30 Days of Paganism: One misconception about Paganism you’d like to clear up

IT’S NOT WICCA.

Seriously, though, that is a BIG misconception out there — that “paganism” is just another word for “Wicca.” It’s really really not!

Very pretty. No reverence required.
Very pretty. No reverence required.

Using the definition I’m most comfortable with, paganism is a big, umbrella term to refer to any religion that is not Abrahamic and self-identifies as pagan. The self-identity thing is most important, and why religions like Hinduism are not often considered ‘pagan’ (because people within it often don’t self-identify as pagan — but as with anything, there are exceptions to the ‘rule’). You’ll notice the definition also doesn’t include things like “earth-based” or “nature reverence”.

Beyond that definition, there’s no theological unity among pagans (and even that definition might be up for debate as too restrictive). That’s fine. Neo-Paganism is more a socio-cultural movement with a shared history than a unified front of religious belief. We have lots of variety and diversity, and that’s a good thing. And within that variety and diversity, there are some shared experiences that may affect many, if not most, pagans. Things that, if you bring them up with other pagans, you’re likely to get a Oh, yeah, I know all about that.

Examples include navigating wearing religious jewelry or clothing at work and the questions it may raise; finding a good place for ritual if your house isn’t suitable; meeting with other people of vaguely similar mindset in your area; organizing meetups; figuring out how to make faith work with mundane life when there’s no framework in the secular world (getting time off work for holidays, etc); the list goes on. A lot of pagans have to deal with these questions, and you’ll find more unity with regards to socio-cultural aspects than you will with theological ones.

That said, there’s nothing wrong with calling your path ‘paganism’ if you’re lacking a better word or it’s an eclectic blend of different pagan things anyway. Just like you can call your path ‘witchcraft’ if it’s definitely witchcraft but not a specific tradition of witchcraft.

You just need to be prepared to explain that the word doesn’t refer to a specific religion; you’re just using it to describe yours because it’s the best one available.

So I guess that’s the biggest misconception about paganism I’d like to clear up: it’s not one religion; the religions it unites under its umbrella banner are not necessarily theologically connected; nature reverence is not necessarily a core part of it; it’s definitely not Wicca.

~Morag

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