Focus: Paganism

What is Modern Pagan Spirituality?

If you type “Modern Paganism” into any web search engine, you’ll likely get thousands of articles, pictures, and videos describing various aspects of Paganism, Neo-Paganism, and Contemporary Paganism.  You’ll see pages on Wicca, Druidism, Heathenism, and a bunch of other -isms.  Most of these pages offer a wealth of information, some good and some not so good.  The truth is this:  there are so many different ways to celebrate a Pagan Spirituality that you don’t have to limit yourself to ONE singular “title” (or any title, for that matter).  This is my “version” of Modern Pagan Spirituality.  The material you find in this blog is my take on a few key elements: morality and ethics, energy & cosmic influences, magick* & the unknown, and our eternal selves – aka our souls.

Let me first start by explaining a few things:

A)  I am not an expert on anything I present to you and I DO NOT CLAIM TO BE.  I am still a student of the Cosmos and only wish to share my insight with those who may be looking for more information on various topics.

B)  I am a Witch first, and as such, a lot of the information here will revolve around Witchcraft and how I incorporate Pagan Spirituality into my practice of Witchcraft (and vice versa.)

C)  I’m not an English major, so if you find a typo or some weird grammatical issue with a post – be a doll and ignore it, or better yet, message me and tell me (politely).  I’ll appreciate it.  😉

So, now that all of that is out of the way… let’s get started!

Modern Pagan Spirituality.   The breakdown of that “title” is really simple.

  1. Modern, meaning current or contemporary.
  2. Pagan – someone who follows the ancient beliefs and practices of early humans – beliefs which later gave birth to all religions of the world.
  3. Spirituality is a study or care of one’s spirit – or one’s eternal or cosmic soul.

Wait, wait, wait!  Eternal soul?  Cosmic soul?  What ever does that mean?!  – When I use these terms, I’m talking about just what it sounds like: that part of you that’s completely apart from your physical body.  It’s the part of you that has all those emotions, memories, personality quirks.  It’s the part of you that, in my opinion, is eternal in a sense – it’s the part that people remember, reflect on after your physical body dies.  This is what makes “you” … you.

Got it?  Now, let’s look at “Pagan.”  Yes, the literal definition of the word Pagan means “someone that is not a follower of a main world religion.”  That definition is of course referring to the five main world religions: Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, Islam, and Buddhism.

I just have a key point to make here:  Paganism was around long before any of those other religions.  Paganism is the mother and father of all current religions.  A far more appropriate definition of Pagan would be, “someone who followed the ancient beliefs and practices specific to their culture, during the time of early human civilization – beliefs which later gave birth to all current religions of the world.”  In essence, a Pagan is someone who is part of every religion in the world.

Paganism was (and is) generally polytheistic – meaning that Pagans recognized and worshiped more than one God or Goddess.  If you look at what we now call any ancient culture’s “mythology,” you’ll find a quick history of early Pagan beliefs.

Greek Mythology, which a lot of people are more familiar with (because didn’t we all have to struggle through Edith Hamilton’s Mythology?), breaks down the belief system of Ancient Greek culture.  There are Gods and Goddesses of Thunder and Lightning, the Sea, Fate, War, Wisdom, Home & Hearth, Lovers, Fire, Partying & Debauchery… I mean, seriously, they had a god or goddess for everything.  Roman beliefs pretty much incorporated Ancient Greek culture.  Go north a little ways and you find Vikings – we call their ancient beliefs Norse Mythology.  The Celt had their own rich culture and religious system; we call it Celtic  or Irish Mythology (much of which is commonly used in Wicca).  All of these complex religions were around long before Christianity.

African tribes all over the continent had regional mythologies and beliefs that preceded Islam; a lot of these native religions traversed the Atlantic during the Slave Trade and gave birth to the Hoodoo and Voodoo cultures in the Caribbean and Southern United States.

Ancient peoples of India and South Asia had their own system of beliefs – they believed, like other cultures, in Gods and Goddesses of natural elements, love, war, and more.  These eventually morphed into Hinduism and paved the way for Buddhism.

Aboriginal Australians, hundreds of Native American tribes, and the numerous Polynesian cultures in the South Pacific all had their own beliefs long before any type of Christian settler landed on their shores.  These beliefs involved a healthy respect for the Earth, it’s natural rhythms, life and death.

Christianity today is not what it was during it’s earliest formative years.  Nor is any other major world religion.  These five main religions all incorporated aspects of the ancient culture and belief system of the area in which they were born (or spread to).

These ancient beliefs, while some may call them Mythology or dead religions, are the essential root of Modern Paganism.

Modern Paganism is a re-emergence, a rebirth of what we as humans once truly understood about the world around us.  We once understood the rhythms of the season, the song of the Earth we inhabit.  We respected plant, animal, stone, water, weather, the sun, the moon, the stars.  We understood that we are just one small piece of a giant working machine we call Earth.

Yes, Modern Pagans may worship the Gods and Goddesses of these ancient religions.  Modern Pagans explore the mythology of these ancient cultures for insight into the nature of a particular God or Goddess.  They study the lore and literature pertaining to the Gods and Goddesses that call out to them, that seek them, that speak to them.  Not all Pagans worship deities of the same cultures – some pagans worship Odin (the Norse God of wisdom, poetry, war, death, divination, and magic) and Dionysus (the Greek God of the wine harvest, unrestrained consumption, and resurrection).  Some worship Brigid (a Celtic Goddess of Inspiration and Healing), yet also hail the Great Spirit Mother (a generalized Native American concept for Mother Earth).  Eclectic in their worship, some Modern Pagans opt for the simple title of “Pagan” over any specific religious affiliation.

Other Modern Pagans worship specific ancient Gods and Goddesses.  Some of these faiths are: Celtic Reconstructionist Paganism, Discordianism, Heathenry, Hellenism, Neo-Druidism, Roman Polytheistic Reconstructionism, Slavic Native Faith, and Wicca. Many Modern Pagans may only focus on a singular God and Goddess pair.  It truly is a path that reflects your personal beliefs.

So what about Nature Worship, which is considered a key part of Paganism?

Many people associate Paganism with Nature Worship because many of the Pagan Gods and Goddesses are associated with specific natural elements.  Nature worship, by definition, is the worship of a what could be considered a spirit or some other cosmic entity responsible for a natural occurrence – like Thor, the God of Thunder.  While that’s the basic aspect of Nature Worship, there’s also a much more subtle element to Nature Worship that doesn’t require Gods and Goddesses.

Some Modern Pagans respect the ancient connotations of the Gods and Goddesses, but also respect the science behind the actual phenomenons that ancient peoples attributed to these Nature Spirits.  Some Modern Pagans may worship Thor, but understand the scientific concept that thunder is the sound produced by lightning.  Thor isn’t banging a hammer on something to produce the sound.  This type of Modern Pagan reflects more on the symbolism of the ancient Gods and Goddesses rather than the literal translation of the cultural history and mythology surrounding a particular God or Goddess.

Some Modern Pagans focus the concept of Nature Worship into a more practical approach – a healthy respect for all living creatures (plant and animal) and natural elements like earth (soil, sand, rocks, etc.), fire, air, and water.  They believe that there’s an inherent connection between a human and the Earth.  We are part of nature and because of that, we are connected.

So basically, Modern Paganism is the religious version of the pot luck dinner?

Legit question I’ve actually been asked!  In a way, yes.

Yes, because Modern Pagans do typically get to find the path that best fits their personal interpretation of spirituality, human interaction with the natural world, and ultimately, what happens to the eternal soul.  They can pick from multiple different historical cultures and religions, put together their own truth, and live that truth.

In another way, no.

No, because the concept of a “pot luck” dinner means that you’re stuck with whatever’s available.  That’s not the case with Modern Paganism.  While Modern Pagans can, and do definitely pull from ancient cultures, religions, lore, and literature, they can also pull from modern philosophies, mainstream religions and theologies, and *gasp* even their own experiences to create a truly unique self-truth.  That self-truth is theirs, and theirs alone.  That doesn’t have anything to do with luck; it’s about cultivation.

Summary

Modern Paganism Spirituality is a generalized title for anyone who practices a religion that draws on ancient cultural mythologies, and focuses that practice so that it helps evolve or further their eternal being.  It is a movement, a religion, of choice.  It is a religion of connectivity and self exploration.  It is a belief in the truth you, as a unique person, know.

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Quick Answer of the Day

Question:  Why did I chose to call this Modern Pagan Spirituality if I’m foremost a Witch?  Wouldn’t it make more sense to call it Modern Wiccan Spirituality?

Answer:  A witch is specifically someone who practices witchcraft; this is separate from Wicca.  In truth, you don’t have to practice witchcraft to be Wiccan.  I chose Modern Pagan Spirituality because while I practice Witchcraft and do incorporate a lot of Wiccan philosophy into my spiritual practice, I also incorporate a lot of Pagan aspects.


 

Copyright © 2018 Gwen Willows Modern Pagan Spirituality
The contents of this blog may not be copied, re-posted, or modified, in full or in part without due credit to the original author and a valid link to the original content here at Modern Pagan Spirituality.

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2 thoughts on “What is Modern Pagan Spirituality?”

  1. I recently picked up the book Witches of America and it’s made me so interested in Paganism so I really enjoyed reading your post! Very useful information and I liked your discussion of Paganism in terms of a pot luck dinner.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you. 🙂 There are so many books out there on the topic of Paganism, Wicca and Witchcraft. Definitely read as many as you can. Each one has it’s own unique perspective!

    Like

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