Pagans in Utah stepped out of the broom closet, so to speak, earlier this month to declare their existence and to dispel misinformation about paganism and witchcraft. “A lot of the misinformation is that witches are evil, that witches are green, that witches are ugly, that witches sacrifice children or eat babies or whatever the case may be, that there is worship of Satan, things of that nature,” said pagan entrepreneur Rita Morgan, whose store Crone’s Hollow in South Salt Lake not only sells ritual supplies but serves as a meeting place for local covens.
The pagan festival of Samhain (“Sawin”) was celebrated by the Celts as the end of the harvest and the beginning of winter, halfway between the summer and winter solstices on about October 31st. With bonfires and (rumored) human sacrifice to shy off the dead, the holiday was considered a day in which the door opened between this world and the next, and the dead walked among the living. Other historical efforts to protect oneself from evil spirits involved dressing in costume and lighting carved-out turnips or beets.
In our civilized, scientific culture, we tend to think of paganism as something distant, lost in the world of developing nations. In those places, ignorant medicine men seek to chase off disease through spiritual rituals when they would find better results with a tub of bleach water and penicillin. The word “pagan” often brings to mind half-clothed natives dancing around the missionary in the pot, human sacrifice, and barbarism in general.
However, today there is a form of popular paganism that looks surprisingly modern and has followers among intellectuals. While Judeo-Christian morality is increasingly seen as outdated and ‘puritanical’ in our Western World, the human need for spiritual fulfillment has not disappeared. Instead, updated forms of the old pagan religions are spreading once again. Neo-Paganism embraces a wide variety of religious traditions, including Wicca, Druidism, Asatru, Shamanism, and neo-Native American beliefs, mixing a variety of the ancient pagan beliefs about nature and the universe, fitting them to modern society. College professors, screenplay writers and the leaders of many ecological movements have delved into modern Paganism, and their ideas come home to us through our college students and our children’s movies.
Many people dive into Paganism innocently – out of a desire to find out more about God and the spiritual. They love nature, or they are weary of dry, boring church services. Many do not know the Bible well enough to recognize red flags, and a large number of people consider themselves “Christian” pagans. It is important that we recognize when Neo-Pagan beliefs come in conflict with Biblical Christianity and not confuse being “spiritual” with being led by the Holy Spirit. With a better understanding, we can help prepare our families to deal with the lure of modern Paganism.
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