I was once a very bad witch. When I was trying to be a Wiccan, it was very difficult. I was 19 and the world was still pre-Internet. I knew no other Wiccans nor Witches nor Neo-Pagans. I did a lot of reading from mail order books about magick and the Craft. And while I wore my pentagram proudly, I felt very silly trying to perform spells. So while I was a “white witch”, a “good witch”, I wasn’t a very good at it.
Without a community of other pagans, it was difficult to maintain my beliefs, and so I eventually stopped. I wouldn’t meet an “out” Wiccan until twenty years later when I was well on my leaving-Catholicism-to-becoming-an-Atheist trajectory. I have to admit, I was jealous of Imaari’s coven. They were a very open, friendly group of people. They were all very artistic and creative. Imaari would go join them for weekend retreats and drum circles, though no skyclad events (I was very disappointed to hear). I was invited twice to their Samhain Silent Supper and I found the event very moving from even my secular non-supernatural perspective.
Which got me to wondering, are there secular pagans?
It turns out there are. And like any other group without a dogma or a central church handing down edicts, there is a whole gamut of individuals in the Pagan arena. For some, the rituals and ceremonies are much like LARPing; they don’t actually believe in the supernatural, it’s all just good fun. The gods and goddesses are merely metaphors. For others, it’s more about the respect for the planet and the understanding that we’re just another life form on it.
“Secular Paganism is not a religion; it is an ethical view of the world, based on the belief that Nature is sacred and must be respected and treasured. Secular Pagans hold many of the same views about Nature that religious Pagans and many people of other religions do. Secular Pagans believe that we are a part of Nature, not her master. There are no particular religious views connected with Secular Paganism.” ~ Abby Willowroot
The 15 Guiding Principles of Secular Paganism
- Ethical behavior does not require a religion
- All living things have a unique spirit or soul
- The equality of genders, races, and all humans
- Care must be taken in using Nature’s resources
- All Earth’s life is connected and inter-dependant
- The Gaia Principle is an important, basic, truth
- The cycles of Nature teach us what is important
- Balance must be maintained for all life to flourish
- Our health depends on the The Environment’s health
- Our individual actions can and do have consequences
- Evolution is an ongoing process that occurs in all species
- Birth, living and death are natural cycles shared by all life
- Respect for ourselves requires respect for the Earth
- All human cultures have value and can teach us
- Gods & Goddesses can be seen as metaphors
The 15 Guiding Principles Copyright Abby Willowroot 2009
While I don’t whole-heartedly agree with all 15 points, for example I’d word number two as “All Living things have a unique value,” I can accept most of it in principal. I don’t think they’re all that different from many of the Humanist Statement of Principles: (not all listed)
- We deplore efforts to denigrate human intelligence, to seek to explain the world in supernatural terms, and to look outside nature for salvation.
- We believe in an open and pluralistic society and that democracy is the best guarantee of protecting human rights from authoritarian elites and repressive majorities.
- We are engaged by the arts no less than by the sciences.
- We are citizens of the universe and are excited by discoveries still to be made in the cosmos.
- We believe in optimism rather than pessimism, hope rather than despair, learning in the place of dogma, truth instead of ignorance, joy rather than guilt or sin, tolerance in the place of fear, love instead of hatred, compassion over selfishness, beauty instead of ugliness, and reason rather than blind faith or irrationality.
I’ve read on the atheist blogs about people adopting the Wheel of the Year when celebrating holidays, which is something I’ve started doing as well. Last year, when I was missing my friend’s coven and their Samhain gathering, I put up a Day of the Dead Altar in my cube. I don’t believe the dead really come back to spend time with us, but I do accept the symbolism of having them with me during that time and making sure I remember them.
Secular Pagans are Humanists with flare
The reason the big religions all do things like gather regularly, sing, make things, have holidays and rituals, is because it satisfies a need we have as human beings. I’m sure that whatever that need is, it has a non-supernatural explanation. But I don’t think we have to feel that just because we’re atheists that we shouldn’t do anything that’s *like* religion. As more people leave Big Religion behind, there are going to be more secular communities with “religious” aspects.
Just beware; I might be doing it skyclad.
This post first appeared at Freethoughtify.
Heather Van De Sande is an ex-Catholic, ex-Wiccan, ex-born-again-Baptist who became an Atheist while trying to recommit to her Catholic roots. She currently lives in Kentucky with her husband and very spoiled dog, works in IT, has a technical focused blog at http://sharepointdiva.wordpress.com and annoys her co-workers by rejecting all blessings on her sneezes. … She can occasionally be found at either The Lexington Atheists Meetup Group or The Louisville Atheists and Freethinkers Meetup Group and has just started the Frankfort Humanists, Skeptics, and Freethinkers FB Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/FrankfortHSF
Were the earliest peoples naturalistic? They must have been naturalistic before they came up with the first deity, right? – nope, and here’s why.
Naturalism in prehistory? by B. T. Newberg
Appearing Sunday, June 30th, 2013