Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What is Paganism?
Paganism is a term that is used to describe a religion distinct from the other main religions of the world. Unconventional in nature, it primarily focuses on nature worship. This is an extremely complex and broad umbrella term and throughout history, has been defined in different ways.
In the fourth century, Christian people used this term to define those who practiced ethnic religions (except for Judaism) and polytheism in the Roman Empire. Followers of this religion are known as Pagans.
It is believed that at that time people were considered to be Pagans either because they were not part of milites Christi, which means, soldiers of Christ, or just because they were poor, provincial, or rural compared to the Christian population. In other words, Paganism was broadly believed by many to be the religion of the peasantry.
There were various myths and misconceptions associated with Paganism as well. Especially during and after the middle ages, Pagans faced a lot of discrimination from their Christian counterparts. During this time, Paganism came to be associated with every non-Christian religion, and in fact, was believed that Pagans believe in false gods.
The Catholic churches define Pagans as anyone who didn’t follow an Abrahamic religion. But this was a one-dimensional definition since Paganism is much more layered and each paleo-Pagan religion has its own distinct cosmology and within it, it has its own pantheon of gods and goddesses.
The origin of the word is highly debated. While some believe it came about in the 19th century when various artistic groups started adopting this term as a self-descriptor, there are others who believe that it was coined in the 20th century by practitioners of Polytheistic reconstructionists, Neo-Paganism movements, and Modern Paganists.
What do modern Pagans believe in?
In simple terms, it is widely accepted by many that Pagans worship nature, which is significantly different from most other major religions practiced in the world.
But, if we dig deep and try to get a more holistic approach, then we will find that most of the modern Pagan religions in today’s times believe in the world view that is animistic, panentheistic, pantheistic, and/or polytheistic, although some can be monotheistic.
Modern Pagans are known as neo-Pagans. Much like ancient Romans, they are mostly atheists. They believe that spirituality is attained through nature worship and gazing at the stars.
Modern Pagans have spearheaded a revolutionary religious and spiritual movement of their own by reviving a dead tradition while incorporating modern thought and values into it.
How do Pagans worship?
Different sects of Pagans worship different aspects of nature and some even worship deities based on different civilizations. It can be any combination of stars, moon, sun, or similar celestial objects and even a plethora of different deities originating from Norse, Greek, Hindu, or other mythology to nature in the form of mountains, trees, rivers, and then some.
Some Pagans have also been seen worshiping spirits or a monarch or even magical creatures. To help you get an insight into the different sects of Pagans around the globe, let us take a holistic look at what they worship in different parts of the globe.
The Greek worship gods such as Hermes, Aphrodite, Zeus, Hera, who all are part of the 12 Olympian gods. The Egyptians worship the sun, the Nile River, the pharaoh, among others. In Hindu mythology, it's Shiva, Vishnu, Brahman, alongside 33 million gods and goddesses.
In Shinto mythology, the focus again is more on nature (plants and animals and other natural phenomena). In Norse mythology, it’s Thor, Odin that is worshipped. The Romans worship the same gods and goddesses as the Greeks, only with different names.
What are Pagan traditions?
As with any other religion, there are numerous traditions associated with Paganism too. It is not exactly possible to list all of them down here but we will try and list down some of the most pivotal and recognizable ones among them.
Cats are holy to Pagans and some Pagans, in the Egyptian sect, even worship them. Pagans also believe that knocking on wood will help in warding off bad luck since trees were homes to fairies and spirits.
When the entire world celebrates Halloween on October 31st, Pagans celebrate Samhain on the same day to pay tribute to the dead. They believe that is the time when the boundary between the world of the living and the world of the dead is at its weakest.
Pagans also regard each day of the week with a god or goddess. For instance, Monday is dedicated to the goddess of the moon whereas Friday is dedicated to the goddess of love. The same is applied to the months as well such as June, which is named after Juno, who is a Roman queen of the gods who also happens to the wife of Jupiter.
Another interesting tradition of Pagans that has now been accepted as a worldwide norm is covering the mouth when yawning. Pagans believe that covering the mouth when yawning helps in ensuring that the vital essence of life doesn’t escape your body.
The choice of the ring finger being fourth is because Greek and Romans believed that the vein in your fourth finger runs directly to your heart. As such, wearing a ring on that finger would signify eternal love and commitment towards each other.
What are Pagan holidays?
There are various Pagan holidays that are celebrated worldwide but still followers of Abrahamic religions are not aware of them. Let us take a look at some of them.
Ostara is a holiday when the Pagans celebrate the goddess of spring and she is signified with eggs and a hare. If you notice, her name is the origin of the word Easter and both eggs and hare represent fertility.
Mabon is a modern Pagan holiday where Mabon, the son of Mordred is celebrated. This bears significance in Welsh mythology.
Yule is another important Pagan festival where Scandinavians pay homage to Thor by burning the Juul log. This is the German variant of the holiday Juul.
Lithia is a festival of fire that symbolizes the most powerful day of the year since the sun is at its longest on this day. Pagans celebrate this holiday by lighting celebratory fires that stay up from the sunset of the night before to the sunset of the next day.
What are the differences between Paganism and Wicca?
Wicca is a subsect of Paganism, or to be precise neo-Paganism since it is pretty modern as it can be traced back to the 1950s England where Gerald Brousseau Gardner published in 1954 the Witchcraft Today book. It led to a movement that revolved around the pre-Christian traditions of magic, goddesses, and deities.
The word Wicca also serves as the origin for the word Witch but it has been said that there is no connection between this and those who worship the devil or are related to Satanism. Wicca is mainly focused on magic and witchcraft and this magic separates it from Paganism.
What is the difference between Paganism and Christianity?
The main key difference between Paganism and Christianity is that the former believes in many gods while the latter believes in one god. As such, Paganism is extremely versatile and subjective since everyone can choose and select the choice of their deity.
In Christianity, faith is given priority over actions as sins can be forgiven once you confessed and show faith in god. But in Paganism, actions speak louder as you need to perform rituals.
Christianity focuses on peace and humility whereas there are gods of war in Pagan. Pagan societies are not always gentles and peaceful. This doesn’t mean that Pagans condone or support violence. It just means that there is a warrior archetype in Paganism.
Afterlife is not given much importance in Pagan, unlike Christianity where people are asked to lead their life in a particular way in order to avoid going to hell instead of heaven.
One of the other significant differences between Abrahamic religions and Paganism is that the former separates human beings from nature.