In a world where differences between religious groups are often stressed, too few of us realise how many similarities there are between Christian beliefs and Paganism. Though many of us are aware of the pagan roots of some Christian traditions, such as the Yule log and holly, there are deeper rooted similarities than these Christmas trimmings. History has too many examples of conflicts over real or imagined religious differences; so a greater understanding of each other’s religion might bring a heightened sympathy between us.
The Neo-Pagan religions have many names, including Paganism, Asatru, Wicca, Witchcraft, and Druidism. While Paganism stresses a bond with nature and an acknowledgement of the natural cycle of life in the world, there is no one tenet of faith that all followers acknowledge as central to their religion.
The word “pagan” has a long and confused history. In the first centuries Anno Domini (also known as the Common Era), a Pagan was someone who did not believe in the Abrahamic religions. The Latin word “paganus” means countryman, and it is easy to see the link between this and the Pagan religion, which is often de-scribed as being that of country-folk.
Paganism celebrates the cycle of the year, and there is no central religious text; so it would have been accessible to peasants who could not read. Its emphasis on the changes that ordinary people could see around them in the trees and earth would have made sense to them.
Modern-day Paganism is de-scribed by the Pagan Federation (www.paganfed.org) as “a spiritual way of life which has its roots in the ancient nature religions of the world. . . We celebrate the sanctity of Nature, revering the Divine in all things; the vast, unknowable spirit that runs through the universe, both seen and unseen.”
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