Moon Phase


Monday, February 7, 2011

What is Paganism?

Paganism, also called neo-Paganism, is an umbrella term that describes a variety of denominations. For example you have Christianity, which branches out into many different churches/beliefs. For example it has Baptist, Catholic, Methodist, and so on. For the most part Paganism organizes themselves and operate without a centralized religious body or a standardized dogma. While variety of belief and practice is a source of pride for Pagans, it can sometimes be a source of confusion for others. Under Paganism's umbrella are found such diverse traditions as Wicca, Shamanism, Asatru, Eclectic, Family Traditions, Celtic Traditionalism, Druidism, Strega, Santeria, Voudon, Ceremonial Magick, Mystery Traditions, solitaries, as well as a wide variety of Blended paths such as Judeopaganism, Christopaganism, Buddhistpaganism (or Easternpaganism), and so on. These traditions, while spanning many centuries and cultures, share at least one of several characteristics: they are indigenous, earth-centered, contain magickal elements, recognize both male and female deities, were suppressed or eradicated by another religion, or stress a connection to and respect for the natural world.

Beliefs we identify as fundamental to Paganism and how we interpret them are uniquely our own. We have on occasion been asked to name the most important belief or concept of Paganism. This is difficult given that there are many traditions within the denominations. However, if we could reduce Paganism down to its essentials, we believe its two most central concepts are interconnectedness and blessedness. The belief that every part of the universe is interconnected, whether "animate" or "inanimate,” we believe all are connected at deep levels that extend beyond space-time as we know it. This shapes how Pagans view the nature of the Divine, the sorts of relationships possible with the Divine and the universe, and forms the Pagan approach to prayer and magick. Paganism is a way of living, praying, and connecting to the flow of the universe.

Paganism takes the position that human beings are unflawed in their natures, are not spiritually doomed or damned, are born with all the tools and skills necessary to live ethically and spiritually, and are naturall oriented toward their own greatest growth and development. No part of Pagan belief, practice, ritual, or sacrament is designed to "save" Pagans from a flawed or corrupt nature, or to prevent punishment arising from such theoretical flaws. Pagans believe that humanity can improve itself, but Pagans do not equate the human ability to make bad choices with a imperfect nature. I believe that the concepts of interconnectedness and blessedness are what link together most of the divergent paths and traditions within Paganism. Yet they are not the only common threads Pagans share.

Pagans gather in churches, homes, or outdoors, and meet in groups that may be called, among other things, circles, covens, churches, or groves. Unlike members of some religions, however, Pagans generally do not send out missionaries, hold revivals, or try to gain converts. Most Pagans who "converted" to Paganism in the traditional sense. They became Pagans by deciding that Paganism reflected what they already believed and then adopted the word "Pagan" to describe themselves. Like other religions, Pagans have clergy who perform religious functions such as marriages and funerals. Pagans also observe a sacred year and have religious holidays and other celebrations. Most modern Pagan traditions are described as "earth-centered." Pagan holidays often fall on dates that mark the change of seasons.

Most Pagan traditions stress personal responsibility and put the burden of developing spiritual practices, beliefs, and ethics on to the individual. Even those traditions that offer established beliefs and methods encourage their members to test ideas so that members build the mental muscles necessary to judge the soundness of beliefs for themselves. Those traditions that offer established moral guidelines also tend to encourage their members to explore ethical ideas so that members can find their own ethical sense and form their consciences accordingly. With this freedom comes a corresponding responsibility; a responsibility for one's beliefs, behavior, and degree of spiritual development. On the whole, Paganism's approach to the issue of personal responsibility is very empowering for the individual.

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