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Things pagans say, Part 2

"[Insert pagan faith here] is a nature religion."

I am, to put it mildly, not the outdoorsy type. I'm not a fan of camping (and particularly not a fan of setting up a campsite!). I don't like bugs. I don't like the heat. I do like flowers and trees, and the occasional walk in the woods. I like to look at the lake and pick through rocks on the beach. I'm glad it's there, I'd miss it if it weren't, but I'm not someone who is really all that consciously connected to nature.

I wonder if part of this has to do with having grown up in the country--sunsets over the lake, acres of green, fall colors, all that is everyday stuff. Even now, living in town, my yard is full of natury gorgeousness. I like nature. Nature is good. But I don't spend a lot of time waxing rhapsodic about it. (Not that I'm a waxing-rhapsodic type anyway, but you get my gist.) I've never in my life had to go looking for it. It has always just been there. And I appreciate it, but I really don't think I am as moved by it as much as a lot of pagans and heathens are.

So the whole "It's a nature religion" thing isn't something I personally relate to. As I say, I like nature, I wouldn't want to live in a city under any circumstances, but making it the main focus of my religion does not work for me. I think that's been one thing that's led me toward a more reconstructionist approach (well, that and the polytheism).

How does one balance this with a basically Vanic focus? I've heard it said that the Aesir are the gods of culture and the Vanir are the gods of nature. I think this is a gross simplification, but there is a bit of truth to it. I think potentially a better way to say it is that the Aesir are more about reason, and the Vans are more about instinct. Not as in an either/or thing, but as a first-impulse thing. Frey certainly seems to embody this. So is this worth exploring?


Aug. 2nd, 2010 05:21 pm (UTC)
Our concept of "nature" as something out there in the wilderness/down on the farm is 18th-century Romantic. Nature is everywhere. Emerson is a better guide to how the ancient heathens thought of it. Right now I am in a suburb, less than a block from a rail commuter line, using a DSL connection. I used to live in a 4th-floor apartment in Hell's Kitchen. But both rest upon Jörð's surface. Neither is far from Ægir's realm. Thor blesses both with his thunders - though rarely here, sadly. And obviously I can blót all the gods equally well in both places and do not need to go down to the sea, up into the mountains, or even to the park to reach any of them.

Also, look at my examples in that paragraph - all Æsir. We are often led astray by our "modern heiti" of "god of X," "goddess of Y." Even more so by that pernicious opposition of the Vanir as nature-gods, the Æsir as war-gods/intellectual gods. Thor's thunder fixes the nitrogen - in Sweden they harvest after the first thunderstorm because it ripens the wheat. What is called "Freyfaxi" in modern Asatru was the first harvest, the grain harvest, and the first sheaf was left for Sleipnir. We have both Ægir and Njörðr. "Nerthus" is based on Tacitus or his informant mishearing "Erthus" - the earth goddess we have attested by name is Æsic. But even if there is a Vanic earth-goddess too, she will share her domain with Jörð the way Njörðr shares his with Ægir. Freyr was the war-leader of the Vanir - who kicked the Æsir's ass militarily - and is now the leader of the combined divine host. He killed Beli with an antler but could have killed him with his bare hands. Frigg is not unsexy - Wagner's image of her is wrong. And for that matter Sif is no slouch at sexuality and is the mother of Ullr, so she is also extremely old. Not just a wheat-goddess, that's 19th-century "nature mythology," any more than she is Diana as Stan Lee thought :-)

The gods all do far more "jobs" than modern mythologists can get their minds around, and they are a blended tribe, which means they work together on many projects. They are also other-dimensional, out of time (from our POV), and shape-shifting, so we need to keep reminding ourselves that they can be reached from anywhere. It's our own reaction to industrial brownfields, inner cities, strip-malls, and so on that makes it hard for us to "feel" them in such places. It is nice to honor the gods by making a nice altar, by always blóting in nice places, and by making special expeditionsup mountains and to seashores and other places where we are surrounded by nature's might and beauty. But nature is still there in the potted plant behind me, and in fact in the Coca-Cola on my desk and the hair on my head. Never mind the dog who pads in, spying for Óðinn :-) That's what we should be reminded of when we see a raven or even a crow - in fact a thousand times every day. And I believe that's why so many of us wear hammers or other divine symbols - to remind us the gods are always here.

I hope that helps and doesn't come off as too snobbish. You can feel and hear them - let yourself remember it's true.


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