I took my first step down a pagan path when I was 17. Not to age myself, but that was 14 years ago and still I find, [once the deadly topic of religion has dipped its dangerous toe into casual conversation], that the general public has no real definition of what it is to be pagan. Not REALLY. They have the misconstrued and grossly [not to mention inaccurately] warped version of paganism presented by the ever-inconsiderate entertainment industry and the rantings of bitterly ignorant church heads fearful that their power over the masses may come to an end in this new era of questioning-thought and reason.
Even close friends of mine, [innocently Outing me as a pagan to any other conscious mind interested in listening], find themselves unable to answer the typical retort "so, what IS paganism anyway?". That's usually the point in the conversation when all eyes turn to me for some all-mighty clarification.
"There is probably not a single thing on which all pagans agree."
And after I make such a statement, without fail, I am met with the blank stares of those needing further exploration. So, I draw in the deep inhale of someone who is about to repeat something that has been said countless times -- knowing all too well [thanks to a consistent tally of personal experiences] that this is to lead to much-too-heavy a debate for whatever relaxed setting I find myself in currently -- be it a friend's get-together, a coffee shop or [most recently] the outer deck of a local brewery.
For a long while, I actually wasn't quite certain how best to define paganism to the sets of waiting audiences. It was only after completing my Book of Shadows that I came to a profound realization about this faith that I love-- it is precisely "The Undefinable" that mows a pagan path.
So now you too have the doe-eyed stare. * inhales deeply *
Ralph Waldo Emerson said it best when he wrote "God enters by a private door into every individual." And this rings oh-so true in the hearts of pagans everywhere. While one may be solely Goddess-oriented, another may find themselves duotheistic and yet another feels connected to an entire pantheon of gods. Some practice spellcraft, others plant herbs or light incense and candles. Some believe in reincarnation. Others await a journey to the Summerlands after death. We may return to Mother Earth or we may stay within this biological realm, existing as spirit beings, even guides to those we left behind.
The differences pile up with every pagan that you encounter. And that's what's so gloriously freeing about this faith. A pagan respects that the way in which you connect with divinity is personal. It's distinctive. We would never interfere with the free will of another by labeling their beliefs as wrong.
Pagans embrace their faith in a unique way that is very much all their own. While we may share common laws [karma, the Wiccan Rede and the Law of Three to name a few], the practices that we develop to honor and connect with the Divine are as distinct as the voice with which each of us uses to sing.
Not to throw quotes at you willy-nilly, but hey -- when they relate to my mutterings, I can't help myself!! I leave you with the words of the great Dr. Seuss...
"Today you are you. That is truer than true. There is no one alive who is youer than you."
Blessed Be to my pagan friends, whatever your path.