I have had a couple of PM's about paganism now. So thought it easier if I explained here. I really hope that anything I write does not offend I know there are many people here who go to church and for whom their Christian beliefs are very important, as Pagan I respect that and in no way am saying my way is right all I can do it explain what it means to me and a little about what Paganism is. It has recently been recognised as a religion. But like Christinaity covers many slightly different belief systems and there are many forms of pagans. However the conneting thing is that it is earth or nature based and goes in harmony with the natural cycle of the year. Most Christian celebrations were orignally pagan ones in the days when everyone was Pagan.
We have no one god we don't believe in the Devil and we are not satanists. Rather we beleive that within us all is the power to be good and bad. It is the choices we make that determine things not an outside influence like the Devil. I do not have one god I have 2 Mother Earth and Father Sky duality forming perfect singularity. For me there has to be perfect balence and for that equal male and female gods.
There are 8 celebrations The 1st of the year is Yule and co-incides with the shortest day, it is a time to celebrate that the longest night is now behind us and we can look forward to the spring the summer sun or oak has won supremacy and will gradually shape the year to warmth and light. The next one is Imbolc which co-incides with the start of the earth waking up, these days it is generally celebrated on the 2nd Feb but in days before calenders and counting would have come when the 1st shoots from things like snow drops were starting to show themselves a sign that the earth is waking up after its winter sleep. The next is Eostara which roughly equates to Easter 21st March, where do you think you get easter eggs from? It is the start of the fertility cycle and is celebrated at the sping equinox. Beltaine is next huge one for us May 1st all about fertility and new life look at is natures wedding day/night, oh the maypole comes from paganism. Litha is next or summer solstice longest day and is the time when the fertile earth is showing signs of its produce to come it is also the time that warmth and light give way to cold and darkness as the days get shorter, Lammas is next the start of the harvest and happens at the start of August. Mabon is next Autumn equinox, finally there is Samhain or Halloween as it often known the end of our year which is the time when all the harvest should be gathered in and we are knuckling down for the long winter. As it is the end of the the circle of the year we also think of the end of the circle of life, it is a time to remember those who have died it is said it is the time when the veil between the words of living and dead is at it thinnest many of us will light a candle and leave it burning in the window to guide the spirits of family back to us (where do you think the idea of lighting a candle for people in churches came from).
We believe strongly in the both the spirits of the land and sky and of the basic elements Earth, Air, Fire and Water. All of which we need to sustain life but also all of which are destructive and should never be taken for granted.
Paganism is non proselytising in that we do not seek to convert and to the best of historical knowledge no war has ever been fought in the name of paganism. We have a lot of respect for other religions, I am often prayed for in Church and it really is not a problem for me. It makes me sad that when I offer to remember people in my way as a pagan is it declined, I suspect this is largely to do with the mistaken idea that we are some sort of devil worshipers.
It is worth remembering we were all pagans until Christianity came along (in that the Da Vinci code is correct) it is also thought by scholers that the Catholic reverence for Mary came out of wish not to suddenly alienate people who had for centuries worshiped both the male and female, by removing the female part Mary as mother (a concept that would have fitted and worked for early Christians) was perfect for that role.
I was educated a catholic convent boarding school, brought up in the Church of England baprised and at 11 confirmed. However I lived with a constant un-ease about the need to go to church, the idea there was a devil and hell waiting for you, the idea you could simply repent on your death bed and all your actions would be forgiven but most of all about god being Male. I was suspended from school for saying God was a woman! In then end I looked elsewhere for something that more matched my own codes my belief that we are responsible for own actions there is no devil tempting us we all have the power to choose good or bad and that we have to live with the choices and consequences of our actions. Growing up in the country where I saw the 1st signs of spring, the corn grow, I helped with the harvest, where fertility was important be it the cow or the earth it is no wonder that for me Paganism was right