A Pagan is a person who believes that everything has a soul or spirit. This is called Animism, and all Pagan religions share this belief. Rivers, animals, rocks, trees, land are all filled with there own unique spirits for people who are Pagans. Christians believe that only humans have souls or spirits, Pagans see the divine spirit in all life.
There are hundreds of different Pagan Religions. Some of the best known Pagan religions are Buddhism, Shintoism, Native American Religions, Hinduism, Taoism, Wicca, Druidism, Asatru, Shamanism, Neo- Paganism and Eclectic Paganism.
Paganism is a major World Religion, with many branches. More people on Earth are Pagans than any other faith. Some Pagan groups may be classified as cults, just like some Christian groups are cults.
The Christian groups headed by Jim Jones at Jonestown, who committed mass suicide, and the followers of David Koresh at Waco, Texas are both considered cults, but they were once considered Christian denominations. Any religious or spiritual tradition can have cults in its midst, that does not mean that the entire tradition is a cult. Wackos and religious charlatans come in all religions, denominations, and races.
The word Cult is often used as a slur word to disparage someone else's religious beliefs. It is frequently used derisively toward non-white or indigenous folk cultures and their beliefs.
Pagans do not worship the Devil or Satan. Pagans do not believe in the Devil, he is part of the Judeo-Christian Religions and mythology. Most Devil worshipping groups are not Pagan, because they are centered on a Judeo-Christian supernatural being, namely Satan. These Devil Worshippers are a sect of Christianity, even though Christianity does not want to claim them.
Their focus is on opposing the mainstream Christian God and honoring the Devil, neither of these beings are part of Paganism. There is a tradition that calls itself Satanist. Satanists are not devil worshippers. They do not believe in god or the devil or any force outside themselves and other living creatures. They believe they can control their lives without the need to place responsibility on a higher power of any kind. Devil worshippers on the other hand sometimes do claim to be Satanists. This leads to lots of confusion.
People often confuse the Occult with Pagan Religion, this is a mistake, and they are very different things. Many religions, including; Pagan, Non-Pagan, Christianity and Judaism have occult aspects, many do not.
Some Pagans are Witches, some are not. Many Pagan groups do not practice Witchcraft. Wiccans are a type of Pagan Witches; there are also Dianic Witches, Green Witches, and other types of Pagan Witches. There are also Christian Witches, many of these people are practicing Christian, but also practice Witchcraft. Santeria is a South American religion that is a blend of Voodoo, Witchcraft and Christianity.
A love of Nature, and a commitment to live in harmony with the Earth and Her creatures. You need to feel in your heart that it is where your own spirituality is leading you. Paganism is for Pagans, only you know if you are a Pagan in your heart.
A Religious or Pagan Ritual is anything that focuses your spiritual energy. A church service is a ritual, so is a wedding, or a funeral, or a Hopi Sun Dance. Humans have created rituals since the beginning of time. Ritual is the way humans express their connection with divinity and each other.
There are many kinds of Pagan Ritual, personal rituals you do by yourself, full moon rituals, by yourself or with a group. There are blessing rituals for a new home, or for children, or for healing, or cleansing. There are protection ritual, and banishing rituals, to name a few. Your Grandmother may have placed a horseshoe over the door; this is a popular form of simple protection ritual that is rooted in Pagan tradition. Or throwing salt over your shoulder if it is spilled, so as not to attract bad luck.
For Wiccans and Neo-Pagans there are some basic Ritual Traditions that you may have heard about. Many Pagan Ritual begin by honoring the Earth and the 4 directions, as well as the elements the directions represent, Air, Fire, Water and Earth. A circle is cast and blessed with water, smoke, salt and light in honor of these elements. Rituals often include, singing, chanting, dancing, drumming, poetry and hymns to the Goddess or Gods. Some Rituals are very complex and are almost like a play; other rituals are very simple and flow with the energy of the group.
There is no single Pagan God. Some Pagan faiths, like Hinduism and Eclectic Paganism have many Gods and Goddesses. Some Pagan Traditions like Taoism have no Gods or Goddesses. Some popular deities with contemporary American Pagans are Artemis-Diana, Inanna, the GreenMan, Isis, Brigid, Rhiannon, Apollo, Kore, and Demeter.
The first deities humans worshipped were Goddesses. A Goddess is the female creative and life giving forces of the Universe and much more.
Many Pagans pray and many connect with the divine in other ways. Many meditate as a form of prayer, other drum as a form of prayer; others chant, sing or dance. Some dedicate each task they perform during the day, to the Goddess. Throughout human history people have spoken to their Gods or Goddesses through many different kinds of "prayer".
When a Muslim prays, they bow toward Mecca, when a Christian prays they cross themselves, when a Buddhist prays they chant or make a sand Mandela, when a Pagan prays, they may be chanting, doing ritual, hugging a tree or picking up litter on a beach, as a way of connecting with their Goddesses or Gods.
You look into your heart and ask if it is the right path for you. Some people are born Pagans, even though they do not even know the word, others are born into Pagan cultures, and many others become Pagan when they search their hearts for a connection with their Spirits.
To become a practicing Pagan, you must learn to look at Nature and begin to honor her ways and cycles. Many new Pagans begin by celebrating the phases of the Moon. This can be as simple as taking the time each evening to gaze at the Moon and sing softly to yourself. Make up the words as you go along, you will be amazed at how easy it is. Really look at plants, and your cat, sit quietly and see if you can feel their energy. The first steps to becoming a Pagan are becoming aware of the magic of the natural world around you. The second step is do a small personal ritual and self-blessing that celebrates your entering the Pagan Path.
Pagans try to live in harmony with the Earth and raise their children to honor the ways of Nature. Pagans strive to strengthen their understanding of this miracle called Life. Pagans go to school, go to work, pay taxes, clean house, garden, raise kids, make art, watch TV, do not watch TV, eat at McDonalds, do not eat at McDonalds and love or hate computers, just like everyone else. Pagans are just folks who have a different religion, a Nature Religion that teaches them to honor all life. Pagans honor their Goddesses and Gods with the same faith that non-pagans have their own religions.