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Author Topic: Culture/Worldview and Deities  (Read 10643 times)

Melamphoros

Culture/Worldview and Deities
« on: July 26, 2011, 07:45:42 am »
This thread was inspired by one of my "quietly watch while munching popcorn" threads.  How does culture and worldview relate to deities?  Is it required to have a particular worldview to fully understand a deity?  Is cultural context the only way to understand a deity or just the way the deity was worshiped in the past?  Can one worship or understand a deity without the original worshipers' culture/worldview?


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Re: Culture/Worldview and Deities
« Reply #1 on: July 26, 2011, 11:00:35 am »
Quote from: Melamphoros;8295
This thread was inspired by one of my "quietly watch while munching popcorn" threads.  How does culture and worldview relate to deities?  Is it required to have a particular worldview to fully understand a deity?  Is cultural context the only way to understand a deity or just the way the deity was worshiped in the past?  Can one worship or understand a deity without the original worshipers' culture/worldview?

Some good questions that I can't think of any straight answers to. I do personally think a knowledge of the worldview to some degree  is essential in understanding a deity. Many people believe certain deities manifest themselves in various cultures that have their own cultural interpretations, but to even refer to a deity with a particular name is already adopting the cultural worldview attached to them.

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Re: Culture/Worldview and Deities
« Reply #2 on: July 26, 2011, 11:25:36 am »
Quote from: Melamphoros;8295
This thread was inspired by one of my "quietly watch while munching popcorn" threads.  How does culture and worldview relate to deities?  Is it required to have a particular worldview to fully understand a deity?  Is cultural context the only way to understand a deity or just the way the deity was worshiped in the past?  Can one worship or understand a deity without the original worshipers' culture/worldview?

 
I think that this is a complicated and highly nuanced sort of question.

A personal example:  I've spent a good while reading the public materials put out by the Temple of Set.  I am pretty sure I get what they're driving at as well as anyone can who isn't willing to pony up the cash to get the Sekrit Lessons.

That is exactly what Himself is up to.

However, separated from His original context, bits of it go off in directions that I find a bit weird (at times) and a bit antisocial at best (at other times).  There are places where I think ToS has Him exactly right; there are also places where I think ToS, due to the lack of accepting that Neb.y is actually a (marginal, but present) member of a community, gets stuff arse-backwards.  But arse-backwards in exactly the way a person would without that context.

Do I think Neb.y only interacts in a manner in accord with ancient ways?  Well, the first question is 'which time period', because views of Him changed pretty wildly over time.  But also: the god of foreigners and weird shit going off the reservation?  Nooooo, that could never happen....

(Which isn't to say that only the freakazoid deities form connections outside particular frameworks, just that that informs my perspective.  I mean, I also read Circle of Isis, a book about an Egyptian Wicca perspective, and it was obvious to me that Ellen Cannon Reed was dealing with the same deities I was - but framing that understanding in a Wicca-structured perspective.  It looked pretty functional to me.)
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Re: Culture/Worldview and Deities
« Reply #3 on: July 26, 2011, 03:12:28 pm »
Quote from: Melamphoros;8295
How does culture and worldview relate to deities?  Is it required to have a particular worldview to fully understand a deity?


Not required, but it happens. I find a lot of the people who get called by Morrigan, for example, have similar worldviews, and I think She purposefully reaches out to those of us who see the world in that way.

To fully understand Morrigan I think you do need some knowledge of sovereignty and the relationship of the king to the land -- but that doesn't necessarily have to come from Celtic cultures. If you read the court transcripts of the land title cases here in BC where Delgam Uukw talks about his tribe's traditional view of the land, it's pretty much the same idea with regards to sovereignty of the king and the people and the marriage between him and the land. Just it's First Nations, and not having to do with the Morrigan.

So, it doesn't have to be a strictly Celtic epistemic system, but some of those same concepts that are so common in that worldview would, I think, be somewhat necessary to grok.

Quote from: Melamphoros;8295
Is cultural context the only way to understand a deity or just the way the deity was worshiped in the past?  Can one worship or understand a deity without the original worshipers' culture/worldview?


I think you can worship or understand a deity without understanding the original worshipers' culture/epistemic system. But that way of approaching the gods is pretty alien to me, as I do try and understand the epistemic system They come out of and can't imagine going about it a different way (with the possible exception of worshiping a "lost" deity).  

I also think that ignoring cultural context leads to weird conclusions like "Lugh and the Morrigan are married" or "Artemis is a wild sex goddess who took lovers left and right and virgin just meant she wasn't owned by any man."

I mean, one can interpret it that way, but it doesn't really make any sense, and will garner one funny looks if not worse from many people (esp. people who work with the deities one has pegged bassackwards).
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Re: Culture/Worldview and Deities
« Reply #4 on: July 26, 2011, 04:30:05 pm »
I think understanding the worldview is important. There are concepts that make a religion unique and that give one a certain outlook on your place in the world.

For example, and I forget who it was, but someone said why would Ragnarok matter if we're all dying anyway. Death in the worldview of heathenry is different than our modern one. We're so trained to the idea that death means separation from the world rather than changing your relationship to world. If we don't understand the worldview than we're interpreting heathen concepts from a basically Christian mindset rather than as a heathen one. We then place the gods into God's framework, his operations, and into his control of the world and spirit.

Without understanding or adjusting your religious worldview, you're basically just a polytheistic Christian.

Quote from: Melamphoros;8295
This thread was inspired by one of my "quietly watch while munching popcorn" threads.  How does culture and worldview relate to deities?  Is it required to have a particular worldview to fully understand a deity?  Is cultural context the only way to understand a deity or just the way the deity was worshiped in the past?  Can one worship or understand a deity without the original worshipers' culture/worldview?
The pace of progress in artificial intelligence (I’m not referring to narrow AI) is incredibly fast. [...] The risk of something seriously dangerous happening is in the five year timeframe. 10 years at most.--Elon Musk

I am in the camp that is concerned about super intelligence," [Bill] Gates wrote. "First the machines will do a lot of jobs for us and not be super intelligent. That should be positive if we manage it well. A few decades after that though the intelligence is strong enough to be a concern. I agree with Elon Musk and some others on this and don\'t understand why some people are not concerned."

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Re: Culture/Worldview and Deities
« Reply #5 on: July 26, 2011, 04:56:14 pm »
Quote from: Melamphoros;8295
..  Is it required to have a particular worldview to fully understand a deity?  Is cultural context the only way to understand a deity or just the way the deity was worshiped in the past?  Can one worship or understand a deity without the original worshipers' culture/worldview?


I think it does matter.  One can read a book, watch a film or slide show but it does nothing to what you experience when you stand there.

It's like Poseidon, you read can all about him.  Yet let me tell you when your on ship, the horizon disappears in crashing waves, your walking one moment on the deck the next moment on the bulkheads you get a whole new image of his wrath.  When you stand on the weather decks and the sea is so calm that it looks like glass and the ocean and horizon meet and merge and there is nothing but your ship in the vastness you can't describe or explain that feeling unless you've been there.

Think of being in Hawaii and feeling the volcano rumble and the magma shoot forth into the night sky and you know Pele.  You smell her, see her, sense her, taste her and understand how the land responds to her.  Yet move to any where else and its just a volcano erupting for it is not Pele.  Vulcan perhaps but that is a different feeling and sensation.

You can't in my opinon trully know a god / goddess and thier relationship with thier land, thier people and everything else if you haven't been there.  Then if you don't know how the people felt, saw, understood and believed you don't know anything really, you just assume.

For years and years I assumed about Rhodes and the harbor with the colossus.  Had an idea of what it looked like, how big everything was, the whole nine yards.  All of it proved wrong the day my ship pulled into Rhodes and I walked over to the ancient harbor and stood near the pylon where it is supposed to have stood.

Some things I believe are carried in the blood.  One side of my ancestry from the Isle's of Lewis in the Hebridies.  Images and stories from my youth confirmed when I went to the Highlands, when I looked out over the waters, smelled the air and felt the breezes.  Even notions of gods / goddesses and suddenly came alive before my eyes.  Yet no matter how hard I tried I could not convey the sensation and feelings to the rest of my family who only had the stories.

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Re: Culture/Worldview and Deities
« Reply #6 on: July 26, 2011, 05:00:22 pm »
Quote from: Juniperberry;8442
Without understanding or adjusting your religious worldview, you're basically just a polytheistic Christian.

 
This is utter nonsense, and disrespectful to both Christianity and people of other religions.  It also assumes that everyone out there is coming from a Christian background, which is really, truly, not the case, and erasing Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, and people of other religions is really, really not cool.

Christianity has actually some very specific outlooks and beliefs, and someone who does not share those is not "basically" Christian.  They are not Christian at all.
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Re: Culture/Worldview and Deities
« Reply #7 on: July 26, 2011, 05:06:20 pm »
Quote from: Melamphoros;8295
This thread was inspired by one of my "quietly watch while munching popcorn" threads.  How does culture and worldview relate to deities?  Is it required to have a particular worldview to fully understand a deity?  Is cultural context the only way to understand a deity or just the way the deity was worshiped in the past?  Can one worship or understand a deity without the original worshipers' culture/worldview?

 
This sorta goes back to the argument put forth by some that you not connect to certain deities unless you share common blood ties and ancestors. I don't follow that logic, at all. But, I think I understand why some people do.

How does culture relate to deities? It doesn't, over and above just the myths associated and the cultural references. But, this is because I'm not only a pantheist, but an extremely soft polytheist. I don't believe the Gods are totall sentient beings and instead are natural forces personified. Most cultures have a deity that represents the same things as a deity from yet another culture, they only different is their mythologies and the personality that culture perceives them to have.

Is it necessary to share the same worldview to understand a deity? I don't think so. The only thing I would think would be necessary would be to understand what that deity represents. War, storms, plagues, etc. If you can get behind nature, you can understand it's deities. I think.

The cultural context only pertains to how the deity was worshiped in the past. It has little to do with us in a modern age. This is particularly evident in Kemeticism. The way the Kemetic Gods were worshiped in the past has nothing much to do with modern society. Even though what those gods represent are still very much a fact of life for many.

I think we can understand the deities without an original worshiper. But, my world view is pantheistic and I don't go past that.

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Re: Culture/Worldview and Deities
« Reply #8 on: July 26, 2011, 05:16:56 pm »
Quote from: Melamphoros;8295
This thread was inspired by one of my "quietly watch while munching popcorn" threads.  How does culture and worldview relate to deities?  Is it required to have a particular worldview to fully understand a deity?  Is cultural context the only way to understand a deity or just the way the deity was worshiped in the past?  Can one worship or understand a deity without the original worshipers' culture/worldview?


I think that original culture matters to deity work about as much as knowing where someone grew up matters to having a relationship with them as an adult.

In other words, it obviously has an effect, and the closer you are to someone, the more useful it is to know what cultural background they bring, and how they might react to certain things, and so on.

But it's also quite possible to have a very good working relationship with someone whose culture isn't familiar to you, if you negotiate the individual interactions thoughtfully, or are working in a shared culture that everyone agrees on. (In terms of things like "How do I express respect for you, and show when I'm listening" and "What kind of things do you like to get as presents/tokens of esteem" and "How formal are we going to be with each other.")
 
Knowing the initial cultures gives you a really good start on that negotiation. But it's not the only way to sort things out.
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Re: Culture/Worldview and Deities
« Reply #9 on: July 26, 2011, 06:28:15 pm »
Quote from: Darkhawk;8453
This is utter nonsense, and disrespectful to both Christianity and people of other religions.  It also assumes that everyone out there is coming from a Christian background, which is really, truly, not the case, and erasing Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, and people of other religions is really, really not cool.

Christianity has actually some very specific outlooks and beliefs, and someone who does not share those is not "basically" Christian.  They are not Christian at all.


How did I offend Christianity??

I went with the majority religious worldview in western culture that most of us operate under. Next time I'll be sure to list off all 901 religions in existence on the off-chance that the Wisconsin rock worshippers might feel excluded.

I'm curious, do you understand the difference between what offends you personally and what's truly offensive?
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Re: Culture/Worldview and Deities
« Reply #10 on: July 26, 2011, 06:38:17 pm »
Quote from: Juniperberry;8475
How did I offend Christianity??

 
By treating it as some sort of default generic with no substance or meaningfulness of its own, obviously.
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Re: Culture/Worldview and Deities
« Reply #11 on: July 26, 2011, 06:51:56 pm »
Quote from: Darkhawk;8479
By treating it as some sort of default generic with no substance or meaningfulness of its own, obviously.

 
Yes, obviously discussing the massive impact of a religion on our perceptions is treating it as 'meaningfulness'.

Christianity is the default religion in America, or haven't you noticed the massive national turmoil as that majority is becoming threatened?

Lets see, the war on Christmas, which everyone has finally talked about since its mythology, gods and worldview are pushed on the nation. Or the fact that there's still a fight in saying "one nation under God", or that Easter is a national holiday, and that almost every Hollywood movie has characters speaking of God or heaven when there's religious context.

But you're right. It was offensive of me to assume most of western culture is exposed to the Christian worldview. Apologies.
The pace of progress in artificial intelligence (I’m not referring to narrow AI) is incredibly fast. [...] The risk of something seriously dangerous happening is in the five year timeframe. 10 years at most.--Elon Musk

I am in the camp that is concerned about super intelligence," [Bill] Gates wrote. "First the machines will do a lot of jobs for us and not be super intelligent. That should be positive if we manage it well. A few decades after that though the intelligence is strong enough to be a concern. I agree with Elon Musk and some others on this and don\'t understand why some people are not concerned."

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Re: Culture/Worldview and Deities
« Reply #12 on: July 26, 2011, 07:00:16 pm »
Quote from: Jenett;8460
I think that original culture matters to deity work about as much as knowing where someone grew up matters to having a relationship with them as an adult.

In other words, it obviously has an effect, and the closer you are to someone, the more useful it is to know what cultural background they bring, and how they might react to certain things, and so on.


I vote for this. :)
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Re: Culture/Worldview and Deities
« Reply #13 on: July 26, 2011, 07:08:10 pm »
Quote from: Juniperberry;8484
Christianity is the default religion in America, or haven't you noticed the massive national turmoil as that majority is becoming threatened?

 
I'm surprised that you buy into the propaganda of a handful of irrelevant flakes who are neither mainstream to Christianity nor in accord with the core principles shared by a majority of Christians.

Which just goes to show that treating Christianity as some kind of a generic is further fallacious.
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Re: Culture/Worldview and Deities
« Reply #14 on: July 26, 2011, 07:32:41 pm »
Quote from: Darkhawk;8453
This is utter nonsense, and disrespectful to both Christianity and people of other religions.  It also assumes that everyone out there is coming from a Christian background, which is really, truly, not the case, and erasing Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, and people of other religions is really, really not cool.

Christianity has actually some very specific outlooks and beliefs, and someone who does not share those is not "basically" Christian.  They are not Christian at all.

 
I completely fail to see how this is a) nonsense, b) disrespectful.

It is a fact that people in the western world is under the effect of a Christian worldview. I´m not saying it is a bad thing, not at all.
Also, both the Jewish worldview and the Muslim worldview share some of their core concepts and ideas with Christianity.

Concepts and ideas which were not necessarily shared by the various peoples of pre-Christian Europe; so, when I and others are trying to understand the worldview and culture our religion stems from - and try to apply it to our understanding of the world - are we doing anything offensive to other religions?
And when Juniperberry points out that in order to reconstruct and fully understand a religion stemming from another culture you´ll have to understand (and possibly apply) the worldview of this culture, is she doing anything offensive?

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