In his book Contemporary Paganism, Graham Harvey observes that most Neo-Pagans rarely indulge in theology. “Most Pagan groups offer their world-view, not so much as ‘Truth’ or divine revelation to be assented to, but as ‘Beauty’ to be appreciated.” What Starhawk says in The Spiral Dance about Neo-Pagan Witchcraft might be said of Neo-Paganism generally: it is “a religion of poetry, not theology.” Likewise, what R. R. Marett wrote of primitive religion is true of Neo-Paganism: it “is not so much something thought out as danced out.”
In spite of these observations, there is a place for theological (or thealogical) reflection in Neo-Paganism. But for Neo-Pagans, theology must be grounded in experience. Thus, M. J. Weaver explains, “The formula ‘first the appearance, then the dance, then the story’ specifies the proper relationship among theophany, ritual and theology.” Rather than seeking to define the truth about divinity, Neo-Pagan theology can best be understood, like poetry, myth, and ritual, as yet another way to express and explore our relationship with the divine.
Neo-Pagan beliefs about divinity vary widely. There are theistic Neo-Pagans, non-theistic Neo-Pagans, and everything in between. In general, Neo-Pagan beliefs differ from those of monotheists, like Christians, Jews, and Muslims. Some Neo-Pagans are polytheists or henotheists, and others are pantheists or panentheists. Some are duotheists, and others are monists. Some are animists.
While not all Neo-Pagans hold these beliefs, in general Neo-Pagan theology has four principal characteristics:
- Neo-Paganism is pantheistic in that it views divinity as immanent and the material universe as a theophany, a manifestation of divinity. Neo-Pagans see the earth, the body, and sexuality as sacred.
- Neo-Paganism is polytheistic in that it recognizes a plurality of deities or aspects of Deity.
- Neo-Paganism honors the divine feminine; it recognizes that divinity manifests itself as masculine and feminine, while also transcending gender.
- Neo-Paganism sees divinity as changing or evolving, as part of a process that is itself divine, sometimes symbolized by a circle or spiral.