What Do Pagans Do?

via pluralism.org

Pagan traditions have a strong focus on ritual, and practitioners may draw from multiple sources or follow a single contemporary Pagan tradition.The largest of the latter is Wicca, a form of religious witchcraft that includes dozens of lineages, paths, and styles. Other traditions include Druidry, non-Wiccan forms of religious witchcraft, Heathenry and Ásatrú (Northern European Paganisms), feminist Goddess worship, and a variety of reconstructionisms—including Greek, Egyptian, Celtic, Roman, Canaanite—as well as other historical religions. Some practitioners of Afro-Caribbean religions also may consider themselves to be Pagan, while others do not.

Pagan rituals commonly focus on honoring a deity or deities; observing natural cycles, such as seasonal changes or the waxing and waning of the moon; or celebrating rites of passage, such as birth, transitioning into adulthood, marriage, and death. Although the form of ritual varies by tradition, Pagan rituals tend to engage the participants physically. Rituals often include drumming, chanting, and dancing. Some Pagans offer food or drink to their gods or ancestors; these offerings may be shared by the participants as part of a feast, or sometimes disposed of ritually. Representations of earth, air, fire, and water may also be employed for cleansing and consecration; for instance, participants might anoint themselves with salt water (earth and water) and burn incense (air and fire) as part of ritual preparation.

Pagans generally do not proselytize and, while classes and retreats may introduce people to the path, the initiative to practice is with each individual. Some Pagans also participate in other religious communities such as churches or synagogues. From the 1970s through the early 1990s, the source of growth in Paganism was through small groups—variously called groves, nests, covens, or circles. After the mid-1990s, the availability of the internet and communications technology increased access to religious material for geographically isolated Pagans, who slowly grew into a majority in the movement.