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Faith and Spirituality: Pagan & Variations

Welcome to the Faith and Spirituality LibGuide! This guide highlights resources and information about religion and spirituality reflected currently on campus

Introduction

A Pagan, or someone who follows Paganism, is someone whose spiritual, religious, and/or faith-based practices in part or in whole do not fall under the mainstream religions.

Mainstream religions being, for a few examples, Christianity or Catholicism, Judaism, Islamic, Buddhism, Hinduism, or generally religions that one could expect to mark to be listed in the “What is your religion” category on a demographics survey.
Practices under religions commonly known as Pagan - Wicca (modern), Druidism (Celtic), Hellenic (Greek), Asatru (Norse)

Practices under native, folk, or ethnic religions - Native American, African, Asian-Pacific, Australian, and lesser known European religions
Important note: Many Native and Ethnic religions are closed religions, meaning that they do not share their practice due to a history of mistreatment and/or misrepresentation, or due to one or more parts of the religion being very specific to the native persons.

Is “Eclectic” - This is often used to refer to Pagans who do not have a set religion, but who has a practice derived from many different religions, spiritualities, or practices.
 
For example, Pagan people will share the same practices just as two LGBT+ people identify with the same sexuality or gender; However, generally speaking, two Pagan people will not have the same practices, or will engage in the same practices in very different ways.

It is up to a person how they choose to identify under their religion.

If they practice an organized religion that falls under the Pagan umbrella, they may identify under the religion, or identify under Pagan for the quick explanation.
Ex. Many Wiccans may refer to themselves as Wiccan or Pagan, as Pagan is well known, but Wiccan is more appropriate.

A person who follows one of such organized religions may reject being considered a Pagan – they have every right to do so, and that should be respected.
Ex. A Native American may only want their religious practice to be referred to as the particular practice, and that should be respected and not be referred to as Pagan.

If a person does identify as Pagan, they may fall under any variety of religious practices.

Search Terms

Some search terms might include:

Pagan*, Nature, Polytheistic, Modern Paganism, British Paganism, Roman Paganism, Russian Paganism (etc.) Wicca or Witch, Druidism or Celtic, Norse, Paganism AND Christianity, Paganism AND Animism, Paganism AND History, Paganism AND Folklore OR Mythology, Paganism AND ritual, Paganism AND Beliefs

Journals

Pomegranate is the first International, peer-reviewed journal of Pagan studies. It provides a forum for papers, essays and symposia on both ancient and contemporary Pagan religious practices. The Pomegranate also publishes timely reviews of scholarly books in this growing field.

Currently, WPI does not subscribe to this journal. To request full text articles, please submit an ILL request

Reference Resources

Misconceptions

History lesson:
As it is very well known, new religions need to convert common people to their religion so that they have practitioners. Most common people practiced folk – or what present day falls under Pagan – religions. To convert common people from practicing folk religions to practicing the new religion, two tactics were adopted, often together.

Firstly: Many folk practices were adapted into the new religion’s practice – Christmas is a common example, as it is derived from Yule.

Secondly: The folk practices would be demonized – The common figure of Satan, a humanoid, male-appearing body with a goat head with massive horns, was primarily derived from the nature god known as Pan. Through getting people to assimilate with familiar practices and keeping them from returning to the now demonized folk practices, these religions often remained strong for centuries, long enough to presently be known as a mainstream religion.

Present day: Much of this demonization of Pagan religions still avidly occurs today due to both of the tactics utilized. Starting with the second tactic, which clearly causes an issue – The response of many people when they hear that a person is Pagan is the assumption that this person is “an evil Satanist.” Being Pagan is correlated with being different, and these mainstream religions became popular by shunning those who are different and prompting people to be in one group; Their group. With the first tactic – People often misunderstand and misappropriate Pagan practices due to this common tactic of taking a practice and making it their own. Dreamcatchers are a sacred practice in some Native American tribes that are often sold as trinkets to people who do not know nor care for their cultural value. People will wonder why a person would practice Yule when Christmas already exists, rather than wondering why Christmas is so similar to Yule. Even with non-religious people, standards set by mainstream religion are still very present in modern day society. People will mock those who use crystals and incense for following a pseudo-religion. People will refer to tarot, rune, and palm readers or any other diviners as frauds and scammers. People will inherently doubt a person’s worldview, morals, or even sanity for believing in myths. This happens regularly without people even considering it.

Stigma is cultivated when the general understanding of a thing is known so commonly in a negative light that there is an inherent assumption that the thing is in that light for a reason, rather than being put in that light. This can be reinforced through news, shows, or just generally harmful, mocking, and derogatory language being used to refer to the thing. Paganism is not evil or bad, but the mainstream culture and media that surrounds it consistently reinforces the demonization of these practices and continues the stigma of these practices.

Even at WPI, this stigma does exist. Further conversation often confirms a person or such people do not realize the harm their words can cause – It is just repeating something previously heard without context. People do not know better, because that is how stigma works.
Satanists – Satan is a biblical figure, which falls under Christian and Christian-related religions. Satanism is however an organized religion (and, like Paganism, a generally misunderstood religion).

Evil or Bad – As mentioned above, Paganism is often demonized and stigmatized. Being evil or bad is a personal trait, not a demographic trait. Furthermore, Pagan practices often have a basis in positivity and a healthy wellbeing.

Misled Mythology Lovers – While many practices may be based in what is present day commonly known as myth, this is an actual religion for Pagans, and each Pagan has their own reasons for and ways with practicing their religion.

Lost – With the culture of converting people into mainstream religions, there is a common assumption that people who do not practice a mainstream religion, whether they be atheist or Pagan, simply have not had the chance to learn and understand the true meaning of the religion. This will similarly come from atheists, with the assumption that Pagans are confused or just looking for a fake explanation, which is not the case. Paganism is a real religion. Pagan religions are real religions. Pagan practices are real spiritual practices. Please respect this, and do not judge spiritual practices that you know nothing about.
If you do not know what practices a Pagan follows, ask!

If you do not know if a practice is closed, ask!

If you do not understand why a Pagan does what they do, ask!

If you have a friend who is Pagan and you want to know about how their practice works so you do not offend them, ask! (They probably have been waiting for someone to talk to about it anyways!)

If you want to learn more about Paganism, WPI has a club known as the Pagan Circle that welcomes people of any religion to come, ask questions, and learn about our practices.

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