About Pagan Religion

Ian Corrigan has created a pretty brilliant blog post about his Pagan religion, in response to Star Foster’s “Crisis of Faith” blog post on Patheos.

I don’t have a lot to add. Both Ian and Star talk about leaving Wiccan Mystery Traditions. I have never felt the need to leave mine. Star talks about how participation in a Mystery Tradition can be short-term (like the Mysteries of Eleusis–attend once, never forget), and wonders whether it’s actually a religion. To me, I see exoteric and esoteric Wicca as two sides of the same coin. Participating actively in the Pagan community is something I encourage, even if you find public rituals weak or silly or whatever. I have loved and mocked and enjoyed and been bored by all manner of Pagan rituals over thirty years.

My ritual life is Gardnerian–my Mystery Tradition suits me fine–but Pagans are my people. In Judy Harrow’s badly-named book Wicca Covens, she says “Witchcraft is not a religion, but a committed religious order. Our religion is Paganism.” I’ve always really liked that; I think she’s hit upon something important in how we express ourselves religiously.

Star Foster said “What you believe matters as much as what you do,” and Ian responded “I tend to see beliefs as ephemera, compared to traditions.”

I have for years told students that Gardnerian Wicca is not orthodox (strict in belief) but orthopraxic (strict in practice). Believe what you want–we’re not the Thought Police. If the religion is true; if the Gods are present and the ritual reaches Them, if the Mysteries reveal to you a connection that is Mysterious and profound, then your belief, your understanding, your spiritual connectedness, will be informed by that and emerge from that.

Do the rites. Worship the Gods. Belief will follow in a way unique to the individual, and yet the coven will be of one mind because the practice and its results bind us together.


  1. Witch says:

    Thanks for this post 😉 I think You’re right.

  2. Henry says:

    Kudos to Ian and yourself.
    ah, there’s way too much talk about ‘religion’, even in the political sphere. It’s become a preoccupation about beliefs instead of one of connection , reconnection or re linking. Too much about isms and such.
    I’m of the same camp as it were, in that I tell studdents similar, that the craft isn’t so much a religion as religious practice, and I can’t teach you religion, but can teach you methods of connecting to the gods(in the sense Ian mentioned). As it is said there are many ways to skin a cat but in the end the cat does get skinned. And so yeah practice can be shared but the connection is a personal matter, and if there is shared experiences in the connection all the better.On a side note, I think one of the things Star misses is reflected in what she says about the old mysteries,like Eleusis, was not a one time deal. The initiates returned every year or when able, to participate in the mysteries. From some of the ancient accounts, they carried it through their lives, it informed their lives. Even if one did attend once and never forget, it was religion in the sense that it resulted in a ‘re connect’. As to the modern pagan movement, it’s moving away from that shared experience, and I’ll stop here as I feel a rant coming on.

  3. Witch says:

    I’m just wondering… if the members of the Coven are so close to each other, can’t we say that they are something like family? What do you think about it?

  4. Deborah Lipp says:

    Absolutely, yes.