Nature and Paganism

Mahud over at Between the Old and New Moons has asked some interesting questions about Paganism. I’ve found them interesting and worthy of much thought, so I figured I’d start answering some of them. I don’t promise to touch every question and I intend to tackle them in my own order rather than in the order they’re asked. But it should be an interesting exploration.

Are you a Pagan because you are drawn or feel a connection with nature?

Nope. I’m a Pagan because I am drawn to and feel a connection with my gods. Any connection I might feel with nature is a secondary factor at best.

To be honest, I think some Pagans make too much of the connection between reverence for nature and Paganism. Perhaps it is more important in their tradition than it is mine. But to be honest, my understanding of historical Paganism is that their interest in nature was purely motivated by early pagans’ need to survive whatever nature might throw at them. If the herds went away or were too small, people starved. As a result, making sure the herds would stick around and be populous enough to support them became a part of their religio-magical practices.

Today, we’re not at the mercy of nature in that same way (though she does occasionally like to remind us she’s still perfectly capable of giving us a good walloping if the mood strikes). As a result, my own religio-magical practices tend to focus less on surviving nature. I can focus on other needs within my life and my community.

Now this isn’t to say I don’t love nature. I grew up in rural Pennsylvania. At my parents’ home, watching the deer and turkey wander through the back yard looking for the corn we set out is still a regular event. And everyone who is there still marvels on those rare occasions when the local black bear wanders through the back yard. (Often followed by my father muttering about said black bear knocking down and breaking the bird feeder yet again.) But in some ways, coming from that background leaves me with the sense that many Pagans tend to romanticize nature. They talk about it in ways that make it seem entirely unlike the real world I’ve experienced in my past.

Do city dwelling Pagans find it difficult to practice in the City?

Given that I don’t consider the connection with nature as essential a part of Paganism as others, I think it’s obvious that I’m going to say no to this question. However, I do think that the urban Pagan’s experience is going to be different from the rural Pagan. They live different lives, and the expression of their faiths are going to have to reflect those differences.

But this is where my feelings about the romanticized notions of nature often expressed by Pagans come in to play. There’s plenty of nature in urban areas, and I’m not just talking about parks. After all, as much as we try to forget it, humans are a part of nature, too. You want to see nature in a big city, go to a night club. You’ll get it all: sweaty bodies, loud rhythms, strong heartbeats, and enough sexual energy to drive the unshielded psychic crazy in under twenty minutes. And let me tell you, my gods absolutely love it.

One thought on “Nature and Paganism”

  1. Hi, Jarred! Apologies for taking so long to thank you for responding to my questions. Some really great info from your own personal perspective. It has helped me a lot.

    Most (pretty much everyone actually) of everyone who responded are Polytheists, and it’s something I’m willing to open myself up to, but, as yet, it’s not my experience.

    I’m glad you made the distinction between nature based and gods based Paganism. Most of my surfing on the net gave me the false impression that Neo-Paganism was nature focused. Really, you’d of thought all my reading of European mythology, would of helped me see beyond that.

    Thanks again! 🙂

    I’ve booked marked you, so looking forward to future posts 😉

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