Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Celtic Traditions In The 19th Century

Celtic Traditions In The 19th Century Cover Back to the idea of elevated spirit, and UnderWorld spirit. We now leap forward in time a thousand years or more . This is a crucial period, for it was when many old manuscripts, especially those of Ireland and Wales, were translated for the first time with some measure of accuracy, and given serious study and publication.

In the 19th century anthropologists, the newly burgeoning Theosophists, and professors of comparative religion in the West, ingrained with Christian conditioning, suddenly discovered (wait for it) “sun gods”. The spiritual idea of elevated light was associated, by a kind of Christianized reductionism, with the notion of pagan “sun worship”. Every ancient religion, every pagan motif of the past, every folk tradition just had to relate to solar worship and the Wheel of the Year.

When modern writers in revival paganism took up this Wheel idea, they merely copied it from Victorian sources, and developed it. But it is not ancient: it is a romantic fabrication with a traceable literary history. And yet, we find its basis in the annual cycle of the seasons , and the fourfold glyphs, mandalas, and yantras of our worldwide spiritual traditions, so it contains a powerful pattern of truth.

I am not suggesting that there were no sun gods : that would be absurd, given the widely varied evidence from the ancient world. What happened in 19th century literature, in both academic and esoteric studies, was something subtle and pernicious : all ancient magic and religion was examined, discussed, and interpreted in a solar (usually male) context. Thus the 20th century inherited an imbalanced set of ideas on ancestral religion, magic, and metaphysics. Much of our revival paganism and new spirituality has an invisible Christianized foundation that has to be excavated, considered, and rebuilt in a new way without letting the edifice above it collapse altogether.

Despite all the solar phallic wheel twirling, there is ample evidence to show that the ancestors in Ireland, Europe, the Mediterranean, Africa, all believed, knew would be a better word , that life is regenerated beneath the Earth, in the UnderWorld. (As a small aside: I coined this spelling of UnderWorld back in the late 1970’s in my early book The UnderWorld Initiation: I wanted the publisher to grasp that it was not a book about the Mafia). Only in the late 20th and early 21st centuries have we started to reconsider the profound implications of this enduring idea that Life comes Up from Below, and not Down from Above.

What do the Romans tell us ?

Paradoxically, the Romans, who destroyed so much as they homogenized Europe, have left us some evidence of UnderWorld magic, in typical crass Roman style. Roman images of Celtic horned gods, in the conquered territories of Gaul (homeland of Getafix the Druid, and shame on you if you do not know who he is ), sometimes hold a pot of coins….to symbolize the wealth of power in the UnderWorld. We still call a wealthy man a “plutocrat”…. from the classical god Pluto, lord of hidden wealth in the UnderWorld. This concept is far more than one of mineral wealth…it is about power, fecundity, and regeneration. No wonder the developing and controlling new religions wanted people to stay away from goddesses and gods of a realm that granted independent power ! When religion and politics, temple and state, march hand in hand, their marriage is about control of power , not love and compassion, and certainly not freedom of thought, vision, worship or inspiration.

Books You Might Enjoy:

Michael Ford - The Witch Cult Of Zos Vel Thanatos
Yacki Raizizun - The Secret Of Dreams
Thomas Muldoon - Numerology For The 21st Century