What is paganism?
Someone asked me “What is Paganism, what does it mean?”
Well now, that’s rather a broad question and it may be open to very different interpretations but here goes.
Paganism is an umbrella term that encompasses many different strands and includes polytheistic belief which is based upon a belief in multiple deities. These are usually a pantheon of gods and goddesses and have their own spiritual beliefs and rituals. A great number of pagans may construct their various systems of belief and ritual from records and folklore and may be called Neo-Pagan or New-Pagan. Wicca and Druidism may be considered within this group.
There are also indigenous pagans and they base their beliefs upon a system or philosophies that has been practiced and passed from one generation to the next and is native to a place or region. Shintoism in Japan for example. These practices usually involve beliefs that define a people of a particular area and tradition that makes them a distinct community. These practices and rituals may also be attached to particular sacred places or gods and goddesses and for that reason they may not transfer from one place to another (aboriginal peoples).
Pagans may be trained in particular traditions although this is not true of all pagans. Some may follow their own path or inspiration. Paganism has no written dogma and so you are free to pursue your own vision of what you perceive the creator to be (or not) and experience a very personal journey upon your chosen path. However, paganism is earth based spirituality and is based upon a belief in nature; it believes that all things are sacred to the creator whatever you conceive him or her to be. All have a spirit or essence be it plant or animal, mountain or stream.
Paganism is in many ways the way of your ancestors, of all humanity. It is representative of a wide variety of traditions that have a great reverence for nature and although it does not have a written doctrine it is still classed as a religion. However, it does have some common characteristics with other forms of religious practice as it believes in a divine presence in nature and the natural order of life. To say that paganism is a religion is open to a great deal of argument, for instance who can really define what religion means? I know there is a dictionary definition for the word but I’m not a dictionary.
The dictionary definition would have you believe that religion can be defined as a belief in a supernatural power or powers regarded as creating or governing the universe. Buddhism or the Tao to mention just two may find they have an issue with that, and then again who can really define what supernatural really is? Buddha may have been considered a spiritual leader but how do you define spiritual? As a druid I cannot be defined by a label, pagan for me has no real meaning if it is used to separate me from me. As a druid I and others like me (although not all), practice a way of life. I say practice because that is what we do, we practice. In other words we continue to learn, to grow and to continue that growth until the day we are taken to the Summerland’s to await rebirth.
Pagans should neither define themselves as different nor accept that label being thrust upon them. Rather than refer to paganism as a religion society should really ask why people’s rights are not protected. I refer to the right of all people to choose their belief and to act upon that choice. Their choice of symbols should be respected and not denigrated by associating them with the Christian cult of Satanism (Devil worship). Pagans should be accorded their rights under the laws of the land. They should be entitled to their own rituals such as Hand fastening and given recognition under the marriage laws. Pagans should be allowed spiritual advisors in institutions such as prisons and hospitals and before you say they are it is not the case in all. I was an inpatient in hospital and never once saw a sign for pagans only for Christians or those of the other recognised churches (Jewish, Muslim). The same can be said of university/college. After all isn’t paganism practiced by billions of people the world over and is truly the traditional belief system of all (that which has gone before).
As a druid I would never bless a tank or missile before it is put into action. I would never wear a military uniform adorned with a religious symbol and bless the troops before they go into battle. I would not use my belief as a weapon in order to act as a ‘suicide bomber’ or throw acid in the face of young girls, shoot or stone them. I am not judging those who may carry out these practices but I sometimes wonder why pagans are considered as people who would 'sacrifice young babies' (tongue in cheek) or 'devil worshipers' while perpetrators of such atrocities are welcomed into the U.N. However, that’s an argument for another day. I do not judge but I will not pretend either.
It is unfortunately part of the human make up to destroy that which is good. Not all humans are guilty of this but there are a great number in their ranks. It is so easy to abdicate responsibility and blame it all on someone else, “Its gods will”, “by the grace of god”, “god wants you to kill the non-believer”. George Bernard Shaw said it best when he said “Beware of the man whose god is in the skies”; people should not be judged on what they believe but from how they act.
Has that answered the question “What is paganism?” I don’t know, I’m only one person and there are so many different interpretations. If it does then I thank you, if not, then I thank you and wish you good fortune on your continuing journey. May your creator bless you, whatever you conceive her or him to be?