The Evolution of Paganism in Our Lives
Where and how did Paganism begin?
Pagan derives from Latin word paganus, which originally meant "rustic, rural" and later came to mean "nonparticipant, one excluded from a more distinguished, professional group" and only came about after Christianity was formed! Paganism at this time was also known as the peasant's religion, and was frowned upon by this time as Christianity had take the stage to set up a new Europe. Now ideals of paganism have been found as early as the Mesopotamian age; however without fancy terms so lets call this time before Polytheism. As most people know Polytheism is the belief in more than one god or goddess, and was a key part of civilizations long before ours. Everyone from the Ancient Egyptians to the Vikings were practicing it in this age , and all because the world was much simpler! The ancient Pagans needed explanation for thing they could not yet hope to understand like floods, and the sun. To our ancestors these phenomenons were great and powerful Gods!
Gods of Ancient Egypt
What Major Branches are there?
We can think of Paganism like a tree! It has many long reaching branches with their own beliefs and sects. We will go over just a few their major beliefs, practices and important gods!
- Ancient Grecian Pagans- the Grecian branch was practiced heavily throughout 300 BCE to 300 CE throughout the height of Greek and Roman Empires. The people of this time flourished as a society and were very far ahead in technologies, even as far as having indoor plumbing. Their gods inspired them to seek out philosophical and technological breakthroughs! The Grecian worshiped hundreds of gods but have twelve main ones, centering around Zeus "Father of the Gods" a few other key gods are Athena "Goddess of Wisdom" Apollo "God of the sun and arts" Diana "Virgin Goddess of the moon and the Hunt" Hades "God of the Underworld" and Poseidon "God of the Sea" The Grecian branch of Paganism makes up a big portion of practicing Pagans today, and has plenty of interesting texts and information still widely viewed even by non practicing people.
- Norse- The Norse religion was founded and heavily practiced specifically in Northern Europe in the Mid 11th century. The Norse religion was a folk religion passed between Germanic tribes mostly by, mouth leading to there being little surviving written work by its original practitioners. The culture has been explored mostly through archaeology and written on by outsiders at the time that studied the culture. The gods in Norse Mythology were believed to be based upon real people rather than phenomenons or natural disasters, and has a belief of multiple worlds and more than two afterlives. Some of their more well known gods are Thor "God of storms" Odin "All-father" Loki "God of fire and trickery" Freyja "Goddess of beauty and Commander of the Valkyries" Frigga "Goddess of love and marriage" The Viking culture was also progressive in their own right as women and men were equal in most aspects of life, as well as on the battle field. They were also a prominent culture for LGBT and were tolerant if not accepting of same sex coupling as long as they could contribute to society if needed.
- Egyptian- The religion had its roots in Egypt's prehistory and lasted for more than 3,000 years. The details of religious belief changed over time as the importance of particular gods rose and declined, and their intricate relationships shifted. At various times, certain gods became preeminent over the others, including Ra "the sun god", Amun "The creator god", and Isis : the mother goddess". For a brief period, in the theology was changed by the Pharaoh Akhenten, a single god, the Aten, replaced the traditional pantheon. This was a rather common practice among Pharaohs of Egypt. Their religion and Mythology has been left behind many writings and monuments, as the Egyptians were a very artistic and organized culture.
- Hindu- Hinduism is considered the oldest surviving religion and is still practiced by millions especially in India, and surrounding areas. This religion started forming with help of many people to solidify practices and myths, and is really not accredited to any one person or group at the time, this "Hindu Synthesis" started to develop around 500 BCE and 300 CE and really changed the way the culture of India grew. Some important figures in this religion are Krishna, Kali, Vishnu, Ganesh, and Shiva. Now this religion is not considered to be completely pagan and has roots in several practices. It is also the best survived religion amonst these and even influenced western cultures with things like karma, and yoga!
- Aztec- The Aztec religion was a mesoamerican religion practiced heavily on sacrifice, and is part of the stigma on modern pagan sacrificial practices. While within the religion the idea of sacrifice was sacred and many often volunteered for such practices a it was seen to be closer to godliness. Aside from sacrificing the Aztecs also liked to merge their religion with others they ran into, often incorporating other gods into their own pantheons. This sect believed in 13 heavens and 9 earth realms or "netherworld" which overlapped at the base level. The Aztec worshiped fearsome gods often depicted as giant beasts such as Quetzalcoatl "the Feathered Serpent god of life, the wind and the morning star" or Mixcoatl "Cloud Serpent god of war, sacrifice and hunting" The Aztec were a generally peaceful people to outsiders and often welcomed them amongst their cities elite.
- Roman- The Romans were a highly religious group and always based their success on the gods and keeping them happy. They are also most known for letting captured areas and peoples to keep practicing their native religions, and often would adopt practices. They are coined for their conquering and battle skills which they attributeded to their many god, some of which emulate Grecian gods. Such as Diana "Moon Goddess" Jupiter "father of the gods" and Pluto "God of the Underworld"
- Druid- The druids are a primarily big branch in the United Kingdom. They are attributed to holding some of the biggest gatherings in the west and have been practicing the longest in the west. As their religion is a studious one they have many sacred text and artifacts about to further help identify them. One of the most Famous deities in this religion is the Green Man, a deity of earth and nature, there is also the Morgan "Goddess of death and war, as well as rebirth" and Pan "Satyr god of fertility"
- Shinto- also called kami-no-michi, is the ethnic religion of Japan that focuses on ritual practices to be carried out diligently, to establish a connection between present-day Japan and its ancient past. It was first seen in the 8th century and has expanded into something the whole country would come to treasure. Their distinctive shrine (tori) style is something that has become widely popular thanks to photographs and anime.This religion has aspects ingrained in the very culture of Japan and is prized by most. It has many festivals and ritualistic celebrations. This religion has the largest population of active Shrines and priestesses and priests for a country its size and is incredibly proud of this. The Shinto religion focuses on Kami deities of nature, life, and even the deceased. They pay worship to these deities and are one of the few religions where the dead are so revered.Shinto has no founder, no overarching doctrine, and no religious texts, the Kojiki (the Ancient Chronicles of Japan), written in 712 CE, and the Nihonshoki (Chronicles of Japan), written in 720 CE, contain the earliest record of Japanese creation myths and depict Kami. Most areas in Japan have different deities depending on the region but a few main ones are Amaterasu Omikami "Sun Goddess" Hachiman "God of War" and Tsukuyomi "God of the moon and brother of Amaterasu" this religion is also practiced still and has grown even more important over the years.
- Wicca- Wicca is an umbrella term for a form of modern paganism, especially a tradition founded in England in the mid 20th century and claiming its origins in pre-Christian religions. It has no specific pantheon and is usually a bridge into someone learning about various paganism ideas. It is revered for it simplicity and including environment for young practitioners.
Biggest Pagan Communities?
Lithuania and the eastern parts of Europe have the largest number of practicing pagans!
Where still practices freely?
Paganism is an up and coming religion! While most people now identify as Atheistic or Christian, paganism is on the rise. This may seem bad to some people that have misconceptions about how paganism works but I am here to confidently say. We come in peace!
Pagans still practice freely in some places in eastern Europe and is even considered a major religion in places like Lithuania, Estonia, and Latvia. While more conservative nations like the UK, and USA have small clusters in which people practice in each area. I can confidently say there is at least on pagan in your community or city at least! Since we has become a more excepting and free society more people can find the beauty in this religion.
Holidays on your calendar
Holidays and Practices
Paganism as a whole celebrates several major holidays. We will go over the major ones and how they show up in your everyday life!
- The start of our circle is on Yule (Midwinter) Midwinter has been recognised as a significant turning point in the yearly cycle since the late Stone Age. The ancient sites of Newgrange and Stonehenge, carefully aligned with the solstice sunrise and sunset, exemplify this. The reversal of the Sun's ebbing presence in the sky symbolizes the rebirth of the solar gods and presages the return of fertile seasons. From Germanic to Roman tradition, this is the most important time of celebration. Celebrations vary but some common ones are sacrificing of possessions, feasting, and gift giving (like Christmas!) In Germanic traditions, this liminal festival marks the last month of the old year and the first month of the new year and is followed by eleven days of extended celebration. This actually is the base for the Christian holiday of Christmas, and the Germanic's coined the signature look of Santa from the god Odin who was said to leave presents for children in boots at night during this celebration. Sound familiar?
- Imbolc- As the first cross-quarter day following Midwinter this day falls on the first of February and traditionally marks the first stirrings of spring. It is time for purification and spring cleaning in anticipation of the year's new life. For Celts this is a time to honor Briged, and for all is a time of pledges and oaths. This is also the holiday Dianic witches become initiated. This holiday is where we get new years resolutions!
- Ostara- Ostara marks the vernal equinox in some modern Pagan traditions. There are generally not to many special traditions associated with this holiday.
- Beltane- Traditionally the first day of summer in Ireland, in Rome the earliest celebrations appeared in pre-Christian times with the festival of Flora, the Roman goddess of flowers, and the Walpurgis Night celebrations of the Germanic countries. This holiday is widely practiced still and is celebrated traditionally with maypole dances, and the crowning of a may queen!
- Litha (Midsummer)- Midsummer is one of the four solar holidays, and is considered the turning point at which summer reaches its height and the sun shines longest.
- Lammas/Lughansadh- is the first of the three Wiccan harvest festivals, the other two being the autumn equinox (or Mabon) and Samhain. Wiccans mark the holiday by baking a figure of the god in bread and eating it, to symbolize the sanctity and importance of the harvest. In early versions of Wiccan literature the festival is referred to as August Eve.
- Mabon- The holiday of the autumnal equinox, Harvest Home, Mabon, the Feast of the Ingathering, Meán Fómhair or Alban Elfed is a Pagan ritual of thanksgiving for the fruits of the earth and a recognition of the need to share them to secure the blessings of the Goddess and the God during the coming winter months
- Samhain- is considered by Wiccans to be one of the four Greater Sabbats. Samhain is considered by some as a time to celebrate the lives of those who have passed on, and it often involves paying respect to ancestors, family members, elders of the faith, friends, pets, and other loved ones who have died. In some rituals the spirits of the departed are invited to attend the festivities. It is seen as a festival of darkness, which is balanced at the opposite point of the wheel by the festival of Beltane, which is celebrated as a festival of light and fertility. Many Pagans believe that at Samhain the veil between this world and the afterlife is at its thinnest point of the whole year, making it easier to communicate with those who have left this world.This holiday lasts for two days usually from October 31st to November first. Sounds like Halloween huh?
Paganism is a tree term for any person that is polytheistic. It encompasses tons of religions just like Christianity. One can be a christian, and be a baptist, or catholic, or even Mormon, in the same light one may be a pagan wiccan, green witch, or even pictish. in recent years more and more diverse people have come into the Pagan community and it has really become a huge accepting place for people of all ages, genders, lives, and ethnicities. We pride ourselves more than anything on being an open and welcoming community and are always happy to expand and learn. I think as a person we all have the right to our beliefs so you will generally find little discrimination in the pagan community even if you are not part of it!
Most pagans practice in their own homes or with communities in which they have a coven it is each persons choice how they practice, which really gives everyone a good dose of individuality! Most of us are extremely safe in our practices and would never bring harm to others as it violates rules we have taken on ourselves before joining this path. As with any religion unfortunately there are bad people who seek there own gain or are exploiting the life style for money.
Below are just a few rules most pagans/wiccans follow, not much different from any other sect.
- Thou art God/dess.
- As above, so below; as within, so without.
- Spirit abides in all things; words and names have power.
- Maintain an attitude of gratitude (walk the talk).
- Honor the ancestors, teachers, elders, and leaders.
- All life is sacred.
- All acts of love and pleasure are sacred.
- Whatever you send out returns threefold.
- Love is law, love under will.
- For the greatest good, an’ it harm none.
Even in the Week!
What shows up in everyday life?
Paganism and its remnant are all around us in society as it is such an old religion. Most things in western culture has a print left by paganism, be it our calendar, holidays, or mythical figures. We have really left our mark on society as a community and I am hoping it can grow even further. Even the modern church has taken many things from this religion over the years such as crosses, traditional robes, the way one prays, and how services are preformed. So I challenge you to look around and find some cool pagan symbolism today! Blessed be friends!