Tuesday, 3 June 2008

Sacred Nature

My husband and I were watching a documentary the other night about the nomadic horse peoples of Mongolia.
As part of this documentary it was noted that they regarded the animals at a particular lake as sacred, the wildfowl and particularly the whooper swans which nested there.
There have been similar documentaries we have also watched recently in which certain cultures or religions hold animals in a high regard, as special or sacred to their Gods.

It occured to me that Christian belief doesn't have this connection to animals and nature.
Is this right?
Thinking back on my Bible stories I cant think of any which venerate animals or nature? (other than the Arc) and I am unaware of any animal sacred to Christians.
I am sure those of you who know your Bible better than me (I am looking at you Old Crone!) might put me right, and I welcome any stories that I don't know about.

But perhaps this is part of the reason I have always felt a little detached from the Christian tradition (that and the role of women, which OC and I were also discussing recently).
I find in my RL as well as my SL, that I gain great spiritual strength from the natural world. For me just 'being' with the world can reveal wonders and beauty which often my everyday life can block.
When I spend time outside I can almost feel the connections that bind us to each other as humans, that connect us to the rest of creation and , I believe, connect us to something greater.

8 comments:

hobbitripley said...

What an interesting question. There is certainly a link in the Bible between God and creation. In Genesis 1 we see how God created the plants and the animals and "God saw that it was good".

In Genesis 2, we see a connection between man and creation: "Now the LORD God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed. And the LORD God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground—trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. [...] The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it."

I think this is a lovely picture of "how it should be". Of course, mankind doesn't always care as much as he/she could...

hobbitripley said...

Another thing you might find interesting is to read through the Psalms. A lot of time there we see praise of creation and wonder at what God has made. However, I think the Christian approach would be to worship the Creator rather than the creation, which is why you might be feeling less of this "veneration".

Jesus also talked occasionally about things of nature - for example: "Consider how the lilies grow. They do not labour or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendour was dressed like one of these." He used stories like this to show how much God cares for people. Jesus even once talked of having quite maternal feelings: "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing".

There is a lot of movement in many Christian circles to promote Eco-churches and raise awareness of the importance of the world we live in. Our church is trying to become an Eco church and promote fair trade for example...

Anyway, sorry to go on, I just wanted to highlight some examples. Hope it's of interest.

hobbitripley said...

Sorry, me again! I promise to stop now! I would love to know what "Old Crone" thinks about this.

Here is a link you might find interesting to know about some of the Eco things I was mentioning.

http://www.ecocongregation.org/

I'd be interested to know if you have any thoughts on this Eco issue...

Mykyl said...

/me would love to post her thoughts here, but gets usually gets herself in deep doo-doo whenever she starts expressing her religious views :)

hobbitripley said...

hehe... I can totally identify with that feeling Mykyl. However, in my experience, Wren hasn't yet tried to electrocute me for expressing my views. She's tolerant that way! Hey, what are these wires connected to my chair?

Wren said...

Wren holds her hand over the electricity switch and wonders what would happen.....

Only joking! Mykyl you are welcome to express your opinions here, thats why I post these kinds of things... to engage debate and let me look at the world through others eyes as well as my own.

I think the only kind of things which would rattle me would be directly mean things such as racism or personal attacks (as opposed to constuctive criticism ). And as I am sure thats not the kind of thing you would come out with, you are welcome to express yourself.

Anonymous said...

Well, dear Wren - you are thinking perhaps of Christianity as a rigid thing expressed in one particular way. In fact we cannot ever put God into a box, whatever way we worship God is always to do with our culture, constructs, personality and so on. The people who wrote the Bible lived in their own societies with their own imagery and concerns, and we today have to see the greater truth in their words without getting too hooked up with the literalness of it all. Thankfully we are not required to have slaves or make animal sacrifices, or other things that ancient Jewish tribes did. I am writing an essay on the prophet Amos at the moment and I can take the truth of his words against injustice and exploitation of the poor, without going along with the very male patriarchal language of that culture.

Thankfully also since God is bigger than whether you are an evangelical or a Roman Catholic or a Quaker or whatever he (or she) understands and loves us anyway. There are and have been many Christians who understand The Creatorin a similar way to you.

One day, come with me to Iona or Lindisfarne, where you will be able to make contact with the early Celtic Christians, who saw God's love and mercy in all creation and lived and battled with and respected the seasons and the rythmn of natural life. Do you remember the prayer I said when we scattered J's ashes by the tree, overlooking the estuary - I found it again, or something like it, by St Francis, a Christian monk who knew a thing or two.... here it is.... (He wasn't a Celtic Christian but this was his way of praising God....)

Praised be you, my Lord, with all your creatures, especially Sir Brother Sun
who is the day, and through whom you give us light,
He is beautiful and radiant, with great splendour
And bears a likeness of you, Most High One.

Praised be you my Lord, through Brother Wind
and through the air, cloudy and serene, and every kind of weather
Through which you give sustenance to your creatures.

Praised be you, my Lord, through Sister Water
who is very useful and humble, precious and pure.

Praised be you, my Lord, through Brother Fire
Through whom you light the night
He is beautiful and playful, robust and strong.

Praised be you, my Lord, through our sister, Mother Earth
who sustains and governs us
and who produces varied fruits, coloured flowers, and herbs.

There are very many Christians today who reverence nature and who are trying to live in harmony with the planet. I have found that God does not want me to become anything other than what I am created to be - I don't have to conform to any stereotype, and neither would you. You are a natural Celt, it is part of you that you would want to experience God through nature.

Personally, what amazes me is that The Creator himself would become part of that which he created in order to show us how to be truly human. This last sentence may be a step too far for you, I know, but please don't buy into all the stereotypes about Christianity - hobbitripley is clearly not doing that.

Christianity is like recycling ....the possibilities are endless!!

Lots of love, Old Crone xxx

A. Starostin said...

Hi Wren,
I love Old Crone's post and agree completely that our individual observance of religion has a great deal to do with our culture's constructs and how we perceive and adhere to these. Here are some connections with sacred nature and Christianity, found in the elements of nature that I have observed. Take fire, for example: Many religions (including Christianity) include the presence of candles. Also, flames appeared over the heads of the saints at Pentecost and the Christian texts frequently speak of fire in regard to purification and consecration as well as sacrifice. Also water is another important element to Christianity in baptism, as is oil. It is also probably very significant when examining the creation story, that God used the element of earth to form man. Also, the spirit of God is sometimes compared to the wind and Christ claimed to be "the light." Well, those are just some of my observations from being a Christian in the past. I don't really identify solely with Christianity or any one religion now.