Information on these pages has been used with permission from Scottish Inter Faith Council.
Local contact information
The local contact information below has been compiled by the Chaplaincy at the University of St Andrews.
St Andrews University Pagan Society
PO Box 14251
Introduction to Paganism
Paganism with its roots in the indigenous, pre-Christian religions of Europe has evolved and adapted to the circumstances of modern life. Its re-emergence in Scotland parallels that observed in other Western countries, where it has been growing rapidly since the 1950s. The social infrastructure of Paganism reflects the value the community places on unity in diversity, consisting of a polycentric network of inter-related traditions and local groups served by a number of larger organisations. In Scotland the Pagan Federation acts as an educational and representative body liaising with government and other relevant bodies on behalf of the Pagan community.
Pagans understand Deity to be manifest within nature and recognise Divinity as taking many forms, finding expression in Goddesses as well as Gods. Goddess worship is one of the primary characteristics of Paganism. Pagans believe that nature is sacred and that the natural cycles of birth, growth and death observed in the world around us carry profoundly spiritual meanings. Human beings are seen as part of nature, woven into the great web of life along with other animals, trees, stones, plants and everything else that is of this earth. Most Pagans believe in some form of reincarnation, viewing death as a transition within a continuing process of existence. In Paganism, spiritual truths find expression in mythopoeic and symbolic forms rather than through doctrine, and reflect a synergy of polytheistic, pantheistic and animistic understandings of the divine.
Customs and practices
Pagan ethics emphasise the responsible exercise of personal freedom in trying to live in harmony with others, and with nature. Pagans frequently use the phrase 'If it harms none, do what you will' to describe this approach to life. Pagan worship seeks to honour the divine powers and to bring the participants in harmony with them, to celebrate the turning of the seasons, and to mark the transitions of human life with appropriate rites of passage. Rituals usually begin with the creation of sacred space by the marking out of a symbolic circle and the blessing of those within. They may involve meditation, chanting, music, prayer, dance, poetry and the enactment of symbolic drama, together with the sharing of food and drink.
Places of worship
Paganism has no buildings dedicated as places of public worship. Instead, Pagans hold their ceremonies in woods, on hilltops, along the seashore, at standing stones, in parks, gardens and private homes.
Nearly all Scottish Pagans celebrate a cycle of eight seasonal festivals known as the Wheel of the Year. These are Samhain (31 October), Midwinter or Yule (21 December), Imbolc (2 February), Spring Equinox (21 March), Beltane (30 April - 1 May), Midsummer (21 June), Lughnasadh (1 August) and Autumn Equinox (21 September).
Food and diet
For ethical reasons, most Pagans have a strong preference for foods derived from organic farming and free-range livestock rearing, while many are vegetarian or vegan.
Concerns of the community
Pagans regard nature as sacred and are deeply concerned by the damage inflicted by modern, industrialised societies on the natural world. Many regard environmental activism as a religious duty. Pagans honour Deity in female as well as male forms and strongly uphold equality of the sexes. Women play a very prominent role in Pagan religion. Pagans take it for granted that different people will experience the divine in different ways, and are thus very tolerant of other life-affirming religious beliefs. Proselytising is regarded as offensive and ill-mannered.
You can get more information about religious movements from Inform, a charity based in London.