Winds of Faith
The religious season of Pentecost began when a group gathered and felt a strong wind. To many of us living in what we term the “modern world”, believing that a breeze could be evidence of faith might seem strange. All too often when someone speaks of religious matters, others characterize their speech as merely hot air. For the earliest of man, though, nature was evidence of life and meteorological events, signs from their Creator.
In his book “Hear the Wind Sing”, Haruki Murakami references this. “For example, the wind has its reasons. We just don’t notice as we go about our lives. But then, at some point, we are made to notice. The wind envelops you with a certain purpose in mind, and it rocks you. The wind knows everything that’s inside you. And not just the wind. Everything, including a stone. They all know us very well. From top to bottom. It only occurs to us at certain times. And all we can do is go with those things. As we take them in, we survive, and deepen.”
At some point, man noticed patterns in nature and questioned their existence. This led to questions of our own existence. “It’s the questions we can’t answer that teach us the most. They teach us how to think. If you give a man an answer, all he gains is a little fact. But give him a question and he’ll look for his own answers.” Patrick Rothfuss recognized the importance of questions but for early mankind, such questions needed answers.
Stories were told in an attempt to answer such questions, stories that connected man and woman with nature. As these stories were shared, they found audiences and in the retelling, gained adjectives and adverbs, descriptive phrases which helped to clarify but also expanded the tales. The earliest of these stories are lost in antiquity but archaeological evidence does remain that gives testament to their being.
Robert Guisepi is a historian interested in the Stone Age, the time of Paleolithic Man (and Woman). In 2000 he wrote: “The Stone Age is a prehistoric cultural stage, or level of human development, characterized by the creation and use of stone tools.” It is believed that early mankind developed the ability to make and use tools somewhere between 600,000 and 700,000 years ago. The earliest evidence of such prehistoric tools dates back to the Pleistocene Age. Man became a food gatherer and hunter and assumed responsibility for his extended life.
These are important events because, according to various creation stories or myths, man was given the earth and all he/she needed. Images engraved on the wall at Trois-Freres in France depict hunting scenes which dates to 38,000 to 8000 BCE. Another artifact is the Chariot of the Sun, found when a bog in Denmark was drained. It is thought to represent the Sun God who would travel across the sky in a chariot. Early man/woman needed an answer as to how the sun moved from sunrise to sunset. This was one answer.
As the hunt became a part of everyday living, the existing mankind felt a need to connect with the animals being hunted. Shaman, medicine men, and spiritual/religious leaders would dress as animals and dance around. Since the female bore the children who were the future, fertility goddesses were female and were celebrated to ensure the next generation being present and healthy.
Agriculture was also important and Neolithic Man added such gods to the mythologies being told and worshipped. A clay statue found in Szegvar, Hungary dates back to 5000 BCE and portrays a man with a farming tool. Another prominent deity of the Stone Age was a bird goddess. She took her place among the hunting rituals from the Ice Age and the world of mythology became firmly planted in the history of man. Soon, the Bronze Age would see even greater strides in human development and a very important male sky god would lead the way for the mythologies of the Greeks and Romans known today.
In his “Hobbit”, J. R. R. Tolkien wrote: ““Voiceless it cries, Wingless flutters, Toothless bites, Mouthless mutters.” One could take his words and apply them to the earliest question of man – Who am I? It may seem silly to us that man ever believed in some of these mythologies but to them, they were answers. They provided a reason for being and a start to answering the eternal question all mankind asks: “who am I?”
How we live is based upon how we believe. The mythologies of yesterday are the story lines of today’s movies. Raking in millions of dollars and euros, etc., they tell of an interest that man still has for these gods and goddesses. Most would disclaim believing in them and yet, we still read them and watch their portrayal on the big and small screen and stage.
Is there a sky god who dominates our lives or is it just the theory of popularity and whatever is fashionable at the moment? Do we still dress ourselves up to connect with our world and perceived needs? Our lives are light years away from those of the earliest Ice Age citizen and yet, we have much in common with them. All too often we feel caught in the storms of life. Just as our ancient ancestors did, we seek understanding and reasons for such. Hopefully, we can learn about them and us as we study these mythologies of our history. The future can be scary and life is often challenging and requiring courage. Jeff Bezos advises to “Lean into the wind”. We should, as we go through our daily living, remember the words of Winston Churchill: “Kites rise highest against the wind – not with it.”