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How to Explain Paganism to Non-Pagans

A pagan woman standing in a forest

September 12, 2022
Estimated Read Time: 5 Minutes

Whether you’re completely new to paganism, or you’ve been a part of the community for years, explaining this spiritual path to non-pagans can be a bit tricky. But, it doesn’t have to be!

We’d like to offer you some pointers on how best to communicate paganism to your non-pagan friends, family, and anyone who’s interested in learning more about your spirituality.

A Brief Definition of the Word Pagan

A pagan woman holding a book standing in a cloud of red smoke

The word “pagan” originates from the Latin word paganus, which long ago meant “civilian” or “country dweller”. But in more modern times, we’ve come to use this term when referencing a person that follows a polytheistic, nature-based spiritual path.

There are several ways one can practice paganism, and there is no “right” or “wrong” way to be a pagan. Some may choose to practice it as part of an established tradition or belief system, but many practice it as solitaries.

Another way to explain it is that the word pagan is an umbrella term that encompasses several spiritual traditions and practices. These spiritual paths date back to pre-Christian times and most pagans worship the old, pre-Christian gods and goddesses. Pagans believe in the sanctity of nature and that deities can take many forms within it.

Although these terms and explanations can be useful to us as pagans, they aren’t very helpful for non-pagans. If we want someone to fully understand what made us choose to follow this spiritual path, there are far better ways to approach the topic, so let’s explore them. 

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Find Out What They Know About Paganism

Two men having a tough conversation

Before we even try to explain paganism to anyone, it’s best to ask them what (if anything) they know about it. Perhaps they already have basic knowledge of the subject, but would like to go more in-depth. It’s also possible that they would like to become a pagan themselves, so providing them with the right learning tools is crucial.

Namely, thanks to popular culture, some people may think they know everything they need to know about paganism or Wicca after watching movies such as The Craft, The VVitch, Midsommar, The Wicker Man, and The Blair Witch Project. While these movies may be fun to watch, it’s important to note that they depict witchcraft and paganism in a dark light. Here’s a list of things those movies often get wrong.

A bruja working with herbs

Similarly, movies that include “good” witches may show them in a better light, but they still don’t offer us any real information on the pagan culture. When this is the case, we first need to break some of these preconceived notions of paganism. Ultimately, we need to be able to educate them about what it is that we practice and believe in.

On the other hand, we may have to work with a completely blank slate, which, in this case, is much better. This way, we are able to paint them a beautiful picture of the spiritual path we’ve come to love.

The Best Way to Explain Paganism

Two women having a conversation in the wilderness

As we already know, pagans are accepting of all religions. That’s why we need to be mindful when explaining our views to someone coming from a strict religion, as it may take time for them to understand our views.

Also, we should make sure we know how our family and friends feel about religion in general, as this will help us find the best way to introduce them to paganism. Once you’re ready to begin, here are a few more tips to make your endeavor successful.

Keeping it Simple

A woman smudging with roses

As we mentioned, using definitions may not be the best approach as they’re not particularly interesting. What’s more, they could end up confusing people more than necessary. And, when you think about it, isn’t it more exciting to learn about what our pagan beliefs are, and about some of our rituals?

Furthermore, we find that when explaining the principles of our belief, it’s best to use simple terms. For example, it may be better to use the term “nature-based spirituality” than “magick”, “witchcraft”, or “witches”.  

Focus on What Paganism Is

A large maypole event

We should avoid talking about what paganism is not. We often fall into the trap of trying to explain to people that we do not glorify dark forces or perform any satanic rituals. What we actually end up with is people not being able to get these images out of their heads. Instead, we should focus on what we do practice as pagans.

We might desire to tell them about our connection to nature, the deities we believe in, the practices we perform, and how accepting our community is.

Always Be Patient

Two women chatting over coffee

Keep in mind that explaining new things to people, especially when they have to do with spirituality, takes time. We need to give people space to process the information no matter how long it takes.

What’s more, you will probably need to answer a lot of questions, so be patient. Remember, if they have questions, that means they’re actually interested in the nuances of paganism and would like to learn more about it.

Let’s Explain Paganism the Right Way

A woman having a tough conversation with another woman

Start by talking about how pagan beliefs are incredibly varied. They come from different traditions, an appreciation for nature and the physical world, as well as a belief in a religion that is non-authoritarian.

Next, explain how, as a pagan, you see the world as a place full of joy, and that you believe in the divinity it has to offer. To us, the divine is here with us on Earth and not somewhere far away in the sky.

We also see the divine in both female and male principles alike. Being a pagan means that we appreciate the fact that every person worships the divine in their own way. We believe that every religion is sacred, and rather than recruit people, we allow them to join us if that’s what they want.

Finally, if they’re interested in exploring paganism a bit more, we can always point them to some online sources.

Overall, with some patience and the right attitude, you can truly shed some light on this spiritual path and help your friends and loved ones understand what drew you into this community in the first place.

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