by Ilil Arbel, Ph.D.
Good hunting and fishing determined the survival of the Stone Age tribe. A little later, the number of domestic animals and the success of crops meant life or death. The tribe also needed many children. They had to replace those who died in infancy and early childhood, and few people lived beyond their thirties.
A division of labor existed from the earliest societies. Men hunted and fished. Women gathered food and cared for the children. Men had a male god, who controlled the hunt. The god wore horns or antlers, representing his power over the prey. Women worshiped a great mother goddess. She insured fertility and controlled the magical and medicinal powers of plants. Later, when agriculture was developed, both god and goddess protected the domestic animals and the crops. A priestess and a priest worked together as the representatives of the gods. They had ceremonies to influence the gods to help the people.
Slowly, the ideas of an afterlife and reincarnation began to emerge. The horned male god took on the additional feature of the god of death. The female goddess added the moon and its cycles to her domain. They were united in a sacred marriage, and shared fertility rites.
Their myth, still alive today, is simple. The goddess represents life. The god represents death. Life and death are a continuous cycle. The cycle contains three great truths – loving, dying, and reincarnating to live again. Magic controls all of them. To fulfil love, one must be born, unite with the loved one, die, and reincarnate. The cycle may repeat as many times as necessary.
During the Stone Age the people believed that reincarnation occurred in groups. You found yourself, life after life, with the same people. Witches no longer believe in group reincarnation, but it is easy to understand why the Stone Age people did. They lived in closely knit tribes and were afraid to be reincarnated among “strangers.” Reincarnation itself, however, is still an important part of the Old Religion.
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