Paganism

main content

Introduction

Paganism embraces a wide variety of traditional, nature based religious and lifestyle practices from druidism, wicca and shamanism to worship of Norse, Roman or other gods/goddesses. Originating in primitive cultures worldwide and often persecuted for non-conformity with later established religions, there has been a resurgence of pagan beliefs in recent years, partly linked to the increasing belief in individuality and less formally structured personal spiritual development. The relationship to nature attracts those with ecological ethical beliefs while the equality of female and male deities appeals to many as society evolves to value the feminine role more. The mystical appeal of ancient traditions, meditation within natural settings and the conscious development of access to the hidden power of the mind, all contribute to the growth of the pagan movement in all its many forms. There is, literally, something for everyone and no insistence on compliance with "the establishment".

Sacred Text

There is no "sacred text" common to all pagan beliefs. The majority of pagan history is within the oral tradition, each generation teaching and initiating the next. There are many modern books about different aspects of paganism and many web sites devoted to themes, groups etc. As a very personal, rather than doctrinal, belief, it is common for individuals to adopt what suits themselves, while conforming to the core beliefs detailed below.

Beliefs

There are a wide variety of pagan organisations and individuals, which subscribe to different practices and use different names for aspects of the Deity. However, there are three basic beliefs which are common to all groups belonging to the Pagan Federation and these seem to be accepted more widely by individuals who follow pagan ways of life but not within any particular group. The core beliefs may thus be described as:

  1. Love for and kinship with Nature. Reverence for the life force and its ever-renewing cycles of life and death.
  2. A positive morality, in which the individual is responsible for the discovery and development of their true nature in harmony with the outer world and community. This is often expressed as: "Do what you will, as long as it harms none".
  3. Recognition of the Divine, which transcends gender, acknowledging both the female and male aspect of Deity.
    [© Pagan Federation]

 

Practices

Practices vary among different organisations but there are common themes. Rites of passage are the most common, including transitions of the natural year (see festivals) and of human development whether physical (birth, achievement of maturity, marriage, death) or spiritual. Symbolic events (eg jumping the Bealltain fire as an act of ritual purification), ceremonial burning of herbs, chanting, dance, music and sharing food/drink with others or with the earth may be carried out. Meditation and spiritual development are key to most pagan beliefs. Magical practices are often described, varying from use of herbal and other alternative medicines which have more recently become mainstream, to development of meditational focus and access to the unconscious mind for the purposes of healing.

Festivals

Differing pagan groups emphasise different events but the common themes relate to the cycle of the natural year and old agricultural related themes such as spring planting and autumn harvest. There are eight main festivals of the year, four of which are the summer and winter solstices and spring and autumn equinoxes (days of equal daylight and darkness), and four of which are evolved from old Celtic festivals. Samhainn (the origin of Hallowe'en) is the year's turn, the celebration of the old year becoming the new year. Bealltain (or Beltane) is the big spring festival. Other rites are held to mark Imbolc (February) when lambing started, and Lughnasadh (August) the time of harvest.

To find out more visit: www.paganfed.vscotland.org.uk/