Tag Archives: God

A Book-Worm’s Eye View of the God

By Melusine Draco

 

As most of my readers will know, I have a fascination for odd and obscure historical facts that are hidden away in the millions of sources that outstrip and confound the confines of the Internet – it’s finding them that presents the stimulation and the challenge. If we merely rely on the regurgitated information of contemporary paganism not only does our mind become stagnant, but for those who follow the Craft of the witch, so do our magical abilities.

In traditional British Old Craft, ours is a nameless god – a composite of all the images from the ancient world that The Orphic Hymns hailed as:

I call strong Pan, the substance of the whole,

Etherial, marine, earthly, general soul,

Immortal fire; for all the world is thine,

And all are parts of thee, O pow’r divine.

Which probably explains why in Coven of the Scales schooling, Meriem Clay-Egerton always

saw Pan as the Horned God … and the Horned God as Pan. This was a traditional British Old Craft coven that honoured Aegocerus the ‘goat-horned’ – an epithet of the Greek Pan – not

Cernunnos, the stag-horned deity the Celts had brought with them from northern Europe. It should also be understood that although Coven of the Scales held firmly to the philosophy and

opinion that all faiths were One and all Paths led to the same Goal, it did not advocate what is now referred to as ‘eclectic paganism’. So how on earth could this ancient, pre-Olympian

Greek deity find his way into the beliefs of traditional witchcraft in Britain?

Pan: Dark Lord of the Forest and Horned God of the Witches is an exploration of how an Old European deity who, even in Classical Greece defied their ethnic love of order and refused to be pigeon-holed, categorized and compartmentalized to fit into the Olympian pantheon.  This ancient libertine was too scruffy and unkempt to be included among these exalted creatures – but then again, he was far too powerful to be ignored.  Needless to say, Pan possessed all the conventional abilities of the Olympian gods such as super-human strength and longevity, shape-shifting, stamina and resistance to injury. He also had some mystical powers, especially those associated with music and dance, and its magical potency; not to mention a very wily mind, a raucous sense of humour and a shout or scream that instilled terror in the hearer.

Yet Pan’s image retained its immense power when Greek myth passed into Christian myth, with Pan’s cloven-footed appearance providing a perfect concept for the Devil in the eyes of the new, evolving priesthood. In ancient and medieval times the common people were taught by being exposed to holy images, and fear would not have been instilled in them by being shown pictures of the Olympian ‘beautiful people’; particularly during the medieval period, when the Devil was conceived as having horns and a goat’s hindquarters. Pan’s activities are those of a giver of fertility; hence he is represented as vigorous and lustful – the latter being one of the Devil’s bestial characteristics and a condition abhorrent to the Christian clergy.

Nevertheless, once an image has become firmly engrained in the cultural unconsciousness it is extremely difficult to dislodge. Joseph L. Henderson of the Jung Foundation described it as an area of historical memory that lies between the collective unconscious and the manifest culture pattern; having some kind of identity ‘arising from the archetypes of the collective unconscious which, on one hand, assists in the formation of myth and ritual, and on the other, promotes the process of development in individual human beings…’ These mythological motifs, or primordial thoughts, lie dormant until some dream, vision or epiphany brings them to the fore – and often with conflicting emotions between faith and instinct.

Because behind every myth, fairy tale and legend – hidden within the art, song and structures of those ancient times – is an encoded layer of wisdom, science and truth passed down through countless generations.  Between 1890 and 1926 there was an ‘astonishing resurgence of interest in the Pan motif’. He appears in poetry, in novels and children’s books, and as the eponymous ‘Piper at the Gates of Dawn’ in Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows (1908), providing the reader with one of the most evocative images of the Great God Pan ever written:

…saw the backward sweep of the curved horns, gleaming in the growing daylight; saw the stern, hooked nose between the kindly eyes that were looking down on them humorously, while the bearded mouth broke into a half-smile at the corners; saw the ripping muscles on the arm that lay across the broad chest, the long supple hand still holding the panpipes… saw the splendid curves of the shaggy limbs…

Find out more about Pagan Portals Pan here – https://www.johnhuntpublishing.com/moon-books/our-books/pagan-portals-pan 

The Minoan Pantheon: Deities A-Plenty

La Pariesienne Evans

Most people have heard of Ariadne, Dionysus, and maybe the Minotaur, but there’s more to the Minoan pantheon than just those three. Here’s a quick rundown of the gods and goddesses we relate to in Modern Minoan Paganism.

Please note that, although Theseus is well known from the Greek version of the story of Ariadne, the Minotaur and the Labyrinth, he’s not a part of the Minoan pantheon. He’s a Greek culture hero (the Minoans weren’t Greek) whose purpose was to show the Minoans in a negative light. Many cultures have created this kind of propaganda via mythology. The Greeks aren’t alone by any means, and for all we know, the Minoans might have done it, too, though we can’t yet read their writings to be sure. Find out more about the origin and nature of the Theseus myth here.

Here’s the Minoan pantheon as we currently experience it within Modern Minoan Paganism. Some people focus on just one or two deities and some like a big party. 🙂 Whatever works for you is just fine.

Posidaeja – Grandmother Ocean who surrounds the beautiful island of Crete, one part of the Land/Sea/Sky goddess triplicity

Rhea – Mother Earth; her body is the island of Crete itself; her womb is the cave on Mt. Dikte (or maybe it’s the one on Mt. Ida – in fact, Ida may have been one of Rhea’s names). She’s the Land portion of the Land/Sea/Sky triplicity.

Ourania – Great Cosmic Mother-of-All, embodied in the starry night sky. She’s the third member of the Land/Sea/Sky triplicity.

Ariadne – Rhea’s daughter, Queen Bee, Lady of the Labyrinth. She figures prominently in the story behind the Minoan precursor to the Eleusinian Mysteries. You can find a lovely version of that tale in Charlene Spretnak’s book Lost Goddesses of Early Greece.

Dionysus – shamanic god of wine and other intoxicants that allow communication with the Underworld. All types of fermentation and hallucinogens are sacred to him, as are ecstatic states.

Zagreus – “The Dismembered One.” Shamanic bull-god who may be an aspect of Dionysus.

Ananke/Arachne – goddess of fate and destiny; possibly an aspect or “job title” of Ariadne.

The Melissae – ancestral bee spirits; Ariadne is their Queen

The Horned Ones – three pairs of animal deities that may go back as far as Neolithic Crete.

Britomartis/Diktynna – deer goddess, connected with Mt. Dikte, later also associated with the sea thanks to some linguistic confusion

Minelathos – the sacred stag, consort to Britomartis

Amalthea – goat-goddess associated with Dionysus and the Minocapros; sometimes described as Rhea’s sister or twin

Minocapros – the sacred goat, associated with Dionysus, consort to Amalthea

Europa – the great Moon-Cow whose milk spurted to create the Milky Way; generally considered to be a doublet (pair or twin) of Pasiphae

Minotauros – the sacred moon-bull, consort to Europa; also associated with the Labyrinth (but I promise, he’s not a monster)

Aega – goddess of the Aegean Sea

Helice – willow goddess; sister or twin of Rhea

Eileithyia – divine midwife; you can still visit her sacred cave near the north coast of Crete

Minos – triple Moon god, judge and protector of souls in the afterlife, healer

Daedalus – smith god; the Minoans were a Bronze Age culture so he would have overseen the smithing of bronze, silver, and gold, but not iron.

Asterion – name meaning ‘starry one’ and applied to several related figures in Minoan mythology: Minos’ father or foster-father (if he’s the father – and the Hellenic Zeus isn’t – then Asterion may be another name for Dionysus); the Minotaur (Karl Kerenyi supported this view); Europa’s consort (but apparently not the same as the Minotaur). It’s not clear whether any or all of these were originally the same figure in the Minoan pantheon.

So there you have it: plenty of choices. Obviously, there’s way more to these deities than just the few sentences I’ve offered here. So if any of these gods and goddesses call to you, it’s worth your time to answer that call. Sure, you can do some research, but what’s equally important is connecting with them directly yourself. Invite them into your sacred space, your rituals, your life. You’ll be the richer for it.

In the name of the bee,

And of the butterfly,

And of the breeze, amen.

Relationship with Divinity

There are people from all religions who have spiritual experiences and feel they have come into contact with their god, goddess, or another spiritual presence they find significant. Generally speaking, being a serious upholder of the given faith is deemed a good way of inviting that kind of experience. So, what is a Druid to do? How do we go about our lives in order to make contact with divinity?

For us, it’s a very different scenario. There’s no book of rules, no straightforward way of demonstrating power of faith or devotion that you can easily tap into. We talk a great deal about having nothing to mediate between us and the divine, but in practice what that also means is that we are entirely on our own.

What are we seeking, when we quest after direct knowledge of deity? Reassurance? Something to take us out of the realms of faith and into knowing and certainty, perhaps. We might seek validation, proof that we are heading the right way, doing the right things. We might just want the ego boost. While all of these things may be natural, they are about us, and not about relationship. If there is any rule at all for Druids in this context, it should probably be, to seek connection for its own sake and not for anything else. Don’t even assume it will mean insight and wisdom. It might just bring chaos, confusion and uncertainty. Are we looking for some clear moment, the booming voice from the Heavans? Or are we actually seeking to know and understand? Religious experience is not like the movies. There is seldom much certainty, but moments of beauty, wonder, awe and numinousness can enrich our lives and give us a sense of having encountered something other. Seek relationship for the beauty of it. That is enough.

The things that shape relationships between humans are just as valid when it comes to thinking about relationship with deity. What do we share? If we understand deity as manifest in nature, then when we are out, interacting with and relating to nature, we are also experiencing relationship with the divine. Watching it on the telly doesn’t count. If we are drawn to more human gods, the named figures of historical pantheons, then we might think about what they represent – and where we are exploring their focus, and the energy they embody, we are making relationship with them, or at the very least with concepts that exist externally to us.

To seek deity in the way I’ve described above, does not call for belief. It doesn’t need validation in the form of something obvious returning to you. It is experiencing sacredness in action, allowing perception to include that element of deity, and being open to that which moves us. It’s spending time with a river and the land, or writing poetry and recognising the sacred within that. As with all other kinds of relationship, the more you share, do and give, the deeper it becomes. No burning bushes actually required.

Concepts of Deity

In my teens I thought about deity very much in terms of anthropomorphic personifications. Gods looked like people and could be talked to very much like people. On the whole that seems to be a normal sort of reaction to the idea of gods and goddesses. Our pagan ancestors had largely humanoid god figures, many of whom lived lives that make sense in human terms. The Greek myths read a bit like some kind of divine soap opera at times.

In terms of finding human ways of relating to non-human things, conceptualising them in our own image makes a lot of sense. That doesn’t mean they are like us, nor that we are made in their image though. Whatever gods are, most of them are not human, and never were. There are of course ancestor gods, deities of tribe who very much were and are human, and are now something else – how many ancient pagan gods originated that way I don’t know, but some of them must have.

Gods of sun, moon, sea, sky and earth are ways of humanising very non-human things. It’s a lot easier to relate to Thor, Zeus or Taranus than it is to the might and randomness of a thunderstorm. In the humanising lies some kind of hope, I think, that these forces can be made sense of and placated.

The deities who come to us through stories, garbed in myth and decked out in recognisably human form, it is easy to relate to as such. But what about the sense of deity and sacredness we may find for ourselves in the world? I’ve had a fair few experiences that have filled me with awe and a sense of beauty and otherness. Moments of wonder that inspire a sense of the divine. There are no god or goddess names to call up in response to the golden light of a setting sun turning fields and river into something magical. There’s no deity that I know of presiding over darkness amongst the beech trees, or the bright, crisp vibrancy of an autumnal morning. There are no names to humanise these moments, only me, and the experience.

I’ve lain on the verge of sleep in many places, aware of the land beneath me, conscious of being held by it. Where I’m currently living, there’s such a rich, almost peaty darkness to that sense of land. I feel it keenly as an awareness separate from my own, but it has no name, and I cannot ascribe human form to it. Nor would I try and speak to it – there is nothing I can do but exist alongside it, conscious of the presence and energy. It makes for a wholly different kind of relationship from the ones with Gods who have names and can be addressed with words.

While these senses of deity make for radically different experiences, I don’t think there’s a qualitative difference, or that either sort of encounter is more ‘real’. The named, humanised deities seem to me much more connected with human concerns, the nameless beings of earth and sky are much wilder and far less interested. They are. We are. Sometimes there are moments of connection.

I’d be very interested in hearing about how you perceive and experience deity. Please do post comments.