Wicca is a form of contemporary Witchcraft, just one form of Paganism. Wicca is the “tradition” in Pagan Witchcraft, founded by Gerald Gardner in the 1950s. Traditions of Pagan Witchcraft include Feri Witchcraft, an ecstatic form of Witchcraft founded by Victor Anderson in the 1950s, and Dianic Witchcraft, a feminist form of Witchcraft founded by Zsuzsanna Budapest in the 1970s. Witchcraft is simply one “path” within Paganism which include: Druidry, Shamanism, Ceremonial Magic, Reconstructionism, Polytheism, Heathenry, Animism, and others. There are Pagans who do not follow any of these symbolic paths, and see “Paganism” as its own path. These are referred to as “eclectic Pagans” or “Neo-Pagans” in order distinguish themselves from traditional or retrospective forms of Paganism.
Neo-Paganism contrasts from Wicca in many ways. Unlike Wicca, which came to practice post-war England and was heavily influenced by Western esotericism, Neo-Paganism is more a product of the 1960s American Counterculture and the feminist and environmentalist movements of the 1970s. Dennis Carpenter describes Neo-Paganism as a “synthesis of historical inspiration and present-day creativity”. It is difficult to generalize Neo-Pagans. There is no central Neo-Pagan authority, likely due to their suspicions on the idea of organized institutions. The majority of Neo-Pagans in U.S. practice alone (“solitaries”) and do not belong to any larger group. Despite this, the website Adherents.com reports how “Neo-Pagans as a whole have a remarkably cohesive, identifiable culture and possess shared value set, even more so than religions such as Christianity, Islam or Judaism when taken as a whole.” Below are a list of values common among Neo-Pagans.
Neo-Paganism is a life-affirming religion. Neo-Pagans seek to live life as an end. For them, the meaning of life is not to be found in another world or a future existence. This world is neither “fallen” nor a prison from which we must escape. Neo-Pagans strive to live in the “here and now”. It’s a religion with roots in nature. Neo-Pagans perceive nature as both sacred and interconnected. Nature, including its human and alien inhabitants, have intrinsic value to the Neo-Pagan. They perceive that we are immersed in a vast web of life which is our true community. Many Neo-Pagans are active environmentalist. Neo-Pagans feel that human beings have become tragically disconnected from nature and our natural selves as a result of the derealization of nature. The result of this disconnection is social isolation, injustice, patriarchalism, personal anomie and neurosis, and environmental desecration. Neo-Pagan seek to heal this rift by reconnecting with the sacred dimension of nature. This is often referred to as “re-enchanting the world”. Many Neo-Pagans are pantheistic. They experience divinity not as an outside experience, but as something we are a part of. Neo-Pagans perceive a “deeper” (as opposed to a “higher”) power, which is present in nature, in ourselves, and in mundane steps within our lives. They seek to live with this deeper, sacred dimension. Neo-Pagans perceive some kind of divinity, which both manifests and transcends through gender. To the extent that they acknowledge a male aspect of divinity, Neo-Pagans acknowledge a female aspect, referred to as “the Goddess”. Neo-Pagan women practice religious power equally with men.
Neo-Pagans perceive the essential nature of the cosmos (including divinity, the world, and ourselves) to be constantly shifting. They also perceive the cosmos following a pattern, one that is cyclical and represented visually by a circle or spiral. This is reflected in the changing of the seasons, the movement of the sun, the changing face of the moon, the human life cycle, and in the ebb and flow of our lives. Neo-Pagans have sophisticated understandings on the importance and function of myth within human life, and the nature of the gods in mythology. They may worship or honor one or more gods from ancient myth or even modern gods derivative of their own imagination. These gods tend take the form of psychological archetypes like the Dying and Rising God, the Horned God, or the Triple Moon Goddess. Some Neo-Pagans honor an immanent Great Goddess of nature or the earth, sometimes called “Gaia”, and a male god who complements this Great Goddess. Neo-Pagans have different beliefs about nature of the gods. For some, the gods are literal beings, while for others they can be Jungian archetypes, metaphors for natural processes, and human experiences. Neo-Pagans strive to acquaint themselves with the rhythms of nature and try to live in the now. A common practice involving this thinking is the worship which comes with turning of the seasons and the solar solstices and equinoxes, called the “Wheel of the Year”. Samhain, which is celebrated on October 31st, falls about half way between the autumn equinox and the winter solstice. Neo-Pagans create their own rituals to relate their experiences and their lives to the grand cycle of life and to re-enchant the world.
While Neo-Paganism is a life-affirming religion, death is recognized as a part of life. Nature is both peaceful and destructive. Neo-Pagans perceive that pain and suffering are an inevitable part of the cycle of life. They embrace darkness and death as a natural part of the cycle of life. They seek rest, wholeness, wisdom, and spiritual power in the dark half of this cycle. Neo-Pagans are eclectic and non-traditional. They seek life-affirming symbols and teachings from both modern and ancient religious traditions to enhance their religious practice. Neo-Pagans honor the diversity of nature and life, and eschew sexism, racism, homophobia, or any other forms of intolerance. Neo-Pagans are pluralists and tolerant of contrast beliefs, however they are also selective in choosing what works for them personally. Neo-Pagans reject all claims to absolute truth and oppose all those who deny the freedom of others to believe or practice their desired religion.
Pagan is a broad term for numerous non-Christian identifying religion – modern Paganism as a broad array of different religions rather than a singular religion in itself – number of academics, especially in North America, consider modern Paganism to be a form of nature religion. Academic research has placed the Pagan movement along a spectrum, with Eclecticism on one end and Polytheistic Reconstructionism on the other. Most pagan religions express a worldview that is pantheistic, polytheistic or animistic. Polytheism, animism and pantheism are common features in Pagan theology. Rituals take place in both public and in private domestic settings. Some practitioners deter from the term “Pagan” altogether, deciding not to define themselves as such, but instead identify under the more specific name of their religion, like Heathen or Wiccan
Germanic Neopaganism-Heathenry, is a modern Pagan religion. Scholars of religious studies classify Heathenry as a new religious movement. Its practitioners model their faith on the pre-Christian belief systems which was adhered to by the Germanic peoples of Iron Age and Early Medieval Europe. To re-establish these past belief systems, Heathenry uses the remaining historical, archaeological, and folkloric evidence as a basis, however these approaches tend to vary greatly from each other.
Celtic Reconstructionist Paganism (also Celtic Reconstructionism or CR) is a polytheistic reconstructionist approach to Celtic neopaganism, which emphasizes on historical accuracy over eclecticism which can be found in different forms of Neo-druidism. This is an attempt to revive the practice, in a modern Celtic cultural context, pre-Christian Celtic religions. Paganism can be defined as anyone involved in any religious act, practice, or ceremony which is not Christian. The original Druids were priestesses and part of the judicial class of the ancient Celts.
The question of authenticity is one that imbedded in the heart of a recurring dilemma pagan movements worldwide. The main attraction and emotional energy of this movement is the authenticity claimed to be founded on the revival or reconstruction of this ancient religion which is also connected to a local cultural heritage landscape and ethnic identity. Since the seventeenth century, there have been a romanticist idealization of the indigenous cultures that serve as a model for utopian ideas, rituals and symbolic configurations. In western culture we see indigenous people portrayed as living noble, happy, spiritual lives in harmony with nature in contrast with the losses and damage wrought by industrialization. Modern western paganism is traced back to late 18th and 19th century romanticism, which flourished among the development of various modern nationalisms across Europe.
Modern pagans are not only interested in connecting with their own native roots but also draw similarities between themselves. A misconception about reconstruction within the Pagan religions is that it somehow is a religious practice in its own right, or otherwise an organized religious belief system. It is not, and this cannot be emphasized any harder. Reconstructionism is a methodology. It is not a formal religious practice. One cannot be a practicing “reconstructionist.” It is not, for a denomination within Heathenry, or Religio Roma, or any other Pagan religious tradition. Reconstructionism is a series of attitudes towards empiric and factual interpretation.
Paganism encompasses a number of religions, belief systems and practices. These practices include Asatrú, Celtic revivalism, Druidism, Goddess Spirituality, Heathenism, Paganism, various magical groups, New Age, a few occult groups, Sacred Ecology and Wicca. It also covers the interest of previously-uninvolved Westerners in Shamanism, Native American and Native Australian spiritualism, and other primitivist belief systems. The Pagan Federation defines a Pagan as “a follower of a polytheistic or pantheistic nature-worshipping religion” Generally, followers and fans are called Pagans with a capital “P” in order to differentiate them from “pagans”, which is a historic term to mean anyone not a member of the traditional monotheistic religions. In America, the term neo-Pagan is used for similar purposes.
In Ireland paganism is not a medium through you can develop or express nationalism. Irish nationalism and Irish paganism both take on a common reservoir of cultural resources, namely Ireland’s land, ancient monuments, language, myth and folk culture. Irish pagans gravitate towards romantic nationalism with its emphasis on shared culture, morality and spiritual values. Irish pagans see the ancient past as supporter in the discourse of greater inclusivity. These pagans have adapted traditions which are part of the catholic religion. This is evidence of the continuity of pre-Christian pagan practices within Irish Christianity.
Irish paganism emerged from a complex historical and sociopolitical milieu. Ireland is renowned for its historic landmarks and icons from Catholic history. The national Identity is inextricably linked with Christianity; Ireland is known as the ‘island of saints and scholars’. The political framework is blown up with both religion and nationhood. Irish culture has a hegemonic catholic ethos. The firmly based structure of Catholicism in the country has hindered the character of modern Irish paganism. Although Pagan practitioners identify spiritually as pagan they retain Catholic roots. Irish paganism is shaped by meanings and symbols taken from the countries cultural repository. Myth and folklore used as inspirational resources. The common cultural background involved in the development of Irish national identity during the founding of the Irish nation state, shows how contemporary paganism is connected to nationalist sentiment and political orientation. Traditional Irish cultural elements is part of the creative impulse found in their pagans. Irish paganism is less politicized than any other derivative, particularly Eastern Europe. There are reasons why the social situation is different in Ireland and why paganism is not so politically driven. The main reason is the gravitation of paganism toward the values of romantic nationalism. Romantic nationalism takes from the notion of what unites a particular socio geographical group is shared culture, and as a result mythology and folklore is seen as an important expressive form which displays a shared culture. Due to romantic nationalist themes, a concern for modern pagans is in identity politics rather than national politics. Romantic nationalism is the most influential philosophical strand when it comes to Irish pagan’s ideas of national Identity. Not only influenced by romanticism, the Irish pagan worldview is inspired by ideologies in secular fantasy art and literature. It is clear diverse social groups adhere to different traditions when defining their identities or ascribing their identities to themselves.
The concept of having shared Celtic history is important for many irish pagans. ‘Celtic’ has become a contemporary buzzword with multiple different meanings. For many Irish pagans and pagans of foreign nationality living in Ireland. It is its celtic identity that provides a sense of legitimacy for their religion as well as acquiring a sense of belonging to the land of Ireland.