THINGS TO DO BEFORE YOU DIE - Paganism
Paganism is a modern religious tradition based on the worship of nature and influenced by the religions of indigenous people. There are many different communities or types of Paganism. These include the Heathens, Wiccans, Druids, Odinists, Shamans, and Sacred Ecologists. With such a diverse range of subdivisions, Paganism involves a host of different practices and has experienced a rise in popularity in the past century.
The Renaissance of the 1500s reintroduced the Ancient Greek concepts of Paganism. Pagan symbols and traditions entered European art, music, literature, and ethics. The Reformation of the 1600s put a temporary halt to Pagan thinking. Greek and Roman classics, with their focus on Paganism, were accepted again during the Enlightenment of the 1700s.
Paganism experienced another rise in the 1800s and 1900s when modern forms of Buddhism and Hinduism were growing in popularity. Like those religions, Paganism revered nature. The 1900s also sparked the spread of indigenous religions and religions with indigenous bases, like Candomble and Santeria.
Hinduism and Taoism influenced modern Paganism during the 1960s and 1970s. With the hippie, ecological, and feminist movements of those times, more and more people turned to Paganism. Many environmentally conscious Christians today share the belief with Pagans that all forms of life have a soul.
Pagans see the divine spirit in all life, as do some members of other religions.
THINGS TO DO
Pagans pray and many connect with the divine in other ways. Many meditate as a form of prayer, other drum as a form of prayer; others chant, sing or dance. Some dedicate each task they perform during the day, to the Goddess. Throughout human history people have spoken to their Gods or Goddesses through many different kinds of "prayer". When a Muslim prays, they bow toward Mecca, when a Christian prays they cross themselves, when a Buddhist prays they chant or make a sand mandala, when a Pagan prays, they may be chanting, doing ritual, hugging a tree or picking up litter on a beach, as a way of spiritual connection with their Goddesses or Gods.
Beltane in Edinburgh
Every year on 30th April on Calton Hill in Edinburgh thousands of people come together for a huge celebration to mark the coming of summer. The evening begins with a procession to the top of the hill led by people dressed as the May Queen and the Green Man (ancient God and Goddess figures representing fertility and growth).The main element of any Beltane celebration is fire. On Calton Hill torchbearers carry purifying flames and fire arches are used to represent the gateways between the earthly world and the spirit world. Most of the imagery used in the costumes and rituals comes from the Celts and from Scottish folklore. Other influences come from indigenous people world wide. For instance, the symbol of Ogun, the Yoruba god of iron, can be seen on the faces of some of the performers, and the Geisha traditions of Japan are evident in the dress of the White Women (assistants of the May Queen). Due to the ecclectic nature of the celebrations, Edinburgh's Beltane is not recognized as a religious ritual by many practicing Pagans.
For many modern Pagans and Wiccans, there has been a resurgence of interest in our family histories. Although ancestor worship has traditionally been found more in Africa and Asia, many Pagans with European heritage are beginning to feel the call of their ancestry. This rite can be performed either by itself, or on the third night of Samhain, following the End of Harvest celebration and the Honoring of the Animals., decorate your altar table -- you may have already gotten it set up during the End of Harvest rite or for the Ritual for Animals. Decorate your altar with family photos and heirlooms. Have a meal standing by to eat with the ritual. Once all the candles have been lit, the entire family should circle the altar. The oldest adult present leads the ritual. This ceremony is considered to be as a duty to the ancestors.
This odd phenomenon, known as the Name-of-the-Month Syndrome, happens most often because the person in question hasn't taken the time to research and learn which is crucial to finding the right magical name. This is a customary practice in Paganism to lead a spiritual life till death. A magical name is unique to the practitioner, and there are several ways to find yours. When you find the right name, you'll keep it for a long time. In some traditions, it's customary to wait until you've studied a year and a day before claiming your magical name. Some Pagans have two magical names -- one which they use in public and one which is known only to the gods and members of the person's coven.
Ceremonies usually begin with the marking out of a ritual circle, a symbol of sacred space which has neither beginning nor end, and within which all stand as equals. At the quarter-points, the four directions and the corresponding elements of Earth, Air, Fire and Water will be acknowledged and bid welcome. There may follow, according to the purpose of the rite, any or all of meditation, chanting, music, prayer, dance, the pouring of libations, recitations of poetry and/or the performance of sacred drama, and the sharing of food and drink. Lastly the circle will be formally unmade, the directions, elements, and all the forms of divinity that have been called upon thanked, as the rite ends.
Pagans do not believe that they are set above, or apart from, the rest of nature. They understand divinity to be immanent, woven through every aspect of the living earth. Thus, Pagan worship is mainly concerned with connection to, and the honouring of, immanent divinity. The rituals are akin to a symbolic language of communication between the human and the divine: one which speaks not to the intellect alone but also to the body, the emotions, and the depths of the unconscious mind, allowing Pagans to experience the sacred as whole people within the act of worship. The approach is primarily mythopoeic, recognizing that spiritual truths are better understood by means of allusion and symbol rather than through doctrine.
Pagan wedding ceremonies are called handfastings and mark the coming together of two people in a formal, loving and equal sexual partnership. Pagans take the swearing of oaths very seriously indeed and believe it important that they articulate the sincere, considered intentions of the individuals concerned rather than merely repeating a standard formula. A couple may choose to handfast for the traditional period of a year and a day, and it is not uncommon for Pagans in long-term relationships to renew their vows after each year and a day has passed so that neither comes to take the other for granted.
Others vow to handfast for life while a few, in accordance with Pagan beliefs in reincarnation, do so for all their future lives as well. The ceremony will be held out of doors if at all possible, and will begin with the marking out of sacred space (usually in the form of a circle), the honouring of the Four Elements, and a welcome for all who are present. Rings will be exchanged and the ceremony will conclude with 'jumping the broomstick' - the couple leaping hand in hand over a broom held horizontally before them, thus crossing the symbolic boundary between their old lives and their new, shared, one. As with most Pagan rituals, a handfasting will be followed by feasting and celebration by the company.
A Croning ceremony may be performed by a High Priestess, but can also be performed by other women who have already attained the position of Crone. The ceremony itself is typically performed as part of a women's circle, a coven's Esbat, or a Sabbat gathering. There is no set rule for how a ceremony is conducted, but many women who have achieved the title of Crone find they like to include at least some of the following:
- A ritual bath or cleansing beforehand
- Singing and chanting
- A guided meditation honoring the archetype of Wise Woman
- Symbols of initiation -- a staff, a special cloak, a garland or crown
- Drumming, music or poetry celebrating womanhood
- An altar with photos of female relatives and friends who have empowered you
- A celebratory meal
- A symbol of the passage into Cronehood -- entering through a curtain or tunnel, crossing a ceremonial threshold
- An exchange of gifts or blessings (a Croning basket filled with chocolates and herbal teas is popular)
- Some women choose to adopt a new name at their Croning Ceremony -- this is certainly not mandatory, but just as we take new names for other milestones in our lives, if you feel that this is right for you, do so. Your Crone name can be one you keep to yourself, share only among friends, or announce to the world. Crossing the threshold into Cronehood can be a major event in a woman's life of attaining spirituality. It's a celebration of all that you've learned, and all that you will come to know in the future. For many women, it's a time to make new commitments and vows. If you've ever had an interest in taking a leadership position in some aspect of your life, now is a great time to do so. This third cycle of your life is the one in which you become an Elder, and you've joined a special group. You have a lifetime of achievements behind you, and decades more to look forward to.
Thus Paganism is defined as a love of Nature, and a commitment to live in harmony with the Earth and Her creatures. You need to feel in your heart that it is where your own spirituality is leading you.
Paganism is for Pagans, only you know if you are a Pagan in your heart. Practice your faith in small, simple, healing ways that will create a powerful spiritual energy within you and strengthen your connection with the Earths Wisdom and Spirituality.