Tuesday, July 01, 2008

What is Paganism?

Something I wrote a few years ago. I'm sure some people would disagree with it, but most pagans I've spoken to don't!

So what is Paganism?
The word pagan comes from the word for villager or person from the country. These villagers were traditionally closer to nature and still maintained the old religions long after Christianity became popular with the elite and rulers in the cities.
Today, pagan or paganism is used to loosely group together many different paths of 'alternative' religions. Often these religions are linked to beliefs older than Christianity – such as the modern worship of Egyptian and Roman pantheons. Many of these religions are closely connected or concerned with nature and the Earth, or with natural cycles and seasons. As there are such a variety of traditions linked with Paganism, it is difficult to describe or explain exactly what being a pagan means, as each tradition is extremely different. Hopefully, however, the information given below will help dispel many modern misconceptions and stereotypes of Paganism.

What many Pagans believe:
A Close Relationship between the Individual and his/her Gods - In most pagan traditions, the individual is the priest or priestess, coming to know their gods personally, rather than via someone else. Most pagans have no intermediary priesthood or tradition, each person has access to the deities through ways such as meditation, prayer and ritual.

Pantheons of Deities - Different gods do different jobs. Or alternatively, different aspects of one god and one goddess are responsible for different parts of our life. For example, the Celtic goddess Brigit can be worshiped as a goddess of protection and healing.

Reverence of Nature - Pagans hold the world around us as sacred. In it we can find the gods, and with it we can reach greater understanding of creation. Many pagans are 'green', or environmentally friendly. Some pagans feel very connected to nature, becoming expert in the recognition of wild flowers and herbs, and their uses. Pagans are usually very aware of the rhythms of the earth: tides, phases of the moon, and the cycles of the year.

A few stereotypes that just aren't true!
Old hags flying around on broomsticks - A broom, if used at all, is used for sweeping, symbolically cleansing an area, and some pagans are quite young!

Satanists - Pagans do not worship satan, and usually do not have a concept of evil. Actions are right and wrong, and there is sometimes a karmic/threefold law or equivalent that whatever you do comes back to you three times over. Satan is a Christian concept, but the notion of satanic worship by pagans or witches probably stems from the pagan god figure, often portrayed as a man with the legs of an animal, representing his closeness to beasts; the body of a man, showing his closeness to man; and the antlers of a stag, representing kingship.

Murderers who perform human sacrifices - Although we cannot know how the pagan traditions were celebrated hundreds of years ago, modern paganism has no place for human or animal sacrifice. Any 'sacrificial act' in worship or ritual will be symbolic – something given up to demonstrate reverence or worship. For example, it is tradition in some parts of England for pagans to cast wine and bread into the sea as a libation or homage to the goddess.

Cultists - As each person is their own priest/priestess, it is not necessary for a pagan to ever join with others in order to worship. We have no central authority making decisions for us, and although some pagans may choose to work in groups or covens, they are usually free and open.

Crazy - We may seem strange or different, but we are not crazy! Many pagans choose never to tell their friends and family of their beliefs. No one usually guesses.

Anti-Christian - Most pagans accept all religions as a valid way of approaching the creative power that we cannot even begin to understand. Few pagans attempt to convert people as the view is that people will find their path in life in their own time, whatever religion that path includes: Paganism, Christianity, Buddhism, or Islam.


corfubob said...

Some bloody 'followers' you've got Mylissa. Any half-spiritual person should be ashamed of all organized religions, as perhaps you are. I suspect your reasons for joining this group is that you have a more intellectual approach to understanding the world and nature, but wanted to express 'belief' because of your upbringing and/or because of a need within you. I certainly never had this need - but follow science to see how understanding is progressing. More on why you 'believe' would be welcome, and what this word means to you.

Mylissa said...

certainly not my upbringing, but perhaps a need within me. And my beliefs don't conflict with my scientific or rational side much, so it works (at the moment, but I'm open to that changing)
more on what/why I believe to come. unfortunately with such limited internet, I haven't had much time to blog much deep and meaningful thought! must do better...

Ragados said...

This looks very familiar ;-)
Yes I really am sitting here reading every entry you've ever written!