Ah, Pagan. Isn’t that just a loaded word? It has come to be synonymous with heathen (or, heathern, as we say in the South!), savage, even devil-worshipper, although the latter is such a 180-degree stretch it boggles the mind. There were historical reasons for that, but it would take ten blogs to explore! So we’ll leave that for another time 🙂
The word pagan derives from the ancient Latin ‘paganus’ or ‘peasant,’ meaning of the Earth. I.e., people from a rural district. Of course as time went on it took on the other meanings above.
These were people who of course dwelt on the land, rather than in the vast cities such as Rome, and therefore lived and died by the seasons and what they brought or didn’t bring. They were pantheistic and worshipped nature, of course, as that was their day-to-day reality. No need to go kneel at a church pew when the evidence of god was right in front of you. Every day.
But no matter in what category you believe this group to be, they sure were right about Mother Earth. They knew her. And here are 7 ways they were:
- The Earth is our Mother.
The pagans looked on this planet exactly as one does her mother. She gives us life. She provides us with bounty. She is what sustains us. There was no praying to an unseen god—they saw her every day, in every way, in all of their lives.
- God is not “out there.”
They lived within the body of the goddess, the gods in all their forms being part of the one. We think of them as pantheistic, but that’s really a misnomer, as although you can break the one down into the many, for various reasons of clarity and needs at the time, all is part of the one.
And in the Pagan world, people lived within the one. They didn’t pray to a god in the sky, but to the one that lived within them, and they in god.
- They revered the world in which they lived. These “simple” people knew a bit about cause and effect. You plant a seed in good soil, water and weed it, and it produces the expected vegetable or fruit. I often think (especially when writing a novel!) how pleasant that must be (it was when I farmed J. So often the finish line to what we’re toiling for is so far away, and so much time passes before we reap our rewards, how nice to be able to actually watch the fruits of your labor grow!
But they knew is what we do to the earth, she does to us. Boy, could we ever use a little of that thinking today . . .
- First Do No Harm. You know, this is attributed to, and we think of it as, originating with the American Medical Association. But it predates that organization by thousands and thousands of years.
Long, long ago, the term “witch” was given to women healers, young and old. It derived from the root word “wit,” which meant wise. A far different meaning from how we think of it today.
The earliest healers were women of this ilk. (Isn’t it funny how today we are using so many of their herbs in our modern medicines?) And the creed to which they followed was do no harm.
These women were then in the dark and middle ages burned at the stake as heretics. And dare I say, but true, after that only men could be doctors . . . .
- The Power of Rituals. To true pagans, both then and now, these were not about spells on other people and things. But rather, they focused on changing one’s own consciousness. In effect, a form of prayer and reverence, of giving the mind and body something to do to get one into that place—you know the one, where you can hear the still small voice of god, whatever you perceive that to be.
As Joseph Campbell said, “A ritual can be defined as an enactment of a myth. By participating in a ritual, you are actually experiencing a mythological life. And it’s out of that participation that one can learn to live spiritually.”
- Celebration. Which is merely expressing gratitude for the blessings in one’s life. Celebrating the harvest, the return of the sun, the springtime of planning and promise. Giving thanks is one of the most powerful spiritual tools on this planet, if not the most powerful one. As German Philosopher Meister Eckhart said, “If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is thank you, it will be enough.”
- All Life is Sacred.
What more needs be said? This was a belief they held (and hold) into their souls. You have as much right to be here as I do. As do the animals and plants that sustain us. We’re all here for a reason. We all play a part.
And isn’t it funny when you look over this list, how the Native Americans felt and acted the same way.
Savage heatherns, indeed!
No matter what your spiritual or religious beliefs, if we walked this path, our world would be far different and better.
Because what Pagans knew, believed in, lived, was as Campbell said:
People say that what we’re all seeking is a meaning of life. I don’t think that’s what we’re really seeking. I think that what we’re seeking is an experience of being alive, so that our life experiences on the purely physical plane will have resonances within our own innermost being and reality, so that we actually feel the rapture of being alive.
What misinformation were you given about Pagans?