Paganism is a term which encompasses many varying belief systems. The key elements of Paganism are:
This is the belief in many deities. Some Eastern religions have hundreds of deities in their belief systems. Similarly, the Neopagan Celtic pantheon has many gods and goddesses, as do belief systems from Egypt, the Scandinavian countries and Africa. Many pantheons of gods and goddesses are structured in terms of male and female counterparts. There are gods and goddesses of war, love, death, magic and other basic features of human life.
This is the belief that all things which live have a soul. This includes people, plants, animals and even certain minerals found in the earth, as well as the Earth, herself.
– reincarnation or afterlife
This aspect differs from system to system, but none promote the concept of finality. For the Odinists, there is Valhalla after one dies; for the Buddhists, there is Nirvana and for Wiccans there is the Summerlands. All of these afterlives promise ultimate fulfillment, and reincarnation is the path to this type of spiritual enlightenment. Reincarnation is the concept which acknowledges the birth, death and rebirth of the soul for the purposes of spiritual enlightenment, and this concept also varies in detail from system to system.
As mentioned, there are many forms of Paganism, but the most common and fastest growing of these in Canada and the USA is Wicca or Witchcraft. This is a nature-based form of Earth worship. The primary celebrations or Sabbats are based on the cycles, or Wheel, of the Year, of which there are eight. The full moon, or Esbat, is also celebrated, and these two solar and lunar cycles are representative of the male and female balance within the world.
There have been several previous misconceptions about Witchcraft, which should be addressed in this article for the sake of holistically addressing the topic.
Pagans and specifically witches are not:
– devil worshipers; they do not believe in such a concept as the devil or satan
– evil, green-skinned, warty hags who cackle; this is a stereotype found in fairy stories
– workers of black magic; they acknowledge the Threefold Law which states that one will be repaid threefold for all actions
– interested in sacrificing animals or babies, and they do not drink blood; the sacrifice which is given by a witch is almost always something of herself, either some herbs she has grown, water she has collected, something she has made, time, effort, or money she has earned, and it is not offered in a destructive way, but in a creative, positive way so that it may be used by the Earth or her creatures.
Further reading and information: