WE LIVE in somewhat tumultuous times. Not the most tumultuous times the world has ever seen, but certainly when I look back at the past 50 or so years of my own life. What it exactly is, I cannot really say. It’s just too many things adding up, and it’s virtually impossible to pinpoint it down to one particular cause. But it has certainly to do with the fact that we are so connected these days, through internet and social media. And with that, we have access to literally billions of opinions, making it harder and harder to decipher what is true, what is a spin of the truth, and what is just plain and simply made up.
Another factor in this mix of Angst and agony is terrorism. Obviously. Although I have to say that I have witnessed terrorism since I was about eight, when the assassination of Jewish athletes was carried out by Palestinian terrorists at the Munich Olympics in 1972. Later, I remember, as a student on a field trip, I was scraping out hand grenade shrapnel from the walls of the Synagogue in Vienna, years after a terrorist attack there. When commuting to the University of Vienna in the 1980, passing by the Turkish embassy when riding the streetcar was accompanied by some anxiety after Kurdish bomb attacks there. And let us not forget the mayhem the IRA caused in Northern Ireland and England, the kidnappings of industrial magnates by the German RAF or the train station bombings by the Italian Brigate Rosse. So it’s nothing new to me. But again, the complete and utter interconnectedness puts everything front and center right away.
Back then, the consensus was to report on these terrorist activities, but not let any terrorist organization get into our heads, paralyze us with fear. Nowadays, it’s not only them, it’s government officials who strike fear in us with tweets, making us afraid of those very people who try to make us afraid in the first place. Everyone runs around in fear these days. If not fear struck because of the activities of those who made it their life purpose to drown their fellow human beings in terror, we are made afraid by our governments – or those who aspire to govern – that someone could terrorize us. It is a vicious circle.
A cycle I feel the need to escape, et least every now and then!
AS A DRUID, I do have a number mechanisms to do that, and I wanted to pick out one that helps me find solace despite this whirlwind of information and the tsunami of Angst we are exposed to constantly. And no, not as simple as ‘oh, I think a little bit about the Gods and Goddesses and the world is fine.’ It is much deeper than that.
First, I purposefully connect with the Old Gods. Not because the later Gods, the pantheons of Greek, Roman, and particularly (for me) Norse and Celtic provenience aren’t good enough, but because the latter are more humanlike than the Old Ones. There is a very important reason for why the older Gods help me more in these situations. It’s because whatever Gods are for us individually, they reflect us, the human species on a divine level. This allows as to identify and communicate with them, makes as understand them much better on our level. But that’s not what I am after here.
The Old Gods are not that easy to conceptualize. Belenus, (D)Anu, Taranis, Teutates, and Esus/Cernunnuos are not the Sun, Earth, the Sky, and Nature in human form, but they are the very essence of exactly what they are, the Sun, Earth, the Sky, and Nature. They are everything that encompasses these basic elements of our lives, but in a grander scheme. While the Welsh Goddess Rhiannon weds and loves her husband in the Mabinogi in an almost human way, the old Earth Mother Danu loves all creatures in a very equal way. She loves the worm that eventually eats our brain (unless we choose cremation) as much as the mosquito that causes disease for us, and as much as the bear that has enough strength to rip us apart with its bare paws. Taranis conjures the weather as needed and as appropriate, no matter our wishes. And Cernunnos, Nature, nurtures us as much as he can take over whole cities in a few years, levelling to the ground grand structures erected by us humans as if they were sandcastles.
Worshipping an awesome force like the Old Gods thus puts one’s own life into a different perspective. One that sheds all anthropomorphisms like specs of mud from the skin. Praying to them for special treatment, because we are humans, is absolutely futile. There’s barely any identification with these forces possible either; no comparing oneself to Taranis like one could try to compare oneself to Loki, claiming to be just as much a trickster at that Æsir God. We are so much not like them. They have been there since the beginning, and they will be there long after our species has vanished.
Sounds somewhat like a Debbie downer, doesn’t it? We are nothing and they are everything? So why bother?
Well, because Cernunnos, Belenus, Danu, Taranis and Teutates do love us – just not more than anything or anyone else. But also not less. And, more importantly, they are absolutely open to receive our love, our devotion. In fact, despite them being so awesomely powerful, we are still responsible for their well-being. We need to do everything in our power – as little as that might be – to keep them from harm. Not sure how to go about that with Belenus, the Sun, to be honest. But it seems very clear to me what can be done to protect the Earth, the Sea, the Sky, Nature.
A LITTLE BOY once made me realize how deep my own love for our Mother Earth goes. It was during a Samhain ritual with my Druid Grove in Massachusetts, shortly after Fukoshima had happened, that I dedicated some time of the rite for anyone who wanted to say something to Danu, bring some offerings and whatnot. So I crouched down in the center of the circle and patted the ground, saying while choking up, ‘I am so sorry, mom” Then this three or four year old boy comes over to me into the center, also squats down with the ease of a kid of his age, looks me in the eye, and asks, ‘Is that really your mom?’
As cute as that was, it showed me one thing above all. That little dude felt my deep connection to the Earth, maybe even more than I would ever be able to feel myself. There was no doubt in his mind that I meant it. All that was confusing to him was how that would work.
So yes, you can worship, even love these grand Gods of old, find solace in there mere existence and in their love for you, even though you have to share this love with everything else on this Earth, or this Universe. Or, actually, exactly because of that. Considering that vastness, just imagine how big their love really is.
The writer is also the author of the book “Mountain Magic – Celtic Shamanism in the Austrian Alps” on how to weave Alpine lore and customs into your own spiritual practice.