All-Father is a term that dates back to our pre-Christian religion, but which continues to dominate our ‘folk’ view of God. Whilst God does not have physical form, the human tendency is to create such form as we try to imagine what God is actually like. Through this process, a view emerged of God as a ‘father figure’; strong, loving and sometimes strict, the creator and source of all things. This concept of God as a ‘sky father’ or ‘heavenly father’ is very old and came to be called ‘All-Father.’




Tony Linsell, in his ‘Anglo Saxon Mythology, Migration & Magic’ sums this up very well:




Allfather is very strong and full of might. He lives through all time and governs all things. He is the father of the heavens and the earth and all that is in them. When he made man, he gave him a soul that can live on and never die though the body will drop to dust or burn to ashes.




This ‘anthropomorphic’ depiction of God as an elderly man in the sky has found its way into Christianity. Most people think in terms of ‘God the Father’ and ascribe similar attributes to him as our ancestors did even where these conflict with the biblical narrative. He is our original image of the ‘Sky Father’. This is a good example of ‘cultural continuity’ and the development of indigenous folk Christianity which existed side by side with orthodox ‘Church’ Christianity.




This perception of God has its roots in the original Aryan religion and has proven to be extremely resistant to change. Scholars have reconstructed elements of the belief system of this ancient religion from linguistics. It has clear similarities with our own pre-Christian traditions of Northern Europe. For instance, it was characterised by pairs of gods and goddesses and by divine twins. The term for a god in this early Aryan religion was ‘Deiwos’, cognate with modern terms such as Deva (Sanskrit), Divs (Persian), Deus (Latin), Dieu (French), Dios (Spanish), Duw (Welsh), Dia (Irish), Dievas (Lithuanian) and Dievs (Latvian).




The principle deity in the pantheon of this early Aryan religion was called Dyeus Phater. He is cognate with Dyaus Pita (Sanskrit), Zeus (Greek), Tiw (Germanic), Tyr (Nordic), and Jupiter (Latin). It is likely that in the Norse and Germanic tradition, the original All-Father was equated with Tiw or Tyr. Later mythology has associated this title strongly with Odin (Woden). The Irish have a deity called the Dagda who is portrayed as a father-figure, chieftain and druid. And, of course, Yahweh the God of the Old Testament, is seen as ‘our father in heaven’ within the Judeao-Christian tradition. 




However, it is important to recognise that people tend to associate their main deity of the time with the one God we call All-Father, whereas in reality All-Father transcends all these tribal deities. Furthermore, All-Father as a term is not a perfect description of the wholeness of God, who is pure spirit and energy and does not have human gender attributes. This very masculine image of God as a father figure may not suit those inclined towards a so called ‘progressive’ or liberal world view. Indeed, there is a growing movement to emphasise God’s feminine attributes and even refer to God as ‘her’ and ‘All-Mother’.




There is nothing wrong with emphasising God’s feminine attributes, including those of mother. Indeed, it is a good thing as it reflects a fuller and more accurate view of God’s nature. Neither is it something new to those familiar with our pre-Christian religion. God’s created Guardians include female Guardians, with various feminine attributes as well as male ones. However, care does need to be taken not to use these reflections as part of modern ‘gender wars’ that seem to be taking place at the moment. There is a growing tendency to view God as ‘gender neutral’ and alter our liturgy to reflect this view. However, it is not true to say that God is gender neutral any more than it is to say that God is specifically male or female. In so far as we can ascribe human gender values to God, who is pure spirit and energy, it is more true to say that God is the dynamic unity of both male and female genders. God has both masculine and feminine characteristics which terms like Allfather usefully draw out. Describing God as gender neutral falls into the trap of that modern heresy that says there is no such thing as gender and which teaches ‘gender fluidity’.  





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