Paganism is not “Nature-Centric”


The definition of Paganism is often misconstrued as “nature-centric spirituality,” and correspondent to the term “Earth religion.” In truth, the concept of “nature worship” is by large recently-manufactured, being the product of the heavily Christian-entrenched Romantic period and the nature-centric movements which developed out of it; the same movements which also sprang out contemporary Druidism in the 19th century, (Nicholas Roe 2010, 26) which, suffice to say, isn’t anything similar to the ancient Druids of Antiquity. This idea, which is so ingrained in contemporary conceptions of “nature worship,” had not existed in ancient Pagan religions, and is often perpetuated by typically the least academically-minded types of apparent “Pagans” whose practice is much more identifiable as New Age than anything. There are plenty of Pagan religions– including ones where there are divinities holding jurisdiction over the forces of nature– which aren’t concerned with the worship of nature, it often being seen as a hostile force as frequently as a beneficial one. (Hrafnblod 2018, 23:56:58) Vulcanus may be a God of fire and its fertilizing aspects, but His cultus often centers around protecting the home from the ravages of flames. (Plutarch, 47) To simply define Paganism as “nature-centric” is, ultimately, a misconception.

This isn’t to claim that Pagan traditions don’t have ceremonies or calendars which center around nature or natural cycles in some form. However, most religions do this to some extent. An agrarian society is going to have ceremonies centered around the fertility of the land; however, that doesn’t mean that they’re “earth-based,” no more so than any other religion is. While Kemeticists celebrate the flooding of the Nile River, for a long time Coptic Christianity celebrated this event as well. (Febe Armanios 2015, 78) And while many Pagan religions observe holidays based around the cycles of the moon (e.g., Hellenism determining when to celebrate Hekate’s Deipnon), the religions of Islam, Judaism, and some sects of Christianity also do this to observe their holidays. (James Shneer 2016, 4-5) Yet, these religions are undoubtedly not seen as Pagan religions.

Often this application of vague “nature-centric” spirituality to Paganism will lead people will assume that Pantheism, the belief that the divine is identical to the material universe, (William Mander 2016) fits into the movement. This is problematic because the pantheistic conception of the divine is functionally identical to atheism, with the divine merely being “the passive manifestation of [material] reality” (Hrafnblod 2018, 13:07:34) rather than an entity with a distinct agency. (Hrafnblod 2018, 13:07:34) This lack of agency obviously means it does nothing to inform any religious devotion, and because of that you cannot engage in do ut des with it. And while plenty of Pagan traditions do recognize the cosmos as something that’s divine in its essence, they also hold that other Gods and Greater Kinds exist seperately either externally from it or internally in it, thus aligning closer to Panentheism rather than Pantheism. (Hrafnblod 2018, 13:07:34) (John Culp 2017)

Pagans do not seek the mediation of the Gods to worship nature because nature is not the objective of Pagan traditions. The unmistakable focus of Paganism is the worship of Pagan Gods who hold a distinct agency. Because of this it’s wiser to categorize Paganism using Michael York’s book Pagan Theology: Paganism as a World Religion: an umbrella term for many different contemporary religions that are either inspired by (e.g., Wicca or Druidism) or revivalisms of (as in reconstructionist polytheism, e.g., Heathenry, Kemeticism, Hellenism, etc) the ancient cultures in the European-Mediterranean-Near East cultural basin that were displaced by Abrahamic religions. (Michael York 2005)

Defining contemporary Paganism this way serves a purpose of distinction, allowing Paganism to be separated from the largely Protestant imperialist use of the term and distance Pagans from the appropriative New Age movement, in preference for religious expression that is more logical and consistent.


(Special thanks to Hrafnblod for inspiring this article)



Armanios, Febe. Coptic Christianity in Ottoman Egypt. New York: Oxford University Press, 2015.

Culp, John. “Panentheism.” Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. June 03, 2017. Accessed March 06, 2018.

Dragicevich, Peter, Etain OCarroll, and Helena Smith. Lonely Planet Wales. Oakland, CA: Lonely Planet, 2014.

Hrafnblod, Reddit post “Interested But Unsure”, February 26, 2018 (23:56:58 UTC p.m. UTC), accessed March 3, 2018,

Hrafnblod, Reddit post “Interested But Unsure”, February 27, 2018 (13:07:34 UTC p.m. UTC), accessed March 3, 2018,

Hrafnblod, Reddit post “Interested But Unsure”, February 27, 2018 (11:43:22 UTC p.m. UTC), accessed March 3, 2018,

Hrafnblod. “On “Earth-Based Religions”.” Grennung Hund Heorþ. April 5, 2017. Accessed March 3, 2018.

Hrafnblod. “Paganism Isn’t Dying; It’s (Finally) Maturing.” Grennung Hund Heorþ. May 21, 2017. Accessed March 3, 2018.

Mander, William. “Pantheism.” Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. July 07, 2016. Accessed March 06, 2018.

Oosthoek, K. Jan. “Romanticism and nature.” Environmental History Resources. August 1, 2015. Accessed March 03, 2018.

Plutarch, Quaestiones Romanes, 47. via the Perseus Digital Library at Tufts University.

Shneer, James. The Jewish Calendar and the Torah 3rd Edition. S.l.:, 2016.

Roe, Nicholas. English Romantic Writers and the West Country. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010.

TheLettuceMan. “Paganism as a Religion.” Of Axe and Plough. June 18, 2017. Accessed March 3, 2018.

York, Michael. Pagan Theology: Paganism as a World Religion. New York: New York University Press, 2005.

About HeliosTheDemiurge

Proud Pagan and polytheist. Reconstructing Late Antiquity-Early Medieval Hellenism based on the teachings of Julian the Philosopher and Iamblichus, referred to as "Julian Hellenism."
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12 Responses to Paganism is not “Nature-Centric”

  1. Mark Green says:

    A gross overstatement. At best, you can say that YOUR Paganism is not nature-centric. Mine is, and I like it that way.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Mark,

      From what I see your “Paganism” has nothing informing your devotion that is markedly derived from ancient paganism (non-Abrahamic religions that were displaced by Abrahamic Religions in the Europe-Near East cultural basin). Instead, your beliefs are primarily derived from the Protestant Romanticist understandings of nature that I discussed, and nothing more. This, coupled with your outspoken promotion of atheism (which is of course something influenced by these Protestant ideas you’ve been raised in) make your claims of being Pagan dubious at best. After all, you have no reason to identify with a religious movement if you hold a notion that there is no deity with agency, because evidently, you cannot engage in do ut des (a reciprocal relationship of gift exchange) with something that lacks this fundamental quality.

      Your appreciation for nature and self-development can be expressed in many ways. But that shouldn’t come at the cost of hindering a religious identity that’s making an effort to be taken seriously. To continue to call it Paganism is at best appropriative, as people who are actually reviving or taking inspiration from these faiths are trying to reclaim the word.

      I know you probably won’t take this comment in and reflect on it, but luckily you don’t have to. Paganism is moving ahead and leaving you behind.



      • Mark Green says:

        Rootedness in the ancient is in no way intrinsic to modern Paganism.

        You are correct: I do not “take your argument in” because it is rooted in specious premises. My Paganism is every bit as Pagan as is yours. Everyone who appoints himself a gatekeeper of who is a “real” Pagan can be dismissed out of hand as someone who has little grasp of the modern meaning of the term.


      • Hi Mark,

        I must repeat: your claim is heavily entrenched in a background of Protestant Romanticism. Coupled with the denial of Pagan Gods, there is nothing notably Pagan about it. The reason for “gatekeeping” is because your “modern meaning of the term” is an extention of and defined by Protestant overculture, and hence appropriative.

        Again, it’s more than fine if you want to express an awe of nature or focus on self-improvement. It just shouldn’t come at the cost of being a pestilence on a religious movement.



      • Mark Green says:

        A “pestilence”? LOL.

        Your definition of Paganism is far too narrow. It is not the definition generally accepted by the broader community. It doesn’t matter what the “roots” of my belief and practice are: they are Pagan. Nor are they remotely rooted in a Protestant paradigm, which appears to be nothing more than a sideways slur.

        You can kid yourself all you like that you are doing “real” Paganism and others are not. But seriously: that’s all you’re doing.


      • Hi Mark,

        As stated in this article, this more concise definition of Paganism serves a purpose of separating Paganism from Protestant imperial use and thus creating distance from the New Age movement. Perhaps this ostensible “broader [“Pagan”] community,” which probably participates in the issues I bring up, is not a good fallback to invoke argumentum ad populum.

        The roots of your beliefs and practice do matter. People aren’t raised in a void, nor do their ideas formulate in one. Your ideas of what Paganism is, which are patently not rooted in ancient paganism, inevitably means you root them coming from a contemporary Western background. This is especially apparent in your vocal understanding of nature and outspoken adherence to pantheistic atheism.



  2. Bob Paxton says:

    No, I’m sorry. You don’t get to latch onto an entire movement and say “mine”, and punt out people who don’t fit in your reconstructionist worldview. You’re about 40 years too late to try to grab hold of that term.


    • Hi Bob,

      Throughout this post, I did not put forward a notion of limiting Paganism to “Reconstructionism” (P.S., This is a tool of methodology; not a denomination). You are arguing against a strawman. I explicitly made it clear that those who take inspiration from ancient paganisms (e.g., Druids and Wiccans) are included in Contemporary Paganism.

      What is actually presented in my article is that vague nontheistic nature worship has more to do with Christian romanticism than anything actually inspired by ancient pagan religions. Defining a religious movement to be inclusive of atheists who expound themselves with a Protestant worldview is counterproductive.


      Liked by 1 person

    • By that logic, you’re roughly 1700 years too late to grab hold of it.


  3. Mark Green says:

    So you say. I say your premises are baseless and arbitrary. Good thing there is plenty of room in the Pagan community for both of us, despite your wishes to the contrary.


  4. fatcatspats says:

    You make a reasonable point in stating that paganism should not be DEFINED as “nature religion,” full stop, by indicating that many non-pagan religions are nature-centered and many pagan religions are not. It’s difficult because the ancient world was so (comparatively) low-tech that we seem to consider anything similar to or inspired by ancient actions to be “nature-based.”


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