Granted that a lot of people who practice magic and exploration of the higher realms are pagan nowadays, not all pagans do magic, and not all magicians are pagan. Magic is something that isn’t tied to any one religion or spiritual path, and magic comes in so many forms, languages, shapes, and contexts that it can never be relegated to any one word or definition. So, it always confuses me and gives me (longer-than-conversationally-permissible) pause when people ask whether I’m pagan or call me such without checking.
“Pagan” nowadays often refers to polytheistic, earth-centered, environmentally-conscious people. Although “pagan” is usually synonymous with “Wiccan” in most popular contexts, this is far from being the actual case, with hundreds of varieties of “pagan” out there. The word “pagan” comes from Latin paganus, meaning “country dweller” or “rustic”, or someone who lives according to an older or less sophisticated way of life. It’s a blanket term, and synonymous in etymology with the word “heathen”, or “someone living in the heath” or the desolate back country. Both terms came to mean “not Christian or Jewish”, and are both very broad blanket terms. In this sense, Buddhists, Hindus, and even Muslims and Mormons (being polytheistic and not trinitarian) may be called “pagan”. “Neopagan” is an improvement, but doesn’t cover all the bases, either, since it only covers contemporary revivals or new spiritual paths. What about people who practice Bön on the Tibetan plateau, or the Ainu who practice their own form of animistic faith in northern Japan? These are certainly pagans, but definitely aren’t neopagans.
Myself? I consider myself a magician, specifically a Hermetic and/or ceremonial magician. I don’t really operate in terms of religion or spiritual orthodoxy; instead, I work in terms of practice, experience, and experiments. I come from a loosely Jewish background, I believe in the One God, and that Christ is an aspect or physical emanation of the Logos or Son of God and/or a pretty cool dude. I also believe that Muhammad (PBUH), the Bahá’u’lláh, all of the Jewish patriarchs, and the like were prophets ordained by God to do work in his favor, and all likewise pretty cool dudes. I’m also starting a priesthood role to Hermes, have worked with Avalokiteśvara and Bhaişajyaguru from Vajrayana Buddhism, honor the planets and their attendants, picking up practices with some other gods from the Greek and (as a faint possibility in the future after some chats with friends) Aztec or African pantheons, and work under the tutelage and with the assistance of my Holy Guardian Angel. I’m so far over the place, hither and thither, that I break a lot of people’s definitions, preconceptions, and labels. In other words, as befitting my Hermetic nature, I’m a trickster and don’t fit into any one bin, since I’ll just flit right out and into another one. I’d be like a Schrödinger’s Cat of traditions, except with less neurotoxin.
So, next time you ask what path I’m on? I won’t have any better of an answer than “I’m working on my own”.