I hope you’ll bear with me a short while folks, because I’m rambling a bit to put pieces together.
When I was young, I was educated in a few fundamental myths. These are the same ones my parents were taught and the same ones being taught to my kids (in elementary, middle and high school).
They were presented kind of like this:
The Biblical myths (framed as a modern religion, which you may or may not believe in): A singular deity created all things, humans chose to disobey the deity and the consequences were grave. From the brutal murder of a son through a history of slavery, abomination, and genocide, it was only stopped when the deity finally sent his first-born son to sort it all out.
The Scientific myths (framed as complete and totally real and trustworthy and true): specifically, the idea that the humans who evolved in one environment (Africa) were the same as the humans in other areas on the planet at all other times. Science did however manage one major division. There was history–which was defined as the beginning of our civilization-- and there was pre-history which is not really worth studying except as a cool intellectual exercise.
The Beginning of History myths: I learned about the Sumerian myths before Dungeons and Dragons slapped it into their Deities & Demigods books. They were presented as the earliest civilized myth, therefore the most important (the prehistoric myths being made by the functional equivalent of children in the eyes of my educators).
I want to tear apart a couple of these quick. The Bible myths (as presented–not a lot of subtlety in general education) were pretty straight up hierarchy reinforcement. Dad treated humans well before you screwed up. No, he doesn’t have to explain himself as to the nature of your mistake. OMG, you people are seriously a bunch of screw-ups. Thankfully, Number One Son is there to save the day, because obviously the rest of you can’t. And Number One Son is going to train a set of 12 guys to empower 1 guy to teach a whole bureaucracy of guys to keep you in line because have I mentioned lately you are a bunch of seriously stupid children? Thank god we still have church or you’d be up to your necks in defiled corpses.
Science myths: Oh boy. Where to start. Basically, science was a recapitulation of the Bible Myths in new clothing. Except this time it was progress-evolution-complexity as deity, Africa as Eden and intelligence as Jesus. And OMG, weren’t you people a bunch of serious screw-ups until civilization arrived? Thank ingenuity for Sumeria or we’d all be screwed! This boils down to: children, study hard and work to fit in with civilization, no matter how much it hurts, because it’s better than ALL the alternatives and we’ll find a way to fix all-the-things once people learn to listen to the whole bureaucracy of guys that keep you in line because have I mentioned lately you are a bunch of seriously stupid children? Thank progress we have a democratic government or you’d be up to your necks in defiled corpses.
Meanwhile, the ex-scientist who is me and ex-religious scholar who is me is bumbling around in the shadows looking to get a better look at the world. From deep ecology to modern western occultism, oooo! Look at the things no one talks about!
At some point while I’m kicking over rocks, a Montana metis mentor points out the term wendigo to describe the spiritual sickness that infects the white invaders (and, by default, the civilization from which it gleefully sprung). I’m going to assume here that at least one person who reads this article hasn’t heard of the Wendigo (alternate name: wetiko). It’s an Algonquin tale of a spiritual force that infects folks who have, for whatever reason, consumed human flesh. This spiritual force creates in them an eternal hunger which, if fed, only causes them to grow in power and stature (in some of the myths – not all) but does not sate them. As far as I’m been able to determine, only the more powerful medicine workers could go up against a wendigo and survive and the cure for a wendigo infection is to kill it.
Well I can see the parallels between the Wendigo and civilization. Sure. Would hate to have to kill everybody touched by it (ew) including myself . So is there another path to deal with it? Well, I had to first find out where the damn origin point is, right? Patient zero, so to speak. Science and religion were false paths that dealt with reinforcing the current reality, not addressing the past. What’s the origin?
Oh. There’s those Sumerian myths. Important enough for people to preserve despite religious upheavals and purges and burning, etc. etc. Important enough to be taught in these broad strokes to school children. The myth (generalized) goes like this:
Tiamat and Apsu (her lover / husband / whatever) created all the gods but they were pests so Apsu killed a bunch of them. Tiamat tried to intervene on their behalf and it worked for a while but she ultimately failed. Along comes Anu or Marduk (yes, schools mix up Sumerian and Babylonian myths), a younger god, who tells the council of elders he’ll take care of the situation if they put him eternally in charge. They agree (assuming he will fail) and he kills Apsu. They put him in charge reluctantly but soon a new threat emerges when Tiamat (rightfully pissed at the death of her husband) throws a serious tantrum, endangering everyone. Anu says he’ll fix it again, but wants even more power. They agree again (fearfully this time). He kills Tiamat and puts all the elders to work. The elders do this for a time then basically decide it’s bullshit and break their tools. Anu compromises and makes a new race out of nearby white clay to do all the backbreaking work. He calls these new things “the Fingers of Anu.” We call them humans.
End of story.
It helps to know that Tiamat is a name for the ocean, Apsu for fresh water (likely the Tigris and/or Euphrates). Anu means Wheat. And starving people eat white clay leading them often in mythology to be called People of the White Clay or beings of white clay.
This leads me to see this story, scientifically, as a geo-engineering story, where a crazy outcast from a successful culture (overpopulation = plenty of food) came in during a time of disaster to propose the unthinkable in exchange for power. It worked, at the expense of having to work your ass off to keep it going. That situation was solved by enslaving a nearby tribe living on a marginal existence (likely caused by the geo-engineering but I’ve got no proof for that).
What does this have to do with Wendigo?
Anu fits into a very specific kind of medicine, the one people tend to brand as a ‘witch’. It’s medicine work done without regard to what the hell the impact is on the rest of the world. That obnoxious little fucker did it a couple of times and he certainly knew there would be a serious impact in god-killing but he did it anyways.
Ahem. Sorry. Talking about Anu always makes me angry.
Since the Tigris, Euphrates, and ocean still exist, what did he do? Well, we know a large chunk of the spell from his name; it means wheat. He ate them. You scrape away their flesh and when the plants that exist as band-aids pop up, you eat them. You denude the land; where you can’t eat the energy, you fucking flatten it. Channel it into lifeless canyons and man-made wastelands. Lock it down. And you can’t stop. You can’t ever stop. Because if you stop consuming these gods they will return to life like gods sometimes do and their anger will be beyond measure.
That’s what he infected us with. Throwing the deep anger of dead gods and forcing us to consume, consume, consume in order to prevent a disaster set up 10,000 years ago. No wonder Lovecraft got so popular in the 20th century. Deep Ocean is coming for you guys and you are going to regret it.
As Anu searched for a narrative to save his people from Tiamat and Apsu, I’m looking for a way to spell ourselves out of it. I know some practical things: stop eating the gods, break down the channels, bring life to the wastelands (especially if it doesn’t benefit you), and restore cycles in all the ways both small and large. But that’s just a drop, I think.
Once upon a time (well, recently actually), I had a dream that a group of oak-men (not all men, by the way and the term is a translation off a Celtic word dru) were working on a solution to this curse. It involved them connecting to the positive intent of civilization’s foundations (protect the children, building a better future) and using that to rend it from the inside, but the spell also came at a cost: it separated the oak-men from their ancestor’s favor, since to cast the spell would also cast aside the legitimate anger at what civilization had done to the uncivilized. At this point (in the dream), the spell had not been set off but its boundaries could be felt out there for those who’d heard about it.
So what is the point of this post? It is, I suppose, what you want to make of it. A connection with spiritual energies disjointed in time, a look into the impact of killing gods, an attempt to utilize storytelling to understate and reverse a harmful, pervasive memetic structure. A cry for help among experienced folk to find a spell that could change the world.
I’m looking to people to help brainstorm this. To see if it’s viable.
What do you think?
<edited to change “wetika” to “wetiko”. Oops>