The Following is an Excerpt from PAN - the Pagan Awareness
Network of Australia
Truth & Tales
Is Paganism an ‘Earth-Based Religion’? Paganism is often
referred to as ‘earth-based’.
Although this is correct it must be remembered that Paganism is
not a singular or uniform belief-system. It is a complex term
with a broad application. ‘Earth based’ infers an aspiration to
be in harmony with the cycles of nature (birth, death, rebirth)
and the natural world.
What sort of ‘gods’ do Pagans believe in ? Pagans can approach
the idea of ‘Deity’, God’ and/or ‘Goddess’ from a duo theistic,
polytheistic or even pantheistic perspective. Pagans can pray to
their deities, have faith in them and cultivate a personal
relationship with them, just like any other religion. Pagans are
free to draw from any pantheon or specific Deity they feel a
connection with. Some Pagans may prefer to devote themselves
exclusively to a particular Goddess or God however most Pagans
understand both the masculine and feminine as being equally
Do Pagans have ‘holidays’ like Christmas or Easter? Yes
— and lots of them too! And often they are not so different from
the secular holidays. Pagan holidays are most commonly focused
around the cycles of nature, times of personal significance and
sacred to the deities. Not all Pagan celebrations or religious
observances are the same nor happen at the same time. Some have
a lot of high ceremony and prescribed ritual. Others rely on
instinctive or organic approach.
The typical ‘Wheel of the Year’ refers to eight holidays from
Celtic and Northern European cultures, adapted by modern Pagans
to create a cycle of holidays that reflects modern and
traditional beliefs. What sort of Pagan am I? Many Pagans are
just ‘Pagan’, however many also identify with self-empowering or
descriptive words such as: Witch, Druid, Shaman, Healer,
Wiseman/Wisewoman, Magician, etc.
Do I have to be ‘initiated’ to be a Pagan? Initiation into any
kind of coven or tradition is not
required to be a Pagan. It may be a requirement for specific
paths within Paganism such as Wicca or some forms of Druidry.
Self-directed study and solitary practice is considered as
equally important and valid. Choosing to undergo training under
a designated teacher is a matter of personal choice. Newcomers
to Paganism may like to dedicate themselves to their deities and
their commitment to Paganism though a rite of passage, but this
is a different thing from a formal initiation into a ritual
group. Such things are always optional and depend on what an
individual is seeking from Paganism.
Do I have to use Magick?
(and why do I have to spell it with a ‘k’?) Not all Pagans use
Magick and there is no universal code of ethics in using Magick.
It is commonly accepted amongst Pagans that Magick is a natural
force and, like nature, is neither ‘good’ nor ‘evil’ but merely
reflects the aims or desires of the person using
Magick. Magick, spelt with a k, was devised by Aleister Crowley
in order to refer specifically to his definition of Magick. It
must be remembered that Crowley was a Ceremonial Magician and
his definition, though accepted by many Pagans, is not the only
definition. Most Pagans have their own personal opinions and
beliefs about Magick and its use.
Should I wear a pentacle to
show I’m a Pagan? A pentacle is a five pointed star surrounded
by a circle.
It is the most commonly seen symbol of Paganism but by no means
the exclusive one. It can mean different things to different
people, e.g. a specific symbol relating to Wicca or a personal
symbol reflecting an eclectic Pagan path. It is not a
requirement of Paganism to wear any
special symbolic jewellery. Amongst Pagans it is typical to see
a wide variety of sacred symbols: from jewellery depicting a
favourite God or Goddess, to natural objects such as crystals,
seashells, etc. Upright or inverted, a pentacle or a pentagram
is just a symbol and has no moral ‘value’ beyond that which the
wearer believes it to have.
Do I need to be psychic to be a
Pagan? Psychic abilities amongst Pagans are considered as merely
an extension of our natural human senses. However psychic
ability is not necessary to be a Pagan.
What is a ‘spell’? Spells in Paganism are a positive and
life-affirming process. A spell is the carrying out of any
simple act done to create change (utilising Magick). A spell can
also be understood as a type of prayer or observance for a
particular God or Goddess. Spells may take the guise of tying
knots in a cord, grinding herbs to put in a sachet, chanting;
indeed the variety of spells is infinite. Spells can be
followed from a book or created by an individual.
Because of the importance the natural world holds for Pagans,
spells often reflect the time of
year: e.g. spells for growth and abundance during spring and
summer, spells for harvesting or transition in autumn and
What sort of books about Paganism are there ? Which ones
should I read ? There are hundreds if not thousands of books
about Paganism. Like any other subject some books
are good, and some are not so good. The best approach is to read
widely, use common-sense and your personal instinct. Most books
are the opinions or recordings of one persons approach to
Paganism. If you feel a book contradicts something you read
previously, don’t panic, it is a typical feeling. If a book
makes you feel overwhelmed (or under whelmed) then it probably
means you need to read some different books. A good tact is to
visit different websites with recommended reading lists, or to
post requests to Pagan discussions boards explaining what you
are looking for and ask for books suggestions.
Awareness Network has produced a series of information brochures
about Paganism for those starting out on the path or for those
interested about Paganism. These can be downloaded from the PAN
Inc website: (www.paganawareness.net.au)
The internet is a wonderful tool for learning
about Paganism, but like books, many websites are filled with
misleading or contradictory information.
Some basic Pagan books
(but by no means conclusive) are:
Witchcraft and Paganism in Australia by Lynne Hume (Melbourne
Drawing Down the Moon by Margot Adler (Penguin)
First Directions: Paganism by Vivienne Crowley (Thorsons)
Pagan Pathways (New Edition) by Charlotte Hardman and Graham
Harvey (Thorsons Publishers)
The Urban Pagan by Patricia Telesco (Llewellyn Publications)