Clarifying Paganism from a Wiccan Perspective

Introduction: What is Paganism?

Paganism is a religious movement that has been around for a long time. It is not an organized religion and there are many different interpretations of what it means to be pagan.

Paganism is not the same as witchcraft, though they do have some similarities.

It’s difficult to know how many people are pagan because there is no set definition of what that means, but the latest surveys dating back to 2008 by Pew Research show that around 340,000 people self-identify as Pagan or Wiccan.

Paganism is a religion that encompasses many different beliefs and practices. The word “pagan” comes from the Latin word “paganus,” which means “country dweller.”

Historically, the term paganism was used to describe any non-Christian religion, and it implied a belief in a false deity. Members of diverse creative organizations influenced by the ancient world coined the term paganism as a self-descriptor in the nineteenth century.

There are many types of Paganism.

Followers of Modern Paganism, Neopagan groups, and Polytheists used it as a self-descriptor in the twentieth century. Modern pagans sometimes include religious views that diverge from those of the world’s major religions, such as nature worship.

The pagan belief system is polytheistic, meaning that they believe in many gods. We also believe that there are multiple layers of existence and all of them are inhabited by gods.

Paganism’s History

The history of paganism is quite old, as it was practiced before Christianity became the dominant religion in Europe. It was practiced by people who lived in rural areas, and they believed that the gods were present all around them.

Many don’t know that Early Christianity emerged as one of the numerous monotheistic cults. It was at this time that the idea of paganism first emerged. As Christianity arose from Second Temple Judaism and Hellenistic Judaism, it faced up against various pagan monotheistic faiths such as Dionysiac cults.

Even Jesus as a traveling rabbi turning into the figure of a divine messiah clearly echoes the worship of Dionysus. See, for example, this 2006 article published in Hermathena.

The Renaissance had a resurgence of Greco-Roman magic, reigniting the interest in pagan practices. The study of traditional religions sparked questions about the origin of religion. Religions started to be interpreted as part of ethnic identities. 

Rather than being a belief system, people of that time saw Celts or Germanic polytheists as having a “pagan identity” from birth. It wasn’t something you could become or shed off. This “savage” identity was an excuse for much violence against these people and lingers to the modern day.

As Paganism evolved into the 19th century, a much more sophisticated and nuanced understanding came with it. It branched into many forms depending on which ancient religion served as the base model: Celtic druids, Wicca, Germanic, Hellenistic, and more.

That leads us to the next section: what exactly are the beliefs of a Pagan?

Pagan Beliefs & Worship

Paganism is not a single religion, but a group of religions with similar beliefs or practices. The world’s major pagan traditions include Celtic Paganism, Norse Paganism, Germanic Paganism, Slavic Paganism, Hellenic Paganism, Hinduism, and Buddhism.

Some polytheistic reconstructionisms, such as Hellenism, and revivalist neopagans, such as Wiccans, frequently have a division or divide.

The disagreement is on a variety of topics, including the need for strict tradition and worship based on ancient texts, the usage and idea of magic, which calendar to use and which holidays to celebrate, and the use of the name pagan itself.

Many of the revivals, particularly Wicca and Neo-Druidism, have origins in 19th-century Romanticism and maintain visible components of occultism or Theosophy that were popular at the time, distinguishing them from ancient rural (paganus) folk religion.

Most modern pagans, on the other hand, believe in the divine nature of nature, and paganism is sometimes referred to as an Earth religion.

Is there a Pagan Bible?

There is no such thing as a “Pagan Bible” because there is no one universal set of beliefs for Pagans.

We can’t say that there is a single Pagan Bible because, in the end, there are many Pagan paths and each one has its own set of beliefs. There are some books that can be considered the “Bible” for Pagans but they are not universal.

The “Bible” for Wiccans will not be the same as for Christians, Witches, or Druids. There are many books that can serve as excellent resources and teachers, but there will never be one source text that appeals to every Pagan.

3 Reasons to Choose Paganism as a Wiccan

Wiccans believe in the power of nature, and we feel that we are a part of it. We also believe in the power of the earth and moon to affect our lives.

Paganism is one of the oldest religions in the world, and it has been practiced for centuries. This religion is based on ancient traditions that have been passed down from generation to generation.

Choosing to label ourselves as Pagan sets us up as direct descendants of a long history of tradition, belief, and oppression.

1. No God Rules

Wiccans can be atheists, monotheists, pantheists, atheists, or any other combination.

This is what makes us different from other religions. We don’t need to worship any god or goddesses; we can simply revere nature’s gifts. Or, we could follow more traditional Mother Goddess invocations. For a primer on Aradia, see this article.

Some people may argue that this can only lead to confusion and disorder but then again, maybe they aren’t thinking about it very hard.

Wiccans have been using the word ‘god’ since the 13th century but many other terms like Goddess, Mother Earth, Great Spirit, etc. were used interchangeably. There are no real rules or guidelines on how to conduct rituals.

This fits perfectly in with the traditions of Paganism.

2. Nature Is Our Church

The majority of our rites and ceremonies revolve around the natural world, which is what a lot of pagans consider sacred. For example, the yew tree has been associated with Wicca since the early days and still remains today. Many Wiccans use herbs, crystals, rocks, trees, animals, and even stones to perform their rituals.

As we saw in the history section, this goes perfectly with the earliest forms of Paganism.

3. Real-World Magic

We live in a magical universe where everything is possible. That is why magic exists. Many Wiccans consider magick to be a way to harness energy and channel it into something positive.

Paganism is a broad term that encompasses many different religions. It includes Wicca, Druidry, Shamanism, and many other traditions.

Witchcraft is the practice of casting spells and performing rituals to gain power over natural forces or the spiritual world.

This is why Wiccans shouldn’t be afraid to identify as Pagan because we are already practicing paganism.

If you’re looking for a deeper dive into Paganism, check out Joyce and River Higginbotham’s amazing guide by clicking here:

history of paganism
clarifying paganism from a wiccan perspective