A month or so ago I was scrolling down my Facebook newsfeed, as you do when you’re bored. A Hellenic friend had created a Facebook event which was basically divination with Hermes, I came across a thread he had made in that event which happened to be a link to my own blog post on animal sacrifice in Hellenism. It’s one of his favourites by me, so his sharing of it wasn’t unusual in the least. In the comments of that thread they were talking about how animal sacrifice shouldn’t include torture or any kind of harm to the animal, beyond its actual death.
I scrolled on, after all I needn’t have clicked the link itself, knowing the post quite well. Immediately below that post was another friend, who is Pagan, posting about how upset she was that people were sharing a video that showed a mouse being tortured. So, a thread about animals being tortured. Glad I didn’t have to watch that video – despite my genocidal war against the mousies, I have no desire to see them tortured – I scrolled on.
Immediately below that post was another friend, not Pagan at all. She had shared one of those “On this day so many years ago” photo memory posts. It was a photo of a roasted chicken. I say roasted, but actually it was decimated in the depths of hell by the looks of it. Black as blackest night. Another friend commented how it was “A burnt offering”.
Three posts, by themselves not so unusual at all, coming across any of those posts would have seemed completely normal on any other day. But bunched all together like that, it was noteworthy to say the least.
I said it to myself, “I wonder if that’s a sign.” Then I laughed to myself and muttered, “Or maybe it’s just an oddly specific Facebook algorithm.”
I mean, it is noteworthy, but it’s also on Facebook, so it’s not something to take seriously, is it? Then again. The night before all of this, I had a dream that was very unusual for me. A dream about animal torture and death. Kittens to be specific, buckets full of dead kittens, blood all over the place, pools and puddles and streams of kitten blood. But I found one kitten, partially buried by its littermates in a bucket, still alive, crying and mewling.
To be clear, I was not the kitten killer in the dream, I was quite horrified by it even in dream land. And I don’t recall ever having such a violent sort of dream before, unless you count all the weird fire dreams – but that had nothing to do with animals.
So was it a sign? A coincidence? What?
That’s the question isn’t it? And that’s always the question. I have to be honest, I think some people take the whole “signs” thing just a bit too far. No, not everything is a bloody sign. And of course that weird series of posts on Facebook that happen to meld with the dream you had the night before really are a coincidence and an oddly specific Facebook algorithm.
And that is something that has always confused me when it comes to religion and non/anti-religion. On the one hand it must of course be a sign, no doubts about it – it is not a coincidence, it is not an algorithm. On the other hand it is definitely not a sign, there are no signs, it is only a coincidence and an algorithm.
As in so many things I sit in the middle and I think, why can’t it be both?
The Gods are powerful, as are many other entities and beings. They have the power to begin a series of events that culminate in a coincidence that is also a deliberate sign. They have the power to bump that algorithm and make it do what They want to give us that sign. They have the power to make the wind blow a certain way so that all those birds act in that natural but slightly unusual way that grabs our attention and makes us go, “It’s a sign!”
It’s not just these unsure signs either, but the more awesome obvious things. Consider John Becketts green glowing bird. A rather noticeable thing, and he admits to reaching to find an explanation for what he was seeing, some mundane reason for it. Because that is what we do – even when we believe deeply in the “supernatural”, we still reach for mundane reasons.
And that’s okay, I think. Because even if we do find a mundane reason, that doesn’t take away the possibility of there also being a “supernatural” reason. Let’s take that green glowing bird, what could cause that. I don’t know, I am no scientist – but let’s pretend it’s some kind of reaction from some chemical exposure and it made the bird glow. We might even be able to track the exposure, when and where the bird was exposed, we can track how the chemical got where it was when the bird found it. We can track it all, right to the beginning, we can even find where the scientist who spilled the chemical was conceived.
So what? Does that really mean anything? Does it mean a God or other couldn’t have still had a hand in all of it. To push the bird to glance down and see the food that was in the chemical that made the bird glow? Maybe a God was the one who made the scientist blink at just the right time to trip a little and so spill the chemical.
Maybe it was just a nudge. Because that’s all They needed to do to bring about the events that happened. Just a nudge. That’s all it takes.
So back to the beginning. Was it a sign? Or just an oddly specific Facebook algorithm?
The answer is – we’re asking the wrong question.