Deity and The Sacred

Deity Definition

  • A God or Goddess
  • Anything natural or supernatural that is considered divine or sacred
  • A person or thing revered as a God or Goddess

Sacred Definition

  • Entitled to veneration or religious respect
  • Pertaining to or connected with religion
  • Regarded with reverence

As the Old Ways are animistic (seeing the numinous life-force within everything - for a fuller description see 'World View') everything is seen as sacred and entitled to veneration. Everything is regarded with reverence; plants, animals, trees, rocks, the Earth Herself and all her places.

Where a particular facet (Mountain, River, Spring etc.) of the natural world displays a special or unique energy this energy may then be viewed as a God or Goddess. These facets have an inherent nature or essence that makes them distinctive - they have quiddity.

Within the Old Ways attributing Deity status isn't limited to just geographical features of the landscape. When the whole world is sacred, anything within that world that demands a particular attention; that causes a feeling of awe and wonder and thereby engenders an attitude of reverence toward it, is worthy of the status of having a Deity ascribed to it. This does not necessarily mean that the thing itself is an ACTUAL Deity, it means that that quality is regarded as BELONGING to it. So the mountain itself is not a God/Goddess but the quality of God/Goddess BELONGS to the mountain - there is a subtle difference.

A Thunderstorm as Deity

Natural Phenomena as Deity

Probably one of the best examples to illustrate is that of the thunderstorm. Not just the odd rumble but a full-blown raging, tumultuous, cacophony. The energy behind this force of nature is immense; it can easily kill and it certainly demands our respect and reverence. It is unsurprising then that all indigenous cultures have a Deity associated with thunder.

Abstracts as Deity

Deity is not confined just to things that are tangible. There are abstracts that whilst having no physical or concrete existence are still forces and phenomena that are to be reckoned with. War, Peace, Love, Sovereignty, et.al., these all have qualities belonging to them that engender an attitude of reverence toward them. This then brings us back to our oldest Deity; Elen of the Ways, Lady Sovereignty, concerned with the balance of the land and the guardianship of the ancient trackways. Elen is the spirit of the deer that our ancient ancestors followed; the deer herds that led them to safe pastures and food, summer and winter - read more in The Old Ways and Brythonic Deities.
Elen is a female antlered Deity; it is only Reindeer where the females have antlers. So Elen dates back to when the Reindeer were the indigenous deer of our lands; before the weather warmed and they migrated away to be replaced by the Red deer. She still exists today and the quality that her energy teaches is how to live in harmony with the Earth; how to follow the ancient trackways.
Elen of the Ways - A female, antlered Deity
Elen of the Ways (Wildwood Tarot)

Personification of Deity

Personifying, attributing a personal nature and human characteristics to Deities makes it far easier for us to understand and relate to them. Or is it 'Personification Incarnate'? as even energies have qualities & characteristics that give them personality.

Polytheism (Poly - many, theism - belief in Deity)

The Old Ways are Polytheistic, how can they not be? When everything is seen as sacred and many facets are seen as having special or unique energies that deem them worthy of reverence, there has to be many deities.

Some Deities appear to have been 'universal'; recognised over very large areas of what are now referred to as 'Celtic' lands. These spread, not only through the length and breadth of the British Isles but in addition onto the continent, into Gaul and Germanic regions. Others appear to have been far more localised, such as Brigantia who was the protective Goddess of the Brigantes tribe located in Yorkshire and northern Britain.

For a large listing of the Gods and Goddesses of mainland Britain see Brythonic Deities

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