Monthly Archives: July 2010

The Ancestors and the Religion of the Soil (Part 3)

In my last two posts, I speculated about the establishment and possible later subsequent theological interpretation by the British populations of a Religion of the Soil. My initial curiosity was roused by the now, somewhat historically dubious, quote accredited to the Georgians. This period was a period of time in Britain known as the Neolithic age. This age was notable for several things, as can be seen on the provided link. One was the establishment of comunittees that settled into an agricultural lifestyle, providing food grown by and on the land as opposed to the earlier hunter / gatherer peoples. Adoption of this lifestyle points to how a religion of the soil would have been both a logical and natural position from which to develop a spiritual framework that would be directly influenced by both environment and the earlier interactions of previous generations.

These people worked with stone but the tools produced were mainly produced by chipping or knapping and it wasn’t until the end of this period that a more sophisticated working of the stone appeared. These later techniques were responsible for the dressed stones seen in henges in varyingly degrees of quality. It would, therefore, lead one to speculate whether these techniques led to the stones being accredited with ancestral power, possibly by the accumulations of stone dust being assimilated back into the soil, thus revealing the origin of the stone or whether the theological position of the ancestors residing in the stone drove the stone working techniques. Either way, it would appear that for the next several hundred years, stone was accredited with the quality of ancestor influence and how the stone appeared was deemed important enough for these people to spend many hours dressing the stone. Britain’s ultimate example of the effort involved would be represented by Stonehenge (without wishing to reduce the influence and quality of other examples out there).

However, referring back to the link presented in my first post that relates to a proposed historical development of Stonehenge, we see the adoption of further influences and the subsequent redevelopment as a consequence of a continuing developing spiritual framework. The most obvious of these would be the positioning of the stones in relation to the entrances into and out of the monument, and the alignment with the midwinter and midsummer sun.

This hints at a theological movement that now places spiritual influence out of the strictly physical and into the nonphysical side of life. This would appear to be a position that didn’t create conflict, as it would appear to me that the inclusion of stone was still central, judging by the positioning of the stones, so I would suggest that these were seen as complimentary forces. I would also suggest that any influx of peoples from mainland Europe may have brought with them ideas about the nonphysical and that may have also have been judged initially as complementary to this position.

However, I refer back to the climatic information provided here and especially the period of time from 2300 BC. There is no doubt in my mind that such climatic conditions and the results of such weather patterns, with crop failures and the subsequent consequences, would have led the populations, quite understandably, to reassess their belief systems. It may have been concluded that the main power lay not in the physical realms of the ancestors, but in the nonphysical realms, that being represented by the air that brought the extreme weather patterns that were laying ruin to their endeavours. Something would have been seen as being even more powerful than the ancestors and the indiscriminate nature of the activities may have hinted at a force that didn’t originate from a genealogical line so therefore this force would not be tied to the populations by blood. The influence of these powers therefore, could not be relied based upon through family ties.

Therefore, we may have our earliest candidate for the circumstances that may have led to a British spiritual hierarchical structure being developed with different entities being accredited with different powers. The severing of blood ties (genealogically)  would have reinforced the notion of a power beyond the human, the God. Population increases and increasing trading with mainland Europe may also have influenced the perceptions of the nature of these Gods, as these Gods would have been understood to be more of a transient nature, not being tied to a physical place but instead to a group or groups of people, which if climatic conditions were impacting upon the populations, may have proved to be a more pragmatic way in which to invoke the favours of the otherworld. The Gods were forcing the populations away from the ancestral grounds through climatic change, therefore their influence may have been viewed as being now in the ascendancy compared to the previous ancestors. This, logically, would have seen the establishment of a hierarchical structure, evidenced by later religious frameworks and thus moving the greater power away from the earlier religion of the soil.

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Posted by on July 1, 2010 in Speculative conjecture