General Articles

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From the beginning of ADF's work, we have sought to base our Neo-pagan work on the actual ways of Indo-European Pagan cultures. We know that the religious we are making are, and must be, modern. We are modern people in a modern world, and we will inevitably bring with us ideas shaped by our experience. However, like many Pagans, we seek to move beyond many of the common paradigms of our times. We see things in the modern world that we consider to be les than desirable, and we hope to relieve those ills, at least in our own lives, by looking to the ways and values of the old religions. The old ways are our inspiration, their sages, magicians and priests our spiritual mentors.In accordance with that philosophy, one of the core instructions of ADF's work is to study the cultures of Pagan Europe with the intention of comprehending them as fully as possible. We work to learn the facts about Paganism, but also to understand the minds and hearts of the people who lived it. To do this, we must comprehend not just the religious symbols and forms of the ancients, but their lives and work. We must know their art and artisanry, the structure of their families, tribes and nations. We must know what they ate, what they wore and, to the best of our ability, who they were. If we do not seek a grasp of the essence of a people's way of life, then we will fail to understand what their spiritual ways have to teach us. We risk doing no better than pounding the triangular peg of religious symbolism into the square hole of our modern preconceptions.In addition to the study of archeology and ancient customs, insight into the modern cultures that descend from the Pagan past can contribute to our understanding. Getting involved in the folk cultures and more modern history of the Irish, Welsh, Danes or Greeks offers insights into the spirit of a people that cannot be gained from academic sources alone. So we encourage students to listen to the folk, music of these cultures, learn their traditional dance, and especially to learn at least some of the native tongue of the gods they wish to address.On the most basic level, we strongly recommend that each ADF ceremony be focused on a single pantheon. That allows the rite to be unified in esthetics and cultural detail, and it ensures that the powers called will be in harmony with one another. Even in early stages, when you are examining various traditions, it is best to keep each rite focused on a specific culture. Experiencing the gestalt of each culture in turn gives a dearer understanding of each.In our Druidry, we have learned to view the deities as real persons - independent, freely acting individuals of great wisdom and mighty magic. We try to avoid viewing the spirits as 'archetypes' in the 'collective unconscious'. We do not, in general, find that Deities with similar function are 'aspects' of one another, or of a greater whole. So we would consider Thor, Taranis and Zeus, despite the association of each with thunder, to be separate, individual deities.So it seems only right to address the powers in the cultural idiom to which they are accustomed. When we invite the gods and goddesses to our rites, we feel it is proper to treat them with honor. We feel it is best to use Greek customs for Greek deities, and Welsh for Welsh gods and goddesses. We see it as less proper to construct ritual out of bits and pieces of many cultures and try to 'plug' in I whatever powers one wishes to 'use'.On a more personal level, we recommend that each student choose one Indo-European culture to work as their 'home' culture. If we wish, we might refer to this as one's Hearth Culture, or Hearth Ways.Ancient Paganism was certainly fairly open and inclusive. It seems likely that neighboring cultures influenced one another sways, including their religions. But the people of those cultures would have begun life with a child's immersion in the ways of their local religion, at their family's hearth. If, when adult, they chose to include spirits or works from other cultures in their personal religion, they would do so with the particular world-view of a Celtic tribesman, or a woman of the Hellenic cities.This is very different from a person whose native land is in the modern, industrial west, who tries to absorb Pagan ways directly, without regard for the cultures in which they grew. Far from bringing the wisdom of the ancients into modern life, that approach may only superimpose the form of Paganism on the attitudes, beliefs and lifestyles of our materialist, Christian-influenced culture.So you might think of yourself as a new human, freshly brought into the world, of ancient Athens, or Ireland or Scandinavia. Or you might think of yourself as a voyager thrown up on the shores of a Pagan culture. As a newcomer among the people it is your duty to learn their ways and, in time, to be accepted as one of them. It is by the kind of cultural immersion that a child or a castaway might experience that you can truly move past modern upbringing toward more Pagan perspectives.Please understand that we are not recommending an exclusivist or fundamentalist approach to this choice. The ancients seem to have had little of such attitudes. There is little evidence to show that they wished to preserve 'purely' Celtic or 'exclusively' Germanic ways. Every European Pagan culture was (and is) the result of thousands of years of intermingling and mutual influence) and the cultures of the Pagan Iron Age all drew freely on one another's cultural and religious ideas.So while you should work to understand your 'hearth' culture fully, you need not feel required to limit your personal work only to those forms. If you have a relationship with a deity from another culture, you should certainly continue it. If you have spiritual practices from various cultures that work for you, use them. Perhaps you will find yourself adapting your older patterns to fit your hearth culture. as you move more fully into its model. In the end you should be able to find a balance between formal work in your ethnic tradition and a more personal eclecticism.Respect for the cultures from which we seek to learn asks us to go beyond simple borrowing, or 'cut-and-paste' approaches. Wisdom suggests that to comprehend the gods and goddesses) and the spirit and magic of the old religions, we must comprehend the cultures in which they existed. Practice has shown that involvement primarily in a single culture leads to solid, practical results. So we earnestly suggest that you take up a hearth culture for your work in Our Druidry.
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The following articles are about gods and spirits in general, or which cross specific cultural boundaries:The Dirt on Jack in the GreenThe Case for Choosing a PantheonReclaiming the Indo-European Sky Father
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(Originally published in Druid's Progress 13)When most Pagans hear of a Jack-in-the-Green, they almost always imagine either a Green Man or Robin Hood. I was one those Pagans. Now I know better and here's why...May first is, to most of us, a beginning. Spring has arrived and all life rejoices. Not so for chimney sweeps. Perhaps your mind did a flip flop. Chimney sweeps? Whatever do you mean? May heralds the end of the busy season for sweeps. Who needs to have their flue cleaned in the summer heat? So May Day was a sweep's chance to earn a few coppers before unemployment set in. But I get ahead of myself.Customs overlap (with only 365 chances to celebrate, they must) and milk maids had a custom of garlanding their pails on May Day and singing through the streets (1). No doubt a pretty sight and a well-rewarded one, as pennies were often cast into the pails. As in all things, competitions arose and the maids began trying to out shine (literally) their neighbors, by collecting silver spoons, plate and tankards and arranging them in conical forms upon their Heads (2). Eventually, even this out-grew itself and palanquins were used to cart the borrowed plate through the streets before the girls (3). Then added to the menagerie were a fiddler and a drummer. Yes, this is developing into a parade, with rich rewards to be had.As one moved into the poorer quarters of town, one encountered the chimney sweeps and their 'climbing boys' facing long months of little income. So the sweeps took a cue from the maids and began their own display. Wearing their best suits, bedecked in colored paper and gilt, garlands on their hats and beating shovel with brush, the sweeps took to the streets (4). Fiddle and drum were easy to come by, but what of the silver) Maintaining the maid's conical form, by extending it to man size and covering it with foliage, Jack-in-the-Green was born (5). Sometimes surmounted by a green crown, sometimes with flowers, Jack joined the troupe.By bringing a bit of the forest into the city, the sweeps enjoyed a 'locomotive mass of foliage,' (6) to Maypole around.A nice theory, but it won't wash.Forced daily to risk life and limb to earn a living, sweeps no doubt longed for a tactile sign of life outside the coal dust. By spending one day a year dancing around a figure totally encased in living vegetation, they were in touch with a symbol of life and renewal (7).Nice try.The recurring theme of a Lord and a Lady (usually a man in 'fancy dress') traditionally, always have a Fool in attendance. 'Jack' could be viewed as fulfilling the role, adding the needed unexpected quality to the show. Parallels have been drawn between the two and at St. Wandrille, Normandy, he is combined and represented by a foliate Fool (8).This too, is far-fetched.No, what really happened was; Lord and Lady Montagu were happily delivered of a healthy son. While enjoying the pleasures of a noble infancy, the child was left unattended for a crucial instant and was spirited away by gypsies. Sold to a chimney sweep, he became a climbing boy and suffered the kind of torment only dreamed of in romantic novels. After a particularly bad day he either; A) was recognized by a footman of his lost family household or B) fell asleep in Lord Montagu's bed where either a) his mother discovered him or b) his mother discovered him and demanded to see a birthmark on his arm. Either way, the family was reunited. Thereafter, Lady Montagu annually feasted chimney sweeps on May 1st, the day her son was returned to her. On May 2, 1799, this appeared in the Times, 'The donations given by Mrs. Montagu, of Portman Square, every May-day, proceed from pure benevolence towards the distressed poor. The story which has been generally believed of her having lost a child, who was trepanned from her house, is wholly unfounded' (10).So, where does this leave us?Luckily, it leaves us with a thrilling sense of wonder.As we scan the history that appeals to us, we root out bits of things, or whole chunks, we need to add to our days, rituals, lives. To many people, Jack-in-the-Green is such a thing. In the early twentieth century only a handful of old men remembered being told about Sweeps' Day/May first and yet, at Hastings Castle, a Jack-in-the-Green can be seen on May first this year and next year and as long as the people who need it are alive (11).Long may they live.-- FootnotesJones, Julia and Deer, Barbara. Cattern Cakes and Lace. Dorling Kindersley Ltd., 1987, p. 71.Judge, Roy. Jack-in-the-Green, D.S. Brewer Ltd., 1978, p.4.Ibid, p.17.Dickens, Charles. Sketches by Boz, Books, Inc., 1836, pp.168-9.Giblin, James C. Chimney Sweeps. T.Y. Crowell, 1982, p.10.Judge, p. 127.Anderson, William. Green Man, Harper Collins Pub., 1990, p 149.Ibid, pp. 29-30.Judge, pp. 45-8.Anderson, p. 9.
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By Raven and Carrion Mann Most modern Neopagans are familiar and comfortable with the concept of an Earth Mother, whether she is viewed as the Earth itself, or as a more localized goddess of sovereignty. We strive to connect with the powers of the Earth to ground ourselves and draw upon its life-giving magic, but what about the powers of the Sky and the ability to balance and center ourselves within our cosmos? As ADF Druids, we are not unfamiliar with the illuminating magic and creative spark of Sky power for we attune to it frequently, but pay little attention to the source of this power. As modern polytheists, we worship deities of the Sky, those of the storms, of the sun and of the moon, yet we make no mention of a Sky Father. Why has this being, which held such prominence among our Indo-European ancestors (Winn 20-21), been so intentionally overshadowed within modern Indo-European derived spiritual paths, such as ADF and how is it that we reclaim this being of such importance? In my opinion the why begins in that many individuals have found their way to Neopaganism as a reactionary movement away from their perceived oppression of the Abrahamic religions. The Abrahamic religions are most obviously grounded in patriarchy, venerating exclusively a male deity, who is perceived at times by Neopagans as an ‘angry Sky God'. The Neopagan revival offered a gentle alternative to the concept of ‘angry Sky God' in a variety of Earth based, Earth Mother driven spiritual paths. The Neopagan religions also offered a liberating alternative to many women feeling oppressed by the patriarchy of the Abrahamic religions (Adler 22). Reclaiming the Indo-European Sky Father has been met with quite a bit of resistance and controversy largely due to being misperceived by modern Neopagans as the ‘angry Sky God' they fled when leaving the Abrahamic religions. Additionally, the Indo-Europeans were most definitely a patriarchal society and this only further adds to the difficulties that many Neopagans face in embracing a Sky Father deity. It is extremely unfortunate that the peaceful nature of Indo-European Sky Father has been stereotyped in such a manner. Among all natural deities, the concept of an Earth Mother and Sky Father seems to have traditions that are rooted deep within ancient history. For some of these ancient cultures it is this couple that was actually responsible for the creation of the universe (Keith 80). As these cultures developed, however, the size of each pantheon grew, overshadowing the most ancient and primal of these beings. Despite the fact that there is currently no evidence for a universal Indo-European Sky Father, evidence of Sky Father deities exists in all Indo-European pantheons. "There are a few cases where the parallelism existing among the words used by the different Indo-European peoples gives us the right to conclude the existence of common worship" (Keith 37). However, the existence of the Indo-European figure, ‘Dyaus Pitr', is one such case (Keith 37). Linguistic evidence links the root words for "day", "sky" and "god" in all classical Indo-European languages and the name for the God of the Sky descends from the Proto-Indo-European word ‘*deiuo' or ‘*deiwo' meaning "clear sky" or "day light or day sky" (Winn 20-23). Within each Indo-European culture, the Sky Father deity was the head of the pantheon and one of the most ancient male deities of the Indo-European peoples (Winn 81). As the Indo-Europeans, moved away from the Black Sea and swept across the steppes in search of new lands, this peaceful god of the clear sky moved with them. Upon settling in a new territory, the Sky Father wed the Goddess of that land or the Earth Mother deity and in the minds of the early Indo-Europeans the relationship between the Sky Father and localized Earth Mother was as simple as, the Sky Father fertilized the Earth Mother, which in turn gave birth to all living things (Keith 80). For several of the Indo-European cultures the Sky Father was not only the supreme god, ruling over the entire pantheon, but he also commanded the skies and the heavens. It is also believed that individuals of all social classes venerated the Sky Father. The Sky Father's primary function was to maintain religious/cosmic order, yet he also possessed legislative and warrior functions (Winn 82). The Sky Father, however, is not to be confused with the Sun God, who was also given precedence in Indo-European culture. Actually, it is the Sky Father and Earth Mother that are often the parents of the Sun, Moon and Storm Gods of Indo-Europeans. Unlike the concept of "Lord and Lady" honored in many Neopagan traditions, the Indo-European Sky Father and Earth Mother deities are not beings whose children are aspects of them. While some Neopagan traditions prefer to reduce all Gods to one God and all Goddesses to one Goddess, this was not the case for our polytheistic Indo-European ancestors. Such a primal pair, as Danu and Bile can most certainly be made to fit into this dualistic world-view, but this world-view cannot be made to fit into the world of the ancient Indo-Europeans. Detailed exploration of the Indo-European cultures yields Sky Father deities, whose names are not unfamiliar to most Neopagans. From the Greek and Roman cultures Zeus and Jupiter, respectively, are the only two Sky Fathers that have maintained their prominence as the Chiefs of their pantheons. They, however, retain their prominence largely due to their Storm God functions (Burkert 126). Zeus is not only the father of humankind and the Gods, but also the Cloud Gatherer and Thunderer and likewise, Jupiter is the Roman God of the Sky and the God of Thunder (Winn 93). In the Indic culture, Dyaus, father of Indra and Agni, is recognized as the Sky Father of the pantheon (Keith 95), but unlike, Zeus and Jupiter, Dyaus did not retain his position as head of the Indic pantheon (Puhvel 59), but was usurped by Indra, most likely due to climatic and political changes. "Dyaus has the honour of being the only Indo-European god who is certainly to be recognized as having existed in the earliest period, and he has been claimed for that time as a real sovereign of the gods, much as Zues among the Greeks" (Keith 95). Similarly, in the Norse pantheon Tyr can clearly identified as the Sky Father of the pantheon; however, Tyr, like the Indo-European Sky Fathers of many other cultures, is eventually, overshadowed by Odin (Ellis Davison 215). It is evident from just a few examples that as the Indo-European cultures migrated and developed, the need for deities of weather and war became a necessity for survival in their new lands and the peaceful God of the Clear Sky willingly faded into the background of many pantheons, yet he remains a calm, consistent presence, perhaps a largely untapped resource for order in our chaotic world. Eventually, in most Indo-European cultures it is the children of the Sky Father that would replace or share his role within Indo-European tripartite structure. In time the original function of the Sky Father deities seems to most often be divided among his children as in the Vedic case of Mitra and Varuna. Varuna becomes the guardian of truth and cosmic order, while Mitra reigns over human contracts and covenants (Winn 83). This pairing of deities divided the functions in to light/ordered and dark/chaotic. With this division the Indo-European obsession for dualistic choices becomes apparent. "Global dualisms which exaggerated the distinction between Indo-European and non-Indo-European assert themselves all too easily: male and female, patriarchy and matriachy, heaven and earth, Olympian and chthonic, and intellect and instict" (Burkert 18). This bipolar system of the world is also reflected within Indo-European cultures when the new gods overthrow the old, "or as the Indo-European Sky Father takes the Mediterranean Mistress as his bride" (Burkert 18). It is easy to look to honor the more active deities of our pantheons, as the Sky Fathers watch over their children in peaceful silence. In the mundane world the clear sky seems to hold no great interest for us and is virtually unimportant until it is filled with the threatening clouds of the Thunderer or the brilliance of the Sun. However, to become not only grounded, but also centered in our world; to really achieve balance; we must look to the sacred and inseparable union between the Earth and Sky for our example, for one can not exist without the other. We must realize the potential and need for the spark and illumination of the clear sky and therefore, we must reclaim and restore the Indo-European Sky Fathers to our worship. In conclusion, for the early Neopagan movement it made perfect sense for individuals to seek to follow the gentle Earth Mother because she had lain forgotten for nearly 2000 years, maligned and oppressed by the Abrahamic religions. Since that time, it is the Sky Father that has lain forgotten, maligned at worst and at best ignored within Neopagan spiritual paths because he has been stereotyped to be of a similar nature to what became the Abrahamic Sky Father. We have now reached a point within our history as modern Neopagans that we must seek the balance between the Earth and Sky, and for ADF Druids a balance that is driven by the Earth Mothers and Sky Fathers of the Indo-European pantheons. Works Cited Alder, Margot. Drawing Down the Moon. Boston, Massachusetts: Beacon Press, 1986. Burkert, Walter. Greek Religion. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1985. Ellis Davidson, H.R. Myths and Symbols in Pagan Europe: Early Scandinavian and Celtic Religions. Syracuse: University Press, 1988. Keith, Arthur B. The Religion and Philosophy of the Veda and Upanishads (part 1). Delhi, India: Motilal Banarsidass Publishers, 1989. Puhvel, Jaan. Comparative Mythology. Baltimore, Maryland: The John's Hopkins University Press, 1987. Winn, Shan M. M. Heaven, Heroes, and Happiness. Lanham, Maryland: University Press of America, Inc., 1995.
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