Earth Centered? (a pagan blog project post)

Poseidon Hippios

Poseidon Hippios 2013

I’m a few days behind, due to an infected index finger (try typing with that!) but I wanted to explore the dichotomy between earth-centric paganism and deity-centric paganism, primarily because a chance comment by another blogger got me to wondering. This dichotomy is not a new one; over a decade ago when I first began interacting with Reconstructionists (I think LunaFox and Randall over at TC where the first Recons I knew about) it was one of the differences put forward, to differentiate between Wiccan and Wiccan-inspired neo-paganism and Recons. More than once I’ve seen people struggling to explain paganism to non-pagans by including the dreaded “nature-based” religions, only to be lambasted by those practitioners and devotees who follow religious calendars based around historical urban calendars, or by those whose calendar has nothing in common with the Wiccan Wheel of the Year. This dichotomy has come up again, tangled up as it has to be in the pagan versus polytheist debate, but what really got me thinking about it was an exchange TPW and I had in the comments section to my Poseidon Domatites post.

The caveats I feel obliged to put forward are thus: our household tradition is informed by and inspired by the past and our ancestral cultures, primarily the Germanic/Scandinavian ones, but also, on my part, there is a not a small amount of influence from Hellas. Beth and I do actually observe a Wheel of the Year that is similar, at least in name, to the Wiccan Wheel of the Year. We’ve got Ewemolc, and Ostara, Beltane, Samhain, and Yule . . . but oh do those festivals look different, in their meat, in our tradition, than they might for others. Our Ostara certainly does not look like what I see others writing about, with their Ostara festivals, for example, and our Imbolc has nary a reference to Brigid to be seen – to the point that I was surprised this year when people were connecting Her to that festival. Beltane is all about the Wild Hunt for us, as is Samhain straight through to Yule, and Yuletide is not a single day, or even a collection of three or nine, but a whooping twelve day affair set aside to honor various gods, the Disir, and other spirits. The second caveat I feel obliged to put forward is: I am never not aware of the fact that we are mortal animals upon the physical world, and a part of it. There is a strong embracing of this fact that is a thread within the foundation of my relationship with Poseidon. Environmental awareness is a Thing with Him, and that certainly informs my view of everything I come into contact with.

Tisel at Poseidon of the Ponds site 2012

Teasel at Poseidon of the Ponds site 2012

When I am asked, “Would you consider your path as deity-centered or earth-centered?” my answer is, deity-centered. Thanks to TPW’s comment, I realized that from an outside perspective, that may not be obvious. Why? Well, even when I’m speaking specifically of my Poseidon festivals and devotions, what am I talking about? In early spring, I honor Poseidon Phytalmios, focusing upon the season of growth returning; in April I honor Poseidon Hippios, with a focus upon equines world-wide; in July there’s the Running of the Bulls with Poseidon Taureos firmly in mind, an exhausting, somber, heart-wrenching observance that is more vigil than festival; in August I honor Poseidon of the Ponds as the dry season claims my region; the honoring of Poseidon and the Rainmakers when the First Rain returns, which necessarily does not have a set date – these are my festivals, this is my religious calendar, these are what set the rhythm to my religious year. Between that and the focus I have upon environmental awareness, the opposition I have toward our disposable consumer habits, the disdain I have toward the idea that we are better/more important/more evolved/superior than our co-inhabitants, one could be forgiven in assuming that my path is earth-centered.

And that’s how I arrived at this question: is the dichotomy of earth-centered or deity-centered possibly a false dichotomy? Is it possible that it is, at the least, not as useful a dichotomy as we tend to think it is? If people look at my calendar and my festivals, at the focus of what I do, and are going to decide that I’m earth-centered (as if that’s a dirty word) when in fact absolutely every thing I do spiritually, ritually, is informed by my connection to Poseidon, is an outgrowth of o/Our relationship, His guidance, the things that are important to Him, it makes me wonder so many things. What do others mean when they say “earth-centered?” Where do people get off, looking at the bits people choose to share, and deciding for those people what they ought to be called or should not be called? Where does the dividing line between earth-centered and deity-centered fall for other people? For myself, I’m not sure the dichotomy is one that has no useful place in my practice – it’s all part of one tradition, all part of one path – my path. Keeping in mind my caveats, because I honestly cannot see how it could be any different for me, and obviously I cannot help but see things through my own particular lens. I suspect that the dichotomy here is not as useful across the broad as we might originally think, and it’s been interesting contemplating that. I’m interested in hearing others’ thoughts.PBP2014b

9 thoughts on “Earth Centered? (a pagan blog project post)

  1. It is a dichotomy that doesn’t always work, even if it’s somewhat useful to make some simple generalizations about the different directions “pagans” take in their practice (can probably say similar things about the Self-centered forms of paganism, vs. earth- or deity-centered). I cannot say whether my practice overall is “earth-centered” or “deity-centered,” because I was – all my values were – earth-centered for many years before I had any kind of religious or spiritual practice, and none of those values have changed now that I have a religious practice, except they’ve gotten more intense and focused. Part of what clue-by-foured me that I was doing the right thing into looking into Norse gods was reading about the Jotnar as deities more oriented towards primal forces of nature than the Aesir or Vanir; /that/ was what I realized I’d been looking for, without even knowing I’d been looking.

    My religious practice IS very deity-centered BUT They all seem to care about supporting me in various ways – and sometimes I mean shoving and/or dragging me – to pursue even more earth-centered things in my mundane life (i.e., volunteer work, career goals). So it’s all intertwined inseparably. I do environmentally-focused things because I want to and care about it immensely, but also because They want me to do it, and to do more of it than I might have otherwise gotten around to doing, so: am I doing these things as devotional work for Them, or is it for me and my Earth focus, because really I can see that’s where I wanted to go anyway, I just couldn’t see it until They told me a few times? I can’t disentangle it, any more than I can separate my “mundane” life from my “spiritual” life. (I wrote a long post during the Pagan Values Project that was largely about this same thing.)

    I guess if I had to pick, I’d say “deity-centered” if only because I didn’t have “religion” in terms of set rituals and things like that pre-deities – I didn’t “honor the Earth” via ritual or meditation or anything, but through a thousand little pragmatic things plus my career goals – and a lot of what I do now (on top of all that) is (at least superficially) basic devotional work with no direct goal other than sustaining a relationship/honoring the relevant Powers. Pre-deities, I did feel like my career goals, and how I lived my life, were in support of my spiritual fulfillment, it was just an atheistic kind of spirituality. And I still have that aspect to my spirituality, I just have Them, too. If I drew a Venn diagram, the two circles would probably largely overlap; there are significant aspects of my relationship with Loki that are just about the relationship, but again, He supports/drags/etc. me in the “earth” direction from time to time, so at the end of the day . . . it’s as hard to sort out as “am I doing this Work because They ask it of me, because it serves Them, and I want to do that – or am I doing it for myself?” Really, the answer is “both,” they support each other.

    • (can probably say similar things about the Self-centered forms of paganism, vs. earth- or deity-centered)

      That was actually the next step my thought-progression took, because what I share on here, when it’s not specifically about Poseidon rituals, can easily be called “Self-centered”: part of how I can show what life may look like as a Poseidon devotee is by sharing what is going on, in my psyche, what my thought processes are, etc. Admittedly, as Odin’s, the idea that the process of focusing upon one’s Self is a bad thing or is not enough somehow, boggles my mind.

      Thank you, for sharing this. For myself, it’s all caught up in everything, it’s holistic, distilling one bit from the next is a challenging exercise. I’m glad I’m not alone in that.:)

  2. I consider my spirituality to be both deity and earth centered. I celebrate the seasons of the Earth and the “aspects” (for want of better term) of my deities that correspond with them, much like you’ve described with Poseidon.

    I think I’ll make my own post about this sometime this week.

  3. I really appreciate this post, because I asked a question for which I didn’t have an answer. My Paganism was rooted firmly in a love of the Earth, but the reason I was even able to be Pagan was my love of the theoi. This helps me place my more recent path — oathbound to Poseidon — in context with my enduring tree-hugging self.

    • I’m glad. I’m certainly grateful for the seed your comment planted, that sprouted this post, and I’m *really* grateful for the shift in my thinking, when it comes to the “either/or” viewpoint that seems to surround the dichotomy in question. I’m still poking at it, because it’s a fascinating idea to me right now, but there’s less, “Wait, what?” from me.

  4. Pingback: Earth Centered vs Deity Centered | The Raven Scribe

  5. I really enjoyed this post! I am also often confused by the dichotomy – my patron is Nerthus, who I believe called me because of my love for the earth. It’s like the chicken and egg question for me😛

  6. I see the “earth centered” tag as applying to more animist forms of religion than what I believe. While nature and the Earth are (semi-)important things to me, that’s because it’s where I live, not for inherent sacredness I attribute to them. An analogy: taking care of the environment is important in the same way sweeping the floor is. Taking care of God-favoured environments is important the same way sweeping a temple would be.

    The cycles and systems of nature are not center of my religion. The gods are; some of whom involve themselves with nature, some of whom don’t. My religion is as earth/nature-centered as a Brighidine Cill’s religion is fire-centered.

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