So in the last article I talked about ancestry and the progression. This time we are going to talk about the evolution of religions and Gods. Then in the next one we are going to explore the Ancestral Soul. Even though each of these are separate topics, they are also interconnected.
Like everything else, even religion/ traditions have an origin story and a path of evolution.
It all started with Animism. Animism is the belief that everything has a soul, an energy. That soul/ energy is connected to everything else on both a micro scale (local to it) and macro level (literally incorporating everything). Now we know the micro and macro are extreme sides with lots of degrees in between, so just keep that in mind.
Due to this understanding of those connections it brought people to a new kind of awareness. They started thinking about how their actions and inactions affected other souls around them. They didn’t have laws dictating rules, the rules were developed by this understanding. The balance between them, their environment, the living things within that environment, and working outward. Nature and the laws of nature that were observed and experienced by the people.
It is agreed upon by both science and scholars that this was the first beginnings of religion, the seen and unseen worlds, and a larger scope than just the self. It is what brought about the mentality of cooperation between people and for the good of the people as a whole. It also is where the beginning of religion can be seen. Through this understanding they started to honor and worship center aspects and elements in their environment such as the rain, the plants, the animals, the sun and the moon. Not associated with a God or Person but just as their element. The closer the element was to survival, the more focus was given to it.
Next came the connection and honoring of Ancestors. First by blood/ Clan and then by Tribe/ community. Again working outward. The family unit would have been their closest ties and there was an understanding of passing down through the lines due to outward appearances and personality traits that we still witness today. They didn’t have the science but the experience. They also seemed to have the belief that the soul and luck of an ancestor could be passed down to another in the line. I say it seemed because we were not there so we can’t say with 100% accuracy that this was the case. Anthropology and archeology are fields that work together to help us try to understand our past but at the same time there is a lot of guesswork involved. Many cases can be made for this assumption of passing down though.
So with this belief comes the connection to ancestors. Honoring those who were important in life to them, who helped them, or who did good things in their life. It probably started with just telling stories about them and naming children after them who held the traits or “spirit” of the person. Then developing into calling upon them and honoring them in more specific ways. After all, they were a part of them, so who better to watch over them and help them – Legacy. So out of this would have come the rise of Ancestor connection and veneration alongside Animism. Not dominating it, but a part of that system. They most likely even started to equate these people with different elements. Animals and elements like water and fire themselves. The strong, unwavering protector might have been said to be aligned with the spirit of the Bear for example, or someone who seemed to have a connection to the rain and could call it down might be associated with rain and storms.
As generations passed – as people kept passing stories of the past – we start to see the rise of Gods. Living Gods that lived among the people. They wouldn’t have been considered Gods or had the energy pattern of a God in their lifetime, but something that grew from the honoring of the people after they died. Think of it like this – A leader of a group was revered by their people for their skills in solving disputes and prosperity the group endured under their leadership. Perhaps they were even equated to an animal such as a deer for their surefooted decisions and adaptability. The people respected and loved this leader, so even long after their death they told stories to honor and remember them. Now we are getting into Deity/ God Theory. Because people were continuing to praise and honor the life of this leader, feeding their soul/ pattern with that energy, their pattern grew. It became connected to other patterns (talking about the web from the last article Ancestry and DNA). So now you have a soul, whose pattern was connected to numerous generations, and most likely elements and aspects of nature itself.
Do you see where this is going? The more connections, the more energy is given to the pattern, the pattern grows, becoming what we call a God/ Deity pattern. It’s really not a stretch at all because all Gods besides the abrahamic god were a living soul on this earth. They have genealogies, families, and community groupings. It is what made them “Living Gods” in the first place. This doesn’t make our Deities any less in power by any stretch of the imagination. Due to those connections, from people, time/ generations, stories, nature ties, they have become a part of all those things. Connected and bound to them, thus having access to all the power and knowledge within each of them. They are no longer just a soul pattern of an individual – they have become a God Pattern.
Now we stand at the threshold of religion as it has become known today. Where we moved from a place of animism to a place of Gods. By connecting to a Goddess of fertility it was thought to have more direct connection and power due to that. An entity who was more like the people, who understood their struggles and needs as a person, and who had a name to call upon. Moving from calling on the element of rain, to calling upon a Deity who controls all the weather. An energy that was in their image, thus easier to communicate with and focus on. The focus here is an image, a likeness, a specific person. In animism it was an abstract focus outside of ourselves, without solid form.
So now we had names, a likeness, associations with different aspects of nature which have become their domain. The development of celebrations and then rituals started to take shape around them. Before a hunt they would perhaps petition a Deity who was over the hunt or prey they were seeking. Asking for luck and good fortune. They started holding celebrations in the honor of Deities at certain times of the year such as spring for a good gathering or planting season.
The bigger the structure of society became, the more structured the celebrations and honoring became. Religion, in the sense of community, was born. Each person with their own connections, their own ways of honoring, yet also coming together as a group at certain times, for specific reasons to the community to petition these Deities/ Gods.
I think the reason that you see a mirroring effect between cultures and different people, such as a Deity of Death or one of Fertility, is because these were things all people experienced. They all experienced death. The animals associated with these Deities are also very similar due to the nature of the animal and how it behaves in the environment. Scavengers such as ravens, vultures, and crows were highly associated with death because they ate the dead, consuming them. Animals associated with fertility were things such as rabbits because they reproduced in abundance. There are a myriad of examples but this isn’t the focus, it is just to show a point. So because all people experience these things in their daily lives. The specific animal or plant would be specific to the region they lived in but close relations/ symbolism to others (American Crow vs a Vulture in Africa).
It was also really common as people moved and migrated in the world, and when they encountered new cultures there were a lot of similarities in their Gods. Not in name but in aspects, domains, and symbolism. There didn’t seem to be much arguing about specific names as we see now, but just accepted it was a version of their own God. You see this a lot with Greek – Roman and various Celtic – Germanic tribes due to the amount of information we have. When the Romans invaded the Celts and Germanic tribes they often noted that their Gods were very similar except with different names and likeness. Now I am not saying they are the same – what I am saying is that they were most likely connected to the same patterns. The Romans also never sought to take away or blend their Gods with the natives they were trying to conquer, they didn’t really care, they were in it for the money, not the religion.
It’s not hard to see over time how this can start to get twisted and corrupted as a means to control people through religion and that really started with the christian church. Note, I am saying the church here and not the ordinary day-to-day christians. That unfortunately is another very big box of worms, along with some interesting theories on what their god is due to the fact that it was never a Living God. I will be getting there soon, but not today. Today we need to stay focused on this evolution of religion.
So without the nitty gritty of the abrahamic faiths we will just look at the big picture. At this point in time (the fall of Rome and the rise of christians) religion was still very loose and blendable as people and cultures blended. They could see the similarities even if the names and practices were slightly different. They did not war over Gods, they went to war over land and protecting their people.
The Catholic church changed all of that, and all the different christian offshoots of today originated there. The church used their laws and moral sets, pushing them first onto the leaders (royalty) of the various people. The church had been amassing a lot of wealth through their wars, conversions, and from the very people that made up their congregations in donations and required amounts of their income they had to pay to the church. The larger they grew, the more wealth they accumulated making them the perfect bank for royalty. Royalty would align themselves with the church in order to access that wealth and resources. So it was in the interest of the leaders to have their people convert. One so they could access those things and secondly so they could continue to stay in power/ keep their people alive. It’s no secret that if you didn’t convert the christians took the stance of wiping you out. It’s all there in the histories and we even see that mentality today on a much smaller scale. Christians who go around always trying to convert those who are not like them. Threatening them and slinging curses at them (and in the same breath saying they hate witchcraft as they weave their own spells). I saw this a lot when living and working in poorer communities. It was like a breeding ground for them and not in a charitable way in my experience.
The old ways didn’t fully die though. Some were incorporated into the church. Some were held and passed down in families as customs and personal traditions. Herbalists, midwives, and healers continued on hiding the old ways under the christian ways. Not in the open, not as they were, but still remnants of the past.
Then the rise of Paganism once again started to take hold. People wanting to connect to their roots, to nature, to something they could experience. In the 1700s rich aristocrats were trying to understand and recapture who and what the Druids were. Later occultists would be developing the Golden Dawn, trying to unearth the secrets of the past. Much later Wicca became the leader of a much broader magical movement. Then a whole host of new age and reconstructionist movements would follow.
The most interesting thing I see though, is a bigger movement back towards animism. It is still in its infancy, this movement, but it is where I see more and more heading. Where they are not restricted by others but only by the rules of nature. It is about the individual’s experience and coexistence within their environment and larger community shaping their beliefs and moral sets. A place where the Gods still exist but back to a view of them being Guides and Partners, not dominating parents threatening us (a very christian view). Where we see and understand they are a part of us. Where you can choose to connect to the guide or the direct pattern of an element to gain knowledge – wisdom – desired action/ change. Back to a time of animism.
It is an interesting time to witness and I do wonder if we will just be going back full circle like cycles tend to do. Only time will tell.
The point of all this – To understand and see the evolution of faith and religion as people have shaped it. How it grows from one state to another. To gain different perspectives so we make the right choices for ourselves. To connect in ways that mean something to us and that we actually experience ourselves.
My Goddess is The Morrigan. She has always been with me even when I did not have a name for Her. She has been connected to my soul way before this life. There are others in my line who were connected to Her the way I am. I fully believe She was a living person who was part of a ruling people that became a Goddess over time due to those people. This doesn’t make Her any less powerful, any less amazing, any less of anything. She is more than I am because She is connected to more than I am. She has knowledge and wisdom that I can not even conceive of. I love our bond. I love that She is a part of me and my life. I have grown and learned more through Her and our bond than I did in 25 years of study and practice on my own. Knowing and believing all that I wrote above, about the evolution, doesn’t change anything about Her for me. If anything it only deepens that bond between us. Some will understand and some won’t. She understands though and that is all I need.