By Nick the Witch of the Glyden Foundation
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A perennial question that arises for people considering paganism as a life choice (regardless of their ages) is that of what do I understand by the word, pagan, and how will it change my life?
Google is quite clear on this one:a person holding religious beliefs other than those of the main world religions. So, a pagan is anyone who doesn't follow one of the major religions such as Christianity, Hinduism, Islam etc - that's a lot of pagans!
The BBCis a little clearer:“Paganism encompasses a diverse community with some groups concentrating on specific traditions, practices or elements such as ecology, witchcraft, Celtic traditions or certain gods.Wiccans, Druids, Shamans, Sacred Ecologists, Odinists and Heathens all make up parts of the Pagan community.”
In fact, there are many other branches to this tree, including pagans that follow First Nation teaching, ancient Egypt or Hellenic philosophy, yogic witchcraft and even those who prefer not to have labels at all. But there aresome common principlesthat run through many pagan paths.
Also, there are differing approaches to pagan pathways:
At the last count, there's about 10 or more different orders of druids in the Druid Network and about 15 identified mainstream witch paths - here's a list.
If you do feel confused by all the differing paths and proliferation of online training courses, my advice is always to go along to a few pagan eventsor MBS (mind, body & spirit) fairs and listen to some of the free workshops. Within the Gylden area, it's not so hard to check the dates of regular events, eg Violet Flame, the Wandering Witches' Fayres, Pagan Pride South and, not to be missed, the Enchanted Market - biggest pagan event in southern England in February.Just to summarise, here are some useful UK sources to find out more.
You might also find more information about other pagan paths such as Goddess beliefs from the following:
Nick O'Connor was the Regional Co-ordinator for Surrey & N. Hampshire for the Pagan Federation for two years. He's been a witch for almost 20 years and is a member of the British Druid Order. He's an admin for Pagan Connections, Discover Druidry and a member of the Society for Storytelling. Nick's had many articles published on folklore, history of witchcraft & magick in several pagan publications.