I’ve been searching for a site that provides an overview of the variants of paganism most widely practiced today, or at least most widely known. The Wikipedia site for Neopaganism provides great information, but doesn’t provide a useful way to categorize pagan faiths — a taxonomy of pagan paths, if you will. There are some classification systems out there, but they don’t appear to be widely used. This site offers three categories (traditional, reconstructionism and neopaganism). This site (which is over 15 years old — go ALT.PAGAN list!) offers five categories (paleo-, civilo-, meso-, syncret- and neo-paganism). Other sites I have found offer a variant of one or both of these classifications. 

I realized as I was searching the web to inform this post, a naming system for pagansim is what I wanted. I don’t just want a classification system, though. I want to understand how different pagan paths fit together (or if they do at all). So, as I can’t seem to find a consistent nomenclature already in place, I’m going to attempt this on my own (with Jax’s help, of course). And hopefully with your help, too!

<<Several days of searching and thinking pass.>>

As it turns out…this is a huge undertaking. Far too ambitious for a single post. Jax and I are mulling over the best way to conceptualize the different paths in paganism. We think it should include a description of the type, such as eclectic or syncretic. The descriptions I’ve found on the web are:

  • Eclectic – Usually personal and experiential and pulling from many different pagan paths, a sort of “melting pot” of paganism;
  • Occult – A search for forbidden or hidden knowledge;
  • Syncretic – A blend of pagan and (usually) non-pagan beliefs;
  • Folkloric – Practice that is influenced by legends, music, oral history, proverbs, jokes, popular beliefs, fairy tales and customs that are cultural traditions;
  • Reconstructed – Practice that is constructed (or reconstructed) using literature, archeology, music, etc. of a particular people using a single pantheon. There are several examples below, if you keep reading. 😎

The challenge is that all pagan faiths fall on a spectrum of these types, depending on what someone believes and how someone practices. We will keep posting on this topic (the development of a pagan taxonomy) so please chime in.

But to start, here are some of the ways all pagan faiths fit together. According to several sites, pagan faiths (aka neopagan faiths) in general have the following components:

  1. They are nature based and believe in immanence
  2. They are polytheistic
  3. They recognize feminine divinity

And here’s a run-down of the more widely known pagan faiths:

  • Wicca – The most recognizable pagan faith in non-pagan circles. It emerged in the 1950s and 1960s with Gerald Gardner at the helm, but has evolved into a rich diaspora of faiths including Alexandrian Wicca, Dianic Wicca, Kemetic Wicca and Judeo-Paganism. Some of the major components of Wicca include rituals, ceremonial magic, and the celebration of Sabbats.
  • Druidism – A pagan faith with a large following. It is build on practices of Celts from the Iron Age. Like Wicca, Druidism includes ceremonies (rites) and the celebration of seasonal changes.
  • Ásatrú – Also called Heathenry, this is a modern reconstruction of Nordic/Germanic Paganism. Jax has discussed Heathenry in an earlier post. It includes ancestor worship, offerings (called Blots), and feasts (called sumbels).
  • Hellenism – This faith is a reconstruction of Greek religion and practices, including the Twelve Olympian Greek gods. Hellenic practices include ceremonies and offerings.
  • Kemetism – This faith began as a reconstruction of ancient Egyptian beliefs and practices, but has evolved to include components from other African religions. The practices are too diverse to summarize here.
  • Native American faiths – Traditional faiths practiced by Native Americans are also extremely diverse. Many share several components, including a connectivity between the natural and spiritual worlds.

Are we missing any of the major pagan faiths here? We can always update the post! Would you add anything to these descriptions? We really want your comments on this one, since we are starting from scratch. We’ll get into more details on individual paths later. If you’re interested in talking about your faith in more detail, consider signing up for a Finding Your Faith post!