Paganism: What Is A Pagan?

Paganism (from classical Latinpāgānus “rural”, “rustic”, later “civilian”) is a term first used in the fourth century by early Christians for people in the Roman Empire who practiced polytheism or ethnic religions other than Judaism. In the time of the Roman empire, individuals fell into the pagan class either because they were increasingly rural and provincial relative to the Christian population, or because they were not milites Christi (soldiers of Christ).

During and after the Middle Ages, the term paganism was applied to any non-Christian religion, and the term presumed a belief in false god(s). n the 19th century, paganism was adopted as a self-descriptor by members of various artistic groups inspired by the ancient world. In the 20th century, it came to be applied as a self-descriptor by practitioners of Modern Paganism, Neopagan movements, and Polytheistic reconstructionists. Modern pagan traditions often incorporate beliefs or practices, such as nature worship, that are different from those in the largest world religions.

Pagans and druids celebrate the equinox at Stonehenge. Editorial credit: 1000 Words / Shutterstock.com
Pagans and druids celebrate the equinox at Stonehenge. Credit Shutterstock.com

Most modern pagan religions existing today (Modern or Neopaganism) express a world view that is pantheisticpanentheistic, polytheistic, or animistic, but some are monotheistic.

What Is A Pagan?
A Pagan is a person who believes that everything has a soul or spirit. Rivers, animals, rocks, trees, land are all filled with their own unique spirits for people who are Pagans. Traditionally, Christians believe that only humans have souls or spirits.

Many environmentally conscious Christians today share the belief with Pagans that all forms of life have a soul.  Pagans see the divine spirit in all life, as do some members of other religions.

Is There More Than One Pagan Religion?
There are hundreds of different Pagan Religions. Some of the best known Pagan religions are Buddhism, Shintoism, Native American Religions, Hinduism, Taoism, Wicca, Druidism, Asatru, Shamanism, Neo-Paganism and Eclectic Paganism. 

Are Pagans Devil Worshippers?
No, Pagans do not worship the Devil or Satan. Pagans do not believe in the Devil, he is part of the Judeo-Christian Religions and their mythology.

Most Devil worshipping groups are not Pagan, because they are centred on a Judeo-Christian supernatural being, namely Satan. These Devil Worshippers are a sect of Christianity, even though Christianity does not want to claim them. 

Their focus is on opposing the mainstream Christian God and honouring the Devil, neither of these beings are part of Paganism. There is a tradition that calls itself Satanist. Satanists are not devil worshippers. They do not believe in god or the devil or any force outside themselves and other living creatures. They believe they can control their lives without the need to place responsibility on a higher power of any kind. Devil worshippers on the other hand sometimes do claim to be Satanists. . . this leads to lots of confusion.

People often confuse the Occult with Pagan Religion, this is a mistake, they are very different things. Many religions, including; Pagan, Non-Pagan, Christianity and Judeaism have occult aspects, many do not… 

Hundreds of druids, pagans and revelers gathered in June at the Avebury Neolithic henge monument in England for sunset and sunrise during the summer solstice.
Hundreds of pagans gathered in June at the Avebury Neolithic henge monument in England for sunset and sunrise during the summer solstice. Credit…Matt Cardy/Getty Images Europe.

Are Pagans Witches? 
Some Pagans are Witches, some are not. Many Pagan groups do not practice Witchcraft. Wiccans are a type of Pagan Witches, there are also Dianic Witches, Green Witches, and other types of Pagan Witches. There are also Christian Witches, many of these people are practicing Christian, but also practice Witchcraft. Santeria is a South American religion that is a blend of VooDoo, Witchcraft and Christianity. 

What Do I Need To Be a Pagan?
 A love of Nature, and a commitment to live in harmony with the Earth and Her creatures. You need to feel in your heart that it is where your own spirituality is leading you. Paganism is for Pagans, only you know if you are a Pagan in your heart.

 Pagans view the world as a place of joy and life, not of sin and suffering. 

What is a Pagan Ritual?
A Religious or Pagan Ritual is anything that focuses your spiritual energy. A church service is a ritual, so is a wedding, or a funeral, or a Hopi Sun Dance. Humans have created rituals since the beginning of time. Ritual is the way humans express their connection with divinity and each other. 

There are many kinds of Pagan Ritual, personal rituals you do by yourself, full moon rituals, by yourself or with a group. There are blessing rituals for a new home, or for children, or for healing, or cleansing. There are protection ritual, and banishing rituals, to name a few. 

For Wiccans and Neo-Pagans there are some basic Ritual Traditions that you may have heard about. Many Pagan Ritual begin by honoring the Earth and the 4 directions, as well as the elements the directions represent, Air, Fire, Water and Earth. A circle is cast and blessed with water, smoke, salt and light in honor of these elements. Rituals often include, singing, chanting, dancing, drumming, poetry and hymns to the Goddess or Gods. Some Rituals are very complex and are almost like a play, other rituals are very simple and flow with the energy of the group. 

Do Pagans Believe In Jesus?
Some do and some do not. Many Pagans believe in a wide variety of higher beings. Jesus is one of these beings for some Pagans. Some believe he was a great spiritual teacher, but not a god. Some have no feelings about him at all.

What Is a Goddess?
The first deities humans worshipped were Goddesses. A Goddess is the female creative and life giving forces of the Universe and much more. 

Do Pagans Pray?
Yes, many Pagans pray and many connect with the divine in other ways. Many meditate as a form of prayer, other drum as a form of prayer, others chant, sing or dance. Some dedicate each task they perform during the day, to the Goddess. Throughout human history people have spoken to their Gods or Goddesses through many different kinds of “prayer”. 

When a Muslim prays, they bow toward Mecca, when a Christian prays they cross themselves, when a Buddhist prays they chant or make a sand mandala, when a Pagan prays, they may be chanting, doing ritual, hugging a tree or picking up litter on a beach, as a way of connecting with their Goddesses or Gods.

BeltaneCouple_1500.jpg

How Do You Become a Pagan?
You look into your heart and ask if it is the right path for you. Some people are born Pagans, even though they do not even know the word, others are born into Pagan cultures, and many others become Pagan when they search their hearts for a connection with their Spirits.

To become a practicing Pagan, you must learn to look at Nature and begin to honor Her ways and cycles. Many new Pagans begin by celebrating the phases of the Moon. This can be as simple as taking the time each evening to gaze at the Moon and sing softly to yourself. Make up the words as you go along, you will be amazed at how easy it is. Really look at plants, and your cat, sit quietly and see if you can feel their energy. The first steps to becoming a Pagan are becoming aware of the magic of the natural world around you. The second step is do a small personal ritual and self-blessing that celebrates your entering the Pagan Path.

What Do Pagans Do?
Pagans try to live in harmony with the Earth and raise their children to honor the ways of Nature. Pagans strive to strengthen their understanding of this miracle called Life.
Pagans go to school, go to work, pay taxes, clean house, garden, raise kids, make art, watch TV, do not watch TV, eat at McDonalds, do not eat at McDonalds and love or hate computers, just like everyone else. 

Pagans are just folks who have a different religion, a Nature Religion that teaches them to honor all life. Pagans honor their Goddesses and Gods with the same faith that non-pagans have their own religions.

Where Are The Pagan Churches?
Pagans, go through what is called a handfasting. A handfasting is the binding of hands, to create a sacred There are thousands of Pagan Temples around the world. Most Eclectic Pagans, Wiccans and Native American Religions do not worship in churches. Because they are Nature Religions. Religious Rituals are often held outside, in parks, fields, wooded groves, at a beach or lake, anywhere that promotes a connection with Nature. Large public rituals are often held in auditoriums, small rituals are often held in people’s homes. There are also Virtual Temples and Altars online. 

Pentacles And Pentagrams
Pagans tend to use pentacles and pentagrams in their rituals and also as symbolism. You will often find many pagans wearing a chain around their neck with either/or. Or even some other items on their body with this symbolism. Many people fear it though due to lack of knowledge, perceiving it to be ‘satanic’. However it has quite a bit of history attached to it and meaning that is not related to the above.

Do Pagans Celebrate Sabbath Days?
Yes they do, they follow the wheel of the year. The Wheel of the Year is a Pagan metaphor and calendar for the cycle of the seasons. It consists of eight festivals, known as sabbats, spaced at approximately even intervals throughout the year. In many forms of Paganism, the passing of time is seen as cyclical and is represented by a circle or wheel. The progression of birth, life, decline, and death, as experienced in human lives, is echoed in the progression of the seasons. Many Pagans also see this cycle as echoing the life, death, and rebirth of the God and the fertility of the Goddess. As the Wheel originates in the Northern Hemisphere, in the Southern Hemisphere most Pagans advance these dates six months so as to coincide with the natural seasons as they occur in their local climates. For instance, a South African Pagan may celebrate Beltane on the 1st of November, when a Canadian Pagan is celebrating Samhain.

How Do You Get Married If You Are A Pagan?
Pagans, go through what is called a handfasting. A handfasting is the binding of hands, to create a sacred bond. The cords used are traditionally coloured to the wedding couple’s choice, each colour symbolizing something different; for instance red – for will, strength, courage and fertility, orange – for encouragement, attraction and kindness, and blue – for patience, understanding, health and loyalty.The second notable event within a Pagan wedding ceremony is the jumping of the besom broom. This action represents the sexual union between the now married couple, and also the threshold they are about to cross.

This tradition dates back to Africa, before slavery was abolished. At this point, legal and religious marriages were not viewed appropriate for slaves, and so this small ritual was created to distinguish between a casual relationship, and those settling down in to marriage.

Our pagan wedding blessing and handfasting ceremony script | Offbeat Bride
Handfasting ceremony.
Young couple jumping the broom at a wedding ceremony.
Jumping the broom has seen a resurgence in popularity.

Do Pagans Have Their Own Genre of Music?
There is music made by people who identify as Pagan (or some group comfortably within the larger Pagan umbrella/grouping of communities) who have created music for use in ritual and spiritual work within and for their community. However there isn’t a specific type of music dubbed Pagan music. Music is fluid and could be used in all kinds of scenarios. From meditation to handfasting ceremonies or for just overal enjoyment. There is some styles such as folk lore music that is enjoyed in the pagan communities, or even throat singing and drumming.

Below are some examples of different kind of styles of Pagan music:

What Do I Do If I Want To learn More About Paganism?
There is also a lot of information available on the internet for anyone wanting to learn more about what it takes to be a Pagan. From Pagan parenting, Paganism, and Christianity, different kinds of rituals and practices, and much more. The rescources are available and there is also a lot of online communites on social media platforms that is always willing to share their journeys. It’s all about research, and most importantly doing your own kind of research. Understanding all aspects of paganism can be fun, but also empowering. Just like learning about all other kinds of religions.

Enjoy some more informative videos below:

Stay Curious, Stay Blessed!

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