Basic Paganism Beliefs: What DO Pagans Believe?
Maybe you’re wondering what do Pagans believe? We hope to breakdown the basic paganism beliefs in this article for those who are confused or searching for answers. Please keep in mind that every Pagan is different and will have variations in their beliefs or believe in something else entirely different than the next Pagan.
First, what is a Pagan?
The word Pagan has had different meaning over the centuries. First, it was used by the rich who had converted to Christianity in the Middle Ages to label country-dwellers who had not yet converted faiths. Now, in the twenty first century, the term Pagan refers to anyone who follows a faith outside of the 3 Abrahamic Religions (which are Christianity, Islam and Judaism). As you might guess, there are hundreds of kinds of Pagans. Let’s break down some of the more common Paganism beliefs.
1. Mother Nature
One thing that most Pagans have in common as far as paganism beliefs is a reverence and deep love for Mother Nature. In fact, most Pagans will tell you their religion is nature. Their god is nature. They worship Mother Earth and Father Sky. And other variations of this. Many Pagans are involved in environmental efforts and many are animal lovers.
2. The “Old Ways”
You may hear modern Pagans say they follow the “old ways”. What does this mean, exactly? What do Pagans believe as far as the “old ways”? The Old Ways refer to beliefs and traditions from before Christianity’s rise in Europe and the world. Pagans are not part of the Abrahamic faiths, and therefore often try to engage in practices of their ancestors separate from Christianity, Islam, or Judaism. This includes celebrating the changing of the seasons, recreating ancient holidays, etc.
3. Gods and Goddesses
Many Pagans claim polytheism, which means they worship more than one god or goddess. While others claim they are monotheistic or pantheistic. Monotheistic means they worship one god or goddess and pantheistic means they see the universe as god and vice versa. And some pagans are a mixture or some variation of these. Whatever god(s) a pagan may choose, they do not follow a Christian, Islam, or Jewish deity (as these are part of the Abrahamic faiths).
4. Freedom to Choose
One of the best paganism beliefs is the freedom to choose. Pagans believe every individual has the right to choose what they want to believe and how they want to believe it. Some pagans join a group, grove, church or coven while others remain solitary (practice their beliefs by themselves). Solitary pagans enjoy paving their own way to the divine.
5. Magical Practices
Not every pagan practices magic of some kind, but many do. Pagan is an umbrella term which covers a wide range of belief systems and magical traditions including Wicca and witchcraft. Both of these belief systems engage in magical practices such as folk magic (making charms and potions, etc.) and ceremonial magic (casting circles etc) and weave magic into their spiritual beliefs. For instance, a Wiccan may invoke a specific goddess to aid in his or her healing ritual. A pagan witch may cook up a magical meal with intentions to strengthen her family’s bond.
When you ask a Christian what happens after death, they’ll almost always answer Heaven or Hell. But most Pagans believe differently than the Heaven/Hell concept. What do pagans believe when it comes to the afterlife? Some believe strongly in reincarnation, in which a soul incarnates in multiple lives. Others believe in an afterlife similar to Heaven but often call it something else, for example Summerland, Valhalla, Folkvangr, Tir Na Nog, the Celtic Otherworld, etc. Most Pagans deny the aspect of Hell and eternal damnation. And still some believe we spend part of the afterlife in the Otherworld, part as ancestral guides to our descendants, and then also reincarnating.
A practice that many Pagans take up as part of paganism beliefs is ancestor worship. Ancestors were a big part of Paganism beliefs in many cultures before the rise of Christianity, and now Pagans are taking up the sacred practice again. Some Pagans have ancestor altars in their homes and pray to their ancestors on a daily basis. While others simply follow the gods and goddesses of their ancestors. Parts of ancestor veneration include building a family tree, maintaining an ancestor altar, providing offerings to one’s ancestors, and more.
8. Pagan Morals
There’s this old misconception that when someone says they are pagan this means they are “godless” or savage. Pagan = sinful in some folks’ eyes. I’m here to tell you, just because I’m pagan doesn’t mean I don’t have morals. I believe in doing the right thing and making the right choices in life. However, I don’t believe in the idea of “sin”. Most pagans have their own set of morals, but we don’t go off an old book to tell us what’s right or wrong. We just know it in our hearts.
Paganism Beliefs Will Vary By Person
The one thing you HAVE to remember about Pagans and their beliefs is this – the beliefs will vary from Pagan to Pagan. There are certain branches of Paganism where the beliefs are determined by the elders, but most Pagans whether part of a group or not will still develop their own Paganism beliefs separate of others’. I’ve met hundreds of Pagans over the years, and everyone’s beliefs are different in some way. Sometimes we agree on things, sometimes we don’t. And that’s okay! That’s one of the best things about being Pagan – the FREEDOM to choose my own beliefs and practices.