Druid Order of WhiteOak
OWO - Druid Order of WhiteOak
OWO - Druid Order of WhiteOak Triskelle
OfficiaNet   WhiteOak on Facebook
Paganism as a Path of Service Care of Pagan Patients

Care of Pagan Patients


Ellen Evert Hopman, M.Ed.
Druid Priestess, Order of the Whiteoak
Belchertown, MA
Author of Tree Medicine-Tree Magic, A Druids Herbal, Being a Pagan (with Larry Bond) and Walking the World in Wonder-A Children’s Herbal plus various videos on the subjects of herbalism and Paganism.

Things that Pagan patients would like you to be aware of;

1) Pagans (may include Wiccans, Witches, Druids, Asatru, Heathens, etc.) are Polytheists. References to “God” meaning one single monotheistic deity could be offensive. The Goddess is as important to a Pagan as The God, or they may have a whole pantheon of deities they work with.

2) Pagans will appreciate your awareness of holy days such as New Moons, Full Moons and the major festivals.


Samhain (pronounced Sow-In) or Halloween, October 31/November 1
The Celtic New Year, a festival to honor the dead.

Winter Solstice December 21 or 22
The time of the longest night, also the shortest day of the year. A time to honor the dark and the dreamtime, as well as a celebration of the return of the light.

Imbolc or “Brighid” February1/2
The festival of the Goddess Brighid, a triple Goddess of Healing, Smith-craft, and Poetry. A milk festival that celebrates the lactation of the ewes.

Spring Equinox or Ostara March 21/22
Originally a festival to honor the Germanic Goddess Eostre (from whose name we get the words East, Easter, Estrogen) Her symbols are the hare and the egg. A Fertility Goddess still honored by children today at “Easter”.

Beltaine or May Day, May 1
The beginning of summer. A festival celebrated with May Poles, feasting and dancing.

Summer Solstice, Litha, June 21
The longest day of the year when the Sun is at its height. Also the shortest night. A day to honor the Sun.

Lammas/Lughnasad (pronounces Lah-mass or Loo-nah-sah) August 1
The festival of the First Fruits of the harvest cycle such as the new grain. The God Lugh inaugurated the festival in honor of his foster mother. A time for games, horseracing, hand–fastings (marriages).

Fall Equinox/Mabon – September 21/22
A day of equal light and dark, a celebration of balance and of the middle of the harvest.

3) Please be aware that their Coven, Grove or spiritual family may be closer to them than their biological family. They should be allowed visiting privileges and rights.

4) Pagans do not proselytize and regard it as rather rude to be proselytized to.

5) Pagans regard death as part of the cycle of life, a natural occurrence. We may fear death but know that it happens to all; plants, trees, animals, people, stars and planets, eventually. There are no “rules” for the handling of deceased Pagans. Covens, Groves, and intimates of the deceased should be consulted as to their wishes. Pagans as a rule believe in reincarnation.

6) Pagans regard the elements of Earth, Fire, Water and Air as sacred and may want symbols of these around them (in the same way that a Catholic might want an image of Mary or a Protestant might want a Cross to hold or look at). Pagans may be comforted by a dragon, salamander, red heart or candle to represent Fire, a feather or wing for Air, a stone or tree branch for Earth, a shell or bowl of water for Water, etc. The Elements are not abstract symbols for Pagans. Earth, Air, Fire and Water, are in and of themselves sacred.

7) Pagans may also want a statue or image of the Goddess/es or God/s they worship in their room.

8) The Pentacle is a common symbol for Pagans and Witches and has nothing to do with Satanism. The five pointed star represents Earth, Air, Fire, Water and Spirit. For Wiccans the pentacle also represents the descent of Spirit to Earth/ humanity. Not all Pagans wear it, other symbols such as the Thor’s Hammer, the Druid Triskelle and the Egyptian Ankh, etc. may be worn.

9) Paganism is an Earth-based Nature Religion, much like Native American and other indigenous religions. Pagans do not worship Satan. Pagans honor the seasons and the cycles of life. We also believe that there is Divine Spirit within all things; stones, animals, herbs, trees, birds, people.

10) Pagans believe in the “Law of Three”, that is, a good deed will come back to the sender three times, as will an evil deed. This is basically a version of the Law of Karma. Pagans try hard not to hurt themselves or others.

11) Female and male clergy are equally honored and respected.

12) A Coven or Grove may wish to come into a patient’s room to do healing work such as Reiki, laying on of hands, visualizations, healing with stones, and other non-traditional healing methods. The patient may request such assistance from their Priest, Priestess, Coven or Grove, or may ask for a Holistic Nurse to administer these healing modalities.

13) There are no food or dietary restrictions for Pagans. Each Pagan chooses her or his own diet; some are vegetarians, some are omnivores.

Excerpt from the Military Chaplains' Handbook(Pages 231-236)[page headers read "Wicca; Witchcraft" on odd numbered pages, "Religious Requirements and Practices" on even numbered pages.]

(Please note - The "Chaplains Handbook" went out of print in 1990. The out-of-print decision was purely monetary. With the expenses of Operation Desert Storm looming, the government could not justify a new edition. You can still find copies of that handbook on the web.)

WICCA ADDRESS: No central address. Wiccan worship groups, called covens, are essentially autonomous. Many, but far from all, have affiliated with:

Covenant of the Goddess
P.O. Box 1226
Berkeley, CA 94704

OTHER NAMES BY WHICH KNOWN: Witchcraft; Goddess worshippers; Neo-Paganism, Paganism, Norse (or any other ethnic designation) Paganism, Earth Religion, Old Religion, Druidism, Shamanism. Note: All of these groups have some basic similarities and many surface differences of expression with Wicca.

LEADERSHIP: No central leadership. The Covenant of the Goddess annually elects a First Officer and there is a constitutional limit of two consecutive terms, but in practice officers have almost always served for one year only. In 1991, there are two co-First Officers, Phoenix Whitebirch and Brandy Williams. MEMBERSHIP: Because of the complete autonomy of covens, this cannot be determined. There are an estimated of 50,000 Wiccans in the United States.

HISTORICAL ORIGIN: Wicca is a reconstruction of the Nature worship of tribal Europe, strongly influenced by the living Nature worship traditions of tribal peoples in other parts of the world. The works of such early twentieth century writers as Margaret Murray, Robert Graves and Gerald B. Gardner began the renewal of interest in the Old Religion. After the repeal of the anti-Witchcraft laws in Britain in 1951, Gardner publicly declared himself a Witch and began to gather a group of students and worshipers.

In 1962, two of his students Raymond and Rosemary Buckland (religious names: Lady Rowen and Robat), emigrated to the United States and began teaching Gardnerian Witchcraft here. At the same time, other groups of people became interested through reading books by Gardner and others. Many covens were spontaneously formed, using rituals created from a combination of research and individual inspiration. These self-created covens are today regarded as just as valid as those who can trace a "lineage" of teaching back to England.

In 1975, a very diverse group of covens who wanted to secure the legal protections and benefits of church status formed Covenant of the Goddess (CoG), which is incorporated in the State of California and recognized by the Internal Revenue Service. CoG does not represent all, or even a majority of Wiccans. A coven or an individual need not be affiliated with CoG in order to validly practice the religion. But CoG is the largest single public Wiccan organization, and it is cross-Traditional (i.e. non-denominational).

BASIC BELIEFS: Wiccans worship the sacred as immanent in Nature, often personified as Mother Earth and Father Sky. As polytheists, they may use many other names for Deity. Individuals will often choose Goddesses or Gods from any of the world's pantheons whose stories are particularly inspiring and use those Deities as a focus for personal devotions. Similarly, covens will use particular Deity names as a group focus, and these are often held secret by the groups.

It is very important to be aware that Wiccans do not in any way worship or believe in "Satan," "the Devil," or any similar entities. They point out that "Satan" is a symbol of rebellion against and inversion of the Christian and Jewish traditions. Wiccans do not revile the Bible. They simply regard it as one among many of the world's mythic systems, less applicable than some to their core values, but still deserving just as much respect as any of the others.

Most Wiccan groups also practice magic, by which they mean the direction and use of "psychic energy," those natural but invisible forces which surround all living things. Some members spell the word "magick," to distinguish it from sleight of hand entertainments. Wiccans employ such means as dance, chant, creative visualization and hypnosis to focus and direct psychic energy for the purpose of healing, protecting and aiding members in various endeavors. Such assistance is also extended to non- members upon request.

Many, but not all, Wiccans believe in reincarnation. Some take this as a literal description of what happens to people when they die. For others, it is a symbolic model that helps them deal with the cycles and changes within this life. Neither Reincarnation nor any other literal belief can be used as a test of an individual's validity as a member of the Old Religion.

Most groups have a handwritten collection of rituals and lore, known as a _Book of Shadows._ Part of the religious education of a new member will be to hand copy this book for him or herself. Over they years, as inspiration provides, new material will be added. Normally, access to these books is limited to initiated members of the religion.

PRACTICES AND BEHAVIORAL STANDARDS: The core ethical statement of Wicca, called the "Wiccan Rede" states "an it harm none, do what you will." The rede fulfills the same function as does the "Golden Rule" for Jews and Christians; all other ethical teachings are considered to be elaborations and applications of the Rede. It is a statement of situational ethics, emphasizing at once the individual's responsibility to avoid harm to others and the widest range of personal autonomy in "victimless" activities. Wicca has been described as having a "high-choice" ethic.
Because of the basic Nature orientation of the religion, many Wiccans will regard all living things as Sacred, and to show a special concern for ecological issues. For this reason, individual conscience will lead some to take a pacifist position. Some are vegetarians. Others will feel that, as Nature's Way includes self-defense, they should participate in wars that they conscientiously consider to be just. The religion does not dictate either position, but requires each member to thoughtfully and meditatively examine her or his own conscience and to live by it.

Social forces generally do not yet allow Witches to publicly declare their religious faith without fear of reprisals such as loss of job, child-custody challenges, ridicule, etc. Prejudice against Wiccans is the result of public confusion between Witchcraft and Satanism. Wiccans in the military, especially those who may be posted in countries perceived to be particularly intolerant, will often have their dogtags read "No Religious Preference." Concealment is a traditional Wiccan defense against persecution, so non-denominational dogtags should not contravene a member's request for religious services.

Wiccans celebrate eight festivals, called "Sabbats," as a means of attunement to the seasonal rhythms of Nature. These are January 31 (Called Oimelc, Brigit, or February Eve), March 21 (Ostara or Spring Equinox), April 30 (Beltane or May Eve), June 22 (Midsummer, Litha or Summer Solstice), July 31 (Lunasa or Lammas), September 21 (Harvest, Mabon or Autumn Equinox), October 31 (Samhain, Sowyn or Hallows), and December 21 (Yule or Winter Solstice.) Some groups find meetings within a few days of those dates to be acceptable, others require the precise date. In addition, most groups will meet for worship at each Full Moon, and many will also meet on the New Moon. Meetings for religious study will often be scheduled at any time convenient to the members, and rituals can be scheduled whenever there is a need (i.e. for a healing).
Ritual jewelry is particularly important to many Wiccans. In addition to being a symbol of religious dedication, these talismans are often blessed by the coven back home and felt to carry the coven's protective and healing energy.

ORGANIZATIONAL STRUCTURE: Most Wiccans meet with a coven, a small group of people. Each coven is autonomous. Most are headed by a High Priestess, often with the assistance of a High Priest. Some are headed by a High Priestess or High Priest without a partner, and some regard themselves as a gathering of equals. Covens can be of mixed gender, or all female or male, depending on the preferences of the members. Every initiate is considered to be a priestess a priest. Most covens are small. Thirteen is the traditional maximum number of members, although not an absolute limit. At that size covens form a close bond, so Wiccans in the military are likely to maintain a strong affiliation with their covens back home.
There are many distinct "Traditions" of Wicca, just as there are many denominations within Christianity. The spectrum of Wiccan practice can be described as ranging from "traditional" to "eclectic," with Traditions, covens and individuals fitting anywhere within that range. A typical difference would be that more traditional groups would tend to follow a set liturgy, whereas eclectic groups would emphasize immediate inspiration in worship.
These distinctions are not particularly important to the military chaplain, since it is unlikely that enough members of any one Tradition would be at the same base. Worship circles at military facilities are likely to be ad-hoc cross-Traditional groups, working out compromise styles of worship for themselves and constantly adapting them to a changing membership. Therefore, the lack of strict adherence to the patterns of any one Tradition is not an indicator of invalidity.

While many Wiccans meet in a coven, there are also a number of solitairies. These are individuals who choose to practice their faith alone. The may have been initiated in a coven or self initiated. They will join with other Wiccans to celebrate the festivals or to attend the various regional events organized by the larger community.

ROLE OF MINISTERS: Within a traditional coven, the High Priestess, usually assisted by her High Priest, serves both as leader in the rituals and as teacher and counselor for coven members and unaffiliated Pagans. Eclectic covens tend to share leadership more equally.

WORSHIP: Wiccans usually worship in groups. Individuals who are currently not affiliated with a coven, or are away from their home coven, may choose to worship privately or may form ad-hoc groups to mark religious occasions. Non-participating observers are not generally welcome at Wiccan rituals.

Some, but not all, Wiccan covens worship in the nude ("skyclad") as a sign of attunement with Nature. Most, but not all, Wiccan covens bless and share a cup of wine as part of the ritual. Almost all Wiccans use an individual ritual knife (an "athame"_ to focus and direct personal energy. Covens often also have ritual swords to direct the energy of the group. These tools, like all other ritual tools, are highly personal and should never leave the possession of the owner.

Other commonly used ritual tools include a bowl of water, a bowl of salt, a censer with incense, a disk with symbols engraved on it (a "pentacle"), statues or artwork representing the Goddess and God, and candles. Most groups will bless and share bread or cookies along with the wine. All of these items are used in individual, private worship as well as in congregate rituals.


FUNERAL AND BURIAL REQUIREMENTS: None. Recognition of the death of a member takes place within the coven, apart from the body of the deceased. Ritual tools, materials, or writings found among the effects of the deceased should be returned to their home coven (typically a member will designate a person to whom ritual materials should be sent). It is desirable for a Wiccan priest or priestess to be present at the time of death, but not strictly necessary. If not possible, the best assistance would be to make the member as comfortable as possible, listen to whatever they have to say, honor any possible requests, and otherwise leave them as quite and private as possible.

MEDICAL TREATMENT: No medical restrictions. Wiccans generally believe in the efficacy of spiritual or psychic healing when done in tandem with standard medical treatment. Therefore, at the request of the patient, other Wiccan personnel should be allowed visiting privileges as though they were immediate family, including access to Intensive Care Units. Most Wiccans believe that healing energy can be sent from great distances, so, if possible, in the case of any serious medical condition, the member's home coven should be notified.

OTHER: With respect to attitude toward military service, Wiccans range from career military personnel to conscientious objectors.
Wiccans do not proselytize and generally resent those who do. They believe that no one Path to the Sacred is right for all people, and see their own religious pattern as only one among many that are equally worthy. Wiccans respect all religious that foster honor and compassion in their adherents, and expect the same respect. Members are encouraged to learn about all faiths, and are permitted to attend the services of other religions, should they desire to do so.


The best general surveys of the Wiccan and neo-Pagan movement are:

Adler, Margot. Drawing Down the Moon Boston: Beacon Press, 1986.

Hopman, Ellen Evert, and L. Bond. Being A Pagan Rochester, VT: Destiny Books, 2002.

For more specific information about eclectic Wicca, see:

Starhawk. The Spiral Dance. New York: Harper & Row, 1979.

For more specific information about traditional Wicca, see:

Farrar, Janet, and Stewart Farrar. Eight Sabbats for Witches. London: Robert Hale, 1981. 192pp.

The Witches' Way. London: Robert Hale, 1984. 394pp.

Because of the autonomy of each coven and the wide variance of specific ritual practices, the best contact person would be the High Priestess or other leader of the member's home coven.

You will find the Military Chaplain’s Handbook on line at:
For more information on military Pagans please see the following; Military Pagan Network, Inc http://www.milpagan.org and info@milpagan.org
Pagan Military Newsletter Newsletter@milpagan.org
(Please note – the above Pagan military organizations are not affiliated with The Covenant of the Goddess)


A Modern Druid's perspective By Ellen Evert Hopman

Most Pagans, here in the US as in Europe, are Witches or Wiccans. There is still allot of confusion as to what a modern "Druid" actually is. Please keep in mind that there are many different Druid Orders and as is the case with most Pagan groupings, no two Druids will see things in exactly the same way.

To further confuse matters there is a different focus and feel to American Druid Orders and English ones. I can only speak for myself, as an
American Druid of the Order of the Whiteoak (Ord Na Darach Gile) (www.whiteoakdruids.org)


"Gaine daughter of pure Gumor,
nurse of mead-loving Mide,
surpassed all women though she was silent
she was learned and a seer and a chief Druid".

(From The Metrical Dindsenchas, Gwynn translation, 1903)

There is plenty of evidence that women as well as men were Druids in ancient times. Druids presided at divinations and sacrifices and praised the Gods, but the primary task of all grades of Druids was to follow an intellectual path. The Druids were the learned class of the ancient Celts, analogous to the Brahmins of India.

Both Hindu and Celtic culture are derived from the same proto-Indo-European roots. The cast system of the Hindus and the cast system of the Celts were essentially the same; both were fluid, that is one could move up or down the social ladder depending on skill and learning (it was only in the 10th century that Hinduism "froze" its cast system - a reaction to invaders from outside). The Druid was analogous to the Brahmin, the warrior to the Kshatria. There was the producer class of farmers and craftsmen and finally the slaves who were analogous to the Hindu untouchables. Among Druids there were specialists, it seems unlikely that every Druid was mistress of every Druidical function. Druids did not commit their knowledge to writing; important facts were memorized and passed down orally.

A Druid could be a Sencha, or historian for the tribe. They could be a Brehon, in which case they would have memorized volumes of Brehon Law making them eligible to be a lawyer, a judge, or an ambassador. A Druid could also be a Scelaige, or keeper of myths and epics. These myths were recited at important occasions like weddings and births, at the onset of a major journey or a battle.

The Cainte was a master of magical chants, invocations and curses. They could banish or bless with a song. The Cruitire was a harpist who knew the magical uses of music, she was mistress of the "three kinds of music", laughing music (the sound of young men at play), crying music (the sound of a woman in the travails of childbirth), and sleeping music (the sound of which would put a person to sleep). The Druid might be a Liaig, a doctor who used surgery, herbs and magic to heal, or a Deoghbaire, a cupbearer who knew the properties of intoxicating and hallucinogenic substances.

Further specialties included the Faith, or diviner, the Bard, who was a popular poet and singer, and the highest grade of Druid, the Fili, a sacred poet and diviner whose words were prophetic. Like Sorcerers, Druids performed feats of magic in the service of the king or queen and in the service of the tribe.

"Then Mogh Roith said to Ceann Mo/r: "Bring me my poison-stone
my hand-stone, my hundred-fighter, my destruction of my enemies".
This was brought to him and he began to praise it, and he
proceeded to put a venomous spell on it..."

(Forbhais Droma Da/mhgha/ire, Sea/n O'Duinn translation)

Druids were the teachers of the sons and daughters of the nobility. It was their task to hand down from generation to generation the knowledge of sacred animals, trees, plants, stones and all the details of the landscape, its history and how each feature got its name, as well as the tribal laws and precedents.

In contrast to village Cunningmen and Wisewomen (Witches), who were counselors, midwives, magicians, herbalists, and veterinarians for their community, the Druids advised and worked closely with the nobility. A king or queen was a person from the warrior class who had spent their entire life learning the arts of defense and war, who was then elevated to the "Nemed" or sacred class by means of an elaborate ritual.

Druids were hereditary members of the Nemed class who had spent their lives learning the laws. A king or queen had to have a Druid advisor by their side at all times so that they could rule according to precedent. The stories of Arthur and Merlin are a good illustration of this relationship. The justice of the king was so important that it would determine whether strong and good-looking children would be born to the people and if the weather, crops and animals would prosper.

There is evidence that the Druids supervised at human sacrifices. However, there is no evidence of the type of wholesale immolation in wicker cages reported by Julius Caesar. It is well to remember that Caesar was attempting to paint the Druids in a lurid light in order to get funding from Rome to continue his military campaigns and further his personal political ambitions. It seems likely that prisoners of war and criminals were dispatched in much the same way as we do it today, after judgment and sentencing.


The Druids were not priests and priestesses of Atlantis, nor were they a lost tribe of Israel. Early English historians could not imagine that groups such as the Irish (whom they considered to be backward and inferior) could possibly have produced such a class of noble intellectuals and clergy.

The Druids did not build Stonehenge or the magnificent Cairns of the Boyne Valley; Knowth, Dowth and Newgrange which were built by pre-Indo-European, Bronze Age peoples. However, it is quite likely that the Druids used those monuments. In the case of the Irish structures, there is plenty of mythological evidence that the Iron Age Celts and their Druids revered these sites as sacred. The Druids were not proto-Christians. They had their own system of ethics and deities that pre-dated Christianity.


All of which brings us to the difficult question of what it means to be a Druid in the new millennium. All Druids attempt to honor Celtic tradition. They also understand that there is no fully intact tradition of Druidism that stretches back to the wise ones of ancient times and that of necessity every Druid Order must create its own ritual form. Some are happy to include recent speculations, such as the poetry of Robert Graves (inventor of the Celtic Tree Calendar) and others try to stick to more rigorously researched, scholastically verifiable sources.

It is more common to find practicing Christians among the English Orders. American Druid Orders, such as Whiteoak, Keltria, and ADF, place a larger emphasis on Pagan Celtic scholarship, seeing themselves as lore keepers for Pagan Celtic cultural, religious and magical tradition. Irish Druidism is often concerned with the Forest Druid tradition, seeking to keep alive the ancient woods lore of the forest dwellers of the Elizabethan era and earlier.

As in the past, modern Druids tend to be intellectually curious, reading voraciously subjects such as Celtic tribal law, history, philosophy, poetry, magic, religion, mythology, spirituality, traditional healing methods, music, archaeology and astronomy. Druids love nature and seek to know the land they live on intimately, observing seasonal and astronomical changes and animal behaviors as timing for our festivals and as portents for the future.

Druids honor rivers, trees, mountains, green herbs, rocks, animals and every living thing. The Whiteoak Druids, for example, take an oath to protect "the Earth and Her creatures", making offerings to trees, stones, and to the local River Goddess of the Druid's bioregion. Druids place an emphasis on praising the Gods and less of an emphasis on magic, using song, poetry, and crafts to express their love and kinship with their chosen deities. Druids make offerings to fire and water as a regular part of their rituals, in keeping with ancient Indo-European tradition.

Celtic Reconstructionist Druids, in keeping with tradition, work with the Three Worlds (Land, Sea and Sky) more than the Four Directions. Druids invoke and thank the ancestors, the Nature Spirits and the Gods in their rites.

Druids are true polytheists, understanding each deity as a distinct individual with His or Her unique likes, dislikes, and spheres of influence. Among Druids is considered somewhat rude to bring deities from different religions and cultures together in the same circle and every effort is made to work within genuine Celtic pantheons.

A Witch's circle is a closed space, designed to hold and contain energy to build it into a "cone of power". A Druid circle is a permeable affair; persons may walk in and out at will. Since part of the energy raising involves inviting the Nature Spirits to participate, Druids feel that there is no point in walling off the circle. Druid ceremonies are most often performed out of doors, ideally in the presence of living water, a fire, and a tree (or a pole or staff substitute).


The Druids are not a male priesthood. There are a few popular authors and at least one old English Order that try to perpetuate that idea, but thankfully they are in the minority and do not represent the majority of Druids today. Modern Druids do not practice animal or human sacrifice, regarding hard work and artistic achievements as adequate offerings. Druids are not among those who seek to exploit or ignore the Earth in Her time of need. They recognize that nature hangs in a delicate balance and that all life must be tended with care.

Druids do not ignore the needs of the people. As in ancient times they care for the welfare of the people, giving comfort in times of sickness and death, rejoicing in each others life passages and achievements, and seeking to advise, as best they can, the secular leaders of their towns, states and nations. They donate time and money to cultural and humanitarian projects that capture their imaginations.

In short, Druidism is not a solitary path. The Druid is not isolated from her spiritual community, her town, her city, her nation or the world.

Dearbhaig (Oath) of the Whiteoak Druids

By those who are over me
By those who are below me
By those who are in the earth
By those who are in the air
By those who are in heaven
By those who are in the fire
By those who are in the great pouring sea
I bind myself with Truth to these:
Nothing before the three-fold Earth
And in these worlds, my people's Gods
And in these Gods, all life, my tribe
And in all beings, I bind my self.
I begin the ring of virtue:
In justice shall I be impartial
In impartiality shall I be conscientious
In conscience shall I be firm
In firmness shall I be generous
In generosity shall I be hospitable
In hospitality shall I be honorable
In honor shall I be stable
In stability shall I be beneficent
In beneficence shall I be capable
In capability shall I be honest
In honesty shall I be eloquent
In eloquence shall I be steady
In steadiness shall I be truly judging
In truly judging shall I be merciful
In mercy shall I be just
Thus unites the ring of virtue.
This I swear by land, sea, and sky
the ancestors be my witness.

For a list of links to the major Druid Orders, book lists and Pagan
service projects please see; www.whiteoakdruids.org


Breatnach, Liam; Uraicecht Na Riar (translator) Dublin Institute for Advanced
Studies, 1987
Hopman, Ellen Evert; A Druids Herbal, Destiny Books, Rochester, VT, 1995
Kelly, Fergus; A Guide To Early Irish Law, Dublin Institute for Advanced
Studies, Dublin 1991
Kelly, Fergus; (translator) Audacht Morainn, Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies,
Markale, Jean; The Druids, Celtic Priests of Nature, Inner Traditions,
Rochester, VT, 1999
Matthews, John; The Druid Source Book, Blanford Press, London, 1996

Ellen Evert Hopman, herbalist, author and Druid Priestess

Modern Paganism – the simple version
By Scott Chisholm Lamont, HP, Circle of the Winter Moon

What exactly is Paganism? Where does Wicca fit in? And how about those Heathens?

Pagan: An umbrella term representing all positive, Earth-based, polytheistic &/or pantheistic/panentheistic faiths. Comes from the Latin: "paganus" meant a country dweller, and was a term of derision by the city folk for the unsophisticated country bumpkin. Over the course of time, it came to mean the non-Christian religious practices of those people.

Wicca: A specific religion within Paganism, made up of many different traditions (sects). It is more specified ritualistically than most other Pagan faiths. Central tenets include immanent Divinity in the form of Goddess(es) and God(s), the importance of balance (gender, energy, polarities), the cycles of life, attunement to the natural world, the use of magick for personal growth, and the responsibility of free will.

Heathen: A term of Northern European origin. It simply meant someone who lived in the heaths, or who's house sported a roof made of heath sod. Therefore, like Pagan, it meant a country dweller. It is the term preferred by practitioners of Asatru.

Asatru: A common name for the Northern Tradition or Nordic Tradition, which are based on Norse and Anglo-Saxon myth. It is sometimes referred to as Odintru. They worship the Divine in the form of the Gods and Goddesses grouped into two classes: The Vanir, or nature spirits, and the Aesir. Central to their faith is the concept of Yggdrasil, a shamanistic world tree.

My experience has been that the Pagan faiths are very much about people reconnecting with spirituality as a part of the process of reconnecting with the living planet, and that is certainly how I came to this path as a young teen. I think that one of the most positive aspects of the revival of the old Pagan faiths is that as they connect people with the spiritual aspect of life in a concrete way, as it is lived and experienced, it allows them to reconnect with their ancestral heritage, to feel the continuity of generations of spiritual practice.

One good definition for Pagans is that they are "nature-worshipers, finding joy and a sense of true belonging in places of natural beauty . . .Pagans love and honour the Earth as Mother Goddess, celebrating her cycles". That covers pretty much any of the different traditions.

Three more terms commonly mentioned are "Earth Spirituality", "Neo-Pagan", and “Goddess Spirituality.

"Earth Spirituality" is the catchall term, which pertains to any spiritual practice, formalized or not, that holds the sacredness of the Earth and/or the immanence of the Divine in the natural world as its central tenet.

"Neo-Pagan faiths" are more formalized, in that they have some specific traditions or teachings that are passed on in a recognizable way. Many people prefer to use the term "Neo-Pagan" instead of "Pagan" to emphasize the break in the teaching of these traditions over the past several centuries. These faiths are, in fact, revivals or recreations. Wicca, Asatru, and Druidism fall under "Neo-Pagan", whereas surviving shamanistic traditions (such as the Siberian, Mayan, and Sammi traditions) can truly be described as "Pagan".

“Goddess Spirituality” is both a practice in itself and a descriptive grouping for those Neo-Pagan faiths that have the primacy of the feminine Divine as a central tenet.

Pagan worship is often at the individual or family level, with participation in group activities only occurring at certain public festivals. Pagan worship groups (called covens, circles, halls, groves, and other names) that offer teaching and ongoing participation tend to be very small, ranging from 3 to 50 people, though generally not larger than 13. Where possible, worship will be in a natural space, but is often done in private homes. Public gatherings can be quite large (attendance at Spiral Dance in San Francisco is 1500 or more, DragonFest and Pagan Spirit Gathering approach 1000, in New Mexico, the annual Beltane is over 450), and usually correspond to seasonal holy days, called Sabbats.

There are eight Sabbats (often referred to as the High Holidays) which correspond to the Earth's seasons and rotation. It is on these days that Pagans celebrate the cycles of life and attune themselves with Mother Earth. Additionally, there are 24 – 26 Esbats (ritual days in accordance with the new and full moon of each month).

The generic Pagan Sabbats are as follows:

Pagan clergy are often referred to as Priest or Priestess (prefaced by the word “High” if they lead a coven or circle) or Elder. Some will use the style “The Reverend” as they feel it is more recognized by the general public. There is no formal, overall leadership or hierarchy, no set doctrine or book, nor any universal practices. Most Pagans consider themselves in charge of their own spiritual development, and are therefore their own clergy for all intents and purposes.

Why use the term “Witch”? Isn’t it a pretty negative word? Aren’t there better choices?

Witch: A practicioner of the magickal arts; can belong to any spiritual path, including Christianity and Judaism. "Witch" comes from the Anglo-Saxon wicce (wicca is actually the masculine form of the word), which in turn derives from an Indo-European root word meaning to bend or change or do magic/religion (making it related to "wicker," "wiggle," and even "vicar"). It is possibly also related to the Old Norse vitki (meaning wizard), derived from root words meaning "wise one" or "seer." "Warlock" (rarely used, for male Witches) is from the Old Norse varðlokkur, "spirit song" (not Scots Gaelic for "oath-breaker").

Witchcraft: Roughly translated to “the craft of bending or shaping the world based on attunement to and understanding of nature”, or more simply: “The Craft of the Wise”, shortened to “The Craft”. Wicca is an Earth-based religion that includes Witchcraft as a core spiritual practice. Therefore, generally speaking, Wiccans are Witches, but not all Witches are Wiccan.

Modern Wicca is really a new religion, although its roots are very old. The foundation of the religion is the ancient fertility religions of the Western world. The primary annual celebrations are named for Celtic & Norse festivals, which are the Greater Sabbats (based on the Celtic lunar calendar, also called the Cross-Quarters) and the Lesser Sabbats (based on the Nordic solar calendar, also called the Solstices and Equinoxes). Many of these festivals were celebrated continuously for centuries, long after the arrival of Christianity to Europe. Those who followed the old traditions were often the “wise women” and “cunning men” of their very rural communities. They offered advice on when to plant and harvest, had knowledge of healing herbs, and performed magick to promote fertility and to ward off harm.

These practices became perceived as harmful, even evil, and were discouraged actively starting in the early 1200’s. Britain did not repeal its last witchcraft laws until 1951. Beginning in the early 20th century, people began to reconstruct ancestral practices of the British Isles, coupled with Eastern philosophy, Western High Magick, conjecture, mythology, archeological findings, and inspiration from surviving Earth Spirituality practices from around the world. Wicca remains a highly creative and evolving faith, although it has certainly gelled around certain key principles and practices. Science has also contributed to the development of the religion. Many Pagans find spiritual lessons in the findings of science with regards to the natural world, much as their ancestors found lessons in the observable facts of the world around them. The take-away point is that there is no central text, no set dogma, and no hierarchy. Wicca is a faith of exploration and personal responsibility for discovering spiritual meaning. It has been described as a faith made up entirely of clergy.

In reclaiming what many perceived as a suppressed faith, the choice to be called “Witch” had several possible purposes. One was to be iconoclastic and counter-cultural. Another was to be very deliberately distanced from the monotheistic faiths (and in some cases, in opposition to them, generally due to personal history). Yet another was to return a word that had been maligned to respectability, even to remove its negative charge by using it as if it were positive, much as the Queer community has done with the various epitaphs used against its members. To this day, there are some who just like it because it is “cool” and “edgy”. On the other hand, there are those who will avoid the term, and prefer to be called “Wiccan”. Make no assumptions!

Druids and Shamans have not had the public relations issues faced by Witches. Druidism & Shamanism are also both reconstructions of practices from pre-Christian Europe. Because the Druidic system was very formalized, it was at least partially documented by the Romans. Shamanism was not documented, but there are combinations of archeological evidence and some surviving traditions, which have evolved into current practices. Both are now well established in western countries and have large memberships, although not as large as Wicca.

There are many other Pagan faiths that are practiced in North America. An example of one that has an established community in New Mexico is the Radical Faeries. Part Queer cultural movement, part spiritual movement, part political and social movement, there are Faerie communities all over the world. Unfortunately, I cannot provide any helpful information on Yoruba, Santeria or Voodun, all of which are partially African in origin, and of which I have only limited knowledge.

Keep in mind that there is no hard and fast doctrine in the Pagan world, and many people have slightly different interpretations of wording that would seem exactly the same. Someone, somewhere in the Pagan world would take issue with almost everything I’ve written down here. In the end, Pagans love to sort out how the world works for themselves (feisty lot, those Pagans).

Beliefs regarding death and dying:

Pagans view all of life (spiritual as well as physical) as being cyclic. Just as winter is followed by spring, and the bright sliver of Diana’s bow is followed by the dark of the new moon, so too is every life followed by death. Generally, Pagans do not shy away from discussion regarding what are perceived to be natural parts of life, such as sex, birth, aging, and death.

Death is viewed as a transition, preferably one that can be approached mindfully and without fear. Just like everyone else, fear is still a big issue for Pagans, as is sadness, and the sense of tragedy when the death is sudden or the person is young. However, most Pagans believe in some form of reincarnation, or at least continuance of the spirit. The afterlife may be conceptualized as a resting place (sometimes called the Summerland, Land of the Young, or the Underworld), where the soul has an opportunity to digest the lessons of the life just experienced, in preparation for the next incarnation. Many Pagans believe that souls choose their lives, for reasons of spiritual growth. Karma is also a common belief. It is not viewed as a reward and punishment scheme, rather it is a type of balancing, where choices made lead to ties and connections that must be followed through. Therefore, even when people die in difficult circumstances, Pagans often believe that there is a purpose to not just the death, but also the manner of death, even if it is not one easily discerned.

Many Pagans will perform magick to assist with healing (only with permission!) or to provide energy for what work the person involved needs to accomplish for their own highest good. Pagans will often avoid trying to force energy to flow in a particular direction (for example, to cure with energy someone who is unlikely to survive a disease process), rather they will try to make energy available without being tied to or directing the outcome. This work (a very focused type of prayer) does not have to be done in proximity to the person for whom it is being done. Sometimes, objects or images will be charged with energy in a ritual, and then given to the person to keep with them.

During the dying process, Pagans will often gather in small numbers to support the person in transition. Chants may be sung, or music played, particularly drumming. The area may be blessed and purified, and the spirits of ancestors called to attend. The God may be invoked in the form of the Dark Lord, the keeper of the Gate of Birth and Death. Many believe that it is this God form which will accompany the person’s soul on the journey to rejoin the Great Mother, or to the Underworld.

After death, the body is cared for in the usual manner. Family may wish to bathe and dress the person, but they may not. There are no restrictions or timeframes that must be adhered to. Some prefer that the body be kept naked, wrapped in a simple cloth, in order that it may be returned to the Earth in its most basic state. Some may reject embalming, as they feel it is contrary to the natural cycle of decay that allows the person’s energy and matter to be returned to the world for use by new lives. Many Pagans will choose cremation. Organ donation and autopsies are usually acceptable. Memorial services (called a Passing Over ritual) do not have to include the body, and so may occur many days to weeks after the death. Additional remembrances often take place at Samhain, which is the end of the Pagan year, and a festival which corresponds to the Mexican Day of the Dead, when ancestors and the recently departed are honored.

Dos and Don’ts for Pastoral Care staff and other caregivers:

Assure people that you respect their beliefs and practices, and that you will maintain confidentiality. Many Pagans worry about being “outted”, as people have lost jobs, apartments, and even custody of their children over their beliefs.

Let them know that you can connect them to resources in the community if they do not have a contact of their own. Many will want only their own contacts to visit them.

Sincere offers of prayer or blessing are generally welcome. Pagans believe that all paths lead to the center, and all voices are heard by the Divine.

Assist with any healing practices they may be using, such as ointments, or aromatherapy.

Assist the person to connect with the natural world in any way possible: pet visitation, growing plants, trips outside, open windows, playing recorded sounds of water and wind.

Ask about supplements they may be taking. Pagans are sometimes very wary of Western medicine, and prefer to use healing systems that have a more naturalistic philosophy.

Pagans often use more than one name. The name they offer for use may not be their legal name. If a legal name is important (for example, durable powers of attorney), be sure you are clear on both preferred and legal name.

Make no assumptions about relationships. Pagans are very accepting of non-traditional relationships, so don’t be surprised by any combinations you might encounter. Covens or circles are often very small and intimate, be prepared to treat the members as if they were family. Also, be prepared for there to be conflict or distance within the person’s family if their choice of spiritual path is in conflict with the larger family’s.

Do not touch or disturb any ritual items, including jewelry, without asking for permission first.

Avoid even a hint of witnessing or proselytizing. Pagans believe that people must find their own path for themselves, and generally resent the concept that they need to be converted.

Don’t be surprised if offers to have chaplains visit are rejected. Many Pagans do not understand the role of chaplaincy in a hospice or health care setting, and will believe that someone in that role will intend to speak to them of their own faith. Explain the role in a neutral manner, and leave the offer open.


The best general survey of the Wiccan and Neo-Pagan movement is: Adler, Margot. Drawing Down the Moon. Boston: Beacon Press, 1986. 595pp

For more specific information about eclectic Wicca, see: Starhawk. The Spiral Dance. New York: Harper & Row, 1979.

For more specific information about traditional Wicca, see: Farrar, Janet, and Stewart Farrar:
Eight Sabbats for Witches. London: Robert Hale, 1981. 192pp. •The Witches' Way. London: Robert Hale, 1984. 394pp.

Web resources:

The Wiccan Church of Canada:

Covenant of the Goddess:

The Witches Voice:

Circle Sanctuary:

The Reclaiming Collective:

There is also an excellent site on religious tolerance, which is privately run but so thorough and well reasoned that it is referred to by many university religious studies departments. It is called the Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance Web site, and is run by 4 volunteers of different faith backgrounds, including a Wiccan. The address is: http://www.religioustolerance.org/welcome.htm#posit

THE WICCAN REDE Lady Gwen Thompson
Shortened version

Bide the Wiccan Laws we must
In Perfect Love and Perfect Trust.
Live joyously, and let live,
Fairly take and fairly give.
Soft of eye and light of touch,
Speak little, listen much.
When the moon rides at her peak,
Then your heart's desire seek.
Cast the Circle thrice about
Round the cauldron sing and shout.
Where the rippling waters go,
Cast a stone and truth you'll know.
Heed the North wind's mighty gale,
Lock the door and drop the sail.
When the wind comes from the South,
Love will kiss thee on the mouth.
When the wind blows from the West,
Departed souls will have no rest.
When the wind blows from the East,
Expect the new and set the feast.
Heed ye Flower, Bush and Tree,
By the Lady, blessed be.
Merry meet and merry part,
Bright the cheeks and warm the heart.
Mind the Threefold Law you should,
Three times bad and three times good.
Eight words the Wiccan Rede fulfill:
An ye harm none, do what ye Will.

" Eight Virtues of the Craft"

As revealed in the Charge of the Goddess

"The Nine Noble Virtues Of The Odinic Rite"

These virtues simply and briefly encapsulate the broad wisdom of our
Gods and ancestors:

CHARGE OF THE GODDESS by Doreen Valiente

Listen to the words of the Great Mother;
she who of old was also called among men
Artemis, Astarte, Athene, Dione, Melusine,
Aphrodite, Cerridwen, Cybele, Arianrhod,
Isis, Dana, Bride
and by many other names:

Whenever ye have need of anything,
once in the month, and better it be when the moon is full,
then shall ye assemble in some secret place
and adore the spirit of me,
who am Queen of all the witches.

There shall ye assemble,
ye who are fain to learn all sorcery,
yet have not won its deepest secrets;
to these will I teach things that are yet unknown.
And ye shall be free from slavery;
and as a sign that ye be really free,
ye shall be naked in your rites;
and ye shall dance, sing, feast,
make music and love,
all in my praise.

For mine is the ecstasy of the spirit,
and mine also is joy on earth;
for my law is love unto all beings.
Keep pure your highest ideal;
strive ever towards it;
let naught stop you or turn you aside.
For mine is the secret door
which opens upon the Land of Youth,
and mine is the cup of the wine of life,
and the Cauldron of Cerridwen,
which is the Holy Grail of immortality.

I am the Gracious Goddess,
who gives the gift of joy unto the heart of man.
Upon earth, I give the knowledge of the spirit eternal;
and beyond death, I give peace and freedom
and reunion with those who have gone before.
Nor do I demand aught in sacrifice;
for behold,
I am the Mother of all living,
and my love is poured out upon the earth.

Hear ye the words of the Star Goddess;
she in the dust of whose feet are the hosts of heaven,
and whose body encircles the Universe.
I who am the beauty of the green earth,
and the white Moon among the stars,
and the mystery of the waters,
and the desire of the heart of man,
call unto thy soul.
Arise, and come unto me.
For I am the soul of nature, who gives life to the universe.
From me all things proceed,
and unto me all things must return;
and before my face, beloved of Gods and of men,
let thine innermost divine self be enfolded in the rapture of the infinite.
Let my worship be within the heart that rejoiceth;
for behold,
all acts of love and pleasure are my rituals.
And therefore let there be beauty and strength,
power and compassion, honour and humility,
mirth and reverence within you.

And thou who thinkest to seek for me,
know thy seeking and yearning shall avail thee not
unless thou knowest the mystery;
that if that which thou seekest
thee findest not within thee,
thou wilt never find it without thee.
For behold,
I have been with thee from the beginning;
and I am that which is attained
at the end of desire.

design by Social Evolution