?

Log in

No account? Create an account

Previous Entry | Next Entry

Three Kindred Essay

Comment, correct, suggest editing!  Do you think it is too long? - Noira

When talking Pagan theology1 I think it is important to remember that theology is, at its best, a human effort to conceive the Sacred by the capacity of our intellect. It shall not be mistaken for the Divine. In ADF, we are taught to address the Divine as three general groups of spiritual beings: the Deities, the Nature Spirits and the Ancestors. I will also discuss the category of Outdwellers which is significant for our theology in my opinion, even though the requirement passes it by.

The Kindred

My first subject of reflection is the term we chose to address the Divine in Our Druidry. Since there is no direct equivalent in my native language2, I made effort to come to understand the significance of this word´s choice. The dictionary definitions stress the aspect of relatedness which corresponds well with one of the basic tenets of our faith, the *ghosti nature of human-Divine relations.

The first observation of my Divine communion that strikes me is that our categories, the Kindred, are actually a continuum. There are demigods and heroes (deified dead), ancestral spirits that take on form of natural features and lesser local deities that resemble local spirits in the aspect that they are best reachable from specific places. And, lastly, the definition of Outdwellers is more functional than substantial (i.e. depending on the occasion and context).

Nature Spirits

In the world of our ancestors, everything was alive. One of the faults of many Neopagans is that in their romanticized view of nature they omit the heritage of ancient urban Paganism. The household where one dwelt, a safe place within ordered space, has always been the cosmological center, not the Nature.3

Nature Spirits (genii)

Household Spirits (genii domestici Favourable
Boundary Spirits (terminus) Favourable if you are inside the territory
Wilderness Spirits (silvanus) Ambivalent or unfavourable

 Actually, as my favourite pagan author has argued convincingly in Urban Primitive, there is no reason to believe the urbanized space is any less inhabited, quite the contrary. The most common type of a local spirit that comes to my mind is one that dwells in a specific man-made feature, like a statue, well or small sites of religious significance. (Our country is full of such features with its Catholic past and rich construction history.) Modern civil monuments are often animated, too.

I tend to identify Nature spirits with Local Spirits since, it occurs to me, the most characteristic feature of both is that they seems to be tied to a particular place. I live in suburbs of the capital city. Contrary to the idea nature spirits are roaming all around. I conclude they must be tied to the place for several dozen years as it was only in the 1960´s when the forest was wiped.

Some natural or even man-made features are quite prominent and that´s where we get close to a borderline category – local deities.

Ancestors

Ancestors are particularly close to us, because they were once like we are. Perhaps that is the reason why this category has been a source or dispute among various Neopagan theological schools. Our Druidry adopts a very ecumenical approach, including many possible conceptions of Ancestry. Therefore, I will try to stay off the argument and just shortly comment on my observations.

It occurs to me that understanding of ancestry in the United States is very specific due to the country´s history as the land of expatriates. There is not this kind of interest in genealogy and such in Central Europe.

Sometimes, it´s a good idea to concentrate on the purely spiritual understanding of ancestry, like when one has been cut off his bloodlines by being disowned, for example, or rejected. Rev. Hyperion of The Unnamed Path suggest gay men should find their way to the lineage of gay men who are their real spiritual ancestors. (It makes sense if you think a little about procreation principles).

Some local Neopagans take a fundamentalist approach, backed up by a certain New Age philosophy that we ought to worship our actual blood ancestors – even if they are still alive they ought to be paid religiously motivated honor. In response, my Norse friend Lokean writes that the ancestors were honored because they passed the tradition down to us, but we are all converts, therefore there is no point in claiming it is a „Pagan“ thing to honour your parents. (It´s a pretty darn Old Testament thing, adds my inner voice.)

I personally prefer yet another understanding of Ancestors. In my own spiritual experience I perceive the spirits of the dead as tied to the land they once walked. I believe many souls stay close to our realm when they pass away to aid their loved ones. Funerary rites and taking spiritual care of the dying is of utmost importance in my opinion and I would like to do this work one day.

Deities

Deities are a complex issue, so consider my remarks to be only beginner´s notes on the way.

There are basically two types of deities, I found out in my Hellenic practice, greater gods and lesser gods. Greater gods have more important positions in the pantheon and they have a broader area of rule, sometimes being almost omnifunctional.

Lesser gods on the other hand have a tiny area of rule and a narrow specialization, but they are real experts in their thing. I have a relationship with some major goddesses, bu I´ve recently discovered the joy of getting to know some lesser known deities, Hygeia and Nyx.

There are also two Roman gods who seem to me as having a peculiar local spirits quality to them, Vesta and Ianus.

The liminal gods or psychopomps, like Hermes or Hekaté, share some common characteristics with the mighty dead and they are closer to us.

I can subscribe to Rudolf Otto´s observations on the nature of the Sacred. All gods, in my experience, have four faces to show to humans: mysterium tremendum (the fearful one), fascinans (the fascinating one), maiesticum (the majesctic one) and mirum (the wondrous one).

I continue to acknowledge the Black Madonna as a chthonic power, a face of the primordial Terra Mater (see Nature Awareness) and in the actual forms as a local Deity.

I eventually found a Pagan understanding of Jesus, whom I consider a prophet, a magician and a deified Ancestor. Now that must sound rather heretical to the anti-Christian Neopagans, but from the preserved material4 it is clear that the Hellenes of that time pretty much accepted Jesus as one of the profétai. It was the exclusivist and universalist claim of Christianity that caused trouble. Also the notion of historicity.

Outdwellers

I wonder why the training doesn't ask the dedicant for an understanding of this category, too, since it's so commonly addressed at various ritual and other occasions. I feel the urge to ask a simple question here:  Who are the Outdwellers and how do they relate to the above described categories?

The answer to the first part is rather simplistic, they are those spiritual beings who are perceived by us humans as dangerous and unfavourable. (The notion of subjectivity is important here since if you omit it, you fall into the trap of erroneously addressing Outdwellers as „evil“, which they are not. Why? Evil is essentially a human-related category. It is an ethical category, at least in my worldview5, therefore it has to do with self-awareness and free will which are exclusive characteristics of man.)

The second part of the question, however, is a more complex one. I have the intuition that in relation to the previously described categories of spiritual beings Outdwellers can technically fall into all of them, as this table depicts:

Standard

Outdweller

Typically favourable or neutral. Have explicit public cult. Upholds the Order. Civilization gods and goddesses. The second and third generation of gods.

No explicit cult is known of in antiquity. Today marginal mystery cults. Challenges the Order or lives on its edge. Primordial forces of creation, the elder race of gods.

Good Ancestor Spirits (often tied to the household in some way)

Specters and Unquiet Dead (including, but not limited to, vampires, werewolves, succubus...)

Good Nature and Local Spirits (spirits of healing springs, sacred trees, household spirits...)

Spirits of wild, untamed nature dangerous to man that shall be appeased

Deities (see above)

Tricksters, first race of gods (see above)


The case becomes most clear in the case of mighty dead. In most historical cultures a notion of revenants was present, exorcism were done and precautions taken in order to prevent a dead person from turning into an Outdweller. On the other hand there was an equally spread worship of the good dead, one´s own ancestors who aid the living.

From my studies it occurs to me that even Outdweller gods were considered to be a part of the world order though they acted in a mysterious way. Sometimes the culture lost the reflection during its history and a deity was vilified and misunderstood, like in the Egyptian cult of Set. To discuss the concept of Order and evil in Pagan worlview is beyond the scope of this essay, though. I just wanted to demonstrate my understanding of ADF theology as it has been revealed to my by spiritual practice and analytical reflection of sources. There's much more to be said and I hope do deepen my understanding in the future.
______________________________________________________________________

1Or, as some prefer, thealogy or polytheology.

2I miss the aspect of being connected by blood or in a very profound way in the translation „spříznění“ (adj.) which does not imply such quality and „příbuzní“ only denotes one´s relatives. So I add “spřízněné rody” which means related clans.

3Since romantic philosophy was obviously unknown in antiquity.

4I was deeply influenced by The Pagan and Christian in an Age of Anxiety. This was the first book that really opened my eyes for the Pagan world-view and I understood how it is different from the Christian one.

5I am aware that some consider evil to be a metaphysical reality.