Basic Paganism Beliefs: What DO Pagans Believe?
Since witchcraft and paganism are two of the fastest growing religions in modern times, 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. If you’d specifically like to know what witches believe, you can refer to an article on witchcraft basics.
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. Some types of paganism include Heathens, Hellenic reconstructionists, Norse pagans, Celtic pagans, Druids, Kemetic Pagans, Wiccans, and even African diasporic, Hinduism and far eastern religions are considered pagan since they are outside of the realm of Abrahamic religion. These are just a few…there are seriously hundreds and new branches popping up all the time.
Basic Pagan Beliefs and Variations
We know that every branch of paganism will have its own set of beliefs. But also remember that every individual pagan will have their own beliefs that may be separate or different from a branch they assimilate with. Also, there are solitary pagans or eclectic pagans who basically do their own thing. They may subscribe to certain beliefs or simply follow their own personal path. There’s no one right or wrong belief system or path in paganism. That being said, there are some fairly universal pagan beliefs. Let’s break down some of the more common Paganism beliefs.
1. A True Reverence for 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, many 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. Some don’t believe in gods at all but rather honor the force of nature as their divine spiritual source. Other pagans see nature as a manifestation of the gods. And sometimes the gods are the spirits of nature.
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. They are the traditions held by our ancient ancestors before technological advancement. 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. At the same time, there are even some pagans who incorporate one or more of the Abrahamic religions into their own pagan belief system. Like I said, there’s no one wrong or right path in paganism.
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. You may notice some pagans telling other pagans whose view is right and whose is wrong. But I’m being honest with you here, that’s bullsh*t. Paganism is rebellious in its very nature and therefore you can choose what you feel is best for you. There shouldn’t be any dogma in the pagan path.
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 (low) magic (making charms and potions, etc.) and ceremonial (high) 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.
6. The Pagan Outlook on the Afterlife
When you ask a Christian what happens after death, they’ll almost always answer Heaven and 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, Helheim, the Celtic Otherworld, etc. Most Pagans deny the aspect of the Christian 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. While others believe in energy transference…which is sort of like when you die, your energy has to go somewhere. And so it could be transferred into anything around you – another human being’s body, a tree, an animal, the ground where your body is buried, etc. In this way, you do live on forever. Energy can never be destroyed, after all.
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, meeting one’s ancestors in meditation and dreams, healing generational curses 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.