View Full Version : What Paganism is. (by Tvhawk)

October 22nd, 2003, 04:55 PM
Let me just start off with saying that I am Pagan. I do not follow any certain path. I guess you could call me eclectic.

The definition of the term ‘Pagan’ is defined by many English dictionaries in two ways. One being: “any religion that is not Christian” and a more refined definition is; “any polytheistic or pantheistic belief or religion; as in or pertaining to the belief in more than one god and or the worship of many aspects in god form of one god.” These definitions may be true to many people, but I do not believe that either is quite correct for me. The term Pagan, to me, is just a term that should be associated with all ‘earth-based’ religions. By earth-based I mean that the religion recognizes and tries to work with the earth by recycling and buying earth friendly products and actively attempting to recognize and protect each and every living creature, whether it be big or small.

Now, let’s move on to the term: religion. Dictionary.com’s definition of religion is ‘Belief in and reverence for a supernatural power or powers regarded as creator and governor of the universe.’ Which I feel covers it nicely.

As for some general beliefs of pagans, many pagans do in fact practice the art of witchcraft (also known as spell craft), but if you really think about it, so do Christians and everybody else that has even prayed, even once. All witchcraft is, is the art of using your mind to project an image of something you want to happen out into the world and by doing this your mind sets the conditions to allow you to do this image that you have projected. By no means will you float in the air, fly on broomsticks, nor have beams of light shoot forth from your eyes. You must work along side the energy you sent forth into the cosmos by actively seeking for the image to happen. Take for instance, you want a book real bad and you pray to ‘god’ (I use this term as many people associate with the term god more than any other word) for you to get this book. The book will not just land in your lap in five minutes. You must work with the energy. In order for you to get the book you will need to get the money and if you sit around, you will not get the money needed to get the book. You need a job in order to make money in order to have enough money to buy the book you want. The payer will just allow you to reinforce your goals that you have and help to set the conditions that you will need to get the thing you want. So, you see prayer is in fact a form of spell work (prayer with props).

As the term ‘witchcraft’ has gotten a bad connotation from years past, let me clear a few things up. Bad connotations usually come from three places. One is that they come from people that have done some stuff that was ‘out of the norm’ and therefore the people around got scared of the unknown because it was ‘not the norm’ and as that is a human trait they started to over exaggerate and persecute the people doing the ‘unknown’. This however is not always the case when it comes to the bad connotations though. Some of the stories have actually occurred, but most people will not zoom in on the good stuff, they will only zoom in on the stuff they do not like and remember that the most. Yes, some pagans do sacrifice animals, and humans for that matter. In the old days, animals were in fact sacrificed, but it wasn’t just for the heck of it. The animals were either sacrificed as a belief that it would bring a good harvest or it would cure a disease that was running a muck, or to save the herd of whatever animal that was being herded at the time. There is also another type of sacrifice. This type of sacrifice does not involve bloodshed or anything of the sort. This type of sacrifice is just a symbolic use of something that signifies that something is to change. (I.e. sacrificing a bad habit of smoking so that your health can return to you). This does not mean that every pagan does so though, but if you really think about it though, do we all not have to sacrifice at least one animal or plant each day so that we can eat and survive? There is a saying. It goes like this: ‘An ye harm none, do as thou wilt’ or a variation is ‘an it harm none, do what ye will’. This saying is widespread in the pagan traditions and is also widely known as the Wiccan Rede. This is a saying that is widely accepted and used by most pagans and therefore they believe that it is wrong to harm any living thing (including plants as they are living creatures too). There is, however, a stipulation to this rede, as most pagans believe that it is ok to harm as long as it is in self-defense. There is still another stipulation to the rede and that is that most pagans believe that it is ok to harm a plant and use parts of it as long as they ask permission of the plant first and get the permission through it ‘feeling’ right when you go to take that part of the plant, but some feel that you also need an offering of some kind afterward to give thanks to the plant (usually in the form of: watering the plant, leaving a bowl of milk, leaving some bread, etc.) as everything around us has its own spirit (or in other words, essence of being).

Magic is slight of hand. As for the use of the term ‘magick’, this term is used rather than the term ‘magic’ by most pagans as to distinguish the slight of hand, showy style from the actual practice of magick in every day life. The use of the ‘k’ at the end of magick differentiates the two.

The above got some of the general misconceptions out of the way. Now it is time for some of the things that pagans do, but also, please keep in mind that not all pagans do this.

Many pagans perform rituals and spells. The rituals usually involve casting a circle (which is no more than the setting up of sacred space that is just for the person(s) involved in the ritual) and then after the circle has been cast there is usually something done that is symbolic to the purpose of the ritual and then the circle is brought down, but never broken and everyone leaves with the intent of the ritual still in mind.

There are common tools that are used by many pagans in ritual. These tools are the athame, boline, wand, bell, chalice, bowl, sea salt, censure (with incense), and candles. Along with these tools are also the staff, sword and there are also as many different tools as there are practitioners. Most if not all of these tools are usually commonly located on any practitioners Altar in or out of ritual. Each tool usually holds a special meaning to the practitioner and only the practitioner could tell you what exactly the special meaning of his/her tools are.

The altar is a sacred space that is used as a focal point in ceremony or out and can also be used as a space to dedicate to deity. The altar also can be created as a devotion to who you are and what you believe in by putting personal items on it, this also helps when you dedicate it to a deity as well as it sets a tone of who you are and why you would devote yourself to the deity that you do.

The athame (pronounced ah-tham-ey) is a knife that traditionally has a black handle that is used for cutting the air and the air only as to cut anything else would be disrespectful, but to some there are instances that you could use this knife for other purposes. Take the kitchen witch for example. The kitchen witch will say that it is a good idea to use the athame in everyday things as it helps add your love and energy into everything you do. This is not to say that a kitchen witch is the only tradition that will say this, as I am sure there are others as well.

The Boline (pronounced bo-leen) is traditionally a white handled knife that has a curve in the shape of a C with the handle on the bottom. This knife is used mostly for the cutting of herbs in ritual.

The wand’s traditional shape and style vary so greatly that it is hard to describe a main traditional outtake on it. It is my understanding that the wand is about 18 inches or the length from the tip of your middle finger to the inside of your elbow. It is usually made of wood and sometimes has a crystal or stone attached to the end of it. It can also have etchings on it or other decorations on it. This item is used mainly as a focus point. You use it to direct the energies to where you want them.

The bell’s traditional usage all depends on the user as some say it invites certain entities while others say that it dispels curious entities that are attracted to the energy you raise. I personally believe that it all depends on the situation and your intent and also on the frequency that the bell rings at.

The chalice also has many different shapes, colors and textures to it. It all depends on the user preferences as to what it looks like. This tool is used to symbolically drink in ritual. For many it is usually whine that is drunk, but for others if can be juice or anything else that feels appropriate.

The bowl traditionally varies as well and depends on the practitioner. The bowl can be used as an offering bowl or as a water bowl.

The sea salt is traditionally used to cleanse and to represent earth on the altar. To use it to cleanse you just ad a pinch to a bowl of water and put the item to be cleansed in the water till you feel the item has been cleansed enough and then you take the item out and dry it off.

The censure is traditionally used to burn your incenses on and usually varies in shape, color and design. This item introduces air into the ritual/altar (with the accompanying incenses of coarse). Some are long and flat to hold stick incense or a bottle tall enough with a key ring on top to hold the stick incense while others are flat and round to hold cone incense. There are also others that are bowls with sand in them which can hold any type of incense and also can hold a piece of charcoal that you heat up and can drop little bits of herbs on it to let burn which acts as an incense.

The candles are there to represent fire and can be used by placing your intent on it and the energy is sent off into the cosmos as you let it burn. Candles can also be used on their own, as they represent all 4 elements and the spirit.

Both the staff and the sword can be used the same way that the athame is used.

The use of herbs in or out of ritual depends on the herbs used. A lot of the time they are there to be used to help in a healing process or to represent something to the practitioner that uses them.

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Copyright © 2003 Brian ‘Tvhawk’ Hochstein
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