In most fantasy books or movies, we find many references to paganism. But, what’s the real meaning of this word?
First of all, we have to say that paganism has a tradition whose origins are lost in the mists of time, and this is why it’s considered so fascinating and mystic.
The word pagan comes from ancient Latin pagus with the meaning of “village”, and then paganum meaning “of or relating to the countryside, villager”; the term was first used by the early Christian Church as a label applied to every form of pantheistic and polytheistic religion previous to Christianization; these forms of religion were usually practiced into the woods or in the countryside, far from the urban areas were most Christians lived, so the correlation between paganism and nature was very strong from the beginning.
In the Roman Empire, the term pagan was initially associated with the traditional polytheistic religion of Ancient Greece, but there were also many ethnic religions of pre-Christian Europe that was identified as pagan religions and have very ancient traditions as well such as Celtic polytheism, Norse Mythology, Slavic Paganism and much more.
But, we have to say that we cannot identify paganism with religion at the very beginning, because many pagans, before the competition with Christianity, had no religion at all in the sense in which the word is used today, in fact they had not particular rituals or beliefs of religious matters.
Today we have the Neo- Paganism, a form of contemporary and modern paganism, influenced by various historical beliefs, mixed with other particular elements, and, as I wrote, with a very close correlation with nature and all its forms.
There was a specific moment in time, in the 18th and 19th century, when Romanticism arose, that Paganism was rediscovered and analyzed in all its forms, in particular the great literary Celtic and Vikings revivals and many intellectuals was fascinated by pagan mythology from folklore and fairytales. So, during this period, paganism was particularly associated with magic and mystic tales, and this is why paganism is often analyzed and associated with fantasy works today.
I’m not pagan, but I think that it’s really interesting to discover or to know the history of every religion or form of beliefs, and, most of all, respect different religions. Different religions should be a form of knowledge and a mutual enrichment, and not an excuse to fight, use violence and step on others. Unfortunately, it has never been like that, and we hear every day of wars and many innocent people that die. Through history we know that since man was created, it has always been like that. But, there have been also many incredible women and men that have sacrificed their lives to send a message of peace in the world. I think that every one of us can do something and could work together to change and make a better society and world around us.