Animism for the Religious Naturalist

I am an atheist and a religious naturalist, which means that I don’t look for supernatural explanations of natural events. But I use other words to describe my spirituality: “pagan” or “animist.” While there are pagans who believe in the supernatural, there are others like me who try to bring together an atheist rationality with a pagan sensitivity

One part of my personal spiritual practice involves pouring libations. This is an ancient spiritual practice which involved pouring some kind of liquid onto the earth or onto a stone. The liquid might be water, or wine, or olive oil. To the ancients, this was an offering to the gods, made in exchange for blessings. Because since I am an atheist, the libations serve another purpose.

I pour libations on special occasions, like the solstices and equinoxes, including the autumn equinox which is in a couple days. I will go outside to a special place that I’ve set aside in my yard for this kind of thing. I will carry a vessel of water (or maybe vinegar). I will recite a poem from ancient Sumer about the lamentation of the goddess Inanna for her dead lover. And I will pour the water slowly on the ground.

Someone watching this might well wonder what is going on here? Am I just watering my yard in very inefficient way? Do I just have an overdeveloped sense of the dramatic? Why would an atheist do this?

To answer that question, I watch to talk about three experiential concepts:

  1. interconnectedness, 
  2. rewilding
  3. and reenchantment. 


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