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Common pagan rituals and beliefs

Paganism is an ancient type of religion which has quite an inauspicious reputation today. There

are many types of paganism, most date back thousands of years, which include Wicca, Witchcraft,

Paganism, and a few other lesser known and practiced variations. Yet all of these religions are similar

and share common beliefs. Wicca is the most common of these, as it also demonstrates the shared

belief of doing good that is common to most forms of paganism. Another common belief, is to gather in

small groups, called covens, to practice pagan rites and ceremonies with others. There are many

ancient beliefs, archaic rituals, and forgotten traditions that are practiced by pagans. Many of these are

also the origins of widely practiced traditions in the Christian-dominated world of today.

A defining characteristic of many pagan religions, especially Wicca, is the worship and closeness

to nature. Pagans treat animals kindly and respect all things, living or nonliving, as though they were a

person (Roy N. p.). They also share the worship of their nature gods, which increases their respect for all

that is around them (Roy N. p.). Pagans are very sensitive people that also have a high regard for

personal privacy (Roy N. p.). With this belief of privacy, many pagans have more time to keep in touch

with their inner selves and with the nature around them. Wicca, a more popular pagan religion, focuses

on the Earth and uses pure white magic to help others (Roy N. p.). In fact, the Wiccan creed is, "An it

harm none, do as thou will," which agrees with the "good" philosophy (Beliefs N. p.). Altogether, pagans

have a great deal of emphasis on the life and beauty of the nature that thrives around them and are

radically different than the mythical rumors of witches that have been given to them over time.

Another defining characteristic of many pagans is the dedication to knowledge and self

exploration (Roy N. p.). In fact it has been said that, "Witchcraft is the oldest, most irrepressible religion

in the world because it stimulates the intellect, promotes a simple, practical way of life, and most

importantly, is emotionally satisfying" (Art N. p.). There is a set of beliefs, called the Laws of Magic that

help illustrate the beliefs supported by Wicca and other pagan religions. Many of these laws are

practical, yet they also relate to the more religious aspect of paganism. One of the most important laws,

the Law of Knowledge, states that witches believe that all knowledge is power, no matter how big or

small (Bonewits N. p.). A related law, the Law of Self-Knowledge, states that witches should truly know

themselves, for this prevents doing harm to others, once the understanding of the harm is seen

(Bonewits N. p.). There are many other laws, one such law explains that coincidence does not exist, but

that everything is part of a larger plan (Bonewits N. p.). The Law of Similarity states that similar

representations of things can be made to represent them, such as voodoo dolls (Bonewits N. p.). The

Law of Personification states the important belief that anything, concrete or abstract, can be considered

alive for whatever purpose (Bonewits N. p.). One commonly known law, The Law of Perversity, also

called "Murphy's Law," states that if anything can go wrong, it will (Bonewits N. p.). As if a summary of

all other beliefs, The Law of Unity says that everything is linked together to every other thing, in any

space or time (Bonewits N. p.). So, as shown here, all pagans, whether Wiccan or not, follow the basic

guidelines and beliefs that knowledge is power. To support this belief are many other more specific

beliefs that help the individual learn and grow.

Rituals and traditions also play a large role in Wiccan lives and activities. The most common of

these includes the rituals associated with the new and full moons, as well as the 8 sabbats. The 8

sabbats are equally divided throughout the year, along with the seasons, and help attune the practicing

Wiccans to the cycle of the year (Sabbats N. p.). The first of these sabbats is Yule, practiced around

December 21; it represents the rebirth of the light and the awakening of new goals (Sabbats N. p.).

Candlemas, celebrated on February 2, banishes winter and is the favored time for initiating new

members into a coven of witches (Sabbats N. p.). It is also tradition at this time to light all the lamps in

the house (Sabbats N. p.). Ostara, a familiar holiday, is usually around March 21 and symbolizes

balance and equilibrium. At this time of peace, many pagans gather wildflowers in baskets and free

themselves of their pasts (Sabbats N. p.). Beltane, similar to Mayday but held on April 30, honors the

fertility of the earth and is the sacred time of marriage as well as the time for self-discovery, love, and

union (Sabbats N. p.). Midsummer, held around June 21, is a time for triumph and light, when healing

and love magic becomes suitable (Sabbats N. p.). Lammas, practiced on August 2, celebrates the

harvest and the traditional time to teach others what has been learned (Sabbats N. p.). The Autumn

Equinox, approximately September 21, is the time of balance and the time to gather dry plants and herbs

(Sabbats N. p.). Samhain, commonly called Halloween, is held on October 31; it is when reincarnation is

believed to take place (Sabbats N. p.). Samhain is also called "the Witches' New Year" (Sabbats N. p.).

The 8 sabbats practiced by wiccans and other pagans are important for the transitions of the season, but

are only a small sample of the many rituals and traditions of the pagan religions (Sabbats N. p.).

Another interesting aspect of pagan rituals and traditions is the fact that many of the common

holidays and traditions in today's culture possess ancient pagan roots. The Christian holiday of

Christmas, for example, has its roots in the pagan festivals and customs of Yule (Sabbats N. p.).

Bringing in a tree from the winter weather to house the winter spirits was a common practice (Sabbats N.

p.). Pagans also would decorate the tree with a bell to indicate the spirits' presence, food to nourish the

spirits, and a pentagram star on the top to symbolize the five elements of nature (Sabbats N. p.). In fact,

the red and green colors of Christmas also come from a pagan tradition, that of the yule log being burned

once annually (Sabbats N. p.). The Christian Easter is another common holiday that is derived from

ancient pagan customs. Witches believed that the God and Goddess would spend the time of Ostara

(Spring Equinox) playing with brightly colored eggs in the fields to represent childhood (Sabbats N. p.).

The tradition of collecting flowers in baskets in springtime is also of pagan origin (Sabbats N. p.). For

those who recognize Mayday, it was a pagan practice to weave a web of life around a Maypole with

ribbons as well (Sabbats N. p.). Another, more commonly known, holiday with pagan beginnings is

Halloween, or the Samhain sabbat. It was believed that spirits would leave the physical plane during this

time (Sabbats N. p.). Another more recognizable trait of the holiday could be seen when one realizes

that thousands of years ago, pagans used jack-o-lanterns and gourds to decorate for the season

(Sabbats N. p.). So, by looking at the many practiced customs of the pagans that have been

around for thousands of years, one can discern how some traditions have come into play in today's


It is severely apparent that there are many erroneous rumors related to pagans and their rituals.

Pagans have many rituals, but not one of these relates to Christianity or the belief of the devil deity (Art

N. p.). Some of the more common rituals are initiation into a coven and handfasting, or marriage. The

ritual of initiation is a sacred ceremony to bring in a new member of the coven (Hicks N. p.). The

individual must be highly acquainted with all of the members of the coven for over one year before

initiation is possible (Hicks N. p.). Another commonplace ritual is handfasting. Handfasting is a highly

sacred rite that binds two very close people together, similar husband and wife; the ritual is symbolic of

the union of the god and goddess (Hunter N. p.). All other pagan rituals are impartially as sacred and

highly valued, as well as enjoyed. Despite all of the misleading rumors, there are no rituals depicting evil

or anything to go against goodness belief that is practiced by wiccans or related pagan groups.

Wicca and other similar pagan religions all reflect the mutual belief of doing good and harming

none. This, however, has been overlooked by others for many centuries which has lead to inaccurate

rumors. Aside from that however, pagans still enjoy a rich and culturally satisfying life that keeps in

touch with their ancient beliefs. Along with this is their passionate practice of the many rituals, including

the 8 seasonal sabbats, that help characterize the pagan doctrine. All of this and even more truth can be

found about these lesser known and often misconceived religions classified as paganism.

Works Cited

Bonewits, P. E. I. The Laws of Magic. Online. Necronami Net. Available HTTP:, 30 Nov. 1996.

General Beliefs. Online. Necronami Net. Available HTTP:, 15 Dec. 1996.

Hicks, J. Brad. Ceremony of Initiation. Online. Necronami Net. Available HTTP:, 15 Dec. 1996.

Hunter, Ryan. Handfasting Ceremony. Online. Necronami Net. Available HTTP:, 15 Dec. 1996.

Roy, R. Thirteen Questions. Online. Necromnami Net. Available HTTP:, 30 Nov. 1996.

The Ancient Art. Online. Necronami Net. Available HTTP:, 30 Nov. 1996.

The Sabbats. Online, Teleplex Communications, Inc. Available HTTP:, 8 Dec. 1996.

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