The university where I work recently held a professional development event about accepting and understanding transgender students. A panel of students answered every question, no matter how trivial or controversial. It gave people the opportunity to develop understanding in a safe and positive environment.
So in that spirit I hung out on Tumblr and found some common misconceptions about Paganism from outside of the Pagan community. Now clearly my answers are from my experience of Paganism, so I am asking my fellow bloggers to chime in. The goal is to create greater understanding of the Pagan community to promote greater peace and harmony. So let’s get started!
- Paganism is a cult: ABSOLUTELY NOT, STOP, TO NOT PASS GO, DO NOT COLLECT $200. Let’s put it this way: the U.S. Army allows Pagans to organize and practice on military bases and groups in several states have won tax-free status, mainstream culture has been very accepting of Paganism. If we were a cult, the U.S. Military and Government would not recognize us. So, clearly not a cult.
- Wicca is not an organized religion: Not exactly. Certain traditions are more organized than others (Circle Craft, Reclaiming, etc.), and of course covens are organized groups. But who knows how many solitaries are out in the world, and there isn’t a “Congress of Witches” out there governing theology. I always describe Paganism as independently cohesive.
- All Pagans are Wiccan: Over half of the Pagan community identify as Wiccan, but being Pagan does not mean that the practitioner is Wiccan. Reconstructionalist paths are also incredibly popular as well as Dianic traditions.
- All Witches are Pagans, and all Pagans practice Witchcraft: Twenty years ago I would agree with that statement, but with the rise of Christian Wicca, Reconstructionalism, and secular practitioners this statement simply isn’t true anymore.
- All Pagans are part of the New Age Movement: I think it depends on what you consider part of the New Age Movement. Astrology, for example, is considered “new-agey” but it’s thousands of years old. Furthermore, the Neo-Pagan Movement is about ten-fifteen years older than the New Age Movement and claims roots thousands of years older. However certain activities commonly incorporated into modern magic and Pagan rituals, such as gemstone healing, have origins in the New Age Movement. So, it’s complicated.
- Satanism is a part of Paganism: It depends on who you ask. Some Satanists identify as Pagan, others as Christian. Plus, some Pagans view Satan as a figure in the Christian pantheon therefore see Satanists as Christian. Most Pagans do not believe in Satan.
- Pagans are going to Hell: The common Pagan theology is reincarnation, not an eternal resting place or place of damnation. So. No.
- All Pagans engage in the same activities: There is a difference between a common practice and a cohesive theology. The first is a loose guideline and the other is a strict rule. Pagans have a couple common practices such as reverence for nature. However since there are so many variations of Paganism, examples of cohesive theology are far and few.
- Animal or blood sacrifice is common: No. Santeria practitioners occasionally kill live animals in ritual. Also some Pagan sects occasionally offer flesh sacrifices in a form of a piece of chicken liver or something else from a butcher. But the vast majority of Pagans do not do this practice.
- All Pagans have wild, ritualized sex: We wish. Yes, sex magic and the Great Rite exist, but they’re a spiritual practice as sacred as any other ritual that are highly personal. I think some people conflate being open about sex with being slutty, deviant, or unusual, which is absolutely absurd. We’re just not scared of sex, that’s all.
If anyone has any other questions about Paganism that you’re too afraid to ask, feel free to email me.
© Ariadne Woods