Thursday 28 July 2011

Divinity Series: 1

The inspiration for this series came about when I was watching a comedian, who was discussing his faith, one of the things he mentioned was the story of Jesus and the "greatest fish fry ever".  Now for those of you aren't familiar with the story, it's about Jesus feeding the crowd of thousands with only 5 loaves and 2 fish.  As soon as I heard the story I began to think about the different tales of Gods and their different marks of power. One of these marks is the ability to provide for their followers.

Wikipedia gives the definition of the cornucopia as being " a symbolic, hollow horn filled with the inexhaustible gifts of celebratory fruits". One of the reasons people follow certain faiths is the belief that the God or Gods can provide for and take care of them, or even help them take care of themselves. 

There are many tales from many different cultures which speak to the commonality of the belief that the Gods provide. Many of these tales include information about the God's special gift of food, after all how can people be expected to worship you if they are starving and can't think beyond the search of basic comforts?  In many of the tales of the horns of plenty, the gift shows the strength of the magic of the conjurer, it shows the ability of the magician to provide, to lead and how blessed and favorable their magic is.  this ability to conjure such magic made them different, made them something more than human, but the ability for abundance alone didn't make on a God, it did however show up often as one of the marks of Divinity.

Within the Greek myths there is the tale of the battle between Athena and Poseidon on who would be named Patron of Athens, when Athena provides the olive tree, her gift beat out Poseidon's gift of water, because the water couldn't be drunk, it was in fact salt water.  the olive tree provided many different functions,from oil to cook with, to wood to be burned, to fruit that could provide. Athena's gift was a gift of inexhaustible uses, and she became Patron of the City. Although not a horn per say, her gift was a way to provide for her people and this showed her Divinity because she took care of those who would depend on her, it also showed her leadership, and cunning to win against Poseidon.

One of my favorite stories as a child growing up was about Broda Anansi, now I have mentioned before that he is the trickster God of the Yoruba tradition, his tales are told in the Caribbean often passed from parent to child sharing different life lessons along the way.

Now there is a story of Broda (brother) Anansi who was married and had several children, who he couldn't feed. One day Anansi was in the woods looking for food and cried out to the heavens asking for help, a man appeared and gave him a dutch pot (imagine a cauldron) and was told to follow certain instructions, which as long as he did he would never want for anything again.  He was never to wash the pot, and he was to share the bounty. Every evening Anansi would pull out the pot, put it on the fire, and dance and sing as he chanted about what he wanted, the pot would cook up his favorite meals, he would share these meals with his wife and children, who was curious to know how he was doing it. But Anansi was greedy and decided to keep the pot's secret to himself.

Anansi's friend Dog was also hungry and would see Anansi's family eating these lavish meals and wanted to know how Anansi was doing it, but Anansi wouldn't tell him, so one night he followed Anansi and saw the ritual, he got jealous and confronted Anansi who wouldn't share with him and reminded Anansi that he too had a hungry family, but Anansi just laughed and left with the pot. Dog decided he would tell Anansi's wife what he heard, when Anansi was dancing he sang about how he would never wash the pot, so Dog decided to tell the Mrs. that Anansi asked him to tell her to wash the pot for him so he could make some food. Anasi's wife didn't know where he left the pot so she never got to wash it, and decided not to say anything to her husband just in case, one day Anansi's wife saw him put the pot beneath the kitchen cabinet and leave. Mrs. Anansi thinking that Broda Anansi just didn't want to wash the pot, took it out and gave it a good scrub. When Anasi came home he discovered what she did and started crying, when asked what happened he explained that he was told never to wash the pot, but to always share the food, now the pot didn't work and they were back to being poor and without food.

There are two morals in this story, one being greedy eventually doesn't pay, and you must be honest with your family, had he been honest with his wife, Anansi wouldn't have lost the pot of plenty.
As you can see here the pot of plenty was meant to be shared, it was given to one to give to the people but he decided to hide it instead, and eventually lost the gift.  In many of the tales, the Cauldrons, horns, and even baskets of plenty would only work when the magic was shared, it can't be kept to oneself.

Another tale of the Horns of Plenty is linked to Zeus. Excert from the Wikipedia site on Cornocopia.
One of the best known involves the birth and nurturance of the infant Zeus, who had to be hidden from his devouring father Cronus. In a cave on Mount Ida on the island of Crete, baby Zeus was cared for and protected by a number of divine attendants, including the goat Amalthea("Nourishing Goddess"), who fed him with her milk. The suckling future king of the gods had unusual abilities and strength, and in playing with his nursemaid accidentally broke off one of her horns, which then had the divine power to provide unending nourishment, as the foster mother had to the god.
In another myth, the cornucopia was created when Heracles (RomanHercules) wrestled with the river god Achelous and wrenched off one of his horns; river gods were sometimes depicted as horned.[1]The cornucopia became the attribute of several Greek and Roman deities, particularly those associated with the harvest, prosperity, or spiritual abundance, such as personifications of Earth (Gaia or Terra); the nymphMaiaFortuna, the goddess of luck, who had the power to grant prosperity; and abstract Roman deities who played a role in Roman Imperial cult as fostering peace (pax Romana) and prosperity, such as Abundantia, "Abundance" personified, and Annona, goddess of the grain supply to the city of Rome. The cornucopia was one of the attributes of Pluto, the classical ruler of the underworld in the mystery religions, who was a giver of agricultural, mineral and spiritual wealth, distinguished from the gloomier Hades, who holds a drinking horn instead

Taken from the tales of Taliesin, there is a quote of the Dagda's Cauldron of Plenty called the Undry, which is one of the sacred Cauldron in the Celtic myths, as well as being one of the four Sacred Hallows brought to Ireland with the Tuatha De Danann

"I am renowned, resplendant is my song that was heard.
In the four-cornered fort, four sided,
my poetry was uttered from the cauldron.
By the breath of nine maidens it was kindled.
t was the cauldron of the Chief of Annwn that was sought -
a ridge of pearls around its brim.
It does not boil a coward's food: it was not destined (to do so)."
adapted from Koch & Carey, The Celtic Heroic Age

The Dagda's Cauldron of Plenty would feed those who were courageous, hence the comment about 'not a coward's food', this cauldron would feed thousands and the next day would replenish itself, it needed no fire or ingredients to complete this deed. The Cauldron was a source of abundance and healing. It is and represents an abundance that man can't provide, this abundance comes from the high magics of the Gods, it shows their deeper connections to the magics and to the earth, as many of the Gods would die annually to replenish the earth for the next season of growth. 

In the Christian version of the horn of plenty, Jesus feeds 5000 followers with the donation of 5 loaves and 2 fish, he feed everyone there, even when his followers doubted they would be able to do so.  Thereby creating a new miracle to be attributed to him. This showed his connection to the Higher Power and made him more than 'man' to his followers.

One could connect the Cauldrons, and horns to the Earth itself, as the King's connection to the Earth was seen by the abundance brought forth, when a King was seen as exhausting or displeasing the Earth(Goddess), he would be sacrificed so that the people could once again know prosperity and abundance. 
Modern adaptions of the horns of plenty have seen them especially in the North as decorations taken out during the fall. It is usually seen on the Samhain altars as it is a symbol of fertility, fortune and abundance.

Even within the Christian religion, the horn of plenty is seen at harvest time and is usually filled with the 'harvest' of the church as a way to thank God for what he has helped to sow in their lives in the Spring and Summer.

You can search into other myths to find that many of the god,and Goddesses provide for the people either in the Otherworld or in the living world. this gift of abundance is renewable the way the earth itself is renewable with proper care. As in the tale of Anansi, when the cauldron and it's magics were disregarded or disrespected they would stop working, this was seen as a decline in the magics of the Gods, as the abundance that flowed was linked to their ability to conjure the necessary magic.  When their ability to provide properly was called into question many became sacrifices to help their people. 

And that brings us to next weeks topic: the Sacrifices that made them Gods!
Qoute for Taliesin taken from Here, Dagda's Cauldron image from Bing search.

Hope this helped in showing one of the 'marks of power'


I love my readers, and your comments help me to know how you feel, so please share.
Thank You and Goddess Bless.