Friday, April 27, 2007
I've been studying the ancient Celtic pantheon, trying to teach myself to believe. I would like to be able to more fully enter this world that connects my ancestral roots back to a belief in the beauty and glory of the gods and goddesses of old. I want them to come alive for me, the way faeries and tree nymphs have always seemed at least possible, if elusive. Still, as much as I might read, they're just stories to me. It's strange that the figure of Jesus Christ, just as implausible a god and perhaps even more so, seems so very real to me--the Trinity itself is very real to me, in an experiential way. Even the obscurer saints and archangels are real and when I journey the graypaths during meditation, I may meet them. And yet these other figures from Celtic myth remain elusive and unreal.
What's also weird is that I've started Tolkein's The Silmarillion, and even those fictional characters, the Valar, the "gods" of Middle-earth who are more akin to seraphim and powers and archangels--even they seem more real than the old stories of gods that people once actually worshipped. Perhaps it's because they have a shared cosmogony, a genesis story that is intricate and beautiful--that tells of the first harmonies of on-going creation. A world is created through them which I can imagine to be my world, and so they seem to be a believable, if forgotten, part of that world... of my world. And yet, they are fictitious. The children of one man's imagination and his obsession with linguistics. They aren't "real."
I almost wish they were. I can almost feel them, shimmering on the edges of possibility... if only just enough people took them seriously. After all, how else are gods made, if not by the momentum of belief? But then, are these truly gods, or merely collective fantasies? The organ of my belief functions in such a way that I can only bring myself to believe in that which existed "in the beginning"--Jesus as historical figure may be a wonderful teacher, but it is Christ as the Word, the first note in the song of creation, in whom I truly believe as part of the Trinity. And perhaps this is why I find it difficult to believe in the deities of the Celtic pantheon. They are not cosmogonic--they are, in some way, incidental, only players across the stage of myth. I may find inspiration and connection in the green hills, the ineffable mists and the rolling oceans of Celtic myth, but its gods are only casual visitors upon a sacred landscape. The Trinity of Godhead, Manifest Spirit and the Bridge between the two walked that landscape long before the Celtic gods and goddesses were named.
Still you never know. Perhaps in some distant future, Tolkein's manuscript, forgotten and faded, will be unearthed and mistaken for actual lore instead of a work of fiction. Someday there may be Neopagans learning how to believe in and relate to the Divine through Ulmo, Manwe and Aule, Varda and Yavanna, instead of through Brigid, Bile, the Dagda or Lugh.