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Paganism 101

By Various Contributors to the Slacktiverse

Introduction

This piece will try to speak about many Pagans; we, its authors, do not try to speak for anyone other than ourselves as individuals with any sense of authority. We do make some attempts at describing others, but these are not applicable to all Pagans and are definitely not prescriptive in any sense. Paganism as a general category has no hierarchy or centralized authority, and many sub-groups prefer to work through consensus, which makes it even more difficult to make accurate broad statements. Each one of us contributing will use her own situation and experience and beliefs as examples; we will try to differentiate between that and any statements about broader Paganism. Please do not take our positions to be authoritative or normative for anyone else. Here, we use the term Paganism to refer to the new religious movement(s) that scholars have mostly dubbed neo-paganism. The common usage among people who are part of that movement drops the prefix and adds a capital, so we follow that practice.

Paganism is better understood as a sheaf of religions with various similarities rather than a single religion or group of religions that branched off from a single source. It would be more appropriate to compare Paganism to Abrahamic monotheism in general, rather than to a single group of religions like Christianity. There are many types of Pagans, some of whom are as different from each other as Jews are from Muslims. Different Pagans draw on different cultural sources, and have widely varying types of observance; one Pagan may not have the first idea what to do at another Pagan’s ritual or observance.

And those practices are important. To people raised in a culture where Christianity’s forms are largely dominant, it is easy to get the idea that a religion is defined by its beliefs. Like many other non-Christian religions, Paganism is much more practice-centered than belief-centered. This may make it seem more like a way of life or philosophy than a religion, but it is similar to other non-monotheistic approaches. As an example, a Pagan whose practice is based on reconstruction of ancient Egyptian religion and a Wiccan who works with the Egyptian deities may both venerate Isis, but they will generally understand themselves to be practicing different forms of religion due to the substantial difference in how they approach her. Conversely, Mary Kaye belonged to a group in which theist views of Isis as a literal goddess and atheist views of her as an archetype or symbol coexisted amiably, held together by commonality of ritual practice.

Read the original article at: The Slacktiverse

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