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Paganism: Dispelling The Myths
Hopefully, this article will dispel some of the many myths and misconceptions about Paganism. In many countries, it is now a recognised religion, with some nationalities even having Pagan chaplains in their armed forces.
Recently, Paganism became the seventh largest religion in the UK, and numbers are growing in many countries around the world. Unfortunately, in some places, Pagans are still misunderstood and mistreated.
Not all Pagan religions are the same, naturally; Here I am writing about Wicca, or The Craft.
Wiccans and many other Neo-Pagans hold rituals 13 times per year, at the full moon. These rituals are knows as Esbats. They are held on the night of the full moon if possible, but three days either side of the full moon is given as a time of grace.
Many covens and groups time their meetings to coincide with the full moon, which is a time of magic and spellwork. Healing rituals are also frequently performed at these times. During an Esbat, the God and Goddess honoured by the group performing the ritual will be evoked and honoured.
Usually, a circle is cast, and purified, and the elements are called, before the God & Goddess are evoked. When this has been done, many covens raise energy by dancing or chanting, and this energy is then used for the spellwork to be performed at that time. This can be healing, or requests for help, and may be made privately or publicly for each person present.
Once all the spellwork is finished, there will often be a cakes and ale section of the ritual, where each member of the group partakes of wine and food, which is blessed before being consumed.
After this, the formal part of the ritual is finished, and the God and Goddess are farewelled, the elements thanked, and the circle is opened with a blessing.
The Pentacle Or Pentagram
The Pentagram has been around for thousands of years. It was used in ancient Greece and Babylon. The word 'pentagram' is derived from the Greek 'pentegrammos', a word meaning roughly "five-lined" or "five lines".
A Pentagram has five points, with one pointing upwards, and is contained within a circle. The points each have meanings: Upwards is spirit, and the other four points represent the elements, fire, water, earth and air.
Wearing the pentagram necklace or other form of jewelry can mean that you are a Pagan, or can just be stating that you feel the earth should be respected, and have a connection with it. The circle around the Pentagram can be interpreted as bringing the elements together.
Wearing the Pentagram upside down, with two points upwards is sometimes considered to be a symbol of devil worship or Satanism. In some forms of Neo-Paganism, however, a pentagram worn this way can be a sign that one has reached the Second Degree initiation.
In Medieval times, some Christians believed that the five points of the Pentagram (the pentalpha) symbolized the five wounds of Jesus, and that it would protect against demons.
A pretty wide-ranging read.
Pagans Do Not Worship The Devil
One of the most common misconceptions about modern Paganism, is that Pagans worship the devil. This is not so. The devil, or Satan, is not a part of any Pagan pantheon, as it is a Judao-Christian/Islamic symbol.
Paganism does have a Horned God, which unfortunately has come to be seen by many as the symbol of the devil. In fact, there were horned gods long before Judaism, Islam, and Christianity arose. Pan is an example of this, as is Kusarikku (the Bull-man) an ancient Persial deity.
Were you aware of Paganism before reading this article?
Hecate, The Triple Goddess
Goddess of the Crossroads
Hecate is one of the best known Pagan Goddesses and is a transformational Goddess. She is also known as Goddess of the Crossroads, which is a metaphor for change or transformation. Offerings used to be left for Hecate at crossroads. She was the only child of the Titans Perses and Asteria, inheriting from them power over earth and sea.
Hecate was also known as "Queen of the Night", goddess of witchcraft, guardian of the household and everything newborn. She is a powerful goddess in her own right, being the only Titan whom Zeus permitted to keep their power once the Olympians took over as the most powerful gods. Hecate is also the goddess of magic and the night, the moon and ghosts.
When Demeter searched for Perephone, Hecate assisted in the search, lighting the night with flaming torches.
Hecate's symbols are the dog, which is sacred to her, and an owl, the symbol of wisdom. She is sometimes depicted as a triple goddess, with the faces of maiden, mother and crone.
The Horned God
The Diune God
The Horned God is what is known as a "diune God", which is to say he is both the God of life and the God of death. There are many different perceptions of a horned God around the world. In the British/Celtic heritage, he is often represented as a stag. As stags shed their antlers at different seasons, so the Horned God changes throughout the year. He could also be called a transformational God.
As Consort to the Goddess, the Horned God is father to all, lord over life and death, and a transformational God. He is particularly Lord of the Forest, hunter and hunted, and dies so that others may live. Winter is his season. He also represents the masculine.
The image above is a representation of the Horned God on the Gundestrup Cauldron, found in Denmark.
A Few Pagan Beliefs
Paganism is a major religion around the world, and it has many different forms.
Pagans are basically animists; that is to say, they believe that everything has a spirit. Some of the many different Pagan religions are Native American Religions, Hinduism, Wicca, Shamanism, Asatru and Eclectic Paganism.
Caring for the Earth and all on it is a basic premise of Paganism. Most Pagans are interested in the environment and conservation.
Some Pagans perform rituals, such as Full Moon rituals, or Esbats. Some do not perform formal rituals, preferring to keep their beliefs within.
Basic to many Pagan rituals are the four elements, Fire, Water, Earth and Air, each of which control different aspects of Pagan life. The fifth element on the pentagram is Spirit.
Books About Paganism
The Higginbothams are well known pagan authors - this book is a good explanation of Earth-based religion.
The Goddess - A Lady of Many Faces
The Goddess As Mother
The Goddess is the Mother of everything in the universe, and is represented by many names and faces in many different Pagan religions. Some of the better known images of the Goddess are Isis, Kwan Yin, Shakti, Kali, and Hecate. The image is the Goddess in the form of Shakti, from the Hindu pantheon.
Many Goddess, particularly that of the Wiccan religion, have three faces, and are known as triple Goddesses. These are usually shown as Maiden, Mother and Crone, representing the three ages of the feminine. Any form and any name may be used in Paganism, in fact many Pagans use a mixture of different pantheons in their religion.
"Whenever a devotee wishes, with unwavering faith, to worship me in a particular form, I take that form."
- Bhagavad Gita 4.1
Hindu Version Of The Ourobouros
An Alchemical and Religious Symbol
The Ouroboros is a symbol which appears in many cultures, as far back as 1600 BCE. It is a snake or a dragon eating its own tail, and is named from the Greek for "devouring its tail". It is basically a symbol for the continuity of life, and its cyclical nature.
Sometimes the Ouroboros is represented by two snakes or dragons, one white and one black, or light and dark. This relates to above and below, or day and night, or Yin and Yang, in other words, the duality of nature, "As Above, So Below. In this way, the Ouroboros represents balance.
The Norse culture had a representation of the Ouroboros, where the snake was called Jormungand, also known as the Midgard Serpent Some of the South American cultures also had similar symbols, as did the Hindus.