What is a pagan?

There seems to be this idea out there that people who live a pagan lifestyle have to be wizards and witches in funny hats and fly around on brooms and dance around the fire in the moonlight. Okay, yes, for some pagans, that is exactly what they do. For me and others of a more quiet pagan path, we try to live it everyday in some form or another.

In some Wiccan traditions, you would only practice your craft during full moons and the solars festivals but you don’t have to wait. Pagans aren’t set to a dogma that makes them attend church one day a week or pray every morning at sunrise and sunset. Pagans actually have there freedom to follow their own path. There’s no big secret to taking your pagan practice into an everyday life, it’s really up to you and how you want to practice.

There is only one rules to pagan practice and it’s that there are no rules. So then, what do I mean when I say pagan practice if there is no rules to it? To practice your pagan path is to make a conscious acknowledgement that you want to have a deeper connection with nature and the world around you. The word “pagan” comes from the Latin word “paganus”, meaning from the countryside or of the land. It was brought back into use around the renaissance age to describe a people who do not follow Christ. In a sense it became the common term to describe people who work with the land and spirits of the earth in their daily life. In our more open minded and modern age, we use it to label people have returned to following the ways of our ancient ancestors in regards to nature worship.

What exactly does a modern pagan do? Quite simply, we follow the changes of the seasons or the phases of the moon and seek guidance from the spirits who preside over those changes to help us in our journey. For some, they seek changes using witchcraft means and others use shamanic techniques to seek guidance. Others simply following the solar festivals to help guide them through life by using the lessons of the changing seasons. I, of course, am making it overly simple but I will go into more details about these at a later date, this is really just an intro for new people on the pagan path.

There are a great number of different pagan paths you can walk with their own set traditions, some of the more popular are: Druid, Wiccan, and Heathen. These are all European in origin and for those of us living most of our lives in North America, it’s hard to understand how these paths even relate to us. However, if you start to follow the Wheel of the Year and you live in an area with the four seasons, then you can see how they can work in North America. However, if you live in an area that is basically warm all year, it makes it harder. I do not have this experience since I live in a four seasons area of Canada. The Okanagan has a similar climate to many places in Europe and as such, I am able to follow the Wheel of the Year.

I am not part of any single pagan path, I have a mixture of pagan practices. In my coven, we pull from Wiccan, Druid, and Heathen for our influences. I would call us eclectic pagans and we practice a form of hedgewitchery.

If you are looking to start walking a pagan path, my very first suggestion for you would be to pick up a notebook and start recording your thoughts, feelings, and observations about nature. Some pagans call their notebooks their Book of Shadows or their Grimoire. This is the place where they keep all their spell work, their dream records, and any of their experiences with their pagan path. I have had many different Books of Shadows since I started my pagan path 19 years ago. The one I currently use is one that I made myself and it’s very me. I will do a future post about my Book of Shadows so that you can see it and how I work with it.

There is a certain amount of personal study involved in being pagan as it’s a very self exploration path as well as observational about your natural world.

Blessed Be~

Priestess Spiritsong Dreamweaver

6 thoughts on “What is a pagan?

  1. I myself have an impossible time using the word pagan because of, like you mentioned, its original intent to other, slur, and vilify -but I always love seeing posts like this explaining why one would identify themselves as such. The hardest part for me is that the myriad of religions & beliefs described by the term have almost nothing in common other than being non-abrahamic. This was a great & thoughtful read, thank you for sharing! 🌱

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    1. Thank you for sharing your thoughts with me about this article. I have had some mixed reviews on it but overall, it really comes down to my point of view on it. I have never seen the term pagan as an insult, I find it interesting that you have. I grew up in a religion free home with no ties to any belief structure. I came to paganism naturally on my own.

      As for the Abrahamic religions, I actually see them as off shoots of the Mesopotamian beliefs, which of course were pagan. When you get down to the very core of all beliefs in Western civilisation, you start to see that they are not so different and that it’s the dogma that sets them apart.

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      1. While I also was raised sans religion, It’s hard for me to separate my life as a Hellenic polytheist from my life as a religious studies major and hopeful future doctorate & professor of religious studies. Knowing that the word pagan, while being from a Latin etymology, was coined by Christians to use as a slur, it makes it hard for me to separate it from any other.

        And as a religious studies major, I personally disagree with that last point about Abrahamic religions, but I also know that both my practice and I tend towards being unnecessarily pedantic. That’s why I loved and appreciated this blog and thank you for sharing it! It’s important for me to understand & learn the many different schools of thought out there, so I very much appreciate learning your perspective 🙂

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  2. I think this is a pretty good introduction for someone wanting an easy-to-grasp explanation of Paganism. I think one other good point for a new person on the path would be to do a lot of reading, and take no single description or explanation of anything as absolute truth. We all have our interpretations, few could be labeled as outright wrong. Certain traditions will be adamant about certain things, but in the end, I personally believe that Paganism is about following your heart and being true to yourself and your connection to the divine, not following anyone else’s rules.

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    1. Yes! I fully agree with you. I have been thinking about making a recommended reading list. Do you have any suggestions for books you would recommend to others?

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      1. I’m so out of touch with what books are out there now, I can’t be of much help. I studied Cunningham and RavenWolf and the other big names when I started out, but that was a long time ago (late 90’s), and eventually I moved away from Wicca and went another way. Honestly, there are a lot of good blog out there these days. You can search for certain topics and read a lot, then decide if there are books you want to buy, based on what resonates with you.

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