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Paganism: Its Meaning to Me

An anonymous question came to my blog, a couple of years ago, requesting some perspective from me about paganism:

Could you explain what paganism means to you and why it’s important to keep relevant? I always hear the word with such negative connotations and I’d be interested in hearing your views on it.

I replied:

Certainly, I understand the popular misconceptions of what it means to be pagan, particularly if one has come from a background that condemns outside views—enter almost any mainstream religion…

Paganism, for me, is all about a connection to the land, and to different pagans, it can mean connection to spirits and gods, as well. As a supporter of Deep Ecology, Ecopsychology, and other similar movements, I’m of the opinion that, contrary to the aspirations of most mainstream religions, I don’t feel that one’s mental, spiritual, and emotional health derives solely from seeking peace “out there,” in some place or state-of-being that’s beyond the body. As with Tantra, I see one’s healthiest holistic potential being reached through a balance of mind, body, spirit, and emotions, but as with Tantra, this has to grow from the ground up. What I mean by this is that part of the healthiest growth you can achieve is to be comfortable in your body, through awareness training of your senses, as well as through the inner work.

Why is it important? For the same reason that any tradition sees fit to change with the times. Stagnant traditions lose their appeal, and thus, lose the capacity to transform their adherents’ lives.

My personal path emerged in youth through rather unusual channels, including explorations of first-nations cultures across North America, self-teaching in survival and primitive skills, and a curiosity about wild plant-use. All of this inevitably led me to curiosity about aboriginal spiritual traditions and shamanism, and then on into Wicca and other things.

There are certainly aspects of every pagan tradition that can seem “negative,” but one of the lines that comes to mind whenever I think of that “good” and “evil” duality, is one that comes from the 1996 film, The Craft, in which Lirio, the shop-keeper says, “True magic is neither black nor white; it is both, because nature is both loving and cruel at the same time. The only ‘good’ or ‘bad’ is in the heart of the witch.”

I think that, any time we encounter negative connotations, we have to examine the lack of understanding that those usually represent. When we look past that, and try to learn more for ourselves, then it’s hard to see any tradition as exclusively “bad” or “evil.”


Brian is an Animist, with Naturalistic-Pantheist leanings, exploring Transpersonal and Ecopsychology. He has a lifelong fascination with myth and folklore, comparative religion, herbs, beekeeping, and rites of passage.

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