What exactly is Neo-Paganism? What is Paganism?

The word “Pagan” has a somewhat ambiguous origin. In the past many scholars believed its root word, the Latin paganus, translated as “rustic”. The idea was that the people who were converted to Christianity last were the people in the country, who continued to practice older religions. Others thought the meaning of the word paganus is closer to “civilian”, which ties in with the idea that Pagans were not part of the Christian army of God. More recently Pierre Chuvin suggested that the word pagani (plural of paganus) means someone who preferred the religion of the pagus, which was the Roman local unit of government. In other words, a Pagan was someone who preferred the old local religions as opposed to the new religion of Christianity.

Regardless of the actual derivation, today the word “Paganism” is often used to refer to the group of Pre-Christian European religions and, more generally, to the indigenous religions of the world. Neo-Paganism is the resurgence of such Pre-Christian religious ideas combined with more modern ideas such as Feminism and individualism.

Since Neo-Paganism is a group of religions it is difficult to describe it as a category. There is a great deal of diversity among Neo-Pagan religions. At the same time, it is possible to identify some ideas that most Neo-Pagans would subscribe to.

Neo-Pagans tend to see the Earth as sacred. The Earth is either literally or figuratively a great mother who supports all life. The Earth is not holy because it was created by a deity, but holy in its own right. As part of the great web of life, the Earth does not belong to us: we belong to the Earth.

Most Neo-Pagans believe that no one has a monopoly on spiritual truth. There is no one way to the sacred/divine/holy.

Neo-Pagans tend to use both female and male images of the divine in their religious practices. The sacred is just as likely to be viewed as a Goddess than as a God.

The concept of sin does not exist in Neo-Pagan thought. We are not born with the stain of sin and have no need for a “savior”.

Neo-Pagans often feel a strong connection with ancient cultures. You will find the ideas and deities of the Celts, Romans, Egyptians and Greeks in Neo-Paganism.

Neo-Pagans generally see the “Devil” as a Judeo-Christian entity, and do not believe in him nor worship him.

Women and men both play major roles in Neo-Pagan spiritual practice. Both men and women can act as spiritual counselors or clergy. You will find both Neo-Pagan priests and priestesses.

Generally, Neo-Pagans are very accepting of sexual and gender diversity. Gay men, Lesbians and Transgendered people have all played important roles in the Neo-Pagan Community.

Neo-Pagans tend to view the body and sexuality as sacred. Sex and sensuality are components of a full, rich and spiritual life.

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