What Is Paganism?

Pagans and druids celebrate the equinox at Stonehenge. Editorial credit: 1000 Words / Shutterstock.com

Paganism is derived from Latin word, “paganus” which was revived during the Renaissance. “Paganus” was developed from the Latin, classical “pagus” which meant “region delimited by markers.” “It also meant “villager,” “country dweller,” and “unlearned.” Paganism is a term used to refer to people who are heathen or those who lack a clear religious group like Christianity, Islam, and others.

History of Paganism

Paganism was initially used as early as the fourth century by Christians in the Roman Empire in reference to people who were either polytheists or who lived in the countryside and had not been converted to Christianity. Therefore, it was used to prejudice them to imply their inferiority. Historically, the term “paganism” has been used to lessen the status of other religious believes or “peasantry.” During and after the era of Middle Ages, paganism meant the belief in the lesser gods or non-Abrahamic beliefs. The term has been passed on, and during the nineteenth century, it was used by people who embraced artistry or ancient beliefs while during the twentieth century, there were people who were self-proclaimed for Neopaganism (or Modern Paganism)

Modern Paganism

Modern paganism (Neopaganism) is a form of paganism which incorporates the beliefs differently from main world religions, for example, worship of nature. Neopaganism derives its beliefs from old sources such as findings of archaeological artifacts, ancient writers’ historical accounts, and records of field research on anthropology among others. Moreover, several types of paganism exist depending on the number of gods they worship. They are either monotheistic, polytheistic, or animistic.

Countries with Large Populations of Pagans

Neopaganism is widespread all over the world mainly to the Near East, North Africa, and Europe. Their beliefs are based on pre-Christian, pre-Judaism, and pre-Islamic among other religions. The religion became widespread since early twentieth century mainly because of freedom of religion and a decline in Christianity in Europe and America. However, due to the secrecy involved, membership and the exact number of pagans worldwide has not been retrieved. Some of the countries believed to have a higher number of pagan groups include America, the United Kingdom, Germany, Russia, and Australia.

In North America, mostly the USA, many pagan groups exist with members who mainly include those who dwell in urban areas, educated and middle class. However, there is no exact statistics on these groups as the government does not collect such information. In the United Kingdom, pagan groups are classified as either Druids, Wiccans, or Heathens and are spread all over the country. The groups are located all over the UK in Scotland, Ireland, and England among other countries in the United Kingdom.

Heathen is a pagan group found in most parts of Germany. The group bases their beliefs on German mythologies such as the belief that the earth is located in a great world tree called “Yggdrasil.” Other countries such as Australia, Canada, Turkey, and Russia also house a significant number of pagan societies.

Other Facts about Paganism

Although paganism has received a significant membership, its spread is hindered by the fact that there are no active propagations of the religion as compared to the main religions. Furthermore, paganism mainly derives its origin from the traditional, cultural, and historical backgrounds of the given communities. Most pagan societies believe in myths and witchcraft. Most of the members have a notion that witchcraft is a scientific art and skill.


More in Society