What is Paganism?
A general definition for Paganism is a religion or spiritual path that is outside the Abrahamic tradition (that is, anything that isn’t Judaism, Christianity, or Islam). Typically, but not always, these paths include a focus on nature worship or reverence and mysticism or magic(k) (the “k” is sometimes added to distinguish from stage magic). This definition encompasses A LOT of religions, and you can find more detailed information about each of those in our About Paganism section.
How many types of Paganism are there?
There are many types of Paganism, which stretch back to antiquity. For example, most people are familiar with the Greek pantheon (Zeus, Venus, Athena) through myth, but the ancient Greeks worshipped them as Gods and Goddesses who they could call on for aid. Other examples include the Celts of the British Isles, the ancient Egyptians, and the HUGE array of indigenous spiritualities from Africa, Australasia, and the Americas. It also includes various folk magic traditions from around the world. There are a lot of options when it comes to choosing your path!
What exactly do you guys do?
The PSA exists to protect the interests of Pagan students on the UT campus and to provide a common meeting ground for students of all Pagan traditions, and others curious about those traditions. The PSA also serves as a safe forum for the discussion of alternative spiritual practices, with the goal of educating both members as well as the general public.
You’re wearing a Pentagram. Isn’t that a Satanic symbol?
The Pentagram is an ancient symbol, and has been used by many different religions at different times; consequently, multiple meanings have been attributed to it. Many people interpret it as representing the five “classical elements”, namely Earth, Air, Fire, Water, and Spirit; these in turn represent represent the forces and substances that comprise both human beings and the entire universe (this attribution probably derives from the followers of Pythagoras in ancient Greece, who seem to have been the first religious group to use the Pentagram as an identifying symbol.) In medieval Europe, the points of the Pentagram were said to represent the Five Wounds of Christ, or five cardinal virtues; in this capacity, the symbol appears on Sir Gawain¹s shield in the Arthurian legend of Gawain and the Green Knight. Wiccans (followers of one contemporary Pagan religion) often identify the five points with the three aspects of the Goddess (Maiden, Mother, and Crone) and two of the God (Consort and Son, or in another view Warrior and Sage). Still other people use the Pentagram as a symbol of Earth, or as a protective symbol, or merely a way to publicly indicate their Pagan beliefs.
What about magic(k)? Does it really exist?
As Hamlet said to his friend, “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.” Most members of the PSA hold the opinion that more things exist than traditional Western science and philosophy currently accept, and magic(k) is widely regarded as one of them.
Magic(k) comes in such variety that it is virtually impossible to define. Each practitioner works differently; where one person would call upon a deity or other spiritual being, another would use only his or her own resources, while a third might make use of the power of nature and its laws. Regardless of how it is performed, magic(k) may be used for purposes ranging from healing and protective workings to spiritual development. Stories of levitation, love spells, hexes, and the like are stories and nothing more; despite everything Hollywood says on the subject, the laws of nature are the same for everyone, magic(k) or no magic(k).
How supportive of each other are your members? Would an inexperienced Pagan be able to find instruction?
We feel that we are very supportive of other members. Many of us consider PSA to be a group of friends. New members are always welcome! PSA doesn’t officially teach or instruct, but occasionally we have a member lecture on some aspect of Paganism.
Everyone is welcome to attend a meeting or join our club, regardless of religious affiliation. Our only requirements are friendliness and an open mind!
How accepting are other students of your beliefs?
Austin is a very liberal place, so it doesn’t seem as odd as it might someplace else. Occasionally members of certain other religious organizations will “ask us questions” but by now we have developed standard answers. Pagans at UT are, in general, quite open about it, and PSA especially.
What if I have more questions?
We love questions! An important aspect of Paganism is our need to question what’s put in front of us. If you have a specific question about the group, or Paganism in general, feel free to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org!