Paganism is being on any path which is not Judeo-Christian-Islamic. Buddhism, Hinduism, Native American paths, Wicca, Hellenics, Druids, Asatru are some examples of these paths. Many paths are based on earth-based beliefs, but not all Pagans center their focus on "Mother Earth". Pagan History predates Christianity.
Satanism is not a pagan path, but is often wrongly used to describe any belief system that is not Christian.
When finding the path that is true to you, it is wise to speak with fellow Pagans and get their outlook on the various paths they may follow. Do your research!! Whether you use books, the internet, or discussion groups, and remember the old adage, "if it's too good to be true, then it isn't". Learning groves (groups) are a great source of information and a way to meet others who are still trying to find their own path. But I have found that if the person running it happens to tell you that what he/she believes is the only "true" way, or you should only believe in what he/she believes in, time to find another group. The only true path is the path that is true to you. Be openminded, and a good sense of humor helps also.
One website I believe gives the best in resources is The Witches' Voice. It is not just for "witches", but is a site for all paths in Paganism. You can meet people from your own area, find out what shops are around, classes to attend and meetings for groups.
Asatru: A path which embraces a reverence for the Gods of the Nordic/Germanic pantheon and their traditional means of worship. They distinguish themselves from Pagans by calling themselves Heathens.
Draconic: Utilization of the powers of dragons either by invocation (calling the power of the dragon into yourself), or evocation (calling the dragon to you, so it may join into your magickal workings).
Druidism: Was the religion of the ancient druids, the priestly class in ancient Celtic and Gaulish societies through much of Western Europe north of the Alps and in the British Isles. Druidic practices were part of the culture of all the tribal peoples called Keltoi and Galatai by Greeks and Celtae and Galli by Romans, cultures we identify by the modern words "Celtic" and "Gaelic".
Hellenic: A path which embraces a reverence for the Gods of Olympos and the traditional means of worship of the ancient Greeks. There are a number of subgroups and Mystery Cults of Hellenic Religion: Orphics and the Eleusinian Mysteries are two.
Kemetic, Kemeticism : A path embracing a reverence for the Pharonic/Egyptian Pantheon and their traditional means of worship. The root word for Kemetic/Kemeticism is "kemet", which in the Ancient Egyptian language, means "the Black Land," and refers to the black fertile soil of Egypt. Kemet is one word the Ancient Egyptians used for Egypt.
Nova Roma-Religio Romana : Paths focusing on the worship of the Gods of the Romans. Though many of the deities share a similar name with the Greek deities, the Romans had different ideals concerning their gods and goddesses.
Reconstructionism : A religious methodology which uses history, literature, art, philosophy, and other "academic" fields of study to recreate a religious tradition of an ancient culture. Asatru, Druidism, Hellenic, Kemeticism, Religio Romana and Slavic are Reconstructionist paths.
Slavic : Slavic Paganism is the reconstruction of Eastern European traditions which are based upon animism and dualism.
Strega, Stregheria : Stregheria has its roots in ancient Etruscan religion. There are surprisingly few elements in Stregheria that can be said to be strictly Roman influences. Modern Stregheria contains various elements of Tuscan peasant religion mixed with material Medieval Christian heresy sects, particularly those involving Saint worship. To modern Italian Witches, many Catholic Saints are simply ancient pagan gods dressed in Christian garb.
Thelema and The Golden Dawn : Two distinct paths which focus on different aspects of Ceremonial Magicks. Ceremonial Magicks draw upon ancient pagan (mainly Egyptian, but also some Greek) concepts, Qabbalah (Jewish mysticism), and elemental magicks. Aleister Crowley is known as the founder of Thelema, and was a member of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn.
Witchcraft : A Witch is a practitioner of what could be termed the first religion, since it honors the Divine in nature and uses magick as a tool for personal and global transformation. This was the way of life for people predating Christianity, and women of the village were the major practitioners. Wizard and witch are terms a male can use to associate himself with his magickal self. The term "warlock" is a Scottish term meaning "oath breaker", and was used upon folk who were practicioners of the craft, but turned their backs upon it, often aligning themselves with the accusers of witches.
Wicca : a blanket term for the modern pagan movement which embraces a reverence for a Goddess-centered religion focusing on a cyclical calendar where each major holiday represents an aspect of the life cycle. There are many flavors of Wicca, such as Dianic (serious Goddess emphasis), Gardnerian, Alexandrian, etc. Although there isn't a single definition for Wicca, it is marked by an eclectic mix of ancient Celtic, late 19th and early 20th century Mysticism (such as Thelema, Golden Dawn, and Freemasonry), and Jungian theories about the nature of the Gods.
"What is Dark Paganism" by John Coughlin, author of "Out of the Shadows: An Exploration of Dark Paganism and Magick".
1) Dark Paganism is a movement within modern Paganism to reclaim the dark portion of the light-dark polarity that has been denied or ignored by those who have confused this polarity with the good-bad dualism of the Judeo-Christian culture. Darkness is not the same as evil. This confusion has been caused by the increase in popularity of Pagan religions, particularly Wicca, and a lack of formal training and proper initiation. (By initiation I refer to the internal process that both a solitary, or member of a group experiences.) Without such an initiation the practitioner remains trapped in the dualistic mindset of his or her religion of birth and misinterprets the concepts of polarity and monism found in Paganism. Such reclaiming of darkness includes the acceptance of our shadow - the (usually) negative aspects of ourselves we refuse ( often unconsciously) to accept as being an aspect of us. Such Dark Pagans challenge contemporary thought to ensure that one's beliefs hold true to themselves and are not simply the result of repression or conditioning. It is important to be challenged since it allows us to think and reflect on what we believe and helps strengthen our true beliefs in the process.
2) Dark Paganism is the incorporation of dark imagery, such as gothic imagery, that tends to have a death-related theme. Such Dark Pagans are not obsessed with death but rather fascinated by, and drawn to, its symbolism. Through dark imagery the individual is made more aware of themselves and of the sacredness of life as well as the importance to live life to the fullest while always remaining true to who we are. Focus is on self exploration and expression.
3) Dark Paganism is the form of Paganism that is attuned with the internal or "dark" school or approach to spirituality. As explained in my book, spirituality can be approached in one of two ways: internally or externally. The internal approach has an emphasis on the Self. Concepts of deity and ethics are less of a focus or are based on personal perception and experience. The external approach works within a set framework. Deity is defined, religious practices are more structured, and ethics are decreed by an external authority figure and usually very specific in detailing appropriate behavior. Both approaches are viable but only the individual can determine which approach is best for him or her. Some work better in a rigid and structured approach while others work better in a highly personal experience. Dark Paganism, in this respect, merely delineates those Pagans who operate within an internal approach from those of an external approach since there are some inherent differences in how they operate. A spiritual path following an internal approach encourages one to explore those aspects society or culture may label as taboo so that we can come to our own conclusion. By doing this, Dark Pagans free themselves of the social conditioning that often suffocates self expression and individuation as they strive to become more whole.
All three of the above definitions help explain what Dark Paganism is by touching upon the nature of how it is approached. They all tend to merge into each other. While some Dark Pagans may operate under all three definitions, others may just fall under one. As with darkness itself, Dark Paganism cannot easily be defined. This is because darkness is by nature linked to our unconscious and thus is very personal. It is the nature of darkness to always remain elusive to strict delineation. The more one attempts to define it, the further one gets from it. Like the Tao of Taoist thought, darkness must be experienced to be understood. It must be embraced and incorporated into one's being to be appreciated. Attempting to "shine the light of reason" onto it only removes us from it.
Nocturnal magick is using the power of the night for spellcrafting, rituals, etc. This is in NO way related to "black magic" or Satanism.
Being a dark or nocturnal witch means you are more empowered by using the energy which runs throughout the night; whether you use the phases of the moon or not. Communing with the ancient gods and goddesses of the darkness, the symbolic realm of shadow, illusion, death, rebirth and the mysteries of the unknown.
To become in touch with the powers of the night, one must develop his/her nocturnal attunement. I find the best time to do this is between the hours of 10pm and 3am; go outside and lie down in a comfortable place (on the grass, in a lounge chair), or just stretch out in a comfy chair if space is limited. Close your eyes. Starting at your head, focus on any tensions you have and begin pushing them down through your body, feeling the various body parts become relaxed.....when you get to the soles of your feet, give those tensions a good push out, and wiggle your toes as if saying goodbye.
Now just listen to the night as it whispers around you, feel the breeze wisp upon your skin, sniff the air, dare to stick out your tongue to taste the night air.....now, what do you sense around you...no, no, don't open your eyes, that's cheating.....become attuned to your surroundings, let the energy around you make itself known.
It may take a few tries before you become acclimated to the night, but that's because of the fear of the unknown, fear of what may lurk in the darkness, which is understandable considering there are real dangers out there. When finding a place to practice your attunement, always make sure that it is a safe place.
Shamanism is the spiritual practice of ancient civilizations and cultures, is not exclusive to American Indian culture, as commonly thought, but represents the oldest healing tradition in the world. The Shaman in history served as the communicator between the physical and the spiritual worlds through various rituals and visualizations. This tradition is observed by modern mankind as a way of returning to its roots. Shamanic tribes most often held a belief in animism, the belief that a spirit or force resided in every animate and inanimate object, every dream and idea; further, that this spirit gave individuality to each. While most of us today are not true animists, theologically speaking, this concept is certainly not alien to our belief structure. We may view Spirit, Itself, differently from the early shamans and even amongst ourselves, but most of us will agree that each animate and inanimate object has a spirit or force that aids us in our magick.
The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Third Edition defines "shaman" as:
The word shaman, used internationally, has its origin in manch'gu and has reached the ethnologic vocabulary through Russian. The word originated from saman (xaman), derived from the verb scha-, "to know", so shaman means someone who knows, is wise, a sage. Further ethnologic investigations shows that the true origin for the word Shaman can be tracked from the Sanskrit initially, then through Chinese-Buddhist mediation to the manch'gu, indicating a much deeper but now overlooked connection between early Buddhism and Shamanism generally. In Pali it is schamana, in Sanskrit Sramana translated to something like "buddhist monk, ascetic". The intermediate Chinese term is scha-men. The Siberian and Central Asian peoples also had local terms for the Shaman. In alataic Turkish it was kam, in Yacuto, ojon (and the female shaman was the udujan), in the Butirates, b'and in Central Asia, bakshi, for the Samoans, tadibe, Lapps, moita, Finnish, tie'and Hungarians, t᬴os.