What is Paganism and how is it practised today?
When we think of religion, it's easy to name some of the most common ones including Christianity, Sikhism and Buddhism. However, many other disciplines exist and are equally valuable to those who practise them. One such religion is Paganism.
What is paganism?
There are lots of misconceptions about Paganism, so let's fist clear up what it is not. It's nothing to do with devil worshipping, sacrificial offerings and cults. Indeed, Pagans don't usually believe in Satan, who is a Christian concept.
Paganism is actually a spiritual way of life whose origins are rooted in the world's ancient, nature-based religions. It is centuries old and most modern religions can trace at least part of their make-up back to Paganism. The term itself comes from the Latin meaning country dweller or villager.
Today's Pagans have retained the ancient wisdom of their ancestors and modified them to suit 21st century lifestyles and Paganism is actually the collective name for a group of religions with a basis in nature.
What do pagans believe?
Paganism is not at all dogmatic, meaning believers can be trained in particular methods or determine their own inspiration, following their own vision of the divine. The religion can incorporate hints of rituals and practices from elsewhere, including Celtic or Wiccan traditions.
However, all Pagans believe that there is a holy continuum of consciousness within the Universe to make it exist as one, including inanimate objects, living things and the pantheons of gods. Paganism features a number of gods and goddesses, with female deities having an especially high profile in contrast with a number of other religions.
Some practitioners also believe in an abstract Supreme Principle as the origin of all things, but this is not necessary and even these types of Pagans recognise other spiritual beings alongside it.
Pagans place a heavy emphasis on the cycle of the natural year and seasons within their belief system and see the various points as times of spiritual growth and renewal, marking them with festivals. They also see the earth as sacred.
Generally speaking, a Pagan's main aims will be to live in harmony with the natural world, to honour personal and spiritual potential, to acknowledge the divinity within all living things and to help other people do the same things.
For these reasons and the fact that Pagans hold an inherent respect for those around them, practitioners are usually relaxed, easy-going and pleasant to be around.
What is modern-day paganism like?
Paganism remains an active religion in large parts of the world today and it is actually enjoying a resurgence in the west as people look for simpler ways of living that reject commercialism and materialism.
There is also growing knowledge about Paganism being really interesting to practise because of its ties to nature and magic; since nature is a manifestation of divinity, everything within it can effectively have magical properties. However, it is forbidden to use it to harm another person or creature.
Paganism has plenty to offer anyone in the 21st century, from its refusal to judge others and respect for women, to its awareness of the importance of environmental protection.
If you are a Pagan, you may benefit from a greater sense of perspective on your problems, as believers often ask for signs from the Universe when they have issues to solve. For example, they might cast runes to look for symbols sent by deities and they believe that the divine world answers all genuine requests for assistance, even if it's not in the way you might expect.
In terms of worshipping and ceremonies, it is important for Pagans to pay homage to their ancient sites and traditions to connect themselves back to the earth. This can be done alone equally as well as in groups, so it isn't necessary to have large-scale meetings in order to worship.
Furthermore, Pagans do not have public buildings specifically for worship like Christians do with churches, so ceremonies and rituals can be carried out anywhere out of doors, including woodland, caves and seashores. This is part of an acknowledgement that the best places to connect with a higher power are often not created by human hands.
Changing your religion is a big step to take, so it's worth thinking carefully if you do want to become completely Pagan. However, it's perfectly possible to pay homage to certain aspects of the religion without dropping your own completely.
After all, aspects of yoga have their roots in Buddhism and this is practised by people of all beliefs and cultures, so why shouldn't you enjoy some of the most appealing parts of Paganism?
If you want to learn more, it's well worth contacting PsychicsOnline, where many of our experts are practising Pagans and know a great deal about it that they can pass on during a session.