Tuesday, July 17, 2007

To Know A Goddess

All we need is the great power of the Land. If you have that, you have everything. If you understand the sacredness of the very ground upon which you walk, you are immediately initiated into the great wisdoms of every age of the world that led up to this one.

The Land isn't just hills and trees and grass. It's people and animals, too. It's weather and the circulation of water through rivers, mist, clouds, and rain. It's wells, fires, and moonlight. It's food, homes, families, and it is life. I try to make this point, but often fail, as words fail to express the reality of a Goddess who is as close as the ground below us.

Just a few days ago, I stood on a hill in a forest, making offerings to the Gods. One of the great beings I shared Ale with was the Goddess Eorth, Earth; The Supreme and Great Sovereign that all owe their life-force and the flesh, blood, and bone of their bodies to. For a moment, in my repeated entreaties, as I held the horn against the ground, I could "see" her face there, deep below in my Hugauga, which I suppose was my mind's way of communicating to me her attentions. What a sacred moment; to consciously know the attentions of She from whom all arise, the true Mother of mothers.

Without the Goddess of the Land- and a sacred connection with the Land itself- no modern Pagan religion (and no modern Pagan) can be considered "complete". Paganism in Indo-European times was itself a child of earlier times wherein the Earth Mother was probably far more in evidence than she seems to have been later. All our ancestors had rites and prayers for the Earth Mother, and many myths and stories still capture the essence of her ancient interactions with mankind.

But we don't have to fondly look back to history or mythology to seek stories of her past interactions; what greater religious blessing is there than the power to experience a God or a Goddess here and now? We have that power. Because unlike Monotheists who pack their God away in heaven, or the same who compensate for the misery of that belief by claiming that their God is "everywhere" or "in the heart", we have a Goddess who is not hidden in the least way. You need no "eyes of faith" to see her, feel her, touch her, taste her, or know her. You just need the eyes of your head, your brain, and your hands.

We Heathens are bearers of an important tradition into the modern day- the tradition of the Sacred Land. From full-blown Goddess to abstract ideas about "the sacredness of nature", The Earth Mother's awesome presence informs everything we do and think, whether or not we know it. To be conscious of this is a real blessing, and it changes how you experience your life. You cannot actualize the true and full blessings of the Heathen way unless you can shift your consciousness to understand how easy it is to commune daily with a real and holy Goddess. Native Americans called this "living in a sacred manner".

The Goddess Nerthus, Eorth, Hertha, the Living Earth, the Giantess from whose womb the matter of our very bodies was born and drawn, is impossible to avoid or escape. You are living in her very sacred realm, everyday, whether you will to or not.

If you have walked by rows of corn ripening, or seen cows eating grass, eyeing you from fields on the side of the road, you have seen her. We are so used to thinking of plants and animals as separate, distant "things" apart from either ourselves or some Goddess, but they aren't. In Wyrd, everything is connected, but in the world of Wyrd that we inhabit, the world itself, the land and the living things drawn from it, along with fires and waters, ice and dust, rivers and wells, they are also parts of the body of a Giantess, a Goddess called Earth.

She is the hill, the sow, the birds flying, the streams gurgling. She is the hollow-backed forest woman, the old and terrifying crone in the cottage under the well, the spinner, the Mother of Lightning and Thunder. Words like "ancient" don't even begin to describe her, because what we consider "ancient beyond ancient" is like yesterday to her.

She is the cave, the grave, the lake, the mountain, and the grassy meadow. No matter how many thousands of years the fields have been plowed, if they are still giving fruit, her life force is still pulsing out of them. The rivers and lakes are swirling with her life, sometimes barely seen below the surface of the dark water. The shock and then the soothing of the coolness when you put your feet into the water is her touch. When you drink cold, clean water, or rich, thick ale, her power is pulsing through you powerfully- once you know this, you cannot miss it, ever again. When you taste bread or sit to rest on a hilltop, you are practically nearer to her than you are to yourself.

Sun above you, moon above you, heat and cold, ice under your feet or green grass, you are in the presence of a Goddess. The still trees, their hard and smooth bark, their rough bark, the smell of grasses and leaves, every sensory experience is an experience of her. This is an ancient truth, a venerable and universal experience of mankind, ancient and changeless.

This is the connection that can never be broken, no matter how many trees get ripped down or how many churches get built on top of the ruins of ancient Heathen holy sites. This is the heart of organic religion: the common mother of all Men, Women, Beasts, and Gods, conscious awareness of whom is the greatest blessing of the Old Ways.

Don't mistake me; I am not trying to "wash out" the Goddess by distributing her presence to the forces of nature; I'm not bowing to skepticism or to the fools who think that ancient people were just falling victim to their own misplaced metaphors and imagining that the powers of Nature were Gods and Goddesses. For me, there is no difference between the personhood of this ancient Goddess and the forces of nature.

If it suits you, you can say "ancient humans felt these things, and thought it was sacred, and named it a Goddess". You'd be missing half the point if you did, but at least you'd be in the same stretch of woods. Ancient humans felt a Goddess, they felt natural forces which ARE sacred- of this they had no doubt- and they gave due worship and allegiance to the Goddess of the Land, and the other spiritual powers that clustered in the Land, because that is the proper response when you experience the sacred in this manner.

The last thing to do is live like you understand what I've said. Pagan religions are not lost as long as you bear all these things in mind- the essence of the wisdom of the Pagan world is found right here, in the ability to go outside and experience the sacredness of things. If you can do that, understanding the nature of the Goddess that you are directly touching, you are building a bridge between yourself and the past, which allows for many blessings to flood through. Foremost of those blessings is lasting peace.

Your Land is quite literally a Goddess, a conscious, living being whose body is threaded with dirt, rivers, lakes, plants, air, fire, and animals. Go meet her. Worship her. Smell her, feel her, touch her, drink her, eat her, and be in that sacred place of communion. She has many gifts to give.

The Message

I heard a message today. Our very light rain had stopped, and it was damp outside. Stones everywhere were dark and soaked, and the sky was full. The sun was hidden, clouds were grey, and though it was cooler, it was still slightly warm and irksome. The great heat of our summer has been drenched by rain for weeks, and yet, it never really goes away. Light and water and heat just mix and the world seems green and humid. The trees around my home are tall and thick with their summer coats.

Winds barely blow in these summers, but when they do, especially after rain, they feel like slivers of delight.

I heard a bird talking, followed by the voices of other birds, and they were flying around. One bird- a very large bird- flew over without a sound. Thunder rumbled very far away. The air was silent; the trees were still. My house was standing safe, solid, strong, and the hearth inside was alive. My loves were safe, and my mind was relaxed.

Somewhere out in the world, people were quietly enjoying moments of peace; in other places, people were fighting, struggling, and dying. In some places, the sun was overhead, and in others, people were sleeping under the same stars their ancestors had slept under, for thousands of years. The world was turning, and I was standing, staring at the birds and trees in my sacred center, the place Wyrd wove for me.

That was the message.