What is a pagan? Despite the rapidly growing number of movies, books and television shows that present witches or other pagans in various situations, the portrayal often reinforces stereotypes that are inaccurate, or even harmful. Unfortunately, there is a lack of mainstream media that promotes a positive image of pagans or encourages a better understanding of paganism. Because of this, many who follow pagan traditions still experience discrimination in their day-to-day lives.
The term pagan or paganism relates to a follower of a spiritual tradition that draws upon the mythology and symbolism from Pre-Christian, European cultures and who takes a broad view of the Divine, allowing for a variety of beliefs and spiritual practices. It is an umbrella term for the faiths and practices of Wiccans, Heathens, Shamans and Druids. A pagan may also simply be someone who is trying to live in harmony with the earth, recognizing its seasons and inhabitants as sacred, while not subscribing to any one belief system. Pagans tend to take a broad view of the Divine, allowing for a variety of beliefs and spiritual practices. Because of this, paganism can be a bit hard to define.
Another reason that the words pagan or paganism can be so hard to define is because such faiths are re-creationist in nature. This means that while drawing upon aspects of ancient cultures, paganism is a belief system that is ever evolving. The needs of modern society are quickly growing and shifting as we gain in global awareness. We are in a time when technology has been inserted into every aspect of our lives. We sit behind desks, under artificial lighting, day after day. The bonds that we once had with each other, and with the seasons and the earth, in some ways have been broken. People are often drawn to pagan traditions out of an inner hunger to reestablish that bond.
The most common practice among pagans is the use of ritual to bring about change in their lives. A ritual can be very elaborate in the use of props, places, time of day or year, song, dance, symbols and archaic language. However, a ritual can also be very simple such as a cup of tea before yoga to center one’s mind or lighting a candle in remembrance of a deceased loved one.
Rituals held in observance of the Summer Solstice, Winter Solstice, Spring Equinox and Autumn Equinox, as well as points in between, are considered holiday practices and often incorporate themes relating to the birth, life, death and rebirth cycle. Many pagans will host an open ritual for friends and family during those times. When a ritual is created for a different purpose such as for healing or manifestation within one’s life, it is considered to be practicing witchcraft and is often conducted in a closed group, or individual setting.
Witchcraft is the practice of “magick” where the practitioner solicits, recognizes, and acts upon the signs and symbols of the Divine by way of following this formula: intent + visualization + action = manifestation of the desired result. This method can be used when you want to:
- Materialize an idea by acquiring the tools and knowledge to make it real.
- Influence another’s perspective, opinion, emotion, or health.
- Manifest opportunities in your life or career.
In this way, any act of using intention to influence one’s reality is a form of witchcraft and achieving a result is thought to be a reflection of one’s ability to control “magick.”
For many pagan traditions, while the Divine is called by many different names it is understood that these are but aspects of the same energy — The Source of All. It infuses all reality with its energy and we are a part of it. As a pagan, my goal is to connect with that essence, that vibration contained within all of creation, and to honor it as sacred. So that when I practice my rituals, or my intention setting, I am co-creating with the Source to bring forth the “magick” of achieving my goals.
Therefore, a pagan can be anyone who is actively using their intention to connect with the Source and conjure forth their desired reality while striving to exist in harmony with the whole of creation.
In other words, a pagan is a (Source)rer.