The Pagan outlook is both new and old. New, because its respect for individual spiritual experience is unfamiliar to dogmatic religions and atheists alike; old, because apart from the more recent monotheistic religions it is the universal religion of humanity.
The age-old Pagan principles of reverence for Nature, recognition of many divinities, and insistence on the importance of the Goddess, the female divine principle, as well as the God, the male divine principle, are found throughout the world. In the indigenous religions of Europe, those of the ancient Celts, Greeks and Romans for example, and in modern religions such as Hinduism and Shinto, the Pagan outlook can be seen.
Paganism has re-emerged in the modem West to fulfill some urgent contemporary needs. The presence of the Goddess and her priestesses has inspired many and reassured others in a world dominated only by masculine images of power and authority. Respect for the ways of Nature leads us not only to natural medicine and ecological awareness but to recognition of the many spirits of place and of the Earth itself seen as a single living organism, the goddess Gaia. Unity is seen in diversity, the responsible exercise of personal freedom and trust in the whole, allows us to recognize many divinities just as we recognize many people, each with their unique talents and liabilities, within the broad fellowship of humanity. Since there are many people and many deities, so there are many spiritual paths. As the Pagan senator Symmachus observed to the Christian Roman emperor. 'One road alone cannot lead to so great a mystery."
Modern Paganism is a religion of celebration rather than obedience, of joy rather than duty. We revel in the adventures of life and the challenges of the physical world. Paganism is not a religion of belief but of action and participation, from joyful communal festivals to the inner discipline of personal meditation. It is also a viable religion for a pluralist, multicultural society, and in this way it can lead us into the future. Paganism has become more self-confident and more self-aware over the 30 years of the Pagan Federation's existence.
Pagans may be trained in particular traditions or they may follow their own inspiration. Paganism is not dogmatic. Pagans pursue their own vision of the Divine as a direct and personal experience.
The Pagan Federation International recognizes the rich diversity of traditions that form the body of modem Paganism. In a brief introduction such as this, it is impossible to describe each and every one. Rather than attempt this, below you'll find an introduction to six Pagan traditions:
Wicca (Modern Witchcraft);
The Northern Tradition (Odinism, Asatru and Vanatru);
This is not an exhaustive list, but these six traditions provide a good overview of modern Pagan practice. Most Pagans call themselves simply - Pagans. Those whose orientation is towards the Great Earth Mother and the preservation of her kingdom, our planet, may call themselves Ecopagans. Others may define themselves as followers of a particular Pagan tradition: Odinist, Wiccan, Witch, Druid, Shaman, Goddess-worshipper, etc. Some may call themselves pantheists, meaning that they believe the Divine is immanent or in-dwelling in Nature.
People come to Paganism in many ways: through reading the myths of our ancestors; through experiencing a sense of the Divine in Nature - a feeling that spiritual forces inhabit the trees, forests, fields and hills; through an awareness that their inner response to the Divine is not to a male God but to a female deity the Great Goddess; or through participating, sometimes purely by chance, in a Pagan festival, ceremony, conference or workshop. This may be at some gathering formally designated as Pagan, or at some other event where Pagan celebration may arise spontaneously, such as at folk festivals.
There are no particular admission ceremonies which make people Pagans. People consider themselves Pagans if their beliefs match those of Pagan thought. Particular Pagan denominations may have entry through a ceremony of dedication, profession or initiation, but people can be Pagans without any formal rite.
Paganism is not administered by a hierarchical bureaucracy. The Pagan movement is made up of individuals and small autonomous groups linked by common traditions. Organizations such as the Pagan Federation serve to provide networking and contacts between individuals and groups and to organize larger events such regional and national conferences. At local level, "moots" have developed, which are meetings of Pagans in pubs or private houses for debate and socializing. There are also organizations which cater for particular Pagan paths; their addresses are included under relevant chapters. however, the PF does not undertake to recommend other organizations, but rather to act as a contact point.