Solstice Blog-Hop: Mithras and the older gods

by mcs on December 21, 2013

Light into Darkness by AvalongraphicsIt’s that time of year, what my friend John Barratt calls, ‘Mithrastide’: the time of consumerism and consumptionism where affluenza strikes the entire western world promulgated in the name of a child who was never born, in a place that didn’t exist, who grew to be a non-man who preached poverty and compassion and whose followers have spent the past two thousand years feeding instead the god behind the facade with a steady diet of blood, sweat and tears (generally other people’s, but ,if necessary, their own).

Not surprisingly, that god is now rather more powerful than when it was the married god of a small tribe of bronze age goat-herders, and as far as I can tell, its hunger grows by the year. You can tell, by this, that I’m not a great fan of Christmas.  I have a theory which says that if you ignore it long enough, it will go away and whereas I’m first to acknowledge that denial is a pretty useless strategy for most of life’s ills, it works really well right about now. If you treat the 25th as a normal working day, on the whole, people will leave you alone, which is probably as good as it gets (though it is, of course, easier to do this if you’re self employed and define your own days, and easiest of all if you’re a writer).

But still, we are who we are: the end result of millennia of evolution, and for almost all of that time, the dark days of the year: the 21st and the days either side of it, have been critical to our spiritual calendar.  The passage tombs at Newgrange and elsewhere in Ireland are easily five thousand years old and they are designed such that an intricate – and very exact – light box allows the dawn sun to scan across at and either side of the winter solstice – and at no other time.  The inner circle at Stonehenge aligns to the rising sun at the mid-winter solstice. And the birthdays of as many sun gods as you choose to count (Mithra, Attis, Dionysus, Osiris, Horus, Tammuz, Helios, Jupiter, Apollo, Bacchus, Saturn… name a god related to the sun and he or she probably has his birthday at the solstice) are here, now, today.

It is their death day, too; because in the past, we didn’t treat death as an aberration to be avoided, but part of a normal cycle. This is the time when the sun dies and is reborn, a time of quiet, of introspection, of sleep/hibernation/meditation, a time when we can digest the old year and let it teach us, and wait in the darkness for what the newborn sun will bring. It is, in fact, the polar opposite of the binge-fest that modern culture gives us, which makes it rather wonderful that the fourth century hijackers chose the 25th for the birthday of their man-made-god, and not the 21st: today, we can be still, let the turmoil of life settle, and watch the still silence, we can remember what it is to have an empty mind, to be in darkness, not to worry about the light and what we might see in it. Which is the focal point, even today, of many of the mystery religions and the gods they support.

If we assume that gods are created and sustained by the attentions of humanity, then the more we can relate with, give attention to, honour and support the older gods of our own lands, the stronger they become.  The stronger they become, the less power has the god of consumerism and affluenza and I cannot but imagine that as a good thing. In a world where megacorporations rule us, where they access our information, where they frack and drill and burn and slash, where they sell us junk we neither need nor want made by men and women and children who are kept docile by the same urge to consume… anything which opposes that has to be worthwhile. We don’t, of course, know exactly how our ancestors related with their gods, what ceremonies they enacted, what prayers they offered, what relationships they formed; but nor do we need to.  History tells us who we have been. It can show a model of who we could be, but it doesn’t tell us how to be that.

We each need to find our own way.  There is no benefit in endeavouring to recreate a lost past when the gods live now: what matters is that we connect with those who speak to us with authenticity, integrity and safety.  That is, without projection, in silence, in darkness, in the stillness of the dark night of the solstice and the time between now and the next new moon  – which this year falls on the 1st of January.

So: I set out to write a blog about Mithras, and in an odd kind of a way, this is what it is: I like Mithras a lot. He’s helpful, intelligent, sharp, bright and he is the representation of Truth, which is never a bad thing.  You can read how we think that maybe, perhaps those who brought him from Persia enacted his mysteries, but I’m fairly certain that’s of academic interest only: what we do today needs to grow from something far more organic.  And it can encompass other gods; very few of the gods are jealous (only one, in my experience, but I’m open to being told there are others)  The rest are happy to share and of course there are plenty who are more of this land (wherever you are reading this is ‘this’. Here, under your feet. What are the gods of your here?  There will be several.

In the stillness, if you give it time, they will be present) who will help you and me to find ways to be more authentic, to live lives where we can begin to reshape the world away from the ‘see-want-take’ of the recent past. Don’t rush.  There are two weeks of dark time as the moon wanes and the sun slows to stillness and begins to speed up again.  Take that time to connect.  Authenticity. Integrity. Safety.  Do it. And see if we can change the patterns of our world.

 

Below are the other bloggers on this blog hop.  If you have time, before the stillness, hop along and see what they have to say about this time. Do join the Blog Hop and visit these other interesting authors!

  1. Helen Hollick : A little light relief concerning those dark reviews! Plus a Giveaway Prize
  2. Prue Batten : Casting Light….
  3. Alison Morton  Shedding light on the Roman dusk
  4. Anna Belfrage  Let there be light!
  5. Beth Elliott Steering by the Stars. Stratford Canning in Constantinople, 1810/12
  6. Melanie Spiller : Lux Aeterna, the chant of eternal light
  7. Janet Reedman   The Winter Solstice Monuments
  8. Petrea Burchard  : Darkness – how did people of the past cope with the dark?
  9. Richard Denning The Darkest Years of the Dark Ages: what do we really know? Plus a Giveaway Prize! 
  10. Pauline Barclay  : Shedding Light on a Traditional Pie
  11. David Ebsworth : Propaganda in the Spanish Civil War
  12. David Pilling  :  Greek Fire
  13. Debbie Young : Fear of the Dark
  14. Derek Birks  : Lies, Damned Lies and … Chronicles
  15. Mark Patton : Casting Light on Saturnalia
  16. Tim Hodkinson : Soltice@Newgrange
  17. Wendy Percival  : Ancestors in the Spotlight
  18. Judy Ridgley : Santa and his elves  Plus a Giveaway Prize
  19. Suzanne McLeod  : title to be announced
  20. Katherine Bone   : Admiral Nelson, A Light in Dark Times
  21. Christina Courtenay : The Darkest Night of the Year
  22. Edward James  : The secret life of Christopher Columbus; Which Way to Paradise?
  23. Janis Pegrum Smith  : Into The Light – A Short Story
  24. Julian Stockwin  : Ghost Ships – Plus a Giveaway Present
  25. Manda Scott : Dark into Light – Mithras, and the older gods
  26. Pat Bracewell Anglo-Saxon Art: Splendor in the Dark
  27. Lucienne Boyce : We will have a fire – 18th Century protests against enclosure
  28. Nicole Evelina What Lurks Beneath Glastonbury Abbey? 
  29. Sky Purington  :  How the Celts Cast Light on Current American Christmas Traditions
  30. Stuart MacAllister (Sir Read A Lot) : The Darkness of Depression
Light into Darkness by Avalongraphics
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{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

Petrea Burchard December 21, 2013 at 6:08 am

What a great post. Your opening paragraph can’t be topped for passion and brains.

Alison Skipper December 21, 2013 at 8:54 am

Thank you for this post, most of which really resonates with me.

Alison Skipper December 21, 2013 at 8:56 am

Pressed submit too soon – meant to add, it was beautifully written, and I completely agree about the materialism and the importance of slowing down in the darkness, although I am very conflicted about Christianity. Thank you.

John barratt December 21, 2013 at 9:36 am

Brilliant! Absolutely right (though you know I’d think that!) :-) One day , I believe, people will return to the true deeper meanings again

mcs December 21, 2013 at 9:38 am

Thank you! And may your Mithrastide be peaceful and inspiring. I’ll have a copy of a book for you *very* shortly. :)

mcs December 21, 2013 at 9:40 am

Thank you… I am not – clearly – a great fan of the goat-herd god, but if the fundamental principles of ‘Do unto others as you would wish them to do to you’ was joined with compassion for *all* beings, the world would be an amazing place to live. I think that’s something everyone can work towards?

mcs December 21, 2013 at 9:40 am

Thank you! :)

J.P. REEDMAN December 21, 2013 at 10:53 am

Excellent post; agree with you in so many things. I hide around this time of the year to avoid the vile jingling of tills and being bashed around in Tescos by people buying as if the world was going to end. Tonight I am going on a lantern lit walk to an ancient mesolithic sacred pool just to chill!

Lucienne Boyce December 21, 2013 at 1:37 pm

Thank you for a great blog, Manda, and for pointing out that still, dark times are not necessarily things to be afraid of, not if we use them for reflection, meditation and resistance to the inauthentic.

Stuart "Sir Read-A-Lot" MacAllister December 21, 2013 at 2:51 pm

A fantastic post Manda – you and I must really have a good chat about your spirituality as you may have some of the answers I have been looking for in my quest!

Debbie Young December 21, 2013 at 5:14 pm

Oops, just misread the start as a “time of influenza”, as I’ve woken up with a cough and a cold! But I’m totally with you against the affluenza and consumerism too – and I love the idea of being able to meditate on your themes not just today, but till the next new moon too. I think this shortest day is far too short to digest the incredible richness embodied in this and all the other posts on this blog hop. Thank you for sharing your views so calmly, thoughtfully and powerfully.

Juliet Waldron December 21, 2013 at 7:48 pm

(and shared blog at
http://cronehenge.blogspot.com)

Grace-fully (!) said. Sometimes, among the Christmas carol din, mixed with those endless messages to buy-buy-buy, I have a flash about what is truly sacred about this time when the sun is “born” again.

(Have you ever read Robert Graves’ poetic analysis of 20th Century values? Your post holds an echo of his thoughts.)

Donna December 21, 2013 at 8:26 pm

Thoughtful and skillfully crafted blog Manda.

Though I still say that few jugs of mead and the odd slice of hog roast, just before some unbridled dancing, alongside a flaming Yule log..would not be a bad way to spend this evening. However I will be packing to make the journey to spend a few days of being trapped in an overheated house. The consumerism of the sales will be acknowledged as I wheel my mother around and allow her a chance to shop with me holding everything for her and allowing her to hold onto me while she tries on new clothes.

The jobs and the livelihoods of many will depend on the success of this year’s consumer lust I think, but this is also the time of year when the charities do their business too….I do wish they wouldn’t send out fee calendars and stickers and beer mats though..seems a bit like defeating the object to me

I absolutely agree with you about taking time out to just be quiet. Is necessary for us all..and this need is so often neglected.

Anna Belfrage December 21, 2013 at 8:33 pm

very thought-provoking. Some things should never be for sale, and right at the top are, of course, Authenticity and Integrity.

mcs December 21, 2013 at 8:46 pm

@juliet – thank you – I thought I’d read most of Graves’ work, but not that – I’ll look for it. @Donna – hope it all goes smoothly with your mother…. @Anna – thank you… always easier said than done, but we can try…

Dave McCall December 21, 2013 at 9:15 pm

Well done, Manda. A bold and beautifully-written piece. I have to admit that I’m a sucker for this Season but dismiss the affluenza in the same way that I’d dismiss the phoney link with the Christian myth. Yet that still leaves a decent opportunity to celebrate those things in which humanity demonstrates its better qualities (family, forgiveness, creativity, cooperation, compassion, generosity, etc) – without the need to attribute those qualities to ANY form of divine intervention. Perhaps if we could dispense with superstition in all its forms, we’d be better able to see the thing towards which we need to work.

Joan December 21, 2013 at 9:28 pm

Always an interesting read. Was in Ghana in 2006 and 2009 and in 3 short years could see the massive impact of technology and daily exposure to what others have (in the west) that is not at all the reality in sub Saharan Africa. No infrastructure for getting rid of consumerist waste and more of it piling up each day… We are headed for very interesting times. Thank you for your voice / perspective.

Helen Hollick December 22, 2013 at 12:01 am

We have forgotten so much about the gods of the past – such a shame. Thanks for this article – it was fascinating!

Simon Fortescu December 22, 2013 at 12:04 am

I stumbled upon this post from twitter and simply need to register how much I loved it and thought it hit the mark. Wonderful stuff.

Juliet Waldron December 24, 2013 at 10:23 pm

Manda: Re Graves–check out the postscript of The White Goddess, added in the late 60′s or early 70′s. That book has been “out of favor” for a long time, but the poetic truths it contains still resonate powerfully. Plus, I believe that many of his ideas regarding the movement of ancient peoples have lately proven true via genetic studies.

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