A philosophy and lifestyle centered around observing and celebrating the cycles of nature.

"Nature Pagans connect to the Divine in a way which feels best to them at the time. Making this spiritual connection in its most powerful form is what is important, not the mental conception used by the individual. This means Nature Pagans are perceptheistic and honest about it when compared to other religions."
— https://www.naturepagan.com/

For many people the word pagan equates to Wiccan or even Satanism, but Paganism is (forgive the phrase) a broad church, with many sets of beliefs, rituals and organisations. Even defining the word is tricksy; it depends on the individual's worldview. For most people nowadays it seems to have negative connotations, and is frequently used to describe those "not-us", whether Jewish, Christian or Moslem. The word derives from the Latin paganus, meaning one who is rustic. The word "heathen" also has a similar feel, one who lives on the heath.

So this is a very personal look at what being a pagan means to me. It's not meant to be a statement of broad truth, though doubtless it will ring true with some people. That quotation pretty much sums up what I believe and do; I describe part of my spiritual and philosophical identity as pagan, and I need to write this to clarify to myself which bits are important, and which bits aren't.

A nature pagan is one who aligns with the natural and continuing order around them. I am in tune with the seasons of the sun, the cycles of the moon. I know around what time the sun will rise and set and I look forward to each, trying to be around for each event. I tend to wake with the first light even in the summer when the sun rises early. Working farmers' markets means that I'm up before dark and so I get to see two or three a week whether I want to or not. When I was living in the country, with unfettered views of the whole sky, the cycle of the sun determined my day. I also was more in tune with the moon; I knew what phase it was, whether waxing or waning, as I was often out on errands in the dark, either late evening or early morning.

When I grew my allotment garden back in England, this was crucial. I understood well the local climate, could sense the coming frosts (mostly!) and plan my planting and care accordingly. Watching the skies gave me a sense of what the weather would hold, I could often smell whether rain was coming, and as I was often out early in the morning, I really had a grasp of where in the year I was, the real season rather than the calendar's idea.

These days, living back in the city, it's something I miss. The glow of lights means I'm less aware of everything; I feel less connected to the world. That I have to go out of my way to see the horizon is another factor, there is simply less sky, and that little is washed out by light pollution. It strengthens my belief that we aren't meant to live like this, packed like sardines into the handy "communities" they call suburbs. The little scraps of earth are covered with lawns or carefully regimented plantings meant to simulate nature, but failing at every turn.

This is another thing. In a purely natural environment, things grow where they can, as they need. A forest, a meadow or a wetland all have their degrees of chaos and order, and as you move through the environment, you witness the change. Head up into the foothills out of the valley, and you see the differing ecotones. Grass and trees give way to manzanita scrub around here, and the nature pagan in me not only notices, but celebrates it. The vegetation reflects the differing soils and climate, and supports the different wildlife that depends on it. Climb farther and you'll find fir, pine or (near the coast) redwood. Insect and bird life change with the herbage, and that's noticed and lauded as well.

My own view as a nature pagan is that Man has broadly tried to beat Nature into submission, rather than live with it. We build the suburbs out in the hills and wonder why every Western wildfire is a source of anxiety, rather than allowing the natural processes of fire to control and mould the environment. We build in the floodplains and try to wrestle rivers into a headlock, and when we fail, we panic. John McPhee's book The Control of Nature illustrates well the futile battle we have against natural forces and processes, and has done much to influence my worldview.

So, do I worship Mother Nature or the Triple Goddess? No, not in the sense of having altars and offering prayers. To me the whole natural world is an altar, every thought about the growing world is a prayer. Do I have rituals at the solstices, equinoxes or the full and new moons? Yes, sometimes I do. I'll do something different, something other. It may simply be that at the equinox I'll sit outside to contemplate the coming of Autumn or Spring, or sit under the full moon to reflect on what I have achieved in the past month, or the new moon to look at my plans for the near future.

Sometimes though, I will have a proper ritual. I'll sit for longer and I make preparations, have intent. I will take my Green Man plaque outside with some salt, candles and a drink. I'll dig my fingers into the earth, light the candles, toss the salt in the air, pour a libation to the Green Man, and basically think good thoughts about…whatever my intent is. This is the closest I get to "worship", and I do it for myself or for friends when there's a crisis. A little over a week ago I did this for my sweetie, the Dryad, who is facing some big challenges in her life and her family's. I did it not because I believe it will make a direct change, but to focus myself on her problems and to renew my support for her. Does it make a difference in reality? Possibly not, but it strengthens my resolve, and if I let the object of my intent know, it may help them to understand that I have them in mind and heart.

Some will have different definitions; after I'd written the bulk of this, I went to look at what others have said. Most of the websites I visited had much more to say about it, tons of background, loads of ritual. Many, many words, too many words, too many labels. We're all inclined to whack labels on a thing that attempt to totally define it, but belief, politics and identity are plastic, mutable. My own views have changed, are changing. Everything I do, think and write changes my perception, sharpens my understanding, strengthens my resolve. I'm not just a pagan, but it represents part of the core of who I am. It's private; I don't currently wear any symbols of my belief, I don't stand on street corners berating others for not Believing what I do, or telling them to get saved. It's a quiet thing, my paganism.

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