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Difference Between Pagan and Pilgrim

pilgrimPagan vs Pilgrim

Pagan and pilgrim are two words we usually use in the religious context. These have entirely different meanings, implications, and origins.

A pagan is a term used to denote a person who worships the nature, earth, and the Gods of the olden age. Wiccans and certain aboriginal tribesmen are considered as pagans by many. A pilgrim is a person who has a firm belief in a particular religion and undertakes a journey for a spiritual reason. This spiritual journey is known as pilgrimage and it can be to a place considered holy by the specific religion. For instance, Mecca is the pilgrimage destination of Muslims and Jerusalem is where the Christians and Jews go on pilgrimage. A pilgrim can take a pilgrimage to any of the many pilgrim sites. A pagan does not travel anywhere to show his devotion or worship.

There are different types of pilgrims. The most common ones are the religious pilgrims and the cultural pilgrims. As mentioned earlier, religious pilgrims make pilgrimages to the holy places of their religion. Sometimes the pilgrimages need not to be any physical location. They can set out on a pilgrimage to many such destinations in search of spirituality and meaning of the religion. In such pilgrimages, the pilgrims trust in the Divine power and set out on the journey. Cultural pilgrimages involve a secular thought. It can be based on hobbies, interests, and cultural instincts. For example, if a hardcore communist visits the birthplace of Karl Marx, that is known as a cultural pilgrimage. Similarly the visit of a person inclined towards arts and cultures, to the museums and heritage sites also is cultural pilgrimage.

The term pagan is usually used by Christians and Muslims to denote a person who does not believe in the practices and Gods of their own religion. Sometimes it is used as a derogatory term as well. So over the period of time, different terms like pantheism, polytheism, and shamanism have evolved to denote the different types of pagans and their beliefs.

1.Pagan is a person who believes and worships nature, earth, and the old Gods and Goddesses. Pilgrim is a person who believes in a God specific to a religion.
2.Pilgrims go out on pilgrimages, which are journeys to the holy places of their religions. There are no such travels for pagans.
3.There are different categories of paganism like polytheism, shamanism, and pantheism. Pilgrimages also can be of different types like religious pilgrimage and cultural pilgrimage.
4.In a religion, the term pilgrim is used to denote or refer to a person who is very much devoted to the religion and its principles and pagan can refer to a person who does not believe in that religion.
5.Pilgrim is the term used in all religions while pagan is the term most commonly used by the Christians and Jews to refer to people outside their religions.

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1 Comment

  1. As a long-time Pagan/polytheist, I object to the statements “A pagan does not travel anywhere to show his devotion or worship” and “Pilgrims go out on pilgrimages, which are journeys to the holy places of their religions. There are no such travels for pagans”.

    In Europe, pilgrimage began long before the Christian era – to visit healing springs, places of oracles, temple sites, etc. – and it continues to this day. Many sites visited are commonly seen as merely cultural/historical rather than religious by those outside the Pagan community, but Pagans can often find spiritual resonance there. A few sites include: Delphi in Greece; Bath in England; Newgrange in Ireland; Thingvellir in Iceland. There may not be any centralized Pagan religious authority to codify which sites are sacred and which are not, but that does not mean that there is not a general consensus and an ability for people to define what makes a particular place sacred to them as individuals.

    There IS certainly a difference between Pagans and pilgrims – not all pilgrims are Pagan, and not all Pagans are pilgrim – but there is also definitely a group of people who are both.

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