In this story I want to tell you, a great deception took place, long ago.
Long, long ago.
And yet, the world had left its youth far in the past, by this time. In fact, if one stacked the bones of every human grandmother and grandfather that had lived till then, it would look just as big as that mountain over there.
In this story, only the Gods had a newborn’s face. Of all in their time, they, the youngest and the freshest, wobbling on their newfound legs, wavering in their newfound power, they destroyed and imprisoned a nation of beings. But let me describe these Gods.
The Goddess of the Harvest. The Goddess of Weaving and Spiders. The Father of the Gods, lightning bearer. The God of War. You know the roll call, for every culture with gods of this sort, a farmer’s gods, had these same ones, though by different names.
These gods all had this in common: the lack of family ties to the humans over which they ruled.
But since when did the Gods belong to our family, anyway?
Grandmother Spider. Sister Corn. Father Sky. Brother Coyote. Grandfather Pine.
Once upon a time they did, all around the world, in all human cultures. Once upon a time humans shared the common bond of looking out at the entire world and saying, “All my relations”. So what happened? How did we go from sharing our family with Sister Corn, to looking to the heavens for the aid of an untouchable and remote “Goddess of the Harvest”?
…”One of the most remarkable features of mythology is that the Giants (greek: “earthborn”) could only be overcome by the joint efforts of a god and a man. Zeus required Herakles to dispose of Porphyrion. The god laid him low with his thunderbolt and the hero finsihed him off with his arrows…”
Around the world, every farming civilization that emerged, seems to have a story about the battle between the Gods and the Giants.
“…Apollo blinded Ephialtes in the left eye, but needed Herakles to complete the killing by shooting the giant in the right eye…”
“…but Vishnu, concerned lest the gods should lost the advantage….immediately…transformed himself into a mighty hero, joined the gods against the titans, and helped drive away the enemy to the crags and dark canyons of the world beneath…”
“…Norse myths…say that the gods fought and conquered the race of giants…”
Giants…monsters, of course. The size of hills, made of stone and ice, cruel and capricious, responsible for earthquakes, falling boulders, blizzards. Look at them. Terrible. But wait, doesn’t that monster’s face look a little like a mask…
Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain! -the Wizard of Oz
Before civilization, a globally prevalent value system existed, called animism (and continues to exist today, where its cultures remain intact). Though the details vary according to region, all animists share the perspective that they belong to a community of life, and everything in the world has intrinsic value, has life.
The farming gods seem to have emerged to justify a new way of relating to the world. Denial.
…The world period of the hero in human form begins only when villages and cities have expanded over the land. Many monsters remaining from primeval times still lurk in the outlying regions…They have to be cleared away… -Joseph Campbell
I am a lover of knowledge, and the men who dwell in the city are my teachers, and not the trees or the country. -Plato
And this denial unleashed a great expansive power, for to deny the intrinsic value of the world, heavy with metaphors and lessons to teach us, means you can do whatever you want to it. Look out there, at those vast forests, open plains, what do you see now: untilled land, of course.
…The elementary deeds of the hero [of the city] are those of the clearing of the field… -Joseph Campbell
…The gods emerged from a spot in the primordial ice, warmed by the licking tongue of the Cosmic Cow… – Norse Legend
Where does this “new” mythology take us? We knew it even then.
When Alexander saw the breadth of his domain he wept,
for there were no more worlds to conquer… -Legend
It takes us to the very end of all things for the human family. It takes us to the loss of the world as a human habitat. We’ve almost arrived…perhaps, before it’s too late, let’s look again at the giants. Who hides behind those masks? Perhaps an animist would know – these giants must have existed before the farming gods came into the world.
Let’s ask an animist.
In Japan, where the some still practice the animist Shinto religion, something noteworthy happens. Japan, with its orgiastic industrial economy, should look like Manhattan by now. Why doesn’t it? Why can you still find rolling countryside, forests, uncut mountains, in a tiny island nation that prides itself on its technological progress?
The nature giants have slowed them down.
Sometimes the winds bring nourishing rain, sometimes they bring the hurricane.
Sometimes Godzilla saves Tokyo, and sometimes Godzilla attacks Tokyo.
They haven’t killed Godzilla yet. They haven’t made up their minds. They’ve made her ugly, they’ve made it palatable to destroy her, but they haven’t dropped the axe yet. And so their green lands last for a while longer, their sacred mountains stay pristine for just a little more time.
Take that mask off of Godzilla, and you’ll find the Five Wind Brothers, you’ll find Grandmother Ocean, you’ll find all our relatives who we’ve hidden, like unloved and neglected grandparents exiled in a locked attic, you’ll find the mass deception that each one of us perpetrates every day.
The lie that we don’t belong to the rioting, celebrating, evolving family of the living earth, sky and stone.
We do belong. And we must unmask the Nature Giants, and release those within: flocks of faeries, spirits, angels and demons, lords and ladies, all our relatives hidden within those monster’s bodies. And we can’t blame the agricultural gods for our trouble, because remember:
…the Giants (greek: “earthborn”) could only be overcome by the joint efforts of a god and a man…Apollo blinded Ephialtes in the left eye, but needed Herakles to complete the killing by shooting the giant in the right eye..
That arrow belongs to us. The humans. Only we can pluck it out. It took the coldness of a human heart to finish the job the farming gods started. It will take a great thawing and warming of that same heart to heal the damage done, by our own hands.
Giants, Gods, and Spirits. Different words, for the same thing: a human relationship to the world.
Gods die…Gods miss each other…Gods miss us… – Martin Prechtel