Sunday, June 21, 2009

Defining Paganism

How does one define Paganism? That's a sticky topic I thought about doing at first, gave it some thought, then pointedly avoided it. But, if I'm going to properly take part in Pagan Values Month, I guess I should give it a go.

You're probably asking me why I'm avoiding it. Allow me to quote Pete Jennings: "It has been said that if you gather three Pagans together, you will get five opinions." Usually I only get three opinions (tops) from three Pagans, but when it comes to defining Paganism, Jennings has definitely got a point. I have seen this topic come up in several online groups. Usually everyone offers their own definition, but sometimes they'll offer two definitions. lol That gets interesting. I've always seen a general consensus reached, always along the same lines, but still with some questions unanswered. (Like are Hindus Pagan? I'm still not sure of the answer there.)

So I'll offer some general guidelines as to what does or does not make a Pagan, and hopefully clarify some misunderstandings about Paganism -- but even though I'm Pagan myself, I suggest that you take what I say with a grain of salt. There are only a few things that I have so far found to be hard and fast "rules," and I'll point them out when I come to them. Otherwise, remember, these are guidelines that I'm writing up here.

1) We don't worship Satan. We don't even believe in the guy. If someone believes in Satan, then that's fine, but they aren't Pagan. This is one of those hard and fast rules I mentioned. Yes, some of our deities (Loki from Norse mythology, and Seth from Egyptian mythology, to name just two) can be unbelievably nasty, but they are not Satan.

2) Some people are under the impression that a hard and fast rule to being Pagan is that you have to follow a nature centered path. Guess what? That's just not true. I think it's safe to say that all of us hold the Earth sacred, but it isn't the center of every one's universe.

3) Pagans will not try to convert you to Paganism. Ok, so I know there are a few exceptions, but they are few and far between. We also tend to get ticked off at people trying to save our souls.

4) We're usually polytheistic, but there are also people who are duo-theists, monotheistic, and even people who regard deities as symbols and not actual beings. But we're mostly polytheistic.

5) Our Sabbats (holy days) follow the turning of the seasons.

6) Paganism is not one religion. The term "Paganism" is an umbrella term that covers many many religions and spiritualities, some of which are so different they don't seem to have much in common.

I just know there's something else that's not coming to mind. If that is the case I'll make another post on the topic later.

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