What is Paganism?

Do you believe in a divine God, and how did the universe come into being? According to some estimates, there about 4,200 religions in the world – mostly based on faith in life after death. One particular belief that tends to stand out is paganism. Different people identify differently with paganism, making it one of the most misunderstood religions out there. Today, we are going to explore the question: what is paganism?


The Basics


Paganism is an ancient religious outlook that is still active throughout the modern world. Christians define paganism as any religious practice that is not distinctly Christian. Similarly, Jews and Muslims describe pagans as anyone who does not practice their religion. Others also refer to pagans as those who do not follow any religion at all.

Pagan is derived from the Latin word “paganus,” meaning “country dweller”. The notion of modern Paganism can be traced back to the early Christian church when Christians used the word as a derogatory term for those outside their religion. It was only until the twentieth century that people who call themselves pagans started using the term to describe the religion they practiced.

Today, paganism refers to any earth-based, earth-centered religion. This extends to the beliefs of most indigenous people around the world, whose religious knowledge has been passed down from generation to generation. A more common term associated with the practice is neo-paganism, which encompasses some of the modern forms of paganism like Gwyddon, Druidry, and Wicca.


Polytheism: Diversity and pluralism

The many versions of paganism are based on the diversity of Nature. Certain pagans consider gods and goddesses as a community of individuals, similar to the diverse human community. Others believe in one Great God and one Great Goddess, while still some believe in a supreme divine principle that is the origin of all things. Those who worship one true deity are described as monotheists and those who believe in the One are known as henotheists.


What It Means To Be A Modern Pagan

A large part of modern paganism follows Ross Nichols and Gerald Gardner’s calendar that was developed in the ’60s, commonly dubbed “The Wheel of the Year”. It consists of 8 festival days and represents the cycles of the sun, including the equinoxes and solstices. It also integrates some Celtic-based holidays that are mostly agricultural-based, for example, Lughnasadh and Imbolc. These celebrations are spaced evenly apart and help the individual connect to the seasons in a seamless manner.


Pagans also use spiritual techniques like Magic and Shamanism in their practices. The later is used for acquiring knowledge and healing via forays, and it is quite popular among counselors and therapists. These forays are usually accompanied with repetitive drumming and can involve interacting with “power animals”. Magic, on the other hand, is basically the art of willfully changing consciousness. It involves incorporating affirmations, rituals, and prayer into the Wheel of the Year.

Modern pagans who are not conformed to the customs of a particular religion are often individualistic, playful, and creative. There is a mutual respect for all life and a desire to participate with other beings, as opposed to dominating them. According to the modern pagan movement, paganism, as we know it today, is a way of pluralism without discrimination and creativity without anarchy.