Our ancestors told stories; stories that entertained, that showed people how to live, and that explained how the world was ordered. They sat around campfires, and around the work they were doing at the moment and told stories and sang songs. As People became more numerous, they gathered in cities and the stories got bigger, the presentation more formal and particular. The telling moved beyond just one person and others played roles. The stories of how the world was created were acted out yearly and with precision. On flaw in the performance and the players must start again least the world not function as it should.
The priests would enter bringing with them the sounds of chanting and the smell of incense. What storytelling lost in intimacy, public performance made up for in created spectacle. The grand theatre of the temple, housing statuary, and carved with reliefs of the doings of the gods, the choice of time of day, the smell of the sacrifice, and the sound of human voices raised in praise, all enveloped the participants. It allowed them to step out of ordinary time and join in the creation of the world, the crowning of the god-king, and the sparking of the fertility by which humanity survived. And whether around the fire or in the temple grounds, such participation bonded the people to each other and invested them with meaning and purpose. Such is the definition of ritual.
I only know one person who is an open atheist and I don’t tend to have any opinion when I hear discussions about the existence of god. I’ll confess that I feel somewhat sorry for atheists. I think its kind of sad that they don’t get enough joy and satisfaction out of a religion to justify a bit of faith when needed. Most humans practice religion of some kind. It has been fashionable in the twentieth century to bash religion and declare it one of the major causes of human suffering. My father-in-law was one such. Culturally Jewish, his father fled the Czar when he was found to be a Communist. Harry believed firmly in an afterlife, but he had bad things to say about religion. All while participating in his Jewish community. This might seem a paradox, but it really isn’t. Judaism does not dictate belief, only behavior, and by all means debate away!
I didn’t agree with Harry, although I did agree that there had been religious wars and persecution. Religions must be part of our biology and thus serve us in a survival capacity, otherwise we wouldn’t make so many of them! It comes down to a few simple ideas. Our brains want to create stories about what happens to us. We have a biological need for meaning. (For more on this I recommend the works of Eugene D’Aquili and Andrew Newberg.) What survival need does this serve? It creates hope. Hope allows one to continue in the face of fear, anguish, and physical or emotional pain. Without hope, we are more likely to give up. For our ancestors, giving up would have, more often than not, meant death.
Welcome to Airy Monday at the Pagan News Beagle. Today we have stories on the autumn night sky, campfire storytelling, quantum physics and miracles, virtual/created constructed beings, and Pagan academics.
The still-warm evenings of autumn make for great star-gazing. This article at Space.com points out what to look for when you look up.
If you ask those who practice it, “Why skyclad?” twelve will get you thirteen you'll hear something along the lines of 1) energy flow, 2) social equalizing, and 3) a sense of separation from the ordinary.
Those may all be good answers, and they may even be true answers, but they're modern answers. They're not the answers the ancestors would have given.
If 1400 years ago you had asked a priest of the Hwicce tribe, “Why do you go naked to your worship?” had he been disposed to give you an answer at all he may well have said, “The Lady of the Hwicce instructed us so.”
I met a Notable American Druid (NAD) in Ireland while I was on scholarship as a Celtic Studies student, and we traveled together from time to time while we were there. One evening, after touring County Donegal, we stopped at a pub in Carrick on the way back to Glencolumbkille. I don't remember what NAD drank that night, but the publican taught me to make what he called 'Hot Bush'. Here's the recipe:
Boil the kettle. Pour hot water into a mug. Boil the kettle again. Pour the water out of the mug. Put 3 cloves, a teaspoon of sugar and a shot of Bushmills into the mug. Pour boiling water into the mug and stir.