6 Things You Should Know About Modern Paganism

modern paganism

Did you know that modern paganism is the fastest-growing religion in the US today with more than 1 million practitioners? The recent boom is no surprise.

In an unstable and chaotic world, paganism offers some hope that things have some greater meaning. In addition, despite being the oldest religion in the world, paganism is an evolving religion without the stifling views of traditional Christianity. 

But, to the newcomer, the word “paganism” can be offputting. Maybe it evokes images of wicked witches or ritual sacrifice. To dispel some of the misconceptions and offer an overview grounded in fact, we compiled this list of things you should know about the modern paganism religion. 

Read on to learn more! 

1. It’s the Oldest Religion in the World

In the early 5th century, Christianity began to take hold. No longer were they the persecuted and ridiculed outsiders. Now, they represented the official state religion of the Roman Empire! 

And now, those who didn’t follow the new religion were the outsiders. These stubborn polytheists were then referred to as “pagans,” after the Latin “paganus.” The word means “country dweller.” 

Although it was intended to be a slur, the name stuck. The term “paganism” was, therefore, a new word for a very old religion. 

2. It’s Fluid and Interpretive

From the origins of the word “paganism,” you can see that there’s no clear doctrine of beliefs. It was simply a word to describe people who are not Christian. Similarly, modern paganism isn’t one singular religion. 

Instead, it’s a term that encompasses many different religions and beliefs that take root in pre-modern beliefs.

So, someone might use the term “paganism” to describe their return to believing in the Greek pantheon. Someone else might use the term to describe their return to the Druidry of their Irish ancestors. Yet another pagan might be following the spiritual beliefs of their native American ancestors. 

In all cases, the word just refers to the resurrection and modernization of pre-modern beliefs. 

3. It’s a Legacy 

For many modern paganists, paganism reflects a way to reconnect with their roots. As Christianity spread, it overwhelmed local religions. Through colonization, the rich, traditional religions of many cultures were overruled by the monotheistic religion. 

Although some held onto their traditional religion, much was lost. Paganism offers a way to find what is lost and return to the ancestral ways. Many new paganists describe it as a form of decolonization and returning to their ancestral power. 

4. Pagans Are Not (Necessarily) Witches

Paganism can often be confused with witchcraft. While some pagans are modern witches, to treat “paganism” and “witchcraft” as synonyms is simplistic. 

Modern witches are most often Wiccans and Wicca is a pagan religion. In other words, all witches are pagans but not all pagans are witches.

Modern Wicca originated in 1954 with the publication of a book called Witchcraft Today by Gerald Brousseau. His book called on the pre-Christian traditions of nature, magic, and the worship of a central goddess and a few other deities. 

The word Wicca in Old English meant “male sorcerer” and is the origin of the word “witch.” Due to the negative connotations that followed witches and witchcraft over the years, Wiccans can get a bad rap as Satan worshippers and black magic workers.

However, this is a misconception. Wicca is based on harmless pre-Christian beliefs and rituals, it just happens to include ceremonial magic.

5. Paganism Is About Ritual

It can be said that the monotheistic Judeo-Christian world revolves around a central God and biblical authority. There’s a concrete, textual source for their beliefs. 

Almost all modern paganism centers around ritual and communion with nature. There are many specific pagan religions, but all of them focus on expressing the inner self, connecting with nature, and forming a community. This is used as a way to connect to the relevant deities. 

Modern pagan rituals most often include drumming, incense, and dancing. They often also include symbols of the four elements, including ceremonial fires. 

Because most pagan religions are the religions of farmers and country-dwellers, they often center around farming life. They are cyclical in nature, honoring cycles of the moon, the harvest, birth, death, and maturation. 

Scholars agree most rituals are conducted in three phases

  1. Setting the stage – cleansing the area and preparing it for the ceremony
  2. The Ritual – dance, meditation, music, and sacred traditions to honor the gods
  3. Closing the stage – the dismissal of spirits called, a celebration with other participants

Every religion has its own specific ceremonies, but this formula remains consistent. 

 6. It’s Inclusive and Always Evolving 

Although paganism has its roots deep in human history, it remains a constantly evolving religion. This is part of what makes it an appealing option to newer generations.

Due to its strict adherence to religious texts, the Judeo-Christian world can get stuck in tradition. We see this in modern debates about the morality of gay marriage and equality for women. That’s not to say that these religions are inherently bad, just that they can get stuck in the rigidity of their books. 

Paganism lacks a central text and therefore lacks these same restrictive beliefs. Many modern paganists cite this as one of the reasons that the religion just “feels right.” It evolves to fit the individual rather than forcing the individual to conform to the scripture. 

Modern paganism religious beliefs are therefore very welcoming for members of the LGBT+ community and boast a diverse and loving group of followers.

Modern Paganism Demystified 

The term modern paganism is subject to a lot of misconceptions, and it’s easy to see why. It is a broad term encompassing lots of different religions, traditions, and people. Hopefully, this article helped demystify that world for you and open your eyes to the diverse and constantly evolving world of paganism.

For more information about paganism, you can check out the resources on our blog. And, if you’re looking for a sign from the divine, you can stop in for a live tarot reading! Our psychics are already expecting you. 

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