Sky father: a Pagan perspective on a Christian deity

This article is an exploration of Christianity from a Pagan perspective. I am a polytheist and an animist, and that is the lens through which I try to understand deity. In that sense that I will work with any deity in my practice, including the monotheistic ones, but I will throw out that theology and instead try to understand who they are by looking at where they originated and how that made them into who they are now.

The god of the Jews and the Christians is originally a weather deity. A god of the skies. In that sense it is not strange that it is this deity that later came to have such a close relationship to humanity. For they would probably have started worshiping him very early on, as few things have such a big impact on the quality of human life as the weather. And that necessity to be in good relationship with this deity became even stronger after agriculture became the core of human survival. This god could bless and damn simply by the amount of rain he sent to allow the crops to thrive.

 

Historically this deity was at first not worshiped alone. He was understood to have a consort, the earth mother, and that it was their interaction that made life on earth possible. It is these two gods, in my opinion, that are the original versions of the deities that we now tend to refer to in more abstract terms as the divine masculine and the divine feminine. That is right: not the vegetation god but the sky gods can claim the place of the divine masculine. For think about it for a moment: the green mans and horned gods are the children of earth and sky. If they have a natural place in the pantheon of deities, then that would be as the divine child of the sky and the land.

Then, what happened that caused people to forget about the earth goddess? Maybe she was too accessible, too giving, too open with her blessings. For she never denies anyone her gifts and she does no favours. She loves indiscriminately. And that can become something that people start to take for granted, especially in an age of agriculture, where they mostly saw their own efforts at working the land but forgot about the very fact that the land was there and offered herself up to them so they might grow food.

And so the day came that the masculine god was seen as supreme. And the consequences were dire. For it meant that the balance started to get lost. For let us not forget that magic is real, and that our actions and our devotions or the lack thereof can have very real consequences.

For one, remember that the priests were the ones who primarily worked with the sky god and the priestesses were the ones that primarily spoke for the land. And so, when the goddess lost her power, the power of her priestesses started to dwindle as well. Not right away, but gradually they more and more were pushed to the margins and became wisewomen of the forest and the obscurer places at the margin of society, rather than the Pythias and Volvas that had enjoyed a central place in the religious life of the human tribes. We now tend to blame the ancient Jews for this, but it would probably be fair to say that similar processes happened all over Europe pretty much simultaneously.

That is the pre-Christian situation. Then that deity sent his son to earth. Or, more likely, he sent a shaman-prophet who had a very close connection to the sky god. Anyone who has ever witnessed a rite of possession (like drawing down the moon) or had a personal ecstatic experience of deity will understand that this in itself is not all that special, and does not make him particularly unique. For it happens to quite a few people in every generation of humanity. What then was so different about this one? We may never know. It may well be nothing but a case of being in the right place at the right time to capture the attention of an entire generation. It may well have been an era much like our own, when people felt a strong need for spiritual renewal, and then got inspired by the words of this particular prophet.

That he became deified after his death is also something which any pagan should be able to understand quite easily. For don’t we all try to connect to our ancestors for guidance? Don’t we all call on them in times when no one else seems to listen? Now that is what probably happened here as well. This were people who, much more than we today, were used to working with their ancestors in a spiritual way. And so it would have been rather foolish to abandon such an inspiring ancestor after he had left this world.

So far nothing happened that is not easilyunderstandable to us as Pagans. So let us continue our exploration. For now we see something new. Something that does not really seem to happen as strongly in other spiritual traditions. With the advent of Christianity, we see a need to spread the message and to convert people, to destroy other traditions to make space for this one. That should be a reason to dismiss this deity as being worthy of any worship at all, right, or not?

Remember the context. It is one that is actually easier to explain from a pagan magical perspective than it would have been from an orthodox christian perspective. Precisely because we all understand about magic and the power of invocation.

Let me pause here for a moment. I would invite you to close your eyes and think back to your strongest experiences of union and connection to the deities you work with. Have you ever felt their spirit filling you with purpose? That sense that just for a moment, you are part of something bigger, and the causes your deity cares about most are the causes you are willing to devote your life to. What these causes are can differ very strongly, depending on whether you work with, say, the Morrighan, Brighid or Cernunnos. And they may well be ambivalent sometimes. For no matter which deity you work with, you probably know that they cannot be described in moral terms of good and evil. The fire of Brighid is that of the forge, but if you are coming at that from the perspective of the blade, you understand that the forging is not exactly a pleasant experience. And so even the most popular and benevolent experience of deity does not exclude that the same deity can also sometimes be very unpleasant to work with. Keep that in mind when judging the Thunderer that is Jahweh.

For close your eyes again, and now try to imagine what it would be like to be filled with the energies and powers of the sky. And right away you will begin to see how this god has some very distinct and different aspects to his nature. For on the one hand there is the loving and gentle experience of a summer breeze and a soothing rainstorm after a day that was too hot. This is the loving and caring face of the sky father, the lover of the land and its creatures. See the seeds blow and spread in the wind and understand how he likes to spread out and share his blessings with as many people as possible.

And now let us look at the other side. The side of the destructive hail and thunder – the side that destroys everything in order to make way for something new. The side that asks no questions, takes no prisoners, but just… is pure darkness. That is this same god. And sometimes this destruction can be beneficial. If it causes a forest fire, and that fire makes it possible for the forest to renew itself. It gives a new life to creatures that had started to become smothered by vegetation that had become too abundant. It is a blessing as well as a curse. This god IS. Just as he describes himself as JHWH:  I AM THAT I AM. There is no lack of clarity in that. It is humans who have caused logical contradictions by beginning to describe this god as purely Good, all-knowing and more such nonsense.

Now for the magical side of things. What do you think happens when people worship this god, but take him out of his original context as part of a pantheon? Imbalance happens. Suddenly that thunderstorm is no longer beneficial, if it is not followed by the Sky taking a step back and allowing the Earth Goddess to take over and start nurturing new life.

It becomes dangerous, if we only work with a single god and evoke that single gods power all the time. For invocation works. We will be filled with that gods energy and start seeing the world through their eyes. Eyes that may have a larger perspective than the human one, but are still limited to that of part of life rather than the whole. And so we become obsessed with spreading seeds, but forget about how they must be received by a nurturing earth rather than using thunder and lightning to force their reception on those who do not want to listen to us. We become destructive in our honest attempts to do the right thing.

And that brings us to today and to a situation where that imbalanced way of working with divine energy has almost brought us to the brink of total destruction of this planet.

There are important lessons to learn from this. The main one is the need for balance. For I do not believe a total rejection of Christianity is the answer. This god is not evil. We need rain or life on earth will perish. We need him. He is important to all of us. But we need to help him find his lover again. We need to work at reconnecting him with his partner. And, I believe, we need to stop demonizing christianity but rather be brave enough to be as the earth herself. To be giving to all, nd to simp,y but lcourageously strive for love.

Let that be the meaning next time you unite the chalice and the blade. Honour the union of all gods, of all traditions, and let us stop polarizing, but instead make love. Stop fighting the Christians, but instead show them how their God becomes more beautiful and loving if we allow Him to love the earth again, and see that love reciprocated rather than smothered.

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