by Marah Ellis Ryan
"Paganism (from Latin paganus, meaning "country dweller, rustic") is a term which, from a Western perspective, has come to connote a broad set of spiritual or cultic practices or beliefs of any folk religion, and of historical and contemporary polytheistic religions in particular.
The term can be defined broadly, to encompass the faith traditions outside the Abrahamic monotheistic group of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. The group so defined includes many of the Eastern religions, Native American religions and mythologies and as well as non-Abrahamic ethnic religions in general. More narrow definitions will not include any of the world religions and restrict the term to local or rural currents not organized as civil religions. Characteristic of pagan traditions is the absence of proselytism and the presence of a living mythology which explains religious practice.
The term "pagan" is a Christian adaptation of the "gentile" of Judaism, and as such has an inherent Christian or Abrahamic bias, and pejorative connotations among Westerners, comparable to heathen, and infidel, mushrik and kafir in Islam. For this reason, ethnologists avoid the term "paganism," with its uncertain and varied meanings, in referring to traditional or historic faiths, preferring more precise categories such as polytheism, shamanism, pantheism, or animism.
Since the later 20th century, "Pagan" or "Paganism" has become widely used as a self-designation by adherents of Neopaganism."
About the Author:
"Marah Ellis Ryan was born either February 27, 1860 or 1866. As Ellis Martin, she married Samuel Erwin Ryan (b.1834), an Irish actor and comedian, in 1883. She died July 11, 1934.
Marah Ellis Ryan was a popular author, actress and activist for Native Americans at the turn of the 20th century.
The New York Times published this obituary on July 12, 1934 (page 17):
Los Angeles, July 11 (AP)-Mrs. Marah Ellis Ryan, writer and authority on Indians, died today at her home in the Silver Lake district from encephalitis (sleeping sickness) at the age of 68.
Mrs. Ryan went to live among the Hopi Indians twenty-five years ago and claimed to be the only white woman ever admitted to the secret religious rites. She was noted as an authority on the tribal life of the Indians in the United States and Mexico.
Mrs. Ryan was born in Butler County, Pa., a daughter of Graham and Sidney Mechling Martin. As a young woman she wrote a few poems and stories under the pen-name of "Ellis Martin." In 1883 she married S. Erwan Ryan of New York, an actor, who died several years ago.
Among the many books by Mrs. Ryan issued over a period of thirty-six years, 1889-1925, were the following: "In Love's Domain," "Squaw Eloise," "A Flower of France," "That Girl Montana," "Indian Love Letters," "The Woman of Twilight," "The House of the Dawn," "Treasure Trail," and "The Dancer of Tuluum.""