I had planned on talking about animism…or maybe altars for the first Pagan Blog Project post, but I sort of changed my mind at the last minute (or, only about three days behind schedule, lol!!). There are probably a gazillion ways this project can be carried out–blogging through deities, spells, divination systems, etc…but since its my first time participating, I wanted to do this as an outline of concepts that I find essential to my personal beliefs. As such, I could have talked about animism or altars, but I found myself procrastinating for no real reason. And when that is the case, its usually because my subconscious is balking at something that my conscious mind hasn’t figured out quite yet.
I wanted to begin at the beginning. For someone that works with the natural world and the classical elements, the beginning is sometimes called the Quintessence. You may have heard of it as the Fifth Element. Sometimes its called Spirit, or Ether…alternatively spelled Aether. Scott Cunningham referred to it as Akasha, which originates as a Hindu idea describing the original substance from which all other elements were created (details vary from sect to sect). In Greek, the Anglicized beginning is called Arche (or ἀρχή).
A is for ἀρχή
The meanings of the word arche are varied–from beginning or origins, to the idea of laying a foundation, or the source of action, to a definition of sovereignty and command. In ancient Greece, the cosmic arche of Hesiod was Chaos (Chaos in its imagery as the abyss, just to toss in another ‘a’ word), while the later Orphic cosmology’s arche began with the creation of aether and chaos together by Chronos. A third Greek arche, attributed to Anaximander, is centered around the idea of ἄπειρον, or apeiron.
A is for ἄπειρον
Apeiron means endless, or without boundary. According to what we know of Anaximander’s ideas (whose writings are mostly lost), the arche came from an unending and boundless perpetual source from which all material forms originated. While Anaximander likely believed that apeiron was a concrete thing, later Greek philosophers adopted the idea of apeiron as an abstraction for the primordial chaos of origins. Apeiron is a place of beginning and making, and also of ending and unmaking…but was also the substance of origins–a substance that would come to be known as aether.
A is for Αἰθήρ
Αἰθήρ, or aether (later called ether, or spirit), originates from Greek mythology as one of the primordial elemental deities. Aether is the personification of the god of heaven, literally, of the air in the heavens, beyond the earth, the son of Erebus and Nyx, and father of Ouranos (the sky). In the modern Pagan cosmology, based in the classical elements, aether is spirit, the Fifth Element, which is also sometimes referenced as akasha. Ideas about the nature of aether, materially or spiritually are incredibly varied and even conflicted at times, but generally consider aether to be sort of a super-element, which is part of all elements, and from which all elements ultimately were derived.
So where does all that Greek put me? I’m not a Hellenic pagan, nor am I a re-onstructionist of any sort (if you are a follower of my blog, you’d know that from my Delphic Maxims blogging, lol). But I do believe there is value in the ideas of other cultures, modern and ancient, and looking at them in a contemporary filter. We can learn from the beliefs of others because they are more like us than they are different–and where we are different, we are more often a mirror for one another’s hopes and fears and dreams and values than an “other”.
A is for animism
And I guess, it is here that I can perhaps write about what I intended to discuss in the first place… Animism, at its simplest, is the belief that there is no separation between the spiritual and the material world, and that absolutely everything is ensouled. For me, animism starts with the idea that everything shares the same beginning–that the arche of our universe originates as a sort of whisper in the darkness, a cosmic egg of being exploding into the abyss of nothing, forming the *something* that makes up the underlying fabric of all being. Or, just because he is full of awesome, I’ll quote Neil–it starts with the idea that we are all made of stardust, and that the Universe is as much part of us as we are part of it (although, I mean it metaphorically, as well as literally).