The autumnal equinox marked the coming of the winter chill and we are bound to let go of yet another summer. The beginning of the autumn was crowned by a truly spectacular Blood moon last week. Such a magnificent astronomical event suits beautifully the magical transitional air of the season. In Paganism, this time of the year is known as Harvest Moon – when the last of crops are being gathered from the fields and stored for the winter.
The etymology of the word paganism cites the post-classical Latin “paganismus” – a non-Christian or pre-Christian religion as seen in the late 4th century in Augustine; also the land of the heathens / pagans who believe in multiple gods, which use can be traced back to the 12th century. The wider meaning of the word is a religion that is different from the official, main religions of the world – for example a non-Christian, non-Muslim, non-Jewish, non-Buddhist etc. beliefs and practices. And exactly with that meaning, the word firstly appeared in print in the English language in 1425, in John Lydgate’s (the monk poet, an admirer and contemporary of Geoffrey Chaucer ) translation of the Trojan history of the 13th century Latin writer Guido delle Colonne, titled Troy Book.
The most popular use of the word paganism is in the sense of a system of beliefs and practices that worships nature and is derived from ancient myths or religions. The term is also regarded as a particular affinity for or sensitivity to the supposed spiritual or mystical aspects of nature.
In 1854, the American translator Orlando Williams Wight , interpreting Victor Cousin’s Lectures on the true, the beautiful, and the good: “When the Christian religion triumphed, it brought humanity under a discipline that puts a rein upon this deplorable mysticism. But how many times has it brought back..! It was to appear especially at the renaissance of the schools and of the genius of Paganism in the sixteenth century.”
Paganism can be used as well in the meaning of ancient and primitive, something that lacks sophistication in style, wildness. For example as in 1984, C. Ozick’s Art & Ardor: “It is the religion of Art, and just as a Jew feels alien to the aesthetic paganism of a churched American, so now he feels alien to the aesthetic paganism of the streets. “