Cosmology Articles

Foto de info-manager
In order to fully explain why we do the things we do, it's important for us to look at the entire vision of the cosmos: what are the assumptions we make about ritual, and how do they play into the eventual development of a "core order" or an outline of what we plan to do? I've worked through a set of nine central tenets of Druidic ritual: things that every ritual assumes to be true, so that the cosmos we (re)create in every ritual can stand on its own. These are: Ghosti - The reciprocal guest-host relationship. Rta - There is an order to the world, and we are part of it. Hard Polytheism - There are many individual Powers. Triple Cosmos - A cosmos in three parts. Centered Ritual - Our actions occur at the center of all. Fire - Druidry is a fire religion. Communication - Not only can the Gods hear us, but they can respond. World-Affirming - The physical is important and spiritually complete. Power & Responsibility - What we do affects the cosmos. Druidic ritual doesn't follow a set of beliefs: we are not an orthodox (right belief) religion, but a religion that values orthopraxy (right practice). As a result, the above list should not be taken as a set of "things you must believe in" so much as a set of ritual assumptions that make Druidic ritual structures work. These nine things get at the very mechanics of Druidry and how Druids participate in the Cosmos through ritual. Ghosti Druidic ritual is centered around our understanding of hospitality in the Indo-European world. It rests on the idea of *ghos-ti-, which is a Proto-Indo-European word that exemplifies the idea of reciprocity and the guest-host relationship within an IE cosmos. What we do in ritual informs what we do in our mundane lives, as well, and we seek to exemplify this reciprocal ideal in all our relationships. Hospitality has two sides: the good host and the gracious guest. A good host ensures that his guest is appropriately treated, and the gracious guest ensures the he does not overburden the host. Both guest and host are responsible for the maintenance of the relationship. There is also the concept of "a gift for a gift," where we seek to give to the Kindreds so that we may open a relationship in which they may reciprocate (not in the knowledge that they will reciprocate, but in the hope). Our interactions with the Kindreds are based on the idea that "the same hands that reach out to give also reach out to receive."¹ A "gift for a gift" is not a one-to-one exchange, though. It is not "I bought you a $15 meal yesterday: today, you have to buy me $15 worth of food." You would not participate in that relationship very long, and neither will the Kindreds. A ghosti relationship is more like having a friend with whom you have been to dinner so many times that neither one of you remembers whose turn it is to pick up the check. When the check arrives, you do not break out your tally sheets and calculators, seeking to determine who owes what and who paid for which meal last; instead, one person simply grabs the check and, should the other protest, the response is always, "Oh, I've got this one. You can get the next one." In these cases, the relationship is more valuable than the check could possibly be, and the understanding is that the second person values the relationship just as much and would have done the exact same thing if he'd been a hair faster. Our relationship with the Kindreds is one of reciprocity, much like the friends at the dinner table, or the guest and the host. This is an ancient feeling, and can be seen even in the Rgveda, where Agni (the fire) is described as drawing the folk together as a guest draws together the family that hosts him at their hearth. Implicit in this relationship is the idea that we can form relationships with the Kindreds: the gods and goddesses, the spirits of nature, and the ancestors are all interested and willing to form these sorts of bonds. Because of this, we seek to form these bonds in any way we can: through offerings of praise which come from our deepest hearts, offerings of work we have toiled over with our hands, and thinking on them and turning to them when times become difficult. We know that the Kindreds find joy in these relationships and wish to enter into them just as we do. To that end, we work hard to enliven this reciprocity with word and deed. Rta Rta is the order of all things. It comes from the Vedic word for the order of the cosmos: always fair, always impartial, and always just, unbending and always correct. Translations of the word vary: rta can be translated as "Truth" or "Cosmic Order" or "Cosmic Law," and each translation is correct in some cases and incorrect in others. The reason that we use rta instead of an English word is that there simply is no English word that can convey the meaning. There are cognates in other languages, such as orlog in Old Norse and asha in Indo-Iranian, or even the Proto-Indo-European reconstruction of *xartus could also be used. For the purposes here, though, we will use the Vedic rta. In the Rgveda, rta is said to cause the dawn to be born, the cycles of the day and night to continue, the seasons to move, and the earth and heaven to be held apart. It is divinely guarded and the divine is bound by it as well. In our rituals, we are seeking to do things properly by the rta. When we choose to do things by the rta, we are choosing to take the right actions in the cosmos. In many cases, we might look on this as following in the footsteps of the gods, emulating them or following their directives or examples. One could look upon this as a sort of clear alignment with the Three Kindreds and with the forces they represent in the cosmos. While in the Vedas this was marked by specific ritual actions at specific ritual times with no possibility for deviation, we're much more fast and loose with our ritual structure. Despite that, we still look to conform in some way to the order of the cosmos. The is one way we conform: it provides the first level of structure and order on this chaotic world. The COoR is an example of cosmos (re)creation as a whole. From a point where the ritual begins; through to the description of the cosmos; past the sacralization and population of that cosmos; and even in the blessings poured forth upon us by the Kindreds, we are engaging in an emulation of the rta and following the example given to us by the Kindreds. We also conform to the rta by offering sacrifice. Sacrifice is a vital part of our cosmology, and participation in the process of offering sacrifice is clearly something that aligns us with the Kindreds. Often, we are following a formula given to us by the Kindreds in some way (occasionally through a trickster figure, such as Prometheus, or through emulation of the way the gods make sacrifice). A third (though not final) way we conform to the rta is through maintaining the Wheel of the Year. By keeping the times of the year sacred, and in celebrating key events such as the return of the sun, the waning of summer, and smaller events like the phases of the moon, we help to maintain and continue their progression. In doing this, we are keeping the rta on its course, becoming agents of the cosmic order ourselves and ensuring its persistence. Hard Polytheism Hard polytheism means that we stick very strongly to polytheistic worldviews, interacting with the various powers and spirits throughout the cosmos as if they are individual entities with their own complex thoughts, desires, and motivations. Rather than thinking that the deities and spirits are "archetypes," "reflections of a single all-pervading force," or "energy pools," we accept that the Powers are beings with their own agency and are entirely able to act on their own. The Powers and Spirits we call on are also limited. Rather than thinking of them as omniscient (like Santa Claus) or omnipresent (like the Hindu Brahman), we think of them as limited in time and space, as well as in knowledge. This is clearly the way the ancients thought of their deities, and specific examples can be found in world mythologies: at the beginning of the Illiad, Poseidon is "away in Ethiopia," which allows the Greek fleet to sail; and in the Rgveda, Varuna, guardian of the rta, requires spies to ensure that the Cosmic Order is kept by humans. This ritual assumption also helps what we do make sense rationally. If the gods and spirits are just buckets of energy, why make sacrifice to them? If they are all facets of a single greater "truth," why call on only one or two during the Key Offerings? If they have no agency or ability to think on their own, why ask them for anything? By making the assumption that the world is populated with individual beings, we are also free to make the assumption that these beings care for us, that they are willing to form relationships with us, and that we are dealing with divinity that is interested and invested in our well-being. A vital note should be placed in this section: ADF and Druidry in general do not require that you have a specific belief about the gods and spirits. Rather, what we are discussing here is a set of ritual assumptions that make our rituals work. There are no rules about your belief: if you prefer Jung's archetypes or the henotheistic "god beyond the gods" outlook on divinity, that's great and wonderful. The issue comes down to practice: for our rituals to operate in the vision of the cosmos we have, hard polytheism is a central assumption. Triple Cosmos In Druidic ritual, the cosmos is divided in three parts. What these three parts are and who inhabits them is far less important than their actual number. Often, we think about the world as Heavens, Midworld, and Underworld, but these are not the only options. They have become our most commonly used division, though, due primarily to the general western IE focus within ADF, and a lack of good resources for Celtic ritual. In addition to a triple cosmos, we represent that triplicity with a triple center. As Druids, we most commonly represent our center with a fire (which supports and acts as a gate to the highest realm), a well (which springs from and acts as a gate to the lowest realm), and a tree, pillar, mountain, or other axis mundi (which serves as the center of the worlds and the path between them). More on the function of these symbols and the triple center will be said in the next section. The three most common Indo-European divisions of the cosmos that can be used in ritual are these: Underworld, Middleworld, Heavens This is by far the most common cosmic picture we see in Indo-European cultures and religion, exemplified by the classical Greeks in particular. In this conception, the souls of the dead go to the Underworld, we stay in the Midrealm, and the Heavens are populated with the deities (and some heroic ancestors). This conception is particularly common among the Western Indo-Europeans, and the division (though not necessarily the same assignments of "who goes where") is common throughout not only the Mediterranian tribes of Greeks and Romans, but also throughout the Northern tribes, where the world is clearly divided into heavens and underworlds, with Miðgard in the center. Terrestrial, Atmospheric, Celestial This division is found in the Vedas in particular, and describes a very different sort of cosmos than the previous division mentioned. In this cosmos, there is no underworld, but the face of the earth (considered to be disc-shaped) is the "lowest" of the worlds: even the sun, after completing his journey, does not go "under" the terrestrial disc to reappear in the morning, but rather goes dark and returns along the same path. Some gods, such as fire gods, sacred drinks, and rivers reside in the Terrestrial realm. The Atmospheric realm is the realm of the clouds, and certain deities (storm gods, water gods, and some fire gods) are said to reside here. The Celestial realm, beyond the clouds and the vault of stars includes many other gods and spirits that embody celestial phenomena (such as the sun or cosmic order), and also the ancestors. Land, Sea, Sky Found particularly in Celtic lands, this division has also become a sort of "horizontal axis" that divides the Midworld or the terrestrial realm to match with the "vertical axis" of Underworld, Midworld, and Heavens, despite the fact that this triplicity is clearly a cosmic division (particularly to the continental Celts, who swore by these forces), and there are better attested forms of horizontal axes in nearly every IE religion: the five provinces of Ireland, the four dwarves of direction in Norse, the four winds in the Mediterranean religions, and the seven points or places in Vedism. Centered Ritual There is a Zuni legend that when the Water Skate was given magical powers by the Sun Father, he stretched his four legs out upon the waters. His front right leg stretched first to the northeast, the place of the summer solstice sunrise; his front left leg stretched next to the northwest, the place of the summer solstice sunset; his back left leg then stretched to the southwest, the place of the winter solstice sunset; his back right leg then stretched to the southeast, the place of the winter solstice sunrise. Where his heart then rested marked the "Center Place," the center of the land that is surrounded by the four seas and the heart of the Earth Mother. It is below this center, below the heart of the Water Skate which is the heart of the Earth Mother, that the village of Zuni was established. At the center of the village, another center resides. This is on a permanent altar in the chief priest's house, where a heart-shaped rock (known as "the heart of the world") rests. Within this rock are arteries that reach toward the four solstice points. These centers, it is easy to see, form a series of centers that are both atop each other in an obvious layering effect and also all the same in their overlay. None of these centers can exist without the others, and they seem to form around one another in ever tightening rings. Each center is itself, unique; each center is also all the other centers. Eliade indicates that religion itself is an orienting force, one that gives us a focal point from which to make sense of the world. When we are in a profane state, one that is not sacred, we have no point of reference. It is only through the breakthrough of the sacred into the profane world, the hierophany, that orientation is possible. "The heirophany reveals an absolute fixed point, a center." It is the finding of this fixed point, this center, which allows us to make sense of the world. If religion is indeed about finding ways to orient ourselves, to place ourselves in relative location to everything else, then we must find those centers, even if we must create them. The creation of those centers is similar to founding the cosmos. Centers themselves are different from the rest of the world. They are places that allow this orientation, an orientation that the profane world cannot provide. Many of us are familiar with the axis mundi, or the axis of the world from Eliade. These cosmic pillars can only exist, according to Eliade, at the center of the universe, and all things extend about it. It supports the sky and finds its roots deep within the earth, and its presence is not an ordering force, but a break, a rip in the fabric of the profane world that allows the sacred to pour into and destroy the homogeneity of space.² The destruction of the homogenous space is made possible by openings to other worlds, allowing travel and communication between them. In the case of the Zuni, there are four upper worlds and four underworlds that the axis mundi allows access to. Time also begins at the center, and mythical time exists at the outskirts of their cosmos.³ In Druidic cosmology, we find that the center of the world has three parts: Well, Fire, and Sacred Tree. Often, we think of the Tree as the axis mundi, but it is not the only center in ritual. Indeed, all the hallows are a center, and they combine to form the center. The center is not complete with only the tree, for while the tree grows high and is rooted deep, it cannot devour our sacrifices as the fire can, nor can it carry our voices to the depths of the earth as the well can. Instead, the center must make use of all parts of the hallows: Well, Fire, and Tree. Beyond that, though, there is also the center of the earth, the heart of the Earth Mother, upon whose breast we build our Fire, root our Tree, and sink our Well. We establish the center above her heart, above the center of the earth. The Grove itself has a center, the place in the middle of those Grove members gathered that the energies and the focus of the ritual are centered. Within each other, we find our own orientation, our own center: there is no stronger center, no larger axis, no more powerful hierophany than that of a Grove standing together, orienting themselves to one another, and finding their place in the centers others can offer. Most important, though, is another center that must not only be found, but that the ritual cannot happen without: the center of ourselves. Each of us, within our own heart, must find the center of our beings, the inner center that allows us to stand in the center, to be our own axis mundi. From us, all things radiate, and within ourselves we can discover a rift between the sacred and the profane. If we cannot find the center of ourselves, if the hierophany of our hearts cannot be seen, then others cannot find it within us. If the Grove cannot orient itself by combining these centers, then it cannot find the center of the earth, the heartbeat of the Earth Mother. If we cannot orient ourselves to that center, then we cannot orient our hallows, and the Well, Fire, and Tree will not stand at the center of the worlds. Centers are unlike any other thing in ritual: they are where we establish them. Yes, they can appear naturally, and there are places that a center is more likely to appear than others, but to truly do the work of magic, we need to learn to establish them, to place them atop one another, to blend them and to maintain their distinctions. We must find them in ourselves, either through meditation or ritual, and we must learn to use the point of reference created by our own center to orient ourselves to the other centers around us. As Joseph Campbell said, "The center is everywhere; the circumference is nowhere." Fire Of the three common gates in the Sacred Center, it is the Fire that is most important within Druid ritual and Druidic cosmology. It is clear that like the eastern Indo-European religions, our own has developed into a fire-cult. This is a good thing, and sensible. Rituals can occur without wells, trees, portals, and shafts in the ground, but when we boil down the things that are vital to our religion, the one thing we cannot worship without is a representation of fire. Without fire, it is as if we are empty-handed when we invite the Spirits and Powers: we can offer them no way to warm themselves, we can offer nothing to them to satiate their hunger or slack their thirst, and we have no symbol to build a center around. Because of this, it is right to say a prayer to the fire any time one is kindled, and the kindling of a fire is a prayer in itself. The fire also crosses the three divisions of the cosmos: kindled on the earth, the fire's flames leap into the atmosphere, and the pillar of smoke created supports the celestial realm. The fire is connected intimately with the celestial waters, often said to be born from them. Our Grove often quotes a partial verse from the Rgveda: "Let us pray with a good fire." This phrase, from RV I.26.8, means many things to our Grove. It conjures images of not only a fire of piety within us, where we ignite that religious or spiritual fire, but also of the physical fire before us, to which we make offerings, giving a command to each: one that tells us how to behave in ritual, and one which tells the fire how to behave, as well. By "praying with a good fire," we recognize both the fire within and the fire without, the piety of both our belief and our actions: we do not come before our gods empty-handed. The fire is intimately connected to the sacrifice. Agni, the Vedic fire god, not only devours the sacrifice, but he calls the gods forth to sit upon the sacrificial grass, and he transfers the sacrifice to the rest of the host of gods and goddesses, who (it is said) cannot be exhilarated without him. It is also no coincidence that of all the Vedic gods, Agni is the most closely connected to humans and the guest-host relationship. The continuous presence of fire in the households of our Indo-European ancestors speaks to why this is. Across the IE spectrum, fire is spoken of as a friend to humankind, called a good guest, and connected with the ancestors (who kindled fire before we did). There is no sacred thing that is more often invited into the lives of those who follow an IE religion in general, and Druidry in particular. In Zoroastrian ritual, the two basic cult objects are still fire and water, both of which are offered to in the daily yasna ritual. This ritual seeks to purify the fire, called the son of the Lord of Wisdom and placed in the south of the ritual precinct, which is the place of goodness and bounty. In many ways, the fire is the counterpart of the priest, a sort of example that our own priests must follow. By bringing the deities to the place of sacrifice, by transmitting the offering, and by knowing the ways of the sacrifice, the fire is the perfect priest. Fires also play an integral part in ordering the cosmos (as does the priest in IE religions), and this can particularly be seen in the use of fire to make a place habitable and to bring it into the dominion of humans. When he first arrived in Iceland, Thorolf Mostrarskegg marked out his land and then took fire around the borders in order to claim the land as his own. There is no clearer way than kindling a fire to inform all the Powers and Spirits that we are here, and we are prepared to receive the Kindreds as our guests. And so we say: At our center burns a living flame. Communication Druidic ritual is based not only on the idea that the Kindreds are receptive to our voices, accepting of our gifts, and interested in a relationship with us; but also that they will speak back to us, offer us gifts in return, and continue that relationship with reciprocity. Most importantly, the Kindreds understand us when we communicate with them, and have given us ways to understand them when they communicate with us. Each Druidic ritual calls out to ask the Powers questions about our relationship. These communications take many forms and use many different sorts of symbol sets: ogham, runes, oracle cards, augury, and tarot cards are just a few of the methods that might be used in our rituals. What is often most important is not necessarily the type of symbol that is used, but an intimate familiarity with the symbols and a knowledge of these symbols that is shared with the Powers. Communication goes two ways: both sides of the conversation must understand not only the symbols used to communicate, but also how those symbols are interpreted by the other side. This means that it is up to us to choose a form appropriate to the Powers and appropriate to ourselves, and to study that form in enough depth that when the symbol is drawn or the bird flies from south to north, we know and understand the message as it is intended to be understood. There are several methods of taking an omen in ritual, and the questions vary from Grove to Grove and even Druid to Druid. Most will ask three questions. Three Cranes Grove, ADF, uses this set: Have our offerings been accepted? What blessings do the Powers offer in return? What further needs do the Powers have of us? We have asked these questions because they seem to get us the most detailed answers we can possibly seek. We hear from the Powers not only whether the ritual went well, but what blessings we might receive in the cup and any further instruction they may have to give. It is because of the breadth of response that is possible that our Grove has stuck with this format. Other Groves ask a different series of questions, which changes the focus of the ritual a bit: What blessings do the Ancestors offer us? What blessings do the Nature Spirits offer us? What blessings do the Shining Ones offer us? The above three questions start with the assumption that the Powers have accepted the sacrifices given, and will be offering blessings in return for the gifts. Hemlock Vales Protogrove, ADF, has settled on a hybrid, in which four questions are asked of the Kindreds: Have our offerings been accepted? What blessings do the Ancestors offer us? What blessings do the Nature Spirits offer us? What blessings do the Shining Ones offer us? This, of course, solves the issues with the alternate three questions listed above, and also dispenses with the "three question" format that is so popular (sometimes, it's nice that things don't always come in three's). For our Grove's Druid Moon rituals, we ask a different set of three questions, ones designed to learn different things about our Grove: What is our Path? On what should the Grove focus until the next Druid Moon? On what should each individual focus until the next Druid Moon? The idea with these questions was to look at how we have done in the past, consider where we are going as a Grove in the future, and think about how we, as individuals, can do work in our own lives for the next month. Remember, too, that negative responses should always be considered a very real possibility. Resist the urge to turn a negative omen into a positive one, and always go with your first instinct. For a very frightening omen, you might think about flipping coins. Nothing says "honesty" like increasing the odds for a negative omen! This communication aspect of Druidic ritual is very much dependent on the tenet of "hard polytheism" discussed above. The individual Powers have the ability to communicate with us and express their opinions and enhance their relationships with us through a set of symbols we share. Also, this is another "ritual assumption" that is integral to how our rituals work. However you see divination (as communication with your own subconscious mind, as a way to tap into the akashic records, or any other of a number of theories), in our rituals divination is between ourselves and the Powers is very much a real communication with real beings, where we ask a question and we receive an answer. World-Affirming Druidic ritual, as mentioned above, is firmly rooted in the Earth Mother. It is concerned not with inner worlds or reaching a higher spiritual plane, but with perfecting this world in order to bring the spiritual into the physical. Our concern with the physical even extends to those around us: Druidry is about our entire community, whether that community is made up of other humans, plants, animals, or Spirits. In a Druidic world view, each person, plant, animal, and spirit is important to the world order: each plays a part in our own rta and the cosmic order as a whole. When we make sacrifice at our fire, we are bound together with those who have made sacrifice before us, and those who will make sacrifice after us. Ritual is a community-building event between humans and the Kindreds. The most basic way to communicate with the Kindreds is through prayer, but so closely allied to the idea of prayer is the offering that we cannot begin to discuss one without the other. Offering, of course, is the act of bringing gifts to the Kindreds in order to establish a *ghosti relationship. Bringing things that we value to the Kindreds, and knowing that they value these things as well (for they see fit to respond to our offerings with blessings) indicates that the physical is sacred, as well as the spiritual. Part of why we make offerings is because there is no real division for Neo-Pagans between the physical and the spiritual; indeed, the best sacrifices are somehow "touched" by human hands (thus the use of worked silver over raw ore, cultivated plants over picked wildflowers, poetry crafted from divine inspiration over pure awen, and the historic use of domesticated over wild animals). This realm is the realm we are concerned with: the Earth Mother, the sacred center, and the Kindreds are all best described as an integral part of this physical world. As a result, the idea that physical offerings might not be welcome is foreign to our conception as Neo-Pagans. Indeed, the act of offering is indistinguishable from the act of prayer: every prayer is an offering, and every offering is a prayer. Importantly, too, the physical space of ritual, including things brought into the space from outside, can be considered sacred. Much as a sacrifice should be somehow "man-made" to show our care and the importance of the task of creating the gift, the tools we bring and the sacred center we create are all clearly a part of the cosmos during ritual. While in some traditions, there is a clear line between what is "sacred" and what is "profane" even outside of ritual context (see, for instance, the prohibition against ever using an athame to cut anything physical in Wicca, in or out of ritual space), a ritual implement in Druidic ritual is not something that must always be kept in the realm of the sacred. In some harvest rites, a sickle is used to cut down a sheaf of wheat: this is not a symbolic harvest, but a physical act that is a small example of the harvest that is now ended. Our rituals are not built on symbols, but rather on exemplifications. Rather than signify something in the cosmos, we recognize that each part of the sacred center is made up of the "stuff" of the cosmos. Just as a swatch of cloth does not symbolize the cloth, but is a piece of the cloth itself, our ritual items and tools are not symbols, but actual samples of cosmic realities. In our rituals, the Tree is not a symbol of the World Tree, but its wood is a part of the cosmic World Tree. The waters of the Well are not symbolic of the cosmic waters, but they are drawn from the cosmic Waters. The Fire at the center of our ritual is not a symbol of the cosmic Fire, but rather a spark that exemplifies the cosmic Fire. The easiest way to think about this is to compare how we talk about the sacred center in ritual as opposed to how we talk about a country's flag. When we speak of the well, we call it "eye and mouth of earth," "cauldron of inspiration," and ask it to "flow within us." We do not speak of what it "represents" or what it is "like;" rather, we speak of what it is. When we speak about a country's flag, we talk about what the colours mean and what the flag as a whole stands for. Through praising things in the world, we also praise the spirits who inhabit this world and the beings that created it. Power and Responsibility As we stand at the center of the worlds, we have the ability to affect all things and all times. Here we stand at the foot of the World Tree, the Fire burning brightly and raising our words to the heavens, while the Well resounds with our voices and sinks them down to the world below. Everything in ritual is a piece of the cosmos, active and present in a way that we can affect it. When we call out to the Kindreds, they come to our fire. They listen to our words, and they receive our sacrifices. As part of the worship bargain, they offer blessings to us in return. The Earth Mother, who we love and honour, is given sacrifice so that she will uphold us and keep us throughout the rite, as she does each day of our lives. We call upon old bargains and long relationships with various beings, including the Gatekeeper, who we trust to guide and ward us as we walk these Elder Ways. We affect the cosmos in mighty ways each time we enter ritual space. It is important to note, however, that as we do these things, we also affect ourselves and our communities. We are a part of the cosmos, and a part of the world. Because all things that we do affect the cosmos, it is important that we remember that we must be good hosts and good guests. Our courage to work magic in ritual must be tempered by the integrity to work the right magics. No matter what, standing in ritual is not about the individual doing the work, but about the relationships formed and strengthened by the work that is done. ADF teaches of Nine Pagan Virtues, and as we work ritual we must remain aware of them, for each affects the cosmos as well as the self. The Nine Pagan Virtues are wisdom, piety, vision, courage, integrity, perseverance, hospitality, moderation, and fertility. Wisdom is the intersection of knowing what is right and making the decision to do that right thing. By understanding the patterns of the cosmos and choosing an action that is right with it, we have made proper use of the power that ritual provides for us. Piety is the intersection of belief and right action, with an emphasis on right action. Piety itself is the undertaking of an action that is right in the cosmos. It is observance and work in reciprocity with the beings who inhabit the worlds. Vision is the ability to see what is right in the cosmos, understanding the connections between things, and understanding where the connections lead. Courage is "doing what needs to be done," especially in the face of fear. The thing that needs to be done is not always easy, nor is it always clear; however, vision and wisdom will help one decide on the correct course to take. Integrity is being "whole." This means internally (eating right, exercising, and staying healthy), communally (participating in the world in a way that benefits others), and cosmically (maintaining agreements and relationships, keeping our word, and sacrificing). Only by being healthy can we do ritual; only by seeking to benefit others in ritual can we work ritual with meaning; and only through the act of sacrifice and keeping our word can we interact wholly with the Kindreds. Perseverance is meeting adversity and overcoming it. It is the manifestation of motivation, the end result of having the desire to do something right in the cosmos. Hospitality, as we have discussed, is a central virtue in ritual: it is the *ghosti- relationship, where we enter a joyful partnership with the Kindreds and offer them gift for gift, sacrifice for blessing, and they enter this relationship with equal joy. Moderation is the knowledge of limits and necessity, the striking of balance in our lives. It is joy in the ordinary and seeking the spiritual. Fertility is not just creative ideas, but creativity that is maintained. It does not exist in unfinished projects, but in the end result of the projects. These Nine Pagan Virtues apply directly to what we do in ritual. They are vital to keep in our hearts and to be mindful of in our actions. It is not about us, but about things being right in the cosmos. It is about the rta. Let us do what is right with the power we have in ritual, for only then can we do what is right at all. Notes ¹ — Ceisiwr Serith, A Book of Pagan Prayer ² — For further reading on Eliade's theory of hierophany and centers, see The Sacred & the Profane: The Nature of Religion by Mircae Eliade. ISBN: 015679201X ³ — For the Water Skate myth and Zuni centers, see New Directions in American Archeoastronomy, edited by Anthony F. Aveni: Oxford, England: 1988. ISBN 0860545830. The article in question is "Directionality as a Conceptual Model for Zuni Expressive Behavior" by M. Jane Young.
Category: 
Foto de Ian Corrigan
In order to understand the religion and magic of the Pagan Celts it is important to comprehend their basic symbols and cosmology. Every culture has a basic map of the universe, physical and spiritual, that allows its people to understand their place in the cosmos. These patterns underlie and tie together the myths and tales of the gods, the nature of the individual soul and the sacred reality of the land on which they dwell.In seeking for the cosmology of the ancient Celts we are hampered by the scattered and fragmentary nature of the evidence. No literary or folklore source records a Celtic creation story, or sets out in one place a clear description of any Celtic map of the worlds. Instead we have a hodgepodge of bits and pieces recorded in the work of Christian monks, the observation of foreigners, and the folk-memory of Celtic peoples.Still, taken together this amounts to a considerable body of information. Interestingly, these sources tend to validate and confirm one another, allowing us to be more confident in determining which ideas might have held prominence among the Pagan Celts. In this format, I don't intend to constantly cite sources and examples for these concepts. I will present a short bibliography in support of these facts and ideas at the end of the article.In the same way, I must say at the beginning that many of the conclusions reached here are very speculative. Celtic scholars would probably place them in the "could be" column. But for those of us attempting to build a workable modern Celtic Paganism, we must take risks that a scholar would not take.We must go past scholastic certainty into inspirations and intuition to synthesize these various sources into patterns that can be put to work by modern Pagans. I will try to indicate as we go which of the conclusions given in these articles are accepted by scholars, and which have been reached within the Pagan community. When I give conclusions that are my own, I will try to make that clear as well.1: The War Between the Gods and the GiantsThough the Celts leave no creation myth, one source of clues about the Celtic views of cosmos is the body of lore surrounding the settling of the isle of Erin. The legends recorded in the medieval Irish "Book of the Invasions of Ireland" depict a process that may reflect earlier myths of creation.In these stories we find a series of waves of invasion that bring first the gods and goddesses and later the tribes of mortals. During this process, or probably because of it, the land itself comes in being, described as either the clearing away of the forest or the more direct emergence of land from the empty sea.In these tales both the forest and the sea stand as symbols of the unformed chaos from which the ordered mortal world must be drawn. We see the gods slowly growing in strength until they have brought the island fully into being, making it ready for mortal habitation.This process reveals the first example of the primary division of the Celtic cosmos into two, a division that begins the manifestation of the worlds. We see primary division between the First Chaos and the first islands of the World Order. This is reflected in stories of war between to tribes of divine beings: the gods and the Giants.In the Book of Invasions the ancestors of the gods are opposed by beings called Fomorians, which may mean either "People of the Sea" or "Giants". The Giants are the force which drives out the ancestors of the Tuatha De Danann, and they are driven out in turn. In the process, the manifest world is brought into being.In modern Paganism we sometimes find versions of this conflict between Order and Chaos that owe more to fantasy novels and role-playing games than to actual lore. It is far too easy for modern people to make the error of seeing the dynamic tension between Order and Chaos as a version of the "War Between Good and Evil".That later myth was invented in the Zoroastrian religion and adopted by the later monotheistic religions and Gnostic sects. It considers Order to be good and Chaos evil, and proposes an uncrossable line between the two. But in what seems to be the more original mythology of the Celts and other Western European peoples there is both cooperation and conflict between the gods and the Other gods (or Giants, or Demons). The gods intermarry with the Fomor to produce important Kings and Champions.Generally in Indo-European myths a war between Order and Chaos results in a victory for Order, but a victory that in no way destroys Chaos. Rather Order—the power of those gods who would make the world fit for mortal life—gains a rulership of a portion of the worlds, which can be built and ordered for the good of all beings. In the course of doing so they make places for the powers of Chaos, bringing them into the Order itself.Nor should we assume that the Fomorians were merely symbols of pestilence and wrongdoing. It is far more accurate to view them as related to the primal power of fertility and the pre-human land. They may not conform to human standards of behavior or virtue, but they are intrinsic to the cosmos, and needed for its proper structure.It is said that after the gods defeated the Fomors the latter were forced to reveal the secrets of sowing and reaping. They are described as having both beautiful and hideous individuals. They embody the raw power of non-human nature, which must be overcome, at least in small areas, for human tribes to live in comfort.To this point we have been looking at facts and interpretations that are well within the bounds of scholarly acceptance. As we move on to the next segment we go further into speculation, especially as regards the First gods.2: Primal Fire and Water, and the First GodsThe primary division of the cosmos into two may also be expressed as a division into Primal Water and Primal Fire. This division is an Indo-European constant, appearing in Vedic, Hellenic, and Norse cosmology. While we have no specific examples of this primal myth in Celtic terms, we have a huge body of lore supporting the magical impact of both Fire and Water, and some tales that suggest an older pattern that might parallel other Indo-European patterns.For instance, in Norse myth, Fire meets Ice (the arctic versions of water) to produce a boiling mist that solidifies into the first empty plain of the physical world. We can speculate that the Celts, especially the Celts of the Isles, may have seen their world, their island, being drawn up out of the featureless primal Sea by the action of the drying and warming Fire.The Fire and Water duality is also associated, throughout Indo-European symbolism, with a division of the spiritual world into a bright Heavenly realm, associated with water. These are also associated with the basic duality of order and chaos. In the simplest analysis the Underworld holds the Waters of Memory, of Bounty, and of Rebirth, the Chaos of Potential from which life draws nutrients. The Heavens hold the Fire of the Hearth, and of Sacrifice, the World Order that allows individual life to arise from the Waters. While this division is not spelled out explicitly in any tale, it is supported by many clues in the tales of human interaction with the Otherworld.The Family of gods that held prominence in Britain and Ireland at the coming of the Christian era are remembered as the Tribe of the goddess Danu (Tuath De Danann). Danu is the First Mother of the god/desses, whose name has ancient connotations of flowing water. In Wales this mother was remembered as Don, who also had strong associations with the Sea.Both of these goddesses are examples of a Celtic tendency to consider the local river or great body of water as the place, even the body, of their tribal goddess. So Danu may well be a goddess remembered from the time when the Celts dwelled in the region of the river Danube, a time that would have been far distant to the Celts of 100 B.C.E.. Thus, many modern Celtic Pagans consider Danu, or Don, to be the Goddess of Primal Waters, possibly even associated with the Starry River of the milky way.Lore from Britain and Erin suggests that the mate and complement of Danu may have been a god of Primal Fire named Bel, Bela, or Bile. Welsh sources tell us that the husband of Don, the father of the Tribes, was named Beli, and inscriptions throughout Britain record god names such as Belatucadros and Belinus. In Erin the word for a Sacred Tree was "bile".If we take these all as cognates, part of the same mythic complex, we can discern the figure of Bel, the Sacred Tree from which comes the Sacred Fire, and Bel, the Sacred Fire itself. Bel may also be a part of the Underworld Father complex. He can be seen as the Fire beneath the Cauldron of Rebirth, the heat that cooks the Cauldron of Bounty so that the Earth can be fruitful.In modern Celtic Pagan synthesis, Danu and Bel are the most common choices for primal, first-principle Deities of Cosmic Fire and Water, as well as First Mother and First Father. Some Celtic Pagans have very direct worship of these Powers, but some consider them ancient and distant, of a generation before the gods and goddesses we currently worship. Since there are no tales at all of the deeds or history of either figure, I personally think the latter approach is more consistent with the lore.Even though we are talking about a primal pair of male and female deities, we should avoid thinking of this as similar to Wiccan duotheism. Though there is a basic tendency in Celtic lore to pair the Deities into "married" couples, there is very little reason to think that the Celts viewed all their gods and goddesses as aspects of a single cosmic divine couple. So Danu and Bel are not the Celtic "Lady and Lord", but only two of the many goddesses and gods.So we find a basic division of the Celtic cosmos into two. Whether Cosmic Fire and Water, the Primal gods Danu and Bel, or the War Between the Gods and Giants, the tales tell of a pair of complementary opposites. These principles interact through physics, love, of war, and that dynamic interaction that causes the manifestation of the worlds. In assuming such a pattern for the Celtic peoples we do no more than place them in direct harmony with the creation and cosmos patterns of their surrounding cultures.This initial division carries over from the purely mythic and divine to the more local and material.3: Dividing the LandThe primary division of the cosmos is reflected in the mythic geography of the Celtic countries. Several tales tell of the land being divided into two, though the two things it is divided into vary from tale to tale.In the tale of the arrival of mortals into Erin, the mortals win the surface of the land while the Tuatha De Danann are given the places beneath the ground. When at one time Erin is divided between two chieftains the division is made so that one receives "all the houses, feasts, treasure and fortresses" and the other is given "rivers, waters, wilds, and woods".This again shows us that while Celtic thought divided the world into Tame and Wild, Order and Chaos, one was not considered good and the other evil. In fact the gods and Spirits always receive the part of the worlds that mortals might consider lesser. But those realms, described in story as "beneath the earth" or "beyond the shore of the sea" always show the spirits receiving the portion that places them out of the sight of mortals. They are metaphors, in my opinion, for the invisible realms of spirits.In the Book of Invasions there is a more geographic division of the isle of Erin as well. The two sons of Mil, Eremon and Eber, divide Erin between them. Eremon takes the North and Eber the South. Some sources say that they both became kings, but that the North retained the greater kingship, and the lore clearly makes the North the more noble of the two.For instance, Gaelic culture considered poetry and the spoken work more fitting for learned and noble folks than music. When the folk divided themselves between the two kingdoms, the poets go to the North and the musicians to the South. The North is called "The Half of Conn" (meaning the chief) and the South "The Half of Mug" (meaning the servant).We find that same tendency in the lore of Wales. The land is divided North and South, and the north, with its greater honor, is divided again into two, making the kingdoms of Gwynedd and Powys. The south is left with only a single kingdom, Deheubarth.This motif of the greater north and lesser south, with the north containing two and the south one to make a triplicity is a common element in Celtic lore. We will examine it more closely when we look at triple and four-fold symbolism.4: The OtherworldFinally, one of the most important divisions of the Celtic spiritual world-map is between the common world and the Otherworlds.Throughout Celtic lore we find tales of mortals passing beyond the boundaries of the apparent human world and into realms of magic, wonder, and peril. These locales are described in various ways, and we'll be looking at them in our next article. But taken together, we can refer to them all as the Otherworld(s).The sources of information about the Otherworld are among the most varied in all the lore. In the Book of Invasions there is not much evidence of an Otherworld separate from the land itself. It is only after the worlds are divided between the gods and Spirits, who choose the unseen portions of the worlds, and mortals, who choose the seen, does the Otherworld begin interacting with mortals.The tales that recount those interactions stretch from very old stories such as the Ulster cycle, through the tales of almost historic high-kings such as Conn and Art Mac Conn, through the folklore that survived in Celtic countries to be collected in the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries, the so-called Fairy Faith. They show a wide range of influences, from the original Celtic roots to the lore of the Vikings who ruled Erin in the early Middle Ages to the influences of Greek and Roman authors brought to the Celtic lands by learned Christian clerics. The job of sorting out the truly Celtic elements in the tales of the Fairy Faith is an ongoing effort today.The Otherworld appears in many guises. It may be a chain of beautiful islands far across the western sea, as it appears in the Voyage of Maelduin, or it may be as close as the other side of the ground on which we mortals walk. It is revealed to us as places not unlike our common world, but brighter, stronger, more enduring than any mortal thing, and full of wonders and puzzles. Yet when mortals try to bring the gold, the wonder, of the Otherworlds back into common life it may vanish in the blink of an eye. It is peopled with whole tribes and nations of beings, and with individual powers that are unique. These powers may be aware of mortals, some may be friendly, some enemies.The complementary duality between Common World and Otherworld is very important to practical Celtic magic and religion. The balance of relationship between mortals and beings and powers of the Otherworld maintains the earth's fertility, the prosperity of tribes and the spark and joy of human life. It seems likely that a good deal of the work of a Celtic Priest of magician would have been in maintaining and restoring those relationships.5: Summary and ConclusionSo we might list the primal divisions of the Celtic Cosmos, as currently reconstructed in modern Celtic Paganism, in this way:Underworld Power / Chaos of PotentialPower of Heavens / World OrderWild NatureHearth, Town and TempleCosmic WaterCosmic FireDanuBelIt is easy to list these out in a simple "table of Correspondence". But the reality is more complex. We might say that the first division is into Common and Other worlds. In both of these the Underworld Power and the Power of the Heavens mingle. In both the Underworld and the Heavens the power of Fire and Water appear.While we can say that Water is most closely associated with the Underworld it certainly appears in the Heavens, and while Fire may be primarily of the Heavens it also manifests in the Underworld. And both Danu and Bel can have both Underworld and Heavenly forms.In future articles I will describe the Underworld and Heavens model in more detail, as we discuss the further mapping of the Celtic cosmos.(Ed. note: Special thanks to Matthew Walke for transcribing this article.)
Category: 
Foto de info-manager
In order to fully explain why we do the things we do, it's important for us to look at the entire vision of the cosmos: what are the assumptions we make about ritual, and how do they play into the eventual development of a "core order" or an outline of what we plan to do? I've worked through a set of nine central tenets of Druidic ritual: things that every ritual assumes to be true, so that the cosmos we (re)create in every ritual can stand on its own. These are: Ghosti - The reciprocal guest-host relationship. Rta - There is an order to the world, and we are part of it. Hard Polytheism - There are many individual Powers. Triple Cosmos - A cosmos in three parts. Centered Ritual - Our actions occur at the center of all. Fire - Druidry is a fire religion. Communication - Not only can the Gods hear us, but they can respond. World-Affirming - The physical is important and spiritually complete. Power & Responsibility - What we do affects the cosmos. Druidic ritual doesn't follow a set of beliefs: we are not an orthodox (right belief) religion, but a religion that values orthopraxy (right practice). As a result, the above list should not be taken as a set of "things you must believe in" so much as a set of ritual assumptions that make Druidic ritual structures work. These nine things get at the very mechanics of Druidry and how Druids participate in the Cosmos through ritual. Ghosti Druidic ritual is centered around our understanding of hospitality in the Indo-European world. It rests on the idea of *ghos-ti-, which is a Proto-Indo-European word that exemplifies the idea of reciprocity and the guest-host relationship within an IE cosmos. What we do in ritual informs what we do in our mundane lives, as well, and we seek to exemplify this reciprocal ideal in all our relationships. Hospitality has two sides: the good host and the gracious guest. A good host ensures that his guest is appropriately treated, and the gracious guest ensures the he does not overburden the host. Both guest and host are responsible for the maintenance of the relationship. There is also the concept of "a gift for a gift," where we seek to give to the Kindreds so that we may open a relationship in which they may reciprocate (not in the knowledge that they will reciprocate, but in the hope). Our interactions with the Kindreds are based on the idea that "the same hands that reach out to give also reach out to receive."¹ A "gift for a gift" is not a one-to-one exchange, though. It is not "I bought you a $15 meal yesterday: today, you have to buy me $15 worth of food." You would not participate in that relationship very long, and neither will the Kindreds. A ghosti relationship is more like having a friend with whom you have been to dinner so many times that neither one of you remembers whose turn it is to pick up the check. When the check arrives, you do not break out your tally sheets and calculators, seeking to determine who owes what and who paid for which meal last; instead, one person simply grabs the check and, should the other protest, the response is always, "Oh, I've got this one. You can get the next one." In these cases, the relationship is more valuable than the check could possibly be, and the understanding is that the second person values the relationship just as much and would have done the exact same thing if he'd been a hair faster. Our relationship with the Kindreds is one of reciprocity, much like the friends at the dinner table, or the guest and the host. This is an ancient feeling, and can be seen even in the Rgveda, where Agni (the fire) is described as drawing the folk together as a guest draws together the family that hosts him at their hearth. Implicit in this relationship is the idea that we can form relationships with the Kindreds: the gods and goddesses, the spirits of nature, and the ancestors are all interested and willing to form these sorts of bonds. Because of this, we seek to form these bonds in any way we can: through offerings of praise which come from our deepest hearts, offerings of work we have toiled over with our hands, and thinking on them and turning to them when times become difficult. We know that the Kindreds find joy in these relationships and wish to enter into them just as we do. To that end, we work hard to enliven this reciprocity with word and deed. Rta Rta is the order of all things. It comes from the Vedic word for the order of the cosmos: always fair, always impartial, and always just, unbending and always correct.   Translations of the word vary: rta can be translated as "Truth" or "Cosmic Order" or "Cosmic Law," and each translation is correct in some cases and incorrect in others. The reason that we use rta instead of an English word is that there simply is no English word that can convey the meaning. There are cognates in other languages, such as orlog in Old Norse and asha in Indo-Iranian, or even the Proto-Indo-European reconstruction of *xartus could also be used. For the purposes here, though, we will use the Vedic rta. In the Rgveda, rta is said to cause the dawn to be born, the cycles of the day and night to continue, the seasons to move, and the earth and heaven to be held apart. It is divinely guarded and the divine is bound by it as well. In our rituals, we are seeking to do things properly by the rta. When we choose to do things by the rta, we are choosing to take the right actions in the cosmos. In many cases, we might look on this as following in the footsteps of the gods, emulating them or following their directives or examples. One could look upon this as a sort of clear alignment with the Three Kindreds and with the forces they represent in the cosmos. While in the Vedas this was marked by specific ritual actions at specific ritual times with no possibility for deviation, we're much more fast and loose with our ritual structure. Despite that, we still look to conform in some way to the order of the cosmos. The is one way we conform: it provides the first level of structure and order on this chaotic world. The COoR is an example of cosmos (re)creation as a whole. From a point where the ritual begins; through to the description of the cosmos; past the sacralization and population of that cosmos; and even in the blessings poured forth upon us by the Kindreds, we are engaging in an emulation of the rta and following the example given to us by the Kindreds.   We also conform to the rta by offering sacrifice. Sacrifice is a vital part of our cosmology, and participation in the process of offering sacrifice is clearly something that aligns us with the Kindreds. Often, we are following a formula given to us by the Kindreds in some way (occasionally through a trickster figure, such as Prometheus, or through emulation of the way the gods make sacrifice). A third (though not final) way we conform to the rta is through maintaining the Wheel of the Year. By keeping the times of the year sacred, and in celebrating key events such as the return of the sun, the waning of summer, and smaller events like the phases of the moon, we help to maintain and continue their progression. In doing this, we are keeping the rta on its course, becoming agents of the cosmic order ourselves and ensuring its persistence. Hard Polytheism Hard polytheism means that we stick very strongly to polytheistic worldviews, interacting with the various powers and spirits throughout the cosmos as if they are individual entities with their own complex thoughts, desires, and motivations. Rather than thinking that the deities and spirits are "archetypes," "reflections of a single all-pervading force," or "energy pools," we accept that the Powers are beings with their own agency and are entirely able to act on their own. The Powers and Spirits we call on are also limited. Rather than thinking of them as omniscient (like Santa Claus) or omnipresent (like the Hindu Brahman), we think of them as limited in time and space, as well as in knowledge. This is clearly the way the ancients thought of their deities, and specific examples can be found in world mythologies: at the beginning of the Illiad, Poseidon is "away in Ethiopia," which allows the Greek fleet to sail; and in the Rgveda, Varuna, guardian of the rta, requires spies to ensure that the Cosmic Order is kept by humans. This ritual assumption also helps what we do make sense rationally. If the gods and spirits are just buckets of energy, why make sacrifice to them? If they are all facets of a single greater "truth," why call on only one or two during the Key Offerings? If they have no agency or ability to think on their own, why ask them for anything? By making the assumption that the world is populated with individual beings, we are also free to make the assumption that these beings care for us, that they are willing to form relationships with us, and that we are dealing with divinity that is interested and invested in our well-being. A vital note should be placed in this section: ADF and Druidry in general do not require that you have a specific belief about the gods and spirits. Rather, what we are discussing here is a set of ritual assumptions that make our rituals work. There are no rules about your belief: if you prefer Jung's archetypes or the henotheistic "god beyond the gods" outlook on divinity, that's great and wonderful. The issue comes down to practice: for our rituals to operate in the vision of the cosmos we have, hard polytheism is a central assumption. Triple Cosmos In Druidic ritual, the cosmos is divided in three parts. What these three parts are and who inhabits them is far less important than their actual number. Often, we think about the world as Heavens, Midworld, and Underworld, but these are not the only options. They have become our most commonly used division, though, due primarily to the general western IE focus within ADF, and a lack of good resources for Celtic ritual. In addition to a triple cosmos, we represent that triplicity with a triple center. As Druids, we most commonly represent our center with a fire (which supports and acts as a gate to the highest realm), a well (which springs from and acts as a gate to the lowest realm), and a tree, pillar, mountain, or other axis mundi (which serves as the center of the worlds and the path between them). More on the function of these symbols and the triple center will be said in the next section. The three most common Indo-European divisions of the cosmos that can be used in ritual are these: Underworld, Middleworld, Heavens This is by far the most common cosmic picture we see in Indo-European cultures and religion, exemplified by the classical Greeks in particular. In this conception, the souls of the dead go to the Underworld, we stay in the Midrealm, and the Heavens are populated with the deities (and some heroic ancestors). This conception is particularly common among the Western Indo-Europeans, and the division (though not necessarily the same assignments of "who goes where") is common throughout not only the Mediterranian tribes of Greeks and Romans, but also throughout the Northern tribes, where the world is clearly divided into heavens and underworlds, with Mi�gard in the center. Terrestrial, Atmospheric, Celestial This division is found in the Vedas in particular, and describes a very different sort of cosmos than the previous division mentioned. In this cosmos, there is no underworld, but the face of the earth (considered to be disc-shaped) is the "lowest" of the worlds: even the sun, after completing his journey, does not go "under" the terrestrial disc to reappear in the morning, but rather goes dark and returns along the same path. Some gods, such as fire gods, sacred drinks, and rivers reside in the Terrestrial realm. The Atmospheric realm is the realm of the clouds, and certain deities (storm gods, water gods, and some fire gods) are said to reside here. The Celestial realm, beyond the clouds and the vault of stars includes many other gods and spirits that embody celestial phenomena (such as the sun or cosmic order), and also the ancestors. Land, Sea, Sky Found particularly in Celtic lands, this division has also become a sort of "horizontal axis" that divides the Midworld or the terrestrial realm to match with the "vertical axis" of Underworld, Midworld, and Heavens, despite the fact that this triplicity is clearly a cosmic division (particularly to the continental Celts, who swore by these forces), and there are better attested forms of horizontal axes in nearly every IE religion: the five provinces of Ireland, the four dwarves of direction in Norse, the four winds in the Mediterranean religions, and the seven points or places in Vedism. Centered Ritual There is a Zuni legend that when the Water Skate was given magical powers by the Sun Father, he stretched his four legs out upon the waters. His front right leg stretched first to the northeast, the place of the summer solstice sunrise; his front left leg stretched next to the northwest, the place of the summer solstice sunset; his back left leg then stretched to the southwest, the place of the winter solstice sunset; his back right leg then stretched to the southeast, the place of the winter solstice sunrise. Where his heart then rested marked the "Center Place," the center of the land that is surrounded by the four seas and the heart of the Earth Mother. It is below this center, below the heart of the Water Skate which is the heart of the Earth Mother, that the village of Zuni was established. At the center of the village, another center resides. This is on a permanent altar in the chief priest's house, where a heart-shaped rock (known as "the heart of the world") rests. Within this rock are arteries that reach toward the four solstice points. These centers, it is easy to see, form a series of centers that are both atop each other in an obvious layering effect and also all the same in their overlay. None of these centers can exist without the others, and they seem to form around one another in ever tightening rings. Each center is itself, unique; each center is also all the other centers. Eliade indicates that religion itself is an orienting force, one that gives us a focal point from which to make sense of the world. When we are in a profane state, one that is not sacred, we have no point of reference. It is only through the breakthrough of the sacred into the profane world, the hierophany, that orientation is possible. "The heirophany reveals an absolute fixed point, a center." It is the finding of this fixed point, this center, which allows us to make sense of the world. If religion is indeed about finding ways to orient ourselves, to place ourselves in relative location to everything else, then we must find those centers, even if we must create them. The creation of those centers is similar to founding the cosmos. Centers themselves are different from the rest of the world. They are places that allow this orientation, an orientation that the profane world cannot provide. Many of us are familiar with the axis mundi, or the axis of the world from Eliade. These cosmic pillars can only exist, according to Eliade, at the center of the universe, and all things extend about it. It supports the sky and finds its roots deep within the earth, and its presence is not an ordering force, but a break, a rip in the fabric of the profane world that allows the sacred to pour into and destroy the homogeneity of space.² The destruction of the homogenous space is made possible by openings to other worlds, allowing travel and communication between them. In the case of the Zuni, there are four upper worlds and four underworlds that the axis mundi allows access to. Time also begins at the center, and mythical time exists at the outskirts of their cosmos.³ In Druidic cosmology, we find that the center of the world has three parts: Well, Fire, and Sacred Tree. Often, we think of the Tree as the axis mundi, but it is not the only center in ritual. Indeed, all the hallows are a center, and they combine to form the center. The center is not complete with only the tree, for while the tree grows high and is rooted deep, it cannot devour our sacrifices as the fire can, nor can it carry our voices to the depths of the earth as the well can. Instead, the center must make use of all parts of the hallows: Well, Fire, and Tree. Beyond that, though, there is also the center of the earth, the heart of the Earth Mother, upon whose breast we build our Fire, root our Tree, and sink our Well. We establish the center above her heart, above the center of the earth. The Grove itself has a center, the place in the middle of those Grove members gathered that the energies and the focus of the ritual are centered. Within each other, we find our own orientation, our own center: there is no stronger center, no larger axis, no more powerful hierophany than that of a Grove standing together, orienting themselves to one another, and finding their place in the centers others can offer. Most important, though, is another center that must not only be found, but that the ritual cannot happen without: the center of ourselves. Each of us, within our own heart, must find the center of our beings, the inner center that allows us to stand in the center, to be our own axis mundi. From us, all things radiate, and within ourselves we can discover a rift between the sacred and the profane. If we cannot find the center of ourselves, if the hierophany of our hearts cannot be seen, then others cannot find it within us. If the Grove cannot orient itself by combining these centers, then it cannot find the center of the earth, the heartbeat of the Earth Mother. If we cannot orient ourselves to that center, then we cannot orient our hallows, and the Well, Fire, and Tree will not stand at the center of the worlds. Centers are unlike any other thing in ritual: they are where we establish them. Yes, they can appear naturally, and there are places that a center is more likely to appear than others, but to truly do the work of magic, we need to learn to establish them, to place them atop one another, to blend them and to maintain their distinctions. We must find them in ourselves, either through meditation or ritual, and we must learn to use the point of reference created by our own center to orient ourselves to the other centers around us. As Joseph Campbell said, "The center is everywhere; the circumference is nowhere." Fire Of the three common gates in the Sacred Center, it is the Fire that is most important within Druid ritual and Druidic cosmology. It is clear that like the eastern Indo-European religions, our own has developed into a fire-cult. This is a good thing, and sensible. Rituals can occur without wells, trees, portals, and shafts in the ground, but when we boil down the things that are vital to our religion, the one thing we cannot worship without is a representation of fire. Without fire, it is as if we are empty-handed when we invite the Spirits and Powers: we can offer them no way to warm themselves, we can offer nothing to them to satiate their hunger or slack their thirst, and we have no symbol to build a center around. Because of this, it is right to say a prayer to the fire any time one is kindled, and the kindling of a fire is a prayer in itself. The fire also crosses the three divisions of the cosmos: kindled on the earth, the fire's flames leap into the atmosphere, and the pillar of smoke created supports the celestial realm. The fire is connected intimately with the celestial waters, often said to be born from them. Our Grove often quotes a partial verse from the Rgveda: "Let us pray with a good fire." This phrase, from RV I.26.8, means many things to our Grove. It conjures images of not only a fire of piety within us, where we ignite that religious or spiritual fire, but also of the physical fire before us, to which we make offerings, giving a command to each: one that tells us how to behave in ritual, and one which tells the fire how to behave, as well. By "praying with a good fire," we recognize both the fire within and the fire without, the piety of both our belief and our actions: we do not come before our gods empty-handed. The fire is intimately connected to the sacrifice. Agni, the Vedic fire god, not only devours the sacrifice, but he calls the gods forth to sit upon the sacrificial grass, and he transfers the sacrifice to the rest of the host of gods and goddesses, who (it is said) cannot be exhilarated without him. It is also no coincidence that of all the Vedic gods, Agni is the most closely connected to humans and the guest-host relationship. The continuous presence of fire in the households of our Indo-European ancestors speaks to why this is. Across the IE spectrum, fire is spoken of as a friend to humankind, called a good guest, and connected with the ancestors (who kindled fire before we did). There is no sacred thing that is more often invited into the lives of those who follow an IE religion in general, and Druidry in particular. In Zoroastrian ritual, the two basic cult objects are still fire and water, both of which are offered to in the daily yasna ritual. This ritual seeks to purify the fire, called the son of the Lord of Wisdom and placed in the south of the ritual precinct, which is the place of goodness and bounty. In many ways, the fire is the counterpart of the priest, a sort of example that our own priests must follow. By bringing the deities to the place of sacrifice, by transmitting the offering, and by knowing the ways of the sacrifice, the fire is the perfect priest. Fires also play an integral part in ordering the cosmos (as does the priest in IE religions), and this can particularly be seen in the use of fire to make a place habitable and to bring it into the dominion of humans. When he first arrived in Iceland, Thorolf Mostrarskegg marked out his land and then took fire around the borders in order to claim the land as his own. There is no clearer way than kindling a fire to inform all the Powers and Spirits that we are here, and we are prepared to receive the Kindreds as our guests. And so we say: At our center burns a living flame. Communication Druidic ritual is based not only on the idea that the Kindreds are receptive to our voices, accepting of our gifts, and interested in a relationship with us; but also that they will speak back to us, offer us gifts in return, and continue that relationship with reciprocity. Most importantly, the Kindreds understand us when we communicate with them, and have given us ways to understand them when they communicate with us. Each Druidic ritual calls out to ask the Powers questions about our relationship. These communications take many forms and use many different sorts of symbol sets: ogham, runes, oracle cards, augury, and tarot cards are just a few of the methods that might be used in our rituals. What is often most important is not necessarily the type of symbol that is used, but an intimate familiarity with the symbols and a knowledge of these symbols that is shared with the Powers. Communication goes two ways: both sides of the conversation must understand not only the symbols used to communicate, but also how those symbols are interpreted by the other side. This means that it is up to us to choose a form appropriate to the Powers and appropriate to ourselves, and to study that form in enough depth that when the symbol is drawn or the bird flies from south to north, we know and understand the message as it is intended to be understood. There are several methods of taking an omen in ritual, and the questions vary from Grove to Grove and even Druid to Druid. Most will ask three questions. Three Cranes Grove, ADF, uses this set: Have our offerings been accepted? What blessings do the Powers offer in return? What further needs do the Powers have of us? We have asked these questions because they seem to get us the most detailed answers we can possibly seek. We hear from the Powers not only whether the ritual went well, but what blessings we might receive in the cup and any further instruction they may have to give. It is because of the breadth of response that is possible that our Grove has stuck with this format. Other Groves ask a different series of questions, which changes the focus of the ritual a bit: What blessings do the Ancestors offer us? What blessings do the Nature Spirits offer us? What blessings do the Shining Ones offer us? The above three questions start with the assumption that the Powers have accepted the sacrifices given, and will be offering blessings in return for the gifts. Hemlock Vales Protogrove, ADF, has settled on a hybrid, in which four questions are asked of the Kindreds: Have our offerings been accepted? What blessings do the Ancestors offer us? What blessings do the Nature Spirits offer us? What blessings do the Shining Ones offer us? This, of course, solves the issues with the alternate three questions listed above, and also dispenses with the "three question" format that is so popular (sometimes, it's nice that things don't always come in three's). For our Grove's Druid Moon rituals, we ask a different set of three questions, ones designed to learn different things about our Grove: What is our Path? On what should the Grove focus until the next Druid Moon? On what should each individual focus until the next Druid Moon? The idea with these questions was to look at how we have done in the past, consider where we are going as a Grove in the future, and think about how we, as individuals, can do work in our own lives for the next month. Remember, too, that negative responses should always be considered a very real possibility. Resist the urge to turn a negative omen into a positive one, and always go with your first instinct. For a very frightening omen, you might think about flipping coins. Nothing says "honesty" like increasing the odds for a negative omen! This communication aspect of Druidic ritual is very much dependent on the tenet of "hard polytheism" discussed above. The individual Powers have the ability to communicate with us and express their opinions and enhance their relationships with us through a set of symbols we share. Also, this is another "ritual assumption" that is integral to how our rituals work. However you see divination (as communication with your own subconscious mind, as a way to tap into the akashic records, or any other of a number of theories), in our rituals divination is between ourselves and the Powers is very much a real communication with real beings, where we ask a question and we receive an answer. World-Affirming Druidic ritual, as mentioned above, is firmly rooted in the Earth Mother. It is concerned not with inner worlds or reaching a higher spiritual plane, but with perfecting this world in order to bring the spiritual into the physical. Our concern with the physical even extends to those around us: Druidry is about our entire community, whether that community is made up of other humans, plants, animals, or Spirits. In a Druidic world view, each person, plant, animal, and spirit is important to the world order: each plays a part in our own rta and the cosmic order as a whole. When we make sacrifice at our fire, we are bound together with those who have made sacrifice before us, and those who will make sacrifice after us. Ritual is a community-building event between humans and the Kindreds. The most basic way to communicate with the Kindreds is through prayer, but so closely allied to the idea of prayer is the offering that we cannot begin to discuss one without the other. Offering, of course, is the act of bringing gifts to the Kindreds in order to establish a *ghosti relationship. Bringing things that we value to the Kindreds, and knowing that they value these things as well (for they see fit to respond to our offerings with blessings) indicates that the physical is sacred, as well as the spiritual. Part of why we make offerings is because there is no real division for Neo-Pagans between the physical and the spiritual; indeed, the best sacrifices are somehow "touched" by human hands (thus the use of worked silver over raw ore, cultivated plants over picked wildflowers, poetry crafted from divine inspiration over pure awen, and the historic use of domesticated over wild animals). This realm is the realm we are concerned with: the Earth Mother, the sacred center, and the Kindreds are all best described as an integral part of this physical world. As a result, the idea that physical offerings might not be welcome is foreign to our conception as Neo-Pagans. Indeed, the act of offering is indistinguishable from the act of prayer: every prayer is an offering, and every offering is a prayer. Importantly, too, the physical space of ritual, including things brought into the space from outside, can be considered sacred. Much as a sacrifice should be somehow "man-made" to show our care and the importance of the task of creating the gift, the tools we bring and the sacred center we create are all clearly a part of the cosmos during ritual. While in some traditions, there is a clear line between what is "sacred" and what is "profane" even outside of ritual context (see, for instance, the prohibition against ever using an athame to cut anything physical in Wicca, in or out of ritual space), a ritual implement in Druidic ritual is not something that must always be kept in the realm of the sacred. In some harvest rites, a sickle is used to cut down a sheaf of wheat: this is not a symbolic harvest, but a physical act that is a small example of the harvest that is now ended. Our rituals are not built on symbols, but rather on exemplifications. Rather than signify something in the cosmos, we recognize that each part of the sacred center is made up of the "stuff" of the cosmos. Just as a swatch of cloth does not symbolize the cloth, but is a piece of the cloth itself, our ritual items and tools are not symbols, but actual samples of cosmic realities. In our rituals, the Tree is not a symbol of the World Tree, but its wood is a part of the cosmic World Tree. The waters of the Well are not symbolic of the cosmic waters, but they are drawn from the cosmic Waters. The Fire at the center of our ritual is not a symbol of the cosmic Fire, but rather a spark that exemplifies the cosmic Fire. The easiest way to think about this is to compare how we talk about the sacred center in ritual as opposed to how we talk about a country's flag. When we speak of the well, we call it "eye and mouth of earth," "cauldron of inspiration," and ask it to "flow within us." We do not speak of what it "represents" or what it is "like;" rather, we speak of what it is. When we speak about a country's flag, we talk about what the colours mean and what the flag as a whole stands for. Through praising things in the world, we also praise the spirits who inhabit this world and the beings that created it. Power and Responsibility As we stand at the center of the worlds, we have the ability to affect all things and all times. Here we stand at the foot of the World Tree, the Fire burning brightly and raising our words to the heavens, while the Well resounds with our voices and sinks them down to the world below. Everything in ritual is a piece of the cosmos, active and present in a way that we can affect it. When we call out to the Kindreds, they come to our fire. They listen to our words, and they receive our sacrifices. As part of the worship bargain, they offer blessings to us in return. The Earth Mother, who we love and honour, is given sacrifice so that she will uphold us and keep us throughout the rite, as she does each day of our lives. We call upon old bargains and long relationships with various beings, including the Gatekeeper, who we trust to guide and ward us as we walk these Elder Ways. We affect the cosmos in mighty ways each time we enter ritual space. It is important to note, however, that as we do these things, we also affect ourselves and our communities. We are a part of the cosmos, and a part of the world. Because all things that we do affect the cosmos, it is important that we remember that we must be good hosts and good guests. Our courage to work magic in ritual must be tempered by the integrity to work the right magics. No matter what, standing in ritual is not about the individual doing the work, but about the relationships formed and strengthened by the work that is done. ADF teaches of Nine Pagan Virtues, and as we work ritual we must remain aware of them, for each affects the cosmos as well as the self. The Nine Pagan Virtues are wisdom, piety, vision, courage, integrity, perseverance, hospitality, moderation, and fertility. Wisdom is the intersection of knowing what is right and making the decision to do that right thing. By understanding the patterns of the cosmos and choosing an action that is right with it, we have made proper use of the power that ritual provides for us. Piety is the intersection of belief and right action, with an emphasis on right action. Piety itself is the undertaking of an action that is right in the cosmos. It is observance and work in reciprocity with the beings who inhabit the worlds. Vision is the ability to see what is right in the cosmos, understanding the connections between things, and understanding where the connections lead. Courage is "doing what needs to be done," especially in the face of fear. The thing that needs to be done is not always easy, nor is it always clear; however, vision and wisdom will help one decide on the correct course to take. Integrity is being "whole." This means internally (eating right, exercising, and staying healthy), communally (participating in the world in a way that benefits others), and cosmically (maintaining agreements and relationships, keeping our word, and sacrificing). Only by being healthy can we do ritual; only by seeking to benefit others in ritual can we work ritual with meaning; and only through the act of sacrifice and keeping our word can we interact wholly with the Kindreds. Perseverance is meeting adversity and overcoming it. It is the manifestation of motivation, the end result of having the desire to do something right in the cosmos. Hospitality, as we have discussed, is a central virtue in ritual: it is the *ghosti- relationship, where we enter a joyful partnership with the Kindreds and offer them gift for gift, sacrifice for blessing, and they enter this relationship with equal joy. Moderation is the knowledge of limits and necessity, the striking of balance in our lives. It is joy in the ordinary and seeking the spiritual. Fertility is not just creative ideas, but creativity that is maintained. It does not exist in unfinished projects, but in the end result of the projects. These Nine Pagan Virtues apply directly to what we do in ritual. They are vital to keep in our hearts and to be mindful of in our actions. It is not about us, but about things being right in the cosmos. It is about the rta. Let us do what is right with the power we have in ritual, for only then can we do what is right at all. Notes ¹ — Ceisiwr Serith, A Book of Pagan Prayer ² — For further reading on Eliade's theory of hierophany and centers, see The Sacred & the Profane: The Nature of Religion by Mircae Eliade. ISBN: 015679201X ³ — For the Water Skate myth and Zuni centers, see New Directions in American Archeoastronomy, edited by Anthony F. Aveni: Oxford, England: 1988. ISBN 0860545830. The article in question is "Directionality as a Conceptual Model for Zuni Expressive Behavior" by M. Jane Young.
Category: 
Foto de CeisiwrSerith
I have stolen my title from Wendy Doniger O'Flaherty's marvelous study of what can be learned from studying the myths of and about others (and a good thing it is that titles can't be copyrighted). It is only fitting then, to also steal a story from that book—one she took herself from Heinrich Zimmer, and which eventually came from the oral tradition (thus justifying its theft by me as well).Rabbi Eisik, son of Rabbi Jekel, lived in Cracow. One night he dreamt there was a treasure buried near a bridge in Prague. he ignored the dream (it was, after all, only a dream), but when he had had it two more nights, he decided to give it a chance and walked the long way to Cracow. When he got there, there was the bridge, just as he had dreamt it.Unfortunately, there was one small difference: the bridge was guarded by a company of soldiers. So Eisik hung around for a few days, examining the bridge, and acting as if he was interested in its architecture, and anything else he could think of, hoping to get a chance to dig for the treasure. But no luck. Finally, the captain of the guard became suspicious and asked him what he was doing. Eisik told the story of the dream, and the captain laughed. "A dream," he said. "Who can believe in dreams? For instance, I have had a dream for three nights that there is a treasure buried by the stove in the home of Eisik, son of Jekel, in Cracow. But do you see me going to Cracow to dig for it? No, I stay here, where I am supposed to be." Eisik thanked him, and took the long way home again. He dug by his stove, and there was the treasure.I will return to this story later, and its importance will then be made clear. But for now, let us turn from medieval Cracow to medieval Ireland and to the stories told there. Any of the Indo-European traditions will do, but I thought it best to use that which is in the plurality within ADF, that of the Celts, and in particular of the Irish Celts. First I will start with the tale of Donn.When the sons of Mil were invading Ireland, the eldest was Donn. After invading and withdrawing, the sons of Mil were kept away by the power of the Tuatha de Danaan. Donn climbed the mast of the ship and sang incantations against the Tuatha de Danaan. As a result of this, though, he was cursed, and his brother Amairgen prophesied that if Donn were to go ashore, a disease would stalk Ireland. So Donn asked to be brought to another island, which is now call Tech Duinn. The souls of the dead go there before going on to their ultimate fate. (Gwynn, 1991, p. 311; also told in Lincoln, 1991, p. 34). That is what we know about Donn, an unimportant figure in a medieval tale.But what if we turn from him and start to look at other people's myths? We can start with Ymir, the Norse giant from whose cut up body Odin, Vili, and Ve formed the world. Then we go south, to Rome, where myths appear as history. There Remus, the brother of Romulus, was killed for jumping over the walls of Rome his brother had newly (and sacredly) made. Some say his brother killed him; some say it was another, but according to his brother's law. Go east now, to the Vedic Yama, the first of all people to die. Because of this, he knows the way to the land of the dead, and now rules there.Bruce Lincoln (1986) and Jaan Puhvel (1975) have shown how these myths descend from a Proto-Indo-European myth about how *Mannus ("Man") kills *Yemos ("Twin") and from his body forms the world. There is much more to this myth, and I recommend Lincoln's books to the curious. But this is enough for here.Let us now return to Ireland. Donn has now become a much greater figure. From a minor character, who dies before the story really gets going, and who now serves as lord of a land of the dead, he has become an echo of the first sacrificed being, from whose body the world is made. And we have been given a glimpse into the pre- Christian Irish cosmogony.Other examples can be adduced. Medb, for instance, has a parallel and a linguistic cognate in the Vedic Madhavi: she who was equal to two hundred horses. Macha is explained not only in relation with her Celtic counterparts Rhiannon and Epona, but with all the other Indo-European horse goddesses (O'Flaherty, 1980, chs. 6-8). Nechtain and his well become enlightened and expanded in importance by comparison with his cognates, Neptune, Apam Napat (Indo-Iranian), and even with the Vedic myth of the submarine mare.Mythic symbols gain new meaning. In one of the versions of the Loathly Lady tale, the hero meets the hag at a place where a standing stone rises from a pool. From the top of the stone flows water, which pours down into the pool. An interesting enough symbol, but it is only when it is compared with Zoroastrian cosmology that it becomes clear. This image is exactly that of the Zoroastrians, making the standing stone an axis mundi. This encounter takes place at the center of the world, where all things begin and are given their value.Even rituals expand when compared. The Irish coronation ritual described by Gerald of Wales, the famous horse sacrifice (Section 102) gains levels of meaning when compared with the Roman October Equus, Vedic Ashvamedha, and a four Hittite friezes (O'Flaherty, 1980, chs. 6-8; Watkins, 1985. p. 267.).So now let us return to our rabbi from Cracow, to (originally) poor Eisik, son of Jekel. It is only by leaving his own home that he found the treasure that awaited him there all along. It was in a strange land that he found out about the gold that lay waiting for him by his own stove.The moral of this myth, this selection from non-Indo- European legend (from other peoples' myths) is that it is sometimes by going out from our own tradition that we find the jewels hidden at home. This is one of the teachings of the Pan - Indo- Europeanism of ADF—that by investigating the Indo-European traditions as a whole, each one might be better reconstructed and understood, and its value increased.So, if you want to be a Celt, be Celt. But take a trip through other people's myths. You may not become a Roman, Greek, or Vedic Pagan. But you may be surprised at what treasure lay at home, unrecognized because you had not listened to other people's dreams. Take the trip, and be a better Celt for it.REFERENCESGerald of Wales. The History and Topography of Ireland tr. John O'Meara. Harmondsworth, UK: Penguin Books, 1951.Gwynn, Edward (tr. and ed.) The Metrical Dindshenchas, Part IV. Dublin: School of Celtic Studies, reprint 1991.Lincoln, Bruce. Myth, Cosmos, and Society: Indo-European Themes of Creation and Destruction. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Uni- versity Press, 1986.Death, War, and Sacrifice: Studies in Ideology and Practice. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1991.O'Flaherty, Wendy Doniger. Other Peoples' Myths. New York: MacMillan Publishing Company, 1988.Women, Androgynes, and Other Mythical Beasts. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980.Puhval, Jaan. Remus et Frater. History of Religions 15 (1975), pp. 146-157.Sturluson, Snorri. Edda. tr. Anthony Faulkes. Rutland, VT: Charles E. Tuttle Co., 1987.Watkins, Calvert. How to Kill a Dragon: Aspects of Indo-European Poetics. New York: Oxford University Press, 1995.
Category: 
Foto de none
The Core Cult in Druidic Rites Is Indo-European Religion Possible? The Norse Wheel of the Year Sacrifice, the Indo-Europeans, and ADF The Nature of Sacrifice Nine Central Tenets of Druidic Ritual The Ancient Celtic Otherworld Sacred Space, Exploring the Triple Center Why Vedism? The Worlds and the Kindreds The World Tree The Outsiders The Proto-Indo-European Hearth Cosmos, Chaos, and the ADF Priest Discussing Pagan Theology Exploring Celtia: The Primary Division Other People's Myths
Category: 
Foto de none
By Adhitin Ratrija with N. Agnayi When I first opened the Rgveda I knew only that Vedism was part of the eastern branch of the Indo-Europeans. I did not yet know of the complex deities overflowing with contradictory tales. I did not know that my beliefs were to be mirrored in those of karman, dharman, and Rta. And yet, it was only a short time before I found myself connecting to this ancient religion. I was understanding ritual concepts that the scholars were puzzled by. I felt the connection to the gods and goddesses that embodied the very elements themselves. I saw my own life of beauty and violence, chaosand order, devotion and selfishness. It was all reflected back to me within the world of the Vedas. Many years have passed since that moment. I now understand more than I did, and I laugh fondly at the things I thought I knew. The Vedas have become a truth to me. They are my sruti, my Rta, my dharman. They guide me on my way and assist me when I ask. As I begin to reach out and talk about this subject, this world of Vedism, I find myself meeting many interesting characters. There are three questions which I find myself being asked by many people. They are deceptively simple questions that have me walk a tight rope between what the individual wishes to hear and what is the historical truth. And yet, no matter how many times I hear these questions I am always caught off guard. Each time one of the questions is asked it is as if I am hearing it for the first time: Is Vedism a form of Hinduism? Are Kali, Siva, Krsna, Laxmi, Ganesha, Rama, Sita, Hanuman or Durga Vedic? Why Vedism? To answer one question is to answer them all. It is to dig into the past of Vedism and tell all of what we know. The Indo-Aryans The Indo-Europeans are often split between two physical regions. The western branch includes those cultures who colonized north and west into Europe. The best known of these cultures are the Greeks, Romans, Celts, Slavs, and Norse. To the east the Indo-European cultures migrated into Asia, primarily India, Afghanistan, Iran, and other parts of what is now known as the Middle East. It is this eastern branch with which we are interested. Dated at around 1700-1500 BCE, we begin finding archaeological remains of the Indo-European peoples in the Indus River valley. Much of this evidence is found in excavations of the ancient cities of Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro, both now in Pakistan. In both these sites, one finds the remains of an ancient society, then a break where that society suddenly disappears followed by evidence of a new society with an entirely different culture colonizing the same city. This new society represents the first incursions of those peoples known as the Indic division of the Indo-European culture into the Indian Peninsula. Later, this culture would spread across the land, eventually taking the name of 'Arya' for itself; which which translates to noble'. It is from this root word that we derive the term for the Indo-Aryan branch of the Indo-European's. These people we now also know as the Vedics. The Vedic Texts After having established themselves across the north of India, the Vedics eventually had the majority of their religious practices codified into four main works: the four Vedas. There were also several ancillary texts written as commentary, which make up a collection of works known as the Upanisads. The holy texts are split into two categories: sruti-tradition and smrti-tradition. The sruti sources are ones that have been "heard." These texts were revealed by the Gods to specific Rsis (priests). The smrti sources are those that have been "memorized", and as such have been created by man without divine assistance but based on sruti texts. The Vedic texts fall mostly within the category of sruti and are known as the Vedas and portions of the Upanisads Veda translates literally into "knowledge." The word veda is derived from the verb vid- which means "to know, to be aware of." Upanisad is broken up with "sad" meaning "sit" and most likely refers to the extreme secrecy that was to be enforced with the sharing of the Upanisads by having the student sitdng beside the teacher. This leaves the word Upanisad referring to "secret text." There are a total of four Vedas. Three of the Vedas, the Rgveda, the Yajurveda, and the Samaveda, can be dated to between 1500-1200BCE. A fourth Veda—the Atharvaveda—was established slightly later, between 1200-1000 BCE. Each Veda consists of its the main text, or Samhita, as well as dedicated commentary and instruction on that text, which is known as the Brahmana. The Rgveda consists of more than one thousand hymns that are arranged into ten books. These hymns were meant to be spoken to the gods during ritual and contain the myths of the Vedics. The Yajurveda is a collection of hymns from the Rgveda in the way they were meant to be used during ritual. The Yajurveda is split into two versions: the White Yajurveda and the Black Yajurveda. The basic differences are that the White Yajurveda keeps separate the Samhitas and Brahmanas while the Black Yajurveda mixes the two. There are additional differences in translations as well. The Samaveda is a collection of songs to be sung during ritual. Some of the material is a reworking of the Rgveda, while the rest of the material is original. The Atharvaveda is a volume which deals specifically with magic and the use of rituals as cures, protection and curses. The Samhitas are the actual text, or hymns, of each of the Vedas while the Brahmanas are the commentary upon the Vedas. The Brahmanas set out to explain, in detail, the going-ons of the Vedas. The Upanisads generally date from about 800-600BCE and are made up of twelve Upanisads: the Brhadaranyaka, the Chandogya, the Taittiriya, the Aitareya, the Kausitaki, the Kena, the Katha, the Isa, the Svetasvatara, the Mundaka, the Prasna and the Mandukya. These texts are several ancillary texts written as commentary on Vedism in general. While the Upanisads show more information on the Vedas, they also show a breaking away from traditional Vedic thought into the basic tenets of what would grow to become Sanatana Dharma (Hinduism). The Upanisads are predominantly thought processes and commentary. The can be seen as a mix of smrti and sruti for the most part. Past these texts you find yourself within the man made texts of the smrti-tradition. While this in no way demeans their value, it simply must be stated that to a Vedic these texts are made up or commentaries that have been quite removed from their original Vedic thought process. Two smrti-tradition texts which are still of great use: the Grhya Sutras and the Crauta Sutras. The Sutras were roughly set down between 400 and 200 BCE, although this is just scholastic guess work. The Grhya Sutras deal specifically with household ritual to be performed by the householder. The Crauta Sutras depict elaborate rituals which included one or more clergy. There are also the Aranyakas, or 'forest texts,' which give us greater insight into the breaking down of the Vedic religion. The Aranyakas, which some sdiolars link as sruti, were philosophical musings and speculation written by hermit-priests who had secluded themselves from society in order to concentrate on the study of the Vedas. These later texts also include works on yoga, avastu, and jyotish. They also include the Kama Sutra, the Dharma Sutras and the Laws of Manu. In addition, such epics as the Mahabharata, the Gita and the Ramayana are man made creations said to be from the fourth century BCE. Also worthy of a peripheral note are the holy texts of the Indo-Iranians. This culture was to go on to become the Zoroastrians, and the oldest portions of their holiest text, the Avesta, is dated to around 1000 BCE. Since the Indo-Iranians began as an offshoot from the Vedics, one finds similar god-names (the Vedic Mitra versus the Zoroastrian Mithra, for instance) as well as differing versions of some of the same myths. Occasionally, the Avestan version of a Vedic myth will reverse the point-of-view of the story, thus casting the Vedic Gods instead as demons. There is thus a good amount of evidence that the Vedic-Iranian split was not an amiable one, so the Avesta offers an interesting contrast for comparison. The Vedic Religion To the Vedics, the world consisted of three spheres. The first was the earth, the second was firmament (also called the sky), and the last was the intermediate region, or the space between the earth and firmament. Each of the three spheres was divided in additional sections. The ground and heaven were supported by beams, yet the sky was without support. This caused a great deal of discussion by the Vedic on why it did not fall. The ancient Vedics believed in polytheism, believing all of their Gods to be separate individuals. The vast majority of the gods were the elements such as the wind (Vayu) with some gods being concepts such as speech (Vac). Towards the end of the Vedic period the belief of kathenotheism came forward. Kathenotheism was the belief and practice that during a ritual, or worship, that the participants called for one God who would then embody all of the attributes of the other Gods within the pantheon. This change in beliefs was one of the markers of the end of Vedism. From this step it went in monism. Monism is the belief in one God, or higher power, and that all other "gods" are manifestations, or avatars/incarnations, of the higher power. To the Vedics, upon death, going to heaven was their goal. A great many rituals were performed to ask for the favor of the Gods and wash away shortcomings in an attempt to reach heaven. Heaven was seen as a place of light that was without the negative aspects of life. In heaven there was no disease, no want, no death, no darkness and no fear. Heaven is shown as an ending to life on earth and a beginning of a life in Heaven with the Gods. There was no reincarnation in the Vedas. The Vedics began as a migratory culture. Due to matters of survival (such as food supply or grazing space), it was necessary for the early Indo-Aryans to maintain a mobile existence. Their existence was often contingent upon the ability to pack one's home and move to an entirely different location. They developed a ritual format where an open space was found and consecrated, then ritual was performed in the open with no permanent structures necessary. Later, the Vedics were able to establish cities and consecrated permanent public spaces in which to hold ritual. It was merely the scale that changed. As the Vedics grew more successful, the rites grew larger and more elaborate. The format of the proceedings, however, still remained faithful to their roots. Later, after Vedism's fall, Hinduism began to favor private personal worship (called puja and often referring to the worship of idols as an aid in worshiping a god), and established elaborate buildings in which to gather and pray. It is this difference between open Yajna and private worship which in one aspect defines the difference between Vedism and Hinduism. A few of the basic Vedic practices and beliefs are Rta, dharman, karman and Yajna. Rta translates quite literally to 'order'. It is the order by which the universe, were it a perfect place, should run. One may conceive an illustration of Rta as literally 'a place for everything, and everything in its place'. Dharman is personalized Rta. If the world were a play, then Rta would be its script, and dharman would be each individual's particular part. Why does Surya (the Sun) pass across the sky each day? Because it is Surya's dharman - his part in maintaining Rta - that he do so. And, being the steadfast upholder of Rta that he is, Surya fulfills his dharman by faithfully rising each dawn to traverse the sky until dusk. Karman, then, translates to 'action'. Karman is the embodiment of the actions one takes and the deeds they do. Here there is no judgment of good or evil over these deeds, but one must understand that actions beget consequences. Once again, as in a play one may decide go 'off book' - throwing away their lines and bursting into an impromptu monologue, for instance. In just this same manner, one may choose to ignore their part, their dharman, and do solely as they wish. They must understand, however, that this action naturally leads to consequence. The consequence may be bad, it may be good or it may be neutral. Yajna is the term for Vedic ritual. It differs from many religious rituals in that it is public and elaborate, yet does not necessarily take place in an established enclosed space such as a temple or church. This is to be performed by the clergy and follows very strict rules. The Vedics had their clergy split up into different types. Each of these types was responsible for a specific part in the ritual and attached to a specific Veda. Each member of the clergy went through years of training and was considered an expert in their field. The four major priests are Hotr, Udgatr, Adhvaryu and Brahmin. It must be noted that all Vedic priests were Brahmins, and there is a specific role performed by a priest who is called Brahmin. This Brahmin is the chief priest of the ritual. The Hotr is the priest who works with the Rgveda and is responsible for reciting. The Udgatris the priest of the Samaveda and is responsible for the singing done in ritual. The Adhvaryu is the priest of the Yajurveda and is responsible for all of the points dealing with the ritual. This includes setting up the ritual space, laying out the ritual items, preparing the ritual fire, gathering the ritual offerings, killing the sacrificial animals, cooking the sacrificial animals, and offering all of the sacrifices to the fire. The Brahmin is often matched up with the Atharvaveda, but they must know all of the Vedas. It is their job to stand silently by the sacrificial fire and to act as a satellite of the ritual and to correct any mistakes that may happen during the ritual. Because of this, they must know all of the Vedic the Vedas and be familiar with all of the workings of the ritual. There are several assistants to the four main priests and these assistants had their own titles and specific duties. Some of the additional priests were the Agnidhra (an assistant to the Adhvaryu), the Prastotr (an assistant to the Udgatr) and the Pratihartr (also an assistant to the Udgatr). There was also the Purohita, a Brahmin who performed domestic rituals and often was the primary Brahmin for the king. The Vedic Society Within the ancient society of the Vedics there was a class system which was reflected in the gods. This class system was split up into the Brahmins, the Kshatriya, the Vaisya and the Sudra. The Brahmins were the priest class, the Kshatriya were the ruler class, the Vaisya were the common people and craftsman, and the Sudra were the non-Vedic immigrants (often times serfs or prisoners of wars). At the time of the Vedics, one was not classified to be within the Sudra class for their lifetime. It works much in the way that modern immigration works today with the individuals being accepted and free to seek out their profession once they had placed themselves within the society. The Sudra could remain Sudra for many generations. They remained such until they found themselves integrated into the society. The class system was used more as descriptive terms than as a "birth right". Where you laid in the class system was based upon your skills, with the exception of royalty and the above mentioned immigrants. The Vedics were omnivorous. They did eat meat. They ate cows and just about any other animal they could get hold of. They were not vegetarians or vegans. The Vedics were defined as patriarchal and patrilineal. Despite the obvious male dominance, the Vedic period gave a certain power to women in its ritual dependant culture. The Vedics viewed rituals as a means of keeping the social and cosmic order of the world and women were vital within keeping these goals. The coupling of a husband and wife was very important to the Vedics and to their ritual. It was required that any man who was to have a ritual performed had to be wed. It can be easily suggested that almost every wife had some sort of Vedic training due to the timing of rituals. Every day Householder rituals were to be performed and often the male of the house would be away for periods at a time. There is proof that there were women who recited the Vedas, sung the hymns and were Rsis. In short, there were female Brahtnins, some of which are credited with certain parts of the Vedas. It was also dependant on the wife to tend to the sacred fire so that it would never go out. It was not until later times that women began to take on the roles as being impure and it was not until post-Vedic texts that wife burning became popular. The Vedic Offshoots The Vedic culture and religion eventually came to dominate, and define, India. Towards the end of the Vedicperiod the many scholars within Vedism began to start a process of thinking differently about how they were connected to the Gods, to Heaven and to Yajna. It was this questioning mixed with the ramped corruption of the Brahrnins that helped lead the way to Vedism's fall. The people who had once practiced Vedism were now on their way to adopting new philosophies and ways of communing with the divine(s). The religions that splintered off from Vedism took ideas, thoughts and beliefs from Vedism and brought them into new ways of thinking that were meant to rebel against the Vedic religion, thus negating them as a different sect of Vedism. Vedism was not allowed to evolve further as a religion, but instead it lay stagnant while other religions splintered off from it. These religions took specific beliefs within Vedisin and followed them to their own ends, thus ending the Vedic period and the religion of Vedism. Some of the the off shoot religions of Vedism are Sanatana Dharma (Hinduism), Buddhism and Jainism. Buddhism is the religion founded by the Buddha, Gautama Siddhartha, in the 6th Century BCE. Like many other offshoots from philosophies spawning from Upanasadlic speculation (Gautama himself was a Ksatriya, or noble, and well-versed in Vedic philosophy), it is a religion begun as a reaction to Vedism and the orthodoxy of that time. Buddhism sees the 'self' as a aggregate of many elements called 'skandhas' which include one's physical form senses, perceptions, deeds, and conceptions. It attempts to free its adherents from the cycle of birth, death, and re-birth by the doctrine of Enlightenment, and contends that salvation is only possible after the elimination of suffering, caused chiefly by attachment, striving, and seduction by the senses. Jainism is the religion which gradually splintered from Vedism around the time of the Upanisads, and was systemized as a doctrine by Vardhadama (Mahavira) around 550 BCE. It believes in the body and soul as separate, with the soul enmeshed in karmic matter that it must work off in order to reach Nirvana. It's five highest principles, or Vrathas, are: Ahimsa (non-violence), Asathya Tyaga (relinquishing of anger, wrath, and deceit), Astheya (abstention from coveting or thievery), Aparigraha (relinquishing of anger, wrath, and deceit), Astheya (abstention from coveting or thievery), Aparigraha (relinquishment of excess, particularly in regard to property), and Brahmacharya (moderation in earthly pleasures). Sanatana Dharma, or Hinduism, is not a religion. Rather it is a group of religions found within India that share common beliefs while still remaining very different. Many may even argue that it is not a religion but more a way of life. The term "Hinduism" was not developed by the practitioners, but by groups outside of the religions as a means for labeling the entire Indian people. Often referred to as the successor religion to Vedism, the Hindu religions are no more the same religion as Vedism than Islam is the religion of the Christians. After the populace began to lose faith in the Brahmins (due primarily to elitism and corruption), they began to turn increasingly to the speculations within the Upanisads. In particular, the Aranyakas (which were originally penned by sunvassins, or hermit-priests living in the wild) provided a road map by which solitary practitioners could re-enact Vedic ritual without the actual physical activity of Yajna. Also, other philosophical speculation during the late Vedic period, coming most often in the form of derivative texts called Sutras, fed the reform movement. These steps toward short cutting ritual eventually led to a much greater emphasis on private meditation, and an overall philosophy which embraced concepts such as reincarnation, Karma, Dharma, the caste system, and the personification of all gods into a single god-power known as Brahman. With the last step, Hinduism ceased as a polytheistic religion into fell the embrace of monism (monism being the belief in one supreme being and that all other beings are incarnations of the One). There are many groups within Hinduism that claim a sort of "going back to the Vedas". While these groups are attempting to create a bond with the Vedas, they will never be followers of Vedism while they still hold their core ideals. These core beliefs are at odds with those of the Vedas. Many followers of Hinduism do translate the Vedas to fit into Hindu thought by changing the translation to reflect the beliefs of monism, reincarnation, the caste system and absence of animal and human sacrifice. However, this poor translators. A well known movement to go "back to the Vedas" is the Arva Samaj movement. This movement was started in 1875 by Dayananda Sarasvati. It was a movement within Hinduism that was meant to turn back to the Vedas. It was their belief that the Vedas alone were sacred and the only revelation of God. They also believed that all of the sciences of the modern world could be found within the Vedas. As has been already stated, the Arya Samaj are followers of Hinduism. While they are attempting to go back to the Vedas they are not Vedic. While they do not except the texts past the Vedas, they are still monists, and uphold other Hindu views. In their reformations they rejected Brahaminic control and they are open to all castes and women. This movement was the second movement of this sort, the first being Brahmo Samaj, both of which had political power. The movement of Arya Samaj helped to contribute to the Indian Nationalist movement and works to convert those Hindus who have turned to Christianity, Islam and other non-Hindu faiths. There are additional Indian tribes which claim to perform Vedic rituals. However, when you take a ritual and strip it of it's meaning to replace it with new thoughts and beliefs it ceases to be what it was. As is the case in some Hindu tribes in India who make claims to performing Vedic ritual. They may be going through the motions but the two beliefs systems are vastly different. Notably, when speaking about Hinduism we are talking about the Hindu religions within India. While sharing similar beliefs arid gods, the practices and tenants of Hinduism within Bali, Cambodia and Nepal is vastly different from that of Indian Hinduism. At this point in time, there is no proof that there are any people who practiced Vedism in an unbroken line from the time of the Vedics. Nor is there any proof that there are any practitioners of Vedism within India in the sense of organized religion. It is quite possible that practitioners of traditional Vedism do exist, but we have yet to hear of it. Why Vedism? Now we have come full circle, ending with the questions we began with: Is Vedism a form of Hinduism? Are Kali, Siva, Krsna, Laxmi, Ganesha, Rama, Sita, Hanuman or Durga Vedic? Why Vedism? Hopefully you have come to the conclusion that Vedism is not a form of Hinduism, not only because Vedism came before the Hindu practices but also because the differences between the two faiths. Vedism believes in polytheism, heaven, no reincarnation, no hell, Rta, dharman, karman, sruti and a class system. Hinduism believes in monism, reincarnation, judgement, Karma, Dharma, a caste system, smrti and Brahma. By the same token one should know that the gods of Hinduism are not Vedic gods, owing in part to the differences between sruti and smrti. Yet, is Hinduism Indo-European? If not, when did it cease to be such? It is my opinion that when the people rebelled against Vedism and began the offshoot religions that they ceased to be practicing an Indo-European religion. These individuals turned away from their old religion and embraced a new one, leaving the old behind. Some terms and gods remain but their meanings and status are now quite different. The people rejected the old ways in favour of religions and philosophies that show a great disdain for the Vedic practices. Logic then has us ask aren't these new religions just natural progressions of Vedism? I would argue that they are not. I would suggest that these new religions were guided by men to separate themselves from the human corruption within Vedism. This was not a natural evolution but a rebellion. It is true that eventually the Vedic religion may have taken similar turns as the new religions. This is evident in the Brahmanas and Upanisads. However, had Vedism been allowed to eveolve and had it become monistic, or monothesitic, I feel it would still retain the names of the gods of the Vedas and not the new creations of the post-Vedic texts. So why Vedism? Why not Hinduism? Why not Jainism? Why not Buddhism? When I came to Vedism it was a silent religion. It was facing the fierce battle of the old gods and the new gods, and losing. I felt I belonged more in Vedism than anywhere else: it shares my beliefs, I can converse with the gods, I connect with the rituals. Why do I not practice one of the offshoot religions? There are three reasons. The first is that because Vedism was built around a nomadic people it was geared more towards community. Community is very important to me, as is the aiding of others. This is not to say there is nothing individualized within Vedism, rather it is very community based. The offshoot religions are more egocentric, focusing on the individual and their path. The second is the fundamental belief systems. I do not believe in reincarnation. I believe in heaven. I do not believe in karma. I believe in karman. I do not believe in Dharma, Brahma, enlightenment, Gurus or the validity of the smrti texts. I believe in dharman, Rta, free-will and the sruti. The third reason is one I have put a great deal of thought into. We all know that in many of the Indo-European cultures there are wars between the new gods and the old gods. Imagine, if you will, that you worshiped the old gods. What would your feelings be towards the worship of the new gods? How would you react to the new gods turning the ways of the old gods on their head until they no longer reflected the old beliefs? What would you think to know your gods were to now live in the realm of scholastic research only? How would you feel knowing your gods were now shadows of their former selves, pushed to back burners and given little to no respect and ridiculed? What would you do in knowing that your gods are being forgotten? In the Indo-European myth of the old gods and the new gods, the Vedic gods would be the old gods. The new gods are those of the offshoot religions. Rather than fight the old gods, the new gods have created new myths which ignore many of the old gods. This results in the vast majority of the old gods being forgotten with the remaining being demoted to lesser beings. The vast majority of Vedic gods are no longer worshipped. The exception to this is Vsnu. Vsnu is a Vedic god and he did make it over to Hinduism favourably. Unfortunately, the Vsnu of Hindu lore is not the Vsnu of Vedic lore. The same is said of Surya, Usas and Sarsvati. Surya now has a very minor role, the brilliance of his consort Usas is all but forgotten in favour of Kali, Laxmi and Durga. Sarsvati, who was a minor river goddess deity in the Vedas, is seen as a major goddess of learning in Hinduism having swallowed up the Vedic goddess Vac. I worship the old gods. I give no respect to the new gods whether they are post-Vedic, pre-Vedic or man made smrti creations. This is why Vedism. It is because Vedism is about bettering myself to help my community. It is because Vedism is not about tying yourself to the score cards of Dharma and Karma. Vedism is about taking responsibility for your actions and your choices. Vedism is about being responsible for your own life. Vedism is about having only one chance to get it right. Vedism is about honouring the old gods. References The Origins and Development of Classical Hinduism by A. L. Basham Dictionary of Philosophy and Religion by William L. Reese Religion and Philosophy of the Veda and Upanishads (2 Volumes) by A.B. Keith Religion of the Veda by Hermann Oldenberg The Vedic Index by Arthur Anthony Macdonell & A. B. Keith Women in World Religions by Avind Sharma (Editor) Upanisads translated by Patrick Olivelle The Religion of the Rigveda by H.D. Griswold Vedic Ritual: The Non-Solemn Rites by J. Gonda
Category: 
Foto de Ian Corrigan
The Three Realms: The universal pattern of the four 'elements' is understood by Celtia differently from the broader magical movement. The classical system of the four arranged as a cross is replaced by the three realms of Land, Sea and Sky, with the Sacred Fire in the center. These are not abstract principles, but interacting homes of all the world's teeming life, whether human, beast, plant, stone or spirit.The Land: is the home of our human kindreds and of our closest allies. The land is our common world where most of us live out our lives. When we look for our part in the great weaving of thing it is the patterns of the land that are our first teachers. Fresh water that wells up in the earth can also be part of the realm of the land.The Sea: is the wild waste that lies outside our common land. The sea is the home of a vast and teeming life, different from our own. It is also the place of the Otherworld Isles, the home of the Sidhe - heroes and the Land of the young. Thus, the sea is connected with the Otherworld as a place of concealed potential.The Sky: is the source of Light and Shadow, the place of the Shining Ones. The Sky overarches the Land and Sea, as the sight of the Gods and Goddesses watches over all.The turning and waxing and waning of the Three Lights of Sun and Moon and Stars, and the wheeling of the stars around the Pole display the Order of the Deities and Their blessing to us.Among these Realms, all common life is sustained between the Chaos of Potential and the World Order. The ancient Celts made their oaths by saying: "May the Sky not fall, may the Sea not burst its bounds, may the Land not open beneath me, so long as I keep my oath."In the midst of these Realms is found the Sacred Grove, the place of flowing Together. There the Sacred Fire burns, by the Well of Wisdom, beneath the World Tree.The Otherworlds: Within and behind our common realms, as near as the far side of a tree, as far as the misty deeps, lie the Otherworlds. The Otherworld lands are the home of the Spirits, the Tribes of the Noble Ones and the Shining God/desses themselves.The Otherworld is reached by strange pathways. It may appear as trackless, misty pathways through forested glades, or as vast waters with Isles of Wonder in them, or as many wild places. It is always a place of challenges, of connection and of learning for the Seeker of the Way.Within the misted borders of the Otherworlds are many places of wonder. The Land of Youth, where the Gods and Heroes feast; the Land of the Dead, where the blessed Ancestors have their rest and comfort; the Land Under the Hill, where the Noble Ones have their court. All of these can be reached with the skills of Magic.The Otherworld is both cause and reflection of our common realms. Thus the Wise seek to know its ways, to better understand the flow of events in the world and to exert the subtle influences on life that are so much of Magic Art.The Kindreds: All beings are the Children of the Mother, descended through the lines of countless Mothers and Fathers. As well as the many mortal kindreds, there are the countless tribes of Otherworld beings. The Druid will deal with, and make offering to , many kinds of Spirits.The Shining Ones are the eldest, mightiest and wisest of the beings in the Great Weaving. The First Mother and First Father, the Triple Kingship and the Goddesses of Sovereignty, Inspiration and Bounty; the powers of Love, Artisanry and Healing; the Child of light and Shadow; all are reflected in the many cultural pantheons of the Celtic peoples.The Mighty Ones are the Ancestors, those of our folk who are presently resting in the Land of the Dead. they watch over their descendants and lend their power to aid us. It is proper for every Druidic worshipper to honor her immediate ancestors, her Grandmothers and Grandfathers, as well as the Heroes, those great women and men who are honored by her folk.The Noble Ones are the Spirits of non-human evolutions, both mortal and never-born. They are of a multutude of kinds. from small spirits of stone and herb and beast to the very Queen Under the Hill and Her Consort. Each has their own power and should be approached with respect, whether a simple herb-spirit or a mighty mountain.Thus are the Three Kindreds. It is well to remember that these are not hard and fast categories. The greatest spirits may be reckoned God/desses, even though they come from other kins, while one folk's Deity can be the Ancestor of another, etc. So let the Wise do honor to all the Spirits.There are Nine Ways of the Druidic Cosmos. The Fire, the Well and the Tree define the Sacred Center, the vertical axis of Underworld, Middle World and the Heavens. Around this axis turn the Three Realms of Land, Sea and Sky and the Otherworlds of each. Within these Realms the Three Kindreds follow their Fates.
Category: 
Foto de LindaDemissy
There are three great gates that are central to Druid rites: The Well is the Deep Gate, The Fire is the Bright Gate, The Tree is the All-Reaching Gate.WellThe Well connects us to the powers below, to the currents flowing under the ground that are the blood of the Earth. These are cool, dark, silvery and rise up through our feet. The bones of our ancestors are the stones that wall the sides of the Well, creating a tunnel into the great pools of forgotten knowledge and memories, guiding us as we remember all that we were, all that we are and all that we will be. This is where the World Tree is rooted, with each of its three main roots fed by a well.The first is the Well of Hvergelmir in the North, and it is the home of the deepest root, the most ancient one. Here is the source of the primal waters of life and death. This water is unbearably cold and filled with a yeasty venom. Yet it feeds all rivers. Ancient serpents dwell here, feasting on the root, but the Tree is strong.Next is the Well of Weird where three women of the elder races take care of the tree, healing and renewing it by sprinkling the waters of their well, maintaining the pattern of the universe. They came when the gods were still young and carefree, putting into motion the forces of destiny, the flow of time and the laws that shape our world as well as our actions. These three women are called the Norns, and acting on their behalf are all the lesser norns of various races that preside over every birth, marking the paths available to each being. They know the meaning and purpose of each life, as they are the weavers that make patterns out of chaos. Even the gods cannot overrule them, but with cunning, one can find different ways to satisfy destiny.Last is the Well of Mimir. Here is kept the store of all knowledge, wisdom and power. Everything it contains is available, for those willing to pay his price. Many are the goddesses and gods who made sacrifice here to attain their powers and attributes. They gave of themselves and were made sacred by their offering. This is the well of all possibilities. Here we can become anything we desire, and the price is action. We must give up what we were, sacrifice our life, and then continue living as a different person, with different duties and abilities. The Well of Wishes then becomes the Well of Memory.FireHearth Fire is the power of transformation that created life out of the substance of the primal waters. It is the primal fire, the essence of change and the spark of life. Just as the waters quench our thirst and make up most of our body, it is the fire that feeds us, fuels and animates us. It cooks our food, extracts the essence of food while discarding the chaff through digestion. Again it acts in turning this reserve as fuel for action.Sacrificial Fire is the gate through which we feed the goddesses and gods. To sacrifice is to make sacred (in Latin sacri fere). Fire releases the essence of the foods we give to the deities, brings it to their world and sanctifies our relationship with them. It is the vessel of hospitality that cements friendship and entitles us to ask for a return gift. Fire creates a crossroad, a meeting place where we can show respect, good manners, and trade for what we need.Then there is the Wild Fire, the destroyer that consumes and leaves only ashes. It is also the purifier that removes impurities. It is the rising smoke of the smudge stick that cleanses one of barriers and blockages, and made ready to approach sacred space with focused intent. This is the fire that will end the world when the time comes, so that it may be born again from its ashes, rising like the phoenix.TreeThe Tree reaches everywhere, either with roots or with branches, and the trunk lies at the center of the universe. This center is not a physical place you can get to, it is a state that we define. Every time we do a Druid ritual, we make our space sacred by making it the center of everything.. From there, we can reach all worlds and all beings, we can ride the Tree to wherever we choose.It grew between the primal waters and the primal fire, spanning the great gap that separated them, giving structure to the world as well as diversity. It is life, giving food as it is fed. The Tree is our home and our parent.On top of the Tree sits the Eagle of the Winds, and between his eyes is perched the watchful hawk. Below is a great serpent that gnaws at the roots, and along the trunk runs a squirrel bearing messages.On the roof of a hall, a stag eats at the limbs of the Tree and from his antlers water drips down into the well of Hvergelmir. On the roof of a hall, a she-goat eats at the limbs of the Tree and from her udders flows the mead, holiest drink of the gods and goddesses, which they share with the mighty ones among the dead who dwell with them.Questions to ConsiderWhat kind of well is most commonly used in ritual ? Why? In what ways can the other wells be used?What are the nine fires? Which are the major ones?What kinds of fire can we use in ritual, and how?How does fire work?If each well and fire were a person, how would they act? Describe them and the way you would Imagine they would look, or write little stories about them.What do you think is outside of the reach of the Tree?Compare the Tree with the concept of supreme deities. What they do, their attributes, etc. Be specific in what this supreme being ought to be doing.What are the functions of the different parts of the Tree? Be sure to talk of the leaves.What are the rings of growth? (The ones you can see on a tree that has been cut.)Assume that space, time and identity, (or meaning), are the three coordinates that can describe anything. What do they correspond to?It is not always possible to do ritual with a real tree, a well and a bonfire. Give as many examples as you can of creative replacements.
Category: 
Foto de Ian Corrigan
Our Druidry has, until now, focused on the business of providing meaningful, powerful rituals for large and medium sized groups. Often this takes us toward viewing spiritual ceremony as a series of tasks - speech, thought, movement; set up, presentation and take-down. The clergy can easily come to view themselves as servants of the congregation, with the task of keeping the group's attention focused and the energy flowing so that the participants get a real benefit from the rite. Participants, on the other hand, may come to depend on the clergy to keep them entertained, and attend the rites to get the jolt of the blessing. In this way the rite can be reduced to a sort of 'blessing machine' in which the detail and meaning of the work can be eclipsed. So I would like to describe a a symbolic context that might lead to a more integrated, symbolically whole approach to the opening phases of the rite.In any polytheistic culture, the Gods, Goddesses and spirits arrange themselves into families, alliances and patterns that clarify and deepen their meanings for the worshippers. Often this results from or is reflected in the order of the ritual of the folk in which these patterns reside. Our Druidic ritual outline now contains a clear constellation of Deities whose work is primary to the creation and maintenance of sacred space.It must be said that I am not in any way proposing a dualistic or even tritheistic model for our religion. This pattern is just one of many that are inherent in a polyvalent theology. Nor are the gender categories that I propose absolute. There are good mythic bases for the following model, but equally good ones for very different ones. This is presented not as dogma, but as a practical theology that can be tested by each worshipper adapted and customized at need.Our liturgical order has grown to reflect core ideas about the origin and nature of the spiritual cosmos. These ideas are pan-Indo-European and can fit comfortably into many ethnic systems. In fact for purposes of this article I will mainly refer to these primary powers by their generic titles-The Mother of Waters, the Fire Father and the Gatekeeper.The Mother of AllThe first power called on in our order is the All-Mother. In many tales the first Being is a Goddess from whom or of whom are the primal waters. From those waters rise the land, the holy earth, also called a Goddess from whom is born all living beings. This sea/land concept can be understood also as space-the starry sea, and our island earth. For the children of earth the Mother of All is the Mother Earth, who sustains our lives.In several mythic systems the Primal Water Mother is connected with the principle of wisdom, of far reaching knowledge and insight. She is sometimes the Mother of a monstrous primal king who is overcome in the creation of the cosmos.In this form as the Primal Waters the Mother can be conceived of as the All-Mind, the underlying power of awareness that connects all individual beings. From this ocean of mind arises the island-selves of the individual minds.For these reasons the Mother is often connected with the waters under the earth. It flows throughout, rising into the root of every life and sending forth sons and daughters, the springs and pools upon the earth. So we are all connected deeply at the roots of our souls by the mind of the Mother. One of the core goals of mystical work is to expand the personal awareness into this vast reality and even to realize the identity of the individual with the all.As with any key cosmic symbol the cosmic waters are not exclusively one gender. There Are many sons of the waters as well. But in our liturgy the primary connection is between the All-Mother, the cosmic waters and the living Earth. It is this complex that we invoke both in the Earth Mother offering and in honoring the well.The Power of InspirationTo the Pagans of the ancient world the power to create poetry, song and art was considered a crown of the human kindreds. The truest and most clear expressions of spirituality are often made by the grace of poetic inspiration. So we acknowledge and invite this power to every major working.The nature of this power is expressed differently in various European cultures. In some it is seen as a draft of spirit ale or mead that produces poetic intoxication. In some it is a breath of wind that blows in the poets' voice. The lore preserved by the medieval Gaelic poets gives us another key image.In Celtic magical poetry the poet draws inspiration from the sudden impact of light upon darkness. Actual practice involved prolonged meditation in a darkened room or cave. In this "incubation" the poet would lay motionless, contemplating the material of the desired poem. After the required length of meditation the poet was brought forth to gaze at the light of the morning sun or sacred fire. In this sudden light the final form of the poem was revealed or coalesced.This complex implies a connection between the power of inspiration and the sacred fire. To return to a primal level it is the heat of the sacred fire that dries out land from the world ocean. It is the gravity of suns that coalesces planets out of the sea of space. It warms and defines the sacred grove in the midst of the nighted forest.So we can honestly connect the fire with the power of inspiration and with the primal Father. In the most simple and archetypal sense the fire Father appears in the midst of the sleeping Mother Ocean. The heat and light of the sun draws life out of the moist, dark Earth, draws the individual being out of the universe's matrix.Again, there are important female and Goddess symbols of this power. The Celtic Goddess Brigid gives the most clear example, combining in herself the whole complex of water, fire and inspiration. Yet we may choose to honor the first Father both as the power of inspiration and as the sacred fire.The GatekeeperDruidic lore teaches that the power of the Otherworld arises most strongly on borders, where places and categories meet and mingle. Crossroads, shorelines, river fords and bridges, borders, sunrise and set all partake of this "betweenness".On the cosmic level this limnality is embodied in the world tree or pillar. In many European myths the center of the worlds is occupied by a tree that expresses the connection between the underworld and the heavens. In every I-E mythos this power is also embodied in a Deity, usually but not exclusively male. This Deity is associated with roads, travel, magic and commerce. He is often a guide and mentor to heroes and may be the inventor or teacher of writing, poetry and art.We offer to this power to ask for clarity and openness in our communication with the spirits. In the Celtic pantheons we often invoke Manannan MacLir. He is counted as one of the Tuatha De, but is named for his father Lir the Sea God. Manannan is the core of the wizard archetype-the young ancient who keeps the Isle of Apples. He is the bearer of the Silver Branch that carries between the worlds. He keeps the crane bag that holds the treasures and Ogham wisdom. His cult has lasted into the modern era as a God of the sea, of sailors and commerce. Manannan looks kindly on those who seek the Old Ways, yet he may set a stern lesson at need.So then, in these three powers we can see a primary triad of Druidic Deities.The Mother of All is the ground of being, the all mind, the earth Goddess from which all are born, who upholds all things.The fire of Inspiration is the manifestor, the Father of the Child, that brings the individual out of the matrix of reality. The fire brings the poet's voice, and opens the seer's eye.The Gatekeeper is the teacher of magic, the mentor of the wise. He is the doorkeeper of the Otherworld who makes possible commerce with the spirits.So, those who wish to grow in Druidic wisdom will do well to preserve a deeper involvement with these three. In fact, contact with and understanding of this primary triad of powers can be seen as a pattern of initiation for our Druidism.The Threefold Cult as Initiatory PatternFirst, all Pagans can make contact with the Mother. We all give primary worship to the Earth or land Goddess and we can all receive the blessing of the Earth's unconditional love. On a deeper level, by learning the skills of meditation and trance we can learn to pass beneath our common awareness into the inner waters of the all-mind. There, in the matrix of the Mother we come to know the God/desses and spirits of our way. If a Pagan seeker does no more than this she can accomplish a great deal.A sort of 'next step' is the kindling of a personal fire of inspiration in the soul. When this flame appears in a spirit saturated with the all-mind it produces crystals, gems of vision, of poetry, even of prophecy. Each individual Pagan will have different responses to kindling the inner fire. Some will become healers, some diviners, some able to manifest their visions, some to move into their dreams.Some of these will feel drawn toward the work of moving between the worlds. They will find their skill in mediating states of awareness, in spirit-journeying and spirit contact. Perhaps it is these folks who are best suited to keep our groves and work as ritual priest/esses. In fact everyone who hopes to effectively lead group rites must learn the skills that are associated with the Keeper of Gates. The cult of the Gatekeeper brings the Druid into a dual awareness. First the attention is directed inward, through deeper trance and meditation. The Druid learns to pass into the Otherworld in vision, and meets and works with the Gatekeeper Deity directly. Then, when that contact is firm, the Druid turns awareness back to the Outerworld, to bring the Otherworld power through, and open a gate through which the folk can speak with the spirits.Of these three, the Gatekeeper is the most immediate and 'human'. Gatekeeper God/desses are usually in close relation with humankind. They are compassionate, humorous and skilled; though they may set stern tests or even be tricksters at times. So we offer to them with honor and seek their wisdom and support.Those who wish to find wisdom and spiritual power inherent in our Druidic Paganism will do well to take up the practice of this threefold cultus. With the wisdom of the All-Mother, the inspiration of the First Fire and the magic of the Gatekeeper, the Druid can do the work of the priesthood, blessing the folk and the land.
Category: 
Foto de Member-64
(Originally published in Druid's Progress 14)While some ADF groves have a single cultural focus, with all of the members dedicated to the sane pantheon of gods, others display a wider spectrum of the I-E cultures, both in their public rituals and in their members' personal devotion. But can a single grove keep religious continuity if it doesn't regularly worship the same gods, either as a collection or as individuals? Or, on a broader scale, even if all of the groves are particular in their own focus, is what unites us a religion we share, or a mere umbrella of perceived similarities?Put more simply, is religion based on the deities we worship? If so, in order for us all to be worshipping the deities of the same religion, one of two things must be true. Either the gods we are worshipping are literally the same deities known by different names to different cultures, or our religion encompasses all of the deities of all of the I-E cultures. Many interpret the Dumezilian thesis to claim the former: that there is a similar structure to all of the I-E mythologies pointing to a proto-I-E religion which manned differently in the different cultures depending on their unique circumstances. The ADF liturgy would lend some credence to the notion that our religion is based on this hypothesis, for the gods fit into slots assigned to them as they fill universal I-E functions: the earth mother, the gatekeeper, the bardic deity, the guardians of the fire and the well, the outdwellers, etc.But many of us are unsettled at the thought of a religion based on generic roles of proto-I-E gods about whom we know nothing. While we are struck by the similarities between the mythologies, we also note the defining features which make each unique. Also, although there may be gods to fill the I-E functions, they are often relatively obscure, while the gods who are more prominent in the mythology may not fit neatly into our Dumezilian cubbyholes. Further, the gods who best fill a particular function may have little else in common with other gods filling the same function. What does Apollo have in common with Braggi besides their both being bardic deities? When we fill the generic roles, the gods from culture to culture don't seem like the same gods at all, and if we choose to keep only the skeleton of true similarity, our religion has no flesh and bones - nothing to make it a living tradition.The other alternative for an I-E religion worshipping the same set of gods is to simply include all of the gods in one huge pantheon. Each of us would worship in the cults of the gods to whom we were called. While this syncretism has historical precedence in the Mediterranean, it presents its own problems.First, there are many gods who are in charge of the same thing, or who have similar characteristics. In the syncretism of the Hellenistic period, this led back to equating gods, or calling on the 'same' god by different names: e.g. Selene, Hecate, Artemis; or the Romans identifying Odin as Mercury, Tyr as Mars, etc. Secondly, in an individual culture the pantheon of gods was relatively exhaustive; the gods in a single pantheon could account for all of the aspects of the lives of their worshippers. Each pantheon divided the world somewhat differently, and these divisions were significant to the wheel of the year and the myths associated with it. In a giant pantheon with more than one god being in charge of the same thing we lose both the exhaustiveness of the division and the significance of dividing things in that particular way. Instead of the gods explaining the order of the cosmos, we end up with a disorderly mob.If both of these solutions are unsatisfactory, then either when we worship different gods, we practice different religions, or the gods we worship are not the defining feature of our religion. If the latter is the case, what is the characteristic feature which could unite us? I argued in 'Fiction as Reality' that the appropriate criteria for good religious fiction should be the attributes of the gods, what they demand of us, and how we know those demands. Using these criteria our religion would be one rather than many just because our different gods have very similar attributes and demands, and we have similar ways of communicating with them.On the surface it appears that our different pantheons, as members of the same I-E family, are strikingly similar. They not only divide the world in similar ways, as Dumezil's tripartite division attests, but they have quite similar personal characteristics. Their codes of honour, sense of justice, and other values can often be substituted for one another without any significant difference. Further, the central demand each pantheon made on its worshippers was sacrifice, though what was sacrificed did vary. And all of the cultures listened to the gods through various means of divination, whether extispicy, augury, casting of runes or ogham, oracles, etc.When we look more closely at any individual holiday, however, we discover that there is little continuity from culture to culture, especially between the northern and southern cultures. While the Celts and Norse are harvesting and dealing with death and rebirth, the Greeks are planting and having fertility festivals. If religion is dependent on our cyclical obligations, or the rites we hold depend on what point we are in the wheel then if the different gods are making very different demands, our practices can hardly be considered the same religion.One might argue that if the cycles are the same, (if we rotated them so they all coincided), then the religion is still the same. First, the differences in the cycles are significant enough that even if we rotated them, I doubt the wheels would ever coincide closely enough to have the same thematic progression throughout the year. But even if they did, we still couldn't worship together and keep the cohesion of our individual cycles. In one version some would be forced to worship in a cycle which no longer corresponded with their cultural year. (i.e., some have done versions of the Eleusinian Mysteries in the spring, since it is a planting festival, when in fact it was held traditionally around Sept/Oct.) In another version we keep the integrity of each cycle, but if different cultures attempt to worship together, at least one will be out of sync. While they could attend as guests, it isn't their own cycle, which marks it as their own religion.One could object that while these difficulties are apparent over very different climates, that there is much more continuity when in more similar climates, as are the Celts and the Norse. If we assume for the moment that this is the case, then a grove could alternate Celtic and Norse holidays without losing religious continuity. While this may be more difficult than one or the other, since it involves learning about more gods and developing relationships with them, since when does that kind of challenge make for bad religion? The extra effort and energy may make religion more difficult at first, but as the relationships are developed, the better an understanding one has of the gods and his relationship with them. One who learns two languages understands his first better than the one who speaks only his native tongue.But, even if the pantheons of similar climates are 'the same,' that isn't sufficient for a pan-Indo-European religion. In attempting to define us as a single religion, in my opinion, we lose too much of what makes religion valuable. Others may disagree that the objections we raised aren't significant enough: that, for example, our cycles should be made to fit whatever climate we live in, regardless of the culture, and this 'rotating' of the wheel is not problematic. The stakes are high in this question, for if most agree with me, then ADF is not a single religion, but an umbrella of similar religions. Where do we go from there? What is our common interest which unites us under this umbrella?
Category: 
Foto de Member-65
Originally published in Druid's Progress 11.Given 9 realms in Norse mythology, 8 High Holy Days, and 8 compass directions plus a center, what can we induce? We know from the Eddas that the Norse believed that the realms could be reached by travelling in certain directions. This gives us a map of the universe with Niflheim (Ice) in the north, Jotunheim (Giants) in the east, Muspellheim (Fire) in the south, and Vanaheim (Vanir, fertility gods) in the west. On the vertical axis Hel is on the bottom, Svartalfheim (Dwarves) is next, in between Hel and Midgard, Alfheim (Elves) is above Midgard, and Asgard (Aesir, high gods) is at the top. But the question is, is there some order which connects this map to the wheel of the year, to make the cycle a coherent progression from realm to realm?In answering this question, our obvious starting points were Ice in the north and Fire in the south. But the Vanir, as fertility gods, could be appropriate at either the planting or the harvest, and we weren't sure where the Giants fit at all. So we chose the traditional correlations with Spring in the east and Autumn in the west. Both because the compass directions are cardinal, and because Ice and Fire are such paradigms of their respective seasons, we matched the solstices and equinoxes with the cardinal points of the compass. This way the heights, or mid-points of the seasons are characterized by the influence of their respective horizontal realms.But what about the cross-quarters? Was there special influence from the vertical realms in making the transition from one season to the next? We chose the simple solution and started at the beginning of the year and the bottom of the ladder, correlating Dises (Samhain) with Hel. From there we just went in order up the ladder and through the holidays, correlating Svartalfheim with Disting (Imbolc), Alfheim with Maitag (Beltaine), and, finally Asgard with Loaf-fest (Lughnassadh). Our reasoning was that just as the day starts the sunset before and the year starts in its dark half, so too should the holidays progress from the darkest realm to the lightest. This would have been nothing but arbitrary games, but it works too well to ignore.Putting it all together and starting from the beginning, Dises is of course the time when the veils between the worlds are thinnest, especially the veils between Midgard and Hel. It is the time to honor the ancestors and appease the dead, etc. Furthermore, traditional directions to Hel in the Eddas are "to the North and down," which corroborate our correspondence to the northwest even further. With the onset of winter not only are the crops dead and gathered, but this is also the time of divination, where our connection to Hel allows us to speak to the dead.Yule comes at the darkest and coldest time of the year. Of course Ice is the overwhelming tone, but further, Niflheim is also associated with darkness and beginnings. For before there was sun or moon or earth, people or gods, there were Niflheim and Muspelheim. A cow wandered up and licked the ice, creating the first frost giant, Ymir, and continued to lick that ice to create the grandfather of Odin, Hoenir and Lodur, the first Aesir gods. It was they who eventually slew Ymir and used his body to make Midgard, the world in which we live. So Niflheim holds the potential for life within it, and is a dark, impenetrable fog preceding the sun itself. What realm better to associate with the longest night of the year?Next comes Disting, also known as the "Charming of the Plough." The dwarves, famous for both their metallurgy and for dwelling under the earth, (and hence digging skills), are the most natural association with this holiday celebrating the first breaking of the ground by metal. Disting is also associated with smithcraft, and it was the dwarves, renowned smiths, who fashioned the magical tools for all of the gods, from Thor's hammer to Frey's boat.At the spring equinox people eat eggs for strength to last the year. And of course, they are also a fertility symbol. The giants are known both for their strength and their fecundity, and furthermore, in the mythology, the next step after the ice at the beginning was the creation of the frost giant. So the progression from winter to spring is naturally a progression from Ice to Giants. Interestingly enough, the eggs were hidden in thorny places. Who is more closely associated with danger and pain than the Giants, those who stand against the gods?The central motif for Maitag is not the Maypole, as it is for the Celts, but the fairy fires. This time of celebration after the planting is the magical time when elves are afoot and can be seen on hilltops. The pranks usually associated with trick-or-treating at Halloween were actually practiced at Maitag by the Norse. Frey, the God of fertility, is also the Prince of the Elves, so it comes as no surprise that Frey's Folk set the tone for this time when life is a-quickening.Summer Solstice is not only the festival of Sunna, or an obvious association with fire, but it is also the death of Balder. His death signals the beginning of the end, since it is the first step on the road to Ragnarok. It is then when the fire giants tear out of Muspelheim to fight the gods. This is a necessary step, for it is through the fire of Muspelheim that Balder is reborn to establish the new world order. Solstice is thus both the funeral of Balder and the foreshadowing of his shamanic rebirth like the Phoenix from fire.Loaf-fest is the celebration of the marriage of Thor and Sif. It is also the time of the meetings of the tribes when the chiefs sit in council for the coming year. These activities of oaths and laws fall under the patronage of the Aesir gods and none other. While all of the holidays will have some of the Aesir present and honored, only the sacred marriage at Loaf-fest assembles them all together. This holiday celebrates the gift of social ordering which enables humans to prosper. We can compete in games rather than war on the battlefield, break bread together, and perform the other cultural rites necessary to keep society stable and continuous, (like marriage, oaths, etc.) And, perhaps the most binding of all activities, we can offer sacrifices of our first fruits of grain to the high gods.Finally we come to the harvest at Fall Equinox. At a celebration of abundance it seems most appropriate to honor and thank the Vanir, the gods of the producer function. It is now when the fertility of the earth is most apparent, and now when we make our offerings to the Vanir to ensure another good harvest in the coming year.Our correlations not only make more sense of the Wheel of the Year, but they also suggest a lay-out for our ritual site. The fire of course goes in the south. A fire could also go in the southeast for the lightelves and for doing burnt offerings. There are three wells, one each in the north, east, (well of memory), and southwest, (well of wisdom of Norns). The northwest has a shrine to the dead. The west is the harvest, a good place for food to be stored or kept for ritual use. The northeast is where the hallows could be kept, also the fire of the forge could be here. All this surrounds the center, Midgard, where Yggdrasil, the world tree, grows connecting everything into a whole.In conclusion, while this wheel is our own attempt to make sense of the Norse cycle, it has the advantages of both working with what little evidence we do have and of fitting ADF's premise that the different I-E cultures have enough in common to allow us to work together. At the least the themes of the Norse festivals correspond to the Celtic holidays, (with minor exceptions). Hopefully those specializing in other I-E cultures will also do analyses of their calendars to enable us to do further comparison and help deepen our understanding of the nature and structure of our ongoing cycles as seen through ancient eyes.
Category: 
Foto de CeisiwrSerith
Many scholars have shed much ink trying to decide what the meaning of sacrifice is. Their efforts were doomed from the start. They were trying to find the one thing that lay behind all sacrifices. There simply isn't one. Sacrifice can have different meanings in different cultures, and even more than one in the same culture. I will concentrate on sacrifice in the shared Indo-European culture.I see three meanings in Indo-European sacrifice: the shared meal, the ghosti-relationship, and the relationship with Chaos. Let's look at each of them in turn.The shared meal is the simplest and most obvious of the three. The average person, thinking of sacrifice, thinks of the great holocausts of ancient Israel, where entire animals were destroyed by fire. This kind of sacrifice does exist in Indo-European religion (the Druidic human sacrifices come to mind), but they were exceptional and I will not try to deal with them here. The usual sacrifice is quite different. Rather than destroying the entire animal, certain parts (usually inedible) are given to the gods through the fire, but the bulk of it is cooked and eaten by the human participants. The sacrifice is thus a shared meal -- the gods eat their part and we eat ours, gathered together at the same table. It is a party to which we invite the gods, a sacred barbecue. It is communion in its most literal sense.This leads us to the next meaning -- the ghosti-relationship. *ghosti- is a word in Proto-Indo-European which translates as "someone with whom one has a reciprocal obligation of hospitality." The English "guest" and "host" both come from this root. That describes the ghosti-relationship nicely. We are both guest and host to those with whom we have a ghosti-relationship; guest on one occasion, and host on another.The ghosti-relationship is found in the very nature of the universe. This is true to the extent that I have identified the organizing principle of the universe as the ghosti-principle. This is the reciprocal given that establishes and maintains everything. It is shown in the Indo-European cosmology. The Tree (the axis mundi) is fed by water from the Well. The Tree drops fruit into the Well. Back and forth they exchange their gifts, and the Cosmos is maintained thereby. (The culture that has preserved the Proto-Indo-European cosmology most clearly is the Norse one. I recommend Bauschatz or the Eddas for a description of this. I dealt with the evidence from different Indo-European cultures and the cosmology that can be derived from them in Serith (1995).)Human relationships operate in this manner as well. In Indo-European society, relationships are established and maintained through the exchange of gifts. Indeed, one of the reasons why the Germanic dragon was considered to be evil was that he hoarded his treasure rather than keeping it in circulation. Indo-Europeans do not admire a miser.And the ghosti-principle operates in the relationship between human and divine. We give gifts to the gods, and they give gifts to us. We offer a share of the sacrifice, and they grant us blessings. We are the hosts today, and they are the hosts tomorrow. Sometimes this is called a "do ut des" relationship -- "I give that you might give." It is seen as a cosmic buying off -- we pay the gods to get what we want.There is so much more to it than that, though. It is not a mere business transaction. Exchange is what Indo-European friendships are made of. By engaging in ghosti-relationships with the gods, we become their friends. And since in Indo-European society the king must give more in such a relationship than a commoner, the Great and Shining Ones grant marvelous blessings in return for our more humble gifts. "Ghostiyes to the Gods" is the most honorable title we can have. It is through sacrifice that this title is earned.The final meaning I see is the most subtle. Sacrifice is a tapping of our relationship with the Outsiders, a way of allowing their power and life to enter into our Cosmos in a controlled manner, enlivening it without destroying it. Sacrifice is controlled Chaos.But first some more cosmology is in order. I have already discussed the ghosti-relationship between the Tree and the Well. I would like to expand on that. The Waters of the Well come from the deep waters that, in Indo-European cosmology, support and surround the earth. But "there be dragons there." That is where the Outsiders dwell, beyond and beneath our Cosmos, our well-ordered world. There is Chaos, the power of entropy that would damage our order, that would destroy our Cosmos if allowed to enter in pure form.Remember the relationship between the Tree and the Well, though. The Tree is Cosmos, the Well draws up the waters of Chaos. But the Tree is fed by the waters of the Well. How can that be? How can Chaos feed Cosmos?Cosmos can grow stiff and brittle. Order can stifle. Established ways can grow old and die. There is life in the wildness that comes from the Well, and that is what the waters give the Tree -- a vivifying drink to be its sap, to keep its branches from becoming dry sticks. And in return the Tree, in true ghosti-relationship, gives its fruit to the Well.I'm afraid I have let my enthusiasm run away with me. I hope I have not left my readers behind, asking what the heck this has to do with sacrifice. Hold on for just a bit longer, and I will try to make the connection.The relationship with the Outsiders described in that between Chaos and Cosmos, between the Well and the Tree, is the one meaning of sacrifice where the actual death of the animal is relevant. Death is an instrument of Chaos: a living being goes from an ordered state of life into the decaying state of death. The system is closed, and entropy reigns. The killing is a gift to Chaos, and with the gift Chaos is brought into Cosmos to give its gift in turn. A hole is opened and Chaos flows in, the waters of the Well threaten to overwhelm Cosmos, to uproot the Tree, breaking it branches apart and scattering them. Unmediated, Chaos brings disaster, and that is just what the killing of the animal threatens to do.Why invite it in in the first place? Why risk our world? Two reasons. First, as I have explained, Cosmos needs Chaos in order to stay alive. Everything needs a little wiggle room. The only alternative is death.Second, Chaos will enter whether we want it to or not. Entropy affects us all, no matter what we do. Our only hope is to mediate Chaos in such a way that it enlivens rather than overwhelms us.Bruce Lincoln (1986) has shown that the Indo-European creation myth involves a sacrifice. Through this sacrifice order is established, and through its repetition order is maintained. When we sacrifice we are present at That Time, at the beginning of the Cosmos. In cosmological terms, we are at the point where the Well and the Tree join. Through sacrifice we find ourselves at the place where Cosmos irrupts into Cosmos. The death of the animal brings us to this point by the destruction of the order of life. Chaos comes pouring in.But the ritual of sacrifice is ordered and ordering. The sacrificial order takes Chaos and forms it into a non-destructive but still vivifying flow. In the sacrificial creation of the Cosmos, each thing is put into its proper place. Ritual order takes the formless and gives it shape. Through ritual Chaos is permitted to feed the Tree without destroying it. The answer to the question, "what is at the juncture point of the Well and the Tree?" is "the sacrificial order."This, then is the final meaning of sacrifice. Sacrifice provides a way to mediate and mitigate Chaos. It keeps Cosmos going.The sacred meal, the ghosti-relationship, the ordering of Chaos -- sacrifice puts us into proper relationship with the sacred and maintains us there.Magnificent words, and I hope they have helped to dispel some of the distaste and misunderstanding surrounding sacrifice. We are not dealing here with the mystic powers of gushing blood. We are dealing instead with a far more subtle and beautiful thing.But what does sacrifice have to do with modern times in general and ADF in particular? Are we about to start sacrificing animals?When ADF began, animal sacrifice was outlawed. There is still reason for this. We simply do not have the trained personnel; there are no victimarii. Any attempt at sacrifice is likely to end in a bloody mess. It is likely to being Chaos in in an unmediated manner, it will give the gods an unsatisfactory gift, it will give us impure food for our shared table. It will satisfy none of the reasons for sacrifice.The public relations alone would be enough reason to ban sacrifice. Jews can have their kosher butchery, Muslims can slaughter according to their rules, but the time has not yet come for society to accept our own sacred butchery. A proper sacrifice is more humane than the form of killing used in slaughterhouses. But the time is not yet here for society to realize that.That does not mean, however, that there is not place for sacrificial imagery in ADF. In the classical world, it was considered quite acceptable to replace an animal with bread if it was impossible to sacrifice an animal. In Zoroastrianism and Hinduism, concerns over non-violence led to sacrifice being replaced with bread and balls of rice, respectively. There is sufficient precedent, then, for us to replace animal sacrifice with the a grain sacrifice while still following the ancient ways.In the traditional ADF ritual, the sacrifice was replaced with praise offerings. The food from the animal was replaced with the Waters of Life. These can be retained while still following the old form and drawing from it some of the old meanings. But one way is manifestly missing. The ADF format does not allow for the mediation of Chaos. The Waters irrupt into the world, but we have not formed a channel for them. They come in, but they are not fully mediated. Chaos enters, but order is not imposed on it. Instead, the Waters are consumed without being ordered.This problem can be solved without doing violence to the ADF ritual format, and without offending modern sensibilities. The ancient practice of ritual substitution shows us how. For the animal we can substitute bread. By the principal of ritual reality, that which is seen as symbolic from the outside of the ritual is, within the ritual context, seen as actual. A piece of bread named and treated as an animal sacrifice is, for the purposes of the ritual, the animal itself, and the sacrifice of it is ritually as effective as that of the animal would be.I have myself participated in this sort of sacrifice. In one case, an animal cut from flat bread was used, and in another pita bread. (I recommend pita bread; it is more practical and no less symbolic.) The bread was treated as an animal. A prayer was said over it, identifying it with the appropriate animal. For instance, "We offer this ox, as we have named it to be, to Aryamen." The "animal" was sprinkled with water and with grain, and then "killed" by being touched with an axe. A slice was cut from its left side. This slice was cut in two, and the top portion placed in the fire as the god's portion. The bottom half was reserved. After the praise offerings the omen was taken. When a good omen had been received, the main portion of the bread was shared among the participants along with the Waters. Half of the reserved portion was eaten by the main celebrants, and the other half was offered to the Outsiders. In this way, a bit of the Outsiders was allowed to enter our Cosmos.The Waters themselves were identified with the sacrifice. This was done by pouring them into a bowl as the "animal" was sacrificed. In this way, the Waters were shown to be the sacrifice as much as the bread was.The addition of this form of sacrifice to ADF ritual allows all three meanings into the ritual. The strength and depth of the ritual are greatly increased thereby. And best of all, it puts us firmly in the ancient tradition. It allows us more closely to stand in the place of the ancestors, and approach the gods in the way they are used to being treated.Sources:Bauschatz, Paul C. Urth's Well. Journal of Indo-European Studies 3:1 (Spring, 1975), pp. 53 - 86.Burkert, Walter. Homo Necans: The Anthropology of Ancient Greek Sacrificial Ritual and Myth. tr. Peter Bing. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1983.Boyce, Mary. Mihragan Among the Irani Zoroastrians. Mithraic Studies: Proceedings of the First International Congress of Mithraic Studies. ed. John R. Hinnells. Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press, 1975.Eliade, Mircea. The Sacred and the Profane: The Nature of Religion. tr. Willard R. Trask. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1959.Gamkrelidze, Thomas V., and Ivanov, Vjacelslav V. Indo-European and the Indo-Europeans. tr. Johanna Nichols. New York: Mouton de Gruyter, 1995.Homer. Homeric Hymns. Hesiod, Homeric Hymns, Epic Cycle, Homerica. tr. Hugh G. Evelyn White. Cambridge, MA: Loeb Classical Library, 1914.Jamasp-asa, Kakhusroo M. On the Dron in Zoroastrianism. Acta Iranica 24 (Papers in Honour of Professor Mary Boyce), (1965), pp. 335 - 356.Lincoln, Bruce. Myth, Cosmos, and Society: Indo-European Themes of Creation and Destruction. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1986.The Poetic Edda. tr. Lee M. Hollander. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press, 1962.Serith, Ceisiwr. Proto-Indo-European Cosmology. The Druid's Progress 15 (1995), pp. 19-24.Sturluson, Snorri. Edda. tr. Anthony Faulkes. Rutland, VT: Charles E. Tuttle, 1987.Watkins, Calvert. How to Kill a Dragon: Aspects of Indo-European Poetics. New York: Oxford University Press, 1995.
Category: 
Foto de KirkThomas
When modern people use the word 'sacrifice' today, they usually mean something negative and uncomfortable, such as when we refer to the 'ultimate sacrifice' when speaking about the deaths of our soldiers in war. But the word had a quite different meaning in the religious lives of the ancients. The word 'sacrifice' comes from two Latin roots, sacer, meaning 'sacred', and facere, meaning 'to make' or 'to do'. So sacrifice would mean, 'to make sacred' in this context. The word 'sacred' probably comes from the Proto-Indo-European (PIE) word *sacros, which means 'holy' (the * means that the word is a recreated one). Cognates for this PIE word also include the Latin sacerdos 'priest' and the Tocharian B word sakre- 'happy'. There may also be a distant connection with the Hittite word saklai- 'rite, custom', which is intriguing if you consider that some think 'sacred' might also come from the PIE word *sek- 'cut', which, in a ritual sense, could mean to 'cut off from the world'. So a rite in which something was made sacred could be one where something was set apart from mundane reality. Another interesting word related to the sacred, 'consecrate', means to 'declare or set apart as sacred', according to the American Heritage College Dictionary. The PIE root for consecrate would have been *weik-, and this has some interesting cognates as well, such as the Latin victima 'sacrificial victim' and even the modern word 'witch'. The Sanskrit cognate, vinákti, means to 'select out' (Mallory, 412). All this suggests that a good definition for the word 'sacrifice' might be 'to make something set apart from ordinary reality.' So why did the word sacrifice come to have such a negative meaning? The answer may be in the Christian re-making of the word based on the crucifixion of Christ. This sacrifice on the cross summed up all the sacrifices of the Old Testament, and was seen as the last sacrifice ever needed, as it created a new relationship between man and the angry, wrathful God of Judaism (Rogerson, 50; Sykes, 62, 73-77). So sacrifice came to mean giving up one's life, or, at least, 'giving until it hurts'. The concept of 'giving up' here rather than the ancient religious concept of 'giving to' is important and will be covered later in this essay. Sacrifice as a religious act in Pagan thought appears to have taken place in four ancient contexts as well as in one modern one. They are: Maintaining the Cosmic Order Delivering Services Through Gifts Providing Protection Commensality (Community) Mitigating Order with Chaos (the modern idea) 1. MAINTAINING THE COSMIC ORDER There are many myths concerning the creation of the cosmos in the ancient Indo-European (IE) world, but some of them share remarkable similarities. In general, a primordial being is killed or dismembered and from the pieces of his body the universe is made (Lincoln 1986, 2). Sometimes, though not always, the central characters are 'Man' (*Manu) and 'Twin' (*Yemo), who is often referred to as a king, and they are sometimes accompanied by an ox. Together they decide to create the universe. The 'Man' would be a priest, and he makes a sacrifice of the other two in order to accomplish their goal. This may be the original PIE creation myth (Lincoln 1991, 7). In the Rig Veda, the book of hymns from Vedic India, there is a creation myth where Purusha (meaning "Person" according to Mahony, 112) is sacrificed and dismembered by the Gods. It can be found in Book 10, Hymn 90, verses 11-14 (Griffith, 603): When they divided Purusha how many portions    did they make? What do they call his mouth, his arms?    What do they call his thighs and feet?   The Brahman (Priest) was in his mouth,    of both his arms was the Rajanya (Warrior) made. His thighs became the Vaisya (Commoners),    from his feet the Sudra (Servant) was produced.*   The Moon was gendered from his mind,    and from his eye the Sun had birth; Indra and Agni (Fire) from his mouth were    Born, and Vayu (Wind) from his breath.   Forth from his navel came mid-air; the    sky was fashioned from his head; Earth from his feet, and from his ear the regions (directions?).    Thus they formed the worlds.   * This is the only hymn in the Rig Veda that mentions the four castes of Vedic society (Griffith, 603, n.12). In the Poetic Edda, a repository of Norse lore written in Iceland during the 12th or 13th centuries, a similar idea exists. The Lay of Grímnir (Grímnismál) has the following stanzas (Hollander, 61): Of Ymir's flesh       the earth was shaped,        of his blood, the briny sea, of his hair, the trees,       the hills of his bones,        out of his skull the sky.   But of his lashes       the loving gods made        Mithgarth for the sons of men; from his brow they made       the menacing clouds        which in the heavens hover.   The Romans also had some similar themes in their own lore. It must be remembered that IE mythology in Rome was remembered along civic, rather than religious, lines, where the mythic themes would play out in the 'histories' of the founding of Rome, the monarchical era and even the early Republic (Puhvel, 146-7). Two myths concerning the founding of the city (the 'cosmos' of Rome) reflect these themes – one of the killing of Twin and the other of dismemberment. In one tale, the twins Romulus and Remus were laying out the walls of the city. Romulus was plowing a furrow to mark the walls while Remus, who had just lost the right to name the new city after himself, taunted his brother by jumping over the furrowed 'wall'. In anger, Romulus killed his brother (Morford, 653-5). The sacred name of Romulus, Quirinus, (*Co-vir-inos) comes from the word for 'Man', and the name 'Remus' is cognate (with initial consonantal deformation) to the word *yem- or 'Twin' (Lincoln, 1984, 174n.3). Plutarch mentions a story in wide circulation about Romulus in his Life of Romulus, chapter 27: But others conjecture that the senators rose up against him and dismembered him in the temple of Hephaistos, distributing his body (among themselves), and each one putting a piece in the folds of his robes in order the carry them away. Dionysius of Halicarnassus mentions later that the pieces of his body were buried by the Senators, and Walter Burkert has argued that by being placed in the earth, Romulus became the earth, a form of cosmological creation (Lincoln, 1984, 42). These transformations from the microcosm (Twin) to the macrocosm (creation of cosmos) also occur during sacrifice. IE priests claimed to be doing the same thing, though perhaps on a smaller scale, where each sacrifice would be distributed to the cosmos. Without the matter derived from these offerings, the cosmos and the material world would become exhausted and depleted (Lincoln 1991, 12). Herodotus, in his History (1.131) mentions the practices of the Persian priests where sacrifice is given to the cosmos (Rawlingson, 1.131): Their wont, however, is to ascend the summits of the loftiest mountains, and there to offer sacrifice to Jupiter, which is the name they give to the whole circuit of the firmament. They likewise offer to the sun and moon, to the earth, to fire, to water, and to the winds. These are the only gods whose worship has come down to them from ancient times. An Indic text, the Aitareya Brahmana 2.6, gives instructions as to the handling of the body parts of an animal victim in sacrifice (Lincoln 1991, 13): Lay his feet down to the north. Cause his eye to go to the sun. Send forth his breath to the wind; his life-force to the atmosphere, his ears to the cardinal points, his flesh to the earth. Thus the Priest places the victim in these worlds. But sacrifice is a two-way street. Not only do we offer to sustain the cosmos, but we can also use sacrifice to transfer the power of the universe into our own bodies. Food (through the 'shared meal' taken after sacrifice) and healing are the two prime examples of this. Healing shows up in the story of the healer Dian Cecht and his son, Miach, found in the Cath Maige Turedh, (The Second Battle of Moytura) 33-35. The King, Nuadu, cannot rule because he has lost his hand in battle. Dian Cecht makes him a new one of silver, but Miach goes and re-grows the hand on the King's arm, thus infuriating his father. Dian Cecht strikes his son three times, but Miach repairs the damage each time. Finally, the father cuts out his son's brain, and Miach dies. The story continues (Blamires, 115): After that, Miach was buried by Dian Cecht, and three hundred and sixty-five herbs grew through the grave, corresponding to the number of his joints and sinews. Then Airmed spread her cloak and uprooted those herbs according to their properties. Dian Cecht came to her and mixed the herbs, so that no one knows their proper healing qualities..... There is a Middle Persian text written after Zarathustra's reforms which tells of the evil spirit Ahriman and his first assault on the 'good creation' in the Zad Spram 3.42-51 (Lincoln 1991, 170): Ahriman came to the cattle. He struggled against the cattle. As the first ox died, because it possessed the nature and form of plants, fifty-seven species of grain and twelve species of healing plants came into being. Sacrifice is performed to feed the cosmos, as well as the reverse, to regenerate life. The sacrificed animal gives food to the family, promoting life in another form. And as the pruned vines give new and stronger growth so does harvested grain, buried in the ground as seeds, give new grain. It's all a continuing cycle (or circle, if you will) of life and death. 2. DELIVERING SERVICES THROUGH GIFTS As mentioned earlier, sacrifice is about 'giving to' not 'giving up'. And a good motivation for giving could be the formation of relationships where gifts can be received in return. This idea is well summed up in the Latin phrase, do ut des, 'I give so that you may give'. *ghosti- The term, *ghosti-, is a recreated Proto-Indo-European root which means, 'Someone with whom one has reciprocal duties of hospitality'. Cognates include the English words 'guest' and 'host' as well as the Latin word hostis 'enemy', which just shows that strangers could potentially become either friends or enemies (Watkins, 31). Hospitality, and the obligations pertaining to it (on both sides) were extremely important. In the tale of the Trojan War, Zeus resolves to destroy the city because Paris violated the laws of hospitality when he stole Helen away from Sparta while staying as a guest under the hospitality of her husband, Menelaus (Burkert, 130). Relationships based on mutual exchange were similar to 'kin' relationships but crossed the boundaries between families and were usually accompanied by ritual gift giving. This would create an obligation of mutual hospitality and friendship that could continue in perpetuity. One famous example of this type of relationship continuing on through generations is that of Glaucus and Diomedes in the Trojan War. Though on opposite sides of the battle, they discovered that Glaucus' grandfather, Bellerophon, had been a guest of Diomedes' grandfather, Oeneus, years before (Butler, Book VI): "...we two, then, will exchange armour, that all present may know of the old ties that subsist between us."   With these words they sprang from their chariots, grasped one another's hands, and plighted friendship. Since the time of Hesiod (c. 700 BCE) it was said that the absolute value of a gift to the Gods was not what mattered, but rather that each man should make sacrifice according to his means (Burkert, 274). In other words, those who have more shall give more. The Greeks carried this to an extreme in their rite called a hecatomb. This rite was a magical act of multiplication. The Greeks would offer one ox in the expectation of receiving 100 oxen from the Gods in return (Burkert, 18)! But the idea of 'he who has more shall give more' plays out well in the Patron-Client relationship that appeared in many parts of the Indo-European sphere. Patron – Client In this form of reciprocity, called clientship, the patron and client have mutual responsibilities towards each other that form the basis of the relationship. The patron, the richer and more powerful of the two, provides supplies, money or other needs and the client, in return, performs tasks or provides political support. In Rome, the patron might supply a steady income and in return, the client would run errands or vote as he is told. In ancient Celtic society, clientship was fundamental and a patron's status would depend on the number of clients he had. Since this relationship embraced social, military, political and economic obligations, it was in large part the basis of the power of the nobility. The patron would supply his clients with legal support, political protection, the possibility of sharing in the spoils of war, and even a place filled with the needed tools of farming. In return, the client would pay an annual food rent, supply manual labor, give political support and fight in the patron's army or at least under his command (Green 1995, 92). A patron who was stingy in fulfilling his side of the bargain might not last too long. In the Irish tale Cath Maige Turedh (The Second Battle off Moytura) the Tuatha de Danaan have elevated the half-Formor Bres to the Kingship. However (Blamires, 123), At that time, Bres held the sovereignty as it had been granted to him. There was great murmuring against him among his maternal kinsmen the Tuatha De, for their knives were not greased by him. However frequently they might come, their breaths did not smell of ale; and they did not see their poets nor their bards nor their satirists nor their harpers nor their pipers nor their horn-blowers nor their jugglers nor their fools entertaining them in the household. Finally Coirpre son of Etain, the poet of the Tuatha De, pronounces a satire on Bres concerning his stinginess and "there was a blight on him from that hour" (Blamires, 124 & 133). With this blemish Bres could no longer be King. Another example, this one from Rome, shows clearly the importance of maintaining the reciprocal relationship. There was an ancient, public ritual called the Evocatio (evocation) that involved luring the Gods of an enemy city being besieged by the Romans into deserting that city and joining the Roman camp. The Romans would vow to set up a residence and cult for the enemies' Gods among the Romans (Sheid, 104). But part of the ritual involved calling on the Gods to instill fear, terror and forgetfulness (italics mine) in the enemy people. Should the enemy forget to make their sacrifices to their Gods, the bonds of reciprocity would be broken. So the Gods, driven forth from the city, would still retain their honor because of the forgetfulness of the people (Lincoln 1991, 232). The Expectation of Heaven Heaven in Vedic India was the reward of those who did rigorous penance, or heroes who risk their lives in battle (which resonates with the Norse ideas of Valhalla), but most of all to those who give liberal sacrificial gifts (Macdonell, 167). In the Rig Veda, Book 1, Hymn 125, verses 1 and 5 (Griffith, 86-87) we see: Coming at early morn he gives his treasure ; the prudent one receives    and entertains him. Thereby increasing still his life and offspring, he comes with brave sons to    abundant riches. And On the high ridge of heaven he stands exalted, yea, to the Gods he goes,    the liberal giver. The streams, the waters flow for him with fatness : to him this guerdon     (reward) ever yields abundance. A Gift Is Part of Oneself The sacrificer is the person who actually performs the sacrifice, while the sacrifiant is the person who will be receiving the benefit of the sacrifice (Bourdillion, 11). In Vedic culture a householder and his wife would pay the priests to perform a sacrifice, with the intention that the blessings would come to the household. Similarly, in the cities of the Mediterranean, the sacrificers would be professional priests, and the sacrifiants would be the people (or the State). In cases where a person would be performing their own sacrifice, they would be both sacrificer and sacrifiant. Sacrificers can be priests, sacrificing on behalf of clients or the people, senior members of the family (such as the Roman Paterfamilias) sacrificing for the family, or indeed the supplicant herself. People usually make sacrifices at times of personal or group crisis, or periodically, at special seasonal times, or at the advice of seers or diviners. And what folks usually are doing in sacrifice is performing an act of propitiation, which is done to cause the deities to be favorably inclined, to induce or regain their good will, or to appease or conciliate them (Beattie, 31-32). In giving, a person gives a part of himself. The best gift a person might give to the Gods would actually be his own life, but a sacrificial offering of oneself is rare. One example might be Decius Mus as recorded by Livy in his History of Rome, 10:28. In battle against the Gauls, Decius put on ritual garb and went to the priests (Roberts): After the usual prayers had been recited he uttered the following awful curse: "I carry before me terror and rout and carnage and blood and the wrath of all the gods, those above and those below. I will infect the standards, the armour, the weapons of the enemy with dire and manifold death, the place of my destruction shall also witness that of the Gauls and Samnites." After uttering this imprecation on himself and on the enemy he spurred his horse against that part of the Gaulish line where they were most densely massed and leaping into it was slain by their missiles. And thus the battle was won. The problem with sacrifice of the self is that once you're dead, you can't personally receive any of the benefits of the sacrifice. Substitution The ancients came up with a handy solution to this problem through the concept of substitution. In the ancient world, the usual and most ideal substitute for the sacrifiant would be a domestic animal, such as an ox, goat, sheep, etc., to be killed in his stead. Others items were also acceptable, such as precious objects, the first fruits of harvest, etc., but animals were preferred. The reason for the use of domestic animals was that they were identified with the home, the people who lived there and therefore with man himself, as opposed to nature or the wild (Beattie, 30-31). The closest substitutes for the sacrifiant would be another person, a domestic animal, cultivated plants or their products (like wine) and precious objects. Human Sacrifice This brings up the question of human sacrifice. The closest substitute for a human being would be another human being. And the choice of the victim would be important. It would need to be someone separate from the community (criminals, strangers, foreigners, slaves) but not too separate, or the substitution might not be of enough equality (Green 2001, 30) to act as a stand-in for the sacrifiants. Often these sacrifices would be for the purpose of averting evil, such as in the Roman 'extraordinary' (Plutarch's word) sacrifice of a pair of Greeks and a pair of Gauls (one male and one female in each couple) in 228 BCE to avert the threat of a Gaulish invasion (Green 2001, 32). In Acy-Romance in the Ardennes of France, a bizarre burial was found. Over the course of about a century in the 2nd century BCE young men were killed, their bodies placed in a seated position and then desiccated. After drying out, the bodies were buried under the terrace of a temple, accompanied by great feasting on cattle and horses. Each event saw the reburial of a young man in a seated position, either guarding the temple or as a symbol of burial alive. As most other graves were accompanied by cremation and grave goods, this is seen to be a human sacrifice rite, possibly for fertility purposes or as a gift to chthonic gods (Green 2001, 129-130). As Caesar remarks in his De Bello Gallico, 6.16 (Koch, 22): All the people of Gaul are completely devoted to religion, and for this reason those who are greatly affected by diseases and in the dangers of battle either sacrifice human victims or vow to do so using the Druids as administrators to these sacrifices, since it is judged that unless for a man's life a man's life is given back, the will of the immortal gods cannot be placated. But human sacrifice was rare in the general course of things, and usually seen as an offering for protection in a time of threat or for the purposes of judicial execution, where a criminal would be "cut off" from society. Indeed, it can be difficult to determine whether the burials found by archeologists are sacrifices or executions or both. Sacrifice Without Killing As stated earlier, the killing of animals was a preferred form of sacrifice. Besides the fact that domestic animals made good stand-ins for the sacrifiant, they were also a good form of animal protein for ancient peoples. In fact, in Greece, the only meat that was eaten was sacrificial meat (Green 2001, 42). After all, death is necessary for a carnivorous meal. But since death is something that is final and irrevocable, it also implies a change of status. A death causes something to no longer be of human use. Once it's gone, it's gone. So weapons could be 'killed' and offered, and precious objects could be buried or thrown into bodies of water, and therefore go out of human use. The force needed to snap or bend a bronze object would imply violence of a kind, similar to the killing of animals. Weapons, chariot fittings, precious objects and even slave chains have been found in lakes and rivers all over Europe, such as at La Tène in Switzerland, Hayling Island, Hampshire, UK (Green 1995, 470-471) and especially Llyn Cerreg Bach, a lake on Anglessy in Wales, where they even found a trumpet (Green 2001, 183). Julius Caesar, in De Bello Gallico 6.17 (Koch, 22) says of the Gauls and their worship of the God Mars: To him, when they have decided to fight a battle, they consecrate a large part of the plunder; Perhaps this is an indication of a warrior cult? In any case, large deposits were made in temples and lakes in the Celtic world. Diodorus Siculus (who wrote between 60-30 BCE) in V.27 states (Koch, 12): The Celts of the interior also have a peculiar custom concerning the sacred places of their gods. In temples and sanctuaries throughout the country, large amounts of gold are openly displayed as dedications to the gods. No one dares to touch these sacred depositions, even though the Celts are an especially covetous people. And Strabo (who wrote between 64/63 BCE – CE 21 at least), in his Geography 4.1.13 said (Koch, 15): But as that one [Posidonius] and others have reported, the land, being full of gold and belonging to men who were pious and not extravagant in their living, contained treasures in many places in Celtica. What provided safety more than anything, however, was the lakes into which they had thrown heavy weights of silver and gold. Further north in Sweden at the time of the Romans, on Öland and Gotland, deposits of gold rings and various ornaments were found. H.R. Ellis Davidson speculates (131) that these could have been sacrifices to Gods connected to rings, such as Thor, Freyr and Ull, since rings were used in oaths, but that there could have been a fertility connection since the Vanir dispensed wealth and were linked to gold in early skaldic poetry. Women many have been involved in these sacrifices as well. Danish bog finds at Thorsbjerg included gold rings, personal possessions, pottery and wooden objects and even textiles. Women have a great stake in fertility (Davidson, 132). First Fruits, Libations and Votive Offerings Gregory of Tours in the 6th century CE referred to a lake of the Gabalitani tribe, and stated that in the recent past (Davidson, 132): Into this lake the country people were used to throw, at an appointed time, linen cloths and pieces of material used in male attire, as a firstling sacrifice to this lake. Some threw in woolen fleeces and many also pieces of cheese, wax and thread and various spices, which would take too long to enumerate, each according to his ability. They also used to come with carts, brought with them food and drink, slaughtered animals for the sacrifice and feasted for three days. A firstling (or first fruits) sacrifice refers to the idea that the first part of any harvest should be reserved for the Gods. In ancient Greece, whenever a wine jar was opened for drinking, the first cup of wine would be poured on the ground as a libation, again a type of first fruits sacrifice. Libations were once the most common of sacred acts performed in the ancient world, particularly in the Bronze Age (Burkert, 70). In Greek thought, it stood in opposition to the killing of the animal sacrifice. While the sacrifice burned on the altar, the libation would be poured around it, a sort of ending of hostilities, as it were. Libations poured on the ground were usually intended for the dead or Chthonic Gods under the earth and libations would be made into shafts built into tombs for the dead (for the dead were always thirsty). And it is not only the dead that drink, but the earth as well. Libations were also poured on stones to mark significant spatial orientations, such as at a crossroads (Burkert, 71-73). A votive offering is an offering made in consequence to a vow. It is usually set up as an 'if – then' formula, such as, "If, mighty Gods, my fields produce more grain than last year, then I will sacrifice an extra bushel to You!" The vow comes first, and if the desired outcome occurs, then the sacrifice is made. Often, the vows would be to increase first fruit offerings, linking them to the votive offering in a continuing chain of sacrifice. The types of offerings usually promised in ancient Greece would be simple sacrifices, costly robes or other items, a gift of a slave to a sanctuary, a vow of service to a sanctuary, and even the building of new sanctuaries or shrines, though usually a divine sign would be needed for this (Burkert, 68-70). 3. APOTROPAIC OFFERINGS FOR PROTECTION An apotropaic offering is one having the power to avert an evil influence or bad luck and is a safeguarding against evil. This could be a "Take this sacrifice and go, please!" type offering. Executions could be considered apotropaic, as they are about removing the criminal from society, to safeguard it from more evil. Even today they take place surrounded by a ritual that prescribes what takes place before the event, the place of witnesses, the manner of killing, etc. (Bourdillon, 13). Offerings to deities to prevent death and war, or disease, or any other ill would be considered an apotropaic sacrifice. In Greece and Rome, offerings to the dead could be considered apotropaic as well. Pollution The removal of dangerous power could only be performed through expiation, which is the act of making amends or reparation for wrong-doing or guilt. In Rome and Greece, this could be done in a variety of ways, including through sacrifice. A piacular sacrifice (from the Latin piaculum) would be any sacrifice offered in expiation for any wrong doing (Scheid, 98), from more minor crimes such as performing a ritual incorrectly all the way up to sacrilege. In Greece, purification was a social process. To belong to the group led to purity, while to be a reprobate, a rebel or an outsider was to be unclean. So rites of purification were involved with acts of cleaning and in celebrating the removal of filth (physical and spiritual), and the rites elevated people into a higher state, out of a place of genuine discomfort to one of purity (Burkert, 76). In Rome, purity was connected to piety. Purity was a bodily state not directly related to intentions or morality. Associations with mourning, the dead or dying could lead to an impure state which would require rites of purification ranging from simple ablutions (washing) to periods of waiting. In like manner, washing of hands before a rite would be obligatory. But impiety could encompass more than just purity. The crime of offending a deity could be expiated if the offence were unintentional, but an intentional offence could not be cleansed (Scheid, 26-27). Purification through water was the chief method in the Greco-Roman world, as it cleaned by removing dirt, but fumigation through censing was also used, as it could remove foul smells and was a primitive form of disinfecting. In Greece anything that set everyday life out of kilter required purification. This included sexual activity, but other events were far more serious. Contact with death would require extravagant signs of mourning, such as the tearing of hair and clothes, for a certain amount of time, ending with the family purifying themselves by pouring water over their heads, cleaning the house and making a special sacrifice on the hearth. Diseases, especially caused by plagues, were occasions for sacrifice and purification rites, and the purification of a murderer required purification with blood (Burkert, 78-81). Scapegoat The word 'scapegoat' actually comes from the Abrahamic Old Testament referring to an actual goat that was used to cleanse the people of sin (Green 2001, 48). But a similar concept existed in the Indo-European world as well. In Greece, the pharmakos is a man chosen on account of his ugliness and is feasted on figs, barley broth and cheese, and then he is whipped out with fig branches and sea onions, and very importantly, he is struck seven times on his penis (Burkert, 82). The idea is that an animal or person is used to carry the pollution of the city or group away, which purifies everyone else. One thing that appears necessary is for the scapegoat to be first brought into intimate contact with the community or city, so that he can absorb, as it were, the pollution there. After he is driven out, only purity remains (Burkert, 83). Oxen and beautiful maidens could also be scapegoats (Burkert, 84) though men were more likely. And in Greece, the scapegoat might not be killed necessarily (Green 2001, 145), and adolescents chosen for this role might even have gone through rites to reincorporate them back into the community. One famous example of the death of the scapegoat is from the Greek city of Massilia in southern Gaul. There, a poor citizen volunteered himself on behalf of the town. For a year the people of Massalia feted and cosseted him, and then at the end of the year they dressed him up in a sacred robe and leaf crown, led him through the city with the people cursing him all the way, and then murdered him (Green 2001, 145). Hellenic Oath Sacrifice The Hellenic oath sacrifice could be seen as the reverse of an apotropaic rite, in that terror and destruction are used to bind an oath, giving it the greatest importance. Here, after sacrifice, the oath-maker plunges his hands into a bucket of the animal's blood and then treads on the severed genitals of the animal, compounding bloodshed with castration. And acts of self-cursing follow to really bind the act, asking utter destruction to fall upon the oath-breaker and his line – with killing off the family corresponding to castration (Burkert, 251). 4. COMMENSALITY – THE SHARED MEAL A common part of the sacrificial process in the ancient world was the cooking and eating of the flesh of the sacrificial animal. In Greece, only meat obtained through sacrifice could be eaten (Green 2001, 42) – they didn't have butchers on the street corners. These sacrificial rites were the occasion of great feasting and joy. The sharing of food symbolized and enhanced the unity of the people in celebration. It also allowed for communion with the Gods invoked (Bourdillion, 20). Generally, in Greece, only the skin, bones and fat were given to the Gods while the rest was reserved for the people. Feasting was extremely important at any festival, and continues to be so today. And in the patron-client relationship, the client provides food rent to the Patron in return for protection, a share in the spoils, etc. The sharing of food with the Gods in the shared meal also reflects this human bargain, giving man the right to make demands upon the Gods. 5. CHAOS MITIGATES COSMOS (Modern) Finally, we come to the modern form of sacrifice that appears in current practice. If cosmos equals order, and chaos equals lack of order, then there is an area in between the two, a sort of liminal place where order and chaos are in balance. While too much chaos causes everything to fall apart, too much order can cause brittleness. Ceisiwr Serith introduced the idea that chaos can feed cosmos in 2000 (Serith). Imagine a pine tree in a hurricane. The tree's lack of flexibility will cause the tree to snap in the storm. But a supple palm tree will bend with the wind, its leaves folding back to protect the heart from the wind, and after the storm has passed, the palm tree will usually spring back as if nothing had happened. In parts of the ancient world, rituals had to be performed absolutely correctly or the Gods would be offended. In Rome, if there were some error or omission committed in a rite, the pontiffs would first have to perform a rite of expiation (piaculum) to conciliate the offended God, and then repeat the badly performed rite all over again (Scheid, 117). Spontaneity was frowned upon. In modern times, however, some spontaneity is valued because too much predictability and order can be seen as boring. Spontaneous prayers and offerings of praise can be seen as positive additions to any rite. Here, the mitigation of cosmos (order) with a bit of chaos (disorder) can be a good thing. No matter how carefully organized a Praise Offering section of a modern rite may be, there is always the element of uncertainty involved when the people have their chance to praise, sing, dance or do whatever it is that they have elected to do as a sacrifice for the Gods. This bit of chaos mitigates the normal order of any rite, giving it life. SACRIFICE FOR MODERN PAGANS Let's face it, the killing of animals just isn't acceptable for most people in public ritual, and the killing of people is guaranteed to get one into a great deal of trouble. But we need to have something to give to the Kindreds so that they might give back to us in return, and here substitution comes to the rescue. Items made by the sacrifiants or valuables owned by them make wonderful sacrifices, to be thrown in the Well (for later disposal) or hung on the Tree. Food and drink was often given to the Powers in the ancient world, and we can do the same today. Items the ancients used include oil and butter (or ghee) offered to the Fire, wine to the fire altar (but remember that wine and beer don't burn and will put your fire out if poured directly on the flames), and other foodstuffs can be offered to the Fire, etc., as well. Remember that non-flammable libations are best when poured directly on the ground. Weapons like swords can be 'killed' by breaking or bending them, or they can just be offered whole to the Well or a shaft or buried in the ground. Likewise hand-made items can be broken or buried or otherwise given to the Kindreds. Apotropaic offerings are already being performed in ADF in the form of the Outdwellers offering that many of us do. This bribe would be a propitiatory offering. We also perform purifications through the use of water and incense or sage (Water and Fire). Rites and sacrifices of expiation can also be performed for failed oaths and for squabbles among the People. Anytime we fail to live up to our promises, it may be best to get right with the Gods. Another idea would be to make a doll and give it a place of honor in your rites. At the end of a specified time (a month or a year, say), it can be reviled and burned in the fire as a scapegoat, carrying with it any discord or disharmony in the Grove and the lives of the People. Even a Wicker Man could be used for this purpose, to 'burn away' any impurity felt by the Grove or solitary, or to carry hand-written 'messages' from the People to the Gods. We already perform Praise Offerings in many Groves, and any poems, songs, chants or dances created by a sacrifiant would be an excellent sacrifice to the Kindreds, mitigating cosmos with a bit of chaos. And finally, the Shared Meal is a wonderful way of joining with each other and the Kindreds in an act of unity. Part of a loaf of bread or other food could be offered to the Spirits, and the rest eaten by the People. And in Groves that have pot-lucks, a portion of each dish could be given to the Kindreds through the Fire or to the Land before the People eat. CONCLUSION Sacrifice was an integral part of religion, worship and spirituality in the ancient world, without which there would have been no public religion. The concept of reciprocity enables us to give and to receive the blessings we require for our hearts and spirits, giving us a roadmap for our physical as well as our spiritual lives. And even though we aren't those ancient peoples, these simple ideas can work for us today, bringing us closer to the Gods and other Spirits, that we might know Them, and They, us. WORKS CITED Beattie, J.H.M. �On Understanding Sacrifice' in Bourdillon, M.F.C. and Meyer Fortes, Editors 1980. Sacrifice. New York: Academic Press, Inc., pp. 29-44. Blamires, Steve 1995. The Irish Celtic Magical Tradition: Ancient Wisdom of the Battle of Moytura. London, San Francisco: Thorsons (HarperCollins). Bourdillon, M.F.C. and Meyer Fortes, Editors 1980. Sacrifice. New York: Academic Press, Inc. Burkert, Walter. John Raffin, Translator 1985. Greek Religion. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Butler, Samuel, translator. Homer, "The Illiad". (March 20, 2008). http://classics.mit.edu//Homer/iliad.html Davidson, H.R. Ellis 1988. Myths and Symbols in Pagan Europe: Early Scandinavian and Celtic Religions. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press. Green, Miranda, Editor 1995. The Celtic World. London and New York: Routledge. Green, Miranda Aldhouse 2001, Dying for the Gods. Charleston, SC: Tempus Publishing Inc. Griffith, Ralph T.H., Translator 1992. Sacred Writings: Hinduism – The Rig Veda. New York: Book-Of-The-Month-Club (Motilal Banarsidass Publishers) Hollander, Lee M., Translator, 1962. The Poetic Edda. Austin, Texas: University of Texas Press. Koch, John T. and John Carey, Editors 2000. The Celtic Heroic Age: Literary Sources for Ancient Celtic Europe & Early Ireland & Wales. Oakville and Aberystwyth: Celtic Studies Publications. Lincoln, Bruce 1986. Myth, Cosmos, and Society: Indo-European Themes of Creation and Destruction. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. Lincoln, Bruce 1991. Death, War, and Sacrifice: Studies in Ideology and Practice. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Macdonell, A.A. 2002. Vedic Mythology. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass Publishers Private Ltd. Mahony, William K. 1998. The Artful Universe: An Introduction to the Vedic Religious Imagination. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press. Mallory, J.P. and D.Q. Adams 2006. The Oxford Introduction to Proto-Indo-European and the Proto-Indo-European World. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Morford, Mark P.O. and Robert J. Lenardon, 2003. Classical Mythology, Seventh Edition. New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press. Puhvel, Jaan, 1987. Comparative Mythology. Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press. Rogerson, J.W. �Sacrifice in the Old Testament' in Bourdillon, M.F.C. and Meyer Fortes, Editors 1980. Sacrifice. New York: Academic Press, Inc., pp. 45-59. Rawlingson, George, translator. Herodotus, "The History of Herodotus" (March 20, 2008), http://classics.mit.edu/Herodotus/history.1.i.html Roberts, Rev. Canon, translator. Titus Livius, �The History of Rome, Vol. II' (March 20, 2008), https://etext.lib.virginia.edu/toc/modeng/public/Liv2His.html Serith, Ceisiwr, 2000. �Sacrifice, The Indo-Europeans, and ADF' (March 28, 2008), http://www.adf.org/articles/cosmology/sacrifice-ie-adf.html Sheid, John 2003. An Introduction to Roman Religion. Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press. Sykes, S.W. �New Testament and Christian Theology' in Bourdillon, M.F.C. and Meyer Fortes, Editors 1980. Sacrifice. New York: Academic Press, Inc., pp. 61-83. Watkins, Calvert, Editor 2000. The American Heritage Dictionary of Indo-European Roots. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co.
Category: 
Foto de JohnAdelmann
First Appeared in Ripples, The Quarterly Journal of Shining Lakes Grove, Yule, 1995.Few areas of Celtic lore are more confused by the ravages of time and cultural intrusion than the phenomena of death and the afterlife. The coming of the new Christian faith to Northern Europe signaled a radical change in our traditional understanding of death and rebirth as new characters and biblical theology were superimposed on aboriginal mythology. This hybridization of belief systems created a uniquely Celtic Christianity that, while greatly enhanced by popular folk belief, was in many ways very different from our pre-Christian understanding of the world.Much of the thinking that resulted from this course of events has been passed down through the centuries to us in folk tales and continues to distort our views of ancient cosmology today. Many of these ideas even continue to be upheld and promoted by modern Neopagan lore as tales are retold and studied for use in revivalist movements. To gain a clearer understanding of our cosmological heritage we must attempt to identify and remove these external influences of late history to reveal a functional and internally consistent world view. While we can not hold out much hope for a truly precise picture of our ancestors' beliefs, these efforts will carry us much closer to that goal.The Myth of the Sidhe GodsThe Gods and Goddesses of our ancestors were seen as very powerful. They existed in this world and could move freely between the realms. They were intimately tied to the activities of the world and had an active role in daily events. Many were involved directly in the very cycles upon which life depended.When Christianity came to the fore people slowly adapted their understanding of these older deities to the new faith. A theology developed to explain the deities' loss of power to the Christians God which described them as being defeated and relegated to the margins of the world. This belief was a continuation of our traditional view of supernatural relegation. The Celtic Deities were forced to live underground in the same way that they had once forced older pre-Celtic Gods to move out into the Sea.Today the myths that have been passed through time to us contain stories of how the Gods were forced to live beneath the ground in caves and burial mounds. They began to be referred to as the Sidhe from the Gaelic term for under the hill . Stories abound of fantastic underworld palaces where the former Gods, in diminished form, host marvelous banquets for the dead and heroes of old. These themes are repeated in other tales which picture these palaces as hostels or bruidhen. These accounts have contributed much confusion to a clear understanding of ancient cosmology as they unjustly cast most of the major Irish deities in the role of the Celtic Otherworld God.As the Christian view of the sinister nature of death and the Otherworld took hold, attitudes toward the old Gods became rooted in suspicion and fear. In late times our view of the Gods became so diminished that they began to be thought of as fairies, sprites, elves, dwarves, etc. These characters maintained their sinister and dangerous nature until recent times when the New Age movement and modern Disney stories turned them into cute but inconsequential playthings.The Schizophrenic Horned ManA very popular figure in modern day Neopaganism is the horned man, often given the name Cernunnos taken from a single inscription in Gaul. This modern horned man is a strange mixture of a number of ancient deities from Pan through the Green Man through Hermes through Arawn to Gwyn ap Nudd created through the syncretic power of Wiccan theology. He is seen as a representation of the wild and lusty force of nature while at the same time embodying a sinister otherworldly soul hunter character.I believe that some of the content of this deity is the result of the collision of the ancient Welsh Otherworld God Arawn with the Christian Devil which occurred as Annwn slowly became synonymous with the Christian Hell. Other portions come from Gwyn ap Nudd, who was once a Welsh hunter God but later became the leader of the wild hunt where the forces of chaos and evil roamed the countryside seeking lone travelers for the opportunity to snatch their souls.As the aboriginal view of death as a natural passage in the never-ending cycle of life was overtaken by Christian concepts, the previously benevolent Otherworld God took on the sinister and fearful characteristics of a demon. The festival of Samhain slowly turned from a respectful honoring of those who had passed beyond into a time to hide in our homes for fear of having our souls snatched away. Tales that once told us how to welcome the honored dead into our homes were reversed to teach us how to protect ourselves from them and bar them from our doors.The horned man is indeed one of oldest known deities of Western Europe. But far from being a soul snatching Death God he was the protector of animals and the forest creatures. He was intimately connected with the deeply spiritual, but hardly sinister, activity of hunting and was honored widely as vital to the delicate dance of life. In this original form he is a very appropriate deity for our modern movement at a time when environmentalism is practically a spiritual imperative.The Sea God King of the OtherworldThe ancient Celtic Otherworld had little to do with the underground. In fact, it is more readily identified on the horizontal plane as outward from the center rather than downward. It was associated strongly with the sea, and for this reason occupies a place as a realm in the triad of land, sea and sky. The dead are envisioned as living on beautiful islands or in magical lands under the surface of the waves.The Otherworld is a happy place of peace and harmony, an idealized mirror image of this world. There is no pain, sickness or aging as the dead enjoy beautiful music and endless banquets of delight. The heroes of the ages entertain themselves with all sort of sports and good-natured athletic competitions as all await their time of return to this world.The king and host of this wondrous realm is a Sea God. For Shining Lakes Grove he has been identified as Manannan mac Lir. His functional equivalent in the Welsh pantheon is the God Arawn. Both of them are far from demonic characters. Manannan is a wise and gracious host who has many wondrous abilities and possessions such as magical horses who can stride on the surface of the ocean, a cloak of invisibility and magical pigs.Other Otherworldly Characters and ConceptsThe Irish Celts have a tale of the first mortal ever to die. Just prior to their landfall upon Ireland, the sons of Mil are stricken by a mishap. One of their number, a fellow named Donn is drowned by the Goddess Eriu after he insults her. From this point on he appears in the tales as the keeper of the first guidepost on the journey to the Otherworld. The dead were believed to have briefly visited or passed by his house just after the moment of death. This house is located on an island off the coast of Ireland called TechnDuinn or House of Donn. This tale is undoubtedly of ancient origin as it is present in other forms in the larger body of Indo-European lore such as the Vedic Yama.The battle hags of Celtic lore are closely associated with death. They are often seen transformed into ravens who hang around battlefields to feast on the gory remains. They are closely associated with the destiny of warriors and are usually triple Goddesses. Examples are Badbh, Nemhain, Macha and the Morrigan. They do not, however, seem to have anything to do with the realm of the dead itself and rather are mostly concerned with the moment of loss of life and possibly transportation of the soul to that realm.There are also female characters who can be more readily seen as Goddesses of the Otherworld. They are generally very beautiful women who have great regenerative and healing powers. They are strongly associated with swans or songbirds with beautiful plumage and magical voices. The Goddesses often have the ability to transform themselves into the form of these birds. Examples of these Goddesses are Fand, Be Lind, Fi Band, Naiv, Rhiannon and probably Epona. In later tales they were seen as enchantresses who lured heroes into Otherworld adventures.Living mortals also occasionally entered the Otherworld. A large number of the tales that have been passed down to us concern mortal adventures into the Otherworld and encounters with its inhabitants. Bold heroes such as Pwyll, Cu Chulainn, Bran, Finn and Conaire all found or fell upon a way to transgress the boundary between the worlds. These tales provide a wealth of knowledge about the nature of the Otherworld while pointing the way for modern practitioners to access and explore this realm. This is particularly true of those tales surrounding the God Manannan mac Lir.A final character that should be mentioned is the Otherworldly dog or hound. As with many of the Indo-European people, the Celts also had such beasts in their mythology. Kings of the Otherworld such as Manannan and Arawn had special dogs which were red and white or speckled in appearance. They served their masters as hunting dogs or guard gods. When they were viewed by mortals they were seen as omens of impending death.Conclusions for Neopagan TheologyThrough the careful study and adoption of the principals outlined above we will be able to cultivate an understanding of death and the Otherworld that is much closer to that of our ancestors. The concept of the Otherworld as a peaceful and benevolent respite has important implications to our funerary and worship practices while permitting us to evolve a much more balanced and less-fearful approach to the journey beyond the veil.The understanding of the genealogy of the Sidhe God tales is particularly important to our revival of faith in the old Gods. The fact that these Gods have been freed from their underground prisons to rule the world again has great power to bring them into our lives and show us their relevance to the interworkings of life. As we have begun to learn in Shining Lakes Grove this belief that the Gods can be once again seen and felt in nature around us has great power to intimately connect our acts of love and worship to the ever changing force of life around us.
Category: 
Foto de BryanPerrin
(Originally published in Druid's Progress 14)When our ancestors gathered in ancient circles, the center became a symbol of their interconnections. This concept was expressed in a number of ways. A stone was often placed in the center as a representation of the Omphalos, or navel of the world. A central post was venerated in many Indo-European cultures. The Anglo-Saxons called it Irsumal, the support of the heavens. The Norse Yggdrasil or World Tree provides us with the most detailed account of this ancient perception of our interconnectedness and cosmic center. This secure and mighty vertical column represents the need for structure to stop the sky from falling. It marked the primary origin of cosmic division and order. These objects represent the peoples' shared link in a world beyond comprehension. It gives the group its center and represents the process of gathering itself. It is the point of reference we need to come together as communities.The cross entered Europe along with Christianity. The cross was a symbol so similar to the existing Pagan one that the transfer seemed natural. There can be no doubt that the church and its bell became the center of medieval social organization. The symbol of the world's center, the bridge between heaven and earth, our support, our security, our relationship to all that is, had been changed from a symbol of the world to a symbol of a man-like God and his son, a man, and that is a very different thing indeed.When the peoples' symbol for all things good became a good God, the medieval mind needed a place to put the evil. Consequently the cross became a way to escape an evil world. After all, that was the route approved by God and used by his son.As a modern Druid, I have the joy of admiring the intricate relationships of all things in the world. I find comfort and security in being part of the World Tree. I realize it's too vast and profound for me to understand completely. It's not in human form. It doesn't speak in a human voice. If something truly interconnects all things, then it must represent less favorable things as well. Monotheists, whether talking about God or Goddess or the Great Spirit, claim a primary relationship with the all in one, yet seem to find a human morality story at the center of the world. Humans aren't the center of my world, a great me is. It is not my God, but the home of my Gods and Goddesses as well as myself. It isn't all knowing and all perfect, but it is growing.
Category: 
Foto de Member-416
(First Appeared in Ripples, The Quarterly Journal of Shining Lakes Grove, Fall Equinox, '95)As social animals, we humans have an abiding need to belong, and with it to know who belongs with us, and who doesn't. This need to define who is in and who is out is reflected in every aspect of the human condition, from our social structures, to our pastimes, to our religions, and so on. Even those who reject this belonging tend to gravitate together to form a culture of rebellion, characterized by their adherence to whatever the mainstream finds unacceptable.This behavior makes a lot of sense evolutionarily. In early days, when humans survived as small bands roaming the savannas, cooperation increased the chances of survival of each individual, and increased the likelihood of the gene pool surviving. As populations grew and resources became more scarce, it was advantageous for each tribe to protect its own territory to compete better with its neighbors. The ancient Indo-European peoples certainly followed these patterns, and this territoriality was an obvious byproduct of identifying who was in the tribe (and therefore was not attacked) and who was not (fair game).This sense of 'in' and 'out' extended beyond social or political arenas to include separations between what was of this world and what was not. Beyond the ninth wave, through the mist, or around the bend were places that were distinctly different, and did not obey the rules of this world. They were passageways through to something 'other', something that lay outside of the boundaries of the familiar.Our cosmology has a place for those 'others', and we call them the 'Outsiders'. The Outsiders have been treated in numerous ways during ADF rituals, which is probably appropriate, given that they are a collection of that which has been purposely excluded. How each ritual addresses them should probably depend upon the purpose of the ritual, and the people present, and might include any or all of the following concepts.The Outsiders, by definition, are those that have been left out, or deliberately put out. As members of the cosmology, they are given a place so that they may be bound to a spot, preventing them from exerting whatever influence led them to be considered Outsiders in the first place. In a time and place where physical boundaries were not secure, the Outsiders could represent the very real threat of the enemy coming over the hill to invade the village. Today, in the US, we are fortunate that we do not have these worries (at least not in a military sense).A different way to look at the Outsiders is to see them as those spiritual forces of the Otherworld that we might not wish to include in our cosmology. These could include everything from sprites and faeries, to trolls and dragons, to deities from pantheons other than our own. This does not imply that the destructiveness is deliberate: a hurricane can be tremendously damaging, but does not intend to be. However, giving it a place is still a means of preventing disruption.I have also seen the Outsiders portrayed as all the negative emotions that ritual attendees bring with them, emotions that are directed into a vessel and removed from the ritual space. There are two ways to approach this. If one holds that deity and spirit are immanent, then the transferring of negative emotions into a cup, and the directing of disruptive spirits into a particular place are effectively the same thing - it is all an externalization of our own energies. If one believes in immanent deity, then this discarding of emotion is a separate and potentially cleansing act which is distinct from the interaction with Otherworld beings. Either way, its intent is to rid the ritual of harmful and disruptive influences.The same thread runs through all of these discussions. It is the notion that the Outsiders are that which cannot easily be controlled, or that which is intrinsically chaotic. Our philosophies tell us that to know something's true name is to control it. Placing this wide assortment of otherwise nameless things in one category enables us to name them, at least in some broad sense, and thereby exert a measure of control over them. Inherent in this is the idea that chaos is undesirable, and should be eliminated. While I have certainly observed ADF rituals where this was not the case, generally we try to control and banish all elements that do not fit neatly into our working. I suggest that this is a mistake. Chaos is the fundamental agent of change, and without change we die. The ancient I-E peoples were masters of change, and it allowed them to move into new regions, conquer new peoples, adopt their technologies, improve them, and repeat the cycle. One could argue that in our society today, the only constant is change. The basis of evolution, indeed of all of nature, is change. Certainly controlled chaos is more useful than unbridled change, but to control it completely is to eliminate it.If we meld all of these views, we can arrive at quite a useful construct. We can define that which is us, as opposed to that which is not. We can name and place those elements which might disrupt or destroy us, while we respect their power and tap their potential. Rather than something to fear or disdain, the Outsiders become an ally, working in harmony with the whole to complete our cosmology.
Category: 
Foto de CeisiwrSerith
 "Let us pray with a good fire." (Rig Veda (1.26.9))The importance of fire in Indo-European (IE) religion is ensured by the IE languages, through such cognates as the Hittite hashsha, "hearth, fireplace," Latin ara, "altar," and Sanskrit asa, "ashes" (Polome, 1982, p. 392). An altar, to the IEs, was a fire, and a fire might be used as an altar. The IEs did not see a fire as a single thing, however, distinguishing several types. This article will explore those types, propose and original Proto-Indo-European (PIE) model for them, and make suggestions for applying this information to ADF ritual.The domestic hearth is the most basic example of fire. It serves numerous practical functions - heat, light, cooking, protection - but it early acquired religious and legal associations. In Welsh law a squatter gained possession of land only when a fire had been lit on his hearth and smoke come from the chimney (Owen, p. 339). The association between ownership and the fire was so strong that the right of a Welsh heir to occupy his father's land was called "the right to uncover the fire" (Rees & Rees, p. 157).Archaeological evidence from the Romanian Celts hints at a similar belief. Some of the houses (at Ciumesti and Seica-Mica, for instance) which have been excavated appear to have been abandoned voluntarily. Their hearths, which were in the center of the room, had been deliberately and ritually dismantled (Zirra, pp. 16-17).At the far eastern end of the IE realm comes more evidence, under Vedic law, new territory was legally incorporated with the construction of an altar to the fire god Agni (Eliade, p. 30). A similar law was observed in Iran as late as the 3rd century CE (Varenne, p. 26). In this case the home-based ritual has been extended into the public realm. The in. The intent is the same, however. A place belongs to the group whose fire burns in it. This sheds light on the most famous fire, that of the Vestal Virgins at Rome. In their round temple (the other temples in Rome were rectangular) burned a fire that was not allowed to go out. It was tended by virgins, who were buried alive if they lost their virginity. If the fire went out, they were scourged by the pontifex maximus, and then they relit the fire through friction.The fire of Vesta was the hearth of Rome. Married women were bound to their husbands. A wife tended her husband's hearth. This explains the obsession with the virginity of the Vestals. If they were to belong to any man the hearth they tended would no longer be Rome's; it would be their husband's. To prevent this, they must instead be "brides of Rome;" they must be married to no man. Similar reasoning was found in Greece, where the eternal fires of Hestia, in her round temple (other Greek temples were rectangular), were tended by widows past the age of marriage (Plutarch, Numa, IX).Evidence of a variation of this theme comes from Thrace. In the royal palace of 3rd-4th century BCE Seuthopolis was a raised main hall with a raised hearth in its center. The hearth was square, with a circular depression in it. That this was equivalent to the fires of Hestia and Vesta, the common hearth of the people, is shown supported by the presence of another such a hearth altar in another room of the place (the royal family's domestic hearth), and smaller hearth altars in many of the city's houses (Maringer, pp. 178-80). The hearth of all the people was in the home of the king, where it was presumably tended by his wife and/or daughters. The king was the embodiment of the people; loyalty to him was loyalty to everyone. There would be no concern about divided loyal-ties.The famous fire of Brighid at Kildare, described by Gerald of Wales (76-69) in the 12th century, is one more example of a virgin-tended hearth, this time outside but within a hedge-ringed circular enclosure. Kildare is not far from Uisneach and Tara, the religious and political centers of Ireland, forming an equilateral triangle with them. By the time the existence of the fire is recorded the virgins are nuns ("brides of Christ") and Brighid is a saint, but their Pagan origins are assured by a temple of "Minerva" (like Brighid a craft goddess) in 3rd century Britain which also had an eternal flame (Puhvel, 1987, p.174).A fire of the god Perkunas in 15th century Lithuania was tended by women who were put to death if the fire went out (Puhvel, 1974, p. 78). We are not told if they were unmarried; based on the Greek, Roman, and Irish parallels (and possibly the British - Minerva is a virgin goddess) it is reasonable to sup-pose that they were.In the domestic cult there was one hearth. I have shown how this hearth was translatable into a community hearth. In public sacrifices, however, things were more complicated. In Roman and Vedic public rituals there was more than one fire. The Romans made do with two. The main fire was on a square altar, the ara, which stood in front of each temple. This was the one into which the main offerings were made. Next to it was another fire, in a round metal tripod, into which was offered incense and wine at the beginnings of sacrifices. These were the standard offerings in the domestic cult, and this fire may therefore be identified with the domestic hearth (Dumezil, pp. 314-15).The Vedic ritualists prescribe three fires. The primary one is the garha-patya, the "fire of the master of the house." This is a round fire, lit from the household fire (which must itself have been lit with friction). It is the representa-tive on the ritual ground of the family of the one for whom the sacrifice is offered. During the ritual his wife stands close to it.To its east is the ahavaniya, the "fire of offering." This fire is the connection between the gods and the earth, representing the presence of Agni, god of fire and priest of the gods. The vedi, a cushion of sacred grass for the gods to sit on, is next to it. This fire is square.The third fire is the dakshinagni, the "southern fire." Made on the southern edge of the sacrificial area, its purpose is to guard against evil spirits (identified with the dead) which might come from this direction, in Vedic cosmology the most dangerous. It is fan-shaped. (Dumezil, pp. 312-14; Smith, pp. 82-84.)The question is whether the Proto-Indo-European (PIE) fire, as found in ritual, was single, double, or triple. We can first discount the possibility of it being triple by showing that the third fire of the Vedic ritual, the dakshinagni, is a Vedic innovation. This may be seen on both linguistic grounds and by reason of its shape.The simplest linguistic justification is the transparent nature of its name. Unlike the other two fires, the dakshinagni is named not by its purpose but by its location. Its name is formed in a different way from those of the others, almost as an afterthought.More convincing is an analysis based on the PIE words for "fire." There were in fact two, *p�ur, and *ngwnis). *P�ur was neuter, and probably referred to the household fire. *Ngwnis was masculine, and referred to the personified fire of public worship (Linke, pp. 364-5). (That the household fire is grammatically neuter instead of the expected feminine is no difficulty. Gender arose late in PIE; an earlier system may have broken words into animate and inanimate, with the animate nouns later becoming masculine and the inanimate neuter. Feminine was still later (Gamkrelidze and Ivanov, 1995, p. 242.) Thus there are PIE words for both of the Roman types of fire, and for two of the Vedic, but not for the dakshinagni.A distinction between the shapes appropriate for different fires has been hinted at already - the round temples of Vesta and Hestia vs. the rectangular temples to other gods, the combination round and square (combined hearth and public fire) at Seuthopolis, the round hedge of Brighid. One last bit of data comes from the cemetery of Tulkar, in South Todzhikistan. These Iranian people buried their males with rectangular hearths and their females with round hearths (Mallory, p. 53).It is clear that IEs made a distinction between a domestic fire (even when it was the hearth of an empire) and one used in public rituals. The former was connected with the domestic cult, and received offerings to family deities and ancestors. Although the family priest (the *pater) might be male, the fire tender was female. And the fire was round. The public fire was presided over by men. It received offerings to the public deities, the gods of the people as a whole, and was square. The dakshinagni has no place in this system by either shape, name, or function. It is clearly an elaboration. This seems to show the PIE system to be two fires. The fact that both are not always present suggests, however, that one may have been primary, perhaps only in relative importance, but perhaps chronologically as well.The domestic hearth is certainly the primary of the two. The garhapatya is lit from the sacrificer's own heart. If the other two fires go out, they may be relit from the garhaptya; if it goes out, the entire ahavaniya (including the ashes) must be moved to the garhapatya's place before the ritual can continue (Aitareya Brahmana 7.5, in Keith,1998, p. 292). In Rome, the hearth fire next to the ara was offered to first. In Greek ritual, Hestia was offered to first as well.I suggest further that the domestic fire (*p�ur) is chronologically primary to the public fire (*ngwnis). Throughout the IE world, there is a domestic cult, with the *pater making offerings to the family's guardian spirits through the *p�ur. This seems to be the most basic form of IE ritual, and can reasonably be postulated to be the original PIE one. It is after the semi-nomadic PIE clans began to gather together into tribes that a need for public ritual unconnected with a particular clan's guardians arose. With it arose the ngwnis.Aspects of PIE hearth concepts can be absorbed into ADF ritual. Relying on the IE law that the lighting of a fire legalizes possession (and its converse, that the fire's extinction ends possession), we can be assured that wherever our sacred fires are lit belongs to us, at least for the duration of the fire. Whether we meet on our own land, in a public park, or a VFW hall, so long as the fire is lit we are in our own place.Because a grove is the ADF equivalent of a family (albeit one voluntarily entered into, and easy to leave), in private grove rituals it might be appropriate to use a *p�ur, and in public rituals both a p�ur and an *ngwnis. After all, a public ritual involves a gathering of families, each with their own hearth; on the ritual ground they need one hearth to hold in common.The hearth at Seuthopolis provides a model for open rituals; a combined *p�ur and *ngwnis. Both public and private, it is both square and round. A similar combined hearth may be used. A square turf is taken up and used as a base for a cauldron or round portable fire pan. In this way a grove hearth is put on a square altar to serve as a common hearth for others to gather around.Through this what would ordinarily be an *ngwnis acquires aspects of a *p�ur. And those who gather about it, whether grove members or visitors, are transformed for the duration of the ritual from a congregation into a family. For as Angela Della Volpe writes, "an individual household ... can be defined as group worshipping at the same hearth. (p. 83, n. 15)" About our *p�ur, we are one people.ReferencesDumezil, Georges. Archaic Roman Religion. tr. Philip Krapp. Chicago: Univer-sity of Chicago Press, 1970 (1966).Eliade, Mircea. The Sacred and the Profane. New York: Harcourt Brace Jova-novitch, 1959.Gamkrelidze, Thomas V., and Ivanov, Vjaceslav V. Indo-European and the Indo-Europeans: A Reconstruction and Historical Analysis of a Proto-Language and a Proto-Culture. tr. Johanna Nichols. New York: Mouton de Gruyer, 1995.Keith, Arthur Berriedale. Rigveda Brahmans: The Aitarya and Kaushitaki Brah-manas of the Rigveda. New Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1998 (1920).Gerald of Wales. The History and Topography of Ireland. tr. John J. O'Meara. Harmondsworth, UK: Penguin Books, 1982.Linke, Uli. Blood as Metaphor in Proto-Indo-European. Journal of Indo-European Studies 13:3/4 (Fall/Winter, 1985), pp. 333-375.Mallory, J. P. In Search of the Indo-Europeans: Language, Archaeology, and Myth. London: Thames and Hudson, 1989.Maringer, Johannes. Fire in Prehistoric Indo-European Europe. Journal of Indo-European Studies 4: 3 (Fall, 1976), pp. 161-86.Owen, Trefor. The Ritual Entry to the House in Wales. In Newall, Venetia (ed.). Folklore Studies in the Twentieth Century: Proceedings of the Centenary Conference of the Folklore Society Totowa, NJ: Rowman and Little-field, 1978, 1980.Plutarch. Numa. In Plutarch's Lives, vol. 1. Tr. Bernadotte Perrin. New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1914.Polome, Edgar C. Indo-European Culture, with Special Attention to Religion. In Edgar C. Polome. The Indo-Europeans in the Fourth and Third Millennium. Ann Arbor, MI: Karoma, 1982Puhvel, Jaan. Indo-European Structure of the Baltic Pantheon. In Myths in Indo-European Antiquity. ed. Gerald James Larson, C. Scott Littleton, Jaan Puhvel. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1974.Rees, Alwyn, and Rees, Brinley. Celtic Heritage. New York: Thames and Hudson, 1961.The Rig Veda. tr. and ed. Wendy Doniger O'Flaherty. Harmondsworth, UK: Penguin Books, 1981.Smith, Brian K. The Unity of Ritual: The Place of the Domestic Sacrifice in Vedic Ritualism. Indo-Iranian Journal 29 (1986), pp. 79-96.Varenne, Jean. The Indo-Europeans. In Bonefoy, Yves. (ed.). A Reconstructed Translation of Mythologies. tr. John Leavitt. Chicago: University of Chi-cago Press, 1991.Volpe, Angela Della. From the Hearth to the Creation of Boundaries. Journal of Indo-European Studies 18:1 & 2 (Spring/Summer, 1990), pp. 157-184.Zirra, Vlad. The Eastern Celts of Romania. Journal of Indo-European Studies 4:1 (Spring, 1976), pp. 1-41.
Category: 
Foto de CeisiwrSerith
Cosmology is the study of the structure of the universe, the cosmos, or a description of that structure. "Cosmos" is related to the word "cosmetic," which tells us one thing right off - the cosmos that is described is beautiful in its structure. It is orderly and opposed to chaos.Some readers may remember an article I wrote on Proto-Indo-European cosmology that was published in Druid's Progress 15 (1995). As a quick summary, this cosmology, which is reflected in the descendant traditions, consists of a hemispherical earth which is both surrounded and supported by the sea. At its center stands a tree, a mountain, or a mountain with a tree on top of it.For simplicity's sake, I will just use the image of the tree. This tree is fed by a well that extends to the waters under the earth. In turn, the fruits of the tree drop into the surrounding sea. In the sea itself (and beyond it) dwell the Outsiders, usually depicted in the form of serpents. The pattern formed by this interaction was called *artus by the Proto-Indo-Europeans (which became wyrd in Old English and rta in the Vedas, for instance). This cosmology is best preserved in the Norse tradition, but is found in attenuated version in the other Indo-European traditions. The most important aspects of this cosmology are first that there is a reciprocal relationship between the tree and the waters, and second that the beings of chaos exist in the waters that feed the tree, that then trans-forms the chaos into cosmos.This is, of course, a mythical image. I like to define myth as a story that is true whether it happened or not. A mythical image such as this cosmology is true even if it does not correspond to the physical universe. It shows truth in a pictorial way that may not be able to be expressed in pictures or mathematical equations.The truths embedded in this cosmological image are numerous. For now I wish to concentrate on the order implied in the cosmology.For make no mistake, this is an image of order, the order of the Artus. Although it makes provision for the existence of chaos, it does so only either to oppose the chaos or to incorporate it into order. The snakes at the bottom of the tree, and the chaos they introduce into the well that waters the tree are both set to naught by the overwhelming power of the order of the cosmos. The Artus subsumes all disruptions and transforms them into order.It is a cliche that myths are stories enacted by ritual, and that rituals are merely acted out myths. Like all cliches, this is not totally true (there are indeed myths without ritual and rituals without myths (see O'Flaherty for some of these)), but in this aspect of the cosmology the cliche holds true. The order of the cosmology is reflected in the order of the ritual. In its most obvious sense this is clear in ADF ritual. The tree and the well are right there, in symbolic form. Some groves pour out water around the sacred space, surrounding it with water as the universe is surrounded.But it is clear in a far more subtle sense as well. Not only are the elements of the cosmos present in ritual, but the relationship between them as well. The order is present.In fact, the establishment and reinforcement of the order are among the main functions of the ritual. One of the purposes of ritual, as observed by Mircea Eliade, is a recapitulation of the cosmogony, or, in everyday language, a repetition of the forming of the universe. Indeed, Bruce Lincoln has shown quite conclusively that this was one of the purposes of sacrifice, the centerpoint of Indo-European ritual. Finally, I would like to invoke the name of Clifford Geertz, and his famous formulation of religion as models of and models for - the cosmos exists in such and such a way, and we perform rituals in such and such a way, and the two models are in intimate relationship with each other. We perform rituals the way we do because the cosmos is the way it is (at least in a mythical sense).Just as in the cosmos, there will be elements of chaos intruding into the ritual. Some of the potential elements - the Outsiders - are consciously and ritually banished. Others arise during the ritual itself. An object is dropped, a line is misspoken, someone stumbles. Different Indo-European traditions have handled these mistakes in different ways. The Romans were perhaps the most radical. Priests, who were usually religiously untrained (they were performing their duties as part of a political career), were assisted by trained professionals, who read the ritual words from a book for the priests' recitation. Any major mistake in the ritual by the amateur priests would necessitate its repetition. In Vedic ritual, there was an official, the Brahman, whose sole function was to observe the ritual, making sure everything went according to plan. He was considered the most important official, and was given the major part of the offering, and later the most pay, even if he did nothing but sit still for the entire course of the ritual.Whatever the approach, the important thing is that chaos does not subsume order, whether in the cosmos or the ritual which reflects cosmos. Chaos is never deliberately introduced, but when it accidentally occurs (and that is the nature of chaos; planned chaos is a contradiction in terms) it must be knit into the order of the ritual. It is not sought out, but ritualists must be on guard against it. When properly handled, chaos does not impose itself on order, does not disrupt it completely. Rather, order "imposes" itself on chaos; it incorporates chaos into itself, in the process transmuting the chaos into cosmos.The priests in ADF ritual, then, have the job of the professional priests of Rome or the Vedic Brahmans. They keep the ritual on course, they take what elements of chaos pre-sent themselves and weave them into the order of the ritual. In this way, they serve the same function in the ritual as the tree does in the cosmos - they blend chaos and cosmos together to form the living structure that is the Artus. They serve as a bridge between the models of and the models for.ReferencesEliade, Mircea. The Sacred and the Profane. tr. Willard R. Trask. NY: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1959.Geertz, Clifford. The Interpretation of Cultures. NY: Basic Books, 1973.Lincoln, Bruce. Myth, Cosmos, and Society: Indo-European Themes of Creation and Destruction. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1986.O'Flaherty, Wendy Doniger. Other Peoples' Myths. NY: Macmillan Publishing Co., 1988.
Category: 
Foto de Ian Corrigan
[Note: This article is a transcript of a discussion that occurred at the Muin Mound Madness festival in 2004.] I enjoy theology and thinking about theology even though I consider it pretty secondary in Neopaganism. It doesn't seem as though the ancients spent a lot of time intellectualizing and explaining to themselves what their religion was about, and pagan religion isn't really based on believing a set of ideas. It's pretty obvious that no priest in a pagan temple in, say, 20 B.C. Greece, would have asked someone coming to the door what they believed before they were allowed to enter and worship. It just wasn't on the list. Paganism isn't credal, it doesn't require you to state a set of beliefs before you're allowed in the door. If you've been around ADF for any length of time you may have heard us talk about orthopraxy versus orthodoxy. Orthodox literally in Greek means "correct opinion"; heterodoxy, or being heretical, means having a different opinion. The pagan religion was about orthopraxy, doing the customs correctly. Your "believerhood" at a temple had more to do with entering the temple and walking three times about the idol and making your image and reciting the inscription on the wall, which was how they did it in the Roman temples. No one was going to ask you what you believed about the god, or about its nature, or whether you treated it as objectively real or not. Nevertheless, in modern times, for those of us especially who find ourselves interacting with the broader public as representatives of paganism, I think there's some value in being able to intellectualize what we believe. We know that when we start talking about religion with moderns they will automatically arrive with a set of questions derived essentially from Christian theology, questions like how did the universe originate, what does your creation story mean to you in your religion, what is the nature of good and evil, how do you explain why there is evil in the world, etc. That brings us to a whole round of questions about divinity which we'll get to directly now. Pagan Concepts of the Divine I think it's important, and it's fairly inevitable, for us to spend time comparing a pagan nature of the Divine to the more common Judeo-Christian-Islamic concept of the nature of the Divine. A question I asked at Starwood, which is a pretty good provocative question: "Is material nature an accurate reflection of spiritual nature?" It seems to me that if I was to start with a basic pagan "How do we know anything at all about the Divine?" question, or "How is the Divine revealed to us?", in Abrahamic religion the Divine is revealed largely through a set of prophetic scriptures. But seeing as most paganisms don't have, and never had, much of that, they might have a set of traditional tales, those tales might have been reinterpreted by a set of poets from tribe to tribe, portion of the world to portion of the world. They certainly didn't have a book that traveled across tribes and influenced tribes to conform to that book's ideas. Barring that kind of revelation, how do we think that we know anything about what the Divine is? I've always heard and thought in my head that the primary revelation of the Divine to humanity is Nature, as a basic pagan answer to that question. If that is so, what does that tell us about the nature of the Divine? I guess the question is, "Is Nature as we have it, an accurate reflection of the Divine as it is?" Is Nature "fallen"? If we assume that nature is an accurate reflection of the Divine, then one of the first things we see is that Divinity is varied. I find myself composing answers to Christians and atheists. Skeptics sometimes say that if there was a God it would look the same to everyone. The problem with that, of course, that they are only disbelieving in a monotheistic God. If there were only one god, it might look the same to everyone, but since the Divine doesn't look the same to everyone, it makes sense to assume that there is not just one god. That's the first lesson I draw from Nature as model of the Divine. In nature there is no unique or single thing. Nowhere in nature is there a category of things of which there is only one. Snowflakes are individually unique, but there is never only one snowflake. Things have variations that make each thing individual, but each thing is always part of a category. The monotheists posit that the Divine is entirely different from Nature, that Nature is a clockwork that the Divine has made like a watchmaker, that the Divine is totally different from Nature, that it is "supernatural". The God of the monotheists is an "owner-operator" of the cosmos ("Independently owned and operated since Zero"), but I say instead that there cannot be a supernatural, that there can't be more than one order in the world. Creation Myths It doesn't seem as though Europagans made a big deal of focusing on a specific creation tale as core to their orthodoxy. Egyptians had five or six different creation myths, you can easily identify three or four different creation myths for the Greeks, poetic tellings of Greek lore. In every one of those cases of pagan creation myths, there is no one creator god. I don't think that traditional pagandom has a notion of an individual being that created the world. It does seem as though pagan religions had no creator god, even if they did have a "first god".  Everybody understands the idea of a first cause. Monotheism assumes that the first cause goes on to becomes the all creator owner-operator, omnipotent. For pagans, the logical first causes are usually long gone. This makes the current gods of mortals well removed from the first cause, even though the stories are full of individual gods creating individual parts of the world, right down to stories described as happening to humans just like us. For example, there is Athena creating spiders by shriveling Arachne into the first spider. So the creation story in pagan lore is, in a sense, always ongoing. One of the common first cause stories is the sacrifice of the first being. That's well reviewed in Norse lore, where the first being, the giant Ymir is formed from frost. The first cause in Norse lore appears to be a cow (Audhumla); fire and ice come together and create rime, and then a cow (also uncreated) comes along and licks the salty rime and so the first being emerges. In time, Odin and his two brothers come along, slay Ymir, and make the world out of his body. The ancient Indo-Europeans generally thought of the sky as a hard bowl of stone which was pierced to allow the light of the upper heavens through it. This is directly reflected in Vedic lore. In one of the Hindu creation stories—and again there are several, in any pagan system you'll find a number of creation stories—has an overt sacrifice, where the first being is sacrificed, and from his parts are made the world. So the first cause is always long gone, long buried, way in the distant past. The first cause in pagan lore is almost never part of the current management of the cosmos. And I think that leads to the whole notion in paganism of a kind of devolvement of power. Since power isn't centralized in any one being in pagan lore, there's not a kind of dependence that monotheism teaches. We don't find ourselves forced to submit our will to the All-Will in order to be doing what the Divine wants us to be doing. The gods are the biggest, brightest, smartest, oldest beings that are willing to talk to us, and most of the lore makes it clear that there are plenty of other big beings that don't really talk to us or want anything to do with us, maybe don't even like us. And then you've got the long list of beings that descend from the gods. Spiritual Power, Enlightenment, and Salvation The word angels has a bunch of unfortunate connotations for us, but most pagan lore had a category of beings who were pretty close to gods, who served the gods, who were their messengers, who did their dirty and human work for them, and in some version of Indo-European paganism, like Iranian lore, the whole Iraq-Iran (Persia) area, halfway between Greece and India, angel worship became the order of the day for them. This is especially the case under Zoroastrianism; as monotheism didn't work particularly well in practice, they ended up being angel worshippers. And I think all of this devolves clearly down to humans. It's fairly obvious that in Indo-European paganism that humans are credited with some of the same divine power of creation and destruction as the gods. We actually contain in us the same spark and spring of Divine power that the gods do, maybe not as much of it, that's the difference primarily. Because of this, we are free to act in the world, and in the spritual world, of our own accord. We don't require the authority of a god in order to act. We have personal spiritual authority that is ours by birth, and then we are free to just use that power. That last bit about our personal spiritual authority is certainly an interpretation on my part, and I'd love to find some kind of chapter and verse for it, if there were chapters and verses to find. Although it's pretty clearly available in the Hindu traditions. When you look at Hindu lore it's pretty obvious that ordinary humans can, by dint of hard work at yoga and sacrifice and ceremony, come to act under their own power. There's no indication that these wonder-workers, seers, etc., these people, in Indo-European peoples, that they are acting as the servants of any particular god running the world. They are acting on their own accord. To me, that's optimistic. It is a positive and freeing thing to be told that we do not have to conform our will to some pre-existing Divine will in order to be living correctly. The inherent message to humans is, in many of the tales, that wisdom, love, and power, properly applied, will make you wise, loving, and powerful in your own right. It doesn't rely on grace. There's that, in my opinion, relatively awful idea of grace. Grace basically means "undeserved favor". A king shows his grace when he chooses not to execute someone because he was a good guy before commiting a crime; he doesn't have them executed, he just banishes them. And of course, that's core to Christianity. Christianity says we can only achieve the Divine through the unmerited favor of the Divine. And it seems to me that some kinds of Buddhism say it as well, that enlightenment only happens when it happens, that you can never work your way to enlightenment. It's not really the same as Christian grace theology, since the concept of enlightenment doesn't exist in Christianity, but it's similar in that enlightenment is something that is bestowed upon you, not something you can earn. In Christianity, you cannot earn salvation at all. The Catholics make it possible to gain salvation through the Sacrament, which the Protestants criticize as works-based salvation. They're wrong, the Catholics never taught works-based salvation really, you can't earn your way into heaven, you must have the grace of the Sacrament, they just focalize grace in their rituals because they were close to a pagan origin where it has to happen through action and not just belief. Buddhism and Christianity are similar in that in both, efforts to attain worldly power are viewed as pointless or, worse, harmful. For Buddhism and other Eastern philosophies, the "wheeling and dealing" to gain more power, which is found in the pagan tales, should not be pursued. If you're going to make any effort at all, the only effort that is worthy is the effort to remove your own self, consciousness, ego and achieve enlightenment in that manner. The pagan attempts to gain power as a method of influencing the world for one's own uses, would be wholly incongruent with many sects of Hinduism and Buddhism, though it should be noted that in other sects of Hinduism and Buddhism, practitioners go right along with the pursuit of personal spiritual power, especially in the practice of sacrifices, and that stuff is all about gaining personal spiritual juice. This brings us right to the question of the difference between magic and religion. Magic and Religion The only useful definition of magic as separate from religion that I've been able to come up with lately is the application of spiritual power for personal world goals. Basically, there's almost no difference in form between magic and religion. If you're a Catholic you're using bread for the host, reciting Hail Marys and making prayers to the Trinity in order to do your spells, and if you're a Hindu you're making sacrifices and doing austerities and drawing yantras, etc. In Hinduism, occultism is entirely integrated, it's present throughout. The real practice of ritual at big temples required all sorts of occult doo-dah on the part of their priesthood, it's very integrated. Then you get to something like Zen Buddhism and it's all about sitting quietly and waiting to be enlightened. In Japan it's all mixed up with Shinto sorcery, and all that stuff left over from Taoism. So, I think there's a spectrum of how much religion is integrated with magic. For instance in Europe the Greeks and Romans really objected to the idea of the use of spiritual power for personal, not community, goals. They feared it, that's why the magician was on the outside of society. They thought it was hubris, because I think they thought it's already moving toward that idea, it's one of the reasons that monotheism was able to take hold in that part of the world. Though, it's hard to tell, because the Jews were actively proselytizing in the Hellenic part of the world during the time of Alexander, 250 B.C., and philosophy barely comes into our view until after that. So the idea of an all-powerful one god had been being proselytized among the Greeks for 250 years by the time we get to the time of Christ, and the creating of things like Neo-Platonism. The Greek compromise was to imagine some all-god at the top of the pyramid, the eye at the top of the pyramid, and then a pyramid of gods and spirits working its way down from there. Even that notion, though, was a deliberate compromise with monotheism, I think, that didn't reflect what a Greek at the time of Homer would have believed. Polytheism, Monotheism, and Monism By this I mean an "over god", and a monistic god, not a polythestic god, like the Hindu notion of Brahman, the all-mind that everything is a manifestation of. A lot of folks, and even Hindus, most Hindus will tell you they are monotheists, and it's for entirely the same reason that Europeans started telling themselves that they were Christians, because you're not going to be allowed to hang out with the rich monotheists if you're not a monotheist. You're not going to get in the door to the right club if you don't tell the bigoted monotheist that you're a monotheist. So you'll hear Hindus translate very complicated Sanskrit terms by the English term "god". My opinion is that the word "god" should be limited to the Biblical God, with a capital G, because Brahman isn't anything like the Biblical God—nobody worships Brahman. Monism is usually polytheism, monism says "all is one", monotheism says "one rules all", and they're really not the same thing even though they're easy to mistake for one another, especially when Hindus just call their all-one "god" when they're making translation of some Sanskrit words. But there are no temples to Brahman, to the Brahman, it's not a person or personality, it can't be in any way that storm god of Mount Sinai. As a total digression from the theology, Mount Sinai is an interesting thing. The Sumerian or Akadian law-giver god was a moon god, and his name was Sin and his mountain was Mount Sinai. And you'll remember that when Moses comes down from Mount Sinai with the tablets of the law, he is described as "horned like the rays of the Moon". That's just too obvious for me not to point out and I'm surprised I haven't seen it in a half dozen mythography books. Fate and Personal Spiritual Authority That takes us through the idea of a personal spiritual authority in paganism, which I think is a fairly important idea, that we're essentially on our own, that there is nobody in charge of the world, that the world is not running according to a plan, that the world is not running from something toward something, any more than our lives are on a day-to-day basis. We make plans, and life is what happens to you when you're making those plans, as they say. And I think that even applies to deities. You certainly see many tales where the gods' plans don't work out as originally devised. They're not operating with puppets, they're operating with free spiritual agents. This brings us to the concept of fate in pagan lore. Pagans all said that, "No one escapes their fate", that "fate binds us all, even the gods". And of course, fate is often personalized in the tales as three women in a cave, or whatever, but pagans clearly believed that there was an inertia in life. The Norse term is Wyrd, as in "no man may escape his Wyrd", and I call it "the sum total of the actions of all beings". Fate is the sum total of the inertia of all actions of all beings. Pagans talk about the web of Wyrd, fate is always depicted as a weaving in pagan lore, which always defines it as many strands making one thing. With no central dogma to pagan religion, there were different ideas as to how fate affected the human condition. How many different schools of thought about the human condition were there among the Greeks who probably all went to Elyseus together, and all participated in the Mysteries, and would have called themselves more or less all part of the same "religion"? Since religion didn't rely on doctrine, they could sit around at the symposium and talk about the nature of fate and the human condition. For the Norse, luck was an active force. You had it or you didn't, and it could also be infected. If you had done bad things or pissed off the wrong spirits, your luck might be soured. The thing that gets translated as luck among the Norse is very much like your personal spiritual power. If your personal spiritual power is solid, then your coincidence control meter will be set properly—you'll have "good luck". How much control do you have over your fate? The answer to that, I think, is the same as for the question, how much control do you have over the world. The answer is "some". We all have control over some things in our lives, and less control over others. This is why the ancients were always concerned with divination, with learning the will of the gods, because the gods are big powerful beings with long arms. If you know what they're doing, you can at least conform your plans to theirs or dump those plans, whichever you prefer. Being able to identify the flows of fate and work with them was considered one of the primary forms of wisdom to have. I think monotheism has led us to try to see nature as always unified and working together, when in fact in general it isn't. You can say all things work together for good, whatever "good" is, but obviously in nature that's not really what happens. In nature things are often in conflict, one thing destroys another, the wolf eats the rabbit, the storm blows down the forest, things are obviously destroying other things without their permission, without a "by your leave", and I think that in polytheism we must assume that the gods don't always have the same plans together, that the gods themselves are not following some overarching blueprint, that they are acting as individuals just as we act individually. I suppose some people could find that disconcerting, as opposed to a religion that offers them a big sleigh in the sky, so all they have to do is get on the sled and hold on and everything will be all right. Morality, Good and Evil Now, we've come right up to the edge of the idea of sin and evil and salvation, sin and good and evil in pagan ideas. Some pagan systems, maybe most, seem to have had a set of laws that was supposed to have come from the spiritual work of the wise people of the past, at the very least. Hinduism had the Laws of Manu. Manu was a rishi, not a deva, a human seer, but he's considered to be divinely wise enough to create the laws by which humankind should live. It's less clear in Greek lore, there doesn't seem to be any codified list of ways humans should behave, among Hellenic pagans, though the gods obviously disapproved of certain kinds of behavior, such as patricide, oath-breaking. The moral message of the tales is that you can't avoid getting caught by the gods. So that kind of moral standard does exist in traditional paganism, with some variation between cultures. For example, everybody says murder is wrong, but everybody defines murder differently, everybody says incest is wrong but defines it differently, etc. It seems to me that even this level of moral authority isn't going to make Neopagans happy. If ADF produced a modern version of the Laws of Manu, telling us how we should behave, it probably would not go very far in terms of acceptance. For example, Green Man Grove [now Grove of the Other Gods] thought that the ADF prohibition against blood sacrifice was so obvious, and so unnecessary, that they added two more prohibitions, one against cannibalism and another against juggling hedgehogs :) Traditional pagandom did have moral standards, but usually also had a method where the wise could be exempted. In Hinduism, for instance, one of the goals of spiritual practice is "moksha", which means liberation. It's usually explained to Westerners as liberation from the Wheel of Rebirth, but in practice, among sects that seek that as their goal, it also means liberation from the moral strictures of the householder. Now, mind you, the moral strictures of the householder includes having a house, getting married, having children, and being in business, so on a lot of levels they're talking about that. In Hinduism, it means being a holy monk, owning your loin cloth, your rice bowl, and maybe a stick. And the people who are freed from moral strictures in that way are also freed from permission to own property; they are literally taken outside the social order and become kind of wandering presences of this option of something different in the society. I think the druids probably had that, I think you probably had naked wise guys in the woods in Ireland and the Continent just as you have in India. Some of the sects in India just never put on clothes again, they didn't even get a loin cloth. Interestingly, what happened in Wicca is that they attempted to apply that kind of initiated ethic to everyone. Crowley's "Do What Thou Wilt Shall Be the Whole of the Law" is a pretty direct translation of a Hindu phrase "secca cara" which means "the path of your own will". Interestingly, the full phrase is "secca cara haro" which means "follow your will in secret", to keep from offending the householders and getting that angry villagers syndrome going :) Wicca attempted to create a paganism where that initiated ethic was given to everyone, and that's why there continue to be discussions about the Rede, about "harm none and do what you will", and why groups like ours have found that to be an insufficient guide to everyday life because it's entirely negative. It says don't hurt anybody, and that's the only advice it gives; it tells you what not to do, not what to do. Wicca was simply not designed to be a mass religion, it was not designed to be a general, non-initiatory village religion. The fact that people are attempting to make it that, is, I think, a pretty thorough bastardization from what Wicca was intended to be initially. Now, we haven't gone too far with that ourselves, in ADF; we haven't gone much farther beyond the Nine Virtues in terms of advice on how to live well. In some ways, many of the traditional pagan moral guidelines had very practical reasons for existing. In Indo-European culture, your moral authority started with obeying your parents, and that usually meant you were going to end up in the same business as your parents. At the most basic level it starts with parents telling their children not to do something which would be harmful, and it broadens to include members of the tribe needing to adhere to the social order and work together to cope with hostile natural forces. From there, we see further specialization and you have your basic farmers, warriors, and intellectuals, your basic Indo-European tripartite division. That eventually got hardened up into the ridiculously complex Hindu caste system, for instance, from starting with a simple division of labor. It seems pretty clear, even among the Celts and Germans, that people could get promoted in social class. If you were born in a farmer family and actually had some skill with weapons, you could end up in a war band and living a warrior's life. Similarly, you might wind up with the druids if you showed some of those skills. And, in all likelihood, you could be demoted too. It was certainly hierarchical; there's no escaping the fact that Indo-European paganism was as hierarchical as could be. Making the world conform to your will is one example of how we are like the gods, because we can shape matter and make the world look the way we want it to look. It's harder for us than we imagine it being for the gods, but we can do it in ways the animals can't. Many animals do shape the world, their environment to allow them to live, such as beavers building dams or birds building nests. The devolvement of spiritual power doesn't stop with us. But, animals don't have the power of choice in terms of affecting their environment. Beavers don't have the option to decide not to build dams, and that's a big difference between animals and humans. Humans have the power of choice. And that is probably why that type of person existed in pagan culture, that naked sadu or wise guy, in society provides the reminder to the householder that the householder's life isn't all there is. Order and Chaos Many of the Indo-European creation myths depict a war between the gods and demons, or a war between the gods that like us and are going to end up being our gods that we worship, and their opponents who are more or less equal to them. For example, the Aesir versus the Jotuns in Norse lore, the Olympians versus the Titans in Hellenic lore, etc. In the hands of Zoroaster this turned into a war between "good" and "evil". I call Zoroaster the first heretic in Indo-European religion. Indo-European religion, as far as I can tell, taught that the basic war between order and chaos was over, and that order had more or less won and more or less established itself, though you still have to have some chaos in the world to keep things moving. You have to think of a band of Indo-European settlers heading out of the village and into the woods, where their job is to carve out a patch of human order in the chaos of the green wood. I think that the image of creation is the gods of humans carving out this order by battling the gods of chaos. In the Book of Invasions, this is the main thing that happens, as it tells of each different wave that came in, tells how many plains were created, how much forest was cleared. When they say creating plains, they're talking about a process they lived with every year, where the way to get land if you were an old Celt in those days was to take your bunch of guys if you could get them, and clear a plain where you could do your planting. It was absolutely all about clearing woods—Europe was forest from one end to another. This whole image of the gods driving back the pre-existing chaos, is completely associated with this creation of human order in the chaos of nature. But the chaos is not in general destroyed in those tales, or imprisoned. In the Irish lore, the gods get the secrets of sowing and reaping from the demons, it's when Lugh makes Balor's head speak and reveal the secrets of sowing and reaping, because it's in those powers of chaos that the power of creativity arises. In Norse lore, the most powerful tools of the gods are brought to them when Loki, who is himself of Jotun descent, steals them from the forces of chaos. Also, Thor who is the biggest protector of humankind, is partly descended from the giants, that's where his superhuman strength comes from. Zoroaster's big heresy was that he said the war between good and evil wasn't over, it was still going on and there was a good general and an evil general, equally powerful, and humans had to choose sides. He turned what was for most Indo-Europeans a kind of cosmological issue, into a moral issue. Not only were wolves and bats agents of danger and chaos, they were actively agents of moral evil for the Zoroastrians. They divided the world into morally good (pure) things, and morally evil (impure) things. Zoroastrians basically invented the concept of Satan that the Jews later adopted. For a pagan, the answer to, "why does 'evil' exist?" (meaning, things that happen to us which we don't like) is, "because nothing can stop it from existing." For pagans, there is no all-powerful being in the world which can stop such things from happening, just as there is no one all-powerful being to tell us what we can and can't do. The problem for us is that we're all cosmopolitans. Any given pagan back in the day grew up not understanding that there could be more than one moral order in the world. They grew up in their village, that village had a single moral order, that was the moral order, period. Once people moved into cities, which only happened in a few places, people started to compare notes and conflicts started to arise over one person's idea of good over another person's. This might have happened as far back as Sumeria, though that was really more like a big stone village, probably also with a single moral order, but it definitely happened in places like Alexandria and Rome, and that's when the concept of moral relativism came about. Christian moral philosophy has always made the distinction between natural evil and moral evil. Christian moral philosophers talk about natural evil as "things that fall on you and hurt", earthquakes, tornadoes, etc., in the since of "an ill". Then there is moral evil, which means violating the laws of God. War is always a natural evil, to everybody involved. It's an accepted natural evil, such as a sword through your head, but it is accepted (especially by the winners) as a moral good. And this leads us to things like the proposition that good often results from evil deeds, and evil often results from good deeds. Things we enjoy often produce an ill outcome, and things we don't enjoy often produce a good outcome. For instance, our society is close to making devouring a whole chocolate cake a moral evil :) The distinction between natural evil an moral evil is an important one, and the odd thing Zoroaster did was say that these forces of evil are agents of a still-existing power of evil, that the wolf was an agent of evil destroying the sheep, an agent of good. In any event, the problem of evil only arises if you posit that there is an all powerful, all-good god, which clearly was not the case for pagans. The problem of evil only exists in omnipotent monotheism. It's not a problem in paganism, it's just there. "Evil" (something we don't like) happens because 1) people are sometimes idiots, and 2) some stuff hurts, and there is no power that could make things different. Even the gods don't control the way the world is. All beings together make the world the way it is, and they each act as individual agents. Interacting with the Divine, and other Realms In terms of humans being able to interact with and perceive the divine, pagan religions say that we are capable of perceiving divinity because it is in us in the first place. We have within us, by our birth, the power of shaping, the power of vision, and the power of speech, which make it possible to interact with the Divine in ways we can remember. The funny thing about humans is that we can write this stuff down and tell it to ourselves, another thing most animals can't do. I think that this concept of the Divine within us is so present to traditional paganism that it couldn't help but be part of Neopaganism. Good old Starhawk Wicca completely disavows any kind of external deity. She would have an audience of women and say, "I'm going to give each of you a vision of the Goddess right now... turn to your right, and look at the woman next to you." That was very much a 70s or 80s humanist approach to Deity. And there's nothing unpagan about it, except if you try to limit deity to being present only in humans or the minds of humans. There's not much evidence of a "transcendant" pagan deity, one that exists outside of Nature, and in fact, it seems pretty well supported that for pagans, Deity arose out of Nature, and not the other way around. Divinity is a subset of nature, not vice-versa. There is no supernatural, divinity is just one of the kinds of things there are. I do think that in some ways the spiritual world is causative to the material world. For example, it was certainly true that the pagans assumed that when the gods fought, they (the pagans) fought. The Romans had a ritual for calling a city's god out of its city and welcoming it to Rome before they attacked. They would set up an altar and say, "god of the city, you are welcome in Rome, open the gates to us and let us in." It was obviously a call to the people of the city as well, but it was really a magical practice, to say to the god, "Here we come, and here is your offering asking for your participation, so grant our request." War in heaven being reflected in war on earth is an utterly pagan concept, although there was no more "good" and "evil" associated with this than there was with war itself. In terms of the "otherworld", or different spiritual "realms" where the gods exist, it's hard for me, with my background in traditional occultism and Neo-Platonism, to escape the notion of a hierarchy of causation. I think it is important to try to escape it because Neo-Platonism was one of those pyramidal, post-monotheistic influences, which assumes it all goes back to a first cause which begins a hierarchy of causation that cascades down into things such as what the occultists call the astral plane next door to us which in turns causes the physical world. However, don't ask me what the ancients thought about that, as it's hard to know exactly what they thought. It seems to me that the Celts and Germans had a very basic, we live where we live, and they live where they live, and we interact, conception of the world. Many of them are more powerful than many of us, they have longer arms, more ability to work their will than we do, etc., but that doesn't mean we can't interact with them well. If you're going into a field and planning to build a house, the first thing you have to do is make sure that the spirits of that land are with you on the project. If they're not with you on the project, you won't succeed, and you'll end up having to go somewhere else. Even in modern times, Iceland still diverts roads around boulders, leaves the old troll stones alone. Why does that road curve around that boulder? Because people have seen trolls there. That doesn't necessarily imply that those spirits are vastly more powerful than us, but just like if there was anyone else living there first, you'd have to deal with them in some way. In ADF, what we're trying to do is recover and, where necessary, reinvent these methods for interacting with the gods and spirits, and do so in a balanced way that is acceptable to moderns and still maintains the core of pagan practices and is consistent with what we can determine about pagan theology.
Category: