What is Paganism?
A brief introduction
Paganism is a category of spiritual ways of life, religions if you will, which have their roots in the ancient religions of the world. It is principally rooted in the old religions of Europe, though some adherents also find great value in the indigenous beliefs of other regions. Such belief in the sacredness of all things can be found world-wide. Pagans see this as their heritage, and retain the beliefs and values of their ancestors, often in forms adapted to suit modern life. We often celebrate the sanctity of nature, revering the divine in all things; the vast, unknowable spirit that runs through the universe, both seen and unseen.
Pagans honour the divine in all its aspects as parts of the sacred whole. Every man and woman is, to a pagan, a beautiful and unique being. Children are loved and honoured and there is a strong sense of community. The woods and open spaces of the land, home to wild animals and birds, are cherished. Paganism stresses personal spiritual experience, and pagans often find that experience through their relationship with the natural world that they love. We often seek spiritual union with divinity by attuning with the tides of nature and by exploring our inner selves, seeing each reflected in the other. We believe that we should meet the divine face to face, within our own experience, rather than through an intermediary. Although some religions do have leaders and teachers, in most cases these people act as facilitators, using their own wisdom and experience to help guide those in their care towards discovering their own sense and interpretation of the divine. Our rites help us harmonise with the natural cycles, and so they are often held at the turning points of the seasons, at the phases of the moon and sun, and at times of transition in our lives.
There is a great variety of traditions and practices within the broad spectrum of paganism. This reflects the range of our spiritual experience and background, for we believe that everyone is unique, and so everyone’s spirituality may be equally unique. Some pagans follow multiple gods and goddesses, their names familiar to all from the pages of European folklore and mythology: others focus on a single life force of no specific gender; yet others devote themselves to a cosmic couple – the Goddess and God, or Lord and Lady. Diversity is celebrated for we believe that each person should find their spirituality according to the dictates of the quiet, inner voice of their own soul. For this reason we strive to respect all religions, and rarely proselytise or seek converts. From other faiths and from society generally, we ask only tolerance and understanding.
In these days of environmental concern and eco-awareness, pagans are often at the forefront of Green Awareness. Many pagan religions respect the rights of every living soul equally, whether human, animal, plant or rock. We are ever mindful of the actions of cause and effect, whether by thought or deed, upon the creatures of the Earth. We encourage free thought, creative imagination and practical human resourcefulness, believing these to be fundamental to our spending our lives in harmony with the rhythms of the natural world. We rejoice that some of our personal beliefs should now be shared by so many other people. These beliefs are the heritage of all people from our distant and common ancestors – they are equally the concern of all our descendants.