The connection between the ancient pagans of northern Europe and nature is undeniable. Harvey provides the definition of paganism as such that “labels a diverse but cohesive array of religious activities and affiliations that can also be named ‘nature-centered spiritualties’ or ‘nature religions’… Pagans are people who identify themselves as members of a spectrum of nature-celebrating spiritualties” (Goodrich, 2015, p. 6). For this ancient people, nature had a central role in their everyday lives. They worshiped it and made sacrifices for it. The pagans regarded their relationship with nature as a central part of their beliefs.
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Firstly, the surrounding nature was part of the identity for the pagan communities. Many of the tribes identified themselves with the trees that were around them (BBC, n.d.). They took the corresponding names as their tribe titles, which further emphasizes the connection they shared. This was because all those plants had extraordinary power in the view of the community. “For our ancestors, every rock, stream, and a plant was a living thing with its power and spirit” (BBC, n.d.). It was a symbol of the spiritual life, which was an essential aspect of how pagans viewed the world. Additionally, the ancient people could not understand this phenomenon. This was due to how they changed with the seasons (BBC n.d.). To fully understand that mindset, one must retreat from the modern view of the world and the knowledge that humanity possesses nowadays. While they respected the trees, the pagans had to use them to build houses and for other activities.
Secondly, the pagans made sacrifices for nature, as a payment for using its resources. It was regarded as a deal between the people and the landscape around them (BBC, n.d.). If they took something, they had to give it back in various forms. While mostly these sacrifices were innocent, there are historical examples of pagans giving up the most valuable a human being has – life. An excellent illustration of this relationship with nature is the man, whose remains were found by the archeologists (BBC, n.d.). It is believed that he was killed as a sacrifice in the name of nature. By coincidence, the man’s body was preserved, allowing the scientist to determine the cause of death. The result of the foundlings indicated that at the time the man had died he was perfectly healthy (BBC, n.d.). This is because the candidates for such ritual were chosen in advance, usually a year before. They were given everything they wanted or needed as a way to raise their status (BBC, n.d.). That made them a more attractive sacrifice. It was regarded as a noble action, in a way. This murder was performed to solve the issues of the community such as with crops or other things. In some cases, pagans thought that the sacrifice would save many others, who were working in a dangerous landscape (BBC, n.d.). The fact that the people were willing to do such a thing is an illustration of their respectful treatment of nature and their willingness to find ways to live in balance with it.
Finally, the pagans believed that nature was alive, living together with the spirit of their ancestors. This attitude explains the relationship these people had with sacrificing human life. It was considered an honor and not a punishment. For them, the ancestors had knowledge and power, and therefore they were respected. They thought that the ancestors were a part of their society (BBC, n.d.). To worship this connection between their ancestors and nature they created the burial mountains. These monuments were further used to identify the belonging of the land. However, it is clear that the pagans worshiped their ancestors and their connection with nature.
The land the pagans had lived on was particularly important to them. To claim it, they used the burial mountains of their ancestors. In this way, they could justify, that their community has inhabited the given territory for many years. This was a way for them to use the sacred place. While many other cultures had such places, this ancient community differs from them because of the central role of nature in their beliefs. They understood that they were taking away from it when they were building homes or roads. Despite that, they were willing to restore that balance with various sacrifices.
Overall, the ancient pagans of northern Europe had a deep connection with nature; it was a central part of their view of the world. They identified their tribes with the trees by taking their names as they found in the extraordinary spiritual power that things around them possessed. To repay the nature for what they were getting, they made various sacrifices. In some particular occasions, they sacrificed human lives. The willingness of the people to give the most valuable to nature as payment is an excellent illustration of the relationship. They treaded the environment with respect as they believed in the connection it had with their ancestors.
BBC (n.d.). Pagans 4 Sacred Landscape. Web.
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Goodrich, S. (2015). Human-nature relationship and faery faith in the American pagan subculture. Web.