When people first hear the words Pagan or Paganism they tend to think, “devil worshipper”, or they picture some wild, orgiastic, way-out individual with no regard for what is sacred or for “God”; a cult member who sacrifices babies.
What is Paganism?
It’s simply an umbrella term covering many different religions and belief systems. Paganism is a spiritual way of life and its origins are rooted in the ancient nature religions of the world. Paganism has absolutely nothing to do with Satan, demons, or devils. Paganism, sometimes referred to as The Old Religion, pre-dates Christianity. Pagans do not believe in the entity Satan, a Christian concept.
Many standard dictionaries define the word “pagan” as being a person who is not a Christian, Jew, or Muslim. This is far too broad a definition and many people who fall outside of these mainstream religions may not consider themselves to be Pagan, moreover, this definition conveys practically nothing about Paganism itself. The word “Pagan” comes from the Latin words paganus and pagana meaning “country dweller or villager”. After the Romans adopted Christianity as their official religion, the older religions continued to be practiced only outside of the city, in the countryside.
The word “pagan” signified people who were thought to be uncivilised bumpkins who practiced an earth-based religion native to their land. Modern day Pagans are people who have retained the wisdom and values of their ancestors and modified these ancient practices to suit their contemporary lifestyles.
Pagans may practice different religions based upon their geographical location or cultural background. Or they may practice based upon a spiritual affinity for a specific tradition. For example, in Africa pagan practice includes tribal religions; in Europe, some traditions include Norse, Celtic, Greek and various traditions of Witchcraft, Wicca, Druidism and Shamanism; in the Americas, Native tribal religions and offshoots may include or combine beliefs such as Brujeria, the Medicine Societies, etc. Likewise, for example, a Chinese-American may feel an affinity for and practice a Celtic religion or may combine the Celtic practice with a Native American tradition. For every pagan it is different and highly personalised.
Some common beliefs and practices between the differing pagan religions include:
|Polytheism- the belief in more than one god.|
|Pantheism- any religious belief or philosophical doctrine that identifies God with the Universe. Pagans may or may not worship within a pantheon, that is a realm or group of gods and goddesses of all different creeds. These gods may be seen as aspects of a single Divine Principle.|
|Animism- the belief that natural objects and phenomena possess souls. Animists believe that all things are alive and animated with spirit.|
|Belief in the immortality of the spirit and in the unending cycles of the Seasons and life itself: birth, death, and rebirth.|
|Although some Pagan religions are inherited and may not be practiced by outsiders except by invitation, most traditions welcome new members but do not proselytise or seek to convert anyone. Eclectic Pagans may follow several traditions, in addition to one of the other major religions as well.|
How Do Pagans Define “God”?
Pagans celebrate the sanctity of Nature, honouring the divinity present in all things. From a pagan perspective Earth is the mother of us all. We are all relations. All life is One. Pagans believe that within the Universe there is a holy continuum of consciousness, which exists in everything from inanimate objects to the pantheons of gods. Pagans revere the sacred whole in all its guises and often depict the Divine Energy as both male and female, the God and Goddess. Mother and Father.
To a Pagan every person is a wondrous, sacred, creation. Every plant, rock, tree, everything seen and unseen, is unique and beautiful. The purpose of life as seen through a Pagan’s eyes might be best described as:
|To live in harmony with nature|
|To develop our personal and spiritual potential|
|To be aware of and to manifest the inherent divinity within us all|
|To help all people to do the same|
What Do Pagans Do?
Pagans are dedicated to spiritual growth and personal development. One way we achieve these things is by communing with nature, attuning ourselves to its cycles, it’s continual ebb and flow. A Pagan can encounter Divinity within him or herself simply by taking a walk on the beach or through the woods or by visiting a favourite spot outdoors. Observing the natural forces at work in the world around us is a way for pagans to explore the innerself. It helps us to remember the beautiful and delicate harmony that exists between humanity, nature and the Divine.
Most Pagan religions revere the God and Goddess (or some aspect of the Divine in whatever form it is perceived as) through ritual or ceremonies of various kinds. During these rites we seek to experience the harmony spoken of earlier, between the natural cycles of ourselves and the world.
Pagan Holidays are known as Esbats and Sabbats. Esbats are observances based on the phases of the moon. Sabbats are seasonal festivals based on the astronomical and agricultural year: the solstices, the equinoxes, and the cross-quarter days.
Something all Pagans take very seriously is planet Earth. We are all aware of the dire environmental issues facing the human race today. Many Pagans’ deep respect for the Environment has led to our participation in eco-aware causes, as we strive to responsibly develop a safe and fruitful existence for all of Earth’s creatures.
In short, Pagans are peaceful people who hold nature in high esteem. They seek to enhance the quality of life by bettering themselves and the world around them through dedication to their chosen spiritual path.