Deep Paganism

by Joanna Van Der Hoeven

As Pagans I feel that we naturally tend towards a worldview that is less anthropocentric, especially if we follow an animistic path.  Our love of nature, whether it is the world around us, or human nature, or both leads us on a journey that can take us outside of our selves, and thereby gaining a wider perspective on the whole.

Deep ecology is about thinking less about the benefits towards humanity, and more about the benefits to the environment. Buddhism, with its tenets of compassion, is very much in a similar vein; we try to drop the ego in order to benefit the world, and by becoming less self-centred, are better able to help others.  Some spiritual and secular journeys can put too much stress on human relations, and not enough on the wider web of life.  Within Paganism, we can see that we are always connected, and that connection is what inspires us to lead a life more attuned to the natural cycles, or vice versa. 

In my own Druidry, what I seek is total immersion in my natural environment. I strive to loosen my sense of self as an individual and instead seek to blend my song with that of the world around me, finding a harmonious union.  When out walking on the heath or in the woodland, I let the “I” drop away, and become totally immersed in the present moment. I feel that this gives me a greater connection to the world, allowing what Buddhism calls the dharma to flow.  Dharma is simply reality, which we so often tend to avoid at all costs. When we realise the beauty of the present moment, when we can truly live it in every sense of the word, then we are truly connected to everything.  We become part of everything, and in this I also see the Druid concept of awen, or flowing inspiration; the life force itself.

If I can free myself of myself, I can open truly to the songs of the universe.  There is no separation – I am the heath, the forest, the deer.  Movements are made in full awareness, and every step is taken in love and reverence. Every breath is a blessing. Everything my eye falls upon is a gift.

In living such a life, what is fundamental is a respect for all things. This is at the heart of animism, which sees the inherent value in all things just as they are.  No one thing is more worthy than another. Each thing is an expression of itself in full blossom, in full fruition.  Even my self, my physical self, is simply energy taking form as my body in this present momen t and perhaps even my mind), for however long or short a time span.  This body is in permanent change and flux, growing and changing shape, eventually dying. In death the change continues, and the form alongside the energy flows in different currents. My body will continue to change, as cells break down and bacteria work to return the physical form to the earth.  The process of life and death, of decay and regeneration is honoured within Druidry and within animism. No one process even is more important than the other. Birth is no more important than death. What we do realise is that life has no opposite – there is only flow, change, awen.

My sense of self is of little consequence in the grand scheme of things. What matters is that I pay attention to what is happening around me, and use that to inspire me to live my life accordingly, with honour and respect.  Paganism allows us to leave behind all the machinations of humanity to follow a different flow, one where we see where we fit in the puzzle.  The love of nature inspires us along the path, demonstrating that there is more to the world that our own human lives.  We are the country folk, the paganus. Even though we may live in cities, we still feel the pull and hum of nature around us, reflected in the sun’s cycles, the seasons, the flows of human nature.

Immersion is key.  If we can allow ourselves to not only ride the current, but become one with the flow itself, we are then blessed with a wholly different perspective not based upon human need and desire.  There is much more to the world than our anthropocentric view, and we honour that world with all that we are.