The Pettiness (?) of the Gods

A problem as a modern pagan I think we all have, is we don’t have the
mindset our ancestors (be they blood or be they of heart) have. As such we
have lived in cultures that are heavily Abrhamically influenced, in
particular Christianity, and Christianity has the slefr myth of seeking
salvation through forgiveness. Our ancestors would consider that a strange
idea. (Gareth T., Posted to the ADF Celtic list)

Why are there no new myths? Maybe the Gods do things differently now but no
one ever wrote the myths about it… surely the Gods can’t stay the same
forever… (Caroline E.F., posted to the ADF Celtic list)

It’s funny isn’t it how we think of things and external realities move to allow them an outlet? Everything in this run of posts relates to things I’ve been thinking about. I am most aware of this idea of the ire of the gods. I’d even started composing a drafted email on this topic. See, I exchanged posts in another forum with a very avid devotee of the Morrigan who was adamant that the gods were above being insulted by improper offerings. My exchange with this particular fellow was brought back to me by an email posted recently by a new dedicant (as am I myself) who was concerned about not using true silver in an offering lest he kindle the wrath of the gods. His point was that the gods are above pettiness and that we cannot offend them whatever we do.

Rather than address all that I could, I would like to address this issue of the pettiness of the gods.

In one way, the concept to me is laughable. It is not the gods who are petty. They have a proper perspective, being eternal entitities whose essence informs all substance and whose substance defines the character of specific essences, à la Cicero’s De Natura Deorum. In other words, we need to divide mythography from the … of the gods (forgive my blatant Abrahamic reference – I’m not bold enough to quote Grant Morrison). Basically, the Gods transcend mythography which is our best epistemic tool through which we attempt to understand them. Thus Lugh’s insatiable vengeance in the Aided Chloinne Tuirenn is not a key to Lugh’s divine character, but a point of reference for early Irish social structure and mores. Gareth’s comment that we do not share our ancestor’s context and thus perspective is well made and well taken. Perhaps our own very sensibility for what constitutes pettiness should be questioned, since we all have grown up in a grossly post-industrial culture, separted as we are from the rural (and no less social) realities of our forebears – to say nothing of the neo-Christian culture in which we live.

Wyrdly, I think this feeds into why there are no new myths. There has been a grave disjunction in our history since the conversion period (which I set as 300-1100 AD according to the Christian reckoning: i.e. from the establishment of Christian othodoxy to the Scandinavian conversion and what many term ‘the Dark Ages’ … oh the irony). This isn’t a diachronic disjunction which took place at any one point in time, but a synchronic disjunction which stands as fresh now as it did when it began ‘way back when’. As I see it, the Gods are still as active as ever, taking favorites and motivating history as they always did, but our institutions no longer honor them in the same way.

The crazy thing is that they still honor them but in in a twisted, unconcious way. I was struck by this on a recent visit to New York city, which teems with pagan sculpture. Then on studying the Indo-Europeans more fully as part of my dedicacy, I realized that ‘civilized’ culture (which I personally hold in great suspicion) is still structured in its classical, pagan way! Scientists serve the functions of the priests and lawyers serve the terms of Mitra. Soldiers ‘defend our way of life’ reclaiming the economic ‘cattle’ from the ‘other’ people, while bankers and major corporate lenders and businessmen ‘herd’ the economic forces of our day. Christianity has so thoroughly adopted the mythic structures of its forebears that it actually maintains the older religious codes: Jehova is really just a retitling of the Sky God, priests bless the swords of Marines for battle, and an eternal flame is kept lit at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. We still toast the Agathodaimon at weddings and even on lesser occasions, though most aren’t fully cognizent of what these actions mean. Similarly, we still cast money into fountains without thinking of the gods to whom the coinage is offered. The veneration is still there. The reality is still there. We’ve just blinded ourselves to it. A truly pagan history would reclaim the last twelve hundred years and retell its story as it actually unfolded under the guidance of the gods. (I have a suspicion that it would sound frighteningly like the Percy Jackson books.)

So .. petty? Never. The gods are never petty. They are terrifying, beautiful and simultaneously the inspiration and object of every obsession. They call our devotion out of their raw divinity, even as they need and desire us, for we live in time in a way that they never can, à la the blind man and the lame man in Echtra Nerai. They are the other twin as we are part of the one, the Ymir and Emuin: the Gemini, *Man and *Twin forever separate but conjoined.

Oog … 3:33 am. This is the part where I explain that I have had a bottle of wine and a war-chariotful of pent-up thoughts. I first started this on the email list for the ADF Celtic list, but realizing how massive it became I decided to move it to my blog. If you have read this far, I thank you for your patience and hope to make some sense of this in the near future.


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