In Judaism they it is said that rain is a blessing of god. Today, cought in a terrible thunderstorm on the way back home this described exactly what I felt. The power of the rain that suddenly seemed to be all over me. Flooding with my bloodstream to every single cell of my body. Alive.
Perhaps this is why I feel connected with Judaism where Christianity or Islam failed to give me that connection – though I was raised a Catholic. Judaism, as is Paganism, is strongly connected to its land– to eretz ysrael – and the elements that shaped that land and blessed it with life. Both Judaism and Paganism celebrate the transformation of the land and the elements within the year. The elements in that land where it came from and was shaped by.
There’s something most anthropologists might label a “rain dance” in the Sukkot ceremony. A thing perfectly reasonable in Israel where at this time of the year – early autumn –the earth is thrusting for the new rain to come after nearly half a year without a single drop of rain water. But if you take that rite to let’s say Middle Europe where in many parts it’s raining all over and all the time or – even worse – Sukkot ‘d be in the middle of the flood season it turns into a meaningless, even ridiculous ceremony. As taking Imbolc (a.k.a. Brighid), the holiday of the light, to Israel where it never really gets cold or dark. What sense does a holiday of light make where nobody is craving for light in freezing, dusky winter nights? What sense does a rain dance make in the middle of the flood season?
Many Pagans celebrated Lammas (a.k.a. Lughnasad) tonight. I’ll do next week. Lughnasad is supposed to be the first harvest holiday. Actually the one that marked the beginning of the weed’s harvest season yet in the middle of the harvest season itself with a lot of other fruits already being harvested. It is the time when there is plenty of everything yet the heat of the summer lies heavily on the corn as well as on men. In fact it’s already the time of destruction. I mean … what is harvesting all about if not about getting ready for the winter? Destruction that will lead to the deadly sleep in winter underneath the magic blanket of snow and the renewal of all things living in the following spring. And it’s the holiday of the sunwhich is where the Irish name Lughnasad comes form: From Lugh, son of the sun god. Have a google for him and you’ll for sure find the story. Some Pagans do have it reenacted by their children each year with a boy and a girl staring Lugh and his partner.
And Lugh too is one of the thousands of signs of Paganity you can still find at least in Austria. The “Lugeck” [Lugh’s corner] is a common name for streets or tiny villages in the countryside though hardly anybody has a clue about the meaning these days. Yet for me every time I discover a street name featuring Lug someplace new it casts a smile upon my face. The old ways aren’t dead. Never have been.
Here comes the thing with Paganity many Pagans do doubt: It’s often said that Paganism is a died-out religion that can only be re-invented but isn’t in much of a direct line to original Paganism anymore. Even Pagans do say so and a lot of them act that way too thereby turning it into a truth. Yet if you have a look around Middle Europe, and most of all the Catholic areas, you’ll find that it’s all still there. In fact when the Romans forced Christianity upon the descendants of Celts and Germanic people they didn’t do much then changing the namesof the holidays and turning the gods into saints. They invented Christian stories for Pagan customs and obviously people didn’t careall too much. They knew their deities where there no matter whether they addressed them as “gods” or “saints”. It’s just a label in the end.
As for Lughnasad it was turned into the Christian holiday of Assumption Day, the day Mary (a.k.a. Miriam), Jesus’es mother ascended to heaven. Yet the ancient customs where preserved. Go to a random small Austrian village and you’ll likely find old women taking bundles of herbs to church for blessings. Not quite Christian to load items with godly power, isn’t it? Oh, and did I mention that Lughnasad was also the holiday of herbs as it is in the high season for harvesting herbs for winter storage? Oh, you did already guess so. Alright. Assumption Day, that’s just a label. Likely a lot of Christians do not have a clue what it is all about. But still they may know about the customs and what they mean. Paganism 1:0 Christianity, I’d say.
And this is what it is like all over. Scratch off a thin layer of Christianity and there you’ll find preserved Paganism. Actually when it comes to holidays the differences between Paganism and Christianity are sometimes tiny. Well, at least outside our religious ceremonies. There’s quite a way to go from the calm Christian church services to Pagan ceremonies stuffed with chants, dancing and a lot of join in-activities. However I am celebrating “Christmas” along with my Christian family every year. Who cares whether they call that child in the cot “Jesus” or – as I do – “reborn sun child”? That Christmas tree is Pagan anyway – ever seen a fir in Israel? – as well asthat “Santa Claus”, coke-reshaped Woudan [Odin] – though we don’t have Santa in Austria but that’d be another story – and feasts are universal, I guess. So what’s the big deal all about? Everybody knows I am Pagan and most of the time my family and friends do accept it. Yet I suppose they have no idea how little it changes in fact.
But we were talking about rain, didn’t we? Rain that is fresh water that is life. Speaking of which you might be interested in that piece of news that isn’t quite from this planet:
“We have water,” said William Boynton of the University of Arizona, lead scientist for the Thermal and Evolved-Gas Analyzer, or TEGA. “We’ve seen evidence for this water ice before in observations by the Mars Odyssey orbiter and in disappearing chunks observed by Phoenix last month, but this is the first time Martian water has been touched and tasted.”
What a interesting day. Lughnasad. Water on Mars. And last but not least a solar eclipse. No wonder there’s something special about this day …