Sunday 16 October 2011

What Does it Mean to Be Religious?

"Religion" comes from the Latin "religionem" meaning "respect for what is sacred, reverence for the gods."  Cicero claimed it came from relegare meaning "go through again, read again," from re- "again" + legere "read".  'However, popular etymology among the later ancients (and many modern writers) connects it with religare "to bind fast" (see rely), via notion of "place an obligation on," or "bond between humans and gods." Another possible origin is religiens "careful," opposite of negligens.' (

If it's "careful", it would mean to show respect to the being, to be careful around them.  If "to bind fast", this would include any tying of yourself to the being, whether it's by making a deal with them, as in all the stories of demons, djinn, faeries, and all manner of other beings, or leaving offerings to them, like milk for the faeries or coins at a crossroads, or a gift for a genii loci, or swearing allegiance to them.  I'm not sure about read again.  Maybe that's what Francis has been talking about today.  :-)

But for the actual Latin meaning, "respect for what is sacred, reverence for the gods," we have the question I asked a while back, what makes a being a god?
O.E. god "supreme being, deity; the Christian God; image of a god; godlike person," from P.Gmc. *guthan (cf. O.S., O.Fris., Du. god, O.H.G. got, Ger. Gott, O.N. guð, Goth. guþ), from PIE *ghut- "that which is invoked" (cf. O.C.S. zovo "to call," Skt. huta- "invoked," an epithet of Indra), from root *gheu(e)- "to call, invoke." But some trace it to PIE *ghu-to- "poured," from root *gheu- "to pour, pour a libation" (source of Gk. khein "to pour," also in the phrase khute gaia "poured earth," referring to a burial mound; see found (2)). "Given the Greek facts, the Germanic form may have referred in the first instance to the spirit immanent in a burial mound" [Watkins]. Cf. also Zeus. (

So our word god is whatever is invoked or called.  Hence my comment about connections to any spirit.  And you see the connection to the dead as well.  Of course, That's Germanic, whereas religionem is Latin, so:
Zeus - supreme god of the ancient Greeks, 1706, from Gk., from PIE *dewos- "god" (cf. L. deus "god," O. Pers. daiva- "demon, evil god," O.C.S. deivai, Skt. deva-), from base *dyeu- "to gleam, to shine;" also the root of words for "sky" and "day" (see diurnal). The god-sense is originally "shining," but "whether as originally sun-god or as lightener" is not now clear. (

diurnal - late 14c., from L.L. diurnalis "daily," from L. dies "day" + -urnus, an adj. suffix denoting time (cf. hibernus "wintery"). Dies "day" is from PIE base *dyeu- (cf. Skt. diva "by day," Welsh diw, Bret. deiz "day;" Arm. tiw; Lith. diena; O.C.S. dini, Pol. dzien, Rus. den), lit. "to shine" (cf. Gk. delos "clear;" L. deus, Skt. deva "god," lit. "shining one;" Avestan dava- "spirit, demon;" Lith. devas, O.N. tivar "gods;" O.E. Tig, gen. Tiwes, see Tuesday).  (

Which of course brings to mind Victor Anderson's talk of the 72 Bright Spirits, and of God Herself choosing two Bright Spirits as her consort, the Divine Twins.  And in the Magic Society of the White Flame, which is Arabic based and fairly Ishtar-centric, there is the Apkallu of which there is seven, who guide the universe.  The names given by Nineveh of the Society are the Sanskrit names for the main seven stars of the big dipper.  They are very stellar in nature.  They are relevant because in Shani's first book, she says, "Ante-deluvian cuneiform texts, discovered in the Middle Eastern regions once known as Sumer and Akkad (Mesopotamia) suggest an intriguing origin for mankind.  From translations presented from these clay tablets, many have posited the possibility of advanced proto-'Shamanic' beings named 'Apkallu' who may be considered synonymous with the 'Elohim' (plural and of both genders).  As great ethereal guardians, the 'Shining Ones' were bearers of deep knowledge and wisdom, who through their shared exalted status accelerated humanity's development beyond his natural evolutionary capacity.  Speculative sexual impregnation by these beings produced a hybrid race is very probably the most popular and enduring legend.  Certainly, this belief is recorded in the distinct myths of all peoples of the world, from China throughout Europe, it's sub-continents and into Britain.  Analysis of all extant creation myths conceal praxes fundamental to this premise; of superior beings in spirit or flesh becoming the benefactors of mankind, introducing animal husbandry, agriculture, smith-craft and the arts, both aesthetic and spiritual.  Commonly these beings are attributed with 'God-like' status."  She goes on to say they are given as numbering seven, with a leader making eight.  Note "Shining Ones", like Bright Spirits.  Also note that she's talking about the Watchers, and the number seven.  Like the seven Feri Guardians, who are also stellar, and also associated with the Watchers, as you can see in DRGN's article (  And the Watchers, of course, are essentually angels.

And we can look at other Germanic words.
Tuesday - O.E. Tiwesdæg, from Tiwes, gen. of Tiw "Tiu," from P.Gmc. *Tiwaz "god of the sky," differentiated specifically as Tiu, ancient Germanic god of war, from PIE base *dyeu- "to shine" (see diurnal). Cf. O.N. tysdagr, Swed. tisdag, O.H.G. ziestag. The day name (second element dæg, see day) is a translation of L. dies Martis (cf. It. martedi, Fr. Mardi) "Day of Mars," from the Roman god of war, who was identified with Germanic Tiw (though etymologically Tiw is related to Zeus), itself a loan-translation of Gk. Areos hemera. In cognate Ger. Dienstag and Du. Dinsdag, the first element would appear to be Gmc. ding, þing "public assembly," but it is now thought to be from Thinxus, one of the names of the war-god in Latin inscriptions.
Notice it comes from the same Proto Indio-European root as Zeus and deus.  And just a bit more.
The Sanskrit deva- derives from Indo-Iranian *dev- which in turn descends from the Proto-Indo-European (PIE) word, *deiwos, originally an adjective meaning "celestial" or "shining", which is a PIE (not synchronic Sanskrit) vrddhi derivative from the root *diw meaning "to shine", especially as the day-lit sky. The feminine form of PIE *deiwos is PIE *deiwih, which descends into Indic languages as devi, in that context meaning "female deity". 
Also deriving from PIE *deiwos, and thus cognates of deva, are Lithuanian Dievas (Latvian Dievs, Prussian Deiwas), Germanic Tiwaz (seen in English "Tuesday") and the related Old Norse Tivar (gods), and Latin deus "god" and divus "divine", from which the English words "divine", "deity", French "dieu", Portuguese "deus", Spanish "dios" and Italian "dio", also "Zeys/Ζεύς" - "Dias/Δίας", the Greek father of the gods, are derived. 
Related but distinct is the PIE proper name *Dyeus which while from the same root, may originally have referred to the daytime sky, and hence to "Father Sky", the chief God of the Indo-European pantheon, continued in Sanskrit Dyaus. The bode of the Devas is Dyuloka.

All the Romance languages (Spanish, Portuguese, French, Italian, Romanian, and the other I forget, and all the dialects of all of those) use words coming from the Latin word, not the German word ours comes from.  And you'll notice the Persian word that deus means demon or evil god.

So we've included all spirits, the dead (including the ghosts you mentioned, but also revenants and also the Mighty Dead which many trad witches talk interact with, and also the saints of Catholicism and the Lwa and similar beings of Voudou and similar traditions, and the ancestors revered by many in hoodoo and conjure, and across the world, from Japan to China to Europe to Native Americans), demons, angels, gods, faeries (which might be the dead or might be angels who didn't choose a side in the war in heaven or might be demons), djinn (who are like us, but made or smoke and fire instead of dust, and who are sometimes hard to distinguish from demons, angels, Watchers, etc), what have we left out?  What do you call or invoke?  What do give offerings or gifts to?  What do you show respect to or honour?  What are you careful around?
Wikipedia says:
Religion is a collection of cultural systems, belief systems, and worldviews that establishes symbols that relate humanity to spirituality and, sometimes, to moral values. (
Nothing about there having to be a being in a superior position or about appeasing anything.

Concerning religious experiences:
Religious experience (sometimes known as a spiritual experience, sacred experience, or mystical experience) is a subjective experience in which an individual reports contact with a transcendent reality, an encounter or union with the divine. 
A religious experience is most commonly known as an occurrence that is uncommon in the sense that it doesn’t fit in with the norm of everyday activities and life experiences, and its connection is with the individual’s perception of the divine. Studying religious experience objectively is a difficult task, as it is entirely a subjective phenomenon. However, commonalities and differences between religious experiences have enabled scholars to categorize them for academic study.  (
So, if you say you're not religious, yet have contact with spirits, are your experiences subjective or objective, i.e., can you prove that they exist, objectively, using repeatable scientific measurements?  Did you contact something beyond the objective physical world?  I guess you could argue they aren't divine, but "divine" comes from our words above, so you get back to my original argument that all these spirits are included. 

~Muninn's Kiss

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