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If you are new to Paganism or magick, or if you are just interested in finding out about Paganism and magick, this page here to help provide basic information on modern Neo-Pagan religions and magick. The information here will give you a basic understanding of Paganism and help direct you to fairly easy to find good books for Pagan beginners and information seekers. We have tried to be sure that there are no fees (membership fees, etc.) to check out any of the information we link to from this page, but external sites are not under our control and can change their policies without notice.
What is Paganism?
One important thing to remember is that Paganism isn't a religion any more than Monotheism is a religion. Both Paganism and Monotheism are collective terms used to group very different religions that happen to share a few important classifying traits in common. For example, Monotheism includes the all the various forms of Judaism, Christianity and Islam (and many minor faiths). The beliefs of the individual religions grouped under the term "Pagan" probably vary even more than (say) Reform Judaism differs from Shiite Islam. As Wicca is currently the most well-known modern Pagan religion, many people tend to assume that all modern Pagans share the specific beliefs of Wicca (e.g. belief in a God and Goddess, the eight festival "wheel of the year," the Wiccan Rede, etc.). That assumption is simply incorrect. People who make that assumption generally end up very confused when they encounter some of the many modern Pagan religions that are not based on Wicca.
You may have heard a number of definitions of Paganism mentioned in books, on TV, and in newspapers and magazines. Most of these definitions are far too narrow. For example, modern Pagan religions are often described as "earth-based" or "earth-centered." This is certainly true of Wicca and some other Pagan religions, but many Pagan religions are only "Earth-based" in the sense that their adherents live on the planet Earth. The common dictionary definition of Paganism is a religion that isn't Jewish, Christian, or Islamic. With a slight modification, that's actually the best definition of a Pagan religion the author has seen: A Pagan religion is a religion that is not Jewish, Christian, or Islamic and self-identifies as Pagan. "Heathen" is an alternative word for "Pagan" that some groups, especially those of Northern European origin, prefer to use. It is the same thing as someone calling a gift basket a hampers gift, they mean the same thing.
A Few Pagan Religions
When many people think of modern Pagan religions, they think of Wicca. While Wicca is probably the largest Pagan of the modern Pagan religions and certainly gets the most media attention, there are actually many Pagan religions. Listed here are a few of the religions that many consider to fall under the collective term "Pagan":
And sometimes individuals and sub-groups of the following religions self-identify as Pagan:
Not only are there other Pagan religions besides those listed here, but many of these religions have sub-divisions (denominations/sects/traditions) within them.
Answers to Basic Questions About Paganism
One of the members of our message board has written a short article with the answers to some of the most common questions we get from those new to Pagan religions. If you are new to Pagan religions or are just curious about them, you might want to read Common Questions About Paganism before going any further.
More Questions and Answers
For general information about Paganism, the best place to start our list of frequently asked questions (and their answers) about Paganism. Note that while this FAQ is called the Teens and Paganism FAQ because it was originally written with the possible concerns of teen Pagans in mind, the majority of the information on in this FAQ, especially the information on Pagan religions, is just as useful to adults as it is to Teens.
In addition, here are a couple of older Paganism FAQs from the world of usenet newsgroups. The answers these lists give may sound dogmatic and authoritative, they should only be taken as representative of the authors' personal experiences and personal beliefs about Paganism. Not every Pagan would agree with all of the answers provided.
Critical Reading for Pagans
There are a large number of books and thousands of web sites on various Neo-Pagan religions. Some provide excellent information, some provide good information, but many provide questionable or bad information. Most (including this site) provide a mixture. It can be hard to tell the good from the bad on a subject you aren't familiar with -- unless you read critically. Here's a link to an excellent article on reading Pagan material critically.
Here is a link to an article that explains, from a Neo-Pagan point of view, what a credible book is and ways to determine if a book should be considered credible.
This site also has over 225 reviews of books (and divination decks) which can help you decide if a given book is worth your reading time and/or your purchase money.
Finding Other Pagans
One of our members, Jenett, has written a couple of good articles on this subject on her web site:
The Witches' Voice
The Witches' Voice is a large, excellent Wiccan site. While it is aimed mainly at Wicca (the largest religion within the umbrella of modern Paganism), there are a couple of features there useful to anyone seeking information on Paganism or Wicca. (The Witches' Voice can be a confusing site for those not already familiar with it, here's a link to article on finding things on WitchVox: "Using Witchvox â€“ a walkthrough".)
Other Beginner-oriented Articles at The Cauldron
Our web site contains a number of articles (most from a Wiccan point-of-view unfortunately) that are useful to the new Pagan. Just remember these articles do not contain "the truth," they only contain what the authors believed to be true at the time they wrote the article.
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