10 Things You Didn’t Know About Paganism

Paganism Ritual Tools Including Crystal Wand Pentacle Necklace and Bell On Purple Background With Yellow Flower

What Is Paganism?

Paganism is not a religion, but an umbrella term for an ethical vision based on the pagan beliefs that nature is sacred and must be respected and valued. Strictly speaking, paganism refers to the wide variety of authentic religions in and around the ancient world. The rituals of most American pagan religions combine various traditions and religious beliefs including Celtic, Greco-Roman, Native American, Egyptian, Sumerian, and Scandinavian. 

Many deities in contemporary paganism often include ancestral deities. Many pagans pay tribute to natural diversity. Pagans understand that divinity manifests itself in nature and recognize that divinity manifests itself in many forms, expressed in both goddesses and gods. 

Some pagans see the goddesses and gods as one consciousness or community, just like the different human communities who connect around the world. Once upon a time, “Pagan” mainly referred to people who practiced a polytheistic religion, meaning that they observed more than one god.

In modern times, neo-paganism is used to refer to a group of currents that claim to be influenced by pagan historical beliefs. It’s also used to describe all those who are recognizably pagan, but do not adhere to any of the aforementioned traditions as such. In Russia, many followers of the pre-Christian religions reject the word paganism. 

Many authors see the emergence of paganism and religious movements in the 20th century as a revival of the old ways, and describe all of the above traditions as neopaganism. These traditions are based on ancient beliefs as well as modern beliefs formed in the last century.

While most of the rituals and practices of pagan belief systems disappeared centuries ago, some modern spiritual seekers have revived these ancient wisdom traditions and now proudly call themselves, “pagans.” Unlike the Judeo-Christian traditions, which focus on biblical authority, clergy, and codified belief systems, modern paganism is based on ritual. With such a variety of religious traditions and rituals, the path defies a simple definition. 

Paganism is both a prehistoric and postmodern religion. It is as old as the fertility symbols associated with the worship of gods and goddesses tens of thousands of years ago, while later forms of the path only emerged in the mid-20th century. Many followers worship nature and worship many gods, but not always. 

Paganism is a natural outgrowth of many people’s personal moral and life beliefs. Within the pagan movement, one can find many deities, both male and female, with various associations and personifications of natural forces, cultural aspects, and aspects of the human psyche.

Rapidly growing, this spiritual movement consisting of various groups that believe in natural polytheism are based in part on the religions of the ancient world. By some measures, it’s one of the fastest growing religions in the United States, with approximately 1 million followers of different pagan denominations in the United States. 

Although still a minority religion, pagan and wicca are increasingly popular. This is especially evident when you search social media sites like Tiktok for hashtags, “witchtok” and “pagantok.” It was this “novelty”, uninhibited attitude and departure from religious norms that helped paganism adapt to modernity and spread. Instead of finding a spiritual basis for their beliefs, today’s converts are increasingly interested in paganism as a green religion, or in its aesthetically lavish rituals that offer intense emotional experience and expressiveness.

Most contemporary Pagan groups trace their immediate organizational roots to the 1960s and emphasize an archetypal psychology and spiritual interest in nature. The various new religious schools are extremely heterogeneous, and any description of the various pagan religions must be completed with many reservations. 

Many pagan movements also strongly reject the idea of paid professional clergy, and unlike traditional religions, are not hierarchical or solely masculine. Conversely, non-pagan religions such as Judaism, Christianity, and Islam often (but not always) abhor the notion of a female goddess. So in that sense, paganism does not fall into that category. 

Fortunately, paganism now falls under this category under both the National Council of Religions in the UK and the freedom of religion clause of the First Amendment in the US. Even in our modern world of so-called “religious freedom,” some are still afraid to practice their beliefs or identify as pagans. 

For someone who has been an “atheist” or “pagan,” multi-deity or non-deity relationships can seem even more frustrating to people who are not part of any religious or polytheistic community. Both of these terms helped shift the modern connotation away from the negative historical Christian connotation of pagans as people worshiping false gods. 

According to Merriam-Webster, the term “pagan” comes from the Latin paganus, which was used in the late Roman Empire to refer to those who professed a religion other than Christianity, Judaism, or Islam. Paganism represents a wide range of traditions that emphasize respect for nature and the revival of ancient polytheistic and animistic religious practices. 

While principles vary from one Pagan religion to another, most Pagan religions follow the same general set of principles in one way or another. The members of modern Paganism are simultaneously growing, uniting and maintaining a peculiar variety of traditions, identities and rituals. 

The Pagan social infrastructure reflects the diversity and unity value of the Pagan community; it consists of traditionally interconnected networks and local groups maintained by several larger organizations.

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