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A Pagan History

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1 A Pagan History on Sat Dec 03, 2011 4:24 pm

Paganism is a group of contemporary religions based on nature worship and ancient indigenous traditions, especially those of Pre-Christian Europe. Witchcraft comprises the largest segment of Paganism. Pagan is a Latin term meaning “country-dweller”. In the early days of Christianity, which was largely a religion of cities, Pagan was applied to those who adhered to their old religious beliefs. As the Christian Church worked to eradicate opposition from heretics in the Middle Ages and Renaissance, Pagan became a derogatory term. It implied that one was unsophisticated and uneducated, and worshiped false gods. Paganism flowered in the 1960's along with Witchcraft, aided by liberal interests in Feminism, Goddess Spirituality, Ecology, Gaia, New Age Spirituality and a desire for personal transcendent experience. Paganism means different things to different followers: it is a religion, philosophy and a way of life. Pagans, like Witches, are independent and autonomous. Some belong to groups, churches, and or organizations, while others prefer to remain solitary. All Pagans value choosing their own paths and beliefs, and constructing their own ways of worship. A connection to and reverence for Nature is common to all of the diverse traditions under the Pagan umbrella. One does not “become” a Pagan so much as “come home to” Paganism. In his study of the Pagan religions of the British Isles, Ronald Hutton observes that we in contemporary times know very little about the old Pagan religions of the ancient British Isles (which are looked to as sources for much of modern Paganism). Three principles reflect the core beliefs of many Pagans. The first one is love for and kinship with Nature, but live in harmony with it, revering the life force and the eternal cycle of birth-death-rebirth. Divinity is immanent in the realm of Nature, as it is in all things in creation. The planet has its own living consciousness. The cycles of Nature are celebrated in seasonal festivals. Paganism is especially a “green” religion, and many Pagans are environmental activists. The second principle is the Pagan ethic. “If it harm none, do what thou wilt” is the same ethic from the Wiccan Rede, drawn from Aleister Crowley. It places responsibility on the individual to develop self-knowledge and truth and express it in harmony with all things. The last principle is the Divine Masculine and Feminine, which engage in an eternal cosmic dance of creation. Pagans honor the “totality of Divine reality”, which transcends gender and does not suppress either the male or female Aspect of Deity. The Aspect of Deity, expressed through many Gods and Goddesses, are real beings who share the world with human beings. Other Pagan beliefs are the Threefold Law of Return. This means that whatever is put out into the world, good or bad, is returned back three times. Many, but not all, Pagans perform some type of Magick. Pagans might also believe in Reincarnation, or the after life. There are several dominant traditions within Paganism, but as a whole the religion has grown increasingly eclectic. As mentioned before, Witchcraft is the largest tradition. Some others included are Druidry, Heathenism and Shamanism. According to the legends, Witchcraft began more than thirty-five thousand years ago. The people believed in the Mother Goddess who brings into existence all life; and the Horned God, who is both the hunter and hunted, who passes through the gates of death so that new life may go on. Hunters dressed in skins and horns in identification with the God and the herds as a form of sympathetic magic to aid the hunt. Those who had inner power learned that it increased when they worked together. As isolated settlements grew into villages, they linked forces and shared knowledge. Thus the first covens were formed. Deeply attuned to plant and animal life, they tamed where once they had hunted, and they bred sheep, goats, cows, and pigs. Seeds were planted. The hunter become Lord of the Grain, sacrificed when cut in autumn, buried in the womb of the Goddess to later be reborn. The Lady of the Wild Things became the Barley Mother. The cycles of moon and sun marked the times for sowing and reaping and letting out to pasture. Villages grew into the first towns and cities. The Goddess was painted on the plastered walls of shrines, giving birth to the Divine Child--her consort, son, and seed. Far-flung trade brought contact with the mysteries of Africa and West Asia. In these lands that had once been covered with ice, they found a power that runs like springs of water through the earth (ley lines). They came to find that certain stones increased the flow of power. Those stones were set at the proper points in great marching rows and circles that mark the cycle of time. The year became a great wheel divided into eight parts: the solstices and equinoxes and the cross-quarter days between, times for feasting and bonfires. Mathematics, astronomy, poetry, music, medicine, and the understanding of the workings of the human mind developed side by side with the lore of the deeper mysteries.


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