Day 2 of the 30 Days of Paganism meme. I’m currently waiting for the Dead Supper to finish cooking, as it’s the eve of All Soul’s and the start to both Winter holidays and ancestor veneration. It’s not much, just a pot pie and some fruit, but it’s something decent that we can share.
Hmm, cosmology, where to begin. Well, for starters, there is the folkloric view that I’m sure many of you are familiar with. Three levels, Upper, Middle, and Lower, forming a tier that can be illustrated as a tree or a mountain. We and much of visible earth exist in the Middle realm. The Upper realm is accessed via climbing up the World tree or World mountain, and the Lower realm is accessed via going down a cave, well, or similar holes in the ground.
It’s all well and good for art and stories, but I have a problem with leaving it at that. At the very least, there’s got to be numerous intertwining “trees” and “mountains” connecting many aspects of the three realms. Falling into a hole under an ancient tree isn’t going to lead one to THE underworld, it’ll be A world. Which brings me to one of my main assumptions: the otherworlds aren’t so “other” in that they might as well be totally different planets. I believe that there are layers of reality, the different worlds so to speak, that are all here (just go watch a Miyazaki movie, something like Totoro, you’ll get what I mean).
Of course, these are not the beliefs of someone who has done anything to travel to different realms, physically or otherwise. It’s simply the views that have made the most sense to me so far.
The second main assumption comes from my ecology background: the web. Ok, ok, and it also comes from my arachnology background, but particularly ecology. You remember those food chains or food webs? It really is like that, and EVERYTHING, from the richest human to the seemingly insignificant bacterium, are connected to numerous other beings. When you trace out all the connections, it’s like a huge, dense web and nothing is left out of it. I view the concept of worlds and realms similarly. I can’t imagine that any world exists on its own.
The third, and final, assumption is also the most simple and applicable for my case. The home vs. the wild. My home is my “land”, the forest is their land, and things happen when that border is crossed. It’s the stuff of numerous horror stories and what-not-to-do folktales, but personally I don’t mind it much (this goes back to my tendency to go to liminal spaces I mentioned in my community post). Plus, I have to enter the forests and fields anyway for work, even if there’s danger.
So there you have it, my 3 types of worlds that describe my cosmology.
Edit: I went through this post so quickly that I forgot to mention my favorite “view” of the worlds. Evidence is scanty, but in Hungarian lore there are plenty of stories of a world tree that a taltos must climb to accomplish whatever he is doing (often a young boy, which makes me wonder if these tree-climbing theme was an initiation ritual or a time to realize his powers he was born with). There is one form of that world tree that is said to grow out of a horse or deer skull. Given that antlers do look like trees, and how widespread the deer cult was across Eurasia, it’s not a stretch to imagine a body or a skull having the worlds grow out of it. Look at Norse mythology, they took it much further and cut up a giant, using various body parts to make the worlds and people.
While not always practical or applicable, for reasons I explained earlier, I do imagine the worlds most frequently as the World trees growing out of a deer skull, antler-like, in a primordial ocean. The same primordial ocean reference in the creation story from Hungarian legends. This helps me both in art and in making a loose organization of the wihts, like the gods (only done for my own sake).