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Science - Philosophy

Common Pagan Rituals and Beliefs

Paganism is an ancient type of religion which has quite an inauspicious

reputation today. There are many types of paganism, most date back

thousands of years, which include Wicca, Witchcraft, Paganism, and a few

other lesser known and practiced variations. Yet all of these religions

are similar and share common beliefs. Wicca is the most common of these,

as it also demonstrates the shared belief of doing good that is common to

most forms of paganism. Another common belief, is to gather in small

groups, called covens, to practice pagan rites and ceremonies with others.

There are many ancient beliefs, archaic rituals, and forgotten traditions

that are practiced by pagans. Many of these are also the origins of

widely practiced traditions in the Christian-dominated world of today.

A defining characteristic of many pagan religions, especially Wicca, is

the worship and closeness to nature. Pagans treat animals kindly and

respect all things, living or nonliving, as though they were a person (Roy

N. p.). They also share the worship of their nature gods, which increases

their respect for all that is around them (Roy N. p.). Pagans are very

sensitive people that also have a high regard for personal privacy (Roy N.

p.). With this belief of privacy, many pagans have more time to keep in

touch with their inner selves and with the nature around them. Wicca, a

more popular pagan religion, focuses on the Earth and uses pure white

magic to help others (Roy N. p.). In fact, the Wiccan creed is, "An it

harm none, do as thou will," which agrees with the "good" philosophy

(Beliefs N. p.). Altogether, pagans have a great deal of emphasis on the

life and beauty of the nature that thrives around them and are radically

different than the mythical rumors of witches that have been given to them

over time.

Another defining characteristic of many pagans is the dedication to

knowledge and self exploration (Roy N. p.). In fact it has been said

that, "Witchcraft is the oldest, most irrepressible religion in the world

because it stimulates the intellect, promotes a simple, practical way of

life, and most importantly, is emotionally satisfying" (Art N. p.). There

is a set of beliefs, called the Laws of Magic that help illustrate the

beliefs supported by Wicca and other pagan religions. Many of these laws

are practical, yet they also relate to the more religious aspect of

paganism. One of the most important laws, the Law of Knowledge, states

that witches believe that all knowledge is power, no matter how big or

small (Bonewits N. p.). A related law, the Law of Self-Knowledge, states

that witches should truly know themselves, for this prevents doing harm to

others, once the understanding of the harm is seen (Bonewits N. p.).

There are many other laws, one such law explains that coincidence does not

exist, but that everything is part of a larger plan (Bonewits N. p.). The

Law of Similarity states that similar representations of things can be

made to represent them, such as voodoo dolls (Bonewits N. p.). The Law of

Personification stat>

Transfer interrupted!

, concrete or

abstract, can be considered alive for whatever purpose (Bonewits N. p.).

One commonly known law, The Law of Perversity, also called "Murphy's Law,"

states that if anything can go wrong, it will (Bonewits N. p.). As if a

summary of all other beliefs, The Law of Unity says that everything is

linked together to every other thing, in any space or time (Bonewits N.

p.). So, as shown here, all pagans, whether Wiccan or not, follow the

basic guidelines and beliefs that knowledge is power. To support this

belief are many other more specific beliefs that help the individual learn

and grow.

Rituals and traditions also play a large role in Wiccan lives and

activities. The most common of these includes the rituals associated with

the new and full moons, as well as the 8 sabbats. The 8 sabbats are

equally divided throughout the year, along with the seasons, and help

attune the practicing Wiccans to the cycle of the year (Sabbats N. p.).

The first of these sabbats is Yule, practiced around December 21; it

represents the rebirth of the light and the awakening of new goals

(Sabbats N. p.). Candlemas, celebrated on February 2, banishes winter and

is the favored time for initiating new members into a coven of witches

(Sabbats N. p.). It is also tradition at this time to light all the lamps

in the house (Sabbats N. p.). Ostara, a familiar holiday, is usually

around March 21 and symbolizes balance and equilibrium. At this time of

peace, many pagans gather wildflowers in baskets and free themselves of

their pasts (Sabbats N. p.). Beltane, similar to Mayday but held on April

30, honors the fertility of the earth and is the sacred time of marriage

as well as the time for self-discovery, love, and union (Sabbats N. p.).

Midsummer, held around June 21, is a time for triumph and light, when

healing and love magic becomes suitable (Sabbats N. p.). Lammas,

practiced on August 2, celebrates the

harvest and the traditional time to teach others what has been learned

(Sabbats N. p.). The Autumn Equinox, approximately September 21, is the

time of balance and the time to gather dry plants and herbs (Sabbats N.

p.). Samhain, commonly called Halloween, is held on October 31; it is

when reincarnation is believed to take place (Sabbats N. p.). Samhain is

also called "the Witches' New Year" (Sabbats N. p.). The 8 sabbats

practiced by wiccans and other pagans are important for the transitions of

the season, but are only a small sample of the many rituals and traditions

of the pagan religions (Sabbats N. p.).

Another interesting aspect of pagan rituals and traditions is the fact

that many of the common holidays and traditions in today's culture possess

ancient pagan roots. The Christian holiday of Christmas, for example, has

its roots in the pagan festivals and customs of Yule (Sabbats N. p.).

Bringing in a tree from the winter weather to house the winter spirits was

a common practice (Sabbats N. p.). Pagans also would decorate the tree

with a bell to indicate the spirits' presence, food to nourish the

spirits, and a pentagram star on the top to symbolize the five elements of

nature (Sabbats N. p.). In fact, the red and green colors of Christmas

also come from a pagan tradition, that of the yule log being burned once

annually (Sabbats N. p.). The Christian Easter is another common holiday

that is derived from ancient pagan customs. Witches believed that the God

and Goddess would spend the time of Ostara (Spring Equinox) playing with

brightly colored eggs in the fields to represent childhood (Sabbats N.

p.). The tradition of collecting flowers in baskets in springtime is also

of pagan origin (Sabbats N. p.). For those who recognize Mayday, it was a

pagan practice to weave a web of life around a Maypole with ribbons as

well (Sabbats N. p.). Another, more commonly known, holiday with pagan

beginnings is Halloween, or the Samhain sabbat. It was believed that

spirits would leave the physical plane during this time (Sabbats N. p.).

Another more recognizable trait of the holiday could be seen when one

realizes that thousands of years ago, pagans used jack-o-lanterns and

gourds to decorate for the season (Sabbats N. p.). So, by looking at the

many practiced customs of the pagans that have been around for thousands

of years, one can discern how some traditions have come into play in

today's world.

It is severely apparent that there are many erroneous rumors related to

pagans and their rituals. Pagans have many rituals, but not one of these

relates to Christianity or the belief of the devil deity (Art N. p.).

Some of the more common rituals are initiation into a coven and

handfasting, or marriage. The ritual of initiation is a sacred ceremony

to bring in a new member of the coven (Hicks N. p.). The individual must

be highly acquainted with all of the members of the coven for over one

year before initiation is possible (Hicks N. p.). Another commonplace

ritual is handfasting. Handfasting is a highly sacred rite that binds two

very close people together, similar husband and wife; the ritual is

symbolic of the union of the god and goddess (Hunter N. p.). All other

pagan rituals are impartially as sacred and highly valued, as well as

enjoyed. Despite all of the misleading rumors, there are no rituals

depicting evil or anything to go against goodness belief that is practiced

by wiccans or related pagan groups.

Wicca and other similar pagan religions all reflect the mutual belief of

doing good and harming none. This, however, has been overlooked by others

for many centuries which has lead to inaccurate rumors. Aside from that

however, pagans still enjoy a rich and culturally satisfying life that

keeps in touch with their ancient beliefs. Along with this is their

passionate practice of the many rituals, including the 8 seasonal sabbats,

that help characterize the pagan doctrine. All of this and even more

truth can be found about these lesser known and often misconceived

religions classified as paganism.

Works Cited

Bonewits, P. E. I. The Laws of Magic. Online. Necronami Net. Available

HTTP:, 30 Nov. 1996.

General Beliefs. Online. Necronami Net. Available HTTP:, 15 Dec.


Hicks, J. Brad. Ceremony of Initiation. Online. Necronami Net.

Available HTTP:, 15 Dec.


Hunter, Ryan. Handfasting Ceremony. Online. Necronami Net. Available

HTTP:, 15

Dec. 1996.

Roy, R. Thirteen Questions. Online. Necromnami Net. Available HTTP:, 30 Nov. 1996.

The Ancient Art. Online. Necronami Net. Available HTTP:, 30 Nov. 1996.

The Sabbats. Online, Teleplex Communications, Inc. Available HTTP:, 8 Dec. 1996.

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