Paganism used to be defined as someone who was non-Christian. However, in the late 20th Century it took on a whole new meaning and the term "Neo-Pagan" is more appropriate and embraces a wide range of belief systems centered around the worship of nature. Contrary to myth, neo-pagans are not anti-social people, but individuals who share a particular worldview based on lore, magic and a love of nature.
Neo-Paganism, in the form we see it today, first began to emerge in 1964. They called themselves by that name and viewed themselves as "revivalist witches." Contrary to common belief, this does not mean they are associated in any way with Satanists. When academics write about this group they generally term them as "contemporary Paganism." There are many branches of Neo-Paganism including Wicca (discussed separately since it is so prominent), Shamanism, Goddess Spirituality, Sacred Ecology, and various Magical groups.
An Overview of Beliefs
It is difficult to isolate a single body of Neo-Pagan beliefs since they are so diverse. Most would be identified by polytheism (belief in many gods), a view that nature itself is divine, the celebration of seasonal festivals, astrology, honoring ancestral spirits and belief in Elves, wood sprites, spirit of the hearth and other entities.
Views on Death and the After-Life
Most Neo-Pagans believe in life after death, either in terms of reincarnation here or a transition to other realms. Many believe that there are three "Other-Worlds," including Valhalla or the White-Kingdom. It is reserved for those heroes who die violent deaths. They do not believe in the Christian concept of hell.
Mourning and Funeral Rites
Neo-Pagan funeral rites are a personal choice, not something dictated by doctrine or another person. There are no specific funeral customs for Neo-Pagans, but they do have a time to farewell the deceased. Funeral services tend to focus on cherishing the person's life, not the sadness at their loss. Many Neo-Pagan practitioners choose cremation over burial.
Since many believe in reincarnation, they see death as a rather transitory thing and so traditional mourning is not a meaningful emotional expression at a funeral. There is often a party after the funeral to celebrate the life of the deceased person.
How to Express your Condolences
Loss is a very personal thing. Among Neo-pagans you are free to express your condolences in traditional ways or you may wish to share your expression of loss in a creative and unique way. A greeting card is appropriate as is a letter of condolence; you may wish to telephone or visit surviving spouses.
Important note: The statements made about beliefs and rites are general in nature and may vary by sect, denomination, country or ethnic group. The information provided here is intended as an overview, and if you have questions about specific matters you should contact the clergy or other person conducting the funeral service. If you read anything in this section that differs from the beliefs in your tradition, please contact usso we can update this page.