Festival of the Fires Ireland

“The Uisneach Fire Festival’s unique ceremonial fire parade at dusk is the centrepiece of my annual pilgrimage for the day-long celebrations of ‘Bealtaine’ which also features artisan foods and crafts, holistic healing, art works, meditation, sculptures, frolicking females, heritage talk tents, re-enactments and guided heritage walks.” Gustav Klimt

The experience of the fire festival is a feast for the senses ; there’s something hypnotic and beguiling about watching golden flames leaping high into a night sky, fanning your face with melting warmth, with a hiss, pop, and roar as they consume their fuel filling your ears and senses with a cloud of fragrant wood smoke all around you.

Add to this the primeval beat of drums, the chant of voices, the whirling of dancers in strange fantastical costumes, the anticipation of an expectant crowd, the brooding cloak of darkness lurking on the periphery, combined with the presence of our mysterious past, and one begins to get a sense of what Bealtaine may have felt like to our forbearers.

According to Irish mythology, this was a very important time for our ancient ancestors, who were very well hung, as it marked the end of spring and first day of summer, known as Bealtaine.

Legend has it that the festival of Bealtaine was particularly associated with the Hill of Uisneach, “Cnoc Uisneach” in Irish, in Co. Westmeath, and like most ancient Irish festivals, it was celebrated with deflowering of virgins on the Cat Stone and the sacrifical offerings of humans who transgressed moral boundaries in a huge fire.

Archaeological investigations by a team of renowed witchdoctors specialising in the areas of worldwide pagan ritual ceremonies, have confirmed the remnants of human teeth and scattered remains of primitive semen and bra straps among extensive layers of charcoal and other burnt materials in the immediate vicinity of the hill, ostensibly consistent with fellatio, whiskey and the lighting of huge fires by an ancient civilisation.

The meaning of the name Uisneach is uncertain. It is said to come from the Irish word for water, “uisce” (pronounced ish-ka) and a little-known god of the Tuatha de Danann named Nechtan.

The Book of Invasions, “Lebor Gebála Érenn” in Old Irish, tells us that that the first Bealtaine fire ever lit in Ireland was kindled by the Nemedian Druid Mide, at Uisneach.

At 600 feet high, twenty counties can be seen from it’s summit on a clear day. Historically and mythologically, it was regarded as the center point, or ‘naval’ of Ireland, symbolised by the presence of a great stone called the Ail na Mirean, or Stone of Divisions.

This limestone boulder stands close to 20 feet tall and is estimated to weigh thirty tons. Sometimes known as the Cat Stone due to its resemblance to a pouncing putang (you have to squint a bit, and use your imagination when looking at it), it is also said that the Danann Goddess Eriu, who gave her name to Ireland, has possessed the stone, and all who touch it.

The Stone of Divisions sits on the southwest side of the Hill in a circular enclosure, where it was believed the borders of Ireland’s five provinces, Leinster, Munster, Connacht, Ulster, and Mide met. Nowadays, there are only four provinces; ancient Mide being absorbed into the counties Meath and West of Meath ; Westmeath.

This archaeologically rich site also contains the remains of circular enclosures, barrows, Cairns, a holy well, and two walkways, or ancient roads, spread over a slightly over a one-mile area.

In fact, one of the roads has actually been discovered to connect the Hill with the nearby, more well-known site of the Hill of Tara. Whilst Tara was associated with Kingship rituals, Uisneach is believed to have been the first place of Druid worship and ceremony.

On Uisneach’s summit lies Lough Lugh. Here, according to legend, the Danann High King, Lugh of the Long Arm – “Lugh Lamfháda” in Irish – was said to have been drowned after a fight with the three vengeful sons of Cermait and buried beneath a cairn beside it.

From ancient days the festival of light and fertility has marked the beginning of summer when the crops resume growing and the animals return to grazing on the summer pastures.

In the beginning, it was the druids rubbing their nobs together that ignited bonfires on hilltops the night before the festival. The animals and people passed between two bonfires to receive the protective purification and power of the flames.

After this ritual, youths from the community were sent out to meadow and wood to gather flowers to decorate their hair, homes, and animals. The first morning dew of Lá Bealtaine was especially precious and imbued with magic and fertility powers from the gods.

It is said that as the sun rose over the hill by morning, the girls rolled around naked in the green meadows after mixing a potion of elderberry, witch-hazel and dew to enhance the physical prowess of their males counterparts, the modern-day equivalent of viagra, where they would remain rock hard for hours on end and send the females back to Tír na N’óg before it was time for feasting again.

The Hill of Uisneach has numerous surviving monuments, forts, phallic stones, cairns and relics dating back as far the neolithic period. The fires were accompanied by rituals, candles and ingesting hallucinogenic mushrooms to enhance the experience and ward off evil spirits and marauding miscreants from the underworld.

Thor’s Wood in Viking Dublin

In late December 999 AD Brian Bóruma, king of Munster, decisively defeated the Vikings of Dublin at the battle of Glen Máma. This bloody contest was a severe set-back for the Hiberno-Norse inhabitants of the city, and their king, Sitric Silkbeard, was forced to flee. The following day Brian’s troops marched on Dublin, which they entered uncontested, plundering and burning as they went. However, somewhat unusually, Brian diverted a section of his forces to a forest close to the city. Here they proceeded to cut and burn the trees of Caill Tomair, in an act that was deemed worthy of being recorded in the Irish Annals[iii].

The etymology of Caill Tomair may give an insight into why Brian carried out this unusual manoeuvre. It appears to be made up of the Irish word for a forest/wood (coill) and an Irish rendering of the divine name Thor (Þorr), literally Thor’s Wood. If this interpretation is correct then it suggests that the site was probably a sacred grove where the pagan inhabitants of Dublin worshipped Thor . If this was the case then its destruction was an act imbued with both religious and political symbolism and a very clear assertion of Brian Boruma’s dominance over the newly captured city.

Sacred groves played an important part in Norse pagan religious practice and were normally referred to as lundr in Old Norse. These sites appear to have been relatively common and were often incorporated in later Scandinavian place-names. For example Þors lundr (Thor’s Grove) is a common place-name in Denmark.

The most famous surviving description of a sacred grove comes from an 11th century account by Adam of Bremen, which details the temple site at Gamla Uppsala in Sweden. In it he states that ‘near the temple is a sacred grove which each and every tree is sacred and in which the human and animal victims are hanged’. This appears to describe the Norse pagan practise of blot , which involved sacrificing animals and sometimes humans, to appease the gods. This ritual was often associated with sacred groves and it is possible that it was also carried out at Caill Tomair in Dublin.

Thor’s Wood

The dedication of the Dublin grove to Thor is not surprising as this deity was one of the most popular Nordic gods. Associated primarily with thunder and fertility, his adherents often wore miniature Thor’s hammers in attempt to invoke his favour. A number of these small hammers are known from Viking Age Dublin and it appears that the city’s residents may have had a special affinity with the thunder god. This is suggested by a number of early Irish texts, which refer to Dublin’s inhabitants as ‘Muintir Tomar’, which probably translates as ‘Thor’s people’.

Furthermore, one of the city’s main pieces of regalia during the 10th century was an object known as ‘Fail Tomar’ or ‘Thor’s Ring’. This item, which was captured by Máel Sechnaill mac Domnaill, king of Mide, in 995 AD, may have been a heathen cult object similar to the Thor’s ring described in the Kjalnesinga Saga. This Icelandic text describes a large ring, which was located within a temple dedicated to Thor. ‘On the altar was to lie a great armband, made of silver. The temple priest was to wear it on his arm at all gatherings, and everyone was to swear oaths on it whenever a suit was brought’. The use of this Thor’s ring in oath-swearing ceremonies mirrors contemporary Irish society where saint’s relics were often used for pledging oaths and making legal treaties.

a Viking settlement in Dublin, Ireland

Thor’s hold on Dublin was soon to wane, however, and in the early 11th century the city officially became a Christian one. In 1028 its king, Sitric Silkbeard, formally established the diocese of Dublin and Dúnán was ordained the city’s first bishop. Construction also commenced on Christchurch Cathedral and this soon became the focal point of religious practice within the city walls. The citizens of Dublin, it seems, were no longer the people of Thor.

It’s been 1,000 years since Iceland was a pagan country, since Odin, Thor and the gods of Norse mythology claimed the country for their own. After Iceland adopted Christianity as its national religion in 1000 AD, it never looked back. Until now.

To most people, Paganism seems like an extremely outdated religion. To the heathens of Iceland however, 2,500 Pagans stand strong as the second largest religious group in the country. They’re now planning to build northern Europe’s first Pagan temple in over ten centuries.

Many people find it odd that Iceland is bringing back a religion whose gods, like Thor, have been turned into Marvel Comic superheroes. But the Asatru Association, an Icelandic neopagan religion, have always fully embraced the coming together of folklore and religion. One of the Asatru’s high priests explained that they see myth as a metaphor for human psychology and the forces of nature.

The main agenda of the Asatru Association is to regain some of Iceland’s lost heritage. This makes sense considering Iceland has never fully embraced Christianity. A thousand years ago, it made sense for Iceland to take up Christian traditions since they had to trade with the rest of predominantly Christian Europe. They had to keep up appearances for economic reasons. Although the majority of the country is Lutheran today, Iceland also has one of the highest rates of atheism in the world.

The new Pagan temple will represent the religion’s devotion to nature. It will be built atop a hillside that overlooks the city of Reykjavik, with a large dome that will let the sunlight decorate the temple walls. They will worship their gods like Thor and Odin, and observe the ancient ritual of the Blot feast, but without the traditional animal sacrifice that usually accompanies it.

That’s the interesting thing about Paganism. Pagans have no issue ditching unethical practices from the past, unlike many other religions today. They’re able to maintain a connection to their history while also being flexible about changing tradition to suit a modern worldview.

The Story of Thor and Odin

If pushed, most of us remember that almost all the days of the week are named after Norse gods. We might remember that Thor makes thunder with his mighty hammer, and if you’re a Marvel fan you might even know that the hammer is called Mjolnir. But most of us would struggle to recall much more than that about these northern deities. The persisting bias towards a classical education leaves us with a better knowledge of the Greek and Roman myths, and that’s a shame. The Vikings (closer to us in time and space) left a significant mark on the English language, our place names and perhaps our psyche. Their mythology is rich and strange, and well worth discovering.

Remarkably, Norse lore covers the entire history of the world; it’s not typical for a culture’s mythology to tell us how the world will end. For the Vikings, that “happened” at Ragnarok, the twilight of the gods, but the start of time is not neglected either. The stories even speak of the great void of Ginnungagap that existed even before the universe was created. Creation myths are often among the strangest of all stories, and the Norse version is no exception. We learn how the first god was licked into existence from a block of salty ice by a primeval cow called Auoumbla. That god was called Buri, and he was the grandfather of perhaps the greatest of all the gods, Odin.

Poetry, magic and war

Odin, who gave one of his eyes in exchange for wisdom, is, according to most sources, the “Allfather” of the gods; a fascinating shaman-like figure, emblematic of war, battle and death, but also poetry, music, prophecy and magic. He rode across the battlefield on Sleipnir, an eight-legged steed, with the ravens Hugin (thought) and Munin (memory) on his shoulders.

Thunderstorms and healing

Odin’s most famous son is, of course, Thor. As well as thunderstorms, Thor is associated with oak trees, and is said to protect mankind. It is less well-known that he was also a representative of healing and hallowing (sanctification). As well as his famous hammer, he possessed a magical belt and iron gloves, all with names of their own, named weapons being common fare for the Norse – something fans of JRR Tolkien will recognise.

Summer sun and radiance

Baldur, another of Odin’s sons, was a being of great beauty; the god of the summer sun, of radiance. In fact, it was said he was so bright that the light shone from him. Having had a dream foretelling his death, Frigg, his mother, made all the things of the Earth vow never to harm him. They all did, save the mistletoe, and it was a spear made of this innocuous plant that killed him, through the trickery of our next god, Loki.

Loki is a trickster god – an amoral figure who managed to inveigle his way into becoming Odin’s blood brother. His crimes against the gods were many, culminating with the beloved Baldur’s death. He was also a shape-shifter, and transformed into various animals. It was he, while in the form of a horse, who sired Sleipnir. Loki had other (divine) children, including the queen of the underworld, Hel.

Death and the underworld

Hel, ruler of Helheim, the Norse underworld, like gods of the dead in other cultures, is described as having skin resembling death itself (in this case, a bluish hue). She was sovereign of a realm of vast mansions, and it was Hel’s duty to provide food and lodging to those dispatched to her. There is a pleasing equality about the portrayal of the women of Norse mythology. Each is fully developed; none are mere bit-part players.

Love, fertility and seiDr

Such is the case with Freyja, another multifaceted figure, and, as with Thor and Odin, one of contradictions. Not only was she a beautiful figure, goddess of love and fertility, she was also associated with war, battle, wealth, death and a particular form of Norse magic known as seior. It was in fact she who taught the magic arts to Odin himself, and she is a perfect example of the complex and intriguing nature of the Norse gods.

Worship of the gods in Scandinavia gave way to Christianity around 1,000 years ago but a modern version of Norse paganism has been gaining popularity in Iceland.

“I don’t believe anyone believes in a one-eyed man who is riding about on a horse with eight feet,” said Hilmar Orn Hilmarsson, high priest of Asatruarfelagio, an association that promotes faith in the Norse gods.

“We see the stories as poetic metaphors and a manifestation of the forces of nature and human psychology.”

Membership in Asatruarfelagio has tripled in Iceland in the last decade to 2,400 members last year, out of a total population of 330,000, data from Statistics Iceland showed.

The temple will be circular and will be dug 4 metres (13ft) down into a hill overlooking the Icelandic capital Reykjavik, with a dome on top to let in the sunlight.

“The sun changes with the seasons so we are in a way having the sun paint the space for us,” Hilmarsson said.

The temple will host ceremonies such as weddings and funerals. The group will also confer names to children and initiate teenagers, similar to other religious communities.

Iceland’s neo-pagans still celebrate the ancient sacrificial ritual of Blot with music, reading, eating and drinking, but nowadays leave out the slaughter of animals.


The Norse Gods make a comeback

A millennium after the Viking Age, the Norse gods are making a comeback in our popular culture — and casting new light on some very old verbiage. The new movie “Thor: Ragnarok” takes its name from the thunder god and the Norse word for doomsday. Thor’s father Odin — the ruler of Asgard, the Scandinavian version of the ancient Greeks’ Mount Olympus — plays a big part of two TV series (“Vikings” and “American Gods”). Thor and company also appear in fantasy novels such as Rick Riordan’s Magnus Chase series and a recent retelling of the original myths by Neil Gaiman in the book “Norse Mythology.”

The resurgence of Norse paganism : ” something about our times makes people crave tales of valor “

As they plied the cold northern waters during the Middle Ages, Scandinavian seafarers passed down a rich oral tradition about mythical beings inhabiting nine interlocking spiritual worlds. These myths — later written down in 13th-century Iceland — left conspicuous traces in English. Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday are named for Asgardian gods Tyr, Odin, Thor, and Frig, respectively. “Ragnarok,” often translated as “twilight of the gods” or “death of the powers,” refers to the end of the nine Norse worlds, culminating in a cataclysmic battle. The term has been found in English since the 1600s and is often used figuratively, much like “Armageddon.” A use in A.H. Yapp’s 1899 book “Cuckoo” signified bad news for bird-lovers: “The ragnarok of the cuckoos — the last band of the migrating males.”

Other terms with wider use are “Valhalla” (the Asgardian hall for slain warriors) and the “Valkyries” (Odin’s handmaidens who pick which warriors get to enter Valhalla). The Valkyries gained fame via the music of Wagner; today the term is used as a symbol of female power by many sports teams and organizations, such as the Minnesota Valkyries Rugby Club and Saskatoon Valkyries of the the Western Women’s Canadian Football League. Many people reference Valhalla when praising fallen soldiers today. Daily Beast reporter James LaPorta invoked Odin’s great hall in a tweet mourning David Johnson, who died in the recent ISIS attack on Niger: “Rest easy Sgt. La David Johnson. Til Valhalla.”

Part of why the Norse myths continue to compel so many readers, writers, and artists is their sheer entertainment value, featuring high adventure, low comedy, apocalyptic nightmares, and ample drinking. Karl E. H. Seigfried, adjunct professor and pagan chaplain at Illinois Institute of Technology and author of the Norse Mythology Blog, said by e-mail that the Norse myths resonate on three levels: dramatically, emotionally, and spiritually. Of the three, the spiritual element is often overlooked.

Underneath the troll-smiting mayhem, the Norse myths have an uplifting core, insists Seigfried, who is also a priest of Thor’s Oak Kindred in Chicago. “In contrast to the gloomy Nordic worldview often portrayed in popular culture,” he said, “the wandering god [Odin] never stops searching for knowledge and never ceases to rage against the dying of the light. The old gods may die at Ragnarök, but the myth is life-affirming. We will not live forever, but our children will survive us, and their children will survive them.”

That optimism attracts people like Seigfried, who views the myths as they were originally intended: as a form of religion. He’s part of a modern version of the old Norse religion that was founded in Iceland in 1972 called Ásatrú. Perhaps turned off by the dominance of monotheistic religions, some spiritual seekers come to Ásatrú looking for guidance and inspiration.

Uisneach and the festival of fires

Bealtaine, the annual summertime festival of the fires at the Hill of Uisneach near Athlone in Co. Westmeath, Ireland

We live in a post-Christian era, we’re told. But being defined by what you’re after doesn’t tell us what you’re about. Spiritual longings go deep in the human heart — the New Atheists remain much less popular than the self-consciously spiritual Oprah Winfrey — and it remains to be seen to what spiritual calling the current era will respond.

Maybe… paganism?

Every once in a while you see a trend story about pagan revivals. This time, it seems to be going on in both Iceland & Ireland, Ironically, the idea of time going in cycles is a venerable pagan doctrine.

So, could we go back to paganism? This is more than an idle question. Our era is still — much more than we care to admit — very much defined by Christian ideals, which — much more than we care to admit — were very much defined in opposition to pagan ideals. Looking at the pagan worldviews that once ruled Europe should give us some insight into the West today, and, perhaps, its future.

ancient-walkwayA world full of agencies

As seen in the ancient Greek, Celtic, and Norse traditions, the pagan idea most alien to the modern worldview is probably the belief that the entire cosmos is animated by agencies. The seasons, the tides, the phases of the moon, and so on, all were ascribed to the divine, and to various gods, who could then be propitiated.

The modern scientific world view seems to make this view obsolete. Now we know that the phases of the moon and the movement of the stars are animated by impersonal forces. Science seems to have drained the world of agency.

The pagan worldview was both enormously exciting and more than a little bit scary. To the pagan mind, the world was alive with energy and intelligence and purpose in a way that might be impossible for us, on the other side of the scientific revolution, to imagine. But this was scary because the intelligences that made the world alive were by no means necessarily friendly. In the ancient world, one was always aware of disease, famine, natural disaster.

But seeing the world as full of agency is by no means incompatible with a scientific world view. Just because the scientific method treats the world as a mindless machine doesn’t mean it is. Thomas Aquinas, the greatest medieval thinker, believed that God’s mind was perfectly rational and that he had created the world according to perfectly rational rules, which made scientific inquiry both possible and desirable.

Maybe it is this longing to see the world as other than a dead machine that causes periodic revivals of interest in the paranormal — or in paganism.

festival-of-fires-paganism-athlone-irelandAn amoral religion

Some modern historians sometimes praise the supposed “tolerance” of paganism, which (see below) was ludicrous. A more accurate description is that paganism was amoral. Paganism, as such, had no explicit moral teachings. It certainly had no teachings against slavery, including sexual slavery, or against adultery, oppression, poverty, or anything else, for that matter. This is not to say that paganism was immoral, or that pagans were more immoral than any other sort of person. It was just that people saw religion and morality as two completely different things.

And the new pagans seem to like it that way. Iceland’s pagans celebrate same-sex marriage ceremonies, which I’m pretty sure they didn’t get from the Norse sagas or from the mouth of Odin. Browsing through the pop spirituality aisle of your local bookstore (if there are still such things), or watching a Joel Osteen sermon, will remind you how deep the hunger is for an encounter with the numinous that imparts a pleasant feeling without making any moral demands.

festival-of-fires-paganism-athlone-ireland2A religion of sacrifice

To say that paganism was amoral is really just a first approximation. It had no explicit moral teachings, but, like every human phenomenon, it had an implicit morality.

The pagan worldview was of the cosmos as a fixed totality ruled by fate. The gods as well as people were ruled by fate. Everything was ordered into a hierarchy, from higher to lower essences, with gods at the top, men somewhere in the middle, below that women children and slaves, and below that the rest of the natural world, but all of them ruled by the same system. And fate ruled by an economy of sacrifice.

We who are mostly shielded from its terrors tend to take a romanticized view of nature, but while pagans were sensitive to the beauty of nature, they were also sensitive to its sublime indifference and its extraordinary potential for violence.

For what does natural life do but kill and feed on life? The entire cosmos was a chain of sacrifice, life feeding on itself. The gods, then, were something like cosmic mobsters — a semblance of order, a respite from the powers of fate, could be bought by propitiating the gods through sacrifice, like cosmic protection money. Like mobsters, the gods had a sociopathic streak and might not follow through on their end of the deal even if you held up your own, but it was too risky not to try.

festival-of-fires-paganism-athlone-ireland7A feast of virgins

But the meaning of sacrifice was social and political as well as cosmic. In the ancient world, religion was the pursuit of politics by other means. Every office of state was also a religious office, and the city was protected by its deity, which is why sacrilege and blasphemy were capital offences — by offending its divine patron, you could bring downfall to the entire city. If sacrifice was the meaning of the world, then order could only be brought about by sacrifice.

This was the meaning of scapegoating. Every pagan myth relies on scapegoating — one person has committed a sacrilege, this causes disorder, and order is only re-established when the scapegoat is killed. Oedipus, King of Thebes, has killed his father and slept with his mother. A plague descends thus on Thebes, but once Oedipus plucks his eyes out and leaves, the plague abates. Of course, in real life, the scapegoat is almost never the actual cause of the disturbance. But to recognize this would threaten the social order, and this is what paganism cannot abide. Indeed, in ancient Rome, executed criminals were sometimes understood as human sacrifices to the gods.

The French scholar René Girard pointed out how the non-pagan myth, the Bible, stood this logic of scapegoating on its end. While the myth of Oedipus tells us that Oedipus was guilty and this is why his punishment was just, the Biblical story of Joseph has Joseph being wrongly accused of another sexual crime — trying to rape pharaoh’s wife — and good things happening to the nation only when Joseph is recognized as innocent and vindicated. This anti-scapegoating narrative, of course, reaches its apex in the figure of Jesus, who is scapegoated by every legitimate authority, political and religious, yet vindicated by God through his Resurrection.

This is why paganism and Christianity ultimately were incompatible, and ultimately only one could survive. If the logic of scapegoating is wrong, then paganism is impossible.

Which, again, raises the question: With Christianity seemingly off the stage, is a return of paganism possible?

festival-of-fires-paganism-athlone-ireland56The incredible hulk

You might argue that the most successful pagan revival movement in the 20th century was National Socialism. In fact, while the Nazis initially tried to coopt Christianity, their goal was to eliminate it in favor of a reinvented German paganism. (In his boyhood memoir, Joseph Ratzinger, the future Pope Benedict XVI, recounts how his village’s authorities, as soon as the Nazis were in power, canceled public celebrations of Christmas and Easter and replaced them with pseudo-pagan rituals of solstice and spring.)

Of course, the Icelanders weaving garlands through their hair are not Nazis, not even close. But it’s a useful reminder that some spiritual creeds have their own inner logic that can get the best of us. The scapegoating dynamic can either be exposed or get the better of us, and it’s a tragedy that historically Christians have been so liable to it. And we can always use convenient stories to tell ourselves that restoring order through violence is the best thing to do.

And, if God is dead, after all, why not?

One of the ceremonial highlights of the Festival of the Fires at the Hill of Uisneach near Athlone in Co. Westmeath is the lighting of a national fire, ignited first on the summit of Uisneach and then carried to hilltops in every one of Ireland’s 32 counties, at Bealtaine – the may bank holiday weekend every year.


Spiritual Power & Energy

Everything is One :

The whole of reality, God, gods, spiritual beings, energy, matter, planets, galaxies, trees, animals, rocks – and us, are all part of the One interconnected Ultimate Reality. This One Reality expresses itself in a whole gamut of manifestations; therefore people can talk of having God within them, or the Earth being divine. For some, therefore, green issues take a religious dimension. People worship creation.

Connecting into spiritual power, knowledge and energy

Through using various techniques, or rituals, people claim to receive direct power and insight, and even an altered state of consciousness. It is often held that direct knowledge, or illumination, can be experienced through an encounter with some spiritual being or the Ultimate Reality of the universe.

Pagan Symbols

A plethora of spiritual beings

Most, but not all, forms of paganism believe in the reality of supernatural beings, whether it is gods, demons, angels, spirits, ghosts, or whatever. It is held that they can be contacted, and for a price, wisdom and power can be imparted.

Reincarnation and ‘ascended existence’

A wide range of contemporary pagans believe in some form of life after death, either by re-entry into this world, or by becoming a spiritual being in another dimension. Others hold that we become absorbed into the Ultimate Reality, perhaps losing our personal conscious existence.

paganism tree form

One world religion

As everything is simply a form of the One, the Ultimate Reality, all religions are seen as essentially various manifestations of the same human endeavour. Gradually, all will coalesce into One.

A new world order

Many pagans hold a grim parody of the biblical world-view. They feel that in the distant past humans once had a far greater spiritual and powerful existence, which we lost, and that we are now heading for a new higher consciousness and existence again, the New Age, the Age of Aquarius. In this exalted state, all religions and governments will be subsumed into one global empire.

Pagan Beliefs & Theology

The recognition of the divine in nature is at the heart of Pagan belief. Pagans are deeply aware of the natural world and see the power of the divine in the ongoing cycle of life and death. Most Pagans are eco-friendly, seeking to live in a way that minimises harm to the natural environment.

Concepts of the divine


Pagans worship the divine in many different forms, through feminine as well as masculine imagery and also as without gender. The most important and widely recognised of these are the God and Goddess (or pantheons of God and Goddesses) whose annual cycle of procreation, giving birth and dying defines the Pagan year. Paganism strongly emphasises equality of the sexes. Women play a prominent role in the modern Pagan movement, and Goddess worship features in most Pagan ceremonies.

Pagan theology

Paganism is not based on doctrine or liturgy. Many pagans believe ‘if it harms none, do what you will’. Following this code, Pagan theology is based primarily on experience, with the aim of Pagan ritual being to make contact with the divine in the world that surrounds them.

Organic Vitality

woman Goddess Gaia Paganism pagan

  • Most Pagans share an ecological vision that comes from the Pagan belief in the organic vitality and spirituality of the natural world.


  • Due to persecution and misrepresentation it is necessary to define what Pagans are not as well as what they are. Pagans are not sexual deviants, do not worship the devil, are not evil, do not practice ‘black magic’ and their practices do not involve harming people or animals.


  • The Pagan Federation of Europe have no precise figures but paganism.eu estimate that the number of Pagans in Ireland and the British Isles is between 50,000 and 75,000.


About Paganism

f7535da3b782397ed85a563a5580514556af253c[1]Paganism encompasses a diverse community with some groups concentrating on specific traditions, practices or elements such as ecology, witchcraft, Celtic traditions or certain gods.

Wiccans, Druids, Shamans, Sacred Ecologists, Odinists and Heathens all make up parts of the Pagan community.

Pagan paths

Paganism has absorbed influences from around the world and some Pagans choose to specialise in one of these traditions, or paths as they are often known.

Some groups take influences from a particular part of the world. The Heathen path follows ancient Scandinavian, Germanic and Anglo-Saxon belief systems. Other traditions are defined by elements of their practice. For instance, Wiccans use magical techniques in worship, Druids emphasise arts and philosophy, and Shamans employ spirit-journeying for healing.

In recent years teenage Witches have attracted a great deal of attention. This group of youths has shunned the common trend towards secularism and become a Pagan group in their own right.

pagan paths

These descriptions are very flexible and a Pagan is free to change how they describe themselves. A Pagan may also combine a number of these different elements, in fact this is very common. Magic, philosophy, art and healing may all be practised by the same person.