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Pagan Beliefs

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Paganism is the oldest religion known to humanity. It's origins are obscure, but conjectured to have arisen with humanity's desire to explore the unknown, and seek unity with the divine force (however that may be perceived). Therefore, Paganism has no founder or founders, no earthly leaders, no prophets, no messiahs, and no saints.

The word Pagan is derived from the Latin Paganus, "a civilian", and from Pagus, "a village". This delineates Pagans as those who are from a village, or more commonly, simply country-dwellers. Whilst the majority of Pagans today - like the majority of the population - live in towns, this term accurately describes the Pagan heritage, and the affinity which modern Pagans feel with the natural environment.

Thus modern Pagans follow a religion which is as old as humanity itself, but whose practices have been adapted to suit life in the modern world. The concepts which were vital to sustaining life in bygone times are revered, and their principles have been retained; however, we acknowledge that our modern lifestyles are sustained in very different ways.

WHO ARE MODERN PAGANS?

Modern Pagans are people who have made a positive choice to follow a path of individual spiritual growth that is in harmony with the Earth upon which we live. Many people have become aware of a spiritual void in their lives, and have discovered, in Paganism, a religion of joy and love, which allows self-expression, but also encourages social and environmental responsibility.

Modern Pagans are men and women of all ages, drawn from all walks of life, and from vaious racial or cultural backgrounds. Members of the Pagan Alliance include scientists, solicitors, students, health care professionals, teachers, farmers, information technology specialists, industrial relation specialists, graphic designers, engineers, members of the Defence Force, Project Managers, members of the Public Service, Librarians, psychologists, artists, and research assistants, to name but a few.

The one thing they all have in common is a desire to follow a spiritual path which is in harmony with the Earth, and which encourages self-discovery, and individual responsibility.

PAGAN TRADITIONS

There are numerous traditions under the generic classification of Paganism.
Click Here for more information on Pagan Traditions.

PAGAN BELIEFS

The spiritual or religious beliefs of Pagans are that deity is both imminent and transcendent. Deity is therefore a part of the fabric of our being, of our environment, and of that which is beyond anything we can imagine.

Deity is perceived as both male and female. God is seen in many ways, and expressed in our worship as the male principle; all of the male Pagan deities are accepted as aspects of God. Goddess is seen in many ways, and expresses the female principle. All of the female Pagan deities are accepted as aspects of Goddess.

Pagans do not believe in a dualistic viewpoint of absolute opposites; of "good versus evil". Pagans believe that all things exist in their own place, and that we should strive for dynamic balance and harmony. Extremism of any form does not have a place within the Pagan philosophy.

Most Pagans believe in reincarnation. There is a strong affinity with the idea of cyclical life patterns, which do not cease with the death of the physical body. Most Pagans have no concept which could be described as heaven or hell in the commonly-used Christian sense. However, Northern Pagan traditions encompass both a heaven and a hell, with a sophisticated philosophy which describes the operation of these realms. Briefly, Heaven (Asgard) is a final resting place, and Hell (Hel) is a place of rest, from where souls may choose to be re-born. In the Northern Traditions, Hel is not a place of damnation and torture.

The Wiccan religion has what is called "The Summerlands"; a place where souls find rest before being re-born into the physical world.

The Druid belief in reincarnation is confirmed many times in classical sources; e.g. Posidonius (quoteed by Diodorus): "... [Druids believe that] the souls of men are immortal, and that after a definite number of years they live a seconed life when the soul passes to another body."

Julius Caesar: "The cardinal doctrine which they seek to teach is that souls do not die, but after death pass from one to another; and this belief, as the fear of death is thereby cast aside, they hold to be the greatest invective to valour."

Each Pagan religion has its own philosophy about the afterlife, and about reincarnation. Individual Pagans may also have their own philosophy about these subjects, for the Pagan religions do not have a dogma, or strict set of teachings, which all Pagans must folow.

Paganism is one of the so-called "Mystery Paths", where each individual has direct experience of divinity. Although it is becoming more common for Pagan Priests and Priestesses to administer rites to a group of people, individual experience of divinity remains the primary objective for most practising Pagans.

This differs significantly from most State religions, where a figure of authority performs rites, and mediates the divine force, on behalf of a congregation. In most Pagan religions, each individual is a Priest or Priestess in his or her own right.

Pagans do not "worship" trees or rocks; however, they do revere the divine force which is contained within trees and rocks; indeed, is contained within every part of the universe.

Pagans do not worship a savious, or other spiritual leader. The emphasis is upon each individual's spiritual enlightenment, and responsibility for this is not abdicated to another person. The practice of Paganism is a voyage of self-discovery, and the discovery of one's own place within the divine realm.

Paganism is not, therefore, a cult, for a cult has a leader, and Paganism has none. Individual groups will often be led by one or two people who are experienced in the practice of the religion, but such people have no influence outside of their own group or tradition.

RELIGIOUS PRACTICES: WORSHIP

Pagans believe that each individual has the right to worship in their own way; there is no legislation that requires Pagans to follow any prescribed manner of worship. Some Pagans worship in a formal manner; have a more instinctive and unconscious mode of acknowledging and communicating with Goddess and God. Some Pagans prefer to make their worship a private affair; others gather in groups and make their worship a communion with each other, as well as with Goddess and God.

Like most religions, Paganism has Rites of Passage, with some traditions having a formal set of rituals for birth, marriage and death. Those Pagan religions which adhere most closely to the "Mystery Path" will also have rites of initiation. These are designed to effect a spiritual awakening within the initiate, and do not include such practices as animal or human sacrifice, nor any activity which is against the wishes or ethics of the initiate.

Rituals to celebrate a birth, which often include a naming ceremony, do not promise the child to the religion, in the way of a Christian baptism. The parents of the child will often adk for divine guidance and protection for their child, but will not make any promises about bringing the child up in a particular faith.

It is a strong Pagan belief that each individual must follow his or her own path. Children are taught to honour their family and friends; to have integrity, honesty and loyalty; to treat the Earth as sacred, and to love and respect all forms of life. Other than these basic teachings, children are encouraged to question, and to find their own spiritual path. Many Pagan parents will ensure that their children are exposed to the teachings of a number of religions, so that the child receives a well-balanced spiritual education.

RELIGIOUS PRACTICES: HOLY DAYS

To Pagans, every day is a holy day, but there are a number of Festival celebrations which are held throughout the year. The Festivals, and the time on which they are celebrated, varies. Within each tradition, there are commonalities, but these are by no means definitive across the whole religion.

Perhaps the best known is the cycle of Festivals celebrated by many Pagans, including the Wiccan tradition, and modern Druids. There are eight Festivals, being Samhain, Giuli (Yule), Imbolg (also known as Candlemas), Spring Equinox (also known as Eostre), Beltane, Litha (Midsummer), and the Autumn Equinox (also known as Mabon).

These Festivals are derived from variously, Celtic and Saxon sources, and their essence has remained in modern society through folk memory, and in many rural traditions.

Other Pagan traditions celebrate the turning of the seasons with four Festivals to mark Spring, Summer, Autumn and Spring. As always with Paganism, the emphasis is upon what is meaningful for each individual, rather than a strict adherence to a rigid doctrine.

PAGANISM IN AUSTRALIA AND NEW ZEALAND

The history of Paganism in Australia and New Zealand is lengthy, for the indigenous people were Pagan, before the arrival of colonisation and its attendant Christian Missionaries. The conversion of the native people to Christianity was uncompromising.

The earliest incidence of revived European Paganism in Australia and New Zealand is unknown, but there are reports of witches meeting in Canberra, ACT during the 1920s. Many immigrants brought their own traditions and practices with them, and since the 1970s numerous books have been published about the revived Pagan religions and their practices.

Although laws against "the pretence of the practice of witchcraft" remain on the statute books in a few places, the modern Pagan in Australia and New Zealand can practise his or her religion without fear. Pagans remain the target of mainstream fundamentalist fanatics, but thankfully, fewer and fewer rational people are taking fundamentalist absurdities seriously. However, for this reason, and because bigotry still exists in many places, some Pagans practice their religion privately, and prefer not to make their beliefs public.

Some Pagans are prepared to be public spokespeople for their religion, and through the Pan Pacific Pagan Alliance, and other similar organisations have provided accurate and sensible information to the media, police forces, local government organisations, child care agencies, health centres and so on. That we have been so successful in our attempt to inform society of the truth of our religion is a testament to those Pagans who live and work in Australia and New Zealand.

PAGAN CUSTOMS

Because Paganism stresses the importance of individuality, there are few, if any, widespread customs. A sense of the sanctity of the natural world, concern for the environment, and acceptance that we are socially responsible to our fellow-creatures, dictates the kind of customs which most Pagans follow.

There are no dietary requirements, or any prohibitions within the Pagan philosophy. Those who follow a vegan/vegetarian diet, or who abstain from alcohol, tobacco, etc., do so out of choice, not tenets of faith.

There are no laws of blasphemy and conflict between individuals remains the responsiblity and concern of those who are involved. There are no penances, or any other form of religious punishments.

Paganism does not legislate where matters of morality and ethics are concerned. It is up to each individual to be responsible for their own viewpoints and decisions. The religion itself does not promote nor condemn practices related to sexual activity, procreation, use of alcohol and other mind altering substances. Individual Pagans may hold viewpoints on one or more of these issues, however, they are PERSONAL viewpoints, and not the considered opinion of the religion per se.

Pagans have a high regard for the equality of the sexes and do not suppress the feminine principle in the way that many other religions seem to do. Pagan Priestesses have the same status as Priests; in some traditions, they have primacy in leading the religious practices.

Many Pagans acknowledge the concept of "Elders"; those from the community who, by virtue of their training or experience, have a greater understanding of social, moral and practical matters. Pagans who gather together (either formally or informally) as a group, will often look to those who lead the group for guidance on moral issues and socially accepted behaviour. However, it is a fundamental aspect of Paganism that each individual must accept full responsibility for their own actions. There is no "confession" or other absolution to devolve responsibility to another person, or to God and/or Goddess.

FALLACIES

Pagans are not concerned with perverting the sacred symbols, beliefs or practices of any other religion.

Pagans do not perform sacrifices (other than of their own energy and time), and are not opposed to any other religious beliefs.

Pagans do not sexually abuse children; quite the contrary. Despite many hysterical claims of sexual abuse by witches and other occultists, none has ever been proven to be true.

For a Pagan to abuse a child is total anathema. It is contrary to everything that we hold close to our hearts. Our children are our future, and a part of the ultimate divine source. Pagan children are born in love and unity; they are sacred, and are treated as such.

CONCLUSION.

Paganism is a legitimate, coherent and responsible spiritual path to which many people are attracted in these days of ecological concern. To be a Pagan in the 20th (and 21st) century is to hold and believe in the sacredness of all things; to revere and respect all life; and to love and honour one's family and friends.

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