I wonder what you thought when you first saw the title of this post? I’m pretty sure the many responses, including my own, suggest a good few moments ‘thinking about’ it well worth the time.
You see, there is no doubt that the word God comes with a lot of baggage. It’s a word that is loaded with centuries of love, pain, blood, peace, war, you name it, it’s in that word. The way our current world uses the word God, and also the ways we think about what a God is, is very different from our ancient Pagan ancestors. The Old Gods were often directly linked to a particular part of the natural world and life, be that a mountain, lake, the flock, or an aspect of the weather. The Greeks felt they played and were involved with our lives, but even then they had their own lives to think about and humanity was just one aspect of their ‘Godness’. But over the centuries I think the monotheistic relationship and way of viewing ‘God’ has also influenced the way the word is viewed in modern Paganism. Some may even not use it at all, in the same way that the word ‘religion’ is replaced by ‘spirituality’, God and religion, for some, are problematic.
So how do I relate to the word God? I rarely think about a ‘creator’. I can see that life has developed on this planet over millions of years of evolution, and that we, a type of ape, are but a comma occupying this space, right here and now. That makes it highly unlikely that a God, any God, created humans in their own image. It’s a part of the Christian story that has never held for me. It’s almost too big a concept to pin down. I mean, I can try, but my relationship with the far outer reaches of the Universe is something I will discover when the atoms of my body, soul and spirit return to stardust.
Right now there are more pressing relationships, and that is my relationship with the life and land around me. So my relationship with the ‘Gods’ is more like my ancestors’ relationships.
I know a God of the sea. I rarely see him as a Poseidon-type figure striding across the waves trident in hand. Mostly I feel the spiritual essence of the sea itself. I call him Llyr, others call him/her/them/it by many other names. It is easy to replace ‘God of the Sea’ with ‘Spirit of the Sea’ – to me it has the same meaning. It is the essence of the sea itself, its consciousness. When I hear thunder I hear Taranis. Others may hear Thor. The thunder is the same.
So if all life has a Spirit, or God, who is the God/Spirit/Consciousness of humanity? For monotheism the answer is easier, for the animist, polytheist, pantheist it is a quest and potentially more complicated. I can only answer for myself, and where my path has led over the years.
It’s probably obvious that I see humanity as just another animal who lives on this gloriously diverse planet filled with life. By its own definition an intelligent animal, but I still cannot smell the world as a wolf or dog does; I cannot follow sonar like a whale or dolphin. What makes ‘intelligence’ is subjective. I see myself as a part of the animal kingdom and what image, for my ancestors here in Europe, bridged their relationship with that of the animals they hunted and shared their world?
A God with Horns.
A God with many names, but one whose image blends that of human with the deer, goat or other horned animals. It feels right to me, and it also shows that the Spirit that cares for the fox, the badger, the deer or bear also looks out for me. They are my brothers and sisters.
It’s why so many of my songs are dedicated to him. He is who I talk to when I need advice, when I need comfort, when I need energy. As with the image of Poseiden, the anthropomorphic image I see is useful and powerful. Maybe it helps me, as a human animal, to feel a kinship with other species. Maybe the image of the Horned God tells a story my soul needs to listen to, and once it is heard I will once more be able to relate to the God of Animals in its non-physical form, just as I often do with the sea.
When I make my annual pilgrimage to see the Rut in Autumn I can feel that energy filling the land. I hear the voice of the God of Animals in the call of the stags and the echoing crash of their antlers. It’s exhilarating to feel that energy so close, and it once more reminds me that I’m a part of this world – another animal trying to survive, and being watched over by a God with Horns.