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 Copyright 2018- Ohio Valley Pagan Society-All Rights Reserved.

Ohio Valley Pagan Society 501(c)3

What is Paganism?

This page is for frequently asked questions about paganism and witchcraft. It is meant to help educate the truth about popular myths and stereotypes associated with paganism. Whether you're wanting to learn more about paganism and witchcraft or thinking about becoming pagan, these are some basic topics that are common facts you should know. We are here to educate not to recruit or force our beliefs on others.

 

Pagan is defined in the dictionary as “any religion other than Judeo Christian, Muslim or Jew." The mainstream, popular opinion of the word ‘Pagan’ as it is used today is “Any polytheistic religion and culture that derives from pre-Christian reign.”  The word was originally used as a derogatory term by early Christians for those who didn't follow Christ. Before Christianity, there were not really any words for religion or spirituality. It was just a way of life and part of a culture. So in the modern era the word was transformed to a positive term by those who didn't follow the mainstream religions. 

Paganism encompasses many forms of ideals and cultures. Polytheism, which is a big part of Paganism, is the belief of having several gods. For example, some of these cultures we follow are Egyptian, Celtic, Norse and Greek, just to name a few. Each has its own set or pantheon of gods and traditions.

We do not “worship” our gods but honor them. The word “worship” implies to bow down and give something power over you.  We do not view our gods in the same manner as Christians or Muslims would. We do not live in fear of our gods. Instead, we honor our gods and see them more as role models, guides and how we should inspire to be like. We may ask them for help or guidance, but it is only after we have done all we can on our own. At times we feel they may bless or curse us depending on our own deeds and actions. Our gods recognize us by our deeds and how we decide to develop a personal relationship with them. Some of us may even feel drawn to one specific deity and put most of our focus on them. 

Paganism is a very personal religion. There is no core set of rules as with the bible. Although, we may use the mythology of the culture that we follow to learn how to live a better life or act as guidelines for ethics. In the end it as all about your own personal relationship with the gods and/ or your ancestors.  

It should be noted, While magick and witchcraft is a big part of paganism not all pagans practice magick and spells nor do all identify as witches. A lot of pagans follow the more cultural aspect of their ancestors and the honoring there of.

What is Witchcraft, Magick & Spells?
 

Witchcraft and Magick are basically the same thing with the same meaning, it just depends on which culture, tradition or set of ideals you follow. Those that identify as a ‘Witch’ would be more often to use the term “witchcraft” but not all who practice magick identify as witches. This is because there are many different traditions in the field of magick. However, for the remainder of this article we will just be using the word Magick as it is able to encompass a wider variety of ideals.  

 

The term “Magick” was officially defined by the late, famous occultist Aleister Crowley as

  "the Science and Art of causing Change to occur in conformity with Will", including both "mundane" acts of will as well as ritual magic.”

He is the one who also started adding the ‘K’ at the end, which was its original Greek spelling. This was so the word could be differentiated from stage magic.  For the sake of space of this website we’re just going to briefly explain a little more on magick.

 

As with the definition from above, spells, rituals, god devotion are all acts of magick. It is you imprinting your will (your desires) upon the world that surrounds you. You being the center of your universe.  It is the ability to use your emotions as a directed energy to control a desired outcome of events. Magick is a science. You may have heard the term “Occult Sciences,” well this is because we approach magick (in most cases) using scientific method. Meaning we do a series of actions or events that have an expected and predicted outcome. Which may include our own notes or in most cases other people’s notes and get the same results. It’s just a science that hasn’t been fully understood by modern day physics. Remember that throughout history most acts of science were once considered magick, from alchemy we got chemistry, from herbalism we got modern medicine, from astrology we got astronomy and so on.  

 

Magick is not just something you do but is also something that you have. It is an energy. An energy that is inside of you and something that you can build and make stronger.  It is part of our human souls and our ability to interact with the nonphysical world. It is our way of becoming closer with the gods we honor.

Do You Worship Satan?
 

It is a common misconception that paganism is associated with Satan. Whenever you ask a Pagan about or accuse one of worshiping Satan, this example is the equivalent of what we hear:

 

Say we’re having a conversation and you tell me that you’re a big football fan.

I respond with: Oh, you like football? You must really love the Cincinnati Reds and I bet you have Mike Tyson’s poster hanging on your wall.

 

With that response I made two mistakes. First, the obvious one, I mismatched three completely different sports and second, I made the assumption that you liked a team that you may very well despise. Are they all a sport? Yes. Are they all the same sport? No.

With that example, paganism should be viewed completely separate from Christianity. Satan is part of the Christian mythology and in no part of our belief system is there a devil, Satan or afterlife of torment. The very ideal of “sin” or having a ruler over the souls who have committed what is conceived as “evil” is alien to our beliefs.  Our worldview tells us that we take full responsibility for our actions no matter how positive or negative it maybe. We are the cause of our actions. We acted on our own free will. The devil didn’t make us do it and the gods didn’t force us to do it.  Human's make mistakes, that's how we learn and grow. A human being has both a light and a dark side and both are embraced equally. However, most of us still believe in the ideal of karma. So whatever energy you project into the universe or how you may make others feel, that positive or negative energy is eventually returned either in life or the afterlife.

There are different forms of Satanism but the majority that has been present in main stream culture follow the doctrine of the Church of Satan with the philosophies presented by its founder Anton LeVay. The followers of this form of Satanism are atheists and don't actually believe in an entity known as Satan. 

Are You A Cult?
 

We are the furthest thing from a cult. As stated earlier paganism is a personal spirituality. It's about your personal relationship with whatever deity or energy you connect with and how you choose to work with it. We have no world system of hierarchy unless a person is part of a coven, grove or magickal order. Within these groups the leaders are not so much authority figures but more teachers and directors of the group at hand.

The actual definition of the word cult is:

“A system of religious veneration and devotion directed toward a particular figure or object.”

In this case almost any religion would be considered a cult. The most popular and used ideal of the word “cult” in modern society is: 'a group that would follow an individual as a leader and the ideology and philosophies that person persuades others to believe, mostly of a negative nature. If you look at some of the most notorious cults, the Manson Family, The People's Temple (Jonestown), the Branch Davidians, all of these had some of the same characteristics. One person in charge, preparation for doomsday, their leader claims to be Jesus or that only through their leader can you have some sort of salvation and their followers gave complete devotion, obedience and material possession over to their leader. Of course these instances are the most extreme cases of cults but it is what is embedded in psyche of popular culture.

As you can see, paganism does not fit no where in this spectrum what so ever. In fact, of all the cases of dangerous cults in the past 50 years (if not more,) there has never been one case of one cult being pagan but mostly all Christian based. We do not go around trying to recruit people or try to convert you. If one seeks to be pagan they come to us, usually looking for a teacher or a group to learn from. Sometimes they're excepted and sometimes they're not, depends on the group. Paganism is about acting on your own free will and something all traditions seem to respect is not forcing anyone to do or behave against their own free will.

What Is Wicca?
 

As stated earlier, not all pagans are Wiccan. In the same manner that Christianity has many different denominations, so to does Paganism. Wicca, is just one of those denominations.  Some of these different traditions are: Asatru/ Heathen, Stregheria, Theurgy, Alexandrian Witchcraft, Voodoo, Hermetic and Druidism, just to name a few.

Wicca itself was introduced by Author Gerald Garner in the early 1950's. Mostly Celtic in nature, it recognizes a god and goddess with focus on the feminine aspect. It's not about worshiping nature but about being one with nature and a strong philosophy rooted in animism.

What Are the Pagan Holidays?
 

Unlike most holidays that honor a person or some great event that occurred, pagan holidays, which we call Sabbats are observations of celestial events, mainly the solstices and equinoxes. In most cases they have been equated with a god which is how they got their names. These Sabbats were celebrated around the globe by many different cultures dating back to the time of antiquity. But it was from the Celtic and Norse cultures that we were given the names we have for them today. Sometime around the 5th century, it was Saint Patrick who came to Ireland to convert the pagans to Christianity. His method was to change the names of their holidays and to make their customs more Christian oriented. This made it easier for him to convert pagan Ireland.

Below is a list of these holidays

YULE : (Winter Solstice) December 21-22

Death and rebirth of the Sun. Longest night of the year, the turning point when the days shall afterwards grow longer as winter begins its passage into the coming of spring. It is, in the Goddess worship, the time when she gives forth again to the birth of the Divine Sun child who shall be both child and eventually lover and father of the next child in the cycle.

 

 

Imbolc/ Candlemas : February 2

This is a festival of lights. The Fire Festival. This date is approximately half way between YULE and SPRING. BRIGID was the Celtic Goddess of Fire, Smithcraft, Healing and Wells and this was her day. Candlemas is considered in some traditions as the marker point where the Mother Goddess, the Great Earth Mother marks the path for the Sun God to find her in the dark times

 

 

Ostara : (Spring Equinox) March 21

Spring Equinox. The Goddess blankets the Earth with fertility as the God stretches and grows to maturity. The hours of day and night are equal and light is overtaking darkness. This is a time of beginnings, action, planting spells, and of tending the gardens. It is a celebration of the Norse goddess Ostara and the fertility of the land

 

 

Beltane/ Walpurgis: April 30th- May 1

(pronounced : Bel-tin-nah)

Beltane is the great Fertility rite of life, starting at  dawn of the 1st. The union of the God and Goddess to conceive the sun-child to be, takes place upon this holiday, no matter which tradition of paganism is involved. It is a festival of fire as the Beltane fires are lit. We celebrate the Celtic god Bel who is known as the shining one. To the Dutch and Germans Walpurgis was known as “The Witches Night” which took place on April 30th. This is one of the Grand Sabbats.

 

 

Litha : (Summer Solstice) June 21

Held on the longest day of the year, this Solstice is the celebration of light's triumph over darkness and that of the bountiful beauty that light brings into life. Flowers are common in the circle, roses and bright cheerful wildflowers are upon the altar and usually worn by all. It is the changing point of the year. It is a celebration of the Sun.

 

Lughnassadh/ Lammas : August 1

(pronounced : Loo-na-soo)

The great corn ritual of pagan belief. This is the big celebration of the first harvest (Sort of a Pagan Thanksgiving, but the time clock is different as is that of the Celtics). Much feasting and dancing occur, though it is a bit more somber than many of the other holidays. Some Pagans celebrate this day as merely the day to bake their bread and cakes for the coming winter and do no actual rituals save that of blessing the foods prepared. Pagans see this as a time when the God loses his strength as the Sun rises farther south each day and the nights grow longer. The Goddess watches in sorrow and joy as she realizes  the God is dying yet lives on inside her as her child. As summer passes, Pagans remember its warmth and bounty in the food we eat. The God Lugh is celebrated this day and some festivals especially in Scottland hold the games of Lugh. A kind of pagan Olympics.

 

 

Mabon : (Autumn Equinox) September 21

A harvest festival, the second of three, that encourages pagans to “reap what they sow,” both literally and figuratively. It is the time when night and day stand equal in duration; thus is it a time to express gratitude, complete projects and honor a moment of balance. This is the weavers festival, and a braiding of cords are done in the process of casting a spell to add to ones life from what it is, each person weaving unto themselves what they wish and the coven as a whole weaving all the cords together to unite the power and efforts symbolically. The autumn equinox is the completion of the harvest begun at Lammas. Once again the day and night are equal as the God prepares to leave the body and the begin the great adventure into the unseen, toward renewal and rebirth of the Goddess.

 

Samhain : (Halloween) October 31/ November 1

(pronounced : Saw-wen)

The third harvest festival, at Samhain, the Pagans say farewell to the God even though he readies to be reborn at Yule. This grand sabbat, also known as Feast of the Dead ,Feast of Apples, All Hallows eve, and of course Halloween, once marked the time of sacrifice. This was the time when animals were slaughtered to ensure food throughout the winter. This is the time to honor our dead loved ones. The God fell as well to ensure our continuing existence. This is a time of reflection and coming to terms with the one thing in life which we have no control - death. Pagans feel that on this night the separation between the physical and spiritual realities is it's least guarded and it's veil the thinnest. It is a time for dimensional openings and workings, and also the celebration of the death of the year king. It is a time of endings of relationships and bad situations and it is the time when one can see the glimmer of hope in the future. There are as many concepts attached to this holiday as any other, truly a time of remembrance of our ancestors and all those who have gone before.