Paganism is a broad, eclectic, contemporary religious movement that encompasses ecstatic, polytheistic and magical religions. Today, it is termed ‘Neo-paganism’ to illustrate its connection to and difference from the pre-Christian pagan religions. There are several forms of Neo-paganism, including Wicca, Neo-Druidism and Astrau. Neo-paganism is a broad term which encompasses many diverse and differing religions, but most have several common themes which identifies them as Neo-pagan.
Neo-pagans are usually polytheistic or duo theistic. That is, they believe in two or many gods. Wiccans are duo theistic and worship the Goddess and the God, also known as the 'huntress' and the 'horned one.' The Druids, on the other hand, are polytheistic and worship aspects of nature such ‘the river’, ‘the sky’, and ‘the sun.’ Most are nature centred worshipping pre-Christian deities. Many of these pre-Christian religions have been changed and revived so that they have a greater relevance to contemporary lifestyles. Neo-pagans have introduced various new concepts to these ancient religions as well as changing and modifying pre existing traditions. New concepts include; dynamic and diverse personal beliefs, lack of institutionalization, a search for spiritual fulfilment and encouragement and acceptance of diversity.
Many Neo-pagan religions have previously been wiped out and have been reconstructed from ancient sources. Neo-pagans (like ancient pagans) have a deep respect for nature. This stems from their belief that The Gods are immanent. Neo-pagans believe that the Divine is everywhere, not only above us, but all around us and within us. Their religion centres around the earth and her seasonal cycles.
The most prevalent Neo-pagan religion is Wicca.. This is a revived form of pre-Christian Goddess worship. Wiccans, as do most Neo-pagans observe four main seasonal days which celebrate the miracle of nature and give thanks to the Goddess for her gifts. As a result of their love of nature Wiccans, and many other Neo-pagans, prefer to worship whilst they are immersed in nature, so they are closer to the Goddess.
Many Neo-pagans such as Wiccans and Druids practice magic. Magic played an important role in these religions and was seen as a conscious direction of ones will to create change. Wiccans practice magic in ‘magic circles’ during certain powerful phases of the moon. Many Neo-pagans believe in and are governed by the ‘Wiccan Rede,’ that is, "An it harm none, do what thou wilt." This Rede, was in essence a code of practice, which effectively prevents practitioners of magic from harming anyone.
The recent resurgence in Neo-pagan religions can be attributed to several factors. With the major upheavals of the 1960s many people found themselves becoming disillusioned with the present mainstream religions. Through reviving the basic practices of Paganism [ now called Neo- paganism], many people found a spiritual outlet by returning to nature based religions. These ancient religions had sustained the world for centuries before the appearance of Christianity and with the world becoming increasingly complicated and stressful, modern people found a much needed and sought after spiritual path.
Ancient pagan religions provided simple folk with a release from pressures and today it provides a tolerant setting, which encourages diversity and a quest for spiritual fulfilment that the materialistic twentieth century lacks.
Courtesy of the Pagan Federation Website.