God of the Corn vs God of the Hunt

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God of the Corn vs God of the Hunt

Post by WhiteHart on Sat Jun 26, 2010 8:35 pm

Hi. This was posted in another forum, but it was suggested that I post it here. So here goes!

When explaining what Wicca is about, I often state that it is a religion that follows the seasons of the hunt and the harvest. Our culture arises from an agricultural background, however, and the farmer is often idealized to the point that a quick perusal through the online rituals show many speak of the harvests, of fertility of the earth and growing things, but few seem to mention the God of the Hunt. As the Wiccan Rede is cut to the last eight lines, and often taken out of context, the idea that we must 'do no harm' seems to have taken root in the general Wiccan community.

To me, this is indicative of our wider cultural attitude - the point of view of the farmer that any other way of life is uncivilized and barbaric. Such conflict between the farmer and the nomadic herder, or hunter has been taking place since the advent of agriculture and imposes a subtle acceptance of discrimination upon our thinking. Nomadic herders and hunters are savages.

But Wicca isn't just about agriculture. It is also about the hunt. This dichotomy says that both the seed and the blood are important to life. In the zeal of people to profess a life in touch with nature, might they be losing sight of this simple fact? That the hunt is as necessary as neccesary as the plow.

The battle between the God of the Corn and the God of the Hunt is ritualized in the battle between the Holly King and the Oak King. It is as much a battle between light and darkness as it is between hunting and agriculture. At each solstice, the God of the Wild Hunt joins with the Corn God until one draws blood. The victor continues into the next season, while the loser dances with death until the next turn of the wheel.

How does the God of the Wild Hunt fit into your life?

~Rain
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Re: God of the Corn vs God of the Hunt

Post by John T Mainer on Sun Jun 27, 2010 12:05 am

Since I am Asatru, I have no problem with the harvest and hunt, field and flock. Frey, lord of the renewing earth, lord of the forest and its creatures, the boar and wild aurouch as well as the ox and farm pig, is who we blot to.

I am a hunter, to Uller and Skadi have I sung praise for the hunt. I am priest, and to Frey have I given thanks when blot animals from the kindreds farms are offered.

We have no injunction to do no harm. We have duties to host and guest, to kinsmen, country and community, to the wights, ancestors, and all the beasts and plants that share this gods given midgard with us. Some of the duties require us to cut the earth before our plow to bring life to our crops, cut the life from some of our flock to bring life to our family, or spill the blood of our own species in defense of our hearths and homes.

Take no more than you need, give praise and thanks for what is taken, and leave the next generation fewer problems than you inherited (or at least different ones); that is all that is asked of us.

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Re: God of the Corn vs God of the Hunt

Post by allthegoodnamesweretaken on Mon Jun 28, 2010 11:31 am

I also am Asatru, so I don't know how well what I have to say will relate to the specific tradition that you are talking about.

I feel that there is more of a focus on the farmer mentality than on the hunter mentality in our current society.

The idea of doing hard work for a big payoff in the future vs doing continual work for the sake of the work itself is the center of many major religious structures out there.

However, somewhat because the fact that I identify more with the hunter mentality, and somewhat because of the area that I live in, I don't see the "battling" of the gods on this aspect. Instead of a great conflict for supremacy on that front, I see a harmony. The hunter uses the same lands as the farmer, and is grateful for the opportunity, and the farmer is grateful to the hunter for eliminating what he considers pests from his land. To the good of the whole, the hunter and farmer co-operate and share of the fruits of their labor.

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Re: God of the Corn vs God of the Hunt

Post by DotNotInOz on Mon Jun 28, 2010 12:18 pm

I've long felt that the abbreviated "Harm none" is often interpreted peculiarly.

"Harm none with ill intent"--that would make some sense.

However, simply being human harms some creature or other from the gnat divebombing our eyes that we slap at to the creepy-crawly we are unaware we've squashed while tromping about our daily business to the flesh mindlessly eaten.

Awareness and appreciation for that sacrificed so that we may live is a lot more sensible, IMO.

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Re: God of the Corn vs God of the Hunt

Post by WhiteHart on Mon Jun 28, 2010 9:00 pm

Harm None is a misnomer and often misinterpreted. It's the last few words of a longer poem. The full line that it is taken from reads:

An if it harms none, do as ye will.

An being an archaic form of 'if'. So if it harms noone, do whatever you want. Not quite the same thing as 'don't hurt anyone'. The rede says nothing about how to behave if what you do will cause harm. That is left up to the individual to decide.

As for the 'battle'... seasonal mysteries aside, what I was speaking of was the culturally different needs of the farmer vs the nomadic herder, with a nod toward the hunter-gatherer. A battle over resources. The herder wants to graze the flock while the farmer wants to fence the land and keep out wandering herds (driven by nomads or not) so as not to lose his crop. In most modern societies, stability and land ownership are prized.
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Re: God of the Corn vs God of the Hunt

Post by AutumnalTone on Mon Jun 28, 2010 10:35 pm

I'm still trying to figure out which gods the Wiccans speak of at any given time. So, in this instance, which god of the hunt is in conflict with which god of the corn?

The ancient Israelite tale of Cain and Abel showed the conflict between herder and farmer, with Yahweh showing preference for the herder. There's no conflict between gods, though, as that tale seems to not include any conflation of Yahweh with any other deity.

I can't say that I can recall any tales of conflict between gods of herds and gods of fields in other mythologies, though my recall is limited and I've not read extensively in all mythologies.
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Re: God of the Corn vs God of the Hunt

Post by Davelaw on Mon Jun 28, 2010 11:22 pm

herder and hunter is Jacob and Esau
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Re: God of the Corn vs God of the Hunt

Post by gillyflower on Tue Jun 29, 2010 8:54 am

In my tradition we don't push the Holly King and Oak King thing nor any kind of war between a God of the Corn and Hunt. It's all about balance. Yes, many people who are drawn to Wicca have an incomplete understanding of it and think that it is all about Peace and Love and Vegetarianism but I'm sure that people who know nothing about other religions and are drawn to them are just as ignorant at first too.

People who work with their heads instead of their hands also feel superior sometimes to people who do. They are the consumers of both. Where is their place in the farmer/hunter scenario?

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Re: God of the Corn vs God of the Hunt

Post by WhiteHart on Tue Jun 29, 2010 9:24 am

Davelaw wrote:herder and hunter is Jacob and Esau

Absolutely, Davelaw. One of my prime examples. From my perspective, a classic tale of cultural clash written from the POV of the herder since the proper sacrifice in that case was flesh and blood.

There are many others, some more modern than others.

Think of the way that Victorian England thought of their colonies, or of the American colonists and the Native Americans. Ancient Summeria, an agricultural society, required able bodied people to participate in a soldierly capacity to protect the land and the city states against invaders. The people were paid in food and drink. Their own view of the Canaanite nomads was that these people were uncivilized and savage.
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Re: God of the Corn vs God of the Hunt

Post by WhiteHart on Tue Jun 29, 2010 10:03 am

gillyflower wrote:People who work with their heads instead of their hands also feel superior sometimes to people who do. They are the consumers of both. Where is their place in the farmer/hunter scenario?

Good question, Gilly. Though I would ask, where is the place of any urbanite? I, for instance, have only ever been hunting once. It was 30 years ago and I missed. It doesn't stop me from recognizing the natural rythmns and patterns of the seasons, either in agricultural or hunting, however, and my religion gives honor to both sides. I recognize where we, as humans, have come from. This is something I have been working on of late, myself.
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Re: God of the Corn vs God of the Hunt

Post by gillyflower on Tue Jun 29, 2010 10:46 am

I think it is important to recognize the rhythms of the earth, the vegetation gods and the gods of the hunt, but it is also important to me to make it relevant to my life. I have a tomato plant but I am not engaged in feeding myself and my family. I eat meat, I don't grow it or hunt it. I live in a city/suburb. I don't make much of anything useful - I say that because a lot of Wiccan seem to feel that the making of things like wands or pottery or something like jewelry is important and yet do we celebrate the forge? The pen? with new myths, I mean, like they are important.

And many Wiccans treat Wiccan celebrations like it is DragonCon, in my opinion. It's a time to hang out with friends, dress up in fun clothes, put on a ritual like it's a play, eat and drink and go home having had a fun and happy evening. I'm not sure there is anything wrong with that, but still. (There are those who don't, of course.)

So yes, I struggle with keeping it real and as I do, I think my practice becomes more and more a personal one centered around my relationship with the gods, other people, the earth and things that are important to me like keeping a balance and seeing the whole.

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Re: God of the Corn vs God of the Hunt

Post by John T Mainer on Tue Jun 29, 2010 11:34 am

gillyflower wrote:I think it is important to recognize the rhythms of the earth, the vegetation gods and the gods of the hunt, but it is also important to me to make it relevant to my life. I have a tomato plant but I am not engaged in feeding myself and my family. I eat meat, I don't grow it or hunt it. I live in a city/suburb. I don't make much of anything useful - I say that because a lot of Wiccan seem to feel that the making of things like wands or pottery or something like jewelry is important and yet do we celebrate the forge? The pen? with new myths, I mean, like they are important.

And many Wiccans treat Wiccan celebrations like it is DragonCon, in my opinion. It's a time to hang out with friends, dress up in fun clothes, put on a ritual like it's a play, eat and drink and go home having had a fun and happy evening. I'm not sure there is anything wrong with that, but still. (There are those who don't, of course.)

So yes, I struggle with keeping it real and as I do, I think my practice becomes more and more a personal one centered around my relationship with the gods, other people, the earth and things that are important to me like keeping a balance and seeing the whole.

Keeping it real there Gilly. Our ancestors wore their best clothes to rituals, and used the tools of their professions, that which fed and defended their families with the expectation that the gods would be pleased by the works of their folk, and have real aid in those same workday endeavors.

I never liked the whole SCA flavour that some pagans feel is required for their rituals. The closest I ever felt to my gods was stripping, cleaning, and assembling my assault rifle in the field, or meditating while performing maintainance on my AN/PRC field radio. Modern plastics and alloys our ancestors never dreamed of, but the tools I used to defend my folk, even as the most powerful of those weapons was the radio through which I could call down strikes with the power of Mjollner itself. Now my work tools are not hammer and axe, but keyboard and pen, should not these too find a place on the alter? Should I not bring the awareness of the gods into my daily life and struggles, or should we fall into the Christian trap and think of the gods only on special days or when we are dressed for it.

We are what we do. Bring the gods with you into your daily life, and you will bring their benefits with you forever. If you answer phones for a living, or work a garbage crew, or teach children, or trade currencies and T bills; these are the struggles of your daily life, and it is here you need the voice of the gods the most. Why not remember that in your practice?

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Re: God of the Corn vs God of the Hunt

Post by AutumnalTone on Tue Jun 29, 2010 12:11 pm

Davelaw wrote:herder and hunter is Jacob and Esau

I'm referring to the story of Cain, the crop farmer, and Abel, the shepherd. Yahweh preferred Abel's offering, thus leading Cain to kill Abel. As humans were herding before engaging in sedentary agriculture, that particular conflict seems to involve a conservative bent on part of the tale author--that the older way of doing things is preferable to the newer.
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Re: God of the Corn vs God of the Hunt

Post by allthegoodnamesweretaken on Tue Jun 29, 2010 12:12 pm

I think the most important thing to hold on to is the connectedness to whatever tradition we hold. Mentalities aside, and I do think that in conjunction with other types of mentalities, the "hunter/herder/farmer" is one aspect of it, we need to know where that we use to survive especially comes from.

It would be very easy, in this day and age where we can go down to the supermarket and pick up a pound of hamburger, bag of Doritos, and gallon of chocolate milk, to forget that each one of those came from a living breathing being, with thoughts and feelings, and a life of it's own.

Our ancestors did not have this luxury. They knew that the milk and hamburger came from cattle, and the corn chips would come from grain because they saw it at every step of the way. (OK, Doritos might be a stretch, but you know what I mean)

I think there is a unawareness that permeates our society. We have not only lost our connection with other living things, but with what we are.

I'm not ex-military like John, but I too can say that I have never felt closer to my gods, my ancestors, and myself, than sitting in a field in the middle of Oct, watching the sun rise.

I bring too, the feeling of them when I go about the activities of my daily life. The tools may have changed from that of the lore, but what matters is than the tools would have been used, not that they were, or weren't used.

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Re: God of the Corn vs God of the Hunt

Post by allthegoodnamesweretaken on Tue Jun 29, 2010 12:18 pm

AutumnalTone wrote:
Davelaw wrote:herder and hunter is Jacob and Esau

I'm referring to the story of Cain, the crop farmer, and Abel, the shepherd. Yahweh preferred Abel's offering, thus leading Cain to kill Abel. As humans were herding before engaging in sedentary agriculture, that particular conflict seems to involve a conservative bent on part of the tale author--that the older way of doing things is preferable to the newer.

Of course Yahweh god is going to prefer the offering of a herder over that of a farmer. He's a war god. It doesn't mean that the offering is worthless, just that it was made to the wrong deity. Silly monotheists....

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Re: God of the Corn vs God of the Hunt

Post by AutumnalTone on Tue Jun 29, 2010 12:22 pm

There's an article in the current Mother Earth News (and excerpt from a book) about the Vegetarian Myth. The author points out that any food we eat involves something dying and that to have a sustainable future, we have to consider all of the interdepencies in our world. Crop farming as we do it now has done more damage to our world than any other single thing we've done.

If serious, widespread discussion of sustainable food production springs up in our society, do you think that would lead more people to at least try to connect with the world in a more concrete fashion?
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Re: God of the Corn vs God of the Hunt

Post by WhiteHart on Tue Jun 29, 2010 12:45 pm

Industrial farming is very damaging to the land and waterways, be it crops or livestock. There are places that are now trying biodiverse, regional farming that pay as much attention to the land as to the animals.

I think a part of our problem is the huge disconnect that many urban people have with where their food comes from. We don't often see those cycles of nature and nurture anymore, and the idea of something dying for us to live isn't as ingrained. I'm glad you brought that point up, AutumnalTone. I don't have that book yet, but have read some very good reviews. It's making the rounds in many unrelated communities.
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Re: God of the Corn vs God of the Hunt

Post by AutumnalTone on Tue Jun 29, 2010 3:24 pm

allthegoodnamesweretaken wrote:

Of course Yahweh god is going to prefer the offering of a herder over that of a farmer. He's a war god. It doesn't mean that the offering is worthless, just that it was made to the wrong deity. Silly monotheists....

all

Heh!

My use of that was part of a train of thought--that tale comes from really early on in Israelite reckoning. If the conflict that early is between farmers and *herders*, then it comes long after *hunting* was a mainstay of the culture. So where does a conflict between farmers and *hunters* arise?

The proto-Israelite peoples were Canaanites and the best scholarship suggests included perhaps ten deities in their pantheon. There's no evidence of a conflict between a deity of agriculture and a deity of hunting within that group, and though there's precious little we know about those deities even in later ages, the major themes of their tales don't extend into that sort of conflict.

I suspect much the same can be said of the mythologies found in other cultures--that by the time a people got around to farming, hunting wasn't a major part of their existence. Hunting-gathering gave way to herding (& gathering) in most places, I believe, making conlfict between hunters and farmers unlikely except in places where a hunter-gatherer people clashed with a herding-farming people. I doubt that would play out in the mythology of either of those groups as a yearly cycle with each side of the conflict having supremacy half the time.

Thus my question as to which deities are represented by the two kings. Or is it simply a metaphorical construct created for Wicca? I'm curious to see what has a historical basis and what is modern construct. I've not encountered any detailed explanations of that sort of thing and I'm curious.
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Re: God of the Corn vs God of the Hunt

Post by WhiteHart on Tue Jun 29, 2010 4:14 pm

AutumnalTone wrote:
The proto-Israelite peoples were Canaanites and the best scholarship suggests included perhaps ten deities in their pantheon. There's no evidence of a conflict between a deity of agriculture and a deity of hunting within that group, and though there's precious little we know about those deities even in later ages, the major themes of their tales don't extend into that sort of conflict.

The earliest peoples of Canaan were a mixture of a multiple of peoples. You had those coming in from the sea "sea peoples", nomads from Arabia and Africa, also Indo-European groups who came down around the Caspian Sea. The Hittites and other peoples in ancient Turkey, for example, were a mix of locals and Indo-Europeans. There is no 'one' single group of people in that area. It was a major crossroads at all times in its history.

Insofar as I know, the proto-Israelites didn't have grain vs hunt deities. My opinion on the Cain and Abel story is that it comes from their earliest history as nomadic herders encountering the Sumerian and Egyptian agriculturalists, I think.


AutumnalTone wrote:
Thus my question as to which deities are represented by the two kings. Or is it simply a metaphorical construct created for Wicca? I'm curious to see what has a historical basis and what is modern construct. I've not encountered any detailed explanations of that sort of thing and I'm curious.

My original post was in relation to British Traditional Wicca and its offshoots, though I have been finding the answers from other pagan religions and traditions very interesting!
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Re: God of the Corn vs God of the Hunt

Post by AutumnalTone on Tue Jun 29, 2010 6:42 pm

WhiteHart wrote:
The earliest peoples of Canaan were a mixture of a multiple of peoples.

While there lots of different peoples in the region, they weren't all
Canaanites. The Canaanites had a discernible culture. The earliest known Israelite ruins show them to be indiscernible from the other Canaanite ruins of the time and only later ruins show differentiation. The Israelites and Phoenicians each descended from the earlier Canaanite culture.
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Re: God of the Corn vs God of the Hunt

Post by Davelaw on Wed Jun 30, 2010 8:01 am

the Israelite discernable culture includes the four room house, abscence of pig bones and pottery that has no dipiction of physical objects
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Re: God of the Corn vs God of the Hunt

Post by WhiteHart on Wed Jun 30, 2010 9:06 am

AutumnalTone wrote:
WhiteHart wrote:
The earliest peoples of Canaan were a mixture of a multiple of peoples.

While there lots of different peoples in the region, they weren't all
Canaanites. The Canaanites had a discernible culture. The earliest known Israelite ruins show them to be indiscernible from the other Canaanite ruins of the time and only later ruins show differentiation. The Israelites and Phoenicians each descended from the earlier Canaanite culture.

Of course they weren't all Canaanites, but the Canaanites themselves grew from disparate sources. For much of their early history, however, the Canaanites were nomadic, settling into small groups when climate permitted, then picking up again, moving back into a nomadic existence when the times were not good for planting.

Davelaw wrote:the Israelite discernable culture includes the four room house, abscence of pig bones and pottery that has no dipiction of physical objects

Yes. But this wasn't until later in the history of the area.

Getting back to the topic, within Traditional Wicca, the hunter vs farmer theme (Oak King/Lord of Light/Lord of Life vs the Holly King/Lord of Darkness/Lord of Death) is a seasonal one with, at the very least, three discernable meanings. It is represented as a battle between light and dark, winter vs summer, and hunting vs planting (or one could say blood and seed). It is a mythos that elaborates the ebb and flow of the seasonal cycles clothed in dramatic trappings.

What I had found, though, was that many people emphathized the one over the other, hence the question... where was the darkness, the hunt, the blood... ? In my underlying understanding, the hunt is as necessary as the farm, the darkness is as necessary as the light. Death is as necessary as life.
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Re: God of the Corn vs God of the Hunt

Post by John T Mainer on Wed Jun 30, 2010 11:17 am

The year is a cycle, half rising half falling. We are all initiates both of birth and eventually of death. Our ancestors accepted this without fear, and celebrated both in the light and the dark, in summer and in winter, acknowledging the cost of the gifts they were given.

We have become afraid of blood. We have become afraid of death. Our culture lies to children and then wonders at their inability to deal with death or hardship when it crashes through the blinds we set about them. The world isn't any harder now than it was, for us it is actually easier. We have accepted the Christian teaching that light is good and dark is bad, that peace is always right, that plenty comes without cost. Honestly, I think Disney has a lot to answer for as well; at no time has our people had less understanding on a visceral level of the cost of life, and the way that all life interacts.

Light and dark both are in us. Death feeds every living thing on this planet. There is nothing to fear in the dark, save what you brought with you. In the balance you will find strength, harmony, and a greater awareness of how to move with the world rather than against it.

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Re: God of the Corn vs God of the Hunt

Post by WhiteHart on Wed Jun 30, 2010 11:59 am

Thank you John. That was beautifully put.
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Re: God of the Corn vs God of the Hunt

Post by AutumnalTone on Wed Jun 30, 2010 1:20 pm

WhiteHart wrote:
Getting back to the topic, within Traditional Wicca, the hunter vs farmer theme (Oak King/Lord of Light/Lord of Life vs the Holly King/Lord of Darkness/Lord of Death) is a seasonal one with, at the very least, three discernable meanings. It is represented as a battle between light and dark, winter vs summer, and hunting vs planting (or one could say blood and seed). It is a mythos that elaborates the ebb and flow of the seasonal cycles clothed in dramatic trappings.

What I had found, though, was that many people emphathized the one over the other, hence the question... where was the darkness, the hunt, the blood... ? In my underlying understanding, the hunt is as necessary as the farm, the darkness is as necessary as the light. Death is as necessary as life.

I'm with you as far as the blood and the hunt and the dark being necessary and useful parts of the experience.

I just wonder whether that depiction of the yearly cycle is taken straight from a specific body of myth or constructed on principles appearing in myth. Are the Corn King and Hunt King actually "Ralph and Sam from the Jahoozit tales " or modern constructs built on the understanding of seasonal cycles? I would guess the latter, though I ask because I'm not conversant enough with all the various mythologies to know for certain.

If the former, I'm going to track down the tales as it sounds like they'd be interesting. If the latter, I'd love to be pointed to discussion as to how it came about.
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