The term “pagan” is a Christian naming of a person that belongs to a non-Israelite tribe, and as such having a pejorative connotation among the Western monotheists, that compares it to heathen – a person who does not acknowledge your God. Paganism in its turn has ‘polytheistic, spiritualist, animistic or shamanic practices, such as folk religion, historical polytheistic religion’. The term got a broad definition to include all the religions that are outside the monotheistic group of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. This group encompasses Eastern religions, mythologies and Native American religions.
One may notice that the pagan term is cast outside the religious groups that had very well defined their religious beliefs, mostly connected to God, whereas paganism is related more to the elements of the nature, the ones that gave birth to the myths and their characters.
The rings have been a symbol for marriage since ancient times; they were given to the women as a token of possession – once being ringed they weren’t allowed to circulate among other men. “Being ringed” – does this ring a bell? The cattle are also ringed in order to be easier recognized and controlled by the leader of the livestock. Is the origin ‘husbandry’ (a task performed by a farmer) coming from the term ‘husband’? Well, no. The etymology of ‘husband’ is more likely to have the origin in the medieval Scandinavian locution “hus” – house and “bondi” – dweller.
The ring symbolism comes from the unbroken circle as an age-old symbol of eternity. This is why such an ancient symbol was and still is an important part of a wedding ceremony, since everlasting love is the wish of the couple for their future life together, a bond for the soul mate, as Plato said “The soul is a circle”. Roundness is a shape connected to nature, as the nature itself has cyclical moves, and its timeless dimensions convey an eternity to be recognized in the meaning of the wedding ring.
“Everything tries to be round” as Black Elk says, an Oglala Sioux holy man. Even our lives move in repeated circles bearing the religious elements of the divine, since “God is a circle which has the centre everywhere and the circumference nowhere”, according to Greeks. The ring has been given magical properties, thus a ring around the heart is said to protect a person from evil spirits.
The pagan rings have also pagan meaning, such as the Hercule knot ring from the Hellenistic period which has the power to offer protection against evil spirits and represents the symbol of fidelity in marriage; the Love Sandals ring – worn as a good luck charm or as fertility symbol;
Triumphant Eros ring – the god of erotic love; grapes ring – the symbol of fertility, the version from 1st century Rome, the Circle ring; the Cornucopia – worn as a talisman to give prosperity; Lovers Feet – the bare feet design considered erotic; the phallic ring – phallic symbol, the symbol of fertility common among many ancient cultures; pagan handfasting ring – that includes Theban runes that spell out “Heart as one”.
Though one may think that pagan wedding rings do not imply religious meanings, they still bear symbols that supplement the definition of love, the only feeling that brings two people together into the circle of matrimony.11