Modern Pagans have become synonymous with magickal practitioners. However, the two are hardly one and the same. Many Pagans practice no magick at all whereas others cannot imagine life without it. Does magick make an individual a Pagan? Is a path considered Pagan if it does not include witchcraft? For those out there who have pondered these questions or who hold outdated misconceptions of modern Pagans, this page briefly presents where the confusion began and provides examples of Pagan and magickal paths that may be outside your previous understanding of the words.
Where the Confusion Began
The first modern Pagan path to become widely presented to the public was Wicca. This path is a religious one with a central God and Goddess, reverence for nature, and the use of witchcraft. Magickal practice is central to the Wiccan path. To be Wiccan and not be a witch contradicts the basics of Wicca. As the most well-known of modern Pagan faiths, Wicca has become synonymous with Paganism. Thus all Pagan paths are considered magickal faiths by those who are misinformed.
As the term "paganism" is often used as an umbrella term that encompasses a wide variety of faiths, paths, and lifestyles, there is no single, strict definition for the term. The term "neo-Pagan," or new Pagan, was coined to differentiate between those paths that are indigenous and have a long, uninterrupted history from those that are new, compilations of, or reconstructions of old paths. As a result, not all who are viewed as Pagans call themselves as such and those within the Pagan community may disagree with the use of the label by other groups. With this loose nature of the term in modern use, it is no wonder the average individual has a hard time discerning the differences.
Pagans Who Do Not Use Magick
Although many Pagan faiths most certainly do believe in magick and the human ability to use it, not all actually practice magick. In some faiths, such as Asatru, the practice of magick is left to specific individuals within the faith; much like priests in Catholic churches perform functions of the faith that the rest of the congregation does not.
There are other Pagans who do not ascribe to a particular religion but are pursuing an individual path. They resonate with the general understanding of the term "Pagan" but will gladly admit what aspects of other Pagan faiths they do and do not agree with. Some do not see a need to practice magick and others do not feel that it is a part of their path. Still other Pagans may believe that magick is all around us in everything we say and do. As such, there is no need to perform rituals or cast spells to work real magick.
To make the matter more confusing, there is a misconception that anyone who practices magick is automatically Pagan as well. As we have already pointed out that not all Pagans practice magick regardless of whether or not they believe in it, there are those who do practice magick regularly who are not Pagan.
One great example are chaos magicians. Unlike other systems of magick, chaos magick does not require any sort of belief system at all. Chaos magicians do as they do based upon what works and what does not work without any recognition of laws. Many believe that there are no laws and believing in such is a limitation to magick. This is not to say that such practitioners do whatever they want or are out harming others. While it is a possibility as is the chaos with all magickal practitioners, chaos magicians do have values and standards they choose to operate by. They simply do not abide by a shared system of belief.
As we can see here, not all Pagan paths closely resemble Wicca. The term "Pagan" is generally used so loosely that it may apply to a large variety of faiths and lifestyles. Although the majority of Pagans certainly believe in magick, not all practice it. Then there are those who practice magick who most certainly do not consider themselves Pagan in any shape or form. Can an individual who resonates with Paganism still use the label Pagan even if he or she does not practice magick? Absolutely!
© 2012 by Evylyn Rose
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