Neo-Paganism is a life-affirming religion. Neo-Pagans seek to live life as an end in itself. The meaning of life, for them, is not to be found in another world or a future existence of a different metaphysical character. They strive to live in the “here and now”.
Neo-Pagans understand alienation or existential “rootlessness” in our own psyches and in our culture to be the inheritance of modern humankind. They see this manifest in social injustice, patriarchalism, personal neurosis, and environmental desecration. They seek to cure this alienation by reconnecting with the sacred dimension of nature and their own selves. This is sometimes referred to as “re-enchanting the world”.
Neo-Pagans have a complex and original theology. Many Neo-Pagans are pantheistic. They experience divinity not as something outside of us, but as something we are a part of. They a perceive a “deeper” (as opposed to a “higher”) power, which is present in nature, in our own selves, and in the process of our lives. They seek to live in accordance with this deeper, sacred dimension.
The Divine Feminine
Neo-Pagans recognize a divinity which both manifests through and transcends gender. To the extent that Neo-Pagans acknowledge a male aspect of divinity, they also acknowledge a female aspect, often called simply “the Goddess“. Neo-Pagans women exercise religious power equally with men.
Neo-Pagans perceive the essential nature of the cosmos — including divinity, the world, and ourselves — to be changing. Consequently, they believe no account of God/dess is ever complete or final. However, they also perceive that the changing cosmos follows a pattern, one that is cyclical, represented 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, as well as in the ebb and flow of psychological energies in a individual’s life. Many Neo-Pagans perceive this cycle to be the underlying unity to an eternally changing cosmos, a Great Goddess behind the multiplicity of divinities.
Gods and Myth
Neo-Pagans have a sophisticated understanding of the importance and function of myths in human life and of the nature of the gods in mythology. Neo-Pagans may worship or honor one or more gods of ancient paganisms or even gods of their own imagining. Often, these gods take the form of modern archetypes, like the Dying and Rising God and the Triple Goddess. Many Neo-Pagans honor an immanent Great Goddess of nature or the Earth, sometimes called “Gaia”, and a male God who complements the Great Goddess. Neo-Pagans have different beliefs about the nature of the gods. For some Neo-Pagans, they are metaphors for natural processes or human experiences. For others, they are psychological archetypes.
Neo-Pagans strive to attune themselves to the rhythms of nature and to root themselves thereby in time and place. To that end, they celebrate in ritual form the turning of the seasons and the solar solstices and equinoxes. Neo-Pagans create rituals in order to relate their experiences and their lives to the larger cycle of life. In so doing, they seek a re-sacralization of their experiences, their lives, and the world.
Darkness and Death
While Neo-Pagans are life-affirming, they recognize that death is a part of life. Nature is both beautiful and savage. They honor violence as a part of the cycle of life, but only when it is creative. They perceive that pain and suffering are an inevitable part of the cycle of life. Neo-Pagans embrace darkness and death as a natural part of the cycle of life. They seek rest, wholeness, wisdom, and psycho-spiritual power in the dark tide of the cycle.
Eclecticism and Tolerance
Neo-Pagans are eclectic and non-traditional. They seek life-affirming symbols and teachings from many traditions. Neo-Pagans honor the essential diversity of nature and life. While they are pluralists and tolerant of other beliefs, they are nevertheless selective in choosing what works for them. Neo-Pagans reject all claims to exclusivity and oppose all who seek to deny the freedom of others to believe or practice their religion as they will.
Embodiment and Sexuality
Neo-Pagans hold these things to be sacred: all life, the earth, nature, our selves, our bodies. They experience the body and the earth as a source of wisdom to which we should listen. They experience embodied life as good and believe that the sensual aspects of life should be enjoyed. They do not attach guilt or shame to sexual desire or consensual sexual activity. On the other hand, they seek to avoid mistaking vulgar commercialization of sexuality with sacred sexuality.
- What is a life-affirming religion?
- What does interconnectedness mean?
- What is the re-enchanting of the world?
- What do Neo-Pagans believe about God?
- What is pantheism?
- What does it mean that God is changing?
- What does the cycle of life mean for Neo-Pagans?
- Are Neo-Pagans really polytheists?
- What gods do Neo-Pagans worship?
- Are Neo-Pagan gods real?
- What stories (myths) do Neo-Pagans tell?
- Why do Neo-Pagans perform rituals?
- What is different about Neo-Pagan rituals?
- What do Neo-Pagans believe about death?
- Why aren’t Neo-Pagans afraid of the dark?
- Why are Neo-Pagans eclectic?
- What are Neo-Pagans ethics?
- What is a nature religion?
- How do Neo-Pagans think about sex?