What Is Paganism?

What is Paganism?

Defined as:

– a religion that has many gods or goddesses, considers the earth holy, and does not have a central authority. (Merriam-Webster)

– a member of a religious, spiritual, or cultural community based on the worship of nature or the earth; a neopagan. (Dictionary.com)

– Paganism is a broad group of religions, including modern pagan religions, indigenous religions and historical polytheistic religions. Modern knowledge of old pagan religions comes from several sources, including: anthropological field research records, the evidence of archaeological artifacts, and the historical accounts of ancient writers regarding cultures known to the classical world. Paganism is often taken to exclude monotheism, and to express a worldview that is pantheistic, polytheistic, and/or animistic. In a wider sense, paganism has also been understood to include any non-Abrahamic, folk, or ethnic religion. (Wikipedia)

I have always considered the definition of Paganism to be an umbrella term for anything religious or spiritual that doesn’t fall under the Abrahamic traditions. I found this definition on my own a long time ago when I first started learning, and, unfortunately, it’s stuck despite its rather over-simplified existence. I have also found, however, that everyone’s definition is different anyway, so trying to find an all-encompassing definition that will please *everyone* is nigh on impossible. However, for the sake of the original question, I would go with what Wikipedia says about it.

Now onto “Pagan”. Definition:

– heathen 1; especially :  a follower of a polytheistic religion (as in ancient Rome) (Merriam-Webster)

– a member of a religious, spiritual, or cultural community based on theworship of nature or the earth; a neopagan. (Dictionary.com)

– A somewhat vague term derived from from the Latin word paganus. Pagan is a term which refers to a variety of different religions ranging from Wicca, to that of ancient Egypt and even Hinduism, among many others. Some Pagans are of no specific religion, but rather are eclectic. In general Pagan religions have more than one deity, or many gods which are aspects of one (an idea similar to that of the Christian trinity). Another quite common feature of Pagan religions are that they tend to be nature oriented. Pagan can also be used as a derogatory word for any non-Judeo/Christian/Islamic religion. (Urban Dictionary)

Etymology of the word “Pagan”:


“late 14c., from Late Latin paganus “pagan,” in classical Latin “villager, rustic; civilian, non-combatant” noun use of adjective meaning “of the country, of a village,” from pagus “country people; province, rural district,” originally “district limited by markers,” thus related to pangere “to fix, fasten,” from PIE root *pag- “to fix” (see pact). As an adjective from early 15c.

Religious sense is often said to derive from conservative rural adherence to the old gods after the Christianization of Roman towns and cities; but the word in this sense predates that period in Church history, and it is more likely derived from the use of paganus in Roman military jargon for “civilian, incompetent soldier,” which Christians (Tertullian, c.202; Augustine) picked up with the military imagery of the early Church (such as milites “soldier of Christ,” etc.). Applied to modern pantheists and nature-worshippers from 1908.

The English surname Paine, Payne, etc., appears by old records to be from Latin paganus, but whether in the sense “villager,” “rustic,” or “heathen” is disputed. It also was a common Christian name in 13c., “and was, no doubt, given without any thought of its meaning” [“Dictionary of English Surnames”].” (Etymoline)

There are all sorts of discussions concerning where “Pagan”, or “Witch”, or “Heathen” come from. I’ve heard, and read, quite a few, down to the “They were used by The Man (or Church) to keeps us down! Fight the MAN!” argument.

The word is old. Very old. As such, the definition and implications of the word has changed tremendously over the course of its history. It’s been used as an insult and as a point of pride. It’s been used to degrade and life up. Call yourself what you feel applies. No one can rightly label you without your permission, and words only have as much power as you give them.

In parting, I bid welcome to Pagans, Wiccans, Shamans, Spirit Healers, Druids, and those who are just beginning to search for their path, and I ask you what does Paganism means to you? What Path are you treading?

Merry meet and merry part and merry meet again!

– Alfrún