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    A Newbie Guide To Paganism (Paganism 101 and FAQ)

    Hello! Welcome to "A Newbie Guide to Paganism" in the SAFE Zone forum. I'm working on this thread as a sort of Paganism 101/ Pagan FAQ thread for folks that might be new to Paganism. Unless stated otherwise, I'm the author of the content here, which has either been compiled from other posts over the years on the forum or from my blog and then reworked and updated a bit.

    I can't promise that everyone will agree with everything I have written here--Pagans are a diverse group. But I try to be as specific and factual as possible in giving a variety of perspectives that I have encountered while still giving general sorts of answers (its an introductory information thread, not a text book). If there is anything you would like to see added, send me a PM.


    What is Paganism?

    This is probably the question of the century (in Pagan circles at least)...I've been Pagan for over 20 years now and people are still arguing over how to define it, whether or not its a useful term that means anything, and who is or is not Pagan.

    The best answer I can come up with, after lots of reading Pagan opinions, talking to Pagans (IRL and online), reflecting on the variety of traditions and opinionsz, etc is that Paganism is an umbrella term for a collection of individual and distinct religious traditions (more on the different traditions later)...or perhaps it shouldn't be considered Paganism, so much as Paganisms. Either way though, Paganism can't be defined using a monothetic definition--it needs polythetic criteria (basically via a checklist approach)...though getting Pagans to get together and make a checklist they can disagree on is as likely as herding cats.

    Within that umbrella, (contemporary) Paganism (which is sometimes called neo-Paganism) is a term referring to one (or several) of many distinct spiritual paths, rather than one unified religious tradition. Pagan traditions generally practice some form religious and/or spiritual path that incorporates earth-centered and/or nature based beliefs that is often polytheistic (though a good proportion of practitioners will focus on the polytheistic aspect first, and the connection with the world around them secondarily or not at all). Many Pagan traditions incorporate the use of ritual and/or magic(k). Practices generally align themselves on a continuum from a loose inspiration to a reconstruction of (or an eclectic mix) one or multiple pre-Christian pagan faiths and occasionally other pagan (little p) religions such as Buddhism, Hinduism, etc, and sometimes even with Christianity or Judaism.

    Within contemporary Paganism the largest tradition is probably Wicca, which is a distinct religious tradition founded by Gerald Gardner in the 1940s, and its various descendent offshoot traditions. Some other Pagan faiths include Druidry, Heathenry, Stregheria/Italian Witchcraft, Discordianism/Subgenius, Green Witchcraft, Celtic, Hellenic, Roman and Egyptian Paganism, and (yes, though many will certainly deny it) some forms of Satanism (and a whole lot more). Additionally, some individuals of the above paths may choose not to identify as “Pagan”, for various reasons that range from disliking the term “pagan” due to its lack real meaning (since it is rooted in the idea of describing what someone is *not*) to the idea that the term holds no purpose and creates an idea of false unity.

    Who *is* Pagan? way to look at it is that it is anyone that calls themselves a pagan .

    Or, if you go the dictionary route:
    The word pagan, according to Mirriam-Webster arises from 14th Middle English variation of the Latin paganus, meaning civilian or country dweller or from pagus, meaning country district. But the definition from Free Dictionary (online) just got interesting (which just goes to show that words evolve)...

    Etymologically speaking:
    c.1375, from L.L. paganus “pagan,” in classical L. “villager, rustic, civilian,” from pagus “rural district,” originally “district limited by markers,” thus related to pangere “to fix, fasten,” from PIE base *pag- “to fix” (see pact). Religious sense is often said to derive from conservative rural adherence to the old gods after the Christianization of Roman towns and cities; but the word in this sense predates that period in Church history, and it is more likely derived from the use of paganus in Roman military jargon for “civilian, incompetent soldier,” which Christians (Tertullian, c.202; Augustine) picked up with the military imagery of the early Church (e.g. milites “soldier of Christ,” etc.). Applied to modern pantheists and nature-worshippers from 1908. Paganism is attested from 1433.

    Generally, among pagans, the definitions of hedonist or a person that is irreligious are not used, and are considered offensive…however, they might be used by someone that is not pagan, who may or may not know any better. Most of the time, when the term pagan is used, it is in reference to faith that is not Abrahamatic—Judaism, Christianity or Islam. This means that any number of religions in the world, from Shinto to Hinduism to Wicca fall under this definition...even though the bulk of adherents for some of them (Hinduism, Shinto, Buddhism, etc) wouldn't consider themselves such.

    But either way, if you were to go to a Pagan event and take an informal survey, you would likely find that most (and by most, I would estimate at least 95%*) of people you sit down with do religion in the following ways:

    • as a reconstruction of ancient indigenous European religions and related pre-Christian religions originating in the ancient world (henceforth written as IE/PC religions, because that is a ton to write out)
    • as a revivalist construction of IE/PC religions
    • as a reinvention or reinterpretation of IE/PC religions
    • as constructed modern religious practices and beliefs inspired by the mythology or beliefs of IE/PC religions
    • as a modern earth-centered spiritual religious practices and beliefs inspired by IE/PC religions
    • as modern, constructed spiritual and religious practices and beliefs based in IE/PC themes

    Now (before people start pointing out the exceptions), let me also say that this is not the definitive list of people that I have found self-identifying as Pagan over the years (nor will everyone that does religion like this want to self-identify as Pagan). And, you will also find that there are also people incorporating Buddhism, Hinduism, Shinto, etc, ideas into their Paganisms. There are people incorporating science and philosophy and theosophy and all sort of other non-religious ideas into their Paganisms...and there are even people that identify as Pagan that also identify as atheists, agnostics, naturalists, or humanists, as well as are people eschewing IE/PC religious traditions and themes in favor of other traditions, but doing it in a modern Pagan framework (like celebrating the Wheel of the Year, or using Wiccan-style ritual).

    Other Views and Definitions:

    Our Ongoing, Never ending and somewhat tedious Debate on the Subject

    A Pagan or NeoPagan is someone who self-identifies as a Pagan, and whose spiritual or religious practice or belief fits into one or more of the following categories:
    *Honoring, revering, or worshipping a Deity or Deities found in pre-Christian, classical, aboriginal, or tribal mythology; and/or
    *Practicing religion or spirituality based upon shamanism, shamanic, or magickal practices; and/or
    *Creating new religion based on past Pagan religions and/or futuristic views of society, community, and/or ecology;
    *Focusing religious or spiritual attention primarily on the Divine Feminine; and/or
    *Practicing religion that focuses on earth based spirituality.

    Last edited by MaskedOne; 24 Feb 2015, 20:24.
    Wonderful Life: The Burgess Shale and the Nature of HistoryPagan Devotionals, because the wind and the rain is our Bible

    Re: A Newbie Guide To Paganism (Paganism 101 and FAQ)

    How do Pagans believe in dieties?

    Most Pagans are polytheists of some sort--they somehow acknowledge (in belief and/or practice) more than one deity. But it tends to be more complex than that. Pagans can believe in gods as figurative/metaphorical concepts in the Jungian (archetypal) sense, or as literal distinct beings (or something in between, or none of the above). Its probably more helpful to sort out the terminology and explain the different ways Pagans might believe in the gods from there...

    Hard polytheismSoft polytheismPantheism and PanentheismDuotheismDeism--Generally a belief in the existence of a creator deity who does not intervene in the universe

    MonotheismAgnosticism/AtheismMore terminology:

    Syncretism: The attempt to reconcile separate systems into a seamless and unified new system.
    Eclecticism: The selection of elements from different systems of thought, without excessive concern for possible contradictions between the systems in an attempt to choose the best ideas and philosophies.
    Reconstructionism: The process of examining the evidence of historic traditions and implementing those traditions in a modern sense, reconstructionists are attempting to reconstruct a historical religious (and often cultural) tradition that is as authentic as allowable.

    Which Gods Do Pagans Worship?

    Pagan (as a group) worship from just about every pantheon out there. Mostly from European pre-Christian pantheons, but not always. Depending on the Pagan, they may worship from only one pantheon, or from several...or from none. The decision of which gods to worship is a personal one--some choose to worship the gods of their ancestors, or from a culture they feel kinship with, or from a mythology they are enthralled by, or because they feel chosen or compelled by a particular deity.

    Some traditions are specific to a particular pantheon. For example, followers of Asatru honor the Norse gods, while Hellenic pagans honor the Greek gods. Other pantheons that are commonly honored include the Celtic gods (Irish, Gaulish, etc), the Egyptian gods, and the Roman gods. A number of Pagans also worship the pre-Christian deities of the Middle East (Canaanite polytheism), or the gods of Hinduism or Shinto.

    Additionally, some Pagans may worship or honor entities that may not be technically identified as deities--land spirits, ancestors, etc. Animism is a common belief among Pagans--at its most simple, and practical, animism is the idea that non-human entities *which can be as varied as animals, plants, locations, natural phenomena, etc) have their own soul (or spirit or essence, etc), and that this soul/spirit/essence is worthy of honoring. Some other examples--there seem to be an increasing number of Pagans that worship their own landbase (or bioregion, in my case). Still other Pagans may (controversy alert) incorporate modern fictional characters (perhaps as an egregore of sorts) into their worship. And (as we've previously mentioned) some may not worship any gods at all.

    So, you keep talking about different Pagan traditions...What are they?'s a long list that is in no way comprehensive:

    British Traditional Witchcraft
    Gardnerian Wicca
    Alexandrian Wicca
    Blue Star Wicca
    Georgian Wicca
    Correllian Wicca
    Dianic/Femenist Wicca
    Faery Wicca
    Tameran Wicca (Egyptian)*
    Kemetic/Egyptian Wicca
    Celtic Wicca*
    Norse Wicca*
    Eclectic Wicca

    Celtic Paganism*
    Celtic Reconstruction**

    Norse/Germanic Paganism*
    Anglo-Saxon Paganism

    Egyptian Paganism*
    Neos Alexandria (egyptian-greek syncretic)
    Kemetic Reconstruction

    African and African syncretic traditions:
    Yoruba (West African indigenous religion)**

    Peruvian/Andean Shamanism
    Huna (Hawaiian)

    Middle Eastern traditions:
    Canaanite polytheism (Natib Qadish)
    Sumerian polytheism

    Satire Traditions****

    Greek/Hellenic Paganism*
    Hellenic Reconstruction**
    Roman Paganism*
    Roman Reconstruction (Religio Romana)

    Christian-Pagan synchretic traditions
    Christian Wicca

    Magical/Witchcraft traditions (which may not be exclusively Pagan)
    Ceremonial Magick
    Golden Dawn
    Witchcraft Traditions
    Green Witchcraft
    Hedge Witchcraft
    Kitchen Witchcraft
    Italian Witchcraft (Strega/Stregaria)
    Appalacian Granny Magic
    Feriferia (aka Feri)

    Eclectic Paganism
    Unitarian Universalist Pagan

    Religions that are not a contemporary Pagan path, but are sometimes included under the Pagan umbrella:

    *traditions that predominantly incorporate a particular culture or pantheon
    **practitioners may choose not to self-identify as Pagan, but some will
    ***various cultures have their own "shamanism"
    ****this is a personal categorization, not an official one, but it works
    ***** This is formed from a fusion of a few paths, or is syncretic

    Wonderful Life: The Burgess Shale and the Nature of HistoryPagan Devotionals, because the wind and the rain is our Bible


      Re: A Newbie Guide To Paganism (Paganism 101 and FAQ)

      What about Magic?

      What about it? Some Pagans do magic, some don't. For some Pagans, it is an essential part of their spirituality and/or religious tradition, for others its supplemental (and possibly separate from it), and for others its non-existent.

      Defining Magic...the word magic potentially has a number of origins and influences that seem to have reshaped and redefined the ways in which the word is used. When it comes to modern, Pagan ideas of magic, many start with the definition of Aleister CrowleySome other definitions of magic:magic is found in nearly every religionBanishing, invoking, evoking, divination,consecration, and purificationnumber of rules associated with how magic worksMagical Systems/Philosophies/etc:
      • Thelema
      • Enochian Magic
      • Golden Dawn
      • Chaos Magic
      • Green Witchcraft
      • Kitchen Witchcraft
      • Thaumaturgy
      • Kabbalah
      • Alchemy
      • Hoodoo
      • Hedgewitchcraft
      • Curanderismo
      • Italian Folk Magic
      • Stregheria
      • Traditional Witchcraft
      • Psionics
      • Heka (recreation of ancient Egyptian-based magic)

      What about Witches?

      Its not uncommon among Pagans to discover witches. A pretty decent number of Pagans will identify as witches of one sort or another. BUT...not all witches are Pagan.

      A basic definition of witchcraft: Witchcraft is a craft, a practice that includes practices such as divination, spell casting, contacting or channeling spirits, journeying, making amulets or talismans, etc. It is a practice or set of practices that can be practiced with a religion (ANY religion) or alone or (in the case of Wicca) as the basis for a religion. Is it a witch?

      Logically, if she weighs the same as a duck...she's made of wood. And therefore? A witch! Which witch is which?

      though its name is based on the same Old English word that became "witchA good witch, or a bad witch?

      Witchcraft References and other POVs:

      Witchcraft, traditionally, the exercise or invocation of alleged supernatural powers to control people or events, practices typically involving sorcery or magic. Witchcraft thus defined is an imaginative stereotype that has a long history and has constituted for many cultures a viable explanation of evil in the world.
      This is the category where your questions about witches and witchcraft as a spiritual path should go. Based on an ancient shamanistic way of life, witchcraft is a spiritual system known as "The Craft of the Wise" and were a valuable part of villages and communities. Practitioners were the healers an...
      Wonderful Life: The Burgess Shale and the Nature of HistoryPagan Devotionals, because the wind and the rain is our Bible


        Re: A Newbie Guide To Paganism (Paganism 101 and FAQ)

        So, the next two questions are ones we see crop up the most. These are my personal answers on the questions, which come from my experience as a Pagan*. I figured it might be useful to have them available before hand--not because we are against the questions, but because sometimes waiting for an answer can be torture!


        *I've been Pagan for over 20 years now. Like many new Pagans, I started out with solitary eclectic Wicca...and then sort of moved on to something else. I've been a part of a number of Pagan communities, as a college student, in the military, and as a civilian. I've been a member here since 2005, and I've been blogging about Paganism and witchcraft since 2008. Over the years I've had lots of time to meet new Pagans and to think about what would have helped me early on my path.

        1) I believe/think/practice/etc (enter list here), what tradition/path is for me?

        Hands down, this is probably the most common newbie question we get here. And, the best answer I can give you is...I don't know. I'm not trying to be mean, but I have no clue... I don't know you enough to tell you what direction might be good for you to head in. The best tradition you can have is the one that helps you grow as a person, that helps you be your best self. And if you can't take responsibility for doing the research and exploration and experimentation to figure out what that is, I can't either.

        Now, what I can do--what *we* can do here at PF, is help you find the materials to do the research, and give you advice on the basis of our own experiences.

        With that being said, we are working on getting some "Introduction to __________" threads up on here, that might help you narrow things down a bit. In the mean time, I've made a short-cut list...

        --If you are an atheist/agnostic and interested in Paganism, Naturalist or Humanist Paganism might be for you.
        --If you believe that animals, plants, and even places have souls and are deeply interested a practice centered around where you live, Bioregional Animism might be for you.
        --If you are interested in recreating and rediscovering ancient pagan traditions as the basis of your beliefs and practices, reconstructionism might be for you.
        --If you take a universal, collective interest in global mythologies and practices, ecclecticism might be for you.
        --If you believe that divinity is best expressed as the Universe or the Cosmos and interested in Paganism, pantheistic or panentheistic Paganism might be for you.
        --If you are deeply interested in Greek or Roman deities and mythology, some form of Hellenic Paganism or Hellenismos or Roman Paganism or Nova Roma might be for you.

        --If you are deeply interested in Norse or Germanic deities and mythology, some form of Heathenry might be for you.
        --If you are deeply interested in Celtic deities and mythology, some form of Celtic Paganism or Druidry might be for you.
        --If you are deeply interested in Egyptian deities and mythology, some form of Egyptian Pagansim or Kemetic Pagansim might be for you.
        --If you are deeply interested in (enter culture) deities and mythology, some form of that culture's Paganism might be for you.
        --If you are interested in the practice of witchcraft, there are a number of witchcraft traditions that might be for you.
        --If you are interested in worshiping a central male and female deity, in the context of a yearly mythological cycle, Wicca might be for you.

        Now, this list is in no way definitive. Also, I've not put anything in here having to do with specific beliefs and practices. That's because, over the years, I've met all sorts of Pagans that practice a myriad of things. Practices and beliefs aren't necessarily connected.

        The best way to figure out what Pagan path is for you is to be Pagan (see the next question)--to research Paganism in general, read mythology, and to have some sort of basic practice...when you stumble upon a path that interests you, you'll know it. But if you stand still, you won't grow enough to move forward.

        2) I'm new to Paganism...where should I start?

        This probably ties for second place as the most common thing new Pagans ask (the other being for books, websites, etc--I'll answer this one another time)... These are my long standing 7 steps to becoming (really, to being) Pagan:

        1. Read. 2. Think3. Observe.4. Meditate.
        Meditate in whatever method and manner works for you, but try new things. Use visualization and guided imagry. Meditate to music, meditate to silence, meditate indoors and out. Try tai chi, or trance dance, get a drum, learn to play no matter how crappy you think you are. Use meditation to order your thoughts and your place in the cosmos. Be proficient in achieving a meditative state.

        5. Practice.6. Discuss.7. Act.

        Wonderful Life: The Burgess Shale and the Nature of HistoryPagan Devotionals, because the wind and the rain is our Bible


          Re: A Newbie Guide To Paganism (Paganism 101 and FAQ)

          What is Reconstructionism?
          (Answered by Ljubezen)

          Some people choose to follow a belief system by studying the history, classic texts, and (sometimes) language of a particular culture and its historical traditions. This information is then used to reconstruct the beliefs and practices of that particular culture, which is then implemented into a practice that fits better with our present lifestyle. In short, it’s the integration of a specific culture’s tradition into a modern world.

          The individuals who follow this path are called Reconstructionists (or Recons, for short). They incorporate their chosen path into their lives in the same way (or as close as they can/choose to) as their ancestors did. This means that the major emphasis on this path is on scholarly historical sources; as the aim is to rebuild the tradition with as much historical accuracy as possible.

          Some of the common traditions for Reconstructionism are:

          • Asatru (Nordic, Northern Heathen)
          • Baltic (Estonian, Latvian, and Lithuanian)
          • Celtic (Gaelic and Brythonic)
          • Druidism
          • Hellenismos (Greek)
          • Kemetism (Egyptian)
          • Religo Romana (Roman)
          • Slavic ( Russian, Polish, Bulgarian, Czech, Ukrainian, Serbian, Croatian, Slovenian, Macedonian, Slovakian, Kashubian and Belorussian)

          If you are interested in Reconstructionism:

          The best place to start is by reading the history, folklore, and anything else you can find pertaining to the tradition that interests you. If you have the motivation, a second language may be helpful (Gaelic for Celtic traditions, Russian for Russian traditions, etc…). Take notes, and leave yourself space to write down things you would like to investigate further at a later date if you already have too much on your to-do/read list already.

          If you read something that seems a little off, or you’re not sure about, cross-reference the information against other sources or try to find its reputation as a scholarly (peer-reviewed, evidence-based) claim. There are many missing pieces when it comes to investigating history, but often you can piece many things together to get a somewhat-working picture of how things worked or fit together.

          A note from Thalassa: It may be worth looking for a reconstructionist community or organization. There are a number of Heathen groups (and the members of that board here on the forum are quite excellent at pointing you in a good direction in that regard) if you are interested in Norse or Germanic Paganism. There is the Nova Roma if you are interested in the Religion Romana, a variety of Hellenismos boards and groups if you are interested in Greek religion, as well as Egyptian reconstructionism (the Kemetic Orthodoxy is one group that some of our members have had experiences with), and even Canaanite reconstruction has a number of bloggers and websites where you can find more information. Granted some may be more difficult to find than others (Aztec Recons spring to ming), but its not impossible, it just takes patience and perseverance.
          Last edited by thalassa; 10 May 2015, 04:01.
          Wonderful Life: The Burgess Shale and the Nature of HistoryPagan Devotionals, because the wind and the rain is our Bible


            Re: A Newbie Guide To Paganism (Paganism 101 and FAQ)

            The Wheel of the Year
            (Answered by Ljubezen)

            The wheel of the year is something you will probably come across in several books, websites, forums, and other resources regarding pagan and witchcraft topics. There are several different images, but they all depict the same idea. That the year is cyclical, it has a predictable route and phases, and in many paths of belief the important times of the year are the same.

            Image 28.jpg
            Painted Wheel of the Year from the Museum of Witchcraft, Boscastle.

            The year can be broken up first into halves, the dark half and the light half of the year. Basically the height of the dark half of the year is midwinter, and the height of the light half of the year is midsummer.

            There are four major points in the year that determine the four major holidays in some belief systems: the two solstices and the two equinoxes.
            The solstices can be translated to the longest night (midwinter) and the longest day (midsummer) of the year. The equinoxes are when the day and night have equal time within the 24 hours of a day, there is a Spring and a Fall equinox.

            If we go around the circle, starting at the Spring equinox when day and night are equals and the world is coming back to life, we can see how this wheel turns. From the Spring equinox we get birth, new ideas, and new beginnings; the world is beginning itself anew. It is the first day of spring, and is usually around May 21st A few months later we come to Midsummer, the Summer solstice, around June 24th or so. Nature is in full bloom, there is more daylight than night in the 24 hour day and the sun is at its height. People tend to see marked energy increases during this time of the year. We then come to the Fall equinox (around September 21ist), the day and night are again equals, but the sun is losing ground to the night. The crops are ripened, the world is bringing its projects to fruition and things are slowing down. We come to Midwinter a few months later (December 21st or so) and the vegetation has died and returns to the earth, going into sleep and reflection of the year that has passed. It is a time of stillness, of the inner world, when the night sky and moon are at their height. Until we return again to the spring in its rebirth.

            After the four major points, which are basically the center points for the four seasons (the heights of Winter, Spring, Summer and Fall), there are four other times of the year which are celebrated (or at least acknowledged). These are considered to be the in-between points, the turning points where one season begins to weaken and another begins to take hold. These are placed halfway in between each Equinox and Solstice (see the image below to better visualize the new 8-spoked wheel of the year).

   Wheel of the Year in more detail...
            (Written by volcaniclastic)

            From a strictly scientific point of view, the wheel of the year (woty) represents the turning of the seasons.

            What causes the seasons?
            The seasons are caused by the tilt of the Earth's rotational axis away or toward the sun as it travels through its year-long path around the sun.

            The Earth has a tilt of 23.5 degrees relative to the "ecliptic plane" (the imaginary surface formed by it's almost-circular path around the sun). The tilt toward the sun is maximized during Northern Hemisphere summer in late June (the "summer solstice"). At this time, the amount of sunlight reaching the Northern Hemisphere is at a maximum.

            In late December, on the date of the "winter solstice", the Earth's tilt away from the sun is maximized, leading to a minimum of sunlight reaching the Northern Hemisphere. The seasons, of course, are reversed in the Southern Hemisphere.

            There are a number of different WotY traditions, but the generally accepted version is that of early Europe. The 8 sabbats, which are sometimes referred to as major and minor sabbats, or quarter, and cross-quarter days, are as follows:

            Major Sabbats/Quarter Days:
            Dec 21: Winter Solstice, Yule, Midwinter, Yuletide
            Mar 21: Spring Equinox, Eostre, Ostara
            Jun 21: Summer Solstice, Midsummer, Litha
            Sep 21: Autumn Equinox, Mabon, Fruit Harvest, Wine Harvest, Hausblot

            Minor Sabbats/Cross-Quarter Days:
            Feb 2: Imbolc, First Quarter-Cross, Candlemas, Brigid's Day, Imbolg
            May 1: Beltaine, Second Quarter-Cross, Beltane, May Day, Walpurgisnacht
            Aug 1: Lughnasadh, Third Quarter-Cross, Lammas, Bread Harvest, Festival of the First Fruits
            Oct 31: Samhain, Fourth Quarter-Cross, Winternacht, Feast of the Dead, All Hallow's Eve, Hallowe'en

            What do I celebrate on which day?

            I'll include a brief description of each, but for more in-depth answers, refer to the previous posts about research. Half of how we learn is by finding things out for ourselves. Some of us on the Forum (and elsewhere) have come up with our own versions of the WotY, as well. Because of our global inter-connectedness, the original WotY only really represents one climate. In the one I currently live in, for example, March is supposed to be about the heralding of Spring and the blessing of seeds, however, the land I live in is still blanketed in snow, so I've learned to celebrate different signs of Spring. The deadening of the harshest weather, the vague warmth to the sun, etc. Nothing is set in stone, and ultimately, you are celebrating the turn of the seasons, whatever they may mean to you, in the climate and place that you celebrate in. A land-locked town doesn't celebrate the sea, and people of the prairies don't celebrate the mountain winds. Love where you are, wherever you are.

            Winter solstice: rebirth of the sun, introspect, planning for the future, prosperity spells, decorating with evergreens, "wassailing", happiness/joy spells, welcoming the light
            Imbolc: braided bread/dairy offerings, Brigid's Cross, healing poppetwork, house blessings, purification, renewal, candle-making, new beginnings, fertility spells
            Spring Equinox: planting, welcoming Spring, colouring eggs, fertility rites, rituals of balance, herb work, new beginnings/potential
            Beltaine: fertilize, nuture and boost existing goals, activities of pleasure (ie: of a sexual nature), bonfires, planting seeds, feasting, youthful exuberance, creativity
            Summer Solstice: healing/protection spells, offerings to the fae, god offerings, bonfires, harvesting wild berries, foraging for herbs, summer cordials, growth and empowerment spells, love spells
            Lughnasadh: first harvest, bread-making, honouring crops, abundance spells, money spells, harvesting emotions, gratitude prayers and spells
            Autumn Equinox: second harvest, feasting, celebrating bounty and abundance, giving thanks, honouring the darkness to come, honour the gods (specifically the gods of the vine), energy work
            Samhain: return and change, divination, honouring the dead, spirit contact, meditation, drying winter herbs

            An alright rendition of the Wiccan version of the WotY

            Mostly art.


              Re: A Newbie Guide To Paganism (Paganism 101 and FAQ)

              Where do I go from here?

              One of the most common questions we get here is usually the "now what" question--you know what Paganism is in general, you know that you have an interest in a specific pantheon or culture or world view (or that you don't, and you are interested in a more nature-based path) and you find yourself at an impass in terms of figuring out what to do next.

              Now what?

              Well...there's no right answer to this. But there is a wee bit of guidance available in the form of a book (actually a couple of books, but I really like how one book lays it all out and gives examples, so we are going to talk about that one). So, the book is To Walk a Pagan Path by Alaric Albertsson, which a few of our members list as "recommended newbie reading". IMO, the very best advice of this book is given in the first chapter (and then elaborated on throughout the book). I'm currently blogging a part summary/part review/part commentary on the book, but I'm going to toss out his 7 steps for developing religious traditions.

              1. Connecting with Spirit–Albertsson’s first step is to find your connection with the Divine (which is probably one of the best first steps one could suggest in how to live your religion). He offers some practical advice on finding which gods to worship, on finding a pantheon or mythology that appeals to you, perhaps because you've been “called”, or perhaps based upon your heritage, or perhaps just because you've done some reading and picked something that interested you. He then suggests picking a god to make an offering to as the start to building a relationship, and describes the process of making an offering in a a clear and easy to understand way.

              2. Creating Sacred Space–After finding one’s connection with Spirit, Albertsson recommends that “your next action should be to establish a place where you can maintain and continue to build that connection” so that “there is some place in your home that is sacred and set aside for your gods” (p 19) (and/or presumably for your ancestors or nature spirits). He suggests that one’s sacred space (for devotion is an altar and that one’s altar should reflect the culture of the deities of worship–“the sacred space you reserve for your gods should be a space where they can rest comfortably” (p 19) before turning to the practical concerns of space itself and how “out” one is as a Pagan, the benefits of outdoor altar space, and of altars dedicated to one’s ancestor.

              3. Creating Sacred Time–“If you do nothing with your altar, it is not truly an altar it is merely a table or shelf holding an incense burner, a couple of candles, and perhaps two or thee interesting statues. The activities that take place at that table of shelf–the reverence, the offerings, and the meditation–are what give meaning to your sacred space.” (p 23) Paganism is an religion based in praxis; without practicing, all you have is a shelf of dust collectors. In this section, Albertsson talks about the fact that life happens, and the importance of consistency. Because, as he says, there is always going to be something happening that will let us feel justified in putting it off until the next day. His recommendations include setting aside a specific time for doing this. Practically speaking, that might be during a certain event of your day after you wake up or while you wait for your morning coffee to percolate, or it might be at a specific time each day (in my experience, setting your alarm for this is a good idea). Whether its 5 minutes or 15 or 50 isn’t as important as consistency. And it doesn’t have to be every day–maybe its just once or twice a week. Albertsson’s advice is to pick the smallest time commitment that you can reasonably stick with…if you can’t stick with it, then its not reasonable for your lifestyle. His last advice here regards the interruptions that life brings to even the best laid plans, “When something like this happens, attend to the problem but make your sacred time the next highest priority. If you put it off any longer than necessary, you diminish its worth.”(p 26)

              4. Sacralize Daily Activities–Albertsson’s fourth step is to “integrate our spirituality with the rest of our lives” as our spirits are “sustained by the mindful actions you take to sacralize your daily activities” (p 27). He explains his tradition’s “Hal Sidu”, or “holistic tradition” (I call this “artem vitae”, which is Google Latin for “art of living” and my summer sister*** calls it “nuanaarpoq” which is an Inuit word that means something akin to “taking extravagant pleasure in being alive”) as an integration of our spirituality into the everyday of our lives. I won’t spend too much time here, since his third chapter is pretty much dedicated to this idea, except to say that this sacralization might be while you do dishes or take a shower or when you drink your first cup of tea (whether you are interested in Wicca or not, Diane Sylvan’s Circle of One has some great ideas on this topic). Or maybe its mindful eating and before meal prayers, or meditation while swimming laps or while running each morning–you name it. It might also be something specific to your chosen tradition that connects with the culture that your tradition comes from. As Albertsson says, “Any worthwhile pursuit can be a sacred act.” (p 29) As I put it, let every action or our bodies be a prayer of our soul.

              6. Observe Holy Tides–The next step is a set of seasonal observances that recognizes the significance of the passage of time through out the year. Albertsson mention a number of possibilities here–following the contemporary Pagan Wheel of the Year, whether in the Wiccan form or some other adapted way, or to celebrate an annual calender from another culture. As he puts it, “The important think is not what calender you follow, but that you consistently observe the hold tides–the holidays of that calender. By doing so you touch the earth, attuning yourself to the seasonal change occurring around you.” (p 32) This is covered more in-depth in the 2nd chapter.

              7. Find Your Folk–“Humans, however, are social, tribal creatures, and the overwhelming majority of us are happier when we can share our life experiences with others… Our celebrations, whether secular or spiritual, are more fulfilling when we are joined with others of like mind”(p 32-33). Albertsson takes some time in this next step to talk about the benefit of having some sort of non-solitary practice, whether its is a single family or a formal group–support, advice, assistance, fellowship, and friendship, to name a few. He also offers some practical advice in finding the “right people to enter into such a relationship with” , from the practical–compatibility of beliefs and membership expectations, to the precautionary–that active recruitment of new members can be an indication of something not being on the level. For those where a local community doesn't mesh with their own practice or beliefs, online communities may be an option worth looking into (this is my personal advice, not from the book). While the worship aspect would be difficult, the community aspect–advice, support, assistance, and friendship is not.

              (excerpted from my blog, minus most of my commentary and with a few changes to that aren't pertinent unless you are following the entire series of posts)

              The things to keep in mind here are that 1) there is no one answer and 2) there is no right answer. Pagans are people that are building their own traditions, their own religious experiences. This takes trial and error. My path today looks radically different than it did 10 and 20 years ago. But the key is that change comes organically from experience.

              Some other books that I recommend...

              The Short-list:
              Introduction to Pagan Studies by Barbara Jane Davy (this one is meant to be a text/reference book--there are no exercises, no how-to, etc). This is a good book to have when it comes time to explain Paganism to others.
              Paganism: An Introduction to Earth-centered Religions by River and Joyce Higgenbotham
              Pagan Paths: A Guide to Wicca, Druidry, Asatru, Shamanism, and Other Pagan Practices by Peter Jennings
              The Earth, The Gods and The Soul: A History of Pagan Philosophy from the Iron Age to the 21st Century by Brendan Myers
              A World Full of Gods: an Inquiry into Polytheism by John Michael Greer

              These 5 books should 1) give you an overview of contemporary Pagansim and its variety of traditions, 2) give you a jumping off start of the most predominant Pagan philosophies and theologies, 3) give you a practical foundation towards finding and creating your own traditions and/or finding the tradition where you might start your own path.

              As a sort of expanded list, I'd also add in these guys:
              Comparative Mythology by Jaan Puhvell
              A Short History of Myth by Karen Armstrong
              Walking with the Gods: Modern People Talk About Deities, Faith, and Recreating Ancient Traditions by W. D. Wilkerson
              The Deities are Many: A Polytheistic Theology by Jordan D Paper
              The Circle Within by Diane Sylvan
              Pagan Theology: Paganism as a world religion by Michael York
              God Against the Gods: The History of the War Between Monotheism and Polytheism by Jonathan Kirsch
              Ritual: A Druid’s Guide to Life, Love & Inspiration by Emma Restall Orr
              Deep Ancestors: Practicing the Religion of the Proto-Indo-Europeans by Ceisiwr Serith
              The Hollow Bone: A Field Guide to Shamanism by Colleen Deatsman and Sandra Ingerman
              The Wakeful World: Animism, Mind, and the Self in Nature by Emma Restall Orr (or Animism: Respecting the Natural World by Graham Harvey)
              The Sacred Depths of Nature by Ursula Goodenough
              The Wayfinders: Why Ancient Wisdom Matters in the Modern World by Wade Davis

              I picked these because they sort of expand on the themes of the previous list, and start branching out a bit into ideas that are found through out the variety of Pagan traditions, from a specific practitioner's or tradition's POV (for example, Emma Restall Orr is a Druid with the OBOD, and *at the time of the writing* Diane Sylvan was a solitary eclectic Wiccan, etc) which might also give you some ideas on traditions or cultures that interest you if you aren't sure. None of them are really introductory books on specific traditions (check our giant book list or the resources page for the tradition you are interested in for that!), but they will expand understanding of different traditions, philosophies, and practices in a way that should point you in the direction of a path that interets you.
              Last edited by thalassa; 15 Nov 2015, 04:23.
              Wonderful Life: The Burgess Shale and the Nature of HistoryPagan Devotionals, because the wind and the rain is our Bible