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Internet Book of Shadows, (Various Authors), [1999], at

                               M O D E R N   P A G A N I S M : 
                                   QUESTIONS    &    ANSWERS
                  To promote community harmony and freedom of religious practice.
           Distributed  by : The Committee for Religious Freedom, Salt Lake City,
                         Thanks to LesleyPhillips andLinda Pinti ofThe Covenantof
           Unitarian Universalist Pagans for original material.
                         Contemporarysociety isexperiencingaresurgence ofinterest
           in earth-  and nature-centered spirituality. Modern Paganism is a rich
           and  diverse  religious movement  drawing the attention  of the media,
           law-makers, and  spiritual  seekers. This pamphlet attempts  to answer
           some of the questions  frequently asked about modern Pagan beliefs and
           What is Paganism?
                         Theterm"Pagan" comesfrom aLatinword for"country dweller"
           first  used  in  early  Christian  times to  refer  to  those  not yet
           converted to Christianity. "Pagan" was an epithet that cast aspersions
           on those  not seen as  "true believers." Today, it refers more general
           to the  faith of those whose  spiritual  center is drawn to native and
           natural religions,  usually pantheistic   or polytheistic,  and almost
           always earth-centered.
           What then is "Modern Paganism"?
                         ModernPaganism,orNeo-Paganism, isamodern, Earth-centered
           religious   perspective  which borrows  and adapts  from pre-Christian
           paganism  as  well  as   from  contemporary  religious  thought. While
           reconnecting with ancient wisdom,   it speaks eloquently to  the needs
           and concerns of the present.
           What is meant by "The Old Religion"?
                         The term describes the pre-Christian religion of much of
           western  and northern  Europe,  which was  based  on the  agricultural
           cycles  and  other natural  rhythms of  the  Earth. It  coexisted with
           Christianity for centuries,  from the so-called  "Dark Ages" up  until
           the  Inquisition and  the "Burning  Times" (witch  hunts) of  the late
           Middle Ages. It also can refer more generally to other 
           native and tribal religions of the world.
           What is the difference between Paganism and Witchcraft?
                         SomecontemporaryPagans callthemselvesWitches.The termhas
           many   meanings,  some   carrying   rather  heavy   negative  baggage.
           "Witchcraft"  or "The Craft" is  most properly applied  to three broad
           categories: Descendants of  the European witches  of the Middle  Ages,
           practitioners of  the "reconstructed" Witchcraft of  the 20th century,
           and  "feminist Witches"  whose  religion and  politics  center in  the
           contemporary womens'  spirituality movement. It can  generally be said
           that  all modern  Witches are Pagans,  but not  all modern  Pagans are
           Witches. At least one writer,  Aidan Kelly, has begun to use  the term
           "Neo-Pagan  Witchcraft"  to  describe   the  largest  portion  of  the
           contemporary Pagan community.
           What is meant by the term "Wicca"?
                         Oftenused asa synonymfor Witchcraft,"Wicca" isthought to
           derive from an Anglo-Saxon root meaning to bend or to turn. It is more
           properly applied only to  those Witchcraft traditions which originated
           in or derive from  practices in the British Isles.
           What about Shamanism?
                         Shamanismisnot areligion, butaset ofspiritual techniques
           used for  healing and the acquisition of knowledge through forays into
           non-ordinary  states     of  consciousness.  Now   gaining  increasing
           attention  in the counseling   profession, this  journeying is usually
           aided by sonic driving  (such as repetitive drumming or  chanting) and
           often involves interactions with totemic and archetypal figures. These
           techniques are used in  virtually every tribal society and  are widely
           used by contemporary Pagans.
           What do modern Pagans believe?
                         The centralbeliefs ofmodern Pagansdiffer in specificsyet
           share  many   fundamentals.  Deity is  seen  as immanent  rather  than
           transcendent.   Experience  is preferred over doctrine. It is believed
           that there are and should be   multiple paths to the Divine. There  is
           no prescribed creed, but there are a  number of beliefs shared by most
           contemporary Pagans, summarized at the end of  this pamphlet.
           Isn't this just Humanism by another name?
                         Noand Yes.Likereligious Humanists,modernPagans havealove
           and reverence for  this world  and the physical  plane generally.  The
           rational is  seen as important. Great  emphasis is also placed  on the
           intuitive, however, and the belief that the  physical and non-physical
           worlds  are equally  real, and   are  interconnected, interpenetrating
           manifestations  of nature.  This means  that  spiritual  work, whether
           called  meditation, prayer,  or  magic, and  whether  done as  ritual,
           worship, or celebration, is  efficacious and can result in  changes in
           the  physical  world.  The majority  of  Pagans  also  believe in  the
           survival of the consciousness or soul after physical death.
           How do modern Pagans worship? 
                         Some groups have formalworship services or similar group
           meetings.  Others  conduct rituals  that have varying  degrees of  set
           forms. Some Pagans worship  by themselves without formal ritual.  Most
           contemporary Pagans hold  rituals corresponding to the  turning of the
           seasons  and the phases of the moon.  Rituals are often performed in a
           sacred space defined by the demarcation  of a circle, within which the
           celebration  and worship take place. Celebrations  include eight major
           seasonal holidays,  sometimes collectively referred to  as  "Sabbats".
           These  Sabbats, as  most  frequently observed  by  North American  and
           European  Pagans,  follow  the  agricultural cycles  of  the  northern
           temperate zone,   and include the  solstices and equinoxes  as well as
           four intermediate festivals   which fall in between, sometimes  called
           "cross-quarters," on or near the first  days of February, 
           May, August, and November. Regular public  Sabbat rituals,  reflecting
           a variety of contemporary Pagan styles, are held in many  communities.
           Rituals  may   include  meditation,  chanting,   drumming,  myth-  and
           story-telling, ritual drama, dance,  and so on. Deeper ritual  work is
           most  often practiced at private gatherings, which for many traditions
           coincide  with   the phases  of the  moon. The  work may  include more
           intense  raising  of energy,    healing work,  and  personal spiritual
           What about Satanism? 
                         Contrary   to  the  claims   of  ill-informed  Christian
           fundamentalists,  the practices of modern Pagans are in no way related
           to Satanism.  Most Pagans  do  not even  believe  Satan exists.  As  a
           profanation  of  Christian symbolism,  Satan  worship  is a  Christian
           heresy, not a Pagan religion. 
           Do Pagans proselytize? 
                         No,Pagansdo notproselytize.Most modernPagantraditions do
           welcome newcomers.  Most modern  Pagans also  do not  discourage other
           Pagans from  integrating other  religious and spiritual practices  and
           beliefs into their practice. 
                              WHAT CONTEMPORARY PAGANS BELIEVE 
           while there  is no set  of beliefs  shared by all  Pagans, most  would
           agree that similarities far  outweigh differences. There are  a number
           of beliefs held  by the vast majority of modern  Pagans. Some of these
           1. Divinity is seen as immanent. 
           2. Divinity  is as likely to  manifest itself in female  as male form,
           the God or  the Goddess, in the interconnectedness of all life. 
           3. Multiple paths to the divine exist, as symbolized by many goddesses
           and gods.  These  are often  seen  as archetypes  or  gateways to  the
           4. We respect and love Mother Earth as a living being, Gaia,  of which
           we are a part. 
           5. The physical world,  as an emanation of the divine, is  good and to
           be enjoyed by all living beings in love and harmony. 
           6. Ethics and morality are based on avoidance of harm to other beings,
           including Earth as a whole, which mandates environmental activism as a
           spiritual responsibility. 
           7. Human interdependence implies the need for community cooperation. 
           8.  The  solar and  lunar  cycles  and the  cycles  of  our lives  are
           celebrated.  This  leads to the maintenance and revival of old customs
           and the creation of new  ones. 
           9.  A strong commitment  to personal and  planetary growth, evolution,
           and balance are vital. 
           10.  One's  lifestyle  must  be  consistent  with one's  beliefs.  The
           personal is political. 
           11. A minimum  of dogma and a maximum of  individual responsibility in
           all things are goals to strive for. Thus a healthy skepticism is to be
           fostered,   and  ideas  are  not  to   be  accepted  without  personal
           investigation of their validity. 
           12. Messiahs  and gurus are  to be  avoided. The mediation  of another
           being  is  unnecessary  for  an  individual  to  commune  with  Deity.
           Power-from-within is preferred to power-over. 
           13.  All  beings  are personal  emanations  of  the  Divine. Thou  art
           Goddess, thou art God. 

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