What Beliefs or Practices Link All Pagans Together?

  • what is the pagans/wicca community belief system?
    and i am a beginner so i do not know much
    thank you
  • Pagan seams to be a very vague term for non main stream religion, but what is it that links these particular religions that are labeled pagan together?

In fact there really isn’t much of anything that links ALL Pagan religions and paths together. At it’s most basic, the term Pagan is an umbrella term that encompasses all “non-Abrahamic” religions, and that’s it. Some paths may share some similarities, but there is nothing else that ALL share as a defining practice or belief. Even when used as a short-hand for the NeoPagan paths that are loosely based on the non-oathbound parts of Wicca, the joke is – ask a hundred people, get a hundred answers. In terms of a label, it works well enough for those who don’t know and don’t care to know the actual differences, but within the community itself, it can be a poor description of what one does. When possible, it is better to look to words which are more specific to one’s own path, as these terms are better at conveying the actual idea of one’s practices and beliefs.

For example: If we are all standing around at a local meet up and everyone introduces themselves, and tacks on at the end “I’m Pagan” – no one has really learned anything about anyone else’s path. But if that same group tacks on “I’m Heathen,” “I’m Celtic Recon,” “I’m Kemetic,” etc… (or other appropriate term), then we have a better idea of what it is that each of them do.

This of course assumes that one has a general idea of what some of the specific Pagan religions entail, but even if one doesn’t, it’s a great way to start discussion and dialogues, which can be used to learn more about those other paths.

As we have gotten a couple different questions on the subject recently, thought it would be a good time to remind everyone that the Paganism FAQ link at the top of the page is there to answer some of this directly and to give a bit of background on some of the more common Pagan traditions.

Of course, if there are specific questions, that are not covered in the FAQ, please feel free to ask! 🙂

Dealing With Being Shunned/Disrespected

Hello. I find myself in a number of a tough spots concerning my spirituality.

I am a male eclectic who tends to consult the female divine before the male, with an emphasis on the Norse gods of my ancestors, though I also worship Lilith.

But this has created a number of problems for me, as I live in a strongly christian family and community.

My worship of Lilith has led to me being likened to a virtual satanist by members of my parent’s church, and I am often ignored completely by those people, even when I volunteer my time and effort to help them set up sound or computer equipment as an act of good will. Nobody speaks to me unless they have no other choice, yet when I was a christian, they were the nicest possible people to me.

My parents are a little better, but they still repeatedly try to convert me to Christianity by trying to guilt me, or worse yet by calling the stories of my Norse ancestors, which I cherish as much as any christian cherishes the word of Christ, “fictional tales”, which I find deeply insulting on a number of levels. I love the gods and stories of my ancestors, and I wish that my parents could respect that, if only when I was around, at the very least.

It’s sad, because I feel I should be able to speak to my own parents about spiritual matters without facing constant ridicule.

Despite my friends who are all supportive of my path, I feel very alone, and I would like to know how I might approach these situations in a manner that is kinder and more respectful than how I have been treated so far.

Not sure how old you are, and if you are still living at home then I’ll speak to that as well a bit later on, however if you’ve tried being nice and/or the “smile and nod” approach whenever they start denigrating your beliefs, then it’s probably time to be more forceful about it all. Make it very clear that if they can’t respect you and your beliefs, that they need to either keep it to themselves, or if they can’t manage that, then (if you feel strongly enough about it) you need to tell them that you want nothing to do with them – at least until they can stop being rude and disrespectful to you. It may seem harsh, but if you don’t – they will likely keep harping at you over it. It’s understandable, as in their minds they are attempting to save you from “Hell”, so on the one hand, we should (in some small way) appreciate their concern. Of course on the other, we aren’t in need of that “saving”, so it’s annoying at the very least, and at worst abusive and hurtful.

The flip side, would be to continue trying to educate them, so that they can understand that you aren’t a Satanist (or that even if you were – that’s not a bad thing). I would also maybe make it clear as well, that there is very little difference between the Bible, and something like the Eddas and other Sagas – in terms of provable facts (certain things may have basis in history, but on the whole, not so much). So if they feel that your sacred texts, are just a bunch of stories, turn the tables on them, and see how they like it. If they complain that you are being disrespectful to them, or about their beliefs – mention that they’ve been doing the same to you, and if they don’t like how it feels, then at least now they know how you’ve been feeling. Hopefully they will get the point and stop.

Of course in the end they still may not stop, and unfortunately there’s just not much that can be done about it, other than to (as I mentioned previously) limit contact. Personally if I was helping out at a church, and they were being rude or disrespectful to me, I’d stop volunteering my time there. There’s no need to put up with that sort of thing. It’s probably worth mentioning as well though, that this is one of the unfortunate pitfalls of being open about our beliefs. So once we’ve made that choice to tell others, then we have to accept that it’s probably going to be a bumpy ride – at least for a while.

If you are still living at home, or are underage, things are a bit more tricky. The key is to be really calm and respectful about it – since it’s their house… their rules, however I would explain to them how the way they’ve been treating you makes you feel, and that you would appreciate it if they would please stop. If they are not open at all to being understanding of your situation, you may seriously need to consider going back into the “broom closet”. There is a point where it’s not worth it to be open, and if it’s negatively impacting your life, then that may be the best option. It’s definitely not fair to us (I’ve had to do it before), but if it makes things a bit more manageable, then it’s something to think about. This doesn’t mean you have to turn around and pretend to embrace their beliefs either – we definitely do not advocate lying to one’s parents, but if you remove any outward signs of your beliefs/practices, then whatever assumptions they want to make are up to them.

When Hiding One’s Beliefs May Be The Better Choice…

Via our Ask A Pagan page…

Hello there, I’m a young Pagan, being only 16, but I live in a very small very strict Christian town and few here are open minded. Being in high school, and knowing how fast things go around, I try very hard to hide my beliefs which sometimes makes me very sad. My beliefs are me, so I’m hiding myself. Only my closest of friends know my religion, but I still have to hide in a whole. Should I just embrace my religion and not care about my social life as a 16 year old? There are moments here I actually fear for my life because of my religion. I don’t know what to do. Should I continue to hide it until I’m 18 and move out? Please and thank you!

I’ll come straight to the point… if you think that your life would be in danger if you were honest with others about your beliefs, then for now it is better that you keep them to yourself. While clearly it’s not fair to you, to have to keep silent about something that is such a HUGE part of who you are, it’s also not worth putting yourself in danger, at least not while there are still other potential alternatives.

We spoke a bit out Things to Think About, back around International Pagan Coming Out Day, and many of those will serve you now as you are considering what choices you should make. The key here of course is your age, and the fact that you are still living under your parents roof. The truth is that as long as they are the ones providing our food and shelter, then we have to abide by their rules. In most cases, it just isn’t worth the aggravation that it will cause to rock the boat, especially on something that you know they have an absolute fear or hatred of – even if that fear and hatred is unfounded or unreasonable.

The same goes for school. That you have a small core group of friends who know the truth and are ok with it, is truly probably the best you can hope for at this point. Realize too, that since these friends are likely the only ones whose opinions really matter to you, not letting others in on the “secret” isn’t such a bad thing. Even though there are laws against bullying, there is still the potential for the next few years to be a truly miserable experience for you, and it’s just not worth it. Especially when you consider that how you do in the last couple years of school can have a profound effect on your future college plans, and even your life as a whole, it’s better to hold off on anything that would further impact that.

It’s important to remember, that not being out about your beliefs does not mean that you can’t still be practicing and/or studying, and there are plenty of ways to do things (prayer, rituals, meditations, etc…) that aren’t immediately obvious to the rest of the world. While certain traditions do require specific tools or specific ways of doing things, if one is not an initiate of those particular traditions (and odds are at 16, you aren’t), then it really opens up a whole range of creative practices that can be used.  We do not advocate lying to one’s parents, or going against their rules and guidelines for what goes on in their own house. So if they have, in any way, expressly forbidden you to practice under their roof, then you should definitely respect that. It makes things a bit more difficult, but still not impossible. The challenge is to find ways that fit within your daily life, that can be used to honor your path as well.

Keep in mind as well, even the act of taking a walk around the block can be meditation, and rituals can be done in complete silence, while sitting on a park bench, or laying in bed at night. There are also many non-traditional items that can be used to represent elements, or the Gods, etc… if you want to have an altar as well. So while it can take a bit of extra effort, there are still definitely ways of keeping “silent”, but still being true to oneself and one’s beliefs.

Even once you are of age, making the decision to tell others of your beliefs, will still require a lot of careful thought and planning. You will want to make sure that you either have a place of your own and can support yourself, or – if you are still living at home, that you have a safe place to go in case your parents kick you out over it (something that is not entirely unheard of). When you are ready to let them know, be sure that you are prepared to discuss your beliefs with them (calmly), and that you are able to answer any questions that they might have. If they don’t take it well, or the community as a whole doesn’t take it well, you may seriously have to consider moving somewhere else, or at the very least be willing to endure their feelings of ill will. Likely it will get better over time, once they get used to it, but it can really make things uncomfortable for you for quite a while.

Overall though, the most important thing is that you STAY SAFE. While we would all love to be open about our beliefs and practices,  if doing so will put us in danger, then it only makes sense to not to say anything. It often comes down to timing, and if right now isn’t the best time, then it’s just a matter of just waiting until that right time comes. Remember as well, our religious beliefs and practices are very personal parts of us, so just because the rest of the world doesn’t know about them – it doesn’t change who we are inside… and that’s what really matters (not what anyone else thinks or knows).