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Glossary of Wiccan, Neo-Pagan and Occult Terminology

PYTHAGORAS (569-470 BC)

A Greek philosopher of 6th Century BC who founded a school and a philosophical system, Pythagoreanism, named after him.   Born on the Greek island of Samos, off of the coast of Asia Minor, he migrated as an adult to the Greek city-state of Croton (modern Crotone), in southern Italy about 530 BC.

Occultists can not truly claim the great philosopher-mathematician as one of their own.   However, his theories on the transmigration of souls (metempsychosis) and the significance of numbers have earned for him their profound gratitude.   How many of these theories are actually those of Pythagoras is uncertain, for according to Aristotle many disciples used falsely to claim that their own pet theories had been received from the lips of the Master.

As a teacher and leader Pythagoras possessed extraordinary charisma.   In Croton he established a society or brotherhood of religious-ethical orientation.   Within its initiates the society fostered strong bonds of friendship and a feeling of elitism through ritual, esoteric symbolism, and a code of righteous self-control that included taboos.

The basis of his teaching was ethical, religious, and mystical.   He believed in metempsychosis, the concept that the soul, both human and animal, passes from one body to another body.   It is uncertain whether metempsychosis included the belief in the immortality of the soul or not.   However, the concept provided the rationale for many of the practices within his society which included: vegetarianism and rituals of purification which were thought to promote superior Reincarnation.

The body of legend which grew around Pythagoras attribute to him super-human abilities and feats.   Some think these legends developed because it is more likely that Pythagoras was a Greek Shaman.   Other modern scholars have drawn comparisons with the ideas of the religious sect of Orphism and the ideas of Indian and Persian religions which indicate influences on Pythagoras.

Pythagoras was thought to be a polymath by his contemporaries.   However, some modern scholars discount this and doubt that he was the founder of Greek mathematics, or even the geometric theorem named after him.

He died in Metapontum, near modern Metaponto.

The Stoic philosopher Diogenes Laertius associated the teachings of Pythagoras with those of Druidy.

see also: PYTHAGOREANISM


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PLEASE NOTE:
One of the major problems with 'defining' Paganism and/or its beliefs and practices is that it is an 'organic' movement, in that it is undergoing constant change and re-evaluation from within, and as such any 'one-size-fits-all' approach to understanding Paganism will be found wanting.

Due to the very 'organic' nature of Paganism, and the many differing Paths and Traditions within it, in many cases no one definition may be universally accepted by all Pagans.   Therefore, where such cases of possible conflicting and/or contradictory meanings of certain terms occur I have endevoured to give not only the generally accepted meaning, but also any major 'variations' in belief and/or practice.

Christians who believe this difference in meaning of certain key terms, beliefs and practices to be unique to Paganism need to remember that such conflicts also arise within the Body of Christ - the Church.   Take for instance the differing practices amongst Christians concerning Baptism and the different attitudes towards women in the clergy.

- Jean-Luc



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