Having the word Pagan in your vocabulary may seem like a strange concept to some, but Paganism is a term used to describe a number of different religions, a term which originated in the Roman Empire.
The word Paganism first appeared in the 4th century and was used to refer to people who practiced polytheism and ethnic religions other than Judaism or Christianity, usually outside of the cities.
Here is a beginner-friendly article about Paganism today.
Modern Forms of Paganism
Throughout history, the term Paganism has been used to refer to many different types of religious practices. Usually, Paganism refers to a polytheistic religion or spiritual belief that focuses on nature and the passage or cycles of the natural year. The term is also used to refer to religious paths that do not adhere to monotheistic religious beliefs.
A modern form of Paganism, also called NeoPaganism, is a religion or belief system that has roots in the late 19th century. It also has links to the New Age movement and modern Witchcraft. Various individuals, groups, and organisations who fall under the general umbrella term of ‘Paganism’, aim to revive the rituals and pantheons of ancient cultures.
NeoPagans focus on the personification of nature. Their rituals are centered around changes in seasons, holy days, and other motifs of ancient religions. Modern Pagans usually view Goddesses and Gods as a community of individuals, rather than a single all-powerful deity.
Modern Pagans have earned the reputation of being more relaxed and creative than mainstream religious society. The modern Pagan movement has grown to include many diverse religious groups, from Asatru to Wicca to Druidism.
The movement has also gained a foothold in North America. In the 1960s and 1970s, radical social change occurred in the US, which led to an explosion of interest in world religions. It is true that Pagans tend to be more relaxed than people of other religions, and do not usually follow the same doctrines. They also tend to refuse to make judgments about other people’s religions, race, life choices, and gender or sexual identities.
Neo Pagans are also more open to the natural world, and they often see the Earth itself as sacred. They also affirm the importance of the individual psyche, and their own personal spiritual journeys. These modern Pagans will often believe in the use of healing energies and magic, and specialist magical technologists are often found in Pagan societies.
Symbols of Paganism
Symbols of Pagan religion are part of a broader phenomenon in which human beings use symbols to understand reality. In earlier cultures, symbols were used to establish the social order of the group.
In modern times, the commonly held symbols of Paganism are often used to recognise each other, especially in situations where discretion is still advisable, but also hold much mystical or spiritual importance.
Symbols of Pagan religion include the triple spiral, which is sometimes viewed as the symbol of life, death, and rebirth within the native Irish tradition. To some, it can represent the cycles of nature as a source of nourishment and healing. It also focuses on humanity’s connection with nature.
The serpent is viewed as a symbol of wisdom in Paganism. It could be associated with the goddess personification of Mother Earth, or Gaia. The serpent symbol has a long connection with the sacred and healing in Northern Europe.
Another symbol of Pagan religion might be the World Tree, which emphasises the intersection of multiple worlds beyond our own earthly realm, and represents the continual creation of new life on earth (that’s those sacred cycles again!).
You will often see the pentagram, or five pointed star (or a version enclosed within a circle, which is called a pentacle) as a symbol of modern Pagan religion, especially with a Wiccan or Witchcraft element. This is said to represent the human senses, the human body, and with a single point upwards it has been used since Medieval times to depict spirit presiding over the four elements of matter, essentially held to be in positive balance. However, the influential but controversial writer Éliphas Lévi, known for believing that magic was a real science, had called it evil whenever the symbol appeared the other way up.
The History of Paganism
Historically, Paganism was associated with hedonism and Witchcraft. The term Paganism is derived from the Latin word Paganus, from pāgus which simply meant ‘area outside of a city, countryside’. So essentially, a Pagan has always just referred to one who lives or connects to nature, outside of the cities, in the countryside. However, the word came to have a negative meaning as it was used to describe those who practiced non-Christian religious beliefs.
In the late nineteenth century, a NeoPaganism movement began, which sought to reclaim the positive meaning of Paganism. The most important principles of Paganism are the freedom to choose a deity and the responsibility for one’s beliefs. Pagans revere nature and the earth in all its manifestations.
Most Pagan religions do not have a messiah. They also tend to be more open minded and liberal than many mainstream faiths. Some Pagans may even follow vegetarian or vegan diets as part of their spiritual practice, though many do not.
Though many Pagans prefer a solitary path, in general Paganism has a strong focus on communities and groups or organisations, who work and learn together. Pagans also consider the earth to be a divine source, and understand that everything and everyone is connected holistically.
What’s a Pagan To Do Now?!
If you think that Paganism is interesting, and might even be something you’d like to explore further, you can always: