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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in nature religion

Every religious tradition stands in some tension with its society, legitimizing some things in terms of a larger eternal context, but in the process challenging others, sometimes deeply.  As NeoPagan religions increase in America this same pattern is developing. This essay explores how the logic of Pagan religion leads us to question the legitimacy of some important contemporary institutions, particularly the joint stock corporation, and with this questioning, the way our society views the world. 

More deeply than most religions, NeoPagans legitimize and honor the goodness of this world, the sacred immanence that shines through all things.  Consequently, from a Pagan perspective living well in our world requires observing appropriate ethical and moral relationships.  This insight cannot help but lead us to criticize attitudes treating this world as noting but a means for human ends.

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  • Henry Buchy
    Henry Buchy says #
    'Tapa is innocent, study is harmless, the ordinance of the Vedas prescribed for all the tribes are harmless, the acquisition of we
  • Gus diZerega
    Gus diZerega says #
    Since I did not use the term 'socialist' and indeed included a strong criticism of sate socialism, I see your ability to read and
  • Greybeard
    Greybeard says #
    No, pagan is not a socialist political agenda no matter how many silly assertions you make about corporations and economics.
  • Cynthia Savage
    Cynthia Savage says #
    How did you get "socialism" from this post. He decried "socialism" in this post and pointed out that capitalism is not a good phil
  • Gus diZerega
    Gus diZerega says #
    Somehow my reply ended up not connected to your post- but Cynthia gave an excellent reply. I suggest reading more on your part an

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Are We Really a "Nature" Religion?

The organizers of Pagan political causes keep writing to me, asking (nay -- demanding) that I lend my support to various environmental protests, demonstrations, and campaigns -- on the grounds that we Pagans are supposed to be ‘stewards’ or ‘caretakers’ of Mother Earth -- and, as such, we have a religious duty to ‘walk the talk’ and engage fully in ecological activism.

Sez who?

More to the point -- who was the first to say so? And what was the process by which these beliefs (and demands) became the water in which today’s Pagans are swimming?

IMO, and FWIW, the people who rallied, with me, around the ribbon-bedecked May Pole of modern Pagan Witchcraft in the early 1960s were primarily hedonists. Many of us, it's true, were interested in ecology and environmentalism. But all were there, I believe, to fuel the fires of a religiosity that claimed 'all acts of love and pleasure' as its sacraments.

Over the following 15-plus years, considerable thought went into the development of an ethical system in support of this effort. A new system, now called the Expressive Ethical Style, evolved to replace obedience or self-interest as the motivations for human behavior with an ethic of impulse ('follow your feelings'), self-expression ('let it all hang out'), and situational appropriateness ('go with the flow'; 'different strokes for different folks').

Replacing the goal of self-preservation with self-awareness, this new ethical style encouraged relaxed non-analytical attention to the present situation ('be here now'), in order to meet the newly reified obligations of universal love and mutual non-injury.

But then the 80s began. And some writers, new to the field, began making rather strident announcements to the contrary. First, if this was a religion that worshiped Goddesses, and if all Goddesses must therefore be one Goddess, then this one Goddess must be the Goddess of Nature. Veneration of the Maiden (romance) and the Crone (wisdom) was scorned in favor of a kind of feminist monotheism -- worship of the Mother -- Mother Nature.

Next, it was declared that all historical Goddesses (those about which something was actually known, and from whose myths ethical insights might be gained) were hopelessly tainted by 'the patriarchy', and that only those (imaginary Goddesses of pre-literate civilizations were worthy of worship.

Established Pagan ethical ideals (esp 'harm none') were acknowledged in passing, but deemed naive and insufficient. We were not to burden ourselves with such considerations, especially if they prevented us from enacting the emergency measures necessary to protect the (now sacred) environment from those who disagreed with our visions for its preservation.

And as for 'all acts of love and pleasure', well you can just forget about them. In this instance, 'harm none' was extended, and radically so, to disallow any behavior that had ever caused harm, or was believed even theoretically capable of causing harm -- especially to members of a new 'victimhood elite' -- those capable of concocting fictive (or, as Chas Clifton once put it, 'cheerfully ahistorical') narratives of past oppression.

From this point onward, there'd be no wine in that chalice. Nor would any wand or athame be welcome there either. So there!

I object. I have only the greatest reverence for the Goddess as Mother -- but as part of a polytheistic constellation in which Maiden & Crone are included. I have no argument with the sacral nature of Nature -- that Nature is imbued with the divine -- as long as no one insists that Nature (esp as 'the environment') IS the divine.

I want to see a return to our original Pagan spirituality, in which the genuine Pagan deities of the past are studied with reverence and care -- hopefully to provide us with insight into the polytheistic worldviews that predated the Abrahamic religions. And I’d like to encourage study of the concocted deities of the past couple of decades in order to better understand the inner nature of the political, spiritual, and psychological environment that produced them.

I propose a return to our roots. Those who wish to pursue environmentalism (or feminism, etc) are welcome, now as then. But they could just as easily find a home -- quite a comfortable spiritual niche -- in any number of mainstream religions. IMO, what makes Paganism unique, what distinguishes it from these other established religious paths, is its enthusiastic embracing of a sybaritic worldview -- along with the focus and energy to continue (or resume) work on an ethical system (see above) that would support such a way of spiritual life.

Anybody interested?

Raise your hand and shake your bells.

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  • Naya Aerodiode
    Naya Aerodiode says #
    This article, right here, is why I've stopped reading Pagan blogs for the most part. I'm really done with people attempting to def
  • Fritz Muntean
    Fritz Muntean says #
    I couldn't agree more, Lupus. (but where DO you kids get these NAMES -- haven't any of you read 'Lady Pixie Moondrip'?) Literacy
  • Fritz Muntean
    Fritz Muntean says #
    Good point, Sindra. I should have discriminated more carefully/clearly between Modern (aka 'Contemporary') Paganism -- a New Relig
  • sindra
    sindra says #
    I found a few issues with the overall post, though not many. Mostly the problems I found were in that it homogenizes Paganism into
  • P. Sufenas Virius Lupus
    P. Sufenas Virius Lupus says #
    Where did you hear that, Sindra? There were lots of polytheistic cultures that existed before Judaism...and, "Judaism as a monoth

Posted by on in Culture Blogs

Every religion is both a product of its times and, to the degree its vision takes hold of practitioners, transforms those times.  Ours is no exception. I think Pagans interested in our larger significance within American society as a whole will want to take a look at my new book, Faultlines: the Sixties, the Culture War, and the Return of the Divine Feminine, published last month by Quest. 

It was as a guest at a NROOGD Midsummer Sabbat many years ago that I had my first and most powerful encounter with the Wiccan Goddess. After that encounter my life existed in a context I had not even imagined possible. It would be years before I began to grasp how different.

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  • Gus diZerega
    Gus diZerega says #
    Thank you Jamie. I think you will like the larger context, ultimately spiritual. in which I put the very accurate points you are
  • Jamie
    Jamie says #
    Mr. diZerega, I'm a fan of your writing, and your book made it onto my gift list shortly after I became aware of it. Spot on. Ev

In my last post, I talked about how to sense nature spirits. Once you've found a way to sense them that works for you, the next step is to try communicating with them.

Except...why would you want to? And why would they want to talk back?

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs

So, let's start with the very basics, beginning with how to sense spirits. After all, if I'm going to be helping my readership work with spirits and totems and the like, I should make sure that you have a way of doing so. You might already have figured out a good option for yourself, but keep reading anyway if you like--maybe there's something in here you haven't considered yet.

I'm going to sidestep the issue of the exact nature of spirits, whether they're independent beings in a nonphysical reality that parallels our own, or unseen denizens of our world, or elements of our psyche that we project outward. Not that it isn't important, but I'll leave it up to you to decide exactly what they are; the how-tos I'm going to put in this blog should work regardless of your answer.

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Posted by on in Studies Blogs
Is Nature Enough?

Paganism is often described as religion of “Nature Worship” or as “Earth-Centered”. Is it? Should it be? Is Nature, in how we use it, a euphemism for the wilderness, or the biological, ‘living’ part of the world, or is it a name we put on the world as a whole? Is Nature big enough for it to be a descriptive characteristic of our group spiritual life? Much depends on the definition of Nature. . .

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  • Chas  S. Clifton
    Chas S. Clifton says #
    Following Gary Snyder, I define "nature" not as trees and flowers merely, but as all processes outside the control of the human eg
  • Diotima
    Diotima says #
    There is so very, very much we do not know about the interwoven web of life that we call Nature. The sustainable and ever-changing
  • Gus diZerega
    Gus diZerega says #
    Good to hear, Sam. Glad you like the essay. I read it as suggesting I was at the end of a continuum the other end of which was tho
  • Sam Webster
    Sam Webster says #
    Gus, I was using your essay as a good example of a healthy relationship to nature/wilderness, then I went on to theological discus
  • Gus diZerega
    Gus diZerega says #
    Sam- is there anything in my essay, anything at all, that suggests I did not address the points you raise other, I guess, than the

Posted by on in Studies Blogs

Desire carries the implicit possibility of change. Relationship requires that possibility to become a reality.

This year was the first time I had the opportunity to leap a (small, thankfully) fire as part of a Beltane ritual. I was surprised by how much it made me feel in my flesh and bones the way that Beltane is about the potential for transformation.

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