Polytheists trying to revive the religions of pre-Christian Europe, more commonly known as Pagans, have a wide range of views and not all will agree with everything written here – which is fine. Polytheism embraces an open, not a closed, view of the world and can incorporate a wide range of different beliefs and practices – which makes it both very wonderful and very hard to describe. I have attempted to not use too many complex words, so that everyone can easily understand it – and disagree with it, if they want to.
What Paganism is
Paganism means different things to different people, but the one thing that almost all Pagans agree on is that the natural world includes sacred, or divine, forces and that it is good to show respect for the sacred forces, or spirits, that exist in nature – because as humans we are part of nature. When we show respect for the natural world we show respect for ourselves and the entire universe in which we live. Many Pagans understand that the most powerful divine forces of nature are Gods – which includes Goddesses. By tapping into the power of the Gods we can improve our own daily lives. As the Gods are powerful they can help us achieve the things we want.
Pagans show respect for the Gods by revering them. There are many ways to revere the Gods but making offerings to the Gods is one of the most common ways. When we make an offering we show our respect for the Gods and we also show that we understand that we cannot get something for nothing – we do not just greedily think we can take from nature, from the Gods, without giving something back.
We can make offerings to the Gods by going somewhere strongly connected to the Gods we wish to revere. For example, we can make an offering to the God of the sea by throwing a coin into the sea, or we can create shrines to certain Gods and make regular offerings at these shrines. Shrines can be created outdoors or in our homes. We can also make offerings to the Gods by creating songs, poems or works of art which show our respect for them.
The Greco-Roman Pantheon
How we revere the Gods will depend on which tradition, or pantheon, we feel connected to. A “pantheon” is a collection of Gods. The Greek and Roman pantheons are made up of many Gods but some of the main Gods are as follows (the Greek names for the Gods are in brackets after the Roman names):
- Apollo (Apollon), God of the sun, healing, disease and music.
- Aesculapius (Asklepios), God of medicine.
- Bacchus (Dionysus), God of grapes, fruitfulness, vegetation, wine and madness.
- Castor & Pollux (Dioscuri), twin Gods of sailors, cavalry and friendship.
- Ceres (Demeter), Goddess of crop farming and growth of food plants.
- Diana (Artemis), Goddess of the hunt, wild animals, forests and the moon.
- Faunus (Pan), God of fields, flocks and shepherds; associated with having fun.
- Flora (Chloris), Goddess of flowering plants, flowers and spring.
- Fortuna (Tyche), Goddess of fortune and luck.
- Hercules (Herakles), God of heroism, strength and perseverance.
- Juno (Hera), Goddess of women, marriage and motherhood.
- Jupiter (Zeus), protecting God of the sky and weather, esp. rain and storms.
- Magna Mater (Cybele/Rhea), great mother Goddess of the Earth and the Gods.
- Mars (Ares), God of war and bravery.
- Mercury (Hermes), God of financial gain, trade, travel, writing and language.
- Minerva (Athena), Goddess of wisdom, skilled work and strategy.
- Neptune (Poseidon), God of water, including the sea.
- Pluto (Hades), God of death, the underworld and mineral wealth.
- Proserpina (Persephone), Goddess of the underworld, wife of Pluto/Hades.
- Salus (Hygeia), Goddess of safety, good health and well-being.
- Saturn (Kronos), God of abundance of food crops, ruler of a past golden age.
- Trivia (Hekate), Goddess of 3 way crossroads, ghosts, the undead and magic.
- Venus (Aphrodite), Goddess of fertility (creation), love and adult relationships.
- Vesta (Hestia), Goddess of hearth fire and ritual fire.
- Victoria (Nike), Goddess of victory.
- Vulcan (Hephaestus), God of destructive fire and creative fire (eg, smithing).
Paganism at School
You may find that many of your friends at school are not Pagan. This is because most people are Christian, Muslim, Hindu,* Buddhist,** or they have no religion. Unfortunately Pagans were persecuted (by Christians and Muslims) for hundreds of years and there are still many Christians and Muslims who wrongly think that Pagans worship demons and do not understand that Pagans are in fact revering the spirits, or forces, of the natural world, not demons. Pagans generally understand that the natural world is sacred, but not everyone does. Many Pagans wait until they know people quite well before telling them that they are Pagan, to avoid being misjudged by people who do not understand what Paganism is. Many Pagans also know that it is very important to respect other peoples’ beliefs – that doesn’t mean you have to have the same beliefs as your friends, but it does mean you don’t have to try to make your friends think the same way as you and you respect their personal choices to have different views of the world.
* Note that Hinduism is very similar to Paganism – the main difference is that Hindus specifically revere the Indian pantheon of Gods.
** Note that some Pagans are also Buddhists – Buddhism accepts that there are many kinds of divine beings, including Gods, but its main focus is not on revering the Gods, instead it focuses on practices aimed at making living beings happier.