-Nature as Deity-
By Ana Hawthorn
(Nature as Deity: The Pagan Folkways of Old Europe, from BCE to Today.
An Overview of the survival of Pagan beliefs and folk practices through
celebration, magic and healing.)
Whatís this got to do with us?
think that many people crave a connection to this planet, they feel
displaced and disconnected. Because of this, there is a revival of
looking to the old heathen view. We want to feel the shifts of the
seasons, the connection to Mother Earth.
I was young, I think I lived in the fields and woods surrounding my
home. It was a place of bounty and magic, of beauty and sound. As I
grew older this, of course, was replaced by those things that interest
most teens (we wonít go into the gory details). However, once that wore
off, I found myself feeling spiritually disconnected and frustrated
with church doctrine.
since discovered that there are many who feel this way. That others
want to feel that old childhood wonder at the planet we live on. Also,
that we want to be connected to where we came from. It all comes down
to the big cosmic questions- where did I come from, what am I doing
here and what else is out there? We crave connection. This craving is
probably what has brought some of you here. It may have made you look
for your ancestors, or to look to the people who first populated this
land we now live on. Perhaps you cook grandma's recipes or celebrate
traditions that you have in your family. We are all here because we
sense that there is something more to why we are here, that where we
came from matters somehow, and that there is more than meets the eye.
Old heathen practices answered to this basic spiritual need:
- Ancestors were honored
- Children knew the stories of the heroes of their own family and of the village and kingdom.
- Traditional foods and feasts brought people together.
The need to keep community was strong- you couldn't hide or run because
everyone knew you, so, you had to keep responsibility for your actions
or words or risk exile that usually equaled a slow death.
Also, God was Nature. The goddess was the land, the god was in the
crops, there were gods of storms and oceans, goddesses of the hearth
and of snow, deities of the woods and entities that peopled the land
that were a little harder to see. Ladies in the lake, dwarves in the
mountains. They were around you and involved with you.
- One cared for Nature, because one didnít want to upset that which sustained them
- A person was honorable, because they represented their entire lineage
short, many have come to feel that our early history is worth looking
into, and perhaps embracing to some degree. I recently read an
interesting article that stated Ė when society crumbles, we should hold
close to that which is dear to us and carefully pass it on. That way,
when things become better, there is something to revive. Our ancestors
did that, through the dark ages and war, conquering races and political
suppression. If you look, you can still see these bits in our folklore,
family traditions and holidays.
is any polytheistic belief system- those who believe in the existence
of more than one deity form. Pagan is the term used in the
Mediterranean region of Europe; North of this area, the correct term
would be Heathen. They mean the same thing. Pagan and Heathen religions
are Culturally specific
is a specific pagan religion that has evolved from pre-Christian
practices and witchcraft practices. Wicca is a set of spiritual
beliefs, most often set into the cultural context of the Celtic
peoples, but the system has been adapted to many different Cultural
often used interchangeably with Wicca, is actually a system of magical
practice, and may or may not adhere to the Wiccan format, it can also
be strictly within a cultural context. In the latter form it can be
seen in a negative form- most common in popular culture, or it may
arise in a positive form- under which circumstances, most cultures
reserve a separate term for such practitioners- such as Healer,
Cunningfolk, Spae folk, PowWow Doctors and the like- depending upon
their skill area and culture.
believe in more than one form of deity, both honor nature and its
cycles, both are a spiritual philosophy, Wicca is one specific route.
This is akin to Monotheism being the umbrella concept and Christianity
being a specific path of which Episcopalian is a specific tradition.
Thus Paganism is the umbrella and Wicca is the path. So, when I use the
term Pagan/ism I am referring to an umbrella concept or a group of
common beliefs. When I use the term Wicca, I am speaking of a specific
form of Paganism and from there I may qualify a specific tradition
within Wicca such as Gardnerian.
discussing the Culture and History, what we will be covering are early
practices of Heathens/Pagans. When we discuss folk magic we will be
looking into the arenas of the surviving practices of the healers,
cunning and wise folk and the witches. The former is of predominant
interest to the Reconstructionist, the latter of the Wiccan- though the
interest may be interchangeable and the information equally valuable.
Tonight I wonít be discussing what the Reconstructionist or the Wiccan
does. Tonight weíll be discussing the world view that effects both.
History of the early pagan world
are still many pagan and indigenous religions that continue to exist
and have striking similarities to give us a fair idea of ancient
practices. I feel that the indigenous shamanic cultures that still
survive, show fair evidence of how the ancient world-view of deity must
have been. There are strong universal notions that exist in all of
these indigenous cultures whether itís the Mbuti tribe, Lapp Shamans or
Aboriginals of Australia. There are commonalties found here that exist
in Celtic mythology, Norse pagan thought and in North American Indian
views of the spiritual world. This universal view concerns itself with
Ancestral worship, honoring nature and the spirit world. The gods are
that of the land they live upon and manifest in the natural world. They
honor a Great Spirit that is inherent in all things yet often maintain
a hard polytheistic view of Deities and manifestations of natural
surviving Pagan cultures, such as Hinduism, Yoruba and Asatru we still
see these traits. Though with a modern world-view comes a faction that
will view these Deities as archetypes instead of independent beings
which can influence our lives. Simply put, pagan thought appears to be
the natural inclination of the human speciesí early thought processes.
Some feel that monotheism is an evolution of primitive thought. Some
feel that there was a failure by paganism to feed the spirit of its
people, which opened the door for monotheistic religions to gain
strength. Some feel that the strength that monotheism gave patriarchy
was the motivating force, and some feel that it was monetarily
motivated. Surely, these are all valid points. Interestingly to me, the
appeal of Christianity to the early pagans came in the notion that
anyone had access to God, anyone could talk to Him, one need only to
strive to live as a good person (formats already set into society). In
some cultures, such as the ancient Germanic, contact with deity was
left to the King, Godhi, or other member of the higher class. I find it
interesting because one of the things that is drawing people back to
pagan practice is a desire to find personal relationship with the gods.
Itís rather cyclic. And, and interesting constant for what is behind
the unrest that causes the rise of a religion. It is certain that the
world was broadly pagan prior to about 1700 years ago. Monotheism only
existed in small sects, primarily in the Middle East. Iím not a scholar
PAGES 1 | 2 |