Lascaux cave art

Lascaux cave art

Monday, May 01, 2017

Reverence for the Gods

Whilst listening to an interesting BBC radio programme today on http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p04x9brb regarding the Odinist or Asatru religion in modern day Iceland I was struck by certain comments made by a female practitioner who seems to regards the Gods as being 'equal' to man. This is not the first time that I have encountered this particular perspective and in my opinion it is an inappropriate way to think of our deities.

Many years ago when I was still a xtian I encountered many types of xtians from various denominations and churches and I found that there were two ways in which xtians encountered their god. There was the High Church approach in the Church of England which focussed on ritual and reverence for the xtian god and then at the other end of the spectrum there was the Low Church element which is largely free of ritual and which is also to be found in Non-Conformist denominations. One thing that struck me as rather odd was the practice of some churchgoers, especially the younger ones to actually dress down when going to the 'house of god'; something which I have never understood and at the time considered to be a lack of respect, a lack of awe, a lack of reverence.

One sees this casual approach amongst some heathens today and each time I hear that man is the 'equal to the Gods' I feel rather uneasy about such a statement. If we are the 'equal' of the Gods then why do we worship or honour them? Some would say that the Gods should be viewed in the same way as we view human parents and to a certain extent I understand and in part agree with this sentiment and statement. However the way in which children relate to their parents today in the 'western' world is not a traditional one and is often lacking in respect. Many former xtians, particularly the younger ones take this attitude into heathenism and are quite casual in how they approach the Gods. If we are to expect a great heathen revival then we must examine how we view the Gods that we say that we honour or worship. By the way there is nothing at all wrong with worshipping the Gods. Prayer and worship are not confined to or restricted to the alien Abrahamic religions.

A genuine heathen perspective of the Gods must be rooted in how our ancestors related to them. We may have changed but the Gods have not! One particular clue is to be found in Tacitus' Germania:

"As for gods, Mercury is the one they worship most, and on certain days they think it right to propitiate him with human victims. Hercules and Mars they appease with lawful animals." (9.1, translation by J.B. Rives)

So as my readers can see the worship of the Gods was not a casual affair but something which was taken seriously and in great earnest. There was a desire to please the Gods and sacrifice was seen as a way of doing this. I would like to point out that I am not advocating this practice today although it may be something which is taken up again once the decaying 'New World Order' is finally brought to its knees. What else can we learn from the above passage? Well Mercury who the Romans equated with Woden/Wodan/Wotan "is the one they worship most". This is as it should be for He is THE High Lord of the Teutons. Hercules (Thunor/Thunar/Donar) and Mars (Tiw) were also worshipped but in this case with animals rather than humans. One may speculate here how men were offered to Woden but it seems clear to me that this was by hanging and often this was done at a crossroads. Odin was known as Hangatyr and Hangagud, the God of the hanged. Woden would come and commune with the dead and dying. He like Mercury is the great psychopomp, the conveyor of human souls to the afterlife.

Some may baulk at the concept of human sacrifice but I think this is more to do with the lingering effects of the xtian religion which created the concept of 'sin' and its bedmate 'guilt'. We see this today with the modern religion of the 'holocaust' and the very profitable industry centred around it. Another translation of Germania 9 puts across what I am trying to say more clearly:

"Above all other gods they worship Mercury, and count it no sin, on certain feast-days, to include human victims in the sacrifices offered to him. Hercules and Mars they appease by offerings of animals, in accordance with ordinary civilized custom." (Translation by H. Mattingley and revised by S.A. Handford)

The Germanic tribe which Germania 9 is discussing are the Suebi. This tribe is referred to later on in Germania 39.1:

"The Semnones relate that they are the oldest and noblest of the Suebi. Confidence in their antiquity is confirmed by their cult. At a set time, the peoples who share that name and bloodline send embassies to assemble in a forest hallowed by ancestral auguries and ancient dread, and by slaying a man on behalf of the people they begin the barbaric celebration of their fearful rites." (Rives)
"The oldest and most famous of the Suebi; it is said, are the Semnones, and their antiquity is confirmed by a religious observance. At a set time, deputations from all the tribes of the same stock gather in a grove hallowed by the auguries of their ancestors and by immemorial awe. The sacrifice of a human victim in the name of all marks the grisly opening of their savage ritual." (Mattingley/Handford)
The above passage is quite illuminating. Once again we encounter the reference to human sacrifice but notice here the emotions that are engendered by the Semnones: "ancient dread" and "immemorial awe". The Gods are not to be approached lightly and certainly not as 'equals' for they embody great elemental forces, particularly Woden and Thunor and thus this in itself must demand a certain respect.

There is a great deal of speculation as to who the main deity of the Semnones alluded to in Germania is:
"They revere this grove in other ways too: no one enters unless bound by a shackle, as an inferior who makes manifest the might of the divine. If by chance he stumbles, it is not lawful to lift himself up and rise: they roll out over the ground. On that place their entire superstition is centred, as though from there the tribe has its origin, as though there the god is ruler of all, and the remainder subordinate and submissive." (39.2, Rives)

"Bound by a shackle" or as the earlier Mattingley translation puts it, "bound with a cord". That sounds to me like the noose of the hanged, the torc worn by the Woden initiates!

"Another observance shows their reverence for this grove. No one may enter it unless he is bound with a cord, by which he acknowledges his own inferiority and the power of the deity. Should he chance to fall, he may not raise himself or get up again, but must roll out over the ground. The grove is the centre of their whole religion. It is regarded as the cradle of the race and the dwelling-place of the supreme god to whom all things are subject and obedient." (Mattingley translation)

"Reverence for this grove". This is the right frame of mind in which we must approach the Gods. Indeed unlike the woman speaking in the BBC documentary our ancestors did not believe themselves to be 'equal' to the Gods: quite the contrary! "By which he acknowledges his own inferiority and the power of the deity." We may be children of All Father; we may even trace our lineage back to Him but we are not Gods. The most that we can aim to become is a God-Man but we are still separate from the Gods and owe our existence to them along with all that we have and are. The adjectives that are relevant in the above passage are "subordinate", "submissive", "subject" and "obedient". These are not popular words in 21st century England which is plagued by the concepts of equality and torments itself over racial equality, gender equality and rights for homosexuals. Our ancestors did not focus on 'rights' but duty, honour and loyalty without which a folk cannot exist.

My readers will note something else very important that Tacitus writes in Germania 9: " At a set time, deputations from all the tribes of the same stock gather in a grove" or "At a set time, the peoples who share that name and bloodline send embassies to assemble in a forest". Our religion was NEVER universalist. It was always a religion of Blut und Boden or blood and soil and the universalists would do well to ponder that historical fact!

One may ask what is the difference in this attitude and that of the Abrahamic religions which focus on submission to their god? The difference is not so much in attitude but how we come to the Gods to begin with. All forms of Germanic heathenism stress that we do not seek to 'convert' others and certainly never by force unlike the desert religions. THIS is the key difference but I see no reason why we should accord less honour to the deities of our folk and race than the monotheists grant to their alien and universalist god. The Gods should not be viewed just as archetypes but as very real spiritual entities by which we are bound by our very existence. As a folk we cannot survive without them for they are our life source but they too need us for we are reminded of the expression "every race has its soul and every soul its race".




  

1 comment:

Steed said...

Many years ago, when I was still finding my Heathen footing, a learned practitioner from Canada corrected me when I said we should not 'worship' our Gods. He pointed out the pre-Christian origins of the very word 'worship' and he was of course correct. Many of us automatically reject practices we associate with the Abrahamic Religions, but we need to realise that a) some practices are common to all religions, whatever their origin, b) Christianity stole much from Paganism; among them the acts of worship and prayer.

I think ours is a religion of spiralling growth. Our Gods are at a higher level of spiritual attainment than we are and we should therefore look up to them like a yellow-belt would look up to a brown-belt.

On the subject of human sacrifice - our modern minds cannot help but balk at the concept. But we need to realise how far removed our worldview (even among those of us looking to resurrect the Heathen mindset) is from that of the ancients. Their faith in the afterlife and in the existence of the Gods was so beyond query that there was no hesitation in sacrifice. A scene from Brian Bates' The Way of Wyrd always sticks with me; where he describes two friendly warriors casually engaging in sword-play, one slaying the other and no big deal being made of it. Whilst I don't think this would have been commonplace, it does highlight the attitude to death that our distant ancestors might have had.