Tuesday, 12 August 2008

Paganism is the Worship of Nature?

This was a topic at one of the various fora I occasionally browse. Apparently, in order to be a bona fide pagan you have to worship nature.

Well, you can imagine some of the responses: "... the rede says harm none", etc., wherein the majority seem to forget that many pagans are not Wica, Wicca, wiccans or weekenders, but follow a tradition outside of witchraft and magic.

Its the same with druidry; people assume its nature worship simply because of the way the modern movement conducts itself. Ancient druids were the lore/law keepers and, whilst they may have respected nature and learnt as much as they could about it, they did not worship it. They had their own, local deities whom they honoured and respected, but, again, it would appear they did not worship. Rather, a relationship was built and maintained.

Many pagans live in cities and, despite access to nature, do not feel the need to go off every day and commune with it, but rather live their lives pretty much the same way everyone else does. What makes them pagan is the gods or ancestors they honour, or the way they think about life (such as animists) and how that affects every aspect of their lives.

I understand many come to a pagan path through environmental concerns, or because they want to get more "in tune" with nature, but its a mistake to believe all pagans are vegetarian nature lovers. We're not. Most of us are quite aware that Mother Nature is "red in tooth and claw" and we do our utmost to respect her, but that doesn't proclude us from being hunters or, indeed, from greedily consuming all of her attributes. Most eco warriors would be appalled I'm sure. I kinow of one particular hard-nosed pagan who happily admits to eating ready meals, being single and unable to cook.

Just because those few who are nature worshippers tend to be the loudest, doesn't mean they are in the majority, either. In pagan circles, the majority appear to remain quite silent, getting on with things rather than actively promoting their various causes.

I am not saying that there aren't pagan traditions that worship nature. After all, whole cultures still exist which do, just that in western pagan circles, not everyone treads the same path.

Personally, I see nature as something to be understood, honoured and respected, but not something to be worshiped. I don't even worship my gods! My particular path doesn't call for such behaviour. I am learning as much as I can about my ancestors ideals in terms of personal codes of conduct and relationships with deity and I try to incorporate that into my everyday life. Not all of it relates to nature, nor should it. I am no Jungle Jane living self-sufficiently apart from the rest of society. I work in the city and reside in a semi-rural location. My choice of residence has more to do with peace and quiet than a desire to be near to nature in order to worship at its feet.

When entering a new landscape, I do try to connect with the spirit of place/wights/genius loci and usually leave some type of offering, but I do it in the hope of receiving a warm welcome and being allowed to explore, but isn't it just a form of respect? I mean, you wouldn't go and visit someone at their house without taking a little something would you?

I wonder how many reading this blog worship nature?

1 comment:

Bo said...

Interesting. I think this depends on what one means by 'nature' (that notoriously contested and worringly flexible term). All I can say is that for me, the natural world is the absolute ground of my spirituality, and without that context my religion would be utterly meaningless. My sprituality is a container for the powerful feelings of reverence for nature that are integrally part of myself; if reverence for nature (as opposed to worship) isn't part of paganism, then in that case I'm not a pagan and don't want to be. I've never been the sort of pagan that, as Germaine Greer put it, 'gathers in cellars to burn incense and talk of Isis and Osiris.' That side of paganism has always seemed to me to be (as my dear friend Justine says) 'just a lot of buggering about with coloured chalks'.