Paganism
African American Wiccan Society Copyright © 2000 - 2017
The word Pagan originated from the Latin word “paganus”; meaning “rural”, and or
“dwelling within country life.” The word Pagan originated from old Europe. People
who lived in the cities were city dwellers. The people who lived in the country, or
were farmers, were called Pagans. It is much like the terms urban and rural today.
The word Pagan was pretty much benign back then. It didn’t get its sinister reputation
until after Christianity took dominance in the cities of Eastern Europe. The Pagans, or
country dwellers, were slow to catch on to that newfangled Christian stuff. They felt,
why break what is fixed? Does Christianity help with the harvest or the planting? What
about the holy days? The Christians began to demonize Pagans for their resistance to
change, and the word Pagan became synonymous to demonic.

Today we Pagans embrace the name. We reclaim it. We are what the word originally
meant. Those who are closest to Nature. Those who follow the rhythms of the
Universe. Those who believe Nature knows best. And, most of all, we believe that the
Universal Powers speak and communicate, to those who are willing to listen, through
Nature. Here is the rebuttal I still hear today: “Yes, but it is a European religion so why
should Black People practice?”

That is a very good question, and to answer I would ask, why do Black Americans
practice Christianity since it originated in Rome, by the Emperor Constantine, and
translated, and reconstituted by the Greeks? Why do some Black Americans practice
Islam when it was originally imported, to East Africa in the 7th century, from Asia by
the Arabs, and later forced in by Almoravids invaders to West Africa. To practice a
true African Ancestral religion, one would have to avoid the diasporas all together and
practice a pure African Traditional Religion like IFA.  When you get right down to the
truth Christianity was forced upon African Americans, and personally, for me, a
spirituality is not a spirituality if it is forced. Then it becomes part of my oppression. I
believe it is not wrong, for anyone, to practice any outside cultural religion if it is a
good theology for them. I do feel we should all think about why we practice what we
practice, and if it is truly for us. Then, if after careful self-evaluation one finds that it
is one’s true calling then it is a fit no matter what the history is.

Paganism, in general is not a religion. It is a spirituality. It is instinctive, intuitive and
primal, so, in its purest form, it is not man made or organized. In this I mean it is what
anyone would practice if they were born on a deserted island with no knowledge of
religion. It is simply one’s unadulterated love for the environment that one inhabits.
Paganism, like Christianity, is an umbrella term for certain spiritual affiliations. For
example, a Christian could be a Protestant, Catholic, Baptist etc. A Pagan could be a
Wiccan, Witch, Metaphysical Spiritualist, Taoist, Hermetic, Alchemist, Kemetic etc.
To make it simpler, any religion that is not Christian, Judea, or Islam is Pagan. To
some, who practice African Traditional Religions, it is unacceptable to be referred to
as Pagan. To others it is just fine, because it does describe their practice.  As Pagans,
we believe in magick. Take note that we spell magick as m-a-g-i-c-k and not magic.
Our magick means the true power to transform, create or transmute, and not any
illusion. We believe that magick can happen through the power of our own minds and
Will, the power of natural elements, and through the forces of the Universe. There are
some Pagans who are not into magick. These people have more of an affinity for
paying reverence to Nature, the seasons, and the Pagan Goddess and or God. But for
the most part most Pagans do practice some form of magickal arts from time to time.

Paganism Today
The remnants of earth-based spiritualism are still celebrated, even though most of
today’s Pagans are not farmers or living off the land. As a matter of fact, many
Pagans live in cities and urban areas. So, what are today’s Pagan basic principles that
make up their practice? The principles of Paganism are:
    Respecting and connecting with Mother-Earth, the whole of Nature and the
           Universe,
      The belief that, “We Are All Relations,”
       The belief in the connection with the elements (Earth, Water, Air, Fire, and
             Spirit),  
       Celebrating the Seasons and or the Wheel of the Year, Polytheism, Dualism,
             Animism and or Pantheism,
      Spell Work and or Ritual Work (But not always. It depends on the
           practitioner),
     The belief in Other Worlds or Spiritual Realms or other Planes of Existence,
     Belief in Reincarnation and Past Lives,
     Ancestor worship or Ancestral spirits.

Now there may be other basic characteristics of Paganism that I may be missing here,
and if you are a Pagan I am sure you have one or more that you would love to add.
These are just the basics. Please note that some practitioners may practice all the
above, and maybe a few more. Some may practice only part of these. What makes
Paganism special is that each practice is as different as a snowflake. Everyone has
their own deity, and everyone has their own idea of what works for them. Everyone is
their own High Priestess or Priest, so their communication and magickal working with
their gods are direct and personal. There is no middle pastor or minister to go through
to make sure one’s prayers are sanctioned, registered or answered. It is believed that
we all have an open line, and it is up to us to make a call or pick up the receiver.

Earth is My Mother – Universe My All
There is a theory by scientists that as the molten Earth developed, and the vast waters
cooled; and its primordial soup became fertile with nutrients, huge asteroids entered
the oceans carrying microbial substances. In these waters, the microbials developed,
and through the millenniums they evolved into beings with the ability to crawl out of
the enormous earthly amniotic fluid. Many theorists believe that this is how animal life
began on Earth. The theory is called panspermia. Panspermia is the belief that sperm-
like microorganisms can travel by interstellar means, and survive to fertilize a planet
through conception. So, as the way animals and plant-life proliferate so does the
Universe.

      Another scientific belief that I love is that we are all made of star-stuff. The stars
are our mothers, grand-mothers, and great-grandmothers. We came from them, just
as categorically, as we came from our mothers and fathers. Every bit of chemical,
mineral, gas and even liquid in our bodies came from the stars.  Very simply put when
the stars above age they begin to lose the fuel. This fuel is hydrogen, and hydrogen is
the fuel that makes them burn bright. When the fuel is spent the star begins to have
expansions and contractions, just like a pregnant female. As it goes through these
contractions it gives off   helium. Later it begins releasing nickel, silicon, magnesium,
carbon, nitrogen and oxygen. It reduces itself very much like a peeling of an onion.
When the star gets to its inner core it converts to iron and that is when it begins to
collapse.  The results are that all the layers of the star are propelled out into space, and
into the Universe. From there gas clouds are form called nebulas clouds. These are
nurseries for fledgling stars.  My point to this narrative is when a star begins to die it is
pregnant, and when it goes nova or supernova it gives birth and spreads its fertility
throughout the Universe. We and our Sun had the same mothers that gave birth to us
perhaps thousands of galaxies away. We are connected to the Universe. We are a part
of the Universe. We are all the Universe. The etymology is that the word Universe is
like the word union, united or unit. It means ‘One’. We are One and The All.

      Pagans are considered Earth-based, meaning, we are passionate about our living
Mother Earth. Many Pagans believe that the Earth is a living breathing organism called
Gaia. It regenerates, renews, repairs and creates. Pagans charge themselves by
submersing in the spirit of the Earth’s land, water, plant-life and soil. We are
unapologetically tree-huggers. We dance in the rain. We do things like not wearing
gloves and shoes when we plant, because of our essential attraction to touch, and bear
witness to the soil. Communing with Nature, climbing a mountain path, walking in the
sand on a beach, or wading in a river is where the Holy Spirit lies for us. It is not
within temple or in a church, but looking up to the Sun in the morning, and the Moon
and the stars at night. In my opinion, most human beings have lost their connection to
Nature and animals. They think of Nature as “it verses us.” We believe that the Natural
world is where our inner battery charge is, Spirit is, and where healing begins.  

We Are All Relations
There are sayings in the Native Indian Nations. In the Lakota Sioux Nation, it is “Aho
Mitakuye Oyasin.” In the Cherokee Nation, it is “Ea Nigada Qusdi Idadadvhn.”
Roughly, they are translated to, “We are all related,” or “All my relations in Creation,”
or “We are all relations.” The people who are native to this country, for several
thousands of years, knew a very important secret of the Universe. It is not us versus
them, because we are all relatives. We all have a common ancestor with the clouds,
the air, the soil, the trees, the animals and the planets. We are all made of the same
atoms or our gene pools are only slightly different. Pagans acknowledge this facet, and
to keep this in mind is very powerful spiritually. It is important because then there is
more thought put into the actions of clearing forest, trees and woods. There is more
thought spent before polluting oceans and waterways. There is more thought added
before doing things like building fossil fuel pipelines there by polluting the waterways
of Native People in North Dakota. There is more thought put in before shooting human
beings in routine traffic stops, because one is too afraid to do the job of seeing their
humanity. There is less desire to funnel inferior water to cities like Flint Michigan.
There is less desire to practice cruelty to animals in circuses, industrial farms and
water parks. When you think of the Universe as one or related you understand that
what you do to another you do to yourself. We are all connected into the “Circle of
Life.” Vanessa Williams sang it best in Disney’s, “Pocahontas, Colors of the Wind”,
when she sings, “We are all connected to each other, in a circle, in a hoop that never
ends.”

Earth, Water, Air, Fire and Spirit
One of my favorite Pagan songs or chants go: “Earth my body, Water my blood, Air
my breath and fire my spirit. I am born of the elements.” This is so appropriate to me
because it is the epitome of what the sacred elements are, and they are the major tools
of a Pagan. They are the literal and figurative fundamental building blocks of the
Universe. My body came from the Earth, my blood flows like the river, my breath
blows like the wind, and my healthy spirit burns like fire. These are called elemental
tools of magick, and they are often used contemporaneously in spells and rituals. If a
spiritualist has no other tools these will do just fine.  

      Pagans believe that the elements of earth, air, fire and water are the sacred keys
to life. Pagans immerse themselves in the beauty and symbolism of the elements to
receive positive results.  We also turn to these elements for worship, ritual and
celebrations. For example, there is nothing more exciting for a Pagan than to do
spiritual workings near a river or a mountain top. Fabulous workings can be done with
a colorful burning candle and or incense. In these examples you will find water, earth,
fire and air respectfully. Other examples are herbs, spring water, bonfires, sea shells,
graveyard or garden dirt, eggs, fruit, tobacco, feathers (from a bird that had already
passed on or shed them naturally), drums, bells, homemade incense, myrrh etc. I will
explain more about elemental tools in a later chapter.

Spirit is also a special element that is used in rituals or magickal workings. We often
call them elemental spirits. They are very hard to explain and it took some years, for
me, to truly understand their concept or nuance. These are ancient spirits who were
here long before the coming of humans, and they will be here long after we are gone.
They are considered ‘universal witnesses or watchers of…’ You can fill in the blanks
from there. We often call to the elemental spirits to bear witness, protect, serve, or
even to give advice. Further, in the nuance, it is believed that all things have a spirit,
even inanimate objects. And, for that reason, spirits can be evoked. To add to further
confusion Pagans believe that Spirit is everywhere—above, below, surrounding and
within. For Wiccans, they are often called “the Watchtowers” or elder spirits.
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