I was watching a video on Vodoun yesterday, and something the narrator said interested me. According to the powers that interpreted and produced this video, at any rate, the Lwa in Haiti depend upon sacrifices to sustain them, and without regular sacrifices they will loose their power.
I have encountered many Hellenistic pagans that take a similar attitude. They maintain that the old Greek (or, I suppose, the Roman ones) have lost their power because they had not been worshiped openly in so long. By this mindset, the more people who worship a god, the more powerful that god becomes, and the better able it is to affect the reality of its adherents.
I suppose that makes sense. Hold on, though, I’m going somewhere with this.
In traditional Chinese religion, ancestors are given offerings by their descendants. There are many ways and reasons given for this, but what it amounts to is that you sustain your ancestors by offering them food or money. If a person has no descendants, he cannot be sustained after death, and becomes a wandering ghosts. These ghosts are often left offerings during certain ritual celebrations so they won’t become a problem. And what if they do become a problem? Why, they are left more offerings, and are eventually worshiped openly, the rational being that if such a being is given offerings and kept happy, it won’t cause any problems, and may even help people out. If such a spirit’s worship spreads, it can rise in “rank,” sometimes elevating to a regional or even national god. Apparently the Chinese pantheons are full of such deities.
Another case I am vaguely familiar with involves a chap who made a sigil top alter the passage of time. He passed the sigil out to friends and it became activated as a servitor. After time and use it developed it own sense of what it wanted to be, and was apparently last seen aspiring to godhood and declaring war on Chronos.
So we are left with many systems of belief that are agreeable to the notion that any person or spirit may atain deity status if fed enough energy over long enough time. There exists an anthropological theory which states that this is just how pantheons were constructed: great heroes were honored, worshiped, and deified, and this has been seen explicitly in ancient Rome. Conversely, it stands to reason that a deity may “loose” its position if denied such energy for a long enough time.
So here’s what I’m wondering. Do gods reincarnate?
Holding that human spirits reincarnate into new bodies as a norm, how does that impact the above mentioned theory? If a human spirit can become a god via power accumulated through worship, would a god that looses its power base eventually be recycled and reincarnate? If that god’s cult is reconstructed thousands of years later, is it that same god being worshiped, or have the cultists manufactured a new entity based on their expectations? If so, would that entity be capable of incarnating as a human if its worship base fell, or would it simply fall apart?
What would the shelf-life of an unworshiped god be? 2000 years? 5000? And what does that imply about reincarnation itself? Is it plausible that the more charisma a person has (and hence, the more recognition he has during life), the longer his spirit can sustain itself without reincarnating? Is physical incarnation the lowest energy state of a spiritual entity? If you follow a Chaoist understanding of what a “spirit” is, this may make sense, as periodic incarnation may be necessary to sustain the energy pattern of a “spirit” — would substantial worship make this unnecessary?
I don’t generally like to wax philosophical, but this line of thought interests me. I’d love to hear any thoughts and ideas.