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Essay/Term paper: Paganism

Essay, term paper, research paper:  Religion

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Paganism is an ancient type of religion which has quite an inauspicious
reputation today. There are many types of paganism, most date back thousands of
years, which include Wicca, Witchcraft, Paganism, and a few other lesser known
and practiced variations. Yet all of these religions are similar and share
common beliefs. Wicca is the most common of these, as it also demonstrates the
shared belief of doing good that is common to most forms of paganism. Another
common belief, is to gather in small groups, called covens, to practice pagan
rites and ceremonies with others. There are many ancient beliefs, archaic
rituals, and forgotten traditions that are practiced by pagans. Many of these
are also the origins of widely practiced traditions in the Christian-dominated
world of today.
A defining characteristic of many pagan religions, especially Wicca, is
the worship and closeness to nature. Pagans treat animals kindly and respect
all things, living or nonliving, as though they were a person (Roy N. p.). They
also share the worship of their nature gods, which increases their respect for
all that is around them (Roy N. p.). Pagans are very sensitive people that also
have a high regard for personal privacy (Roy N. p.). With this belief of
privacy, many pagans have more time to keep in touch with their inner selves and
with the nature around them. Wicca, a more popular pagan religion, focuses on
the Earth and uses pure white magic to help others (Roy N. p.). In fact, the
Wiccan creed is, "An it harm none, do as thou will," which agrees with the "good"
philosophy (Beliefs N. p.). Altogether, pagans have a great deal of emphasis on
the life and beauty of the nature that thrives around them and are radically
different than the mythical rumors of witches that have been given to them over
Another defining characteristic of many pagans is the dedication to
knowledge and self exploration (Roy N. p.). In fact it has been said that, "
Witchcraft is the oldest, most irrepressible religion in the world because it
stimulates the intellect, promotes a simple, practical way of life, and most
importantly, is emotionally satisfying" (Art N. p.). There is a set of beliefs,
called the Laws of Magic that help illustrate the beliefs supported by Wicca and
other pagan religions. Many of these laws are practical, yet they also relate
to the more religious aspect of paganism. One of the most important laws, the
Law of Knowledge, states that witches believe that all knowledge is power, no
matter how big or small (Bonewits N. p.). A related law, the Law of Self-
Knowledge, states that witches should truly know themselves, for this prevents
doing harm to others, once the understanding of the harm is seen (Bonewits N.
p.). There are many other laws, one such law explains that coincidence does not
exist, but that everything is part of a larger plan (Bonewits N. p.). The Law
of Similarity states that similar representations of things can be made to
represent them, such as voodoo dolls (Bonewits N. p.). The Law of
Personification states the important belief that anything, concrete or abstract,
can be considered alive for whatever purpose (Bonewits N. p.). One commonly
known law, The Law of Perversity, also called "Murphy's Law," states that if
anything can go wrong, it will (Bonewits N. p.). As if a summary of all other
beliefs, The Law of Unity says that everything is linked together to every other
thing, in any space or time (Bonewits N. p.). So, as shown here, all pagans,
whether Wiccan or not, follow the basic guidelines and beliefs that knowledge is
power. To support this belief are many other more specific beliefs that help
the individual learn and grow.
Rituals and traditions also play a large role in Wiccan lives and
activities. The most common of these includes the rituals associated with the
new and full moons, as well as the 8 sabbats. The 8 sabbats are equally divided
throughout the year, along with the seasons, and help attune the practicing
Wiccans to the cycle of the year (Sabbats N. p.). The first of these sabbats is
Yule, practiced around December 21; it represents the rebirth of the light and
the awakening of new goals (Sabbats N. p.). Candlemas, celebrated on February 2,
banishes winter and is the favored time for initiating new members into a coven
of witches (Sabbats N. p.). It is also tradition at this time to light all the
lamps in the house (Sabbats N. p.). Ostara, a familiar holiday, is usually
around March 21 and symbolizes balance and equilibrium. At this time of peace,
many pagans gather wildflowers in baskets and free themselves of their pasts
(Sabbats N. p.). Beltane, similar to Mayday but held on April 30, honors the
fertility of the earth and is the sacred time of marriage as well as the time
for self-discovery, love, and union (Sabbats N. p.). Midsummer, held around
June 21, is a time for triumph and light, when healing and love magic becomes
suitable (Sabbats N. p.). Lammas, practiced on August 2, celebrates the harvest
and the traditional time to teach others what has been learned (Sabbats N. p.).
The Autumn Equinox, approximately September 21, is the time of balance and the
time to gather dry plants and herbs (Sabbats N. p.). Samhain, commonly called
Halloween, is held on October 31; it is when reincarnation is believed to take
place (Sabbats N. p.). Samhain is also called "the Witches' New Year" (Sabbats
N. p.). The 8 sabbats practiced by wiccans and other pagans are important for
the transitions of the season, but are only a small sample of the many rituals
and traditions of the pagan religions (Sabbats N. p.).
Another interesting aspect of pagan rituals and traditions is the fact
that many of the common holidays and traditions in today's culture possess
ancient pagan roots. The Christian holiday of Christmas, for example, has its
roots in the pagan festivals and customs of Yule (Sabbats N. p.). Bringing in a
tree from the winter weather to house the winter spirits was a common practice
(Sabbats N. p.). Pagans also would decorate the tree with a bell to indicate
the spirits' presence, food to nourish the spirits, and a pentagram star on the
top to symbolize the five elements of nature (Sabbats N. p.). In fact, the red
and green colors of Christmas also come from a pagan tradition, that of the yule
log being burned once annually (Sabbats N. p.). The Christian Easter is another
common holiday that is derived from ancient pagan customs. Witches believed
that the God and Goddess would spend the time of Ostara (Spring Equinox) playing
with brightly colored eggs in the fields to represent childhood (Sabbats N. p.).
The tradition of collecting flowers in baskets in springtime is also of pagan
origin (Sabbats N. p.). For those who recognize Mayday, it was a pagan practice
to weave a web of life around a Maypole with ribbons as well (Sabbats N. p.).
Another, more commonly known, holiday with pagan beginnings is Halloween, or the
Samhain sabbat. It was believed that spirits would leave the physical plane
during this time (Sabbats N. p.). Another more recognizable trait of the
holiday could be seen when one realizes that thousands of years ago, pagans used
jack-o-lanterns and gourds to decorate for the season (Sabbats N. p.). So, by
looking at the many practiced customs of the pagans that have been around for
thousands of years, one can discern how some traditions have come into play in
today's world.
It is severely apparent that there are many erroneous rumors related to
pagans and their rituals. Pagans have many rituals, but not one of these relates
to Christianity or the belief of the devil deity (Art N. p.). Some of the more
common rituals are initiation into a coven and handfasting, or marriage. The
ritual of initiation is a sacred ceremony to bring in a new member of the coven
(Hicks N. p.). The individual must be highly acquainted with all of the members
of the coven for over one year before initiation is possible (Hicks N. p.).
Another commonplace ritual is handfasting. Handfasting is a highly sacred rite
that binds two very close people together, similar husband and wife; the ritual
is symbolic of the union of the god and goddess (Hunter N. p.). All other pagan
rituals are impartially as sacred and highly valued, as well as enjoyed.
Despite all of the misleading rumors, there are no rituals depicting evil or
anything to go against goodness belief that is practiced by wiccans or related
pagan groups.
Wicca and other similar pagan religions all reflect the mutual belief of
doing good and harming none. This, however, has been overlooked by others for
many centuries which has lead to inaccurate rumors. Aside from that however,
pagans still enjoy a rich and culturally satisfying life that keeps in touch
with their ancient beliefs. Along with this is their passionate practice of the
many rituals, including the 8 seasonal sabbats, that help characterize the pagan
doctrine. All of this and even more truth can be found about these lesser known
and often misconceived religions classified as paganism.

Works Cited

Bonewits, P. E. I. The Laws of Magic. Online. Necronami Net. Available HTTP:
http://www.necronami.com/d/paganism-celtic/magic.laws.txt, 30 Nov. 1996.

General Beliefs. Online. Necronami Net. Available HTTP:
http://www.necronami.com/d/paganism-celtic/wicca.gen_beliefs.txt, 15 Dec.

Hicks, J. Brad. Ceremony of Initiation. Online. Necronami Net. Available
HTTP: http://www.necronami.com/d/paganism-celtic/initiation.ritual.txt, 15 Dec.

Hunter, Ryan. Handfasting Ceremony. Online. Necronami Net. Available HTTP:
http://www.necronami.com/d/paganism-celtic/handfasting1.ritual.txt, 15
Dec. 1996.

Roy, R. Thirteen Questions. Online. Necromnami Net. Available HTTP:
http://www.necronami.com/d/paganism-celtic/13Questions.txt, 30 Nov. 1996.

The Ancient Art. Online. Necronami Net. Available HTTP:
http://www.necronami.com/d/paganism-celtic/craft.intro.txt, 30 Nov. 1996.

The Sabbats. Online, Teleplex Communications, Inc. Available HTTP:
http://www.teleplex.net/SCNPA/sabbat.html, 8 Dec. 1996.


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