An Introduction to Paganism

I’ve mentioned here and there that I’m Pagan, but I haven’t elucidated on what that means. Since I’m gathering with my coven today, I thought it would be a good time to get into it.

Paganism is more easily described in terms of observable behaviors than beliefs. Speaking broadly, “paganism” refers to a collection of spiritual behaviors that include animism, pantheism, polytheism, reverence for nature, ancestor veneration, numinousness, and magic.

In a historical context, paganism usually refers to the polytheistic traditions of pre-Christian Europe though it may also include Eastern religions and the indigenous religions of the Americas, Central Asia, Australia, and Africa. However, adherents of these religious and spiritual traditions do not tend to self-identify as pagan and may take offense at the label.

In contemporary usage, Paganism (with a capital P) refers to modern movements that attempt to reconstruct or draw from historical paganism. For example, Hellenics draw from ancient Greek religious practices; Norse Pagans look to the religious traditions of ancient Germanic people in Nordic countries.

Contemporary Paganism also includes adherents of various New Religious Movements such as Wicca, which is not rooted in ancient paganism and has its own unique development, but maintains similar behaviors. And some Pagans look to develop their spirituality based on the land they currently inhabit and its spirits rather than those of their ancestors.

There is tremendous diversity in what Pagans believe and much debate over what Pagans should believe. While I do think that people should examine their beliefs, I find such debates futile; people will believe what they want, what feels right to them, and do as they wish as they always have. At the end of day, it’s more important to me whether we can agree on how to worship rather than if we conceptualize deity in the same manner. There are more interesting and challenging ideas to debate anyway, but I begin to digress.

So how do Pagans worship? It varies widely, but in general, Pagans seek to affirm their connection with nature through seasonal festivals and rites of passage of human life, and may honor deities and their ancestors as well as develop and maintain relationships with other spirits. Common acts of worship include prayer, meditation, the pouring of libations, recitations of poetry, singing, and the performance of sacred drama. In this sense, Pagans are not so different from other religious people.

When I first told my friends that I would be going to Australia, a few who have traveled there told me the Pagan community is delightful and hoped that I would have the opportunity to spend some time with local Pagans. I certainly hope to as well.

About the image: Parthenon by Mr G’s Travels on Flickr CC BY-NC-SA 2.0




  1. Cosette, you have written such an eloquent version of Paganism — very simple and very basic, yet to the point. Yes, Australia is home to many renowned Pagans (authors, speakers, bloggers, Witches, Wiccans, Shamans, editors, etc) and there are a few Pagan magazines based there as well, that just are not available in the mainstream book stores. I do so hope you have the opportunity to spend some time with like minds in Sydney … don’t forget to look into “meetups” there. I am sure you can find some.

    Having been on my own Pagan path consciously for about 12 years, it really can be difficult to explain to non-Pagans what Paganism is on a general level, much less my own path. UGH … and it can be even more difficult when a closed minded, ill-mannered person of another belief keeps insisting that we are something we are not.

    Thank you for posting this. It gives me that kick in rear to start including my own beliefs into my own writings (After all it IS MY OWN BLOG) — something I have been skirting about for a couple months. Of course, it should be obvious — after all the picture in my logo has me wearing a Witch hat ๐Ÿ˜‰ LOL

    • I’ve found it useful (and challenging) to try to develop an elevator-pitch explanation, something quick and easy for most people who ask. In general, however, I tend to disengage from people who are not interested in at least trying to understand where I’m coming from.

      I find it hard not to include Paganism in my blogging because it’s a big part of who I am and what I do and if I’m going to share of myself, that’s part of the package. I hope to hear more from you about your path if that’s something you feel comfortable sharing ๐Ÿ™‚

      • I’m comfortable within my niche LOL Actually, I consider myself an eclectic solitary “green” witch with a brown thumb HAHA. I do not follow the Wiccan path personally but I am friends with many who do and I enjoy many Wiccan authors’ works/writings/stuff. I consciously started following my Pagan path December 1999 when I bought my first tarot deck with a gift card from my boss ๐Ÿ˜‰ Shortly after that I found a great “new age” shop that helped me further that path. I met several soul sisters there and I also started selling some of my tarot bags and spread clothes there, as well as let them convince me to start doing readings at the psychic faires.

        I say consciously following because my Pagan thoughts were always there and even in highschool if someone asked about my “religious” preference, I always just said I was spiritual, not religious. Goes back even further in elementary school, when i asked for “proof” of what they tried to teach in sunday school and all they could come up with was, “it’s in the bible” … it just didn’t sit right with me. I’m a VIrgo LOL I wanted tangible proof .. of course I did not understand that back then, but looking back I totally figured out. And the best part … is I found out during my conscious lightning bolt moment, that my maternal great grandmother was a fortune teller and tea leaf reader … and I know it was her that lead me to my first tarot deck and that shop.

        And I’ve been on my conscious Pagan path every since ๐Ÿ˜‰

        • Thanks for sharing! Improving my tarot skills (read: getting over my fear of reading for others) is one of my goals this year.

          • OMG I loved doing readings for others. I have a hard time with “charging” though, although my dear friend explained it well to me. The person you are doing the reading for wants to give you something in return for what you gave them — okay in most cases this is totally true (the ONLY ones I have found this not true with are the skeptics — the ones getting a reading to prove a point kind of people .. who really don’t believe in tarot but want to try to trip you up UGH). I have since stopped doing readings for others since I moved to Washington State in 2005 — only read for myself and not very often. though my cards are getting restless with me LOL I should make myself get back into again! ๐Ÿ™‚ I started with my friends and they helped convince me to do faires … the first one was the hardest but after that … it was second nature!

            Once you get over that “fear” hump, its a breeze ๐Ÿ˜‰ I still have issues with my reading skills — but I have never had a complaint, so I must have been doing something good! LOL It will come, getting over the fear, and after that you will wonder why you weren’t doing before that!!! ๐Ÿ™‚

          • You’re very right. People are coming to your for a service and, in general, they expect to pay in some way. And it’s an equal exchange of energy. Thanks for the encouragement!

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