Worshiping the Divine in a Contemporary Pagan Way

by Sam Shryock

Contemporary Pagans see the Divine in many diverse ways. Some see many distinct Gods and Goddesses, some as one or two, some as archetypes, some as within nature, and others as nature itself. By not being tied down by the customs of an established religion or by the dogmas of a revealed one, Pagans interact with the Divine in very creative, individualistic, and even playful ways.

The word “worship” comes from the Old English weordhscipe meaning to honor or give worth to something. Pagan worship is mainly concerned with connection to, and the honoring of, immanent Divine. It is a religion that worships the Divine not by submission or with the view that we are defective and broke, but that we are manifestations of the Divine. Most importantly, we have sovereignty.

We render honor and respect, not submission, and we retain our sovereignty when dealing with the Gods even if we are not their equals. To understand sovereignty in its Pagan sense, is to know that we own nothing and no one — not our spouse, not our children, not our world, and not our Gods — nor does anyone or anything own us. We are the stewards of the things in our possession and the people in our care. We nurture them as a farmer would nurture their crops. Our sovereignty flows from our inherent worth, value and rights.

Rituals is one means by which we communicate with the Divine. We communicate not only with our voice and conscious minds, but through our emotions and the depths of the unconscious mind. We invite the Divine to our rituals. We prepare our ritual space for our honored guest, we dress up, we set out things to make them feel more welcome, we play their favorite music, we display their favorite colors and items, and we even offer food and drink. We honor their presence with us with human hospitality not because we consider them human, but because as humans that is how we can relate to them. There is a moment that, as good hosts, we acknowledge and thank them for their presence and honor them.

Most rituals tend to be celebratory in nature, especially those associated with the Pagan Wheel of the Year. During this events, the ritual is not focused on worshiping the Divine, but rather worshiping WITH them.

Most day-to-day Pagan worship is done through reading and retelling their myths, creating altars and shrines, wearing symbols and tokens inspired by them, and acting and living as they would expect us to. We seek to build a relationship. We get to know them. We make a space for them. We talk and listen to them and heed their counsel. And we thank them when it is appropriate to do so.

But the most important way we worship the Divine is by improving ourselves. Pagan worship is not appeasement, but rather telling our best friend, thank you!