How To Bring a Deity Back to Life: The Importance of a Culture Remembering its Gods

(Author’s note: The following piece is born out of my deep love of mythology and the belief that rituals embodying these mythologies can transform cultures deadened by modernity and the love of money. ~Nathaniel Hansen, M.A. Mythological Studies, Pacifica Graduate Institute, April 18, 2011. Athens, Greece).

All cultures … have grown out of myths. They are founded on myths. What these myths have given has been inspiration for aspiration. The economic interpretation of history is for the birds. Economics is itself a function of aspiration. It’s what people aspire to that creates the field in which economics works. ~Joseph Campbell

We’re in a freefall into the future. We don’t know where we’re going. Things are changing so fast, and always when you’re going through a long tunnel, anxiety comes along. And all you have to do to transform your hell into a paradise is to turn your fall into a voluntary act. It’s a very interesting shift of perspective and that’s all it is… joyful participation in the sorrows and everything changes. ~Joseph Campbell

Heresy is the life of a mythology, and orthodoxy is the death. ~Joseph Campbell

Deities find power in the cultures that adore and nurture them. Bringing a deity back to life involves igniting a flame of desire within the populace whose ancestors once served and worshipped it. The truth is that the deity itself has not died…the people only need remember what their ancestors felt and saw and smelled. Re-igniting a culture with its root metaphor, with the essence that animated its founders, IS a path to enlivening its people. A nation in crisis can find inspiration AND momentum via a root metaphor.

WHAT IS A ROOT METAPHOR: A root metaphor is much more than a figure of speech or an image. A root metaphor is the god, the mythology, which births a culture. Author Sandra Barnes writes, “Root metaphor names things that are likened to one another…once a root metaphor is named it becomes a protected category within which many ways of replicating, restating, or reformulating an idea can be tried out. The greater its ability to incorporate and adapt to new experience, the more powerful it becomes.” Archibald MacLeish writes, “A world ends when its metaphor has died.” The pain in the West is not of a people yearning for the arrival of a savior but of a people chained from honoring the natural world surrounding them. The importance of a people re-discovering the root metaphor of the earliest cultures from whence their ancestors came cannot be understated. Experience of a root metaphor is experience of a deity.

Ritual sustains the relationship between a deity and a culture. Ritual is the embodiment of myth. Ritual is the swiftest route to invoking gods from long ago. The best books on ritual are the following:

Ritual: Power, Healing and Community by Malidoma Some: http://amzn.to/ritualbook1
Liberating Rites: Understanding the Transformative Power of Ritual by Tom F. Driver: http://amzn.to/ritualbook2
Ritual: Perspectives and Dimensions by Catherine Bell: http://amzn.to/ritualbook3
The Sacred and The Profane: The Nature of Religion by Mircea Eliade: http://amzn.to/ritualbook4
A Companion to Cultural Memory Studies by Astrid Erll: http://amzn.to/ritualbook_5

Helping a culture remember its gods has the potential to awaken within its core, its depth, a renewed vigor and vitality. The literature on the effect of political power games masked as beneficent acts by religious organizations is manifold. And the literature on violent wars based upon the same is also manifold. No wonder people want to forget gods that were part of an era in which their ancestors were violently attacked and killed! We now live within yet another period of history where such violence between people groups has resulted in countless deaths (ie.-Bosnia or Rwanda).

So why would a culture want to remember gods that might awaken previous conflicts with other cultures?

The reasons for remembering an ancient deity are manifold. The central value I seek to identify is simple: Power grows within the culture that touches the hand of its ancient gods. When a people are animated by the gods that gave birth to their nation, amazing things can happen. It’s one thing to move from the love of money to loving people. It’s even more powerful to come together with those loved ones and worship a deity, or a pantheon of deities.

Watch anyone discuss religion, politics or sexuality and you will see a person animated by a god. The passion these three topics engenders has more to do with the unseen than the seen. And the realm of the unseen is the realm of the gods.

A PATH TO DISCOVERING POTENT RITUAL: So how does one bring a god back to life? How does one ignite the cultural memory of a people?

1. Identify the external artifacts (architecture, music, daily schedule) that match ancient forms. Map and describe these.
2. Listen to the conversations of the people in social networks and identify where these same external artifacts locate in the fabric of the Internet. What symbols in the physical plane are mirrored in cyberspace and in the social networks? Draw connections. Make maps on your wall of these. Or use mapping software online.
3. Create campaigns, films, music, community programs, public cultural events, private gatherings of influencers and multiple small gatherings (circles) that bring people together in the flesh. When a revolution that starts in social networks move to the realm of flesh, great emotion, attraction and synergy occurs. This is the power of going from a Facebook wall to a Facebook event to a lover’s bed, of going from an Eventbrite conference to a local meetup to the office of an organization that matches your skillet perfectly, of going from an online game to a concert with other fans of a great band to the band’s hotel suite!
4. Install “avatars” into the mix of #3 who embody the energy of the gods/goddesses you wish to help the culture remember. Empower these avatars to inject the energy of the gods/goddesses directly into the imagination and emotional body of the culture. Watch how quickly the messaging from these avatars spreads through the social networks and Internet media channels (like YouTube).
5. Immersion: As the members of a culture are immersed in the power of the medium and the avatars, watch how author and reader, performer and audience, begin to merge and weave the flavor of the god into the flesh of the culture.
6. Choosing the right content is critical. As was once said, the difference between the right and wrong word IS the difference between a lightning bug AND lightning! You WANT the members of the culture ALL humming that god’s tune on their lips. That’s what brings change…and quickly!
7. Location: The most powerful location into which an avatar can speak powerful words is ritual. Return to the excellent books on ritual above and make this study part of your work. Then re-create the original rituals from ancient times as the meeting point between a current generation and its ancestral gods.
8. Health: Once the avatar sparks the culture, keep him/her healthy as the vitalization of content leads to heady situations where the avatar MUST keep his/her cool and not implode or explode. Good healthy habits are in order!!
9. PR: Deal with critics by having pre-scripted guidelines in place for the typical critics of such a deity. And ALWAYS remember that Critics are there to drive Creatives to higher heights and deeper depths! The most powerful answer to a Critic can sound like this: “There will always be more than one way to be a human!”

The nations of the world are ripe for remembering ancestral deities. Lots of them! And the time to act is NOW!!