SOME QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS ABOUT
Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America guarantees
the right to religious freedom for all. But for people to respect each others'
religions they must know the truth about them. This article answers some
basic questions about the Old Religion, which includes Paganism, Tribal
Religions, and Modern Witchcraft.
THE OLD RELIGION
did the Old Religion come from?
ideas of the Old Religion are found all over the world. Its modern traditions
come from the original religions of native peoples. Native tribal religions
in Africa and America have existed as long as the tribes. European and American
groups are restoring the interrupted traditions of early Europe. There are
also groups that combine tribal and other belief and practices. The word
"Pagan" means the people of the countryside. "Heathen" means people of the
heath-land. In the old days, people living in wilder areas were more likely
to keep on practicing their native religions. A "Neo-Pagan" is someone who
practices a restored native tradition.
groups are part of the Old Religion?
the Old Religion includes tribal religions. European traditions include
Wicca (Witchcraft, or the Religion of the Wise) and other native traditions.
In South America there are Native American tribal religions and newer groups
which may combine beliefs, such as Brujeria and Afro-American religions,
(Voudou, Santeria, Macumba). North America has the Medicine Societies, Afro-American
religions, European Neo-Pagan traditions such as Norse, Celtic or combined
Native European traditions, and various traditions of Wicca. Compared to
other world religions, the traditions of the Old Religion are probably closest
to Hinduism and Shinto. Please note that Satanism is a Christian heresy,
and not a tradition of the Old Religion.
belongs to the Old Religion?
people living in tribal communities still practice their original religion,
sometimes in addition to Christianity or Buddhism. Many people in North
and South America practice combined traditions. Native European traditions
are being redeveloped in Europe and the United States.
the Old Religion believe in God?
Most traditions feel that everything was made by a Creator who is really
neither male nor female, but may be spoken of as either. We honor the Earth
as our mother and respect the spirits of the land in which we live. Followers
of the traditions of the Old Religion believe that the created world is
holy. They believe that there is spirit in everything- from stones to beings
which are pure spirit. All created beings are one family. Since all things
are sacred, no single form of deity can dominate. God is greater than any
single human image or idea. To worship God completely we must honor all
aspects, female as well as male. We worship the, One in the many- the Goddesses
and the Gods.
members of the Old Religion worship the Devil?
Belief in the existence of Satan, or the Devil, is part of the Jewish and
Christian religions. Worshipping the Devil is usually a reaction against
Christianity. Sometimes people who are unhappy become Satanists because
they don't know any other way to rebel. The ancient Greeks worshipped Pan,
who had goat horns, and the Celts worshipped the Horned God, who had antlers.
Both of these were Gods of fertility who helped humans and nature to survive.
Early Christian missionaries thought all the Pagan Gods must be demons,
especially those involved with sex, and began to picture their own Devil
is the purpose of life?
that the purpose of life is to live in harmony with nature and its other
creatures, to become more like God (and Goddess), and to help others to
do the same.
happens after death?
that the spirit is immortal. Birth and death are part of a cycle, and both
are necessary, Traditions differ on what happens after the death of the
body . Some believe that a person may live again in this world. Others think
the spirit lives on in some kind of heaven. Some believe it becomes one
with the spirit of nature as the body goes back to the earth. Some believe
it joins the ancestors, who can give help and protection to the living.
The souls of those who always chose pain and evil when they were alive may
be trapped after death in a state of suffering because that is all they
do you believe about Evil?
that life is essentially good. Creation and destruction are part of the
natural circle of life. Evil is what happens when natural actions or forces
are unbalanced, or perverted in some way.
can a person be saved?
person is responsible for his or her own salvation. Being saved depends
on the positive decisions we make throughout our lifetimes. Things that
happened to us earlier in this life or a previous life make a difference,
but we have the free will to choose life and good at any time.
do you live a good life?
in different traditions describe their moral and ethical values in different
ways. Most believe we should respect the holiness of all life, and love
and trust our fellow believers. We should take responsibility for our own
actions and respect the free will of others. We believe that what we do
to others will come back to us one day. Believing that all life is related
also means we should take care of the earth and protect endangered species.
do you contact God?
that it is natural for human beings to be in contact with God/dess and the
spiritual world. We do this by changing our state of consciousness through
prayer or religious services. The physical and spiritual worlds are both
equally "real". They are also connected- what we do in the one has effects
in the other. People can pray or work with sacred symbols to change themselves
or the world.
do you worship?
traditions of the Old Religion have formal services or meetings. In some,
worship is freely inspired. Some groups have both types of worship at different
times. Rituals may include chanting, dancing, presenting sacred stories,
prayer, or a sacred meal. Worship may be held in the wilderness, in a shrine
or temple, or in the home. Individual communities or tribal groups worship
in their own ways, but may join together for Festivals. As in any religion,
some people understand only the basic beliefs and celebrate the major holidays,
while others study for many years to develop spiritually.
are some of your ceremonies?
all traditions of the Old Religion celebrate major changes in people's lives.
These services may include the blessing and naming of babies, coming-of-age
ceremonies, marriage, ordaining priests and priestesses, and funeral or
memorial services. Rituals may also be held for cleansing or blessing, or
to pray for healing or help in disaster.
you practice black magic?
Many people are afraid because some traditions of the Old Religion call
themselves Witches. They may refer to their religion as "Witchcraft" or
"Wicca", the Religion of the Wise. "Witchcraft", like science, includes
skills that can be used for good or bad purposes. Anybody who uses spiritual
powers to bring evil on others is practicing black magic, no matter who
they are praying to. In Europe, the early Church called many people who
did not agree with it witches and accused them of using their powers for
evil. People who simply wanted to keep the religion of their ancestors were
given that name. Today, many people who follow the Native European religion
call themselves Witches to honor their ancestors who were persecuted for
their faith. What they practice is white, or positive magic, which works
for good. A rule of Wicca is, "If you harm none, do what you will."
are your major holidays?
traditions of the Old Religion celebrate at least some of the great seasonal
festivals- Midsummer and Midwinter, the beginnings of Spring and Fall, and
the cross-quarter days. (the beginnings of February, May, August, and November).
People may also worship at the full or new moon. The purpose of these festivals
is to restore harmony between humans, nature, and spirit, and to increase
a feeling of community.
religious symbols are sacred to the Old Religion?
tradition has its own favorite symbols. Some of the more common ones include
the circle, the spiral, the equal-armed cross, the upright five-pointed
star, the triple spiral, various forms of sun-symbol, and the crescent moon.
the Old Religion recruit converts?
religions are for the members of those tribes. Outsiders should not try
to practice them unless they are invited to, although we can all learn from
each other. Neo-Pagan and combined traditions welcome new members, but do
not recruit. The Old Religion does not forbid its members to believe in
other religions. Many members may follow more than one tradition, or practice
one of the other major religions as well.
can I find out more about the Old Religion?
way to find out about tribal religions is from members of those tribes.
Some of the many useful works on Neo-Pagan and combined traditions include:
Adler, Drawing Down the Moon (Wicca and Neo-Paganism)
& John Matthews, The Western Way, Vol. 1: The Native Tradition
Ashcroft-Nowicki, First Steps in Ritual (Neo-Paganism)
The Spiral Dance (Feminist/Faery Wicca)
Thorsson, Futhark (Norse)
Harner, The Way of the Shaman (Modern Shamanism)
K., True Magick (Basic Wicca)
Teish, Jambalaya (Afro-American)
Gonzalez-Wipper, Santeria (Latin & Afro-American)
Bear & Wabun, The Medicine Wheel (Native American)
article is dedicated to all who seek Truth by The Fellowship of the
Spiral Path; a combined tradition of the Old Religion registered as
a religious corporation under the laws of the state of California. The
Fellowship sponsors workshops, and worship for women, men and mixed groups,
and has a staff of clergy who perform rites of passage and other ministerial
further information contact:
The Fellowship of the Spiral Path
PO Box 5521
Berkeley, CA 94705 USA
The Fellowship of the Spiral Path
Reproduction authorized for purposes of public education
at cost of printing only.
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