Our cultural models of priestcraft largely derive from Egypt, either through writers of the New Testament who couched their discussion of Christianity in terms of the Mystery cults of the Roman world, or from Moses, who was supposedly trained in the court of the Pharohs. Individually and collectively, we move through life seeking supernal experiences, the whispers of voices heard in the mists, as we pursue a Lover that we rarely see yet are never far from.
The processes of inquiry and research should not be conflated with gnosis, or we risk the creation of new and less obvious myths based in some small corner of academia. As an example of this, suppose that recent scholarship in Celtic studies revealed that a figure generally celebrated as a deity in the druidic community turned out to be a late and post-Christian borrowing, a linguistic hat trick, as it were. Oops.
Does this mean that those folks in the druidic and CR communities who have held festivals in honor of this figure now have to ignore those experiences, editing them out of consciousness with the ruthless efficiency of a Kremlin historian of the 1940's? Would folks working within an academic paradigm have to now insist that all of these ritual experiences were irrelevant or didn't happen? This doesn't mean that all assertions possess the same value--insisting that my Irish great-grandmother was secretly a shamaness in Dublin a century ago still won't make it so.
As participants in the neo-Romantic movement (which is turf generally, if unconsciously occupied by Euro-Pagans) our methodologies embrace a sense of poetry, mystery and esthetics. It has occurred to me that much of what Ross Nichols articulated in his discussions of druidry in his volume "The Cosmic Shape" were attempts at sacraments of the living earth. One of the presentations of this is in Western culture is through what Hildegard called "viriditas". The published literature in most Euro-Paganism is directed towards celebrating the mysteries of the Green. In reflecting further, there are at least three ways in which life is embodied and celebrated within the modern neo-Romantic movement:
There is the Green, or the world of plants, the source of oxygen that we metazoans rely on for life. We consume the Green, and it in turn consumes us and our waste products. This isn't all that there is, however. There are sacraments of the Red, Mysteries of animal life, including birth, death and expressions of sexuality. We also have the Mysteries of the Grey, the fungus of the world, which offer us Sacramental experiences that can alter consciousness profoundly, as in the case of Aminita muscaria or Ale. (Yes, this description is incomplete, as I've entirely ignored the Archaea and the Protista. This model isn't perfect, just a point of departure for personal and group exploration.) If one finds the adoption of the notion of Gaea as an organism useful, I think that there is poetry and utility in viewing these three realms as sentient beings. In attempting to find and celebrate these sacraments, there's much to be learned from the traditions of the Catholic Church as well as the priests of Shinto, Shingon and other faiths around the world.
These are three of the Lovers that we pursue in ritual and dreams. I suggest that one of the goals of a druid lies in the quest for these Divine Ladies, clad in Green, Red and Grey. While these entities never appear as discrete beings in the natural world, there's no reason to suppose that they don't have an egregore or over-spirit that we can touch. One of the useful benefits of this paradigm is that the mechanisms of evolution become, at least on this planet, an expression of Process Theology. In a very real sense, the embodied Supernal evolves and changes over time.
Next time, I"ll discuss the pre-history of the Victorian Era and introduce my readers to a crazy arborist with two wives.