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What Is Paganism? What Is A Pagan?


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What is Paganism? What is a Pagan?

 

These questions can be, especially for those of us taking their first steps on their paths, some of the more difficult ones to answer. I think it important that we, as Pagans, should be able to provide answers to these questions.

 

I am mostly happy with what I have written but I want to know if there are any ways in which I can improve it.

 

I have tried to be as inclusive as possible, are there any ‘pagan types’ that I have excluded?

What else should I add and is there anything I should remove?

For any of you in the teaching profession or even those who are not , how’s the spelling, grammar and punctuation? (yes even these are open to criticism).

 

This is, with some minor adjustments, what I wrote in reply to a question on yahoo answers, my efforts were in vain as it was not chosen as the best answer by the individual posing the question (the question was ‘what’s the difference between an atheist and a pagan?’ the answer chosen was something about ‘following your heart’ and ‘doing what feels best’ which in my view had nothing to do with the question--end micro-rant).

 

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What is Paganism? What is a Pagan?

 

It is commonly held that the origin of the word ‘pagan’ is ‘paganus’ meaning ‘country-dweller’ however the French scholar Pierre Chuvin argues that the notion that the word ‘pagan’ meant ‘country-dweller’, despite the romantic imagery, could not work as when the word was coined most town-dwellers were pagan. Instead, he argues, that the word means followers of the religions of the ’pagus’ or locality i.e. the old, rooted faiths instead of the new universal one (Christianity).

 

‘Pagan’ and ‘Paganism’ can have any number of definitions depending upon context. Some use the word pagan to refer to anyone not of a major word religion or not of one of the Abrahamic religions.

 

Paganism can refer to the ancient pre-Christian religions or neo-paganism (a modern religious movement that draws inspiration from ancient pre-Christian religions). Generally neo-pagans (at least in Britain) prefer to drop the neo- and simply use the labels Pagan and Paganism; the lower case p is used when referring to the ancient pre-Christian religions and the upper-case P when referring to the modern religious movement .

 

Paganism is both an umbrella term covering a wide range of beliefs and practices e.g. Druidry, Wicca, witchcraft, Heathenry/Asatru, shamanism amongst others, and it is also a spiritual belief in itself (some, like myself, do not ascribe themselves to a particular ’Pagan Path’ but refer to themselves simply as Pagan). Attitudes regarding gods and the divine vary greatly Pagans can be just about anything whether it be theist, polytheist, pantheist, animist (which is arguably a form of pantheism), agnostic or even atheist (Atheism simply refers to the rejection of/non-belief in gods and as such it does not require the rejection of religion and/or the supernatural). There is also variation amongst those who believe in gods, some see gods as literal beings whereas others regard them as symbolic archetypes created by the human conscious whilst still performing acts of devotion to them. Despite all this variation there appears to be, at least in my experience, little animosity regarding gods between Pagans. Generally Paganism is nature-based or if not then at least nature revering e.g. Asatruar base much their beliefs on the Eddas and as such it would be inappropriate to call these beliefs nature-based, nature is however still revered.

 

 

Finally it should be noted that Paganism is a new-religious movement and is not part of the New-Age movement (for one thing it predates the New-Age movement by a couple of hundred years) and one can hold a scientific outlook on life and still be Pagan.

 

Pagans on the whole do not regard their religion as ‘the only way’ or as ‘the Truth’, they do not actively/intentionally seek to convert others and nor do they indoctrinate children, believing that choice of religion (or lack of ) should be left to the child.

 

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I thought this was good - I can't think of anything else to add without getting into the whole "what is a witch...what is Wicca....what is a druid" malarkey which for a general over view is too detailed IMO. Can see a few minor things:

 

not of a major word religion

 

I reckon you mean "world" :ph34r:

 

Paganism is both an umbrella term covering a wide range of beliefs and practices e.g. Druidry, Wicca, witchcraft, Heathenry/Asatru, shamanism amongst others, and it is also a spiritual belief in itself (some, like myself, do not ascribe themselves to a particular ’Pagan Path’ but refer to themselves simply as Pagan). Attitudes regarding gods and the divine vary greatly Pagans can be just about anything whether it be theist, polytheist, pantheist, animist (which is arguably a form of pantheism), agnostic or even atheist (Atheism simply refers to the rejection of/non-belief in gods and as such it does not require the rejection of religion and/or the supernatural). There is also variation amongst those who believe in gods, some see gods as literal beings whereas others regard them as symbolic archetypes created by the human conscious whilst still performing acts of devotion to them. Despite all this variation there appears to be, at least in my experience, little animosity regarding gods between Pagans. Generally Paganism is nature-based or if not then at least nature revering e.g. Asatruar base much their beliefs on the Eddas and as such it would be inappropriate to call these beliefs nature-based, nature is however still revered.

 

Personally in this para I'd try and find another word word one of the "vary" or "variations".

 

There is also variation amongst those who believe in gods,

 

I'd replace that comma with a semi-colon

 

Attitudes regarding gods and the divine vary greatly Pagans can be just about anything

 

and I reckon you need a full stop after "greatly"

 

Sorry if that's a bit too picky - it's my academic essay head :lol: Hope it helps :D

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Oi no!! :ph34r: Look 'ere

 

For any of you in the teaching profession or even those who are not , how’s the spelling, grammar and punctuation? (yes even these are open to criticism).

 

Grammar & punctuation pedant I might be but I don't go a proselytising !! :lol: :D

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Is someone offering buns? :P

 

I reckon this is a pretty good description, easy to follow and worded better than I could have put it, lol

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(for one thing it predates the New-Age movement by a couple of hundred years)

269561[/snapback]

 

What did you have in mind as the start point for this?

:D

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Possibly modern druidry with Iolo Morganwyg? The theosophical movement (some might put the origins of the new age movement at around the same time as the theosophical society, the Golden Dawn et al were developing) and other spiritual explorations that pre-dated it in the 1700's? What I find quite interesting in these kinds of things is the desire of people to say 'This is when it all started'. From what I can tell, such statements are made on the basis of when something gained a degree of public attention. They are also based on when something took on a specific form. Yet I wonder if it could be argued that ideas develop, get incorporated into something that may take on a specific form for a time until the next round of developments has people incorporating some ideas into something 'New'. I wonder if it could be further argued that this has been going on for a very long time.

 

Heh, quite often Pagans will say of their becoming Pagan 'I became a Pagan in XYZ, but I've always known there was something different about me ever since I was a kid and used to spend time in nature....' or something like that. What is being said could well be that people found aspects of a spiritual path that seemed to make sense with previous experiences and ideas they had been having and they incorporate them into how they live, adopting the current label in the process.... or occasionally making a label based on an amalgam of other labels. I wonder if that is rather similar to how we develop notions of when a particular spiritual movement began and I wonder if, on some deeper level we might be missing the point about the nature of spiritual seeking when we do so.

 

I also wonder if there are times when I write complete bollox ..... could this be one of them? :(

 

BB

 

Mike

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Possibly modern druidry with Iolo Morganwyg? The theosophical movement (some might put the origins of the new age movement at around the same time as the theosophical society, the Golden Dawn et al were developing) and other spiritual explorations that pre-dated it in the 1700's?

 

I suppose it depends what one might wish to bring into the fold of paganism. Personally, although I see that these movements might lead on to people eventually exploring forms of paganism, I don't see them as pagan if compared with modern (or pre-Christian) paganisms. Oh, if compared with Christianity, yes - but then, some Christians would label far too many things as 'pagan'(immediately followed by 'detroy! :D ), and that doesn't mean that one thing so labelled relates to another.

 

Being a simple soul, I tend to look for some recognisable pagan identity in something which might represent the start of modern paganism. :)

 

What I find quite interesting in these kinds of things is the desire of people to say 'This is when it all started'. From what I can tell, such statements are made on the basis of when something gained a degree of public attention.

 

Ah - the King Kev school of the origins of paganism! :(

 

I wonder if that is rather similar to how we develop notions of when a particular spiritual movement began and I wonder if, on some deeper level we might be missing the point about the nature of spiritual seeking when we do so.

 

Oh, for each of us, personally or when talking of something of which we are a part, there are bound to be pre-cursors - e.g. feeling akin with nature. The pre-cursors are not the final form, but lead to the final form, whether that is a movement or a person's beliefs.

 

And everything changes all the time anyway, so when talking of the final form we can only discuss it as though what we experience now is final.

 

Now I suspect I'm the one starting to talk utter bollox... :P

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  • 2 weeks later...

Yarrow Pretty well sums it up for me.

Knowing no other pagans other than my wife (she too is finding her self) I cant say Ive had the same experienceas Cern, I dont have a date I became pagan I think it was something like 22+ yrs ago, I was labeled pagan shortly prior to my joining these boards (3/4 day). I'm not posting much but I am reading and learning a heck of a lot, both about religion and myself.

 

Heck I even turn on the idiot box to learn stuff atm the history channel has been a real eye opener.

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  • 1 month later...

I have been taught that Paganism is a way of life in harmony with nature and the forces/energies around us. To lead a Pagan lifestyle, you have to firstly learn to respect the people and environment around you, to help nurture the community, to work with people who at first you may not understand, who may not understand you, but by getting to know each other you build a foundation for teamwork that will generate a strong and healthy community, irrespective of religion/politics/gender. As for what is a Pagan? I am a Pagan. That's what my Mum said I am!! :)

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  • 3 months later...

Sorry I left this for such a long time. I have now made some of the suggested alterations.

 

What is Paganism? What is a Pagan?

 

It is commonly held that the origin of the word ‘pagan’ is ‘paganus’ meaning ‘country-dweller’ however the French scholar Pierre Chuvin argues that the notion that the word ‘pagan’ meant ‘country-dweller’, despite the romantic imagery, could not work as when the word was coined most town-dwellers were pagan. Instead, he argues, that the word means followers of the religions of the ’pagus’ or locality i.e. the old, rooted faiths instead of the new universal one (Christianity).

 

‘Pagan’ and ‘Paganism’ can have any number of definitions depending upon context. Some use the word pagan to refer to anyone not of a major world religion or not of one of the Abrahamic religions.

 

Paganism can refer to the ancient pre-Christian religions or neo-paganism (a modern religious movement that draws inspiration from ancient pre-Christian religions). Generally neo-pagans (at least in Britain) prefer to drop the neo- and simply use the labels Pagan and Paganism; the lower case p is used when referring to the ancient pre-Christian religions and the upper-case P when referring to the modern religious movement.

 

(Neo-) Paganism is both an umbrella term covering a wide range of beliefs and practices e.g. Druidry, Wicca, witchcraft, Heathenry/Asatru, shamanism amongst others, and it is also a spiritual belief in itself (some, like myself, do not ascribe themselves to a particular ’Pagan Path’ but refer to themselves simply as Pagan). Attitudes regarding gods and the divine vary greatly. Pagans can be just about anything whether it be theist, polytheist, pantheist, animism, agnostic or even atheist (atheism simply refers to the rejection of/non-belief in gods and as such it does not require the rejection of religion and/or the supernatural).

 

There is also variation amongst those who believe in gods; some see gods as literal beings whereas others regard them as symbolic archetypes created by the human conscious whilst still performing acts of devotion to them. Despite all this diversity there appears to be, at least in my experience, little animosity regarding gods between Pagans. Generally Paganism is nature-based or if not then at least nature revering e.g. Asatruar base much their beliefs on the Eddas and as such it would be inappropriate to call these beliefs nature-based, nature is however still revered.

 

It should be noted that Paganism is a new religious movement and is not part of the New Age movement. Pagans on the whole do not regard their religion as ‘the only way’ or as ‘the Truth’, they do not actively/intentionally seek to convert others and nor do they indoctrinate children, believing that choice of religion (or lack of ) should be left to the child. Also there is no science/religion dichotomy with Paganism, one can hold a scientific outlook on life and comfortably still be Pagan.

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I personally believe that the word 'Pagan' has become meaningless outside of the 'pagan' community. Same with the word 'Witch' which means many different things in different countries and has so much historical baggage in 'Western' society that it has become meaningless to those outside of the area as well.

 

So I have no idea what a 'Pagan' is. I certainly don't use that term to describe myself to others (if the discussion of beliefs even comes up which it rarely does ).

 

So I guess 'Pagan' means whatever one thinks it does to them. Which is why although many people have worked very hard to have it included in the 'lists' of religions and religious ceremonies (such as funerals and marriages -which is a good thing except for us atheist pagans who don't see it as having 'religious' significance at all), I don't think it will become common in the vernacular for a very long time if at all.

 

So to me, what a 'pagan' or 'Pagan' is is a moot point.

 

 

Marto

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Now i have turned 50 i no longer keep things quiet. When people ask me what religion i am (which for some reason happens more and more frequently) i now tell them - or rather i would if i could. In italy 'pagan' means 'without religion' or 'without belief' which is definitely not me. The concept of non-orthodox religion is missing in the vocab. I have tried witch but people look blank, i've tried druid (which i'm not) and people look even blanker. So i have been trying to find something, anything to give myself an acceptable label (not that i'm in the least bit bothered but just for fun i'd like to find one), somethig that sums up, but keeping it vague, what i am and what it is that makes pagan people think they have anything in common with me. I would love to find a term and then take great pleasure in not being one. I haven't found anything at all so far because there doesn't seem to be a single thing that we all believe that could give us even a miniscule basis for tarring us all with the same brush :lol: .

I think to define paganism is a lost cause as would be the battle to gain 'us' recognition.

As i see it most categories of so-called pagan have about as much in common with the others as they do with any other religion.

Personally i don't want to be put in the same bucket as the stranger elements in the pagan world. I read a US pagan site where EVERYTHING was contemplated. A mish mash of beliefs from the aborigines of oz to the greenland eskimos down to the dyak and the indios. The site was a 'pagan' site and styled itself as 'serious'.

I am 'serious' about my beliefs and wish to be respected for them, they are not a hobby. It doesn't help if people think that, just because i use the term pagan, i must automatically do (though i may do) tarot, runes, magick, healing or believe in chakras, gaia, ancestors, the wee people or wave my arms about at public rituals and dress in robes.

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I have never given the subject of whether I see being a Pagan, or following Paganism, as having it as a Religion, or a lifestyle choice, myself.

 

I understand those who do see it as a Religion and I understand those who do see it as a lifestyle choice.

 

I also understand those who don't see it as a Religion and I understand those who don't see it as a lifestyle choice, too.

 

I have been asked it, often, probably because I wear a pentagram necklace, along with "are you a black or white witch, then?", "do you worship the devil, then?", "do you dance around the camp fire naked, then?" and "do you perform ritual slayings and drink the blood, then?"

 

But I still can't decide for sure which way I feel about it.

 

It IS a lifestyle choice for me because I was bought up to be this way, it comes into everything I do on a daily, no hourly, basis, and it makes me very happy, and it makes me very sociable, and it makes me very kind, and it makes me very loving, and caring, and gentle, and civilized, (except when I see injustice or cruelty or damage being caused to the world, then beware! for the Warrior shall be unleashed) but I could be something else if I believed in something else, I guess.

 

But then again, MY form of Pagan belief calls upon Gods and Goddesses, sprites, passed over elders and the spirit of nature, itself, so I could argue, perhaps, it IS a form of Religion, after all.

 

I just don't know.

 

Maybe I just steer right away from the word Religion, it has many negative associations for me because my Parent's converted to Christianity and tried to convert me too, making me quite ill in the process.

 

I am afraid I see some Religions as destructive and unhealthy, almost more like Cults in extreme cases, unyet, I totally respect others people's rights to join them and practice them, freely.

 

I feel this debate will continue for a long time to come, and the answer is that try as one might, there is just no way to pin down what being a Pagan or Paganism is from one singular view point because it is different things to different people, it doesn't seek to convert, or take over, whatever the Pagan believes, there is a common thread that is a great love and respect of nature, if nothing else, and for me, that's why I love it so much to begin with.

 

It only seems to matter to people who want to classify us, I think.

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there is a common thread that is a great love and respect of nature, if nothing else, and for me, that's why I love it so much to begin with.

 

It only seems to matter to people who want to classify us, I think.

294817[/snapback]

I forgot about nature etc. It does unite us i suppose (any pagans out there NOT like nature?) but it doesn't give us an identity.

For me a succinct term would save me having to describe things everytime :) .

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