Admittedly, what follows here may be a bit random-seeming; but, here we are nonetheless…!?!
I was watching an episode of Moyers & Company earlier tonight, which I DVR’d a few weeks ago and only now have had a few moments to view. The topic that Bill Moyers and his panelists addressed was the existence of a plutocracy in the U.S. While the episode aired before the election, nonetheless the plutocracy is still around and will be relevant for the foreseeable future in the U.S. and throughout the world. The simple reality is that something like the top 10 earners in the U.S. brought in more income in a year than the bottom 97%. 22% of people in New York City earn less than $9,000 a year, while a very small percentage earn over $2.2 million a year. This inequality gap is huge, to say the least, and the history of the United States has actually been characterized by those types of numbers from colonial times onwards, although the actual take-home pay of the top bracket has been much higher in recent decades than it ever has been previously.
And, because this is the type of person that I am, I was struck by something as this was being discussed. In many Indo-European societies, there is a division amongst the gods in terms of the “tripartition” that Georges Dumezil and his heirs have discussed (whether you like their overall theories or not) between the first two functions–i.e. the First Function/Sovereignty and the Second Function/Warrior castes–and the Third Function (i.e. the Cultivators/Workers), and this is often reflected in particular Indo-European cultures’ pantheons, including in “wars of the gods” narratives in mythology. Generally speaking, the Third Function groups don’t come off very well in these fights: the Olympian Gods become dominant over the Titans, the Giants, and various other “monstrous” races; the Aesir are successful over the Vanir, but also the Giants and others; the Devas of Indian myth win out over the Asuras; and in Irish myth, the Tuatha De are successful over the Fomoiri (and the Fir Bolg). Not only this, but in some cases, the Third Function groups are often characterized thereafter as “evil” and “fallen” and “sinful” in various other ways, and this characterization carries over in our viewpoints within modern polytheism. The recent difficulties in some Heathen groups over recognizing Loki as a valid deity with whom to have relationships is one such example of this, and it isn’t likewise the case in other forms of polytheism (e.g. Set, while sometimes feared and always respected, is not as demonized in modern Egyptian polytheism in the same way that Loki is).
When we look at the Irish situation, we see that the heroes are deities like the Dagda, and Ogma, and Lug, whereas the “bad guys” are deities like Bres–and, some wouldn’t even reckon him a deity, given his alignment with the Fomoiri. However, he’s actually half Tuatha De–and he shares this mixed parentage with Lug, who is also half Fomoiri through his mother. Bres has the secrets of reaping and sowing, which are extorted from him at the end of Cath Maige Tuired in return for his life after his people’s defeat by the Tuatha De under Lug’s leadership.
But, there is something very important to remember in all of this: the First and Second Functions could not exist without the Third Function, and in fact the surplus food, and as a result all other economic benefits possible, are the result of the Third Function class’ production. The First and Second Function figures, thus, are the “one-percent,” in many respects, the gods of the elites and the rich, and have been held up quite often as the only gods worth worshipping. Now, don’t get me wrong: I love many of those gods a great deal. But, as someone who is most certainly toward the lower sections of income earners in the actual society that I live and exist in today, my sympathies are not with the people who gripe about paying higher than 15% in taxes who make several million dollars a year. (In fact, I’m envious at the moment of those who make $20,000 a year!)
I wonder, thus, what sort of societal dysfunction this might inadvertently bring about when so many modern polytheists–who, on the whole, aren’t in the upper income brackets–are worshipping the gods of the 1% of the various premodern cultures, and are ignoring the gods of the 99% of those cultures. As much as we’d like to imagine that we can worship any god, and that any god is eager for our worship these days (which, on the whole, I think they are), at the same time, I have to wonder if there are more “social-class appropriate” deities that we should pay heed to as well, and that we should attempt to rehabilitate.
Something that a lot of people seem to forget about the Fomoiri as well is that, unlike every other race that was said to have come to Ireland (and invaded it, really), the Fomoiri never have a story of arrival. They’re always there when the other races arrive (except in the earliest Irish poetry from the Leinster dynasts, where the Fomoiri and the “people of the sid” are said to be the same). In other words, the Fomoiri are the indigenous race of Ireland. As much as many modern pagans and polytheists want to claim indigeny for their practices, or to have some solidarity with indigenous peoples and to claim a congruence in their mindsets, it is noteworthy that the indigenous race of Ireland is demonized and downplayed while a group of colonizing invaders is hailed as the one-and-only divine race of the Irish. (Unless you’re from Tory Island, of course!) If mixed parentage is not a detriment to Lug, then shouldn’t reverence for Fomoiri and for Tuatha De alike not be a detriment to modern Irish polytheists?
These are just some thoughts that I think bear further consideration. There has never been a religious notion that has been entirely separate from the socioeconomic and political contexts of its own culture, and the same is true today; and that being the case, it is good for us to be aware of these realities in the premodern worlds from which these traditions emerge, and what they might reflect in terms of our own present cultural, socioeconomic, and political situation.