There are almost as many denominations to Paganism as there are to Christianity. Within Paganism, there are a large variety of beliefs, dieties, and concepts. However, we (much like Christianity) have certain core values and beliefs that are central to paganism. Some of our core beliefs include:
Respect For Nature
A Belief in Harming None (including both yourself and others!)
Belief in Deity or Deities (differs depending on denomination)
Mutual Respect for All Life
A Belief in “Magick”
While some pagans believe in only one Goddess, and one God, others may believe in ONLY a Goddess, or ONLY a God, or MANY different Gods and Goddesses. Also, some pagan paths are more centered on working “Magick” (the ability to make things happen using willpower and nature) than others. Generally speaking, pagans of all denominations are kind, caring individuals that believe that it is wrong to harm any living creature (including plants!). We believe in the law of three…which tells us that whatever actions we do to others, will be brought back upon us threefold. So if we do something bad to someone else, it will come back to us three times as bad.
Pagans are very earth-concious, and live in harmony with nature. They see nature as a living being, and want to treat her with kindness and respect. Pagans also come from all walks of life…there are rich pagans, poor pagans, black pagans, white pagans, indian pagans, old pagans, young pagans…you get the idea! In fact you have probably met many pagans on the street and didn’t know they were pagan! Most pagans do not actively show their religion, for fear of being outcast or ridiculed by friends or family. Some pagans even lose their jobs, or worse, just by admitting that they are pagan.
Pagans (including Wiccans, which is a denomination of Paganism) sometimes also refer to themselves at “witches”. This can really intimidate or scare Christians, as they imagine witches as being evil or cruel as history portrays them. This is absolutely not true, and is only a stereotype. Many Wiccans are reclaiming the word ‘witch’ as a word of power, believing that this word has been unfairly maligned. There are people who use the term ‘witch’ who follow a spiritual/religious/ethical path, but who are not specifically Wiccan.
The most common symbol for paganism is the pentacle. Pagans use this symbol much like Christians use a cross or crucifix. Unfortunately, this symbol is also one of the most misunderstood! What the pentacle symbolizes to pagans is the four elements of Earth, Air, Fire, and Water, and the point at the top symbolizes Spirit, which is in everything around us. The circle around the 5 pointed star represents unity. While the pentacle HAS been used in Satanism, Satanists use the pentacle with the point facing DOWN. Pagans never use the pentacle in this manner…the point is always up! (See more information about this in the What we are NOT section.
Pagans generally celebrate 8 “sabbats”” (or holidays!) a year. These are covered more extenstively in our Holidays section. We also celebrate 12 “esbats” a year as well. An esbat is a celebration of the moon, usually when full. We celebrate the moon, because it is a symbol of the Goddess, and it carries her power with it.
Pagans also have “alters”, but these are not evil, archaic things. These are usually a simple table or stand where we place our important magickal items, such as incense, a chalice (which represents the goddess), an Athame (dagger) which symbolizes the god, salt to represent earth, incense to represent air, water, and a candle to represent fire. There may also be other items that a pagan may place on their alter to help them with their rituals.
Pagans do “rituals” at major sabbats, esbats, or sometimes for other reasons such as handfastings (pagan marriages), wiccanings (pagan baptising!), or other special occasions. Ritual usually only involves casting a circle, calling upon the diety, calling upon the 4 elements, and carrying out the ritual itself (such as thanking the diety for the harvest, etc). Now, mind you, rituals and ways of doing ritual vary greatly between denominations and individual pagans.
Some pagans do belong to a “coven”, which is a group of pagans who worship the same diety, and have the same purpose and mindset in doing magick. Although some pagans belong to covens, the majority of pagans are solitary, which means they work alone.
These are the basics of what paganism is. Obviously I cannot cover every topic on paganism without writing an entire book, but I hope that this article helps you to understand the truth of paganism.
Stephanie Davies is a 27 year old Missourian with a loving husband and an 8 year old son. She currently owns her own business, Mystickal Incense & More, and sells handmade candles, incense, bath & body products and more at http://www.mystickalincense.com