Paganism encompasses non-Christian traditional religions that allow polytheism (the simultaneous belief in several gods).
The history of the “paganism” term originates in the Bible. In Common Slavic, this word meant a tribe, or a united people combined into a single group. During the times of the Old Testament, Jews called pagans any tribes of people who were different from them.
Trends in global paganism
In conceding the fact that there is no exact definition of paganism, the following religious trends can be included in it.
Cult of ancestors. This is the belief that the deceased family members magically participate in the life of their descendants and are considered their unseen patron saints. This type of paganism perpetuates the link between generations of relatives, it closely connects them in interpersonal relations and includes some rules for burying the dead, offering sacrifices and obligatory regular commemorative rituals.
Magic. This is the belief that certain people have specific skills and knowledge that can influence events, people’s fates and natural phenomena. Magic practices are very varied and can be observed in different forms such as alchemy, cabbala, ceremonial magic, fortune telling and necromancy.
Animism. This is a faith in the existence of the natural soul and spirits, and the spirituality of surrounding nature.
Teroteism (or zoolatry). This means religious reverence (deifying) of birds and animals to obtain the disposition of the chosen higher being via magical rites and rituals.
Totemism. This is the faith in the kinship with animals or birds. One of the varieties of totemism is the acknowledgement of inanimate elements, for example, water, thunder, wind or iron. For the group of people who accept a specific totem, it is considered their exclusive patriarch.
Religious fetishism. This is a cult of material subjects that are assigned specific magic properties. Any object chosen by a person or a group of people, for example, an odd-shaped stone, teeth, claws or animal paws can become a revered charm.
Shamanism. This is an early form of religion based on practices of the magic communication of Shaman with the spiritual world while in a state of trance. This may be accompanied by a vargan (Jew’s harp), tambourine, dances, or certain spells.
The Shaman’s role is that of an intermediary. The magic experience is of an exclusively individual character and the Shaman’s powers are not passed to its followers in the form of the described rituals.
Neopaganism. This includes present-day types of spiritual practices and teachings aimed at the restoration of ancient pagan rituals, ceremonies and religious rules.
Present-day pagan trends
Adherents of neo-paganism use the basics and traditions that have a history going back many centuries. New pagan trends appear through the use of combinations of various existing religious teachings and the introduction of modern individual approaches to the interpretation of spiritual values. The most easily identifiable forms include:
Rodnoverie (Slavic neo-paganism). Thishas the reconstruction and the revival of ancient pre-Christian rituals and ceremonies as its goal. The most widespread symbol is the Kolovrat. Beliefs and faith tenets may differ in different trends of Rodnoverie followers.
Romuva. This isisa Lithuanian pagan trend initiated by university students in 1967. It is a religion of earthly values stemming from respect to the woman, and goddesses.
Asatru. This is a pagan movement based on the revival of certain indigenous populations’ rituals connected with worshiping natural forces. Asatru is practiced in Scandinavian countries.
Wicca. This is a religion of worshiping natural forces. Characteristics of this trend include loose morals, the simultaneous worshiping of a god and goddess and the use of ritual magic. The main magic Wicca objects are an altar, bowl, frankincense and a pentacle. In the traditional variant of the religion, all rites are performed by naked people.
Seita. This is one of the sorcery types which uses a ritual spinning wheel. The word has ancient Scandinavian roots; in some explanations modern linguistics indicates the following connotations of the word – rope, string, net, trap. This pagan trend is characterized mainly by a feminine magic ritual involving an altered state of mind (trance).
As there are a large number of pagan types, there are many cult holidays in the world. These include the following:
Koliada (Christmas Eve, day of winter solstice). This appears in a yearly cycle and is characterised by fortune-telling, the donning of bright-colored garments (ryazhenie), singing and folk games.
Komoeditsa (day of vernal equinox). This is a holiday devoted to the cult of the bear. Based on folk tales about a bear’s favorite food, certain dishes are cooked. The holiday’s name comes from a dish made of pea lumps. It is thought, that after the celebration of this holiday, bears wake up from their hibernation.
3. St. John the Baptist’s day (Ivana Kupala, the day of summer solstice). This is celebrated annually on July 7. This day is directly connected with the element of water. According to the traditional lore, it is necessary immerse oneself in water before the last sun ray disappears. In the evening, fires are made in the natural way, using wood friction.
Tausen (Bogach, Nativity of the Blessed Virgin, autumnal equinox) is the day when autumn and the harvest festival meet; it symbolizes the end of summer field works by farmers. In some traditions, it is customary to renew the home fire by extinguishing the old fire and making a new one.
Paganism in russia
Pagan religious trends in Russia are represented now mainly by village people in the countryside. They can include ethnic types of paganism, shamanism, and Rodnoverie. These religious trends have the collective name of “the people’s paganism”.
Paganism is a very ancient system of beliefs that was formed by the historical reciprocal influence of fundamental religions and individual beliefs of certain groups of people. The development of paganism made a significant historical contribution to the global spiritual culture of people all over the world.