The pagan outlook is both new and old. New, because its respect for individual spiritual experience is unfamiliar to dogmatic religions and atheists alike; old, because apart from the more recent monotheistic religions it is the universal religion of humanity.
Many age-old pagan principles such as reverence for nature, recognition of many independent gods and spiritual beings, are found throughout the world. In the indigenous religions of Europe, those of the ancient Celts, Greeks and Romans for example, and in modern religions such as Hinduism and Shinto, traditional pagan perspectives can be seen.
Paganism has re-emerged in the modem West to fulfill contemporary needs. The old religions, with their stories and ideologies have inspired many and reassured others. Respect for the ways of our ancestors, the forces of nature and the spiritual world leads us not only to new ways of thinking about how we interact with one another, but also with the planet and the cosmos as a whole. Many see unity in diversity, the responsible exercise of personal freedom and trust in the whole, allows us to recognize many divinities just as we recognize many people, each with their unique talents and liabilities, within the broad fellowship of humanity. Just as there are many people and many deities, so are there many spiritual paths. As the pagan senator Symmachus observed to the Christian Roman emperor, “One road alone cannot lead to so great a mystery.”
Neopaganism is a category of religions which have many origins while at the same time often having many characteristics in similar. Celebrations full of joy and challenges are common among pagan traditions. We revel in the adventures of life and the challenges of the physical world. Most pagan religions emphasise individual beliefs and not a centralised theological authority. For most, paganism is not merely a religion of belief but one of action and participation, from joyful communal festivals to the inner discipline of personal meditation. It also provides a viable path a for a pluralist, multicultural society, and in this way it can lead us into the future. Paganism has become more self-confident and more self-aware over the 30 years of the Pagan Federation’s existence.
Pagans may follow a particular tradition or set of beliefs with a group of like-minded followers or they may follow their own inspiration. In general, paganism is not dogmatic. Pagans pursue their own beliefs as a direct and personal experience.
The Pagan Federation International recognizes the rich diversity of traditions that form the body of modem paganism. In a brief introduction such as this, it is impossible to describe each and every pagan religion. Rather than attempt this, on this site you will find an introduction to to several common pagan belief systems. Among these, six of the most common are:
Men’s spirituality; and
This is not an exhaustive list, but these six systems provide a good overview of modern pagan practices. Some pagans call themselves simply “pagans”. Those whose orientation is towards the Great Earth Mother and the preservation of her kingdom, our planet, may call themselves “Ecopagans”. Others may define themselves as followers of a particular pagan belief tradition, for example, Asatruar, Wiccan, Druid, Shaman, Goddess-worshipper, etc. Some may call themselves pantheists, meaning that they identify divinity with all things and the universe.
People come to paganism in many ways: through reading the myths of our ancestors; through experiencing a sense of the divine in nature (which can be internal or can be pure and simple a feeling that spiritual and supernatural forces inhabit the trees, forests, fields and hills); through an awareness that their inner response to the divine coincides with that of a traditional belief system; or through participating, sometimes purely by chance, in a pagan festival, ceremony, conference or workshop. This may be at some gathering formally designated as pagan, or at some other event where pagan celebration may arise spontaneously, such as at folk festivals.
There are no particular admission ceremonies which make people pagans. People consider themselves pagans if their beliefs match those of pagan thought. Some particular pagan religions may have entry through a ceremony of dedication, profession or initiation, but people can be pagans without any formal rite.
Paganism is not administered by a hierarchical bureaucracy. The pagan movement is made up of individuals and small autonomous groups linked by common traditions. Organizations such as the Pagan Federation International serve to provide networking and contacts between individuals and groups and to organize larger events such regional and national conferences. At local level, “moots” have developed, which are meetings of pagans in pubs or private houses for debate and socializing. There are also organizations which cater for particular pagan religions and paths. Their addresses are included on the relevant pages of this web site. The PFI does not however undertake to recommend other organizations, but rather to act as a contact point.