It's not within the scope of this web page to give a full description of Paganism and Pagan and Heathen practices, but here are a few of the basic facts.|
There are many forms of Paganism practiced today, with a wide variety of beliefs and practices, but there are some things that most Pagans tend to have in common. We are usually either pantheistic in that we see deity existing in everything and/or polytheistic in that we believe in many different deities; we tend to believe that all things in the universe are connected, and we need to be aware of and take responsibility for our actions and their effects; connection to deity is made directly by individuals rather than intermediaries, and many Pagan religious groups are therefore non-hierarchical; nature is respected and revered; and since Pagans believe that each person must seek the spiritual path that's appropriate and meaningful for them, and that there is no "one true way" to the gods, we don't evangelize or try to recruit.
There are many, many different forms of Paganism (some would say as many as there are individual Pagans!); here are a few of the better-known ones:
WiccaWicca, probably the most commonly practiced form of neo-Paganism, comes in many varieties. At its heart it is a religion that honors the feminine and masculine principles of nature--the Goddess and God. Traditionally Wiccans meet in covens or circles, but many today practice as solitaries, through choice or need. Some Wiccans call themselves Witches, and their religion Witchcraft; however, it's also possible to be a Witch but not Wiccan (confusing enough yet?).
Because of the wide range of paths that call themselves Wiccan (ranging from the original oath-bound Gardnerian-based paths to the self-taught eclectic ones) the word "Wicca" can mean many different things; it's probably a good idea to do a bit of research before committing to any specific branch of this tree.
DruidryIt's even harder to generalize about Druids than about Wiccans. Although many Druids are associated with one or more organizations, many others practice their own path. In general, however, druidry is a polytheistic nature religion; it differs from Wicca in its emphasis on or allowance for large group worship rather than small, it's worship of many gods (polytheism) rather than two (duotheism); and the importance Druids place on study--modern Druids try to learn about the ancient Celtic religion, and do a great deal of scholarly research to that end, although their worship isn't necessarily limited to these findings.
Some of the better-known Druid groups include Ar nDraiocht Fein (ADF), The Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids (OBOD) and Keltria; ADF is unique among these in that it is pan-Indo-European, which means that it includes non-Celtic cultures.
AsatruFollowers of Asatru, or Norse Paganism, attempt to recreate and revive the ancient religion of the Nordic people. They worship the Norse Pantheon (Odin, Freya, Thor, etc.) and emphasize individual freedoms and responsibility as well as the importance of family and community. Most Asatruar prefer to be called "Heathen" rather than "Pagan"
While many heathen groups focus on the gods of old Scandinavia, others may honor those of Pagan Anglo-Saxon England or other Teutonic cultures (the Norse Odin was called Woden in Saxon England, for example).
Reconstructionist PathsThere are a number of other different reconstructionist paths, the adherents of which attempt to rebuild (as much as possible given existing historical, archaeological and mythological information) original Pagan religions of ancient cultures. There are Celtic reconstructionists, Hellenic reconstructionists, Roman reconstructionists, Egyptian reconstructionists, and so forth.
Many Pagans, especially those practicing a Wiccan or Wiccan-based path, celebrate eight major holidays each year, give or take a few. The following are commonly celebrated by Wiccans:
Druids often celebrate the same holidays, albeit with a different mythological emphasis; generally Druid rituals honor specific deities rather than the general 'God" and Goddess".
Asatruar and other reconstructionist groups try to celebrate the holidays of their chosen culture in as historically accurate a way as possible, so the ritual calendar used by these groups may be quite different.