Deities -r- Us?
I am a member of Ár nDraíocht Féin (ADF), which translates to ‘Our Own Druidry’ and is also glossed as ‘A Druid Fellowship’. In fact I am the Senior Druid of an ADF Grove and so fairly snugly wrapped into the structure. But not as much so as might be thought…. the ADF mandates that one’s religious expression references Pre-Christian Indo-European religions (I am diaspora Irish in ancestry and belief), that a Grove hold 8 public Rituals yearly (I gladly support multiple Holidays), and that the ritual follows a universal, dictated, unchanging format.
However, inside that required step-wise structure the expression of belief is completely open; I write in metered, rhyming poetry and address Jungian Archetypical Seasonal Personifications for half the year.
Early in the progression (and right at the end when the Thanks are taking place) the ritualists address the Earth. In our rituals we sing (to the tune of the Doxology):
O Thou, our blue and lovely Earth,
We take from you, you give to us.
What can we give of equal worth?
Nothing but love, nothing but trust.
*all kiss their hand to the Earth* and speak our thanks at the end with:
Guiding Druid: On every day, wherever we are, in every breath
we send thanks and love to the Great Mother!
All: From You all of us were birthed,
Thanks from us, Our Mother Earth!
As you can see, we call the Earth ‘Mother Earth.’ In conversation as a biologist, I have also used the name ‘Gaia’ in order to clearly indicate that I am conceptualizing an earth-wide, functioning Eco-system (imo also sentient but opinions vary) and in my private practice I address Her as ‘Hertha’ (re Swinburne). But both She and I are always fully aware of Whom we are speaking—-the inhabiting Deity of the entire Earth.
So recently on the ADF chat in Facebook the question was raised—- what member of our chosen Indo-European Pantheon do we “use” to personify this Being? Leaving aside my problems with ‘using’ a Deity and the problematic ‘picking’ of the Same (not that they’re not enormous problems but not very interesting; once you’ve done the interpretive dance of ‘omgs, how RUDE’ the discussion is pretty much over for me) I had a thankfully quite different thought sparked up by the discussion.
The Singular Deity of the Entire Earth is a modern concept. Although some PreChristian religions do address ‘Mother Earth’ Beings, my opinion is that the Deity being addressed is, in actuality, what my Irish hearth culture would typify as ‘Sovereignty’. That/She is the Being who gives the supplicant human permission to live in the area She (those Beings are generally identified as female) is in charge of.
For example, Ériu, Banba and Fódla give the Milesians permission to move into Ireland when they arrive. The Morrighan, by having sex with The Dagda while They are straddling a river, foretells/allows victory to the Incomers against the Fir Bolg the night before their battle. I feel that the ancient mythos does not assign the Deity of Where-we-live as being the entire Earth. Not, necessarily, that ‘primitive’ peoples thought that the Earth was flat, unpersonified, or limited in scope but that non-technological peoples, whether farmers or gatherers, generally confined their mythos to what they were familiar with in topography, usage, and association. Nut, for example, clearly seems to represent ‘our night sky’ rather than the entirety of the sky.
Interestingly, this Earth is male (Her brother/husband) but still looks like ‘our lands, bounded by our horizon’ rather than all of the Earth. Modern Pagans, having seen the photo of the Blue Earth from space, do not need any stretch of imagination to see Her as whole and finite. Just as ancient people may have postulated ‘there are lands further than I have seen, not my concern,’ I believe that there are finite Deities of the various planets, the Solar System, the Universe, et al but I do not think that the Beings who hang the Stars pay much attention to us.
The Solitary Earth Goddess is inextricably identified with ecological fragility and the dangers threatening humanity. She will inevitably outlive us, but the pressing question is how soon and how completely. There are no new frontiers; the boundary is clear. ‘Our Sovereign Land’ is all of Her and how we affect the part we are standing on effects the All.
Apart from Herself and all of Her ancillary Spirits (if we are able to enter into communication with Them), who are our allies? That other modern concept, all of human-kind. Where ancient people could think of ‘people’ as ‘those people who look somewhat like me,’ ‘those people who speak my language/dialect’, or ‘the 3generational descendants of a common grandparent’, for ourselves this is unworkable. Just as Earth must be considered as All-Earth in order to continue to support us, so people must be considered as All-Humanity in order to facilitate it.
We all have a common ancestor in the Mitochondrial Mother (understanding that this person is a concept in the same way that Schrödinger’s cat does not poop in the box), the trivial genetic differences that colour our eyes, cause us to have curly or straight hair, or contribute an abundance or deficit of melatonin cannot be considered as exclusionary or we will fail to survive.
Now we must adopt an ancient concept. Not that we are out-ranked by the Gods; many modern Pagan and mono-theistic religions champion this idea. But that we are not the apex of being.
We have responsibilities to Earth, to Her wellness, to all of humanity, and to the community we are a part of that easily outweigh our personal preferences. Not that I, Judith, am the leader and saviour of modern humankind (wild-eyed, flag-waving, with one breast hanging out like Marianne, the Liberty of France), but that I must try to do my best over time, to be my best self, and to help as best I can.
I often but not always do what the Gods direct me to do, I plant and grow native species and study their medicinal and magical properties, and I endeavour to decrease my trash-stream and correctly direct it in my neighbourhood. And write about it.
is an elderly Druid (Elders are trees, neh?) living on a tiny urban farm in Ottawa, Canada. She speaks respectfully to the Spirits, shares her home and environs with insects and animals, and fervently preaches un-grassing yards and repurposing trash (aka ‘found-object art’).