“Paganism is not just about beliefs, it’s about stepping outside of the strictures of everyday reality and stepping into full-bodied experiences of the wild, magical world.”
— Karen Clark, “The Path of She: 5 Things You Can Learn from a Pagan”
There is a tendency, when inquiring about an unfamiliar religion, to begin by asking what its adherents believe. Many scholars of Neo-Paganism, however, have observed that the movement is best understood by looking, not at what its practitioners believe, but what they do.
Neo-Paganism is first and foremost a nature religion. Neo-Pagans seek to deepen and strengthen their sense of connection with the natural world by spending time outdoors in wild nature. They use religious ritual to express their connection to and attune themselves to nature. These rituals are often consciously created, rather than inherited from tradition.
The most common form of Neo-Pagan ritual is the celebration of the Wheel of the Year, the eight seasonal stations that include the solstices and equinoxes and the points in between. Neo-Pagan ritual often begins with an invitation to the participants to “ground and center.” The ritual may then follow a Neo-Wiccan format, beginning with a practice called “Calling the Quarters” followed by an invocation of the Goddess and her Consort. The ritual may then include other forms of Neo-Pagan practice, including breathwork, meditation, prayer, invocations, singing, chanting, dancing, drumming, pouring libations, offerings to a fire, enactments of symbolic dramas, and sharing food and drink.
The mood of a Neo-Pagan ritual may range from meditative to celebratory to ecstatic. Neo-Pagans may hold their rituals indoors, in community centers or in private homes, or outdoors, in public parks or on private land. Many Neo-Pagans have personal altars where they meditate, pray, and perform rituals. They also express their religion through living an ethical lifestyle that embodies their values.