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Activity 1: Find the Pagan (15 minutes), Workshop 21: Neo-Paganism—The Sacredness of Creation

In "Building Bridges," a Tapestry of Faith program

Materials for Activity

  • Handout 1, Pagan Beliefs?
  • Pencils and red pens
  • Newsprint with questions about Paganism generated in Opening)

Preparation for Activity

  • Copy the handout for all participants.
  • Set red pens and black pens on work tables for youth to share.

Description of Activity

Participants discover commonly shared pagan beliefs.

Say:

We have a definition for the Pagans we will talk about today: "Wiccans and other Neo-pagans whose religion is based on the deities, symbols, practices, seasonal days of celebration, and other surviving components of ancient religions, which had long been suppressed... Some modern pagan sects are earth-centered. They focus on living in harmony with the earth and observing its cycles. Others... are deity centered."

As a working definition, this is pretty cumbersome. So, we will start today by distinguishing commonly held beliefs among different pagan sects.

Distribute Handout 1, Pagan Beliefs? and set out pencils and pens. Ask youth to pair up and complete the handout. Instruct them to circle with a red pen beliefs they think most Pagans share. Circle in pencil beliefs some Pagan groups (such as Wiccans, which practice witchcraft) hold, but not most or all. Say that guessing is fine: No one is expected to know all the answers, and everyone's level of knowledge will depend on prior experiences with Paganism, which will vary from person to person.

Give the pairs seven minutes and then ask for volunteers to tell you how they answered and why.

Discuss with these questions:

  • All of these statements are held by some Pagan group. Does that surprise you? If so, which statements do you find surprising?
  • Which beliefs are most earth-centered? Which are more polytheistic?
  • Which beliefs are shared with other religions we have explored?
  • Which beliefs are shared within Unitarian Universalism? Is it easy to see why many Pagans have found a home within Unitarian Universalism?

Say:

Even though many Pagans have found a home in our faith, they are not always welcomed. Even UUs are sometimes uncomfortable, with Paganism and its association with the worship of evil, animal sacrifice, or the casting of spells. Some UUs see it as just too irrational. Paganism today is not well understood. Different regions of the country and different populations in the country define and view Paganism differently. What negative stereotypes have you heard about Pagans?

Because of negative attitudes, not all UU Pagans are "out"—that is, public about their Pagan faith. Some only practice privately. But others feel comfortable and welcomed in their congregations and enrich our communities with rituals, song, and dance and lively, interactive worship services.

Ask if anyone has participated in a Pagan worship service or ritual. Invite them to share their experiences. Facilitators can share, too. Ask if anyone has been part of a service where the four directions are invoked or the four elements called upon. These are Pagan elements that are becoming more common in UU worship services.

Tell the group that you will now focus on two sects: Wiccans and Neo-Pagans who draw from Celtic influences, as these are the two largest groups found in UU congregations.

For more information contact web@uua.org.

This work is made possible by the generosity of individual donors and congregations. Please consider making a donation today.

Last updated on Friday, November 15, 2013.

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