I suppose that I should alter the title of this page to What Is Paganism To Me. However, I would like to both introduce Paganism as it is viewed by ‘society’, both inside and out of the Pagan community, as well as provide my own personal definition
Full disclosure, this page is subject to change…a lot. Also, how I choose to define “Paganism” may be totally different from how someone else does. It’s both the beauty and the challenge of a religion without a central text.
Why is this page subject to change?
Because humans change. Because I will change. We change our minds, change our bodies, change our views…all based on our experiences. Life is a process in motion. Periodically, I will review this page and edit it accordingly. As I mentioned, I will provide a more permanent definition (view from the outside looking inward), the general tenets of Paganism (view from inside the Pagan community), and my own definition over time.
This is a tidy way of saying what Pagan is not. I don’t really like this definition, it’s a bit negative sounding (ie. infidel, heathen) and not particuarly accurate ( atheist?…) but if you’re just Googling “pagan” then this is what you get. Way to be informative, but not really helpful, Google.
According to this definition, a Pagan is not a Christian, Muslim, or Jew. A Pagan is someone following a faith tradition outside the Abrahamic faiths, but closer to the truth is the part where the definition says “a member of a modern religious movement which seeks to incorporate beliefs or practices from outside the main world religions, especially nature worship.” However, this little blurb is midway down the definition and preceded by some not so great synonyms. I mean, this is closer to how I would define Paganism, except that would possibly include Hinduism, which is faith outside the ‘big 3’ but still widely practiced and not really nature oriented. But polytheistic. So, still not right in my mind.
I think that really, Paganism can be summed up by saying this:
Paganism is a set beliefs/practices that are largely polytheistic, nature-centric, and incorporate some sort of personal development through the use of what is commonly referred to as ‘magick.’ Yes, I spelled that with a ‘k’ to highlight the difference between focused intention and sleight of hand.
And lets be clear, when I say Pagan I am painting with an industrial size paint brush here. Some will agree, some will disagree, some will AGREE to DISAGREE, but I find that those three things are the greatest common denominator. Also, you will find some truth in the phrase, “all Wiccans are Pagans, but not all Pagans are Wiccans.” If you think of Paganism like Christianity, then you might comprehend that there are different “sects” or “traditions.” Mormon and Methodists are both Christian, but would you really say that all Methodist are Mormons?
If you want further explanation, I invite you to read more by contemporary writers. I do recommend writers like Scott Cunningham and Starhawk as they were the first writers I encountered when starting down this path. But more often I look to contemporary writers such as John Becket, Jason Mankey, and Thorn Mooney.
Paganism 201; The Grand Scheme of Things
…okay, for now I’m going to take the easy way out and redirect you to a site that I’ve used for many years when trying to explain the general picture of Paganism. It does use the term Wicca instead of Pagan, but in my opinion, it still gives a very good sense of what Pagans believe. It’s very general and very dry, but it gives you a pretty good starting point.
Paganism 301; Getting Personal