The Gods Are Where We Are: Living Polytheism in the 21st Century/ Part 7
How does nature worship continue in these traditions? Is it among a minority?
Ptahmassu Nofra-Uaa: It is evident to me that India possesses a reverence for the Divine as
expressed through the natural world that is virtually absent in the west. India has a very rich history of recognizing the powers of the devas in specific rivers, mountains, caves, and natural sites, and the experience of these is very much a part of the history of Sanātana Dharma as I have studied it. This kind of history exists in a similar way in Egypt in regards to the Nile River, the cataracts in the south, specific mountain peaks, and species of trees that were venerated by the ancient Egyptians as places where the Gods dwelt or places where the Gods were apt to demonstrate Their powers. One can see in the iconography of Egypt the predominant features of the natural world- plants and animals- utilized as embodiments of the Sacred, as manifestations of how the Gods transfer Their boons to the material world. These same features are very prominent in the Sanātana Dharma of India, which are also expressed in terms of pilgrimage to natural holy sites, such as the Gaṅgā Herself, Whose waters are venerated as being the divine source of purification from sin.
The majority of Kemetics today are practicing their faith outside a Nilotic context, which means that our sense of how the netjeru use the natural world to communicate Their presences to Their adorers has changed; because we are no longer in the physical environment native to our faith and its unique iconography. But something I've noticed in some Kemetics is the transference of the mind frame of sacred geography from a Nilotic to non-Nilotic context, as in seeing whatever natural environment they happen to live in as having qualities connected to specific gods- in a manner similar to how the ancient Egyptians viewed their landscape as sacred. This kind of transference of mind frame (which I call thinking Kemetically) is something I rely on heavily in my own spiritual practices and work as an iconographer. Since I live in the middle of the desert, in natural surroundings not unlike Egypt's Western Desert, it is easy for me to view the natural world around me through the ancient Egyptian lens that sees the mountains, sand, caves, and lonely stretches of barren land as imbued with the dynamic powers of the living Gods.
Through my work as a Kemetic priest, I have been able to recognize the patronage of specific deities resident in our landscape as local deities, and establish sites for pilgrimages and rituals where these deities may be venerated through Their traditional Kemetic rites. These are also places where the God-images I craft may be brought on pilgrimage to receive Divine empowerment, and absorb the sacred powers inherent to this holy landscape. Within this system I have developed over a period of many years, the veneration of nature is part and parcel of establishing right relationship with the Gods, Who move through nature without being subject to it or contained within it. The netjeru have always chosen specific plants, animals, and features of the natural world to demonstrate Their powers, and this includes rain, wind, storms, and changing weather patterns. These things show the human condition that the Gods are where we are, that They are living Powers that touch us directly and engage physically through the world we recognize as our own.
I would like to think that nature worship- veneration of the Sacred that transmits its boons through our natural landscapes- is not destined to be a passing footnote in the history of religion, especially when we consider how many of our natural resources we have destroyed because of our greed and shortsightedness. We have annihilated entire species, and laid waste to portions of our planet, which might in some cases be irreversible. There are some who feel, perhaps, that nature worship is part of superstitious practices that belong in the past, but something I recognize as the invaluable lesson of nature worship is the recognition of value beyond the human condition, that our earth and its species are our mother and father, the true custodians of our species, and the only chance we have for a future. What happens when we've decimated our planet and the delicate ecosystems that belong to it? Then we have murdered our own future. Sanātana Dharma has always championed the rights of the natural world by asserting the sacredness of all living things, not only human lives, but all life, all aspects of creation. From the smallest insects to the largest mountains, from massive river systems to seemingly insignificant streams, the Dharmic view is that these are sacred presences which require respect and preservation. Human beings are not the only precious lives.