ANCIENT AND MODERN RELIGIONS: WHICH IS THE GREENEST?
Many if not most pre-Christian societies were immensely respectful of the environment. Such societies often recognized that phenomena such as the sun, earth, moon, sea and weather as well as objects such as trees, mountains etc possessed personalities and were to be worshiped as deities. For the Egyptians the gods Shu, Geb, Ra and Nut represented the atmosphere, earth, sun and sky. The weather and sky was especially rich in Gods with Wikipedia listing no less than 82 * see my links. Interestingly Africus is the Roman deity for wind, while the Khoikhoi had Tsui (Tsui'goab) who multi-tasked and did magic, rain and thunder affairs. These gods represent religions that were deeply sensitive of the natural world and respectful of the cycles of life and death in all its manifestations. The “Mandala”, although Hindu in origin is representative of the significance of cycles that these religions share and is usually, but not exclusively depicted as a circle. The circle has come to represent neither a beginning nor an end, and an equality and balance of all elements of the earth. The directions North, South, East and West of the circle have come to represent the Earth, Air, Fire and Water. The commonness of these four elements is embedded in the rituals practised by Celts to the Shaman, and universality of the circle is depicted in the artwork of the Aborigine to the Khoikhoi. Few people who have visited the Stonehenge Circle on the Salisbury plains of England leave the site unmoved and are a testimony to the spirituality that such a place generates.
If you interpret such religions in the context of Climate Change and a sustainable environment, it seems that these ancient folks knew a thing or two; why else would they pay so much reverence to the atmosphere and weather? The worshipping of a plural society of gods and goddesses certainly hedges your bets and recognizes equality of gender. Further a suit of “Pagan” values is clearly evident in the “scientific” principles of Gaia (that is why it is named after the Greek deity that oversees the earth). The emergence of Neo-Paganism as a religion is a claimed re-discovery of spirituality (and eschews materialism) and provides for an intimate respect for nature. Consequently Neo-Paganism more directly embraces the paradigm of “think globally act locally” than the big three religions of Christian, Jewish and Muslim faiths which are more concerned with self-preservation (eternal saviour) than saving the earth. So just possibly Neo-Paganism provides the emergence for a “Green Religion” that recognises climate change.
An extracted list from Wikipedia on various weather gods.
Ani (Etruscan divinity)
Atua I Kafika
Dievas (Lithuanian god)
Dievs (Latvian god)
Manannan mac Lir
Shu (Egyptian deity)
Dr Richard Knight
Co-ordinator: National Information Society Learnerships - Ecological Informatics
Department of Biodiversity and Conservation Biology
University of the Western Cape
Private Bag X17
Phone 27 + 21 + 959 3940
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