Meta-Help U? Vol. 4
by Samantha Helgeson
For the sake of this column and for readers’ knowledge and understanding, I have decided to delve into a basic overview of Paganism. I plan to explore various paths of Paganism, as well as rituals and celebrations, in further articles.
Let’s get right into it then!
What is Paganism?
Paganism is an umbrella term for many different belief systems and paths. Some Pagans may be trained in a particular tradition, while others may follow what calls to them and draw from their own inspiration. Paganism is not typically dogmatic, and Pagans pursue their faith as a personal and direct experience.
The Pagan Federation International defines Pagans and Paganism as the following:
Pagan: A follower of a polytheistic or pantheistic nature-worshipping religion.
Paganism: A polytheistic or pantheistic nature-worshipping religion.
Neo-Pagan: A person who practices a contemporary form of Paganism (aka “Modern Paganism or Contemporary Paganism”).
Generally, Pagan faiths have three components in common:
1. They are nature-based.
Nature is considered sacred and worshipped in Pagan faiths, with many Pagans viewing Mother Gaia as a living being to be revered. Wheel-of-the-Year celebrations typically tend to revolve around giving thanks to nature or celebrating elements of nature and the seasons.
2. They are polytheistic or pantheistic.
Most Pagans ascribe to polytheism or pantheism, though some older traditions believe in animism. Below are definitions and explanations from the Oxford Dictionary and the page The Pagan Journey.
Polytheism: The belief in or worship of more than one God.
Polytheists “understand and relate to divinity or godhead as ‘individual deities’ and contrast this understanding with the ‘aspects’ of the divine’ or ‘avatars of the Godhead.’ They see the Gods as having independent existences outside of their own psyches, rather than being unconscious archetypes.”
a) A doctrine that identifies God with the universe or regards the universe as a manifestation of God.
b) The worship or tolerance of many gods.
Pantheists “believe that deity and the universe are as one. The Gods are not viewed as separate individual deities but as different aspects of one divine power or one uniting God, a view that allows the idea of archetypes into its belief system. As humans are part of the universe, we are also considered as part of divinity. Many modern witches consider themselves as Pantheists, or Duo-theists, who recognize transcendent male and female aspects of deity.”
Animism: The attribution of a living soul to plants, inanimate objects, and natural phenomena.
Animism “was probably the earliest religious philosophy employed by our ancestors. Animism does not personify the Gods with human characteristics, names, or myths. Instead, everything in nature has ascribed a spirit and energy, and the Wheel of the Year and the cycles of life are seen as divine in their own right.”
Not included in Paganism is monotheism, which is the belief in only one God that rejects the belief in other deities and considers them false. This would apply to Abrahamic religions like Christianity and Islam.
This does not apply to Pagans that worship only one God, or that worship Source itself or that believe in the Supreme Principle, as typically these faiths recognize that other spiritual beings or deities exist, or that they are parts of the whole greater being. These faiths do not reject the notion of other deities or consider them false, the way Abrahamic religions do.
3. They recognize feminine divinity.
Many Pagan faiths recognize feminine divinity along with masculine divinity. Some faiths worship the One Goddess and One God; others may worship multiple feminine and masculine deities. Still, other Pagan faiths may worship the balance of all energy: the feminine, masculine, and in-between. Some Pagan paths may offer exclusive allegiance to a male god, but they do not deny feminine divinity the way that non-Pagan religions (aka Abrahamic religions) often do.
The following are some of the more common and well-known paths of Paganism. Some people like to group all of the pantheon-based faiths together, but I’ve separated some of the more widely known pantheon-based paths. This is a non-exhaustive list, and one should keep in mind that each individual may practice their faith differently, even if they follow the same path, and that there are subgroups in most of the paths.
Asatru: Also known as Heathenry. This is a modern reconstruction, or reconstructionist path, of Nordic & Germanic Paganism. This path involves worship of the Norse Pantheon.
Druidism: This path builds on practices from the Celts. There are many different viewpoints and beliefs within Druidry, and there is a high focus on tolerance of diversity. Although there are similarities to Wicca, it is not Wicca.
Demonolatry: A path that is part of the “left-hand path and practices” (focusing on Self betterment, and honour of the Self) that is also a polytheistic Neo-Pagan faith. Those that follow this path work with a pantheon or multiple pantheons of demons. Demonolaters reject Abrahamic ideas and beliefs of demons and work with them the same way other faiths work with deities. The elements and nature are part of rituals and celebrations, like any other path.
Eclectic Paganism: Practitioners do not follow any specific path and may pull from multiple traditions and paths. They may also create their own rituals and practices and worship deities from multiple pantheons.
Hellenism: This path is polytheistic and builds on tradition and rituals from the Ancient Greeks. This is a path that is also part of the reconstruction movement. Practitioners worship and follow the Greek pantheon.
Kemetism: Also known as Egyptian Neopaganism or Kemetic reconstruction. There are various beliefs and subgroups within this path, though they typically follow the principle of Egyptian spirituality. This path involves the worship of the Egyptian pantheon.
Other Pantheon-Based Paths: There are other pantheons besides Greek, Norse, and Egyptian that are worshipped. Practitioners from those paths would have rituals and ceremonies specifically related to the deities that they worship. For example, the Roman pantheon.
Wicca – There are many different beliefs and paths within Wicca. Wicca typically worships a God and a Goddess and is a form of Modern Paganism. It is predominantly a Western movement whose followers worship nature and practice witchcraft.
So there you have it, a basic overview of Paganism, and Pagan paths. Obviously this is on a very basic and beginner level, just to give you a foundation. We will be delving into greater detail in some of the next articles, as well as exploring the Right-Hand vs Left-Hand paths.