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What Are Pagans? Stephanie Davies
There are almost as many denominations to Paganism as there are to Christianity. Within Paganism, there are a large variety of beliefs, deities, 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-conscious, 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.
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Pagans generally celebrate 8 "sabbats"" (or holidays!) a year. These are covered more extensively 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 have"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.
Our Pagan World
Most of the Pagan community has read many articles regarding the “borrowing” of certain holidays and yearly traditions by modern society. We have heard that the December 25th birthday of Jesus was taken from Mithras, and we know that Easter was originally Eostar or Ostara, a spring fertility festival. Groundhog’s Day falls on Imbolc, and both holidays involve an animal predicting the coming spring. Even our modern secular traditions of grilling out and shooting off fireworks could be linked to the ancient fire festivals held in summer. It is our natural human tendency to give thanks for the harvest in the fall, be it with Thanksgiving turkey or Lammas bread. But is that it? Do our Pagan roots extend only to the days we celebrate? To Pagans, it may seem that we live in a world that is not accepting of our religion, and in many cases seems to be at odds with our beliefs. Certain groups in society denounce the pagan origins of celebrating Halloween, and may even go so far as to ban their children from dying Easter eggs. While that is of course their right to make that choice, the Pagan influences on every day life go a bit deeper than most people realize. This is especially obvious when looking at the origin of some of our common words. Few people realize that in their every day speech, they
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may use words of Pagan origin and not even know it. Take this simple sentence for example: “This morning I woke up after a night of insomnia and had a bowl of cereal.“ There are two words in this sentence that have Pagan origin. If you had a bowl of cereal this morning, thank the Goddess! “Cereal” comes from Ceres, Roman counterpart of Demeter, Goddess of agriculture, harvest and grains. “Insomnia” comes from Somnus, the Roman counterpart of Hypnos, god of sleep. Pagan etymology includes our calendar. Take for example the days of the week. The connections between Sunday and the sun, between Monday and the moon, and between Saturn and Saturday are the more obvious references. But what about the etymology of the other days? A lesser known fact is that every one of the seven days of the week has a name firmly rooted in Paganism. The Germanic god of war was Tiu, whose name became part of Tuesday. Wednesday is a modification of Woden's Day, being named for the Anglo-Saxon god of the wild hunt. Norse god Thor is the basis of the name Thursday, and Friday is named for the Norse mother goddess Frigg, wife of Odin. When looking further, we can see that the names of the months also have Pagan etymology. The Roman god Janus was ruler of gateways and new beginnings, hence we celebrate the new year by honoring him through the name of January. In ancient Rome, a festival of purification and cleansing was called Februs. Since it was held at this time every year, the month was given the name February. March comes from the Roman god of war, Mars. April was derived from the Roman word for “open”, because the spring flowers did just that in this month. June is appropriately the most common month for weddings given that its name comes from Juno, goddess of marriage. The remaining months have names that stem from Latin, mostly based on numbers such as “octo”, but it is easy to see that our calendar as we know it in modern times is most certainly influenced by our Pagan past.
So we can see that our language has some Pagan influence, but what about our government? So many in our society claim that America was formed on Christian values and ideas. If that is so, where are the monuments in Washington depicting Jesus Christ? The simple fact is that there are none. There are however, several examples of Pagan influence to be found. Take for instance the U.S. Capital Building itself. Prominently displayed to the right of the main entrance, you will find a statue of Mars, Roman god of agriculture and war. The Great Hall of the Justice Department Building is home to a statue of the Spirit of Justice, based on the goddess of Justice herself, Justitia. (Here we also find another word in our language with pagan origins: justice.) Even in the military we can see the presence of the ancient divine. The Army’s Medal Of Honor features the Roman goddess of wisdom and martial prowess, Minerva. However, the largest and most obvious example of Pagan influence in our capital has to be the Washington Monument, which is, without a doubt, an Egyptian Obelisk. Even in the realm of corporate America there is an influence of our Pagan past. Look closely at the glossy magazine ads and the slick television commercials and you may find the touch of a goddess. Disposable razors blades for women are named for the Goddess of Beauty, none other than Venus. Cars are named Saturn, Taurus, Equinox, and Solstice. Do a search on the internet for Osiris and you will find not only much information about the Egyptian god, but also a line of
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skateboarding shoes, an IT company, and a medical research company all named for him. In fact, one of the most successful and well-known brand names of our time is named after a Pagan deity. Modern society may think of athletic shoes when they hear her name, but the ancient Greeks knew her as Nike, Goddess of Victory. The influence of ancient Paganism is found in every culture throughout the farthest reaches of the world, even right here in the United States. When we as Pagans acknowledge and embrace this cultural heritage, it is sure to bring us a deepened sense of belonging in a world that often struggles with our acceptance. While it is easy for us to feel a little disconnected from modern society, looking back on the past and the influence the ancient deities have had on our everyday, mundane lives can indeed strengthen our connection to them, to each other, and to the world we live in.
Pagan Rituals And Wiccan Rituals Rose Ariadne
The modern usage of the word Paganism is an umbrella term that can include everything from Asatru (worship of Norse gods) to Hellenic (worship of Greek gods) traditions. The word pagan usually refers to a person who has a polytheistic religion; that is, a religion that includes more than one god or goddess. In older times, the word pagan was used to mean a godless person who was only interested in sensual pursuits, which, frankly, doesn't sound like much of an insult to me! The word also had the connotation of unsophisticated, or country dweller, much like our modern words hick or redneck.
I think of modern pagans as being polytheistic, frequently nature based magical practitioners who are not bound by the Wiccan Rede and practice a religion that is not Christianity, Judaism, or Islam. Each group of gods and goddesses has different rules, after all. Wicca, by contrast, is a new religion, originating only fifty or sixty years ago. It is partly based on what earlier generations may have practiced, but many Wiccan traditions step away from history entirely. Wiccans generally celebrate Sabbats and Esbats, holidays based on seasonal changes. These celebrations as a whole are commonly referred to as the Wheel of the Year. Other terms that differentiate Wicca from Paganism are the Rede and the Rule of Three. The most important part of the Rede is the oft-quoted an it harm none, do what thou wilt, while the Rule of Three is a karmic law that states that all actions of the witch will reflect on him or her with three fold consequences, whether positive or negative. While Wicca can be included under the umbrella of paganism, there are often differences in the rituals each subset practices. One of the major differences between Wicca and pagans is that a
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certain group within Paganism devotes much time and energy to reconstruction. This is the study of how ancestral peoples practiced those religions that have survived in one form or another into the modern age, with the goal of keeping modern practice as true to original traditions as possible. Therefore, Hellenic, Celtic, Khemtic and other traditions based on location can have very different rituals from Wiccan, or indeed other pagans. Just keep in mind that wherever you go to practice, the rituals will vary greatly (sometimes by enormous degrees). It's important to embrace only the practices that you feel comfortable with in any pagan ritual. Because there are so many different forms of practice, you really need to understand what you are getting into before embarking on a journey in any new group of practicing people. It's not surprising that the retention rates of most new people to a group or coven is extremely low. I know that it took me a long time to find people I was comfortable with.
Pagan Holidays and Celebrations
Pagans celebrate 8 major holidays a year, which we call "sabbats". You will probably find by looking at the list of holidays below that some look familiar. That is because these holidays existed long before the Christian faith came along. When the Roman's were trying to outlaw paganism thousands of years ago, many pagan holidays were changed into what we now celebrate as "Christian" holidays. But many of the actual reasons they were celebrated stayed the same. Here is a list of our Major Sabbats, and when they occur. Samhain (October 31st) - This is the Pagan "new year", and it marks the end of one year and the beginning of another. During this time we honor those who have passed away from us, and also recognize the changing of the seasons. We try to let go of bad habits at Samhain (pronounced SOW-en), and try to focus on things that need to be changed in our lives. This is also the time of the "death" of the Sun God, who will be reborn at Yule. Yule (December 21) - This holiday is essentially our "Christmas" celebration. We celebrate by lighting the Yule log, and watching the sun rise (which symbolizes the Sun God's rebirth on this day). Since this sabbat celebrates the winter solstice, we celebrate the beginning of light returning to the earth. We celebrate this holiday by exchanging gifts, decorating a tree, hanging wreaths and mistletoe, singing, feasting, and making merry! Imbolc (February 2) - Imbolc (pronounced IM-bolk) is the time when pagans celebrate the renewing fertility of the earth. As winter slowly turns to spring, we are reminded that life is about to burst forth. We celebrate Imbolc by planting seeds, or begining new projects...anything that focuses on the "beginning" of things.
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Ostara (March 21) - Ostara (pronounced oh-STAR-ah) is almost celebrated the same as Easter is. On this day we celebrate renewed life and fertility by boiling and decorating eggs, going on egg hunts, and blessing seeds for growth. Anything which celebrates fertility and growth! Beltane (April 30) - This day is symbolic to us of the God and Goddess uniting in a handfasting (marriage). In this act, they help the Earth to burst forth with life and growth. We celebrate Beltane by dancing around the maypole, or wearing flowers or foliage in their hair, or by bringing flowers into the house. Litha (June 21) - Litha (pronouced Lee-tha) is the summer solstice, and is generally not celebrated as much as the other sabbats are. This day marks where the God and Goddess are at their peak, but soon the days will grow shorter and shorter. In the past pagans would celebrate this night with a large bonfire, but recently it is only marked with love spells and rituals, and rituals involving nature. Lammas (August 2) - Lammas is the first harvest festival for pagans. It is the day when tradionally the first grain was cut. It is traditional to celebrate this day by baking bread or other "grain" foods. We also celebrate by holding great feasts to celebrate the bountiful harvest, and decorating our houses with autumn decorations. Mabon (September 21) - The second harvest festival for pagans. It is held on the Autumn equinox to celebrate the last fruits and harvest of the year. Feasts are also held in celebration, but to a more solemn extent. Cornucopias are a popular decoration, as are ears of corn, gourds, pumpkins, and other late season vegetables. In addition to the above 8 major sabbats, most Pagans also celebrate "Esbats" which are held once a month to celebrate the moon. While the sabbats celebrate the "God" aspect, the Esbats celebrate the "Goddess" aspect. Esbats are generally held on the full moon.
SOME VALUABLE LINKS PAGANISM AND WITHCRAFT http://www.facebook.com/groups/2204731498/ AUSTIN PSYCHIC READINGS http://www.facebook.com/groups/546367942050546/
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