12 September 2013

Circles, Antimatter, And Humanoid Gods

Ancient Egyptian art depicting
some of their gods of the
Underworld. I believe it is
currently on display at the
 Louvre, but unfortunately
 I could find out little else.
About the gods I have no means of knowing either that they exist or that they do not exist or what they are to look at. Many things prevent my knowing. Among others, the fact that they are never seen.
~ Protagoras

Yesterday I did something I have never done before.

I attended an open circle.

Now, I have known of this circle’s existence pretty much since I have been living in Texas, but I was always weirdly nervous about getting involved. At first, the only information I found about them online seemed vague at best and mostly from the early 2000’s, so I wasn’t even sure if they were still active. Then, once I discovered they were still very much around, I instead found excuses for not reaching out to them: I was busy, I was a Platoon Leader, I never got off work early enough, what if I’m the only officer there, what if I don’t fit in, what if I’m not Pagan enough, what if I do something wrong, what if they make me call the quarters at my first ritual and I mess it up and forget which direction is north...

I’ve never been anything but a solitary practitioner, apart from working a few rites or occasionally reading Tarot with bestie Amphitrite, and those hardly counted as group rituals. However, after talking over my irrational fears (which I acknowledged they were, but still feared nonetheless) with Orion the other day, I decided that I was just going to go and see what happened.

So I went.

And it was freaking awesome.

We did not work any magic; rather, it was a class and a discussion on topics relevant to modern Paganism in preparation for next weekend’s Mabon ritual—which I fully intend to attend. They meet weekly to have classes and discussions, and then celebrate the Sabbats and Esbats in a sanctuary set up at a local grove. I am so beyond excited it’s not even funny. Everyone was super nice and welcoming—I got lots of hugs as the newcomer—and came from all walks of life and levels of experience. The group leader/sponsor described them as a collection of “chronic non-joiners, geeks, and crafty people,” so I knew almost immediately that I had found a home.

The discussion was themed around the harvest, with a focus on the concept of sacrifice: its origins, connotations, and modern representations. Now, another one of the things I was concerned about before meeting everyone, was that I would be too intellectual for the group; however, as soon as the discussion started, I knew that fear had been not only vain but completely unfounded. If anything, I felt like the dumb one in the crowd. I was certainly the quietest, but that was more out of respect for my position as newcomer. I did not want to rush right in spouting off my opinion on everything; I prefer to ease my way into group settings, and right now I have the luxury of time to do just that.

One of the most interesting concepts we discussed, however, was the way we as a species used to make our gods look like us, even up to the point of deifying famous figures (the statue of George Washington as Jupiter, specifically, was mentioned). Many cultures view/ed their deity/ies as, at a minimum, humanoid. There were variations upon the humanoid figure, such as the many-armed blue skinned gods from India and the animal-headed gods of Egypt, but even these were still basically humanoid in their design. And that’s what got me thinking. Why?

As one who was baptized Byzantine Rite and raised very strictly Catholic, the concept of gods and men reflecting each other is not unknown to me. That said, in my youth I was more accustomed to hearing that God (the Yahweh one) created men in His image; but as a student of Latin and the accompanying culture, I was also familiar with the reverse concept. According to the Romans, we created the gods in our image, not the other way around. The Ancient Greeks and Romans were avid proponents of deities being reflective of humanity, even (and especially) including their faults: the jealousy of Hera/Juno, the vanity of Aphrodite/Venus, the womanizing douchebaggery of Zeus/Jupiter, just to name a few of the more popular godly faults. “To err is human,” as the common phrase goes, and yet in some lost societies, to err was also divine—a direct contradiction to the much quoted Christian adage that “God doesn’t make mistakes.”

And yet we have all the evidence of the universe before us. Bad things happen to good people. Birth defects. Disease. Natural disaster. Poverty, hunger, famine. Black holes. War. And yet we also have the miracle of nebulae, the delicate balancing act of matter versus antimatter that allows the entire universe to precariously remain in existence. (In case you are unfamiliar with antimatter, basically it is the same as matter only the reverse, and when in contact, the two explode in a massive release of energy and then cancel each other out….but yet we are still here. Mind blown yet? Mine kinda is. More information here, which despite being from Wikipedia is actually a pretty fair summary.)

Divine mistake or not, we are here. We exist. Life exists, and is living, here on Earth, in this time and space. So here’s my theory. We make our gods look like us because we want to become god-like ourselves. They represent an achievable, attainable possible future: us, but improved. More powerful. More knowledgeable. Stronger. Sometimes we even make them omniscient, sometimes omnipotent. Eternal (literally, existing outside of time, rather than lasting forever, albeit both may be correct interpretations). We, as a species, strive to be all of these things, but in our struggle to achieve more power and knowledge and strength we leave a mass of troubles in our wake (war, poverty, and other products of pillage and plunder). We use our tools and technology to further the eons-old struggle for survival of the fittest, only we call it something else. We enact the dance of predator and prey on a global level, and we call it international relations.

We call it politics.

And here I will stop, before I start spouting off about something that could get me in trouble. I hope, at least, that I have provided some food for thought. Merry meet, merry part, and merry meet again.

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