Tags: gods

The Gender of the Creator

I still dunno why people have to ascribe gender to the Creator. Sex is a way for DNA to be exchanged, in order to keep diversity going in order to increase the species' chances of survival under changing conditions.

The Creator doesn't need that.

All the other "feminine" and "masculine" stuff other than reproduction is either secondary sex traits, or personality traits ascribed to one or the other, and tied to hormonal differences, all supported or shaped differently according to what culture one is in.

The Creator doesn't have a penis or a vagina, neither or both. Those are biological things and the Creator is not biological.

So basically if it makes you feel better to say when you pray Father or Mother or both or neither, I really don't think the Creator cares. Just do it. Just pray.

Gods and Family and Layers

It's great when you realize you are old, have had life experiences all over the map, and are offbeat enough you could never run successfully for political office. That means you can talk about stuff you couldn't otherwise. So, gods. God. etc. What's the deal?

LAYER 1
Temperamentally, I am an animist and a mystic. Everything's alive, can be communicated with, and communicates. Has a personality. That's what I remember from my earliest childhood. People, dogs, clouds, houses, trees, everything's a kind of Person, a kind of Being, that reacts to what you do, and can do things for you or TO you. That's my pre-6 year old brain. Animals were pretty much like people, only they didn't talk, not with words. There wasn't much about God or Jesus or the Devil or anything. Bad stuff mainly came from adults, from accidents, from being sick, or from spooky dreams and Dark Things/feelings.

My family went to church and all when I was a kid, mostly I remember Easter morning. But church was dark and boring and incomprehensible. The only thing about God I knew, is that the prayer I said at night, "Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep, if I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take, " that prayer was to God, who was the same guy by a different name as the Lord. So mainly God just watched over you when you slept, a duty delegated to one's guardian angel (like a General sending his soldier) but if you died, then God took over and got you to someplace called heaven. That's about all I absorbed about that. There were monsters and ghosts and all kinds of stuff in this world too.

LAYER 2
When I was 6, later that fall, I was sent to Catholic school, where to God and my guardian angel, was added Jesus and Mary and a multitude of saints and nuns and priests and heavenly choirs and such. The Cathedral was right by the school, and I used to go in there and look at all the 19th century stained glass windows and see Adam and Eve and the snake, and Jesus on the cross and many stories that I didn't know but by which I was awestruck. And I learned that those spooky feelings and other bad stuff was directed by a guy we called the Devil, but if you were good, your angel protected you, and if you were bad someday you would go to hell. This was my world, a very Catholic world in the last gasps of the Latin Mass, and I turned into a very devout little kid.

LAYER 3
The school closed at the end of 3rd grade, and I was sent to a regular public school. Not much religious stuff either way, not like now where people are either psycho FOR religion or psycho AGAINST religion. People mentioned God or church but only if it came up as a natural part of the conversation. Like, we went fishing after church yesterday, or man I prayed to God my grandpa would live, that sort of thing. Once a year the Gideons came by and handed out those little green New Testaments stacked up in cardboard boxes, if you wanted one. No biggie either way. We started telling stories about ghosts and weird stuff we heard. Halloween was excellent as were all the holidays, Christmas, Easter, everything was cool and no psycho stuff, no people worked up about it.

About this time we started hanging out with more Indian people, and learning about those old ways. I was reading folklore and myths more, about science and dinosaurs. I accepted it all. No one was shouting about separation of school (state) and church, or conversely that evolution was dreamed up by the devil. It was more like, there were a lot of different things in the world, and whatever you were doing, that's what you focused on. When you did science, you did science, you didn't mix religion in there and freak out about evolution or dinosaurs. When you went to church, you didn't try to rationalize God, you just prayed. Very practical, realistic, down to earth. There was a lot in the world, and you didn't have to mash everything into acceptable boxes.

LAYER 4
By the time I hit junior high, I had fully integrated the previous layers. I didn't worry about the parts that disagreed with each other too much. In junior high I started reading more about stuff like numerology, astrology, magic, ghosts, legends, the Hobbit, bigfoot, etc. There wasn't that much out there, but I read whatever I came across. This was the early 70s in Montana, and the only woowoo stuff you might bump into was Eklal Kueshana's stuff, and later Carlos Castaneda. Mainly I read about nature, American Indian legends and history, National Geographic, fantasy, ghosts and weird tales, and I dreamed of traveling somewhere cool someday. I wanted to be a wizard or a medicine man, though I had no idea how one could do that. Other than Catholic and Native American traditions, I really only knew about Greek mythology, which I had been into since I was a little kid. High school was more of the same, really, especially Carlos Castaneda.

In college (my 20s) and until my 30s, I pretty much only cycled between being devoutly, medievally, Catholic, and following the Native American ways (sweats, learning more about my own tribe, nature). I majored in Anthropology and learned about other cultures, and was into science, evolution, etc. I was into the Arthurian thing. I read a few other things like Cunningham's book on natural magic, parapsychology, some Norse mythology, and in my twenties I played some dungeons and dragons (AD&D). This was all before computers really got going and the only computer gaming was Pac-Man, tanks, etc. That guy Gale on "Breaking Bad" was like someone I would hang out with.

I didn't really come across hermeticism until I was already in my 40s and the Internet boomed in the mid-90s. It was a feast. I learned about the various forms of druidry, I learned that there were different kinds of witches (previously I had lumped it all together as satanism), there was something called Asatru and runemal, and much, much more. My layers were getting denser and denser, sometimes overwhelming in complexity, and I ended up cycling between everything, finding everything was true in some ways, but nothing was really true in ALL ways.

It really took my late 40s before I found how to arrange it all so it worked, because so many of them were incongruent, if not actively HOSTILE to each other (I was too pagan for Catholics and too Catholic for pagans, and both despised science and science returned the favor). There were two models I use.

1. The Swiss Army knife model. What tool do you need? Corkscrews open wine, knife blades cut bread and cheese, not the other way around. And the best meals include wine AND bread AND cheese, not just one of them.

2. The model I learned in Hawai'i that Uncle Butch introduced me to: There are three legs to a stool (the stool called life). All three have to be there in equal measure, or the stool collapses and you fall off. They are: 1. God, the gods, Ke Akua. The Creator. 2. One's Ancestors (and their spiritual allies). Kupuna, Makua, 'Aumakua. 3. The Land, Ka 'Aina (and in Hawai'i, the Ocean, Kai, Moana). You need ALL THREE or you fall off the stool.

I've talked about my views on gods before. And I do think there are many gods (and goddesses, as I include goddesses when I say gods), but other than the Creator and Mother Earth, I don't get into all the god stuff too much, other than the genius loci and animistic stuff, if you count them as gods (little "g"). As part of connecting with one's ancestors, it is a wise thing to learn something about the preChristian gods they believed in. Since I have English (AngloSaxon) and German and Dutch and Norse ancestors, I learn about Wodan/Wotan/Odin and his crew. Since I have Welsh and Irish and Scot, I learn about the Celtic mythos. My Ioway and other native blood connects me to Bear Clan, Wakanda, Thunder, Trickster, and this land. Since I have pre-Indoeuropean blood in Europe, I read about the preChristian Basque beliefs. And so on. I respect these ancestral gods and Persons, but I am not dedicated to any of them, because we are all related. And I don't pick one relative over another, because that's how I roll. Family is family.

Wakanda and the idea of God

Came across this, which you might be interested in reading. People sometimes say the Indians worshipped various gods before the coming of Christianity, or that Wakanda was simply our name for God, the same concept as in religion today. In researching these things, I came across an interesting passage from "The Omaha" by Fletcher and La Flesche, talking about the idea of Wakanda (the Omaha spelling is Wakonda) in a different and more ancient understanding before the white man came. The words in brackets [ ] are my own.

"An invisible and continuous life was believed to permeate all things, seen and unseen. This life manifests itself in two ways: First, by causing to move -all motion, all actions of mind or body are because of this invisible life; second, by causing permanency of structure and form, as in the rock, the physical features of the landscape, mountains, plains, streams, rivers, lakes, the animals and man. This invisible life was also conceived as being similar to the will power of which man is conscious within himself -a power by which things are brought to pass. Through this mysterious life and power all things are related to one another and to man, the seen to the unseen, the dead to the living, a fragment of anything to its entirety. This invisible life and power was called Wakon'da"

[Thus Wakanda is within all things, both visible and invisible, things that are matter/structure/solid and things that are movement/energy/power. Wakanda is like our will, our spirit, and in this way it is similar to when the Bible says God created created man in His own Image, as both God and man have mind/will/spirit, not necessarily both having a physical appearance (two legs etc.) the same. And therefore it is also so that the Indian saying "All My Relatives" that we are all related through Wakanda is also true. We are connected to our ancestors, though they are no longer living. And a physical piece of something is connected to that as well, as when people save a lock of hair to remember people by. This is all connected through Wakanda]

While it [Wakon'da] was a vague entity, yet there was an anthropomorphic [human-like] coloring [aspect] to the conception, as is shown in the prayers offered and the manner in which appeals for compassion and health were made, also in the ethical quality attributed to certain natural phenomena -the regularity of night following day, of summer winter (these were recognized as emphasizing truthfulness as a dependable quality and set forth for man's guidance) -and in the approval by Wakon'da of certain ethical actions on the part of mankind. [So although Wakonda did not look like an Old Man in the Sky, Wakonda still had a human-like ability to listen and respond to prayer and in the expectation that people behave the right way].

Human conditions were projected upon nature, and male and female forces recognized. The Above was regarded as masculine, the Below feminine; so the sky was father, the earth, mother. The heavenly bodies were conceived as having sex; the sun was masculine, the moon feminine, consequently day was male and night female. The union of these two forces was regarded as necessary to the perpetuation of all living forms, and to ma's life by maintaining his food supply. This order or method for the continuation of life was believed to have been arranged by Wakan'da and had to be obeyed if the race was to continue to exist. In order to keep this belief alive in the minds of the people, it was symbolized in religious rites and in social usages and organization." (Fletcher and La Flesche, The Omaha, pages 134-135).

[Thus while the Great Mystery Wakanda was above, beyond, within everything, this is the idea that Mother Earth and Father Sky, Moon and Sun, Night and Day sustained our lives and life of everything on earth that we might live. And our arts, ceremonies, clan structures and all were to remind us of this interrelationship, and keep us connected, and behaving rightly and ethically to each other and everything on this earth that we depend on, so that Life on Earth, including we human beings, would continue to live. -Lance Foster]

---

PS. I was just sent this article on FB about the Zero Point Field in physics:
http://www.odemagazine.com/doc/8/the_amazing_promises_of_the_zero_point_field/

Shoot, we Indians knew about this long ago. Remember, "We called it maize?" Well, " an energy field that connects man and matter and continually affects everything and everyone" ...we called it Wakanda :-) Only we went a little further. Wakanda was also intelligent and had will. Give scientific physics a little time. It will get there too ;-)

This also has a hand in why magic can work in many cases. Am I kidding? ;-))

The Most High God and Other Gods

I found this paragraph very useful and I agree entirely. "Many of these spirits are accustomed to being worshiped as gods. Some continue to expect such reverence, others not so much. Bible students will perhaps recall Psalm 82:6 (or John 10:34 for those Christian readers!), wherein the pagan gods are accounted as limited potentates who will, in their own term, be judged by God as are other mortals. In the scripture, they are called gods, and sons of god, but they will ultimately face judgment as men do, presumably to face total destruction or share the common reward."

I think there are gods of peoples, gods of places, gods of offices/functions, etc. The words "god" "goddesses" "angels" "demons" etc. have so much baggage. I like what St. Thomas said about angels: "angel" is an office (function), in this case, "messenger of the Most High" while their nature is "spirit." Daniel speaks of the Prince of Persia contending with Gabriel and others. The Prince of Persia was a spirit of a people (the Persians) and/or place (Persia). Michael was the spirit which was assigned to Israel and as head of the Heavenly Army.

IMHO, gods from Greek, Germanic/Norse, Native American, Celtic, etc. pantheons are the same. Some have never been human. Some were flesh and blood ancestors of an ethnic group who went through apotheosis. Some are anthropomorphized natural forces, elements, rivers, storms, etc. I think ultimate reality is probably even grander than any of us suspect. Some may live for so long that we conceive of it as forever. But others are born, exist and die, like us. Gotterdammerung.

My own evolving theology holds the Most High to be the Creator of All, whether Earth, the Stars, the Gods, the Angels, Human Beings etc. The Most High is beyond our knowing, the Ain Soph. Earthmaker. We only know of the Most High through His works, his creation, and his messengers. We may know of Him through His Son, Jesus Christ, and through His Prophets like Moses and Mohammed. But my understanding is necessarily human, thus limited. I'm just whistling and kicking a can down the alleyway of eternity :-)

Adapting Your Spiritual Path to the Place Where You Live



Someone asked this question on a forum I read: "If you follow a European based tradition, but live outside of Europe, how do you incorporate the place where you live into your practice? Or, how do you accommodate your practice to the place where you live?"

I am an American and have developed my own way that works for me. The three legs for me of my own beliefs are:

1. Deity -for me, this means the Creator High-God (most indigenous peoples have a Creator-God, which many consider the same as the God of monotheism), and the Helpers (like Thunder, Earth, Night, Ocean, 4 Directions, Sun, etc.), --but many of the deities are also either place-based -like the river goddesses, or were once human ancestors who went through apotheosis in legend and deed, and sometimes are identified with natural elements like Thunder (ex: Thor, Sango) or offices like the Hearth (ex: Hestia, Brighid).

2. Ancestors -my own bloodlines, my DNA going all the way back from our earliest human ancestors in Africa, through numerous European countries, and several Native American tribes. I embrace ALL my ancestors, I don't pick and choose, because I am ALL of them.

3. The Land where I am, where I live now, and its wights, spirits, sacred sites, etc. I do not follow a cycle of the year that does not hold to this land. I do not really look at Europe very much for these practices, although certainly I enjoy reading about those practices and sites, as they do help illuminate some questions I have. Mostly I follow Native American ways for the place-spirits and nature-spirits here. But here in Montana, I don't even look much at my OWN tribal lore for this, because my Ioway tribe lived in the forested woodlands and tallgrass prairies of the midwest and along the Upper Mississippi and Lower Missouri. Instead I look at the lore about sites and land spirits from the lore and traditions of the tribes here in on the East Slope of Montana, the shortgrass prairies, mountain valleys, coniferous forests, and Rocky Mountains. The lore and spirits ARE different. Generic "Native American" doesn't wash.

My recommendations to someone trying to figure out your own path?

1. Worship the Deity/Deities you prefer or have made oath to.

2. Remember and honor your ancestors and their origins, through altars etc., and at the graves where they are buried. The graves where they are buried are your link to the land here; it is where have become American.

3. Read the ethnographies and folklore of the tribes where you live. If you live in Maine, read up on thethe lore and spiritual folklore of the Penobscot, Abenaki, etc., not the Navajo or Sioux. Don't try and copy Native American ceremonies. That is a no-no. Just read up on the rhythm of the land, the tribal calendars of natural processes and events, and the different animals and nature spirits and sites that were noted by the resident tribes to be important to the land where you reside. And every time you move, do this again for the new place you live.

There are some further ideas in an excellent article at AODA's website, called Wildcrafting the Modern Druid.

On the Origins of Gods and Goddesses

May I recommend to you an article by Aaron Leitch about the origins of gods and goddesses, the actions of spirits and magic, and the example of Santa Claus that I read this morning. Some very trippy and interesting conclusions. I like this essay as it filled in many blanks for me. Leitch has very well verbalized what I have been grappling with for some years. I heartily recommend it:

http://kheph777.tripod.com/art_ancientgods.html

So where did the old culture gods and goddesses come from? Us. Literally, apotheosis. But they did/do exist, and are higher on the "spiritual foodchain". However they are not the Creator, the Source, the Maker of All. No, not the same as an old man with a beard in the sky, though one can certainly visualize God that way if that is your preference. The Creator/God/Most High has no form, is beyond understanding and form. Not so the Old Gods and Goddesses, though they are beyond merely human.

Leitch does a great job of describing this human to god transformation. They were all humans who died and who, through generations of ancestor worship, and through domination of weaker social groups by stronger, the stronger social group family spirits became gods, and then Gods. But notice: there still exists the supernatural. These are indeed real spirits, not just aspects of the mind. Solipsism and the belief that magic is simply psychological is ignorance.

Leitch does not talk about the other source of gods: Nature itself. The Thunder, the Sun, the Moon, the Wind, the Earth. And how some of these were personalized/humanized by people. This was the other path taken by humanity, especially those who retained the older hunter-gatherer path. Agricultural/sedentary peoples are associated more with ancestor-worship (amalgamated with natural elements) while hunter/gatherers more with nature-worship, especially in regards to animal and nature spirits. This is my observation based on data in the HRAF (Human Resource Area Files).

The gods and goddesses of human origin (the dead ancestors) did later go through human mythic synthesis with some elements of Nature. Thus Shango the ancient Yoruba king was worshipped as a powerful ancestor and then mythically joined with Thunder in West Africa.

Thor, the ancient ancestor-farmer-hero of the Norse, originally a human hero of a strong social group which would become the Aesir, became joined mythically with the Thunder in Scandinavia. Later the Aesir ancestor-deities would battle with the Vanir ancestor-deities, and become dominant, yet the more-"nature"-focused Vanir were strong enough not to be merely absorbed, but be an almost equal group with the more-"culture"-focused dominant Aesir...reflecting the human concern with the split between "culture" and "nature" (no it did not originate with Descartes!)

It was rare to have Gods and Goddesses in this kind of mode among most of the Native American tribes though. Most were of the hunter-gatherer mythic type, that is, there was less "human-god" types and more "natural-force" types. Among the Ioway, there was not a "god of thunder" or "goddess of fertility," but simply the Thunder (which sometimes could be seen in the form of a giant bird) or the Earth (which one sees in the form of an old lady in some of the mythic stories); Rabbit the culture hero is really a Rabbit and Coyote the antihero/trickster is really a Coyote.

I do know that the great Native American civilizations of the south did have "human-gods" like Quetzalcoatl and Tezcatlipoca of the Aztecs. That seems to align with Leitch's theory that city-state civilizations evolve those sorts of deities through agricultural sedentism, growth of population, and the subsequent domination of one clan's ancestors through the ancestors of a stronger clan, and then the increasing elevation of the strong clan ancestor-gods to those of National Gods and Goddesses. This certainly helps explains why there are so many gods in Central and South America, and the multitudes of gods among the Hindus.

But do not take this as "explaining away" the gods and goddesses. This is only an examination of their origins as human beings from the most ancient times. It is not saying they are not real, that they don't have an independent existence apart from us, or that they are not more vastly powerful than we are. The Gods and Goddesses of Antiquity are real as we are...because they WERE us, after all.

History Channel: "Clash of the Gods: Zeus"

Tonight is Heracles/Hercules on the History Channel's "Clash of the Gods"...the Zeus episode was excellent! This is a clip of Zeus vs Typhon:



Watch the full episode on Zeus online at:
http://www.history.com/video.do?name=ClashoftheGods&bclrid=fullepisodes

The full list of episodes and when they first air:

Zeus 8/3
Hercules 8/10
Odyssey(1) 8/17
Odyssey(2) 8/24
Hades 8/31
Medusa 9/7
Thor 9/14
Lord of the Rings 9/21
Minotaur 9/28
Beowulf 10/5

The Knot Hole God

When I was a little kid, up to the age of six, I was scared of wooden panelling with knotholes. The knotholes looked like eyes to me. I thought they were the eyes of the murdered trees, looking accusingly from the paneling, the spirit still in the wood, able to "do things." This was long before I was taught anything about religion, other than the "Now I lay me down to sleep" prayer...

We are born animists, all the world is alive to us, in mysterious ways. Stuffed animals, dreams, symbols, clouds, shapes in the ceiling and in the wall...

Little kids, huh.

I believe in God. I do, but I am not dogmatic about things. I believe in God the way most people meant in the old days when they said "I believe in God." That (God =the Creator) doesn't cause any friction between my Ioway beliefs (God = Ma'un = Earthmaker) and my Catholic beliefs (God = the Father, Son and Holy Ghost). It doesn't, not for people from the older generation I was brought up around. You believe in God, do your best, avoid doing bad things, treat people the way you want to be treated. That's how you live.

When I was little, I fell in love with Greek mythology. The first thing I ever remember drawing was a Cyclops, from the Ulysses movie starring Kirk Douglas ("More wine! hahaha!"). The book I remember is D'aulaire's Book of Greek Myths; it formed my mental pictures of the Greek Gods and it still does. The Greek Gods were as real to me as a little child as Gumby and Pokey, and God, and my stuffed animals that also were alive, and the clouds that sent down lightning. And the dark things under the bed and in the closet that moved around at night and caused nightmares. The knotholes in the walls' wood paneling were the eyes of trees that had been killed, accusing one of the crime.

It was only as I grew older, that I learned that I was to believe only in some of these things as "real." And older than that, I learned that I couldn't believe in both the Greek Gods AND God with a capital G. And then when I went to Catholic school, things got even more complicated. I had known about God for a long long time ("Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep...") but now there was Jesus, and the Holy Ghost, and Mary. And I took it all in stride and believed in them as well. And I wasn't allowed to believe in anything other than these new additions to my understanding.

But there were problems. They said only humans had souls. But that was untrue, as I knew my dogs also had souls...I could see it in their eyes, their souls. And the idea of hell. I didn't like it. It made me even more scared, adding hell to those dark things that roamed around at night. I knew EVERYBODY I knew was going to heaven when they died ("If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take" wasn't a lie was it?).

So what about the Greek Gods and Goddesses, and the souls of my dogs, and the eyes of the murdered trees in the planks, and the plants that grew and could even grow vines to strangle you at night? And the wind that spoke and rain that seemed to say something to me? Many years passed, and I still wondered about these things. While in Church I prayed to God, and took communion, and wondered about the dark feelings in the Church's basement and the carvings of staring faces on the cathedral's stonework: who were they?

I learned about the theories of anthropology in college, about the development of witchcraft and religion. I learned about apophenia and paradoulia and simulacra and people seeing Jesus' face in a tortilla...

Most of the Gods and Goddesses of Classical Paganism and the various Indigenous Ways, can shown to be, in their essence/origins:

=I. Universal Major Elements/Forces
1. Sky Father
2. Mother Earth
3. Winds
4. Storms/Thunder/Lightning
5. Ocean
6. Underworld
7. Ice, Fire, etc.

=II. Human Ancestors who went through Apotheosis
1. Fathers and Mothers of an Ethnic Group
2. Direct Ancestors
3. Ancestors who were expert craftspeople or practitioners
4. Ghosts, Egregores, Tulpa, etc. formed by emotions, rituals, memories in the land placed there by ancestors

=III. Local Anima Loci "Spirits of Place"/landvaettir
1. Mountains, Volcanoes, Cliffs, and Hills
2. Plants, Groves and Forests
3. Caves
4. Unusual Features (rock spires, etc.)
5. Watercourses: Rivers, streams, springs, ponds, lakes, waterfalls
6. Others..

EVERY God or Goddess I can think of, when you look at the origin myths, has an origin in one of the above categories, even if it was later amalgamated with another category.
Examples:
-Odin: Originated as a Germanic ancestor, added features of Sky Father, and craft of magic and cunning.
-Shango: Originated as a great West African chief, added feature of amalgamation with thunder and fire.

But many of the polytheistic pagan faiths also had a distant "Creator" god that made all things but didn't get much involved in human affairs. For my tribe, we believed in Earthmaker (Ma'un), but when you went out to get a vision or made sacrifices, it was to one of the Persons created by Ma'un...it was THESE Persons (Thunder, Bear, etc.) who became one's Helper in a Vision Quest.

So whatever path we take for ourselves, it is okay to believe in "God" (however one wants to think about "God", as an old white-bearded man, Zeus/Deus, or "the Force" or whatever) but the day-to-day business of living is tied to one's local natural forces and places, animals and plants, as Persons, and also to one's Ancestors and the ancestral practitioners of one's craft/way of making a living.

And so, I still struggle to make sense of all this.

I have never had God tell me anything. Nor Jesus, nor Odin, nor Mary, nor Apollo. Not so I can tell without second-guessing myself. A couple of times I have had dreams in which it seemed angels talked to me. But those were only dreams. That came true, even if it was decades later.

But I have seen the souls of dogs in their eyes, and the hair rise on my neck in a dark place in the woods where I know I am not wanted, and the lick of a butterfly that landed on my hand, and the blessing of a cold drink of water. I know these exist. I KNOW... I don't have to believe.

I do think there might be something to what I thought as a little kid, before the world got to me, with all its ambivalence and confusion of beliefs. When things get too confusing and you feel like everyone else's dogmas and beliefs are weighing down on you, and you don't know what YOU really believe anymore, --go back to what YOU believed as a little kid, before parents and school and friends and church and television and books and movies and stores and the overarching culture we all live in, got to us. Try to remember what YOU believed back, wayyy back.

Really though, I think I was onto something when I was a little guy, about that wood paneling...not the fake wood paneling we see today, but the old, REAL stuff, made of wood. Look at that old paneling or old school plywood. You will see the eyes of the murdered trees looking at you...

Gods and Goddesses

I believe in God. I do, but I am not dogmatic about things. I believe in God the way most people meant in the old days when they said "I believe in God." That (God =the Creator) doesn't cause any friction between my Ioway beliefs (God = Ma'un = Earthmaker) and my Catholic beliefs (God = the Father, Son and Holy Ghost). It doesn't, not for people from the older generation I was brought up around. You believe in God, do your best, avoid doing bad things, treat people the way you want to be treated. That's how you live.

When I was little, I fell in love with Greek mythology. The first thing I ever remember drawing was a Cyclops, from the Ulysses movie starring Kirk Douglas ("More wine! hahaha!"). The book I remember is D'aulaire's Book of Greek Myths; it formed my mental pictures of the Greek Gods and it still does. The Greek Gods were as real to me as a little child as Gumby and Pokey, and God, and my stuffed animals that also were alive, and the clouds that sent down lightning. And the dark things under the bed and in the closet that moved around at night and caused nightmares. The knotholes in the walls' wood paneling were the eyes of trees that had been killed, accusing one of the crime.

It was only as I grew older, that I learned that I was to believe only in some of these things as "real." And older than that, I learned that I couldn't believe in both the Greek Gods AND God with a capital G. And then when I went to Catholic school, things got even more complicated. I had known about God for a long long time ("Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep...") but now there was Jesus, and the Holy Ghost, and Mary. And I took it all in stride and believed in them as well. And I wasn't allowed to believe in anything other than these new additions to my understanding.

But there were problems. They said only humans had souls. But that was untrue, as I knew my dogs also had souls...I could see it in their eyes, their souls. And the idea of hell. I didn't like it. It made me even more scared, adding hell to those dark things that roamed around at night. I knew EVERYBODY I knew was going to heaven when they died ("If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take" wasn't a lie was it?).

So what about the Greek Gods and Goddesses, and the souls of my dogs, and the eyes of the murdered trees in the planks, and the plants that grew and could even grow vines to strangle you at night? And the wind that spoke and rain that seemed to say something to me? Many years passed, and I still wondered about these things. While in Church I prayed to God, and took communion, and wondered about the dark feelings in the Church's basement and the carvings of staring faces on the cathedral's stonework: who were they?

I learned about the theories of anthropology in college, about the development of witchcraft and religion. I learned...

Most of the Gods and Goddesses of Classical Paganism can shown to be, in their essence/origins:

I. Universal Major Elements/Forces
1. Sky Father
2. Mother Earth
3. Winds
4. Storms/Thunder/Lightning
5. Ocean
6. Underworld
7. Ice, Fire, etc.

II. Human Ancestors who went through Apotheosis
1. Fathers and Mothers of an Ethnic Group
2. Direct Ancestors
3. Ancestors who were expert craftspeople or practitioners
4. Ghosts, Egregores, Tulpa, etc. formed by emotions, rituals, memories in the land placed there by ancestors

III. Local Anima Loci "Spirits of Place"/landvaettir
1. Mountains, Volcanoes, Cliffs, and Hills
2. Plants, Groves and Forests
3. Caves
4. Unusual Features (rock spires, etc.)
5. Watercourses: Rivers, streams, springs, ponds, lakes, waterfalls
6. Others..

EVERY God or Goddess I can think of, when you look at the origin myths, has an origin in one of the above categories, even if it was later amalgamated with another category.

Examples:

Odin: Originated as a Germanic ancestor, added features of Sky Father, and craft of magic and cunning.

Shango: Originated as a great West African chief, added feature of amalgamation with thunder and fire.

But many of the polytheistic pagan faiths also had a distant "Creator" god that made all things but didn't get much involved in human affairs. For my tribe, we believed in Earthmaker (Ma'un), but when you went out to get a vision or made sacrifices, it was to one of the Persons created by Ma'un...it was THESE Persons (Thunder, Bear, etc.) who became one's Helper in a Vision Quest.

So whatever path we take for ourselves, it is okay to believe in "God" (however one wants to think about "God", as an old white-bearded man, Zeus/Deus, or "the Force" or whatever) but the day-to-day business of living is tied to one's local natural forces and places, animals and plants, as Persons, and also to one's Ancestors and the ancestral practitioners of one's craft/way of making a living.

And so, I still struggle to make sense of all this.

I have never had God tell me anything. Nor Jesus, nor Odin, nor Mary, nor Apollo. Not so I can tell without second-guessing myself. A couple of times I have had dreams in which it seemed angels talked to me. But those were only dreams. That came true, even if it was decades later.

But I have seen the souls of dogs in their eyes, and the hair rise on my neck in a dark place in the woods where I know I am not wanted, and the lick of a butterfly that landed on my hand, and the blessing of a cold drink of water. I know these exist. I KNOW... I don't have to believe.

Currently, I am busy working on a coherent worldview based on the Creator, ancestors, local land spirits, local Native American lore, scientific ecosystem research, and American folklore.

Elk Gods



Elk hunting was kind of a religion here in Montana. Cartoonist Stan Lyde's character Hipshot Percussion expresses those old Montana ways of thinking very well. When I was growing up in the 1960s and 1970s, most bosses expected that their men would disappear from work for a week or two during elk season in the fall. They didn't fight nature. In fact, some businesses pretty much shut down for that week or two.

Back in those days before Montana was discovered by Hollywood, writers, eastern anglers and the mess that arrived with them in the 1990s and the introduction of the nefarious 4-wheeler, most town fellows went up in the mountains as far as they could get in their pickups and jeeps, and walked in. Or if they were blessed by God to have been raised on their family ranch, they took their horses up. And within a week, they would come back down with a six point bull, or raghorn, or spike, or whatever their tag allowed them, and their spirits were renewed by the freedom of the hunt for another year, and the family's meat locker was replenished. That was why you went hunting. Although thought of highly, trophy racks were just a side benefit, not the main thing. The main thing was the freedom of the mountains and the meat.

I went to school with a kid who was one of the local toughs, by the name of Dave R. I heard he was sitting in a local bar in the 1980s. Some out of town guy came in, started bragging how cheap land was here, how dumb people were in business, how the local women were easy for out of town guys. Dave just sat there at the bar, drinking his beer. Then the out of towner started bragging about the bull elk he got. Quick as a flash, Dave was up, over at the guy, and the guy was bloody and on the floor before he knew what hit him. Dave stood over him and said, "You can say what you like about the rest of it, but you stay away from our elk!"

I myself never got an elk, though my dad and brothers did. Oh well, that's okay. I hate what elk hunting has become anyways, with all the lust for big racks, 4 wheelers skidding all over the backcountry, poaching the celebrity bulls, elk farming with selective breeding, and rich men coming from all over to spend tens of thousands of dollars on specialty hunts, and then buying up millions of dollars worth of ranch lands to play Norman nobleman and keep the local riffraff out of our former hunting grounds. It's become a dirty business.

I had a dream as a young man, many years ago. I was walking in the mountains in this dream, through doghair pine (pine that grows so thick together, it's thick as dog hair). Suddenly, two giant bull elk with antlers perhaps 9 feet spread across spoke to me and then from the brush appeared another, one I couldn't see quite as well. An even bigger bull elk, with immense antlers perhaps 12 feet or more across, emerged and spoke to me in grave tones. I cannot remember a lot of what was said now, but I knew the Great Bull Elk told me that every species of animal has a Chief or a Grandfather, with its sons and consorts. There was more, but I can't remember it now.

I wonder what the Bull Elk Grandfather thinks of what has happened here in the heart of the Elk Nation, to his children, the Elk People.