Just the words pagan and paganism bring up images of women dancing naked around bonfires at night, baby sacrifices, and devil worshippers. Whether from popular television shows and movies or from Christian dogma, many conceptions of paganism are wrong. The reality may just surprise you.
Myth 1: Pagans are devil or Satan worshippers.
This is probably one of the most common misconceptions regarding paganism and its various religions. The answer is emphatically no. Satan, or the devil, is a Christian/Judeo concept and has no place in paganism. This is not to say devil worshippers do not exist. But those who do worship Satan are not pagan. Devil worshippers are therefore a sect of Christianity, not paganism. Along with this misconception is that Satanists worship Satan. Again, this is not the truth. Satanists do not believe in either God or Satan. They believe control of their lives is within them, not a higher power.
Myth 2: Paganism involves human and animal sacrifice.
Again, no. Contrary to movies and shows, this is not true. Paganism revolves around the respect and love of all life. This also disproves the misconception that Pagans eat babies. Life, animal or human, is considered sacred. It should be noted that animal and human sacrifice did exist in the earliest forms of paganism but no longer exists today.
Myth 3: All witches are Wiccan.
That would be like saying all Christians are Catholic or Baptist. Not all witches are Wiccan. Some prefer a solitary lifestyle. Some are a part of cults outside of the Wiccan beliefs. Some belong to different religions entirely.
Myth 4: All pagans perform rituals nude.
Not all pagans or Wiccans perform their rituals nude, or skyclad. Some pagans do prefer to be skyclad. They feel that it gives them a closer connection to the divine and is not sexual in nature. Being skyclad leaves nothing in between the individual and the divine, literally baring all. Not all ceremonies require being naked. It greatly depends on the group, privacy levels, the weather, and the comfort levels within the group.
Myth 5: The use of the pentacle signifies devil worship.
This is another misconception from television. The pentacle is a symbol of the five elements, one for each point on the star. They stand for earth, air, fire, water, and spirit. The wearing of the pentacle with the point up shows the recognition of a higher power. An inverted star with the point downward symbolizes the Satanist belief that they themselves are the higher power.
In reality, this symbol like many means different things to different individuals. The cross was used to kill in ancient times, like a modern day electric chair is now a symbol of the Christian faith. The Swastika now thought of a hated symbol from the time of Hitler was considered a symbol of peace by the Tibetans. It is all a matter of interpretation.
Paganism is not what it seems, despite popular belief. Knowledge is indeed key here.