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Ancient Pagans Didn't Worship Nature

Discussion in 'Neopagan or Revival Religions' started by The Hammer, May 17, 2021.

  1. The Hammer

    The Hammer Hrafnúlfh
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    Did Ancient "Pagans" Really Worship Nature? - Tales of Times Forgotten

    Ancient "Pagans" did not have the same romantic notion of Nature that many contemporary Neopagans maintain, it is not historically accurate. The Gods were not seen as extensions of Nature, even if their supernatural status was aligned with some natural phenomena (ie Zeus/Lightning)

    And actually part of why I have been more drawn to traditional Polytheism, as opposed to Nature worship (as a whole), or utilizing things such as the Elements, Elemental cross, etc. Even though I absolutely hold Nature in high esteem.

    " This heavily romanticized nineteenth-century view of what ancient “paganism” was like eventually gave rise to the modern Neopagan movement. Thus, the idea that most people today have in mind when they hear the word “pagan” is one that has been irrevocably shaped by the Romantic movement and by contemporary Neopaganism. This idea, however, is not generally an accurate reflection of what ancient pre-Christian religions were like.

    Most deities worshipped by ancient pre-Christian peoples were not seen as personifications of natural phenomena, but rather as supernatural beings governing specific areas of human endeavor. Furthermore, ancient pre-Christian peoples saw the deities as dangerous, capricious, and untrustworthy.

    Deities that were particularly closely associated with nature were often seen as especially frightening and unpredictable. Entities like Pan, satyrs, and nymphs were seen as frightening and potentially dangerous. They could never quite be trusted and people sought not to make friends with them, but rather to appease and avoid them whenever possible.

    The idea that ancient pre-Christian peoples worshipped nature is, for the most part, an invention of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth-century western European Romantic movement and is, for the most part, not a very accurate reflection of historical reality."
     
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  2. Rival

    Rival Iiu em hotep.
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    The nature-worship thing has never been for me and I'm so glad you pointed this out. One of my books on Kemetic faith says the same.
     
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  3. The Hammer

    The Hammer Hrafnúlfh
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    As a Druid I am certainly drawn to Nature worship, per se. It is what brought me to and keeps me in the Neopagan path. I mean I personify the Earth (less globe, more soil) through the deity Nerthus. I just also bring in the whole range of a specific Cultural pantheon.

    But it's not the only way. :)
     
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  4. Wild Fox

    Wild Fox Well-Known Member

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    I disagree with his conclusions and believe he is making the very mistake he is arguing against. He is looking at the argument from ancient pagan societies that were well advanced around the Mediterranean area and in particular the Greeks. Here you have societies with well advanced city/state organization that are in much greater control over their environment and food supply. The author did not site many examples of Northern European deities many of which have strong connections with nature such as the Cailleach.

    The closer you get to hunting and gathering societies the more nature oriented the religions become. The Sami are more tied to the land than their neighbors and they have more deities directly connected with nature.

    As for the falling into the arms of nature this is also misrepresented in the article. Anyone living outdoors in the elements would tell you nature is both giving and taking and to the unbalance view of the benevolent god or goddess that develops later.

    In Celtic culture where is the source of wisdom and knowledge? Inside the heads of people or in nature? The Greeks developed a very complex written language and moved to humans to be the source of all wisdom and their gods reflected that.

    What about the romantic return to nature. Clearly at least in England and in Germany there were people starting to see where the "wisdom of humans separate from nature" was going. Personally I see this as the next phase of religion.

    1. Humans are anthropomorphic thus animism is normal and when everything comes from the natural world then the deities are the embodiment of the natural world.

    2. Humans gain greater control over the natural world the start to see themselves as separate and their deities take on more human expressions.

    3. Humans finally learn enough to know we totally dependent and interconnected with nature and the deities return back to the natural world.
     
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  5. The Hammer

    The Hammer Hrafnúlfh
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    While I am not sure about Cailleach, I think the author mentioned that the Celtic people's were more nature oriented.

    I also agree with your three conclusions. I just think people need to divorce in their minds the Romantic ideas we have built up around ancient peoples, and look at it from a pragmatic pov. Nature is to be both Respected and Feared, for it exists Utengard (outside our control). This is not a common Pagan sentiment, that I've encountered. But I am also a shut in.
     
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  6. Wild Fox

    Wild Fox Well-Known Member

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    I agree with dropping the romantic view. I do not think it was ever in the minds of those struggling to survive with direct exposure to the environment. But think of the source for all knowledge. Where else other than nature. This is the opposite of the Abrahamic religions where all knowledge wisdom comes from outside of the natural world.
     
  7. Rival

    Rival Iiu em hotep.
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    I don't think there's any neat divide. In Kemetic religion Heka is said to come from The God; as well as being the Creative power used to make mankind it is also given to humanity to help us protect ourselves in ways such as medicine and protective spells etc. I think nowadays it would cover what we call science. It is given us by the Netjeru (the God/s) and is seen therefore as Divine and has a Divine Personification.
     
    #7 Rival, May 17, 2021
    Last edited: May 18, 2021
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  8. lovesong

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    This really needed to be said. Obviously Pagan faiths vary, and so some may be more inclined to venerate aspects of nature than others, but that is certainly not the case for all of them.

    Hellenic people saw the natural world as almost the enemy of purity and humanity. It's the opposing force to civilization. Nature, or the wilds or forests, was where monsters lived, where outcasts were sent, where the insane went to act like beasts. Like you said, the gods of nature were dangerous. There are stories warning us of venturing too far off of city roads; men who stumble onto goddesses in the wilderness have been killed. The forest hills are where the frenzied Bacchic revelry happens, where women dance naked and violate "civility."

    On the other hand, I think Heathenry has an inherent sense of respect for nature, but still there is no worship of it. IMO nature is something to be respected for its might, sometimes feared. It's where spirits and dwarves and whatnot play, and if we're careless we might get ourselves hurt. Nature in Norse society was cold and unforgiving, you could easily die spending the night alone outside during winter. Hospitality is a big value, and one of the reasons for this is because of the potentially deadly implications of turning away a traveling stranger. Still, nature is something that has its place. The universe hangs like an apple from Yggdrasil, a tree, and Thor takes devotions at the foot of oak trees. So, there can be a sacredness to certain components of nature, but as a whole it was certainly not worshipped.
     
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