Thinking About – Travelling Gods

Herne_the_HunterOver the years I’ve had many discussions with friends and seen quite a few talks about the nature of the Gods. One of these is the idea of local deities. For instance in a recent edition of the Down at the Crossroads podcast (thoroughly recommended if you’ve not heard it) Chris and his guests discussed Herne. If we look at the story of Herne the Hunter we will inevitably be led to a large forest in the Windsor Estate. This is where the story of Herne originates. I know, I know, back in the 80s and the Robin of Sherwood series Herne was in Sherwood Forest, but that is not the root of the story. So how did this local story of a hunter go from this to a worldwide revered horned deity?

I’m no historian. I’m a Bard. I love the mystery, the art, the stories, and the poetry. I love the places those words and images take me, so I’m not going to write about historical fact, because that, however interesting, is never the full story. It’s interesting to historians but Herne’s tale, if approached by an anthropologist for instance, or a poet, or an art historian, or a philosopher, will always explore other avenues than the historical ‘truth’. These approaches don’t just look at a local story, they look at the results of that story, and why it has had such an effect. What is it that this story contained that has answered an inner call from humans and made it the centre of TV programs, a Shakespearian play, legends, books, and Paganism?

If we are truly honest every worldwide religion began in a very small localised area and spread out from there. They also began with stories. So the tale of Herne spreading from Windsor, out through Britain, and then on with migration into the New World is no surprise. It’s the same with the spread of Odin, as the Norse settled in new areas, so they brought their Gods with them. Odin came from the ice cold of the North, through Europe, and settled in Orkney, Yorkshire and many other places. As Woden he came into East Anglia, Sussex, and further down into Wessex. Isis spread far and wide, far away from her home on the banks of the mighty Nile. The tales of Arthur can be found from Britain to Brittany, pulled along with the migration of storytellers. So it’s obvious to me that Gods spread and travel with people.

So the Gods begin on a very localised piece of land. Sometimes they stay there, more often than not they move with their followers, sometimes that origin location becomes a pilgrimage site that leads those from other countries back to where their Paths began. Mecca, Jerusalem, Bala Lake, Tintagel, and many other places have become locations that draw followers back in droves. Living in other countries, maybe knowing their blood ancestors came from Scotland, Ireland, Wales, England, India, Saudi Arabia, wherever, they have been called to follow an ancestral path in a land far from the origin of their story, so eventually there is the call to reconnect and make the journey.

If I moved to the middle east I find it highly unlikely that I would convert to Islam, Judaism or Christianity. I would take my Gods with me. See, for me there is a bigger picture too. I realise that the tales of my Gods began on a small island off the coast of mainland Europe. I find myself closest to them here but when I go overseas to play gigs I don’t leave them behind. That’s crazy. Cerridwen began on the shores of Lake Bala, that’s true. But her spirit, her presence, is a part of the Universe. How small is that little lake in comparison to Albion? How small is Albion when included with Europe? How small is Europe when compared to the Earth? And the Earth is tiny when we place it in our Galaxy, and then our Galaxy pales into almost insignificance the we consider the billions of other Galaxies in the Universe. If my Goddess is tied to a tiny lake in Wales, yet there is all of that out there, then what’s the point? Her energy, her spirit, my spirit, is a part of that infinite universe. Her story, Herne’s story, Jesus’s story, Mohammad’s story, our stories, are a part of that too. To me that’s what it’s all about.

A few years back a men’s group I am involved with made a pilgrimage to Windsor forest. We held a ritual there, beside a huge Oak tree. Herne’s Oak fell many years ago. It was a massive, old tree, and many of the oaks within the forest are doubtlessly it’s descendants. It was a powerful day and you can read about it here. It think back to it fondly and would love to make the pilgrimage again this Summer, back to Herne’s forest. But here’s a thing. When I am within the woods of Pennsylvania, or in the Bush of Australia, I still feel Herne there. He is a part of the tree itself. I see him in the eye of the kangaroo, and in the eye of the white-tailed deer. It’s beyond location. I hope that all makes sense. It’s not The Truth, it’s a feeling, a connection with the Natural World, both here and way out there. It’s what these stories teach, and that teaching reaches way beyond the origin of the tale.

11 Comments

  1. Shaun February 2, 2016 at 1:50 pm - Reply

    Good piece Damh. I have long since held that we are the up holders of the Gods. The Greeks believed if a gods name was utterly forgotten then that God dissolved, died if you like. This has brought me to feel that we inspirit the godform by our our need and love. If enough people focus clearly on the attributes and personality of the God it becomes ‘real’ in our 3D view of world. This does not mean I do not believe in the great spirit but I think we mould it’s essence to enable us to have a two way relationship. It’s like making a hollow form which is then inspirited by the source of all. I think this is why people say in Christianity will pray before a statue and feel it helps. It’s not the idol itself but it’s ability to link them to the force behind the form.
    Kindathing.
    Blessings
    Shaun.

  2. Richard February 2, 2016 at 2:31 pm - Reply

    Wonderful thoughts. It made me think if you were indeed in the Middle East and you listened carefully to the desert winds, the trickle of the oasis and the still silence of a starry night, you may hear the ancient Desert Gods of the pre Abrahamic Bedouin nomads calling to you in a familiar way 🙂

  3. Carrie Skinner February 2, 2016 at 3:21 pm - Reply

    Yes it all makes perfect sense! I have had many of these same thoughts which is why I believe that all gods and goddesses are one or at least were one in the beginning which leads to the Great Spirit belief. Being spirit beings they are not bound by our earthly restraints of place. What I wonder about often is did we separate them into beings we could relate to better with our finite minds or did they do the splitting up in order for us to be able to understand and work with them more easily?

  4. Erin February 2, 2016 at 3:38 pm - Reply

    My situation is a little more complicated. The Gods are with me here on the shores of the Western Sea in California, but what of the Spirits of this place? Blodeuedd loves the redwoods, her strands of flowers can come together here when I call her name as easily as they can in Sussex. But there is an old, old woman in a natural standing stone in the Oakland hills. I was looking for Long Meg, and found her in addition. Yes, I can talk to the Gods of my ancestors, but I live on the bones of those whose lands were taken from them, and am looking for the Spirits of this place. It seems only manners to speak to those who were here as best I can as well as call to those across the sea. The land of my birth and that of my ancestors are not the same. It makes my tasks harder, in a way, but the many layers grow in beauty as I grow in understanding. What I learned by returning to places I had never been before, at Anderida and Llyn Tegid, is something still unfolding. I’m still at the beginning.

    • Sumer61 February 3, 2016 at 3:57 am - Reply

      How eloquently said.

  5. Mike February 2, 2016 at 7:18 pm - Reply

    A nice article Dahm and one that strikes a pleasant cord within me, thank you for the reminder. The way I feel with the Gods is something that came to me many years ago when I first knowingly stepped on this path of revelling in the mysticism of nature. When I opened my heart, my being, my spirit to the Gods, elements, spirits of nature and they accepted me they became part of my bones and rattled within my marrow and awakened the spirits which dwell there held for the millenia awaiting rebirth. To me it’s like opening my doors to welcome invited guests to my home and they choosing to stay….forever. And so here am I and here are they held within my body and transported with me on all my journeys during this lifetime. Every tree, stone, clod of earth I encounter resonates with the same spirit of the ones I work with locally and so where ever I am so are they. Hope this makes sense BB.

  6. Nancy Wisser February 3, 2016 at 12:20 am - Reply

    Lovely piece. Couldn’t help thinking that there’s some kind of kinship or connection between Herne and the native Pennsylvanian spirit Mesingwe, guardian of the game animals in Lenape tradition.Although the image of Mesingwe or Meesing, there are several spellings, is more like a Bigfoot, he still has that quality of being part human and part animal in his physical form.

    I found, too, when I went to the U.K. in May, that there was nothing unfamiliar with the feel of the spirits in places there, although I must say the one at the Uffington Horse knocked me off my feet. But maybe that was that phenomenon that happens when you go to a place at the right time and it resonates exactly with where you are just then.

    Anyway, the kind of lovely, thoughtful article that leaves more to think about after you’ve read it. My favorite kind!

  7. Bronzewing February 3, 2016 at 1:25 am - Reply

    Odin didn’t have any trouble showing up down here in West Oz when he felt like ‘recruiting’ me. 🙂 I’m kind of of the same mind, that the gods form as a way to help us connect to the unknowable all in a more approachable way, and that they do need followers (and song and stories) for their energy to continue to exist in that form. I also strongly feel that they can evolve, learn and grow just as we can. Also that not everyone you meet out/in there is a god, or has your best interests at heart, so you do need to maintain your own personal code of ethics and stick to it.

  8. Jeremiah February 3, 2016 at 11:12 am - Reply

    wonderful article certainly truth within it for me… I may live in the northwoods of Minnesota but my Goddess Danu is here with me. traveling as my ancestors did from Ireland and Scotland to here with me all I had to do was speak Her name.

  9. Anne February 6, 2016 at 10:09 am - Reply

    A wonderful article & one that I totally agree with. I feel the presence of the Goddess Athene with me, helping me, guiding me, wherever I am ; whether I am at home or walking in the woods.

  10. Terri Adrian February 14, 2016 at 2:40 pm - Reply

    point well expressed and taken 🙂

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