Tuesday, April 06, 2010

My Gods, Your Gods, Their Gods, Our Gods

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored!" They're bored, those gods. Many of them. Almost all of them, in fact. The deities we know now are just the tip of the iceberg. Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of fine pantheons have come and gone before the dawn of what we call "history." Their names and deeds are lost to time. *Anne weeps*

Here at "The Gods Are Bored" we honor those forgotten deities. Think of us as the Tomb of the Unknown Gods. Eternal flame blazing -- we know not for whom.

One of the nice things about being off school this week is that I've gotten back up to date on the news and the blogs. (The news is bad from West Virginia, but I'll have more to say about that as the Fairie Festival approaches.)

My friend Hecate had a link to an interesting post about praising and worshiping the deities of your place, even if your ancestors lived elsewhere. At the same time, Jason at The Wild Hunt quotes from a Heathen who believes that deities do, and should, stay with their cultural groups of origin. We will begin by quoting the Heathen, whose name is Stephen McNallen:

‘Pagan,’ as I use the term, does not mean lacking a moral code. It does not mean rituals mixing Isis, Thor, and American Indian beliefs, with a little lesbian-feminist philosophy thrown in for good (or bad) measure. It is not a hobby, a pastime, or an affectation … There are only two kinds of religions in the world. One kind, like Christianity, Islam, or Scientology, lacks any roots in blood or soil … The other category includes the ones we call pagan, or native, or indigenous religions.  They are innately tied to a specific people and cannot be transferred to another group without losing their truth, power, and integrity. Such religions are the distilled experience of a specific biological and cultural group from its very beginning.”

We at "The Gods Are Bored" accept and respect "the distilled experience of a specific biological and cultural group from its very beginning." If such a thing were to exist today, we would throw ourselves in front of the missionaries trying to "civilize" it. Fact of the matter is, human nature has been to explore, to clash or colonize, to mix and mingle, and otherwise to scatter "specific biological and cultural groups" to the four winds. With all due respect to Stephen McNallen (because we respect all spiritual paths here), it must be more difficult to get into his praise and worship team than it is to prove you can belong to the D.A.R. Does the worship of the Odin pantheon require a DNA sample linking the follower to a pure strain of Norwegian? Put it another way. If Lebron James suddenly decided to worship Thor, would he be deemed unacceptable?

I think we should let Thor decide. Thor would probably be absolutely, positively delighted with Lebron James. But I could be wrong. Thor declined an interview for this post. He's busy seeking new followers. Not wherever He can find them, but from a "specific biological and cultural group." Uh oh. I feel some boredom coming on!

Hecate's link, and her own comments, suggest that we ought to forge bonds with the deities of our ancestors as well as the deities of the place in which we reside. To put it in my characteristically oversimplified "Gods Are Bored" way, it works like this: When you light a candle to Brighid, dedicate it also to Turtle Woman, or to whatever Native deity or deities reside within your place. This is not a "hobby, pastime, or affectation." This is basic respect and acknowledgment of the memory stored in the ground at your feet.

I would even dispute Mr. McNallen's claim that Christianity and Islam (and even Scientology, for the love of fruit flies) "lack any roots in blood or soil." Please don't tell the Muslims that! Making those pilgrimages are an important part of their faith! And by all means don't point this out to the Christians who flock to Israel in droves, leaving their tourist ducats behind!

All spiritual paths are rooted to some specific place. It's how they branch that makes all the difference. Some branches suffocate others. It's our mission here at "The Gods Are Bored" to trim back the ivy and find whatever species of plant exists underneath all that spreading stuff.

We are especially keenly aware of the ancestral deities of place. This means that all "Gods Are Bored" rituals that occur in Appalachia recognize the Algonquin deities. The Celtic deities. The pre-Celtic deities. And the god who was rooted in Palestine and spread like that pesky Wisteria all over the planet. That busy god doesn't need your patronage, but He can't be ignored entirely if your beloved granny went to church every Sunday.

So, here's to heaping helpings of potent bored god mixtures! Create your own today. Don't know how to start? Touch the ground where you live. Then listen.

Images: "The Bitter One," by Seitou. "Manabozho in the Flood," public domain.


THE Michael said...

Pendragon Hold was created on the remains of a cleared lot that led one to believe we were the first to tred upon her.......but I do imagine that many a set of feet may have walked here and invoked many a diety.

We honor them all.

Hecate said...

His sneer at lesbians and feminists tells me all that I need to know about him.

Anne Johnson said...

Yes, I left that part of his praise and worship platform intact. It's a good illustration of how some gods have boredom thrust upon them.

Kathryn said...

Thank you for your thoughtful response to Stephen. After all, if we have our DNA tested (and there's an interesting project run by the National Geographic Society), back in the mists of time we all come from Africa. I had mine tested for the project. Out of Africa into the middle east into Europe. In this life I am Swedish, English and German. But go back a ways and I have Celtic ancestors (including King Brian of Ireland and one of the King Malcom's of Scotland. And, then there's Charlemagne. Just who would I pick as my group's dieties? Got me. So, I think that being thoughtful and seeing who calls you is a good alternative. However, the suggestion to honor the deities of the place as a part of your spiritual life is an interesting thought.

Anonymous said...

Lovely post, Anne! People who are quite proud of their Anglo-Saxon roots seem to forget that once upon a time, those Angles and Saxons didn't like each other much, had some differences in language and, yes, worship. I think that waay back in the past. things that were done for health became part of culture, which bled into religion. I really don't know what the God/desses want, I just try to honor them, whoever, wherever, and whatever they are...

Davo said...

Beautiful, thoughtful, incisive post, Anne. I often wonder how Australia would be if there was an impermeable fence around the equator. All major wars and troubles seem to be generated in the Northern hemisphere.

There were no "gods" in Australia before the european incursion; just an affinity with, and love of, the landscape.

Thalia Took said...

It baffles me that someone could think that Islam--of all things, freakin' Islam!--has no ties to the land. I mean it's not like five times a day all Muslims are supposed to face a certain city in Arabia or something.

And yeah no kidding, Hecate. Also I've really got to see about training myself NOT to read the comments at Jason's. They make me so very stabby sometimes.

R.H. said...

War is caused by overcrowding, Australia is headed that way.

Maeve said...

I saw that post at Wild Hunt and didn't have a thoughtful response for it, so I really appreciated this one.

Also, Mudbloods of the World Unite! hehe

kimc said...

Anne -- You have, of course, read Small Gods by Terry Pratchett?

kazari said...

Here in Australia, there is a growing habit of starting any public gathering with an acknowledgment of the original owners of the land, and if you can find one, a 'welcome to country'.
My understanding is that a welcome to country comes not just from the elder who gives it, but their ancestors and their dreaming - the local spirits if you will.
Maybe we should all do this everywhere?

R.H. said...

I've got a stolen motor mower.
I always acknowledge the original owners before using it.

R.H. said...

I should give it back. Or shutup.

JohnFranc said...

The idea of Americans going off about "blood and soil" seems a bit out of place. Bill Murray had it right in "Stripes" - we're all mutts.

The future of humanity lies in understanding our connectedness to all people and all creatures, not in a retreat to tribalism.