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Paganism

What is Paganism?

The Basics

Pagans may be trained in particular traditions or they may follow their own inspiration. Paganism is not dogmatic. Pagans pursue their own vision of the Divine as a direct and personal experience.

The Pagan Federation recognizes the rich diversity of traditions that form the body of modern Paganism. In a brief introductory booklet, it is not possible to describe each and every one. Rather than attempt this, the pages in this section – links are on the left hand side of this page contain an introduction to six examples of major Pagan traditions.

This is not an exhaustive list, but these six traditions provide a good overview of modern Pagan practice. A suggested reading list is also available.

Some authors see the emergence of Paganism in the twentieth century as a revival of an older Pagan religion and describe all the above traditions as Neo-Pagan.

This term is also used to describe all those who are recognisably Pagan, but who do not adhere to any of the above traditions per se.

A definition of a Pagan: A follower of a polytheistic or pantheistic nature-worshipping religion.

A definition of Paganism: A polytheistic or pantheistic nature-worshipping religion.

What Paganism Is

Paganism is the ancestral religion of the whole of humanity. This ancient religious outlook remains active throughout much of the world today, both in complex civilisations such as Japan and India, and in less complex tribal societies world-wide. It was the outlook of the European religions of classical antiquity – Persia, Egypt, Greece and Rome – as well as of their “barbarian” neighbours on the northern fringes, and its European form is re-emerging into explicit awareness in the modern West as the articulation of urgent contemporary religious priorities.

The Pagan outlook can be seen as threefold. Its adherents venerate Nature and worship many deities, both goddesses and gods.

Nature – Veneration

The spirit of place is recognised in Pagan religion, whether as a personified natural feature such as a mountain, lake or spring, or as a fully articulated guardian divinity such as, for example, Athena, the goddess of Athens. The cycle of the natural year, with the different emphasis brought by its different seasons, is seen by most Pagans as a model of spiritual growth and renewal, and as a sequence marked by festivals which offer access to different divinities according to their affinity with different times of year. Many Pagans see the Earth itself as sacred: in ancient Greece the Earth was always offered the first libation of wine, although She had no priesthood and no temple.

Polytheism: Pluralism and Diversity

The many deities of Paganism are a recognition of the diversity of Nature. Some Pagans see the goddesses and gods as a community of individuals much like the diverse human community in this world. Others, such as followers of Isis and Osiris from ancient times onwards, and Wiccan-based Pagans in the modern world, see all the goddesses as one Great Goddess, and all the gods as one Great God, whose harmonious interaction is the secret of the universe. Yet others think there is a supreme divine principle, that “both wants and does not want to be called Zeus”, as Heraclitus wrote in the fifth century BC. Or which the Great Goddess Mother of All Things, as Isis, was to the first century CE novelist Apuleius and the Great Goddess is to many Western Pagans nowadays. Yet others, such as the Emperor Julian, the great restorer of Paganism in Christian antiquity, and many Hindu mystics nowadays, believe in an abstract Supreme Principle, the origin and source of all things. But even these last Pagans recognise that other spiritual beings, although perhaps one in essence with a greater being, are themselves divine, and are not false or partial divinities. Pagans who worship the One are described as henotheists, believers in a supreme divine principle, rather than monotheists, believers in one true deity beside which all other deities are false.

The Goddess

Pagan religions all recognise the feminine face of divinity. A religion without goddesses can hardly be classified as Pagan. Some Pagan paths, such as the cult of Odin or of Mithras, offer exclusive allegiance to one male god. But they do not deny the reality of other gods and goddesses, as monotheists do. (The word ‘cult’ has always meant the specialised veneration of one particular deity or pantheon, and has only recently been extended to mean the worship of a deified or semi-divine human leader.) By contrast, non-Pagan religions, such as Judaism, Christianity and Islam, often but not always, abhor the very idea of female divinity. The (then) Anglican Bishop of London even said a few years ago that religions with goddesses were ‘degenerate’!

Other Characteristics

The many divinities of Pagan religion often include ancestral deities. The Anglo-Saxon royal houses of England traced their ancestry back to a god, usually Woden, and the Celtic kings of Cumbria traced their descent from the god Beli and the goddess Anna. Local and national heroes and heroines may be deified, as was Julius Caesar, and in all Pagan societies the deities of the household are venerated. These may include revered ancestors and, for a while, the newly dead, who may of may not choose to leave the world of the living for good. They may include local spirits of place, either as personified individuals such as the spirit of a spring or the house’s guardian toad or snake, or as group spirits such as Elves in England, the Little People in Ireland, Kobolds in Germany, Barstuccae in Lithuania, Lares and Penates in ancient Rome, and so on. A household shrine focuses the cult of these deities, and there is usually an annual ritual to honour them. The spirit of the hearth is often venerated, sometimes with a daily offering of food and drink, sometimes with an annual ritual of extinguishing and relighting the fire. Through ancestral and domestic ritual a spirit of continuity is preserved, and by the transmission of characteristics and purposes from the past, the future is assured of meaning.

So, not all Pagan religion is public religion; much is domestic. And not all Pagan deities are humanoid super-persons; many are elemental or collective. We are looking at a religion which pervades the whole of everyday life.

One consequence of the veneration of Nature, the outlook which sees Nature as a manifestation of divinity rather than as a neutral or inanimate object, is that divination and magic are accepted parts of life. Augury, divination by interpreting the flight of birds, was widespread in the ancient world and is in modern Pagan societies, as is extispicy, divination by reading the entrails of the sacrificed animal, itself a larger scale version of divination by reading the tea-leaves left in a teacup. As well as reading the signs already given by deities, diviners may also actively ask the universe to send a sign, e.g., by casting stones to read the geomantic patterns into which they fall, by casting runes or the yarrow stalks of the I Ching. Pagans usually believe that the divine world will answer a genuine request for information. Trance seership and mediumship are also used to communicate with the Otherworld.

Magic, the deliberate production of results in this world by Otherworld means, is generally accepted as a feasible activity in Pagan societies, since the two worlds are thought to be in constant communication. In ancient Rome a new bride would ceremonially anoint the doorposts of her new home with wolf’s fat to keep famine from the household, and her new-born child would be given a consecrated amulet to wear as a protection against harmful spirits. The Norse warriors of the Viking age would cast the magical ‘war fetter’ upon their enemies to paralyse them, and Anglo-Saxon manuscripts record spells to bring healing and fertility. Specialist magical technologists such as horse-whisperers and healers are common throughout Pagan societies, but often the practice of magic for unfair personal gain or for harm to another is forbidden, exactly as physical extortion and assault are forbidden everywhere.

Modern Paganism

With its respect for plurality, the refusal to judge other ways of life as wrong simply because they are different from one’s own, with its veneration of a natural (and supernatural) world from which Westerners in the age of technology have become increasingly isolated, and with its respect for women and the feminine principle as embodied in the many goddesses of the various pantheons, Paganism has much to offer people of European background today. Hence it is being taken up by them in large numbers. When they realise that it is in fact their ancestral heritage, its attraction grows.

Democracy, for example, was pioneered by the ancient Athenians and much later reinvented by the Pagan colonisers of Iceland, home of Europe’s oldest parliament. Our modern love of the arts was fostered in Pagan antiquity, with its pageants and its temples, but had no place in iconoclastic Christianity and Islam. The development of science as we know it began in the desire of the Greeks and Babylonians to understand the hidden patterns of Nature, and the cultivation of humane urbanity, the ideal of the well-rounded, cultured personality, was imported by Renaissance thinkers from the writings of Cicero. In the Pagan cities of the Mediterranean lands the countryside was never far from people’s awareness, with parks, gardens and even zoos, all re-introduced into modern Europe, not by the religions of the Book, and not by utilitarian atheists, but by the Classically-inspired planners of the Enlightenment.

In the present day, the Pagan tradition manifests both as communities reclaiming their ancient sites and ceremonies (especially in Eastern Europe), to put humankind back in harmony with the Earth, and as individuals pursuing a personal spiritual path alone or in a small group (especially in Western Europe and the European-settled countries abroad), under the tutelage of one of the Pagan divinities. To most modern Pagans in the West, the whole of life is to be affirmed joyfully and without shame, as long as other people are not harmed by one’s own tastes. Modern Pagans tend to be relaxed and at ease with themselves and others, and women in particular have a dignity which is not always found outside Pagan circles.

Modern Pagans, not tied down either by the customs of an established religion or by the dogmas of a revealed one, are often creative, playful and individualistic, affirming the importance of the individual psyche as it interfaces with a greater power. There is a respect for all of life and usually a desire to participate with rather than to dominate other beings. What playwright Eugene O’Neil called “the creative Pagan acceptance of life” is at the forefront of the modern movement. This is bringing something new to religious life and to social behaviour, a way of pluralism without fragmentation, of creativity without anarchy, of wisdom without dogma. Here is an age-old current surfacing in a new form suited to the needs of the present day.

Credit to The Pagan Federation

Baphomet

Often depicted as a winged man with a goat-head, this supernatural being has been associated with the Devil but this hasn't always been the case. Baphomet was a deity that the Knight Templars were said to have worshipped. Intimately associated with the Occult and Witchcraft, this pagan deity is believed to represent the sum of the entire universe and all its opposing forces.

THE KNIGHT TEMPLARS

The name Baphomet has been in use since at least the 1090s, when it was found in an early Crusader’s letter. Because of the Crussades, it is suspected that the term may have been connected with Islam, as chroniclers referred to mosques as Bafumarias. Legend has it that the name Baphometis a corruption of Mahomet, an alternate spelling of Muhammad, the prophet.

The knight templars, a medieval Catholic military order, were believed to worship Baphomet. When interrogated (and tortured) by the Inquisition, some members confessed to this. It’s unclear whether Baphomet actually had anything to do with the Templars’ activities, or this was a false accusation that the Church created in order to persecute the members for suspected heresy.

BAPHOMET AND SATAN

It was not until the 19th century when Baphomet was associated with its current image ("Sabbatic Goat"), thanks to an image drawn by Éliphas Lévi, a french occultist/magic practicioner. His original intention was not to associate it with Satan but to represent Baphomet as a deity that represents and harmonizes both opposities (Good and Bad, Male and Female...etc).

Original 19th century illustration of a Sabbatic Goat, created by Éliphas Lévi (

Dogme et Rituel de la Haute Magie

, 1856). The text on the arms have the Latin words SOLVE (dissolve) and COAGULA (join together).

It was in the 1960s when "the Sabbatic Goat" became deeply established as a "demoniac" figure when the Church of Satan adopted it as their official symbol by adding an inverted pentagram (the symbol of the Devil) to the figure. 

This new "image" of Baphomet was later added into their "Satanic Bible" (originally published in 1969 by Anton LaVey).

Nowadays, due to its association with Satanism, Baphomet is (wrongly) considered to be the symbol of Devil.


Wicca

Wicca, a predominantly Western movement whose followers practice witchcraft and nature worship and who see it as a religion based on pre-Christian traditions of northern and western Europe. It spread through England in the 1950s and subsequently attracted followers in Europe and the United States.

Origins And Beliefs

Although there were precursors to the movement, the origins of modern Wicca can be traced to a retired British civil servant, Gerald Brousseau Gardner (1884–1964). Gardner spent most of his career in Asia, where he became familiar with a variety of occult beliefs and magical practices. He also read widely in Western esoteric literature, including the writings of the British occultist Aleister Crowley. Returning to England shortly before the outbreak of World War II, Gardner became involved in the British occult community and founded a new movement based on a reverence of nature, the practice of magic, and the worship of a female deity (the Goddess) and numerous associated deities (such as the Horned God). He also borrowed liberally from Western witchcraft traditions. Following the 1951 repeal of England’s archaic Witchcraft Laws, Gardner published Witchcraft Today (1954), founded his first coven of followers, and, with input from its members, especially author Doreen Valiente, developed modern witchcraft into what today is known as Wicca. It spread quickly to the United States in the late 1960s, when an emphasis on nature, unconventional lifestyles, and a search for spirituality divorced from traditional religions were especially in vogue.

Covens, which ideally number 10 to 15 members and are entered through an initiation ritual, sometime align with one of many coven associations. As coven members master the practice of magic and become familiar with the rituals, they pass through two degrees of initiation. There is a third degree for those who wish to enter the priesthood. In Gardner’s system priority is given to the priestess, and leaders in the Gardnerian community trace their authority through a lineage of priestesses back to Gardner’s coven.

Despite variation within the Wiccan community, most believers share a general set of beliefs and practices. They believe in the Goddess, respect nature, and hold both polytheistic and pantheistic views. Most Wiccans accept the so-called Wiccan Rede, an ethical code that states “If it harm none, do what you will.” Wiccans believe in meditation and participate in rituals throughout the year, celebrating the new and full moon, as well as the vernal equinox, summer solstice, and Halloween, which they call Samhain. Wiccan rites include invoking the aid of the deities, practicing ceremonial magic, and sharing a ritual meal.

By the 1980s there were an estimated 50,000 Wiccans in western Europe and North America. Although the growth rate slowed by the end of the decade, Wicca gained increasing social acceptance and diversified to include numerous variations on Gardner’s original teachings and rituals. Moreover, new Wiccan groups emerged independent of the Gardnerians, including one led by Alexander Sanders (1926–1988), the Dianic Wiccans who saw Wicca as a woman’s religion, and the parallel Neo-Pagan movement, which also worshipped the Goddess and practiced witchcraft but eschewed the designation witch. A major controversy developed in the United States in the 1960s and 1970s, when a faction of Wiccans broke with Gardner’s notion that clothes inhibited magical workings and chose not to follow his practice of worshipping in the nude. Instead they donned ritual robes, claiming pre-Gardnerian sources for their beliefs, and called themselves Traditionalists.

As Wicca and Neo-Paganism moved into their second generation, belief faded in the notion that Gardner had inherited a set of witchcraft rituals and practices that had been passed on through a tradition with unbroken ties to pre-Christian paganism. Although many Wiccans once cited the work of Margaret Murray, including The Witch-Cult in Western Europe (1921) and her article “Witchcraft” published in the 14th edition of the Encyclopædia Britannica (1929), in support of their belief in the ancient origins of their religion, they now generally recognize that Wicca began with Gardner and his associates.

As the 21st century began, Wiccans and Neo-Pagans were found throughout the English-speaking world and across northern and western Europe. Estimates of adherents ranged dramatically, with the number of Wiccans in the United States believed to be between 100,000 and more than 1.5 million. The Pagan Federation, an international fellowship, serves the larger Wiccan/Neo-Pagan community.

The Coven's Belief

At The Coven we get asked many a times '' What is Paganism, what do you believe in? what does it represent''?

And honestly, for us, we do not & will not put a singular  ''definition'' of Paganism out there to anyone who may approach us.

We believe, as Pagans ourselves, that no two Pagan paths are the same.

We are all on our own journey's.

We wholeheartedly believe in the power of belief, the power of the universe,  power of positivity, the powers that lay within us & the connection that our souls have with nature and the universe that surrounds us.

Paganism is defined as a ''religion'' other than one of the main world religions, specifically a non-Christian or pre-Christian religion.

A modern culture of belief or practices from outside the main world religions, especially nature worship.

modern paganism includes a respect for mother earth.

We at The Coven stand by a ''Live & Let live'' theory..

We do not discriminate, we do not pass judgement. 

And as long as no harm be done, no laws be broken, we believe, that all human beings should be allowed to live in a way in which makes them happy, not in a way that conforms to society

We therefore end this with just a few simple words.

Keep smiling, stay positive, dream big ( always ) & follow your heart.






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