Paganism Is Not Nature Worship

There is a general conception that paganism is an "earth-based religion" and that all pagans worship nature. This is not true.

Many of you are probably gasping in disbelief at this statement. "Not so!", many will exclain, "All paganism honors nature!" This is doubtlessly true. All paganisms and native religions worship deities who have control over natural forces, and spirits who reside in or protect natural places. Think about that statement. What it means is that pagans worship the deities who rule over nature and the spirits embodied in nature, NOT NATURE ITSELF.

I am writing this because I see more and more pagans ignoring or downplaying the importance of the gods. Many describe their practices as "celebrating the Divine present in nature" and hold a kind of pseudo-Hindu Pantheism as their belief. Others portray paganism as simple (but not primitive of course) nature veneration. This, I believe, is because many people are afraid of being thought of as childish, foolish, or insane for believeing in pre-Christian deities.

All pre-Christian religions have suffered at least a millenia of scorn and disregard as mere superstition, and their ancient believers regarded as primitive and ignorant. The centuries of derision has left us with a mental filter that tells us anyone who believes in and worships multiple deities is also primitive and ignorant. This filter tells us that all civilized people accept Monotheism, or at least some form of unity of the divine. It tells us that Polytheism is inherently primitive and superstitious, incapable of producing great philosophers or true culture.

We need to break this filter. The ancients loudly and frequently celebrated the many gods and goddesses they depended on. There are countless ancient inscriptions asking the favor of or praising the names of thousands of deities the world over. Polytheistic cultures have produced such great philosophers as Marcus Aurelius, Plato, Nezahualcoyotl, and Lao Tzu. Polytheists created the magnificent temples of Greece, the pyramids of Egypt, and the jugle swathed cities of the Maya. Beautiful hymns to dozens of gods and goddesses survive. The ancient myths speak of the gods and goddesses behaving as individual beings, not just facets of nature.

Paganism is NOT merely nature worship. It is the Polytheistic worship of gods and goddesses, and has a long and proud history. One we should do our best to live up to.

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5 Responses Jan 18, 2013

Paganism has never been exclusively polytheistic; it has also been pantheistic.

Sorry, I respectfully disagree with your statements. I've been Pagan for 20 years and know most of the founders and have discussed this in depth with them. The founders, when they established Paganism, meant it to be a nature-based religion. Some Pagans believe in deities, others don't. I agree that we don't "worship" nature, not at least in the Christian sense and I know few Pagans who worship deities; they venerate the deities but not worship, like Christians do. Just because someone is polytheistic does not make them Pagan. It makes them polytheistic, that is all. It is some of the younger folk who think Paganism isn't about nature or they are people who are polytheistic looking for a label. The word Pagan itself means "country dweller", named after those who still practiced the old ways, which are about celebrating the change of seasons, i.e. basing their religlion on Nature.

"Founders"? "Who started paganism"? I can only assume you mean Wicca or some other form of neopaganism and not paganism. Is my assumption correct?

Hi Jeff: there were a number of founders but one of the most instrumental is Oberon Zell-Ravenheart. He started the first Pagan church in 1968, Church of All Worlds, of which I am a member and caretaker at our land. He used the term "Pagan" to describe our community and meant it as a way to bring together the various sects that were nature-based. And yes Paganism certainly was intended as a Nature-based religion and it wasn't about how many gods you "worshipped". There are many Pagans who don't worship Nature, they honor it. There are also many Pagans who don't believe in any deities. The word Pagan comes from Latin and means "country dweller" - which means you can't very well have Pagans without honoring Nature. We keep the old ways (8 sabbats/yr) and celebrate the seasons. Without that, you have only polytheism, belief in many gods, but no nature and that is what is at the heart of Paganism. I've watched Paganism change thru the years and nowadays many young people, new to Paganism, want to believe that it means only belief in more than one deity but that isn't accurate. We have a word for that: polytheism. Paganism is Nature-based, with all that goes with it. If you don't have that, you aren't really Pagan, you are polytheistic. We include polytheists in our Pagan community, as we do Hindus and Native Americans because so many deities are Nature-based. Google Oberon Zell-Ravenheart, he has started many Pagan projects and developed them and has been around since 1968. Read his writings on it, as that explains Paganism as it was created, not what it's becoming - which has strayed from the original intentions.

I know who you are speaking of. I have been pagan for some 15 years, but I do feel the need to say that paganism was not founded by anyone in the 20th century - that is neopaganism. Paganism is thousands of years old. All 20th century founders did was bring back their interpretation of ancient paganism as a form of neopaganism. Even the individual you describe would not deny this, at least if that individual wanted to be taken seriously by other members of the pagan/neopagan community.

Thank you for adding this: I was of course talking about neo-Paganism in the 20th century but didn't add "neo" as I figured everyone knew that.

1 More Response

I enjoyed reading your piece!

I feel that "paganism" is such a blanket statement that it encompasses many beliefs. This is one the the many aspects of being a pagan that I enjoy; it's somewhat of a loose term and has not been indoctrinated and defined with a rigid structure and set of rules.

When I tell someone that I am a pagan, they usually have no idea of whether or not I follow a specific dogma, what pantheon calls to me, or whether or not I enjoy running naked under the new moon; I enjoy that as well, as my spirituality is something very intimate for me.

While not all pagans worship nature as a godly entity, others certainly do, and if a tree or a lake is divine to you, there's no harm in that; it does not detract from you, the sanctity of your beliefs, or make your beliefs any more or less "legitimate" than theirs.

I feel like the most common thread among pagans is that they are usually free thinkers, open minded, and less judgmental than your average "mainstream" religion believer or atheist. Aside from that, I never really take anything else for granted when I meet a fellow pagan.

Thank you so much its a sad world of ignoance do to mono theistic belief keep up the good posts

<p>Well said. Thank you for posting that.<br />
<br />
May the Lord and Lady bless your path.</P>