About Paganism - Other Characteristics
The Basics |
What Paganism Is |
Nature Veneration |
The Goddess |
Other Characteristics |
The many divinities of Pagan religion often include ancestral deities. The Anglo-Saxon royal houses of England traced their ancestry back to a god, usually Woden, and the Celtic kings of Cumbria traced their descent from the god Beli and the goddess Anna. Local and national heroes and heroines may be deified, as was Julius Caesar, and in all Pagan societies the deities of the household are venerated. These may include revered ancestors and, for a while, the newly dead, who may of may not choose to leave the world of the living for good. They may include local spirits of place, either as personified individuals such as the spirit of a spring or the house's guardian toad or snake, or as group spirits such as Elves in England, the Little People in Ireland, Kobolds in Germany, Barstuccae in Lithuania, Lares and Penates in ancient Rome, and so on. A household shrine focuses the cult of these deities, and there is usually an annual ritual to honour them. The spirit of the hearth is often venerated, sometimes with a daily offering of food and drink, sometimes with an annual ritual of extinguishing and relighting the fire. Through ancestral and domestic ritual a spirit of continuity is preserved, and by the transmission of characteristics and purposes from the past, the future is assured of meaning.
So, not all Pagan religion is public religion; much is domestic. And not all Pagan deities are humanoid super-persons; many are elemental or collective. We are looking at a religion which pervades the whole of everyday life.
One consequence of the veneration of Nature, the outlook which sees Nature as a manifestation of divinity rather than as a neutral or inanimate object, is that divination and magic are accepted parts of life.
Magic, the deliberate production of results in this world by Otherworld means, is generally accepted as a feasible activity in Pagan societies, since the two worlds are thought to be in constant communication. In ancient Rome a new bride would ceremonially anoint the doorposts of her new home with wolf's fat to keep famine from the household, and her new-born child would be given a consecrated amulet to wear as a protection against harmful spirits. The Norse warriors of the Viking age would cast the magical 'war fetter' upon their enemies to paralyse them, and Anglo-Saxon manuscripts record spells to bring healing and fertility. Specialist magical technologists such as horse-whisperers and healers are common throughout Pagan societies, but the practice of magic for unfair personal gain or for harm to another is forbidden, exactly as physical extortion and assault are forbidden everywhere.