Are you a Pagan student having trouble explaining your religion and beliefs in the classroom? Your teacher has been filling you with insight and knowledge for years; it's time you returned the favor. Simply print out this handy Paganism primer and hand it in with that next trig assignment. And make sure to remind your teacher that there's no such thing as a dumb question.

What is a Pagan student likely to practice and believe? Because Pagans generally follow a spirituality without a single creed, there may be even more variants between Pagan religious beliefs than there are between denominations of Christianity. The most commonly practiced types of Paganism are Wicca, Asatru, Druidry, or simply Paganism. Think of it as a Christian can be Catholic, Presbyterian, or simply Christian. All of these are somewhat different, so the following statements may not be true for every Pagan you encounter. However, there are some practices that are generally common among Pagans:

  • A Pagan student will celebrate a nature-based, polytheistic religion.

  • A Pagan student will honor Divinities, both God and Goddess, sometimes with a feminist emphasis on the Goddess. One effect of this is that the student is likely to assume that the sexes are equal.

  • A Pagan student will celebrate religious ceremonies with small groups on full moons and at the beginning and midpoint of each season, rather than with large congregations or on a set weekly schedule.

  • A Pagan student may wear as jewelry a symbol of his or her religion. The most common symbol is the pentacle, a five-pointed star in a circle. Often mistaken as a Satanic symbol (Satanists invert it, the same way they invert the Christian cross), the pentacle is rooted in the beliefs of the Greek Pythagoreans, for whom the pentagram embodied perfect balance and wisdom; inserting the star in the circle adds the symbol of eternity and unity.

  • A Pagan student will view divinity as immanent in Nature and humanity, and all things as interconnected. This often leads to a concern with ecology and the environment, and a fascination with the cycle of life.

  • A Pagan student will believe in magic, and may spell it "magick" to differentiate it from stage illusions. This may include belief in personal chi, and may include the use of rituals and tools to dramatize and focus positive thinking and visualization techniques. It doesn't mean that the student is taught to hex or curse; in the Pagan ethical structure, such actions are believed to rebound on the sender, and therefore are proscribed.

  • A Pagan student may believe in reincarnation. It is the most common eschatological belief held among Pagans, but is not universal. A Pagan student is unlikely to believe in heaven or hell; she may believe in the Celtic Summerland, a place of rest between incarnations, or Valhalla, a realm of honor in Norse religions.

  • A Pagan student may call herself a Witch, a Wiccan, a Pagan or Neo-Pagan, a Goddess-worshipper, a Druid, an Asatruer, or a Heathen. A male is unlikely to call himself a Warlock, as that is believed to come from the Scottish word for "oathbreaker."

  • A Pagan student will be taught ethics that allows personal freedom within a framework of personal responsibility. The primary basis for Pagan ethics is the understanding that everything is interconnected, that nothing exists without affecting others, and that every action has a consequence. There is no concept of forgiveness for sin in the Pagan ethical system; the consequences of one's actions must be faced and reparations made as necessary against anyone whom you have harmed. The most common statement of these ethics is the Wiccan Rede, "An it harm none, do as thou wilt," and in the Threefold Law, "Whatsoever you do returns to you threefold."

  • A Pagan student will embrace pluralism. Because Pagan religious systems hold that theirs is a way among many, not the only road to truth, and because Pagans explore a variety of Deities among their pantheons, both male and female, a Pagan student will expect an atmosphere that discourages discrimination and encourages individuality, self-discovery, and independent thought.

  • A Pagan student is also likely to be taught comparative religions. Most Pagans are adamant about not forcing their beliefs on the child but rather teaching them many spiritual systems and letting the child decide when he is of age. And a Pagan student will be taught to respect the sacred texts of other religions.

  • A Pagan student is likely to enjoy reading, science, and helping professions. One survey of Pagans showed that Pagans have a voracious appetite for reading and learning. Pagans are also represented strongly in the computer and health-care fields, so the Pagan child is likely to be computer-literate from an early age.

    Despite their sometimes misunderstood beliefs, earth-based religions have grown steadily throughout the past few decades, and provide a satisfying spirituality to their practitioners. With the current appreciation of diversity and tolerance, more people now understand that different cultural backgrounds bring perspectives that can be valued instead of feared. It is our hope that as an educator, this will provide you with the information you need to be able to facilitate understanding.

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