Although the New Age movement has brought into current awareness a wide selection of ancient arts, it is evident that religions which are not recognised as one of the six main worldly beliefs, that is Christianity, Muslin, Hindu, Buddhism, Judaism and Islam, are still considered as having little or no credibility, with their practitioners viewed with suspicion.
It is also disappointing that as we, the human race, have stepped into another millennium (well, according to the general populace of the Western world anyway), this superstition and fear of the unknown (the occult) is based on what can only be perceived as narrow mindedness.
Strong words? Maybe, but isn’t it time for people to try opening their minds in order to respect another person’s beliefs, even if we do not fully understand them ourselves? When we open our minds to listen to what another person believes in we are often be surprised. Putting aside the fact that different names, and even sexes in some cases, are used when talking about divinity, it appears that most spiritually minded people believe that one day they will meet their ultimate source – their God or Goddess, Universal Spirit, Divine Light, Holy Guardian Angel – all different names referring to the same thing. It can therefore be said that we are all heading in the same direction, only on different paths.
The main reason I have decided to write this article is to hopefully dismiss the prejudice which surrounds what is my spiritual path, that as “Paganism”. This prejudice, based on centuries old misinformation, does not seem appropriate for this age of spiritual progress. Despite Paganism being a “recognised” religion in many countries including Australia, it still saddens me to see and hear the consistent prejudice towards this belief system.
What is Paganism:
Paganism is the world’s oldest known religion. Its origins, though obscure, are believed to date back to Palaeolithic times and arose from man’s desire to explore the unknown and to seek unity with the Divine Force. This is evident in ancient cave paintings and statues like the Venus of Willendorf. These early beginnings were based on a form of ancestor worship and were shamanic in nature.
The word “Pagan” itself is derived from the Latin Paganus, meaning “a civilian”, people who were country-dwellers as opposed to the Roman military. When Christianity was certified as the official religion in Rome, Pagans were a title given to people who clung to their pre-Christian beliefs, those of their ancestors. The term today describes various spiritual paths that have a common affinity with nature. Concepts that were once vital to sustaining life are still revered today, and their principles retained, albeit adapted to suit life in the modern world.
Describing what Pagans believe in is difficult as there are a variety of differing belief systems, just as there are a number of Christian. Each have their own way of worship, perception of the Divine, and philosophy about the afterlife. One thing in common is that Pagan beliefs are not bound by dogma, having strict guidelines by which all must follow. This does not mean however that Pagans have no morals or ethics either. Pagans tend to live their lives probably more closely to the Universal Laws as opposed to the man-made laws. We believe that each of us has the right of free will to walk our chosen path, that is to worship in the way we wish, as long as that path does not infringe upon the free will of another. Most religions in fact have a guideline along these lines – “Do unto others as you would have do unto you”, “As it harm none, do what thy wilt”. How many of us actually abide by such guidelines though?
As opposed to monotheistic religions like Judaism, Christianity and Islam, Paganism is polytheistic in its worship and gods, many Pagans consider that all of their gods are manifestations of a single Divine Force. This Divine Force does not reside “out there”, detached and separate from nature and the material world, but is immanent in the world and permeates nature. Paganism is, in this sense, also pantheistic, fusing the Divine with nature and abstaining from any dualistic notions of matter and spirit as separate and distinct.
To Pagans, the Earth (the Great Mother or Gaea) contains the vital creative energy that gives life to and makes sacred all creation. Within Paganism divinity is often perceived as both male and female, masculine and feminine, which is similar to the view held by psychologist Carl Jung who believed we all have a masculine and a feminine self within us. This divinity is seen in many ways and expressed in the worship of the male principle as the God, and the female principle as the Goddess. This dualistic viewpoint of absolute opposites extends to the general belief that all things exist in their own place – we cannot therefore have light without darkness, or good without bad.
In essence, Pagans strive for balance and harmony both within ourselves and the environment in which we live. Paganism is not about “Devil/Satan worship” (as perceived by the Christian faith) as there is no such being, and therefore it would be ludicrous to expect people to worship something that has nothing to do with their own belief system. There are however what can best be described as, the “darker” Gods which are revered, but as everything happens for a reason, sometimes upheavals are necessary to break stagnation and create growth. Paganism is not about sacrificing children, brain washing its members and the like either. Many Pagans believe in the Universal Law of Karma – what you give out comes back, everything has a cause and effect – as well as endeavouring to raise the consciousness of humanity.
Not all Pagan traditions however follow the New Age “white light” belief – but again, with every action having a reaction, Pagans need to be sure that they are prepared to handle the responsibility of their actions, whether perceived as “good” or “evil”. People today, who have become aware of the spiritual void in their lives, have discovered that Paganism is a religion of joy and love, which allows self-expression as well as encouraging social and environmental responsibility – something that unfortunately seems lacking in today’s society.
The Pagan path is often viewed as a spiritual journey which is, in itself, similar to many other religions which focus on the journey of the soul, the evolution of the human race, the coming together of different identities to form one powerful mindset for the good of all. Slowly the tide is beginning to turn with people opening their minds and listening without prejudice to what Pagans really believe. We cannot deny the fact that sometimes unstable or completely self-centred people are attracted to this path for the empowerment one can gain, but we ask is that you do not judge all of us by the actions of a few. After all the whole of Christianity cannot be judged upon actions those such as David Koash.
The majority of us who follow the Pagan beliefs do so because we want to, and like all others following other spiritual paths, try to act without judgment. After all, we are working together for the greater good, that being for the evolution of humanity and preservation of the planet which we all share.
Authors Details: Vieira. Vieira is an initiated Witch and Priestess of the Alexandrian tradition, and member of the Temple of the Dark Moon.