The Old Ways...In the Modern Age
There is a wealth of information on the Internet and elsewhere about Paganism. Here is a small sample of the tools, customs, holidays, and practices of Paganism. This is in no way the only view or definition of these topics. Paganism is a very diverse religion with several beliefs and practices. No one individual belief or practice is considered the "right" or "only" way. The following are just examples of the more common aspects of what you may find within the Pagan Community.
The term "Pagan" is used to describe practitioners of Pre-Christian Religions and cultures, while "Paganism" and "Neo-Paganism" are umbrella terms for the practices and beliefs of Pagans. The Gods of Paganism are mostly Nature based and drawn from a rich diversity of mythologies such as Greek, Norse, Egyptian and Celtic. Due to the vast complexity of the various beliefs systems Pagans adhere to, it would not be feasible for us to explain each one here. However, we hope to impress upon you some of the more common threads found among the Pagan Paths.
There are many paths (or denominations) of Paganism, the most poplar of which is Wicca, a modern revival of the ancient art of Witchcraft. There are even several different forms of Wicca to practice, such as Celtic, Norse, British Traditional and Saxon. One of the common threads they all share is the Wiccan Rede, "An it Harm None, Do as Thou Wilt". For many Wiccans, the Rede is simply stating that you are free to do as you wish, as long as you cause harm to no one including yourself. This sounds simple enough at first, but upon further examination, and taking into account the belief many Pagans have of the interconnectedness of the Universe, we find that this statement is virtually impossible to adhere to. There is a perpetual balance in Nature which prevents something from being created without something being destroyed first. It is our belief that anything we do will eventually cause some form of harm to someone, somewhere out there. Even the act of doing nothing at all can be harmful to yourself or others. Due to this, many Wiccans are now modifying their definition of the Rede to state: You are free to do as you wish, as long as you do not maliciously and knowingly cause harm to anyone, including yourself. With this modification and the teachings of personal responsibility, the Rede can be more practically followed.
Other paths within Paganism are usually derived from a reconstruction of Pre-Christian Nature Religions, also known as Neo-Paganism ("New" Paganism). These reconstructions take on many forms because their customs and practices are drawn from ancient writings or mythology. Personal interpretation of these texts and mythologies play a substantial role in the development of a Pagan belief system. Therefore it is not unusual to find Pagans practicing the same path while adhering to very different belief structures.
No one can claim that there is any "One True Path" of Paganism. There are just as many forms of Paganism as there are practicing Pagans. Many Pagans will agree that if someone is following a positive, life affirming path which strives to obtain balance of one's self with Nature, then they could be considered Pagan. Pete Pathfinder, founder of the ATC, once said, "The only TRUE Religion is the one you practice when no one else is looking." And to that we couldn't agree more.