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Pagan Fools FAQ -- DRAFT

Welcome to Pagan Fools! While we encourage new folks to post, we're presenting this FAQ to make it easier to jump in. This FAQ covers information about Paganism, for those who may not be familiar with it, as well as information specific to this message board.


Everyone has a different answer to these questions, and most of us are right! There is no One Truth in Paganism, just as there is no One Path. Each person sees things just a little bit differently than the next. And we're all still seeking answers ourselves; if you ask a question of five Pagans, you're likely to get seven answers. It's up to each individual to find his or her own Truth. The following questions and answers were compiled from many different Pagan Fools in April of 2002.

What is a Pagan?
A Pagan is someone who follows a spiritual/religious path rooted in, but not necessarily identical to, pre-Christian fertility-based nature religions. This includes Wicca, Asatru, Santeria, Druidry, Family Tradition Witchcraft and many other traditions. (Jhereg, TheMoonglade)

What do Pagans do?
Mundanely, the same thing everyone else does: work, watch TV, pay bills, spend time with friends and family [well, Jhereg doesn't watch TV, but he's weird]. Spiritually/religiously, this can vary greatly depending on the particular path or tradition a Pagan is following. Some paths focus on magical aspects, some focus on folklore and history, some focus on nature and personal spiritual growth, some might focus on their relationship with the gods of their chosen cultural pantheon, and some choose to incorporate all of these, some of these or even different aspects into their lives. Ultimately, it's a way of life that touches on all aspects of what we do daily. It's a life-long commitment to learning. (TheMoonglade)

Do Pagans have an ethical standard?
Most Pagans believe in some form of the Five Fold Path or the Wiccan Rede. The Five Fold Path states that the energy, be it "Good" or "Evil", you put out into the universe returns to you multiplied by five. So a good deed will reward you five times and an evil act will come back to haunt you five times. The Wiccan Rede states "An that it harm none, do what you will." This statement is very freeing and very binding at the same time. It puts the consequences of your actions solely on your shoulders. There are no Commandments telling you right from wrong. (tennisdeighter)

The short answer is "no" and "yes."

Pagans, in general, believe that each individual is responsible for finding their own way to spirituality. There is no "ONE TRUE WAY" that is right for everyone, so it would be difficult to establish a standard code of conduct.

That said, most Pagans do think of themselves as ethical people. To me, to be ethical, one needs to approach situations with an eye to what is fair to everyone involved in the situation.

To this end, many modern Pagans use the "law of returns" or "Karmic law" (using a decidedly WESTERN concept of Karma.) This "law", states that any energy you send out into the universe, any action you take, the energy or action will be returned to you, multiplied (some say 3 times, some say seven, some say ten.)

Wiccans have gone a step further, to define something similar to the golden rule, called the Wiccan Rede, the short version of which states, "'An it harm none, do what thou wilt." This is a variation of Crowley's Law, which is often misquoted. Crowley's version is, "Do as thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law. Love is the Law, Love under Will." (In order to understand this, I believe one must be familar with how Crowley defines Will, but that's another discussion altogether!)

The words many and often are used to indicate that not one of these things is universal to all Pagans or all people! (ishtarastarte)

As a Wiccan, I hear about the threefold law. But as an engineer, I took a lot of science classes, and I have books about quantum physics for light summer reading; and it seems to me that the threefold law should violate some law of conservation of something-or-other. So I've always seen the "threefold" part as a matter of perception; after all, certain undesirable things feel worse if you think you've brought it on yourself; contrariwise, if you feel you deserve a boon, it's that much sweeter. So I agree, you get back what you send out; a gift demands a gift.

As far as "karma", I don't think the Wiccan idea known as the threefold law is "karma", though some people certainly misuse that word. As I understand it, karma is what keeps us on the Wheel of life, prevents us from attaining Oneness or whatever; whereas in Wicca we (most of us anyway) have no desire to leave the Wheel of Life; we just want to enjoy it, and learn from it, as much as we can. (Jhereg)

In the end, we all seem to agree that as you reap, so shall you sow. (TheMoonglade)

So, do you all do spells and, like, stuff?
Yes, and so does anyone who has ever uttered a prayer. We believe that we can affect our own environments by meditation and invoking the Goddess [or Divine Principle]. We do not believe in causing anyone harm, so negative spells are a definite no-no -- besides, they come back at you threefold. We also aren't able to turn anyone into toads [fortunately for Jerry Falwell]. (UhuraY2K)

Magic is a merely a tool, not the end goal of our path. Not all who work with magic are pagan, and not all pagans choose to work with magic. Of those who do, we respect and revere nature and do not break the laws of nature, i.e. the laws of physics. Magic is defined by some as "causing change in accordance with will;" by others as "using natural if little understood forces to affect needed change." [Jhereg defines it as causing change in consciousness in accordance with Will.] Many work with magic with the assistance of herbs, or candles, or stones/crystals to invoke the power of the earth. Some work with their chosen god or goddess to add divine power to their own. Most add personally raised energy to the mix before they release the energy, sending it on its way to complete its task. The power of positive thinking can be a potent force in anyone's life, not just the lives of pagans.

Magic is neither "black" nor "white" just as electricity is neither good nor bad. The intent of the magic user can either be benevolent or malevolent, but those who dwell on negative things tend to draw that back to themselves. All actions, magic or mundane, have consequences. (TheMoonglade)

How do you become a Pagan?
In some ways, it's the same as approaching any other spiritual practice. You may become interested by reading mythology or history. You may run across an intriguing reference in a book or on the web while exploring other religions. You may simply notice that spending time in nature makes you feel upbeat or rested or whole.

Whatever causes the inspiration, the next step is simply to explore the concepts on your own. Read books about mythology, history, paganism, spirituality, or anything else that seems related and interesting to you. Not everything that you read will be worthwhile, but the process of winnowing the chaff from the wheat will help you define what you believe and what is important to you.

Go out into nature and pay attention to what is happening around you. See how the sun rises or sets in the sky a bit higher or lower every day. Make time to watch the stars at night and follow the phases of the moon for a month. Get a feeling for what works for you and what makes sense to you.

After a while, you may feel the need to dedicate yourself to a particular path. You may want to find a like-minded coven or a teacher who can help you learn more. If you choose to join a group, they will probably have a set of requirements that you will need to follow in order for them to consider you a member of their group. You should look for a group whose beliefs are close to your own.

If you don't want to follow an existing path, you can choose to make your own. It will then be up to you to read, experiment, and explore. You can choose pieces from many paths that work for you or create something completely new. (Amphian)

I should add that you may, after exploring various options, decide that Paganism isn't for you after all. That's cool. Whatever path you choose, though, make sure it's the right one for you. (Jhereg)

Each of us became Pagan (or came to the realization that the name for what we'd been doing anyway was Pagan) in a different way; and some of the following posts show that you don't have to be Pagan to post here:






So what's up with the pentragram? Is it a Satanistic thing?
The pentagram is one of the earliest Western symbols used to represent deity. The Pagan pentagram is always represented with one point up, two points to the sides, and two points facing down. The four points on the sides and bottom represent the four elements. The point pointing upward represents spirit, and symbolizes the rule of spirit over all. The Pagan pentagram is often encircled, and many pagans use the pentagram in ritual or wear one as a symbol of their faith. Many consider the pentagram to have protective properties. The early Christians used the shape to denote the five wounds of Christ: one on each limb and the spear in the side. When we see star shapes adorning planes and worn by soldiers, we may be seeing modern artifacts of an ancient belief in the power of the star shape. The Satanic pentagram is inverted, with two points facing upward and the single point facing down. This represents matter prevailing over spirit, and also makes the shape of a goat's head. Western Paganism and Satanism share little in terms of beliefs and practices. Since most Pagans do not believe in Satan, they would have little in common with a religion based on the existence of such a creature. (melmaque, TheMoonglade)
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