Paganistan: Notes from the Secret Commonwealth
In Which One Midwest Man-in-Black Confers, Converses & Otherwise Hob-Nobs with his Fellow Hob-Men (& -Women) Concerning the Sundry Ways of the Famed but Ill-Starred Tribe of Witches.
A Goat to Thunder
Whatever happened to the Thunderer?
The ancestors knew him well: Thor, Perkunas, Perun, Jupiter, Zeus, Ba'al, Enlil, Indra, they called him. The heathens in their wisdom honor him to this day. His name lives on the tongue of every English-speaker: Thunder. And in the many-colored world itself, of course, he's never gone away: his rains still fall, if not quite as they always have.
But in pagandom at large, where is he?
Modern civilization runs by his power: electricity ("amber-power") we call it. When he in his storming takes this power from us—Hurricane “Sandy” for instance (Hurakan was his name in Taino)--we soon take notice. Without his power, our culture would collapse in days. Why are there not altars to him in every power station in the world?
Have we forgotten that the might of this god drives our nervous systems, our own brains? That his lightning may literally have sparked the first life--our life--in the primal womb of the Mother?
Like all gods, he is a paradox, to be sure, this god who dwells in the sky but delights our skin with his touch: fire in water, life-sower, death-dealer, Sky-Bull of the seminal rains. Irascible warrior, hot, hot lover, volatile enforcer of justice for the people: small wonder Earth takes him to her arms and secret places. Who wouldn't?
"Here comes the Big Guy," remarked my friend and colleague Frebur Moore as we watched His clouds fill the sky in entirety, rumbling inexorably toward us, heavy with their freight of rain. He is vast, this god. How can we have forgotten him?
Has meteorology blinded us to him? Have thunderstorms become for us secular events, void of divinity? Can we as modern pagans truly have lost our ancestral capacity to see in every thunderstorm the epiphany of a god, as he comes once again from the west in beauty and terror, speaking the Primal Word, with the Winds, his constant companions?
Or is it that anger, that the warrior, that the forceful, powerful male, have become so culturally problematic for us that we can no longer see the power of anger, of the warrior, of the forceful, powerful male to do great good?
Or do we no longer need rain?
On Friday, June 21, 2013, Midsummer's Day, a massive line of thunderstorms crashed through the Twin Cities in southeastern Minnesota, with hurricane-force winds gusting in excess of 60 miles an hour.
More than 7000 trees were toppled; 2500 cars were crushed beneath them. 4700-some homes were damaged. More than a quarter of a million people were left without electrical power for days. Losses were estimated to be in excess of 19 million dollars.
No one was killed.
A Goat to Thunder
A Song of Thanksgiving
You spared my home, O Thunder,
when other homes were taken.
You spared my car, O Thunder,
when other cars were crushed.
You spared my trees, O Thunder,
when other trees were broken.
By rights I owe you a goat now,
a gift of thanks for mercy:
but I, alas, am a goatless man,
a dweller in cities, a worker of words.
In its stead, I offer you this:
let this song be my goat.
I sing your praises, Thunder,
terrible in mercy.
During the composition of this post, the largest red-tailed hawk I've ever seen lighted on a post (!) across the street and sat there for 20 minutes, less than a mile from the geographic center of downtown Minneapolis. It's the first time I've ever seen a hawk in this neighborhood.
Of all the birds, they say, Thunder loves best the raptors.
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