A Brief Introduction to Contemporary Pagan Spirituality
by William A. Baldwin
What Is Paganism?
The Pagans are the pre-Christian cultures of western Europe. In contrast to the orient, where diverse religions usually coexist, in Europe after the rise of Christianity, Pagans were persecuted and denied freedom of worship. Temples were closed and believers killed. This genocide reached its height with the inhuman torture and executions of hundreds of people between 1400 and 1700. Now, we contemporary Pagans ("Neo- Pagans") are seeking to recover the fragments of our shattered cultures, to rebuild and strengthen the best aspects of our ancient traditions, the ways of our ancestors.
We Honor the Mother
While we reverence the entire Universe, our religion pays particular homage to the Goddess. She is our Mother. She gave birth to all life. We are Her children, born from the Womb of the Universe. We pay homage to the many aspects of woman - the young girl, the mature lover and mother, the wise crone.
This reverence for the Goddess does not demand an abasement of men, for we honor the male aspects of the Universe as well. And yet, our Lady holds a special place. Mother of us all, she shows us the immortality of life within the commonplace; that Death and Life are interdependent; that Love and Life prevails over hatred and death. For she cared enough to bring us to birth.
We Respect the Earth
We Pagan peoples know our ancestry. The Earth is our Mother. Without Her, without the soil, water, air, and sunlight we could not live. As children of the Earth, we care for our Mother. If people despoil her, if people ignore her or continue to rape her, she will die and her children with her. We maintain the sanctity of the soil, the rivers, oceans, mountains, fields, and glaciers. We call all peoples to stewardship to care for the Mother Earth as our first parent; for without Her, we would not exist.
We Honor the Holiness of All Existence
We do not consider ourselves superior to other people, or to animals, plants, or even rocks. The entire Universe is holy since it is the place of nature. We do not distinguish the "natural" from the "supernatural". All existence is magickal. The animals and plants are our sisters and brothers, we bow in reverence to Eagle, Cow, Pig, Horse, and Coyote; to Wheat, Barley, Oak and Palm. They have their places as we have ours. Iron, Silicon, Salt, Gold, Tin, Silver - we all share one Mother. We even honor the microbe that we kill or that kills us - for they are children of the Mother, and Death flows into life.
Thus we personify many aspects of nature. We worship many Goddesses and Gods, divinities of Wind, divinities of Rain, divinities of Death, the Forest, Love, Sex, Community, and Discord. They are all but the many faces of our parent.
We are a Joyous People
Unlike many religions, we Pagans generally worship are divinities joyfully. We partake in the ecstasy of life. We sing, dance, shout, yell, scream. We delight in our bodies through lovemaking, dress and decoration. We create beauty through music, poetry, and drama. We share our delight with others in love and communities of caring. The physical is not to be shunned - neither is it to be misused or hoarded. The Earth is for all creatures - while we enjoy life, we must nurture it, and help others to discover the joy of living.
We have a Long, Proud History
Pagans are the European branch of the great religious tradition which was once found throughout the entire world. We have close affinities to the ancient civilizations of Greece, Egypt, Babylon, and Sumer which contributed so much to art and science.
We have been deprived of our history, robbed of our heritage, denied our religion. We have emerged from the darkness of torture and prison to seek again our birthright
among the world's people. We support the struggles of all native peoples to reclaim their ancestral heritage. We support the struggle of the American Indians, the Australian Aborigines, the African tribes, and the Tibetans. Let us honor the Earth our Mother, the Sky our Father, and all their children - the many and diverse cultures and objects of our Universe.
Originally published by Nightpath in 1987 - Copyright (c) 1987, W. Baldwin