Heathenism and Paganism
Paganism is the natural state in which we are born. In Christian world, they take babies and baptize them, to signify that they are no longer in their natural state but will be instead raised in the institution of the Church. Paganism is the state of nature, and us in it. It is not a set of defined beliefs and doctrines, or a religion in the traditional sense. It does cover "spirituality", but this spirituality is integrated into culture, society and the natural world as one whole thing. It is the heritage of a people and the unique way that they understood the organic reality around them.
Some people make a clear distinction between heathenism and paganism, but this is a misunderstanding of both. Those people are trying to define modern movements and new specific religions based on a set of common beliefs. The words should be used interchangeably, but there is also no reason to use them at all. It's just as useful to say "indigenous religion" or "pre-christian spirituality" or something like that. For ease of understanding we will continue to use the word paganism here.
So what does it mean to be a heathen or a pagan? Foremost it means to follow an independent path. It can mean trying to learn more about the way our ancient ancestors understood the world, it can mean learning more about and returning to some of the practices of our ancient ancestors, it can mean practicing new or old rituals and rites, it can mean trying to understand the world outside of the doctrines of the Abrahamic religions, but above and beyond all of this, it is a living, independent and organic path. It is as simple as that. It doesn’t need to be anything else or anything that is very specific. It is to break out from the mainstream and institutionalized society, to understand the world in a different way, a deeper way.
Paganism is a lifestyle, to understand and live our organic connection. It is to grasp some of the knowledge of our ancestors, to know this Universe in a deep, real way. One of the big problems with Christianity, and probably all Abrahamic faiths, is that it’s focus is not on this world, it’s not on this life, it’s on some other word, and some other place. The focus in the Christian world view is put on a being who isn’t even a part of this world, but stands outside of it as creator and judge. The focus is put on reaching this other being, in this other place, instead of on this life. Everything is missed in this world view. The focus should be on this life, this Earth, this person we call “self”. To do otherwise is to live in a dream and take ourselves away from the magic of the Now. The Now is reality, it is our home, our purpose, our life. So to get back to our own life is paganism.
To take on a heathen mindset then is to look around at the world from that perspective, and we can see how out of touch our mainstream culture is. We spend most of our lives being taken away from ourselves, by our jobs, our habits, TV, shopping, the Internet, etc. We do not rule ourselves, institutions rule us. Institutions take care of our children. We are practically helpless because we have allowed ourselves to be taken so far away from our own lives. A pagan path then is to regain our self-sufficiency, to reconnect with the Earth, to reconnect with our families, and to build organic communities once again.
Learning myths, celebrating ritual, celebrating the seasons, these are all things that we can do to help us reconnect. We need to understand the world around us as alive, and magical, and full of wonder, once again. To connect with the world and ourselves we need to understand the Universe as being aware, and to bring our own awareness to it, and to understand the interconnection between ourselves and all things. Finding the Divine in all things and in ourselves, that is paganism.