Gods Recruiting: Closed Culture: Native American

(I wrote this before Brain Fog came.)

Many people are attracted to Native American Religions, but not because Native American Gods recruit (because They do not). Rather it’s because people are seeking spiritual fulfillment and believe that these religions will satisfy their longings. Unfortunately, this becomes a matter of people seeking the Gods of a closed culture.

From the 1980s, people have sought out those who claim to be Native Americans to teach them how to be one with nature and to follow the “Red Road.” Furthermore, many of these “Native Americans” promoted their books and workshops to attract followers and make money. In response to this “selling of Native spirituality,” many Nations issued statements telling these “Native Americans” to cease and desist. Moreover, tribal authorities stressed that their religions belong only to their particular Nation.

Given the amount of material that is written about Native American beliefs, people feel that they know enough to practice these religions. However, much was recorded by outsider anthropologists and missionaries, who translated what they saw into a Western cultural milieu. For example, these religions are presented as proto-monotheistic with the “Great Spirit” as the supreme God.

Meanwhile, the books written by those who claim to be Native American or taught by Native Americans have their own peculiar theology. From my readings of several authors, they present a monotheistic New Age theology with a sprinkling of pseudo-Native terms such as “Grandmother Moon.” Often included in these books are versions of the “Rainbow Warrior Prophecy,” (Note 1) which stipulates that White people are reincarnated Native Americans, and that they need to follow Native Ways to bring about the New Age of Harmony. Another thing in common is promoting the use of crystals, which is a New Age concept. To bolster their writing, the authors will stress their special status or lineage. (Many will cite each other’s books or credentials for added authority.) These books are appealing because they present what non-Native Peoples want to be true – that Native American Religions are open and should be practiced by everyone. Also, that they present “pure, ancient truths” that are lost to the West.

What do people do if they are called by the Spirits of the Land? Before I became a Polytheist, I was a Nature Mystic, spending as much time as I could outdoors. I studied nature, learned the flora and fauna of my region, and kept a diary of the seasons. I read poetry of the Nature Mystics and wrote short poems to convey my depth of feeling. Even now, I talk to the trees and rocks, and practice reciprocity of giving little gifts for their wisdom.

Nature Mysticism is a union of the self with nature. Going deeper into the transcendental wonder of Nature, the person merges with the living world. Some types of Paganism practice Nature Mysticism and seek spiritual sustenance in the natural world.

I would suggest that people read William James’ book, “Varieties of Religious Experience.” This philosopher wrote many books discussing people’s mystic experiences and placing them in a religious or natural context. I would also suggest that people study the Nature Mystics such as John Muir, Henry Thoreau, Walt Wittman, or William Wordsworth, and others. Their writings will give people a means of how to connect to the land and nature.

—-

Note 1. The Rainbow Warriors Prophecy

Wikipedia: Legend of Rainbow Warriors

“When the earth is ravaged and the animals are dying, a new tribe of people shall come unto the earth from many colors, classes, creeds and who by their actions and deeds shall make the earth green again. They will be known as the warriors of the rainbow.”

“The legend said [the Native Americans] would also be joined by many of their light-skinned brothers and sisters, who would in fact be the reincarnate souls of the Indians who were killed or enslaved by the first light-skinned settlers. It was said that the dead souls of these first people would return in bodies of all different colours: red, white, yellow and black. Together and unified, like the colours of the rainbow, these people would teach all of the peoples of the world how to have love and reverence for Mother Earth, of whose very stuff we human beings are also made.”

The Rainbow Warriors Prophecy is actually “fakelore,” and originated in Baptist Missionary tracts.

Other posts in this series:

Gods Recruiting: Open and Closed Cultures

How Gods Find Followers: Intro

Gods Recruiting: Open and Closed Cultures

Another in my on-going series of Gods recruiting followers.

Various Westerners find themselves called by or attracted to Gods of a culture that they are not a part of. This can be dicey since they need to set aside Western ideas about that particular culture. They also have to understand how that culture’s values differ from their own. Meanwhile, Non-Western cultures are of two minds – some want to keep their religion to themselves, while others are pondering the ramifications of outsiders worshipping their Gods. Either way, Westerners have to tread carefully when venerating Gods of a different culture.

People of many Non-western cultures have stressed to Westerners that to enter their religion is to give up the notion that all religions have a core unity. Instead, outsiders need to discover how their religion is actually practiced and lived. This means setting aside Western ideas such that all religions are meant to be shared.

The idea of core unity comes from 19th Century Liberal Protestantism and Scientific Rationalism. Theosophy and its offspring, New Age Religion, adopted and expanded on this concept. (Note 1) Moreover, Theosophy posits the theory that all religions possess the same hidden truth. In addition, this truth can be retrieved and distilled to be worshiped on its own. Core shamanism as described by Michael Harner in his book, “The Way of the Shaman,” builds on these ideas. Harner believes that “shamanic” cultures have a common core which can be embody a general shamanic practice. (Note 2)

One of the things that Theosophy bequeathed to the Pagan Movement is the idea that religion can be rational, free of dogma, and individually practiced. Moreover, ideas from Theosophy informs various aspects of Paganism from receiving the secrets of ancient wisdom to the promise of divinity. The Pagan belief of the Dead going to the Summerlands is also from Theosophy.

Because of the influence of Theosophy on general Western and Pagan thought, people need to be clear as to why they want to worship Gods of another culture. There are Gods who recruit such as Inari of Shintoism and Vishnu of Hinduism, who have made inroads with Western believers. Other people are attracted to a foreign religion because of their desire for spiritual comfort, which is absent in their own religions.

Worshipping cross-cultural Gods can be daunting. One thing that people need to be aware of is their own assumptions. For example, what people think “karma” is differs generally from the Hindu use of “karma.” Also, “reincarnation” is a different concept from “past lives.”

These are things to consider when venerating a God outside of Western culture. If a person has been recruited by such a God, they first begin by studying that God within the culture. What is the relationship between the God and the people? Can the outsider develop a similar one? What can the outsider offer the God? While studying these questions, respect the culture and the people who worship the God. These things will help in cross-cultural relations.

Note 1. For more information on Theosophy: “What is Theosophy” from The Theosophical Society.

Note 2. According to The Foundation of Shamanic Studies (Harner’s website): Core shamanism consists of the universal, near-universal, and common features of shamanism, together with journeys to other worlds, a distinguishing feature of shamanism. As originated, researched, and developed by Michael Harner, the principles of core shamanism are not bound to any specific cultural group or perspective.….Core shamanism does not focus on ceremonies, such as those of Native American medicine men and women, persons who do both shamanism and ceremonial work.

Other posts in this series:

Recruiting Followers: Lesser Known Gods: Babylonian

Recruiting Followers: Lesser Known Gods: Roman

How Gods Find Followers: Intro

Recruiting Followers: Lesser Known Gods: Babylonian

ndtiamatThe Babylonian Gods have a problem in attracting many followers. They and the Canaanite Gods are often first encountered in a negative light in the Old Testament of “The Bible.” Therefore, it is hard for the average Pagan to want to know any of these Gods since they associate Middle-Eastern Gods with Christianity. Also, the Old Testament treats these Gods as figments of people’s imaginations. For these reasons, Marduk, Nanna, and the other Gods do not seem as “real” as the Egyptian Gods. Often the Babylonian Gods will fade into the background.

Another problem for the Babylonian Gods is the meme set forth by the late Zecharia Stichin that the Anunnaki are space aliens who created humans to be their slave species. Stichin took various Babylonian myths and re-invented them to fit his theories.  These aliens come from the planet Nibiru (“the 12th planet”) which supposedly passes by Earth every 3,500 years. At that time, they come to earth to bedevil humanity. The meme goes downhill from there and into ancient astronaut theories and alien-human hybrids.

The popularity of Inanna (Ishtar), the Goddess of Love and War often impede people from knowing the other Babylonian Gods. (A popular chant includes Her Name with others Goddesses.) The Pagan devotion to Inanna is often divorced from the other Babylonian Gods. Usually, it is centered in Goddess Worship, whose followers see the Goddesses as individuals and not rooted in particular pantheons. Therefore, Inanna becomes attached to Isis and the other Goddesses.

The devotion to Inanna does not usually transfer to the other Babylonian Gods. This is in contrast with Isis and Hecate, who followers will become acquainted with other Gods from their respective pantheons. I think it has to do with the Babylonian Gods Themselves. More formal in their relations with humans, these Gods expect a sense of propriety from their worshippers. Moreover, They want to be their worship to be rooted in their culture, which makes These Gods reluctant to deal with Eclectic Pagans.

My experience with the Babylonian Gods came from studying mythology and comparing various myths to popular culture. My choice for these comparisons was the gangster – mobster genre of America. The rise of Marduk, the Head of the Babylonian Pantheon, parallels the historical rise of Lucky Luciano of the 1930s. (Luciano was known as “The Chairman of the Mob.”) At that point, Marduk decided that I understood the “Enuma Elish,” the Babylonian Creation Epic. From intensive studying of that epic, I developed a devotion to this pantheon. The Babylonians, from what I can infer, prefer people who have little or no Christian residue, and are willing to take their myths seriously.

Other posts in this series:

How Gods Find Followers: Intro

Recruiting Followers: Lesser Known Gods: Roman

Recruiting Followers: Lesser Known Gods: Roman

The Roman Gods do not actively recruit from the greater population. In a past post, I recounted how I was recruited into Polytheism by Odin, the Norse All-Father. (Why Neptune’s Dolphins?) After following the Norse Gods for some time, Neptune of the Romans showed Himself to me. Since then, I have encountered people who have become Roman Polytheists after being Norse. They said it was a natural progression from the “harsh” Gods to the more “orderly” Ones. Different pantheons have different expectations of their followers. Roman Gods prize order and structure, whereas the Norse are comfortable with chaos.

Since there is overlap with Greek Gods in many people’s minds, the Roman Gods would rather leave the followers of the Hellenic Gods alone. I have noticed that conflation occurs for various Gods such as Poseidon and Neptune in discussions about Gods in general. Recognizing the differences between the Two Gods can be difficult.

Moreover many Celtic followers are resistant to Roman Gods because of the Romans’ war with the Druids. There are Celtic-Roman Gods such as Sulis but their worship does not seem to extend to Roman Gods. Then there is the “coolness” factor of the Norse and Celtic pantheons which people find exciting. Perhaps this is because of all that exposure that people have to Greco-Roman myths and none to these other pantheons.

In my observations, Roman Gods refer people who are already practicing Polytheists. From my experience with Roman Polytheism, it requires daily and regular practice. Since These Gods are “Romans,” They do prize organized over ad hoc devotions. Perhaps that is why the Roman Gods are more reluctant to actively recruit, since many Pagans have eclectic practices.

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.

——–

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.