By Remy Pacini
Assistant Opinions Editor
Photo courtesy of Aly Rincon
“Pagans.” I’m sure you’ve probably heard the term in history classes and in sermons, but believe it or not, we still exist. Sadly, there are too many misconceptions about pagans floating around these days. Are pagans Satan worshippers? No, since Satan’s a Judeo-Christian entity, not a pagan one. Are all pagans are the same? Again, no since Wicca and Asatru aren’t the same thing! Neither is Hellenism or Kemetism.
Also, telling us that we’re going to hell for not believing in Jesus isn’t going to end well, so don’t do it. Instead of being a quote unqoute “godless” religion, Norse Paganism is the worship of the Old Gods of the North, I.e. Scandinavia, focusing on the worship of deities such as Odin (the One-Eyed Alfather), Thor (The Thunderer and wielder of the mighty hammer Mijölnir), and Tyr (The one-handed God of War and Justice).
I first encountered Norse Paganism when I was in 4th grade, and I found that its sense of justice and acceptance of aggression appealed to me more than Christianity did. Also, the emphasis on personal honor and wisdom also appealed to me in a way that Christianity did not. This idea of personal valor and love of wisdom made more sense to me than did the perspective I had on Christianity: a religion of priests spouting fire and brimstone about anything they did not agree with.
Again, we’re not sinful and evil people just because we worship gods or goddesses that don’t align with your worldview. Growing up in the American South, one thing I constantly experienced as a pagan was this idea that being pagan was somehow equated to the notion that I was evil and thus “needed to be saved” by Jesus or other Christian stuff.
Pagans aren’t a bunch of monsters who sacrifice children, despite what horror movies and the media says. Mostly, we (we being the Norse pagan community aka Asatru) just sit around, drink mead, and say a few prayers to the gods, not too different from Christians at their Sunday services. Also, going up to a pagan and saying something like “Your gods aren’t real!” is pretty damn offensive, and could end up going badly for you. However, if you want to truly understand pagans, here are some suggestions as to what to do, as well as what to avoid:
-Ask them to explain their religion (Usually they’ll be more than happy to do so)
-Ask them what their god(s) mean to them
-Ask where you can learn more about their specific brand of paganism
-Ask what tradition of paganism they adhere to (Not all pagans are the same)
-Show respect for a tradition aside from your own
-Thank a pagan for taking the time to explain things to you (Most pagans are wary of explaining to people who could be hostile)
-Research the pantheons and traditions of different pagan groups in order to understand them better
-Mock them for not following your religion
-Refer to pagans as devil worshippers
-Tell pagans that they’re going to hell
-Tell pagans that “It’s just a phase!”
-Tell pagans that their gods aren’t real
-Try to force pagans to convert to your religion
-Stereotype pagans based off of horror movies
Remember, pagans are people too, and just because we don’t follow your religion does not mean that we need “saving” or that we’re damned. We just find that the ways of the Old Gods appeals to us more than mainstream religions do.