A topic misunderstood...
A dear friend of mine and I were recently discussing religion. One of those taboo topics people often do not touch. With all of the concerns out there to be politically correct, I can understand why. Things people are passionate about, often makes for some intense if not heated discussions.
The Pagan religions or beliefs are probably one of the most misunderstood things out there in the spiritual world today. There is more earth based rites of passage, rituals to bring about good and a simple belief that whatever you cast about, comes back at least threefold if good, tenfold otherwise. You celebrate the seasons, not so much holidays.
As the moon becomes more full, (a waxing moon) you pray for good things to come into your life, as it wanes- you pray for the bad stuff to leave with it. There is a time for the earth to lay quiet, the fields fallow and unplanted. In the spring- the planting season, it is a time to celebrate rebirth, a chance to start again new, fresh, better.
The elements- earth, wind, fire & water all have their place and a reason each as well. The biggest rule about it all is simple- harm none. When you harvest your crops- you give thanks to Mother Earth for her bounty and all she provides. Singing is encouraged and you make your gratitude and appreciation known, even if it means sacrificing something- a piece of jewelery or something you cherish, planted in the ground in a sacred spot you have chosen.
You plant things to use in cooking, to feed yourself, your family, your animals. You tend to their needs above your own. You treat your animals with love, devotion and show them mercy in their time of need. Treating others with respect goes without saying. Cast your circles, make your requests and remember to give thanks upon receipt of such gifts. Otherwise do you really expect to get anything else again?
Yet some of the other religions or spiritual cultures, who say you should not judge, are the first to cast stones, accuse that which they do not understand of being dark, mysterious and (their) Heaven forbid- evil. When nothing could be further from the truth. Runes, tarot and some other methods of foretelling what is to come, are surely, in their eyes, the work of the devil. Yet in the Pagan beliefs, the "devil" does not exist, so how can he possibly take credit for anything?
While there are some people out there who take every word as Gospel, take everything to extremes, go a bit overboard and too far, there are also those who practice quietly in their own homes or with a small coven and choose not to get too far in depth on things. Some groups require nudity, which should never be a requirement, but always optional instead. Not all of us are comfortable bearing our skin under the light of a full moon, or even the 100 watt bulb in the bathroom for that matter either.
But just like most other faiths, it is all a matter of learning what each one practices, when and where they meet and what their beliefs encompass. Learn about it on your own before you make a decision and pass judgement on others without understanding the how and why behind what they do.