Paganism is considered to be one of the oldest religions in the world, dating back to the Paleolithic Era some 23,000 years ago as suggested by the Venus of Willendorf. But, the 1981 discovery of the “Acheulian Goddess” challenges this time frame, as carbon dating of the this figurine date it to be between 232,000 and 800,000 years old; thus suggesting that Paganism is much, much older.
As it was in ancient time and so it is today, Paganism is based on the patterns and agricultural cycles of the earth. It is also based on the belief that everything is alive. The earth and all of her inhabitants, animals, plants, oceans, even the air is connected and dependent on one another. This belief extends to the planets, stars and universe; everyone and everything are conjoined. The Divine is recognized in all and manifest itself in the circle of life.
The Pagan calendar, also known as the Wheel of the Year, marks the earth’s four seasons, tracks the suns continual journey through the sky and the waxing and waning cycles of the moon. It is a symbol of the circle of life, representing the continual birth, death, and renewal cycle as conveyed by the changing seasons.
Paganism honors the divine in all of its forms: male, female or genderless. Female energies and attributes manifest themselves as Goddesses and Male energies and attributes as Gods. Each must be represented in balance showing the partnership, interconnection and dependence on one another.
Examples include the Earth Goddess; she is the fertile earth giving life to all earthly creatures. And, the Green Man symbolizes life, the eternal cycle of death and regeneration. He is symbolic of the union mankind has with nature.
The word Pagan derives from the Latin word pagunis or pagani, which was a term used to describe a country dweller who would not convert to the Christo-Judeo religions. Pagani held on to “The Old Religion” and continued to honor their many Gods and Goddess disavowing the Christo-Judeo concept of one God.
The Pagan community is made of up of a group of diverse religions which include: Wiccans, Native Americans, Kemetism, Shamans, Druids, Hellenism, Odinists and Heathens/Ásatrú. Each group focuses on specific traditions, practices or various elements such as the environment, Celtic traditions, witchcraft, or the honoring of certain gods.
Through the ages each of these Pagan groups have endured persecution and as a result many misconceptions and myths have developed. Listed below are a couple of the most common misconceptions.
One of the most prevalent misconceptions is that Pagans worship “Satan” and practice black magic. Pagans do not worship or believe in the devil. Many groups including the Wiccans have creeds to do no harm.
Another popular misconception is that Pagan rituals and ceremonies include the sacrifice of babies, children and animals. Modern Pagans do not make animal or human sacrifices. As mentioned above, Pagans value all life and treat everything with respect. This misconception stems from ancient satanic cult activity and does not represent Paganism.
Paganism finds the Divine in all things. This ancient religion honors all forms of beliefs that encompass respect, love and compassion. Paganism does not judge and holds to the creed to do no harm.