Originally Posted by sikhphilosophy
What exactly do Pagans believe?
That question is even harder to answer than what Christians believe. Many pagans worship nature, but there are nature-worshippers who don’t call themselves pagans, like the naturalistic pantheists
. Many pagans believe in a multitude of Gods and Goddesses, polytheism, but there are some polytheists who aren’t pagans, like the Mormons (a Christian sect). Some who call themselves pagans are neither nature-worshippers nor polytheists, but their paganism consists in working magic, like the Thelemites. There is no easy way of classification. I would say all practitioners of Wicca, Hellenismos, Ásatrú, Religio Romana, Kemeticism, Neocelticism, Druidism, Romuva, Hinduism, Native American religion and African religion (and this is just a partial list) are pagans. Jews, Christians and Muslims certainly aren’t. Buddhists aren’t either. Taoists may qualify, if their belief in Gods has any impact. Shintoists perhaps also. Atheists can be pagans if they revere nature and call themselves pagans.
What do Wiccans believe? Are they similar belief systems or different?
Wicca is a branch of neopaganism. It is a 50 year old religion, founded by British civil servant Gerald Gardner. It centres around the worship of an equally balanced female divinity (the Goddess) and male divinity (the God) by means of magical rituals and spellcasting. Magic and energy work is all done in a circle, which demarcates sacred space. Work with the four elements, Air, Fire, Water and Earth, is also important. Material tools are used in ritual, such as the athame, or magic knife, which symbolises the God (phallus), and the chalice or cup, which symbolises the Goddess (womb).
Wiccans may or may not believe that “all Gods are one God, all Goddesses are one Goddess” (duotheism); Traditional and Eclectic Wiccans are divided on that point (I’m an Eclectic, I believe each God and Goddess is a distinct, individual person). Wiccans also usually believe in an endless cycle of reincarnation, in which humans are forever reborn into other humans. The principal ethic behind Wiccan spellcasting is “if it harms none, do as you will.” Negative spells and black magic are shunned, and Wiccans believe their penalty is a rebounding of their effect upon the caster, called the Threefold Law.