Paganism is a modern religious tradition based on the worship of nature and influenced by the religions of indigenous people. There are many different communities or types of Paganism. These include the Heathens, Wiccans, Druids, Odinists, Shamans, and Sacred Ecologists. With such a diverse range of subdivisions, Paganism involves a host of different practices and has experienced a rise in popularity in the past century.
History of Paganism
The Renaissance of the 1500s reintroduced the Ancient Greek concepts of Paganism. Pagan symbols and traditions entered European art, music, literature, and ethics. The Reformation of the 1600s put a temporary halt to Pagan thinking. Greek and Roman classics, with their focus on Paganism, were accepted again during the Enlightenment of the 1700s. Paganism experienced another rise in the 1800s and 1900s when modern forms of Buddhism and Hinduism were growing in popularity. Like those religions, Paganism revered nature. The 1900s also sparked the spread of indigenous religions and religions with indigenous bases, like Candomble and Santeria. Hinduism and Taoism influenced modern Paganism during the 1960s and 1970s. With the hippie, ecological, and feminist movements of those times, more and more people turned to Paganism.
In general, Pagans celebrate organic nature and spirituality. Thus, Paganism encourages an eco-friendly lifestyle. Pagans believe that they are equal to, and not above, everything in nature. Gods and goddesses determine the Pagan year. Equality of the sexes is dominant in Paganism. Women play a big role in ceremonies and goddesses are of great importance. Paganism is based on the concept that an individual can do anything that does not harm others. There is no set doctrine. Pagans believe that there is divinity in the living world, and through their rituals they can connect with the divine. Their festivals are related to their devotion to nature. For instance, Imbolc marks the start of farming season and the Summer Solstice celebrates the sun and the divinity that creates life.
The practices of Paganism encompass a wide range of activities including witchcraft, ecology, gods, Celtic traditions, and more--depending on the specific Pagan community. Paganism has often been misunderstood by people who claim that the religion encourages sexual deviation, devil worship, and black magic. A Pagan can worship alone or with a group, informally or through a structured ceremony. Most Pagans worship outdoors in nature. In Paganism, ceremonies begin with the marking of a circle, a symbol that does not have a beginning or an end. The four elements are acknowledged, and the actual ceremony follows with prayers, meditations, music, dance, chants, feasts, etc. Then, the circle is undone, and the elements and divinity that took part in the ritual are thanked. Pagan marriages are handfastings. They celebrate the union of two people in an equal sexual partnership. A priestess or priest performs the ceremony, which ends with the couple jumping over a broom as they enter the next phase of their lives. Handfastings traditionally last for a year and a day. Thus, couples in a long-term marriage renew their vows every year and a day.