What You Don't Know About Paganism
When researching specific deities, there is always the same problem; where does this Deity end, and the one that is so similar from a different culture end? It was through my observations of similarities that I first began to cultivate my own personal Faith. Theology is not a practice, but a way of life, especially for someone focused not on one name of "God" but on them all.
Although my research began as a hodge-podge, I thought to present my finding by beginning with the familiarity of Christianity. It has a definite beginning and foundation from which history and other traditions sprang. Alas, its beginnings were not as formal as practitioners hoped, with stories that seem to be drawn from more ancient civilizations. Does this mean that these stories are any less true? No. In fact, it goes towards proving the absolutes hidden within allegory.
Christianity not working as a foundation from which to let knowledge flow, I decided to take my inspiration for revelation from life's natural patterns. It must be understood that I have an ulterior motive: I intend to reveal to the world that their Religions are compatible, sharing many traits and histories, not antagonistic, and therefore the basis of most of the anger between cultures living side-by-side. I have begun to use each holiday to expose similarities, histories and tolerance. Unfortunately this does not always lead to full understanding of the pieces and parts that make up the whole.
I have, on more than one occasion, been asked specific questions about individual deities and to provide more information about "Pagans". I start today fulfilling those suggestions, requesting patience to work through the mass of "Divine Beings". Understanding, even if not thorough, is still the path to tolerance and compassion. I do not have full understanding, but together we can achieve more.
It is imperative to start with an agreed understanding of "Pagan". One definition refers to any Religion that is not Jehovah based. This is a rather wide definition and includes such practices as Buddhism, Hindu et cetera as well as the Native American Faiths (often referred to as "Shamanism") and Wicca. Although Wicca is a Pagan religion, not all Pagans are Wiccans. I have known Pagans who are Odinists (Norse Mythology) which is very much different than Wicca (a Goddess centered Faith). To say that someone is Pagan, explains nothing.
For most people in this society, "Pagan" refers to a nature-based Religion. The deities through which the Spirituality is celebrated can be different from one Pagan to another. Even the manner in which they enact their Faith can be different. Many Pagans are what is considered a "Solitary", meaning they practice alone and rarely participate in a Religious group. Some have set gatherings in which to participate in Religious celebrations together. Each group will have their own word to describe themselves, such as the Wiccan word "Coven".
Independent of words and definitions, most Pagans (in reality most people) celebrate the Wheel of Time. These are regular holidays dictated by seasonal changes. Not all of them call it the Wheel of Time, nor do they say, "This is our holiday for this season," but like the American Independence Day, there are cultural celebrations that occur with regularity, the specifics of the practice dictated by the expected weather in which it occurs. Like the picnics and outdoor festivals of the 4th, Beltane (Spring) fires and frolic are focused on the exuberance of weather. Certainly these celebrations are flexible to accommodate Mother Nature's ambiguity, but the patterns are still ingrained in us.
The artifacts of these celebrations are every bit as individualized as the methods. There are specific symbols that can be found in several groups, but not at all in others. Whereas the cauldron and the blade may symbolize the female and male respectively in Wicca, Artherians (yes, the legends of Camelot have inspired their or Religion) assign no such symbolism to these same items.
As I discuss the highlights of the Wheel of Time, there are often seemingly missing parts, or pieces that cause more questions. Now that you have a more clear understanding of the muddle we call "Pagan", you can see why there are more questions than answers with each revelation.