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Alt.Pagan Frequently Asked Questions (Version 4.0 FAQ)

Newsgroups: alt.pagan,alt.magick.tyagi
Subject: Alt.Pagan Frequently Asked Questions (Version 4.0 FAQ)
Summary: Frequently Asked Questions (and answers) about modern Paganism.
Keywords: pagan, goddess, gods, frequently asked questions, faq

Archive-name: paganism-faq
Last-modified: October 1996
Version: 4.0

Authors: Susan Harwood Kaczmarczik; Br'an Arthur Davis-Howe; T. O.
Radzykewycz; Ailsa N.T. Murphy; Cecilia Henningsson
Acknowledgements to Jack Coyote, Robert Pearson, Chris Carlisle and
Izzy, and a special thanks to Janis Maria Cortese.

Throughout this FAQ you will find the words "usually," often," and other
disclaimers; this is because Paganism is not a rigid, structured belief
system.  We have tried to present as many faces of the neopagan sub-culture
as possible in the FAQ, but realize we can't possibly cover it all.
Many people, no doubt, will object to every part of this FAQ (and have
done, over everything from specific etymologies to the order of the
questions), but we stand by it as our best attempt.

*First version completed 25 January 1993*


 1) What is this group for?
 2) What is paganism/a pagan?
2b) What is Paganism?  How is it different from paganism?
 3) What are different types of paganism?
 4) What is Witchcraft/Wicca?
4b) Why do some of you use the word Witch?  Wiccan?
 5) What are some different traditions in the Craft?
 6) Are pagans Witches?
 7) Are you Satanists?
 8) What kinds of people are pagans?
 9) What holidays do you celebrate?
9b) How do I pronounce...?  What does this name mean?
10) What god(s) do you believe in?
11) Can one be both Christian and pagan?
12) What were the Burning Times?
13) How many pagans/Witches are there today?
14) What are the related newsgroups?
15) Two pagan newsgroups?  Why soc.religion.paganism *and* alt.pagan?
16) Is brutal honesty or polite conversation the preferred tone of
     conversation around here?
17) I'm not a pagan; should I post here?
18) How does one/do I become a pagan?
19) What books/magazines should I read?
20) How do I find pagans/Witches/covens/teachers in my area?
21) What's a coven really like?
22) How do I form a coven?
23) What does Dianic mean?
24) Aren't women-only circles discriminatory?
25) Can/will you cast me a love spell/curse my enemies?
26) Sometimes I see "magic" spelled with a "k".  Do real pagans spell it a
     certain way?
27) Is it okay if I...?  Will I still be a pagan if I...?
28) I am a pagan and I think I am being discriminated against because of my
     religion.  What should I do?
29) Hey, I heard that [insert name of famous rock singer or famous
     fantasy-novel writer here] was a witch/pagan.  Is that true?
30) What one thing would most pagans probably want the world to know about them

1) What is this group for?

   This newsgroup is for the discussion of paganism and Witchcraft in their
various forms and traditions; for sharing ideas for ritual and completed
liturgy; for networking with others of a like mind and those who are not;
for answering questions and disseminating information about paganism and
Witchcraft (and, occasionally, for dispelling the misconceptions about
same).  It's also for sharing within a larger community than one might find
at home.  While we are interested in traditional pagan practices, the
alt.pagan community is fundamentally neopagan -- our practices are modern,
though they are based on ancient ideas or images.

2) What is paganism/a pagan?

   The words paganism and pagan come from the Latin "paganus," meaning
"country dweller."  Neopagans hold a reverence for the Earth and all its
creatures, generally see all life as interconnected, and tend to strive to
attune one's self to the manifestation of this belief as seen in the cycles
of nature.  Pagans are usually polytheistic (believing in more than one
god), and they usually believe in immanance, or the concept of divinity
residing in all things.  Many pagans, though polytheistic, see all things
as being part of one Great Mystery.  The apparent contradiction of being
both polytheistic and monotheistic can be resolved by seeing the God/desses
as masks worn by the Great Mystery.  Other pagans are simply monotheistic
or polytheistic, and still others are atheistic.

   Some people believe paganism to be a religion within itself; others see
it as a belief system (such as monotheism) that can be incorporated into
religions like Wicca or Druidism; others see it as a broad category
including many religions.  The fact that we are re-creating religion for
ourselves after centuries of suppression makes us very eclectic and very
concerned with the "rightness" of a particular thing for the individual.
So when you see some people calling it a religion and others not, when you
see it capitalized in some instances and not in others, don't be confused
-- we're all still basically talking about the same thing.  2b) What is
Paganism?  How is it different from paganism?       Paganism (with a
capital "P") is one strand of neopaganism which strives to allow each
person to draw from whatever religious and cultural traditions are
meaningful for the  individual.  The practices of Paganism derive from
those of Wicca, but are not identical with those of Wicca.  Some people
view Paganism as a non-initiatory form of Wicca, or Wicca as an initiatory
form of Paganism.  Some say that Witches are the clergy of Paganism.  (On
the other hand, some Witches violently disagree with that viewpoint.  As
with most things in this FAQ, there is no answer with which everyone can
completely agree.)  3) What are different types of paganism?

Paleo-paganism: the standard of paganism, a pagan culture which has not
been disrupted by "civilization" by another culture -- Australian Bushmen
modern (who are probably becoming meso-pagans), ancient Celtic religion
(Druidism), the religions of the pre-patriarchal cultures of Old Europe,
Norse religion, pre-Columbian Native American religions, etc.

Civilo-paganism: the religions of "civilized" communities which evolved in
paleo-pagan cultures -- Classical Greco-Roman religion, Egyptian religion,
Middle-Eastern paganism, Aztec religion, etc.

Meso-paganism: a group, which may or may not still constitute a separate
culture, which has been influenced by a conquering culture, but has been
able to maintain an independence of religious practice -- many Native
American nations, etc.

Syncreto-paganism: similar to meso-pagan, but having had to submerge itself
into the dominant culture, and adopt the external practices and symbols of
the other religion -- the various Afro-diasporic traditions (Voudoun,
Santeria, etc.), Culdee Christianity, etc.

Neopaganism: attempts of modern people to reconnect with nature, using
imagery and forms from other types of pagans, but adjusting them to the
needs of modern people.  Since this category is the focus of alt.pagan, the
listing here is more comprehensive (though no listing could be completely

Wicca -- in all its many forms
Asatru and other forms of Norse neopaganism
neo-Native American practices
the range of things labeled "Women's Spirituality"
the Sabaean Religious Order
Church of All Worlds
Radical Faeries and other "Men's Spirituality" movements
certain people within Thelema and hedonistic Satanism
some of eco-feminism
and last, but not least, Paganism

4) What is Witchcraft/Wicca?      Wicca was the first (or at least one of
the first) of the neopagan religions.  As a result, it is the best known,
and tends to overshadow its younger, smaller siblings.  This bias appears
in the postings in alt.pagan and in this FAQ.  This does not mean that
Wicca is more valid than other neopagan religions -- just larger and

Wicca, however, is only one of the things called W/witchcraft (or
sometimes, the Craft, a term also applied to Masonry).  There are a whole
range of styles of folk-magic around the world which are called witchcraft
in English.  If the word Witch is capitalized, it indicates that it is
being used to refer to a member of a pagan religion, not just to a
practitioner of folk-magic.  There are also Witches who practice religions
called Witchcraft which are not Wicca.  These religions tend to be more
folk-pagan than Wicca, drawing on the heritage of a specific culture or

Wicca itself is a new religion, drawing strongly on the practices of
Ceremonial Magic.  While there are claims that Wicca goes back into the
mists of pre-history, honest examination of the practices and history of
the Wicca will make it clear that Wicca is new.  (Actually, the word
"Wicca" itself is recently coined, at least in its present usage.  The OE
"wicca" was pronounced "witch-ah" and meant male magician.  The new word
"Wicca" is pronounced "wick-uh", capitalized as a religion, and means a
religion, not a person.)  However, Wicca has developed in many directions
and should not be seen as a unified whole, even though it is fairly new.
Rituals and beliefs vary widely among Witches.
Unlike most of the neopagan religions, Wicca is an initiatory religion,
that is, people who choose to practice Wicca believe that the commitment to
this path set changes in motion in their lives. Many Traditions (sects) of
Wicca formalize this with a ritual (or series of rituals) of initiation.
Others, especially Solitary Witches, trust that the Gods will do the
initiating of the Witch.  4b) Why do some of you use the word Witch?

First, not everyone in alt.pagan is Wiccan/Witchy, so this question only
applies to some of the people.
Witch is a very old word meaning "magic-maker", from a root which meant
"bending" and "shaping".  For many of us, the word Witch is a powerful
reclaiming of that inherent human power to make changes around us.  For
others, including some of the people within Wicca, that word is not their
word.  Some people within Wicca take the adjective "Wiccan" and use it as a

(Some people question the authenticity of the etymology that says "witch"
means "to bend or shape."  They believe that the word is simply from the
Old English for "wise one" and has no relation to the root mentioned above
-- which gives us the modern word "wicker," for instance.  However, this
definition is a good way to think of how a modern Witch might see

5) What are some different traditions in the Craft?

Different traditions in the Craft include Gardnerian Wicca, Alexandrian
Wicca, Dianic Wicca, the Faery tradition, many branches of Celtic-based
Wicca, and many other forms of Wicca often called eclectic, since they draw
their practices and liturgy from many different sources.  There is no way
to include all traditions because new ones are being created every day by
the practitioners themselves.

6) Are pagans Witches?
We've mentioned that even among pagans and Witches, there is dispute about
just how specific these terms are.  But the majority opinion seems to be
that the question, "Are pagans Witches?" is about the same as the question,
"Are Christians Catholics?" (or Methodists, Baptists or whatever).  Most
Witches are pagans, but not all pagans are Witches.

7) Are you Satanists?
This is a bit of a loaded question, since there are several different
conceptions of what Satanism really is.  Most pagans do not worship Satan
or practice Satanic rites.  Some pagans practice something called Satanism,
but it is a far cry from the Hollywood image of Satanism.  These people
tend to value pleasure as a primary motivation, or to find meaning in
images which the repressive Christian churches attacked.  For some of these
folk, reclaiming the word "Satanist" is an act of resistance against
oppression.  For more information on Satanism as a religion, please check
out alt.satanism.

If what you're really wanting to know is do we sacrifice babies and worship
evil incarnate, the answer's no.

8) What kinds of people are pagans?

People from all walks of life are pagans -- computer programmers, artists,
police officers, journalists, university professors -- the list is endless.
Many people, no matter what their mundane occupation, find solace in the
life-affirming aspects of paganism.

9) What holidays do you celebrate?

Because neopaganism follows so many traditions from many different parts of
the world, there is no single set of holidays that all neopagans celebrate.
Several calendars are available which list many different holidays, one or
more for every day of the year.  Most of these holidays are either
dedicated to particular deities (e.g. Brighid, Diana, Thor), or mark
seasonal changes in the environment (e.g. the solstices and equinoxes).
What specific holidays are celebrated is something decided within a certain
tradition, or by the individual.

9b) How do I pronounce...?  What does this name mean?

The names that are generally used to denote the Wiccan sabbats (as well as
festivals of many pagan traditions) come from Gaelic (both Scots and
Irish), Welsh, Norse, and Anglo-Saxon.  There are variations of
pronunciations for each one.  We are not trying to say that if you don't
say it like we tell you to, that you'll be wrong or anything like that.
But since so many people have asked, here is a list that can give you a
good start in trying to sound like the languages from which these words

Just remember, this is not some kind of Sekrit Pagan Language (TM); many of
these words are in use in Europe today by pagans and non-pagans alike to
denote these days.  And yes, this shows a European bias, but then so do the
commonly-used names for Wiccan holy days. These seem to be the names most
frequently asked about in alt.pagan.

Samhain (31 Oct) -- Irish Gaelic for "summer's end."  The standard Irish
pronunciation is either "SOW-in" with the "ow" like in "cow", or "SAH-win".
Other pronunciations that follow with the many Gaelic dialects include
"sow-een" "shahvin" "sowin" (with "ow" like in "glow").  The Scots Gaelic
spelling is "Samhuin" or "Samhuinn."  There is no linguistic foundation for
saying this word "samhane" the way it might look if it were English.  (To
be really untechnical about it, the "mh" is a little linguistic gadget that
tells you not to pronounce the "m" like, well, an "m".)  When in doubt,
just say "Hallows" or even "Hallowe'en."

Yule (@21 Dec) -- Norse for "wheel."  It's pretty much pronounced just like
it looks, although if you want to make a stab at a Scandinavian sound,
it'll be more like "yool" and less like "yewl." This is the winter

Imbolg/Imbolc (1 Feb) -- Irish Gaelic for "in the belly." Pronounce this
one "IM-bullug" or "IM-bulk" with a guttural "k" on the end.  Other names
include Candlemas; Brighid (pronounced "breed"), who is the Irish goddess
whose festival this is; and Oimelc (pronounced EE-mulk), which means "ewe's
milk" in Scots Gaelic.

Ostara (@21 Mar) -- Saxon name for a maiden goddess of spring, loosely
connected to Astarte and Ishtar.  This one's easy -- "o-STAHR-uh."  Other
names include Eostre (say "OHS-truh" or "EST-truh").  This is the spring

Beltane/Bealtaine (30 April) -- Irish Gaelic for either "fires of Bel" or
"bright fires."  If you want to try it in Gaelic, you can say
"bee-YAWL-tinnuh" or "BELL-tinnuh."  Unlike Samhain, this word can within
the linguistic structure of its language of origin be pronounced like it
looks -- "BELL-tane" -- without totally abandoning its original
construction.  Other names are Walpurgisnacht (vahl-PUR-gis-nahkt) and May

Litha (@21 Jun) -- Norse or Anglo-Saxon for "longest day." You can say this
one just like it looks, or you can try for a Scandinavian sound and say
"leetha" with the "th" more like a "t." This is the summer solstice.

Lughnasadh/Lunasa or Lammas (1 Aug) -- The first is Irish Gaelic for
"festival of Lugh" (a major Irish deity); the second is Anglo-Saxon for
"festival of the loaves" ("hlaf-mass").  Don't panic at that spelling (it's
that pesky "h" acting as a signal instead of a letter again); the second
(which is modern Irish as opposed to old Irish) tells you all you need to
know.  Say "LOO-nah-sah."  (Some people maintain that the Scots dialect
says it "LOO-nah-soo.")  Lammas is just like it looks, "LAH-mus."

Mabon (@21 Sep) -- This is believed to be a form of the Welsh word for
"son."  Therefore, it would probably be pronounced "MA-bon" with the "a"
like in "mass."  However, most Wiccans and pagans say "MAY-bon."  This is
the autumn equinox.

10) What god(s) do you believe in?

Neopagans believe in a great many goddesses and gods.  However, not all
neopagans believe in the same ones, or even in any at all. Many neopagans
believe in a Goddess and a God that are manifest in all things.  Some
follow particular pantheons (e.g. Greek, Irish, Norse, Yoruban, Welsh),
others don't stick to any one culture, and still others see the Divine in
more symbolic terms.  Many ascribe certain qualities to different
goddesses, such as Athena as the goddess of wisdom; Aphrodite as the
goddess of love; Artemis as the goddess of the hunt, and so on.  Many
pagans and Witches see the Goddess in three aspects, those of Maiden,
Mother and Crone; and the God in two, the Young God and the Old God.  Other
pagans do not believe in any gods at all, but instead honor spirits and/or
totems in various forms such as animals or trees, as in many of the native
American religions.  As is usually the case, defining "God" is a very
slippery idea.  But these are some of the more common among modern pagans.

11) Can one be both Christian and pagan?

Depends on who you ask.  :)

There is much dissention on this particular topic, with both pagans and
Christians taking both stances.  There are many brands of Christian
mysticism, some more similar to the aspects of paganism than others.  But
some pagans who dance outside to the light of the moon and praise the
Goddess in Her aspect of Diana see and feel no contradiction to going
inside and lighting candles to Mary, the Queen of Heaven and the Mother of
God, the next day.  And those same pagans see the same sacrificial king
motif in Jesus as they do in Osiris.

Many people might find it difficult to reconcile the two paths; others see
a successful integration possible.  It depends on what is right for the

12) What were the Burning Times?

The Burning Times is the name used by many modern Witches and pagans for
the era of the Inquisition, and of the other witch hunts (including Salem)
which sprang from it.  During that time, many women and some men were
persecuted for practices objectionable to the Church, especially
witchcraft.  The _Malleus Maleficarum_ was a guide on how to torture
accused witches into confessing to whatever they were accused of.  At the
height of the persecutions, entire towns were left with only one or two
women in them, and to this day no one knows for sure how many people were
brutally murdered during this craze.

As is often the case, this horror sprang from fear and misinformation --
most of the people who were arrested, tortured and killed were not Witches
(or witches) of any sort, but simply people who had gotten on the wrong
side of someone who had the local magistrate's ear, or who somehow didn't
fit in (particularly beautiful or ugly women, widows who had wealth or
owned land, the handicapped and retarded, and even overly intelligent
people are all examples of those who became primary targets of this

Although discrimination still exists against Witches and pagans, we now
enjoy comparative freedom of religious practice after those dark times.
But this time is considered a very important event by most Witches and
pagans (comparable to the atrocities and devastation perpetrated during the
Holocaust ), one that should never be forgotten, and many do active public
education work to assure as best they can that it will never happen again.

13) How many pagans/Witches are there today?

Although many people have given estimates, it's impossible to know this due
to the number of people "in the broom closet."  However, all branches of
the neopagan movement are steadily growing.  Even opponents of neopagan
religions acknowledge that they are the fastest-growing religions in North

14) What are some of the related newsgroups?  (This list subject to change
at any time)


15) Two pagan newsgroups?  Why soc.religion.paganism *and* alt.pagan?

We had a vote to create a talk.religion.paganism newsgroup back in January
1990 and it was voted down, largely because the proposed group was to be
moderated and people didn't like that idea back then.  So, when that
failed, some enterprising soul took it upon himself to create alt.pagan,
because you don't need approval to do that.

Over the ensuing years, we discussed changing newsgroup hierarchies
(usually to either soc.religion or talk.religion), but the consensus for a
long while was to leave things as they were.  Being typical pagans, we like
as little structure as possible (or at least we like to believe we do).

In 1996, in a response to continued inundation by spammers of the
electronic and evangelical sort, the moderated soc.religion.paganism was
proposed, voted on and created.  Although many people still didn't like the
idea of a moderated newsgroup, enough people thought it was time to  create
a spam-free environment.  However, alt.pagan is still very active and many
people spend their time on both newsgroups.

16) Is brutal honesty or polite conversation the preferred mode of
conversation around here?

People tend to get a little rowdy around here sometimes, so don't let it
get to you.  One of the disadvantages to this type of communication is the
increased possibility of misunderstanding due to the inability to see the
person and hear his or her vocal inflections, see their facial expressions,
et cetera.  It's generally frowned upon to attack someone baselessly, but
there is no problem with disagreeing with someone vigorously --
vociferously, even.  Try being constructive.

And a brief lecture:  There's really no need, honestly there isn't, to
flame someone who posts the nth money-making scam you've seen this week, or
who cross-posts to every newsgroup imaginable.  This mostly leads to more
wasted bandwidth, especially since the resulting flames often end up
cross-posted as well.  Just ignore them.  Start a new relevant topic
instead.  It's better for the continued survival and usefulness of the
newsgroup anyway.  (End of lecture.)

17) I'm not a pagan; should I post here?
Yes, definitely -- with a couple of caveats:

a) Don't come on to witness to us.  We're really not interested in being
converted (or worse, saved).  It's not a tenet of our path to convert, and
so we are particularly unhappy with the idea.  Plus which, you will add
unnecessarily to the noise level in this newsgroup, since most readers will
feel compelled to flame you to the farthest reaches of Hell.

(This doesn't mean we don't want to discuss aspects of other religions as
they relate to paganism, however.  Discussion we like. Argument, even.  But
*not* witness attempts.)

b) If you're new to News, then you might want to check out
news.announce.newusers for the posting protocol.  And you might want to
read some articles for a while -- get the feel of things -- before you

And remember, Usenet and Internet provide you with (among other things) the
opportunity to make a total fool of yourself in front of thousands of
people worldwide, *and* the bonus of having it preserved on CD-ROM for many
years afterwards.

18) How does one/do I become a pagan?

Most followers of pagan beliefs feel that, if someone is meant to find the
pagan path, s/he will eventually.  Usually, it is not a case so much of
"becoming" a pagan as it is of finding a vocabulary for ideas and beliefs
that you have always held.  Good ways of investigating if this path is for
you is to frequent pagan or new age bookstores, attend open pagan
gatherings when the opportunity arises, and look for contacts.  Most
importantly, read read read!  There are plenty of good books out there, as
well as periodicals.  The latter especially might be useful in the way of
making contacts in your area.

19) What books/magazines should I read?

There are many, many good books on this subject (and quite a few bad ones),
and different bibliographies are available on the Internet. But the best
book to read is _Drawing Down the Moon_ by Margot Adler. This is not a
how-to book; it's a comprehensive study of the neopagan movement in
America, and the author is a journalist, a reporter for National Public
Radio, and a pagan.

Also, to get started contacting other pagans, the best place to write is
Circle Network, P.O. Box 219, Mt. Horeb, WI, 53572.  Circle is the largest
pagan network in the country and publishes a guide to pagan groups around
the United States, Canada, and overseas.  They might be able to get you in
touch with pagans in your area if you can't find them yourself.  They also
have an extensive list of available publications.

For residents of the UK who are looking for contacts, try getting in touch
with the Pagan Federation.  Similar to Circle in intent, they publish a
quarterly newsletter and provides contact information for UK pagans.  Their
address is Pagan Federation, BM Box 7097, London, WC1N 3XX, United Kingdom.
If you start with that, then you will generally find pointers to other
sources and resources.

20) How do I find pagans/Witches/covens/teachers in my area?  How do I
evaluate them?

Some of your best contacts may come from your local new age, pagan or
occult bookstores.  Check their bulletin boards for notices, or ask the
staff.  Also, many periodicals frequently allow people to advertise for
contacts in their particular area.  Circle Network, based in Wisconsin, has
recently come out with an updated guide to pagan groups; it is available by
mail-order or through certain new age bookstores.

Don't be in a hurry to find a teacher.  "When the student is ready, the
teacher will appear" is a popular saying in most pagan and Craft
communities.  Frustrating as that may sound, it's really a sensible way to
think.  Neopaganism, like any esoteric movement, attracts its share of
unsavory characters.  When you do meet people, use your intuition.  If they
seem somehow "off" to you, then they're probably not for you.  If no one
seems like someone you think you'd like to be with, then you're probably
better off working solitary, at least for such time as you find no
compatible people.

And by no means should you infer from this that all solitaries are
"pagans-in-waiting".  Many people are quite happy to work alone, and in
fact prefer it.  There is nothing wrong with working on your own as long as
you like -- even if that turns out to be a lifetime.  In fact, there are
several people who highly recommend that you study on your own for a while
before looking for others to work with.  This gives you the chance to get
started figuring out what feels right for you without having pressure from
others to conform to their beliefs and dogmas.

21) What's a coven really like?

Well, if you're expecting to hear about sex and blood magic, animal
sacrifice, and ritual cruelty, then you'll be disappointed. Forming or
joining a coven is a spiritual commitment (the words coven and covenant are
related) that is entered into advisedly.  Once that bond is made, though,
you find yourself in a spiritual community of people who have roughly the
same theology, getting together to celebrate the passing of the seasons and
the cycles of the moon, providing support and comfort to its members -- a
lot like a small spiritual community of any faith.  Another common saying
in the Craft is "In perfect love and perfect trust," and that sums up the
relationship among coveners pretty well.

Another kind of group for like-minded pagans to gather in is called a
circle.  The ties between coven members are as close as those between
members of a family, and in some cases, closer.  A circle is similar to a
group of friends -- you like to do things together, but the bonds between
members are not as serious as between coven-members.

22) How do I form a coven?

Just as you shouldn't be in a big rush to find a teacher, you probably
shouldn't set right out to form a coven.  Most Witches believe the coven
bond to be a very intense and serious one, one that applies on the Karmic
as well as mundane levels.  Think of it as getting married -- you wouldn't
marry the first people you met who are interested in getting married too,
would you?

Forming a circle, or a magical study group, is perhaps a better first step.
It can be on a relatively informal basis, and you and the other
participants can get to know each other while learning about the Craft
together (as a matter of fact, many covens are formed from study groups).
The fun of this is that you can meet more people who are interested in what
you're interested in, and you can all learn together, and maybe even
develop a tradition from the results of your studies.  (You can do this as
a solitary, of course, but some people do take more enjoyment in working
with others.  Once again, do what's right for you.)

The steps for contacting people to form a coven are much the same as
finding other pagans and Witches in your area.  A word of advice, though:
You may want to leave your last name off, or get a P.O. box. Don't give out
your number (unless you have an answering machine). Advertising yourself as
being interested in this sort of thing might attract, shall we say,
undesirables.  Try writing such a notice so that those who are probably
interested in similar ideals will know what you're talking about without
attracting the attention of people who aren't.  Remember that words like
"witchcraft","pagan" and "coven" mean many different things to many
different people.

23) What does Dianic mean?

Like everything else in neopaganism and the Craft, the term Dianic is one
that has several meanings.  A majority of those who call themselves Dianic
are women that choose not to work with male energy in their ritual, magic,
or universe.  They feel that they need spiritual and psychic space filled
with only women's energy.

Some Dianics are feminist Witches, both lesbian and heterosexual, who often
come to the Craft through feminism.  Although these women may be involved
with men in one way or another, they agree that religion has
over-emphasized the male for the last several thousand years, and therefore
want to share their women's energy in women's circles.  They may or may not
also be involved with the mainstream pagan community, and they may or may
not participate in magic and ritual with men.

The most visible groups of Dianics are those who are lesbian Dianics.  They
are generally not interested in revering any sort of male deity or in
working with men in circle.  They choose to limit their dependence on and
acceptance of the male-defined world as much as possible, and they do so
not to exclude men but rather to celebrate women and the feminine.  For
that reason many of them do not interact much with the "mainstream" pagan

(There are also those who call themselves Dianic and who are not like those
described above, but who practice Witchcraft based on the traditions found
books like those of anthropologist Margaret Murray. However, the term is
more often meant to designate those practitioners described in the first
two paragraphs.  This definition is taken largely from the book _To Know_
by Jade.)

24) Aren't women-only circles discriminatory?

Yes, women-only circles are discriminatory.  So what?  *ALL* circles are
somewhat discriminatory, even if the only discrimination is that they'll
evict preachers who disrupt the proceedings of the circle.
If you're worried about being discriminatory in your own circle, simply
look at the circle as a group of friends.  Then, the discrimination is
simply a limit on who you'll have as your friends, which is undeniably a
good thing.

If you're worried about being discriminated against, then you can form your
own circle, and you have the option to make it a men-only circle.  Why do
you want to intrude into a social space where you're not wanted?

If the participants are discussing business-related things affecting you
during their circle, then you have legal rights to be allowed to
participate, regardless of whether the discrimination is gender-related or
not.  It would be good advice to avoid such topics during circle.  If
you're worried that a circle from which you're excluded is doing so, you
can talk to a lawyer to find out what those rights are and whether it will
be wise and useful to pursue them.

Ultimately, though, you need to remember that some people feel strongly
that some mysteries are gender-related and therefore it is not appropriate
to have men (or women, depending) in attendance.  It's not a plot to keep
you out or to make you feel bad, but rather quite an ancient method of
exploring certain mysteries that only apply to one sex (e.g. menstruation).

25) Can/will you cast me a love spell/curse my enemies?

Can we?  Probably.  (Whether it might yield the desired result is something
else.)  Will we?  Not on your life, bucko.

Pagans and Witches usually believe in some form of what's called the
Witches' Rede: "As long as you harm no one, do what you will." That isn't
nearly as easy as it might sound.  That means whatever action you
undertake, it can't harm anyone, including yourself. Witches and pagans
also believe in some form of the Law of Return: "Whatever you do magically
[or otherwise] will come back to you," some say three times, some nine,
some just say it will come back to you. And it does.  As Ursula K. LeGuin
said, "You can't light a candle without somewhere casting a shadow."
Most of us believe that it is wrong to use magical power to coerce someone
into doing something against his or her free will.  Curses and love spells
are the most prevalent examples of manipulative magic. Some Witches and
pagans do believe that using one's powers in defense (say, to assure a
rapist's getting caught) is all right; others do not.  Those who do choose
to work that kind of magic do so knowing that it will come back to them,
and are making an informed choice when they decide to do so.

This makes it sound as if we spend our lives deciding whether to curse or
hex someone, when that's not true.  Most of the time, our spells and
magical workings are for such things as healing the planet, getting a job
(or otherwise bringing prosperity into our lives), healing (both ourselves
and others), and spiritual empowerment. Spells are really quite similar to
prayer -- they just have more Hollywood hoopla attached to them.
Besides, anything you do for yourself will work much better than a spell or
working done by someone else.

26) Sometimes I see "magic" spelled with a "k".  Do real pagans spell it a
certain way?

"Magick" is a spelling used by some pagans and magicians (yes, you can
practice magic and not be pagan) to differentiate from sleight-of-hand,
rabbit-out-of-the-hat stuff.  Although it used to be a standard spelling
(if anything before the last 200 years or so can be called that), its use
in this century by pagans and witches can be traced to people like Aleister
Crowley and Dion  Fortune -- people who were primarily ceremonial
magicians.  Many practitioners of magic have begun using this spelling.
Many others still do not.  (Then there are folks who use other such
creative spellings as "majic" and "majik".)

Any of these is fine.  The "k" on the end -- or lack thereof -- does not
designate you or anyone else as either "in the know" or "without a clue".
How you spell the word does not affect your efficacy as a magical
practitioner one whit. Anyone who tells you otherwise is being, in this
author's humble opinion, silly.

27) Is it okay if I...? Will I still be a pagan if I...?

Yes. Most pagans take a clearly anti-authorative (no one is your superior)
stance when it comes to other pagans' religious practices. Ideally, we try
to remember the relativity of our values.

One of the major advantages of neopaganism, is that it is defined by you,
and that is what makes it so empowering (making you feel your own power).
Nobody can tell you that you aren't a true neopagan, because *you* decide
what's right for *you*. There are no dogmas (truth defined by an expert) in
neopaganism, simply because there couldn't possibly be any expert who knows
better than you what feels right for you.  Many pagans also appreciate the
Discordian catma (related to dog-ma):  "Any Discordian is expressly
forbidden to believe what she reads."  We also like the paradox in this
cuddly catma.

You are encouraged to share your new ideas and inventions with us, but a
statement along with a request for comments will probably give you  more
informative replies than asking your fellow netters for permission to do
what is right for you.  A "Am I still okay if I..." question will probably
leave you with dozens of responses containing the most frequently given
piece of advice on alt.pagan:  Do what feels right for you. If what you
really want is to hear that you are okay, please turn to

28) I am a pagan and I think I am being discriminated against because of my
religion.  What should I do?

First of all, don't panic.  Are you really being discriminated against, or
are things happening to you that would happen no matter what your religious
beliefs were?  Not to belittle religious discrimination because of course
it happens, but you want to be sure that's what is going on before you take
measures based on that assumption.

If, after looking at the situation objectively, you feel that you are being
treated the way you are *specifically because of your religion*, then there
are groups you can contact who specialize in giving assistance in just this
very thing.  One is Circle Network, whose address is given above.  Another
is AMER (Alliance of Magical and Earth Religions), and they can be reached
through Chris Carlisle at, or from addresses on
several hobbyist networks including FIDONET as well.

29) Hey, I heard that [insert name of famous rock singer or fantasy-novel
writer here] was a witch/pagan.  Is that true?

Well, the quick and dirty answer is: we don't know; why not ask them?
Seriously, this question is asked most frequently about those
artists/writers who use occult or magical imagery in their work (Stevie
Nicks, Loreena McKennitt and Mercedes Lackey being the most
commonly-asked-about people, with Cybill Shepherd having suddenly gained
great frequency after the 1996 Golden Globes).  Just because someone uses
that imagery in their work -- even if it's in a positive, pro-paganism way
-- does not mean that they are pagan themselves.  The vast wealth of
material provided by myth, folklore and occult knowledge is a tempting and
lucrative well of inspiration for creative artists.  But its use does not
automatically link the user to the Craft or paganism.  And that's okay.
They don't have to be pagans to write about pagans, or about pagan ideas.
They are creating art.  That is their job.  If the art reflects your life,
well and good.  Just don't expect it to also be a mirror image of the

In short, unless the person in question has unequivocally stated that s/he
is a pagan (e.g., Patricia Kennealy-Morrison, a practicing witch and Celtic
high priestess, and author of the _Keltiad_ series), you can't assume that
s/he is a pagan.  (Even then, they could change their minds, like Gael
Baudino did, or give different answers at different times, like Marion
Zimmer Bradley keeps doing.)  Does it really make that book or song or
painting less meaningful to you if you don't know the religion of its

30) What one thing would most pagans probably want the world to know about them
The answer included here comes from Margot Adler's excellent book _Drawing
Down the Moon: Witches, Druids, Goddess-Worshippers and Other Pagans in
America Today_ (the revised edition).  If after reading this FAQ, you want
to learn even more about modern paganism, we highly recommend this book.
It is available in most bookstores and in many libraries.

"We are not evil.  We don't harm or seduce people.  We are not dangerous.
We are ordinary people like you.  We have families, jobs, hopes, and
dreams.  We are not a cult.  This religion is not a joke. We are not what
you think we are from looking at T.V.  We are real. We laugh, we cry.  We
are serious.  We have a sense of humor.  You don't have to be afraid of us.
We don't want to convert you.  And please don't try to convert us.  Just
give us the same right we give you -- to live in peace.  We are much more
similar to you than you think."  -- Margot Adler, _Drawing Down the Moon_,

AFTERWORD  The creators of this FAQ want to thank the readers of alt.pagan
for their input in compiling the questions.  If you would like to
distribute this document, or quote portions from it, for educational
purposes, permission from the authors is hereby given, under the condition
that any such distribution must include the authors names in their
entirety.  Portions of this document may not be used without proper credit
to all authors.  Thank you and Blessed Be!

_Drawing Down the Moon_, Margot Adler, Beacon Press.
_To Know_, Jade, Delphi Press.

--- EOF altpagfaq.txt -----

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Southern Spirits: 19th and 20th century accounts of hoodoo, including slave narratives & interviews
Hoodoo in Theory and Practice by cat yronwode: an introduction to African-American rootwork
Lucky W Amulet Archive by cat yronwode: an online museum of worldwide talismans and charms
Sacred Sex: essays and articles on tantra yoga, neo-tantra, karezza, sex magic, and sex worship
Sacred Landscape: essays and articles on archaeoastronomy and sacred geometry
Freemasonry for Women by cat yronwode: a history of mixed-gender Freemasonic lodges
Satan Service Org: an archive presenting the theory, practice, and history of Satanism and Satanists
Lucky Mojo Usenet FAQ Archive: FAQs and REFs for occult and magical usenet newsgroups
Aleister Crowley Text Archive: a multitude of texts by an early 20th century occultist
Lucky Mojo Magic Spells Archives: love spells, money spells, luck spells, protection spells, etc.
      Free Love Spell Archive: love spells, attraction spells, sex magick, romance spells, and lust spells
      Free Money Spell Archive: money spells, prosperity spells, and wealth spells for job and business
      Free Protection Spell Archive: protection spells against witchcraft, jinxes, hexes, and the evil eye
      Free Gambling Luck Spell Archive: lucky gambling spells for the lottery, casinos, and races