How Gods Find Followers: Intro

Since I follow several Gods, who are not as well-known as the Norse or Celtic pantheons, I often wonder how They get followers. Why are some Gods or pantheons are more popular than others? How do the lesser known pantheons go about getting devotees? Many Pagans follow Gods who are from the African Traditional Religions, Egyptian, Celtic, Greek or Norse pantheons. Meanwhile, various other Gods such as Inanna (Babylonian) and Astarte (Canaanite) are usually followed as individuals separate from their respective cultures.

One factor is that some of the more popular pantheons have Gods who actively recruit such as Odin and The Morrigan. Also, Sekhmet of the Egyptians recruits from the general population as does Dionysius of the Greeks. Within each of these pantheons are popular Gods such as Isis and Apollo, who also attract devotees. People will shift pantheons in their spiritual lives as some Gods come to speak to them, while other Gods leave. Odin and Sekhmet will often leave the person once they are settled in Paganism.

Another factor is that people are introduced to popular Gods such as Hecate in “Goddesses” books. These books often do bring people deeper into Paganism. However, many focus on the Goddesses as archetypes for self-empowerment, while others present the various Goddesses as aspects of the Great Goddess.

I have come to realize that the focus on individual Gods (Goddesses) in general Paganism hinders knowing some of the more obscure pantheons. Furthermore, Pagans often see Them as archetypes representing a part of a whole. To me, this is a paradox of extreme individualism and non-differentiation between Gods.

nbt_acheulian

My experience with the Acheulian Goddess reflects some of the common problems faced by the more obscure Gods. I was approached by the Acheulian Goddess because of my work with the Early Human Dead. I see Her in that context, as a Goddess of Homo erectus, the Goddess of Beginnings. I know of only few people who differentiate between the various Neolithic Goddesses. I suspect that it is because in general culture, They are lumped together. Moreover, few discussions of Neolithic religion present each of these Goddesses as being discrete from each other.

I have met people who follow the Goddess Path, who venerate Her with the other Neolithic Goddesses. They tend to think of Her as a facet of the Great Goddess. Outside of the Goddess Worshipers, She attracts few people.

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I am writing a series of posts on how various Gods recruit their followers. I find the topic fascinating, and hope that my dear readers will also. If anyone has any input to this topic, feel free to contact me, and we can discuss further.

Ghost Riders in the Sky or the Wild Hunt

Going by many names, the myth of the Wild Hunt can be found throughout Europe. Although the details of the Hunt changes from region to region, the core remains the same. A troop of the Dead is lead by a God, notable figure, Cursed Hunter, or the Devil (in Christian versions). Dogs and livestock, such as horses or pigs, are included in the Troop of the Dead. Usually the procession is in pursuit of something.

The Furious Host are usually heard before They are seen. When the sky darkens, thunder rumbles and lightening flashes warning people of Their coming. Then the baying of the hounds, blowing of the horns or shouts of the Dead are heard.

The Wild Hunt can appear at any time. However most sightings are reported during the times when the Dead roam freely upon the earth. These are February, Midsummer, Winter’s Nights (October), and Yule.

A person encountering the Furious Host could escape by lying face down on the ground. They could also greet the Leader of the Hunt politely, and receive gold. A disrespectful person would be abducted or be told they were to die soon.

The Western song “(Ghost) Riders in the Sky” (Stan Jones, 1948) is a retelling of the Wild Hunt. The songwriter Stan Jones (American, 1914-1963) heard the story of the Wild Hunt in Arizona. He was a teenager riding the range with an old cowboy. Whilst watching an on-coming storm, the cowboy told Jones a Western version of the myth.

Jones’ song tells the following story. A cowboy riding a ridge sees a storm coming up. Suddenly, he sees and hears a herd of red-eyed cattle with shiny black horns. Possessing flaming brands, the cows also breathed fire. This was the Devil’s Herd passing by him.

Pursuing the herd was a group of gaunt, sweaty, and tired cowboys. They were trying to stop the stampede of the Devil’s Herd. The horses that the cowboys rode were also snorting fire. (Suffering riders is a motif in many Wild Hunt legends.)

One of the doomed cowboys calls the watching cowboy by his name. He warns him of his potential fate if the cowboy does not repent. He will then become one of the cursed group chasing the spooked cattle. Shaken by his experience, the cowboy returns home. (Being called by name and asked to repent is in Christian motifs of the Wild Hunt.)


Lyrics: Ghost Riders in the Sky :Released in 1979, album called Silver by Johnny Cash.

This song was written by Stan Jones on 5 May 1948. It was originally recorded by Burl Ives on 17 February 1949.

Johnny Cash’s version on You-Tube.

An old cowboy went riding out one dark and windy day
Upon a ridge he rested as he went along his way
When all at once a mighty herd of red eyed cows he saw
A-plowing through the ragged sky and up the cloudy draw

Their brands were still on fire and their hooves were made of steel
Their horns were black and shiny and their hot breath he could feel
A bolt of fear went through him as they thundered through the sky
For he saw the Riders coming hard and he heard their mournful cry

Yippie yi ooohhh
Yippie yi yaaaay

Ghost Riders in the sky

Their faces gaunt, their eyes were blurred, their shirts all soaked with sweat
He’s riding hard to catch that herd, but he ain’t caught ’em yet
‘Cause they’ve got to ride forever on that range up in the sky
On horses snorting fire
As they ride on hear their cry

As the riders loped on by him he heard one call his name
If you want to save your soul from Hell a-riding on our range
Then cowboy change your ways today or with us you will ride
Trying to catch the Devil’s herd, across these endless skies

Yippie yi yaaaay
Yippie yi ohhhhh

Ghost Riders in the sky
Ghost Riders in the sky
Ghost Riders in the sky

Works Used:

Berk, Ani and William Spytma, “Penance Power, Pursuit: On the Trail of the Wild Hunt”, http://www.endicott-studio.com/rdrm/forhunt.html

Boxell, Geoff, “The Wild Hunt or Fairy Raed”, http://geoffboxell.tripod.com/hunt.htm

Lecoutex, Claude, “Phantom Armies of the Night”. (book)

Sundlin, Michelle, “Stan Jones”, WMA Hall of Fame, http://www.westernmusic.org/performers/hof-jones-stan.html

—, “The Wild Hunt”, Orkneyjar – The Heritage of the Orkney Islands, http://www.orkneyjar.com/tradition/hunt.htm

 

God of the Season: Ratatoskr (2)

wpanimalredsqRatatoskr and I have had a long close relationship beginning in my childhood. I always have thought of Him as a magical squirrel. I see Him in the squirrels who chatter in the trees. I see Him in the squirrels who leap from the oak tree to my balcony. I see Him in the squirrels who square off for sunflower seeds at the “bird” feeder. I see Him in the squirrels who bury and dig up acorns. As long as I could remember, Ratatoskr has always there to talk and listen to.

When I read Norse mythology, I discovered that Ratatoskr is The Squirrel of the World Tree. He brings news to the Gods and gossip to Vedrfolnir, the Eagle and Nidhogg, the Serpent. Technically Ratatoskr is not a God but a Wright (Spirit). To me, He is a “Nature Spirit.”

I see Ratatoskr more than simply a gossip. Squirrels have a language of “chees,” body movement, and tail signals to converse with. They tell each other not to come into their territory, warn about cats and hawks, and discuss who goes where when. Squirrels tell people and strange animals not to trespass near “their tree.”

Squirrels bury nuts, which then become trees, and finally their homes and food sources. The cycle of squirrel and tree is one of reciprocity. The squirrel ensures that trees are planted, and the trees give the squirrel a home. Looking at Ratatoskr in this manner, makes Him less a gossip and more a force of nature. He becomes the Nurturer of the Forest, ensuring that it continues for all.

Hail Ratatoskr                                     The Squirrely One

Carry News                                         Not Gossip

Carry Truth                                         With Kindness

Teach Us                                             Wise Words

Hail Ratatoskr                                     Of the World Tree

From Wikipedia:

Ratatoskr is described in the Prose Edda‘s Gylfaginning‘s chapter 16, in which High, one of three men that respond to questions posed by Gangleri (Odin), states that

“An eagle sits at the top of the ash, and it has knowledge of many things. Between its eyes sits the hawk called Vedrfolnir […]. The squirrel called Ratatosk […] runs up and down the ash. He tells slanderous gossip, provoking the eagle and Nidhogg”

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Why would I have a Norse Wright in a Roman-centered practice? Ratatoskr has been a Patron of my mother’s family. I honor Him as well.

Gods of the Season: Ratatoskr

wpanimalredsqOn my other blog, I write about nature and its meanings. I wrote a piece on the Eurasian red squirrel, which is what I think Ratatoskr is. I have a long association with squirrels, in general. Usually at this time of year, acorns are dropping, reminding me to offer a prayer to the Squirrely One. (My next blog on Ratatoskr will feature that.)

This is a part of what I  wrote. The rest can be found at Nature: Observations and Meanings: Red Squirrel

Smaller and shier than Grey Squirrel, Eurasian Red Squirrel prefers living alone in the pine forests of Europe. After searching meticulously for food, He takes his pine cone to a secure branch for safety. Holding the cone in his front paws, Eurasian Red Squirrel rotates it while biting off the scales to get at the pine seeds.

People have admired Eurasian Red Squirrel for centuries. According to the Norse of Scandinavia, Ratatosk lived in the Tree of Life. He carried messages to Eagle, perched at the top, and to Snake, coiled around the roots. For his efforts, Ratatosk enjoyed the special protection of Thor, the God of Thunder.

Medieval Christians tell the story of Eurasian Red Squirrel in the Garden of Eden. He had a long thin tail like Rat’s. One day, while sitting in a nearby tree, He witnessed Adam and Eve eating the forbidden fruit. Eurasian Red Squirrel was so horrified by the sight, that He covered his eyes. As a reward for his faithfulness, God gave Eurasian Red Squirrel a thick bushy tail.

Humble little Eurasian Red Squirrel lives in the trees, watching the people below. From his vantage point, Eurasian Red Squirrel can touch the Heavens. He is the intermediary between two worlds – the world of the ordinary and the world of wonder. You can relish the ordinary life and have time to pause for wonder.