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To Be or Not To Be (Alone)...
by Blackhawk

...or “How do I worship thee? Let me count the ways...”

Most people have a belief in one or more deities, or “supernatural” figures, and religion of one kind or another has been a part of Man’s existence through all of recorded history.

Today the majority of people belong to one of the “Big Three” religions (Islam, Christianity and Judaism), with large numbers adhering to Buddhism, Hinduism, Shinto and other widely-recognised belief systems. These are “Established” religions, with official “churches” or organisations and a written “creed” which serves to unify followers of the main groups or sub-groups.

Pagan worship is a much more complex subject than that of worship within any of the established religions. One difference is that, despite the many factions forming part of the major belief systems (Catholic, Protestant, Baptist, Presbyterian, Shia, Sunni, Orthodox, Ultra-Orthodox...) there are organised centres of worship catering for each offshoot.

“Pagans”, on the other hand, are a diverse group of people worshipping in many different ways to one or more deities or representations of deities or to Nature / Creation itself / herself. Some worship in a quiet, meditative way, others join together in covens and dress for full ritualistic ceremony; some dance around naked under a full moon, others chant, others plant trees. Yet there are no official Pagan churches nor official recognition of their festivals or beliefs.

So how do we worship? What are the ways?

Religious “groups” (in terms of worship) can be broken down into three main types, regardless of the religion itself :

The Group of One. As the title suggests, this refers to a solitary practitioner, one who seeks no accompaniment, who worships as and when he / she sees fit. This person is free to adapt their belief system to suit themselves and their life experience, takes full responsibility for the consequences of their religious beliefs and sees worship of their chosen deity as a private matter.

However, the sole practitioner receives no assistance or input / feedback from others, and does not enjoy the community aspects of the Group.

The Group, Assembly, Congregation or Coven. The most widespread of practices, worship in organised groups tends to involve a heirarchy of official members who oversee the lay audience, teach doctrine and specify belief. These groups play a part in many aspects of life, from birth (baptism) through marriage (handfasting) to death. Members of the Group may assist one another in many ways, from learning more about applying their shared beliefs to their day-to-day lives, to offering emotional or financial support.

Conversely, strict doctrine means there may be little room for dispute. A member may be required to agree with all aspects of the religion - or else take like-minded others and form a splinter group or offshoot.

The Alliance. This more loosely-based group has no heirarchy, no initiation, and asks for adherence only to a general approach or concept. The Alliance is a gathering of equals of similar-minded Groups-of-One. Quite anarchic in nature, the Alliance has the benefits of community present within the Group, but with the freedom of mind and expression sought by the solitary practitioner. This is the approach favoured by many of the growing numbers of Pagans emerging worldwide.

There is no right or wrong to worship. Some people prefer the community and discipline of the Church or Coven, others prefer to meet occasionally with friends old and new to discuss their beliefs. Some are happy to sit at dawn on a hill overlooking a green valley, mist rolling around them, and offer thanks for the beauty around them to the One who created it all.


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