Tuesday, May 31, 2005

What is Paganism?

I will start my documented journey by talking about what paganism is. But first, there is a need to define it. I will spend a few days defining and writing about different aspects of paganism.

Everyone has a different idea about what Paganism is or is not. Christians will differ in answer from Pagans. Some Pagans will also differ with each other. I currently hold my own views as well, I am sure, do you. Here are a few definitions that I found on the web and in books:

Pagan is defined (by the Merriam-Webster Online dictionary) two different ways:
1. a follower of a polytheistic religion (as in ancient Rome)
2. one who has little or no religion and who delights in sensual pleasures and material goods : an irreligious or hedonistic person

Pagan is defined (paraphrased from many websites and books) as
1. one who holds a reverence for Earth and sees all life as interconnected
2. a general term for polytheistic, nature-centered religions
3. a non-Christian

Let’s discuss these definitions a bit, shall we?

The first definition suggests that “a pagan” is a follower of a polytheistic (multi-god) religion. So the belief in many Gods/Goddesses is central to this belief system. Many books and website refer to the duality of the belief in a God/Goddess reality. Each practitioner and/or group seems to have their own “favorites” that they follow. Many systems of pagan belief have several gods (ie - Celtic culture) but each adherent does not necessarily follow or know about all the gods of that belief system.

The second Webster definition is, I am sure, the one that many Christians will hold to. “One who has little or no religion” is in my understanding usually referred to as an atheist (no belief in a God) or agnostic (does not deny the possible existence of God, but says that we can not know). As for pagans being those “who delight in sensual pleasures and material goods” or are “hedonistic” (pleasure or happiness is the sole or chief good in life) – I think that this could currently include most people in the world, including Christians, due to our unfortunate consumer oriented society. I don’t think that this is the definition I am looking for as it would seem to include too many groups of people without regard to what they actually believe.

As for the pagan website definitions, each individual one brings up too many unanswered questions to be complete. The first one, while it may be part of paganism, has too much of a fluffy bunny feeling to it to use it exclusively. The second one is good but too general and seems to leave a lot of information out. The third one, again, can include too many groups.

So what is Paganism? There seem to be a plethora of definitions but none of them seem to cover every aspect of what a pagan religion covers. No definition will ever cover all aspects of what this word means. Unfortunately, not everyone will ever agree on a definition for what constitutes Paganism either. And even I may not be able to satisfy your need to know what paganism is defined as.

For use of this blog and for myself I will currently be using these definitions:

1. Pagan: a follower of a polytheistic, nature-centered religion who is not of one of the main-stream religions
2. Neo-Pagan: a person who practices a contemporary form of paganism such as, but limited to Wicca
3. Paganism: the quality or state of being a pagan and following pagan beliefs and practices.


Daedalus said...

Interesting... where do the metaphysics people fall? I find that the belief in many gods is ridiculous. I also find that believing trees are controlling the universe ridiculous. However, I do think that understanding energy forces is not ridiculous. After all, energy is neither created nor destroyed.

Eight said...

"ridiculous" seems like such a strong, self-righteous word.