccan Rede. Many other locations on the web for this document do neither.