Paganism is a term that is broadly ascribed to a wide variety of traditions, characterized by reverence for nature, and belief in certain spiritual/religious practices of a natural religion, as opposed to the Abrahamic and other world religions. Paganism beliefs are primarily centered on the concept of Polytheism, i.e., belief in more than one God and Animism (which is a philosophical or spiritual belief that souls and spirits exist not just in humans but also animals, plants, rocks, mountains, rivers, and natural phenomena such as thunder).
The term pagan is derived from the Latin word paganus, which is an adjective meaning 'rural'", 'rustic' or 'of the country'. Paganus, as a noun, was used to mean 'country dweller or villager'. It refers to the polytheistic traditions of the continent of Europe before its Christianization. Christianity spread more quickly in the major urban areas than in the countryside. So, many country-dwellers became synonymous with the term 'pagan', as they were 'not Christian'. Some of the modern forms of paganism have their roots in the 19th century CE European nationalism, while contemporary pagan groups have their roots in the 1960s.
Reverence for the Earth and Animism
Most pagans believe in the sacredness of all life forms, and the Earth is looked upon as a representative of the Mother Goddess. They believe in Animism, and they consider all natural things like trees, plants, rocks, rivers, etc., to be possessing a soul or spirit. The Earth's resources and beauty are always conserved and preserved, as a way of worshiping the Mother Goddess. Respect for the 'divine presence' in nature, and reverence of the natural order in life are its basic tenets. They have a deep concern for the environment, put great emphasis on environment preservation, and also believe that certain aspects of nature are representatives of various deities.
Pagans believe in the existence of many Gods and Goddesses. They also believe in worshiping spirits of national or local heroes, and also of deceased family members. Individuals may worship a specific pantheon, such as Celtic, Norse, Greek, etc. Some may worship the whole pantheon, while others may worship a few of the deities in the pantheon. Pagans have very personal relationships with their deities and their own individualistic perceptions. They totally reject the concept of monotheism, and also the concept of God being primarily masculine.
Rituals and Use of Magick
'Magick' refers to the use of certain techniques or rituals which are believed to be able to influence the universe, to bring about positive changes or results, or to celebrate holy days and thanking the deities for their blessings. Some rituals are performed to mark important milestones in life, like birth, marriage or death. Examples of simple magick rituals are the burning of a green candle to bring about prosperity, or chanting of certain spells and prayers. There are other complex rituals as well. As part of the rituals, offerings like flowers, precious stones, crystals or an artifact of beauty and art, are offered to the deities. Some pagans also dedicate songs, dance, and poems to their deities.
Reincarnation and Sabbaths
Most pagans believe in reincarnation. According to them, after death, a person's spirit is reborn in another body. There are eight major holy days in the pagan calendar, all related to agriculture. Four of them are dedicated to plants and harvesting, while the remaining four pertain to animals and their cycles of fertility.
Paganism beliefs vary among various groups, and can be highly individualistic at times, because in paganism, every practitioner has his/her own unique relation with his/her revered deity, and their way of expressing their devotion can be very personal. It is different from other religions, because it has not been propagated by any one person or authoritative figure. Its followers don't believe in proselytizing, i.e., trying to convert others to follow their faith. The most significant aspect is that, it allows a person to be independent and free to choose his/her own path and beliefs.