Ten Misconceptions About Paganism and Witchcraft

The university where I work recently held a professional development event about accepting and understanding transgender students.  A panel of students answered every question, no matter how trivial or controversial.  It gave people the opportunity to develop understanding in a safe and positive environment.

Source: https://ladygeekgirl.wordpress.com/2014/10/12/oh-my-pop-culture-religion-christianity-and-wiccapaganism-in-pop-culture/

So in that spirit I hung out on Tumblr and found some common misconceptions about Paganism from outside of the Pagan community.  Now clearly my answers are from my experience of Paganism, so I am asking my fellow bloggers to chime in.  The goal is to create greater understanding of the Pagan community to promote greater peace and harmony.  So let’s get started!

  1. Paganism is a cult: ABSOLUTELY NOT, STOP, TO NOT PASS GO, DO NOT COLLECT $200.  Let’s put it this way: the U.S. Army allows Pagans to organize and practice on military bases and groups in several states have won tax-free status.  If we were a cult, the U.S. Military and Government would not recognize us.  So, clearly not a cult.
  2. Wicca is not an organized religion: Not exactly.  Certain traditions are more organized than others (Circle Craft, Reclaiming, etc.), and of course covens are organized groups.  But who knows how many solitaries are out in the world, and there isn’t a “Congress of Witches” out there governing theology.  I always describe Paganism as independently cohesive.
  3. All Pagans are Wiccan: Over half of the Pagan community identify as Wiccan, but being Pagan does not mean that the practitioner is Wiccan.  Reconstructionalist paths are also incredibly popular as well as Dianic traditions.
  4. All Witches are Pagans, and all Pagans practice Witchcraft: Twenty years ago I would agree with that statement, but with the rise of Christian Wicca, Reconstructionalism, and secular practitioners this statement simply isn’t true anymore.
  5. All Pagans are part of the New Age Movement: I think it depends on what you consider part of the New Age Movement.  Astrology, for example, is considered “new-agey” but it’s thousands of years old.  Furthermore, the Neo-Pagan Movement is about ten-fifteen years older than the New Age Movement and claims roots thousands of years older.  However certain activities commonly incorporated into modern magic and Pagan rituals, such as gemstone healing, have origins in the New Age Movement.  So, it’s complicated.
  6. Satanism is a part of Paganism: It depends on who you ask.  Some Satanists identify as Pagan, others as Christian.  Plus, some Pagans view Satan as a figure in the Christian pantheon therefore see Satanists as Christian.  Most Pagans do not believe in Satan.
  7. Pagans are going to Hell: The common Pagan theology is reincarnation, not an eternal resting place or place of damnation.  So. No.
  8. All Pagans engage in the same activities: There is a difference between a common practice and a cohesive theology.  The first is a loose guideline and the other is a strict rule.  Pagans have a couple common practices such as reverence for nature.  However since there are so many variations of Paganism, examples of cohesive theology are far and few.
  9. Animal or blood sacrifice is common:  No. Santeria practitioners occasionally kill live animals in ritual.  Also some Pagan sects occasionally offer flesh sacrifices in a form of a piece of chicken liver or something else from a butcher.  But the vast majority of Pagans do not do this practice.
  10. All Pagans have wild, ritualized sex: We wish. Yes, sex magic and the Great Rite exist, but they’re a spiritual practice as sacred as any other ritual that are highly personal.  I think some people conflate being open about sex with being slutty, deviant, or unusual, which is absolutely absurd.  We’re just not scared of sex, that’s all.

If anyone has any other questions about Paganism that you’re too afraid to ask, feel free to email me.

© Ariadne Woods

7 thoughts on “Ten Misconceptions About Paganism and Witchcraft

  1. The word ‘cult’ had such a bad connotation here. It is really not a bad word. It’s just a group of worshippers. I have recently decided to follow the druid practice, which is confusing as there is new age and old. I’m still figuring that out!

    1. I agree, the word “cult” doesn’t always have a negative connotation, especially in ancient times. However most people don’t know that and associate “cult” with it’s negative connotation. Hence the strong language.

  2. THIS. The thing that I encounter most is general disbelief. “You don’t believe in god? Why would you do that?” The reality of being part of a minority faith is that every time someone asks a question of us or tries to devalue what we believe, we literally become ambassadors of Paganism as a whole


    Can Evangelical Christians just please stop with this. Your personal Gnosis is boring and we don’t care!

  4. Very nice post 🙂

    I’ll agree with the notion that cult in the modern media usage is part of the problem – a lot of people forget (sometimes conveniently, often honestly) that the ancient Romans considered Christianity a cult. The cult of Jesus got its biggest promotion under Constantine, who was impressed by how efficiently the cultists organized themselves; but unimpressed by how the different sects within the cult were going at one another’s throat (this led to the creation of the New Testament, as Constantine facilitated the First Council of Nicea, which began a process of forming a common theology for early Christians, and cleared the way for the cult to become an effective and lasting state religion for the empire … this happened 300 years after the death of the last Apostle). So, just because it is a cult does not mean it should not be taken seriously – and if Christians can see that their wonderful religion blossomed from a cult, they should have little difficulty with the idea that other wonderful religions can blossom from cults, too.

    As for Satan, just to clarify, there are essentially two types of Satanist. One type is based to some extent on the Abrahamic teachings, and sees Satan as a divine entity in his own right; while the other type is atheistic. To say the former is Pagan is false – these people are firmly inspired by the Abrahamic faiths. The latter, at least in my own opinion, is Pagan primarily based upon the perspectives adherents may or may not have in common with Pagans – a high regard for the environment, a development of the self that takes place outside the teachings and boundaries of Abrahamic belief systems, etc.

    And wild, ritualistic sex is sort of an oxymoron, is it not? Doesn’t ritual cancel out wild in its erratic or chaotic sense? I haven’t had ritual sex before, despite having followed one Pagan path or another for decades. The wildest sex I ever had was with a Christian woman who threatened to **** the hell out of me and shortly thereafter gave it her best effort. She also thought, when I told her I was Pagan, that I was referring to the “P.A.G.A.N.” group from the Dragnet movie with Tom Hanks and Dan Aykroyd. I’ve met quite a few Americans who were both Pagan and terrified of sex; while also having known women from Europe who were Christian and quite liberal and adventurous in the bedroom and all sorts of other places.

    I think one of the greatest misconceptions I’ve ever encountered as a Pagan is the misconception that my soul is in need of salvation. This is unfortunately a core belief in the Abrahamic faiths, and a central tenet of Christianity in particular. It is at the root of justification for uncountable numbers of forced conversions and proselytizing (the root cause for which I see chiefly as politics and economics, looking at history). It is why many monotheists from these faith systems think of Pagans as either ignorant, dedicated to evil, or somehow duped by evil agents – I do not see myself in any of these ways, and I think it’s interesting that the same people who are willing to make these kinds of judgements and accusations are reluctant to consider whether or not they are in fact supporting a system that promotes ignorance, evil and deception.

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