In the first of our series of articles to focus on deities within Paganism, I examine the thunderer. It is my intention to set a mood in which we can journey through time as we meet, engage with and learn about this powerful divine being which sits at the head of many ancient pantheons.
Now come with me as we step through the veil of time and go to meet the thunderer!
Taranis roars across the land, flashing lightning warns us of the booming voice that will follow. Taranis brings the promise of life-giving rain, soaking the summer dried soil and bringing joy to those whose wells have run low. Taranis comes and can now be heard in the chariot wheel as it thunders across the battlefield. We wear his sacred wheel around our necks! Imitate that voice in your own chest, throat and mouth, beat the drums with ferocity, beat spear on shield and raise a cacophony so that Taranis is present in this place!
Taranis has been summoned!
But what does this mean? Does a man stand there, somehow manifested by the noise? Of course not. Does a great being stare down at its children, roaring its name skyward? Perhaps.
Though is it not more likely that in our attempts to summon great Taranis, we are in fact tapping into something far older, more primal than requesting the attention of a god?
Perhaps we have an ancestral memory from a time we sat naked and cold, lashed by rain on a cliff edge, exposed to predators by bright flashes, the roaring sound bringing fear as we could not determine its source. More than once, the flashes created fires and we would have to run or die! Then mankind realised that this gift of fire would help keep away the bear, the wolf, the lion. It would cook the meat so that we suffered less from food poisoning. Where before was fear of the unknown, there was now a giver of gifts, a protector. The sound became a voice and would boom out across the land before a flood or hail so that we would know to seek shelter or high ground.
Taranis became our teacher, our guardian and a giver of great gifts of power. The voice would ever be a reminder of how we conquered our fears and rose to power.
As we learned not to fear this voice, we gave it a name, long since lost to time. As time passed and we learned more about the world in which we lived, we used the gift of fire to create new tools. With these tools we gained mastery over the elements, the beasts and the land. At some point the name evolved into Taranis, Thunor and Thor: “Thunderer”, in other lands it became Zeus, Jupiter, Rudra and Perun.
We moved from an Animistic past to a Pantheistic present and Taranis became as a father, no longer a separate and mysterious being, but a masculine being, consort to the earth which provided our food, from where our bodies were made and to where we would return in the earth womb-tomb.
As we grew in number, food and land became more difficult to share and conflict arose. No longer were we fighting the beasts of the wild; we had tamed them, or wore their skin, now we were fighting our fellow man and we needed to be strong.
So we marched to the battlefield and called to the father to protect us once more. Imitate that voice in your own chest, throat and mouth, beat the drums with ferocity, beat spear on shield and raise a cacophony so that Taranis is present in this place!
Hail Taranis! Hail the thunderer!
But the Thunderer’s story does not begin at the time of primeval man, sat cold and scared on a mountainside. Nor does it begin when the atmosphere of the planet created storms. Thunderer goes back to the beginning, right back to the beginning of time.
A Christian will tell you that in the beginning was the word, and the word was God, and they would not be incorrect. A Hindu will tell you that at the beginning was the universal sound, Aum, and it would be true. A Scientist would explain that the universe began with the big bang, an explosion of energy which persists to this day as the very radio waves we take for granted. Thunderer has always been there. In the sound of stars exploding, throwing new elements, including carbon, across the vastness of space to settle on planets and in new stars. Thunderer’s voice is heard in the smashing of comets into planets to bring water. Thunderer is always there and will persist until the very end.