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- Paganism & Witchcraft
Many Paths of Paganism
Spirits of Nature
Origins of nature based belief systems goes all the way back to the dawn of mankind. Our ancestors all over the world believed that everything in nature had it´s own spirit. People did not see themselves as ruler of nature but being part of nature and the circle of life. This idealism is still extremely important and constantly present among modern day neopagans. Our ancestors were often afraid of nature spirits and the divine forces and this is why people left gifts and sacrifices for the the nature spirits praying them not to hurt anyone. People rarely traveled too far from their homes. Their knowledge of the world wasn´t nessecarily better than ours but it was very different.
Word pagan is derived from Latin word ”paganus” which means a peasant but it can also mean the land. When Christianity became dominant religion in the Roman Empire paganus was a name given for everyone non-Christian. A person who worshiped the old ways. I personally like the idea of the world paganus meaning the land because in the end worship and respect for nature is one thing that all pagan religions and world views have in common. Animism and pantheism are connected to nature based belief systems. Animism is derived from Greek word ”animus” meaning spirit or the essense. Animism is one of the world´s oldest forms of religious thinking. Idea that every single thing in nature: trees, stones, rivers, flowers and plants have life and spirit. Thanks to biology and sciense we know this to be true and that plants have their own conscius. Pantheism is more philosophical approach. Pantheism is derived from another Greek word ”pan” meaning everything. All religions around the world can be seen pantheist. Pantheism means that everything is one and united. Humans can not be separated from nature because we are always part of it. This automatically makes us sacred beings as well because energy that makes us all connected is sacred. Pantheism is close to the idea of shamanism. Another ancient form of spirituality. Shamanism is based on the idea of energy that connects all things together. Origins of shamanism are in Siberia where shaman was spiritual healer of the tribe. It was shaman who had the ability to control these energies.
Modern Day Paganism
Modern day pagans have individual approach towards these deities and thanks to our modern day technology, education, traveling and being familiar with different cultures many pagans work with deities from different parts of the world. Some pagans are pantheists and believe that universal energy of the earth is always present. There are pagans who are polytheistic and believe that deities live among us but in another level. There are also Christian-pagans and Buddhist-pagans. Paganism itself is not a religion. It is an umbrella term for nature based religions and world views. Some pagan paths like Wicca are officially recognized religions. However majority of pagans are solitary and eclectic. There are pagans who also reject the idea of religion and prefer to describe themselves as spiritual. For some pagans deities are not individual beings with consciousness but instead they are seen as archetypes. Same with totem animals, spirit animals and magical beings such as dragons, mermaids and unicorns. They can be seen as universal archetypes that help us to understand ourselves, our purpose and the world around us.
Wheel of the Year
In the beginning of time our ancestors were hunter-gatherers. About 10 000 years ago in the area of the fertile crescent moon (modern day Iraq) farming was invented. From that day on around the world in all farming cultures wheel of the year was connected to the fertility of the land, to the movements of the sun and change of seasons. Spring was the time of growth, summer the time of plenty, autumn time of nature falling asleep and winter time of death in nature and this is why in northern hemisphere all pagan holidays tend to take place at the same time. Names of the celebrations vary depending on the languages but their essence is always the same.
In paganism there are several ways to approach the divine. Polytheism is a term used to describe a pantheon of gods. Belief for a deity who has many faces or individual deities with their own personalities. Often deities are archetypes and within each culture and time period they have represented the surrounding nature and life style of the people. In Finland all deities were manifestations of nature. Especially forest which still today plays valuable part in Finnish culture and landscape. In ancient Egypt many animals were sacred and because of that gods and goddesses were often portrayed as half-animals half-humans. In Greek mythology the complex family relationships of the twelve Olympian gods were not too far away from traditional family roles of the Greek society.
Rebirth of the Sun
In Abrahamic religions holidays are connected to the life of important religious figures. In Christianity Christmas is celebrated as the birth holiday of Jesus. These traditions also date back into pagan times when people worshiped pagan gods and goddesses as manifestations of nature. In Egypt Osiris the sun god was celebrated during Winter Solstice for ancient Egyptians believed that during winter Osiris became ill and was unable to shine brightly in the skies. Egyptians made chants for the god to heal and shine his bright light again. Similar myth can be found from Lithuania were sky god Dievas was believed to be away during winter months and return back to his powers during Winter Solstice.
How does one become a pagan
Paganism is always an individual path and there are no right or wrong ways to be a pagan. Often pagans dislike the idea of converting and it is one of the many things that people find attractive in paganism. For many the idea of nature being sacred is most important part of paganism and living life in balance with nature. Some feel connected to shamanism and find answers and enlightenment from myths and legends. Others are more inspired and interested from the practical part; witchcraft, making spells, collecting herbs and divination. Paganism has lots of variety. Some people like myself have always felt connection to unexplained things and mysterious phenomenons. Then there are pagans who have found their path later in their lives. They´v come across an article or another pagan and suddenly realized this is my path and this is where I am supposed to be.