What symbolizes wind
History of religion"The wind blows where it wants"
"When the day of Pentecost came, suddenly there was a roar from heaven, a violent storm wind." From the Acts of the Apostles.
Wind, a movement of air triggered by pressure differences. Wind has been blowing on earth for billions of years. Humans have been using the wind for a few thousand years: with mills, with sails.
"Say: Where does the wind come from? You never see it yourself." From the Edda.
The wind blows through the history of religions for at least as long as it does in the Bible or the Edda, a collection of Nordic legends.
"His name is Hræsvelgr, who sits at the edge of the sky, a giant in the shape of an eagle; from his wings - they say - the wind comes over all people."
"And all will be filled with the Holy Wind."
Wind can serve people, but it can also rise to form a storm: tear down the house and sink the ship.
An ambivalent, indomitable force - which makes life possible for humans, as breath. Wind connects people with the environment and the universe. He is feared and worshiped, appeased and raised to god.
Wind, breath and spirit
"In the beginning God created heaven and earth. And the earth was chaos, madness and confusion, desolate and empty. Darkness over the depths. And over the chaos hovered: the spirit of God, the breath of God, the wind of God."
Wind, breath and spirit - three possible translations of the same Hebrew word: Ruach. Ruach appears nearly 400 times in the Hebrew Bible, so it is of great importance. Ruach can mean wind, breath or spirit, and also energy or life force. The Jewish religious philosopher Martin Buber translated Ruach as "Braus Gottes".
Storm and roaring waves at sea (dpa / Redkin / Sputnik)
Ruach doesn't always have to be something positive. As the wind can create and destroy, so can Ruach do good and bad.
"Yes, wind they sow, and storm they reap."
In the Bible, Ruach is also associated with lies, demons, or fornication.
"See, I want to raise a ruinous wind."
At the beginning of the Bible, the Hebrew Ruach hovers - the word is mostly female - the "shower of God" hovers over the still uninhabited earth. But what exactly is this Ruach of God?
Revive and destroy
"If you could say that, it wouldn't be the Ruach," says Michael von Brück, religious scholar. "The Ruach is also a principle that is connected with the breath. What people experience as what drives their life and what makes life possible in the first place - and at the same time is not entirely tangible. Just like the life of comes from somewhere and goes somewhere and is not quite tangible. "
According to Michael von Brück, the concept of the Ruach arises from human life experience. Wind, breath, spirit: they are connected to one another - even if this connection is not fully understandable.
"On the one hand, the wind is what invigorates everything. But it can also destroy it when it is very strong. It is what renews, what sweeps away something. Sweeps away dust and so on. We are still experiencing that today."
The religious scholar Michael von Brück (imago stock & people / epd)
"The little man, like the grass are his days, like the flower of the field, so it blooms: when the wind blows over it, it is gone, and it no longer knows its place." From Psalm 103.
"At the same time, it is what keeps us alive, even when we sleep. Even if we are perhaps in a comatose state: the breath goes. And I cannot say that I breathe, but the breath moves me and with it my life . And of course this experience was immediately connected with the divine, with the transcendent. "
"Mr. Wind", the first wind god
When transcendence and breath meet, then arise: wind spirits, weather gods, storm goddesses. All around the globe, deities have been responsible for breath and spirit, weather and wind since time immemorial.
It all began around 5,000 years ago in the ancient Orient - that's what we know today. The Sumerians worship Enlil, the oldest wind god still known today. Enlil is the supreme Sumerian god. His name means: "Mr. Wind".
Enlil probably has older predecessors, but it was the Sumerians who invented the cuneiform script, so that Enlil's story is passed on. The Gilgamesh epic tells how "Mr. Wind" tries to wipe out humanity with a storm surge:
"For a whole day the storm rolled down the country. It raged furiously. Then the east wind unleashed the deluge. The force of the flood broke down on the people like a slaughter."
Enlil's devastating storm surge was probably the template for the biblical deluge. And Enlil also became the model for many other wind gods and goddesses.
Fujin, Vayu, Huracan
The ancient Greeks, for example, differentiated their wind gods according to cardinal points and seasons, like Boreas: the god of the winter north wind.
The wind was often a top priority, also in Northern Europe: Odin, the father of the gods, ruled over storms. In Scandinavia, nocturnal winter storms are sometimes called "Odin's wild hunt" to this day.
Many a sailor still calls a storm "the bride of the wind" today. This is how holiday homes are now also baptized on the North Sea and the Baltic Sea. The bride of the wind used to be a Nordic weather spirit.
On the other side of the earth the wind god is called Fujin - in Japanese Shinto. Fujin carries a sack around his shoulders from which he lets the wind escape.
Vayu, the Indian god of the wind (imago stock & people / Danita Delimont)
With the Maori in New Zealand the god Tāwhirimātea is responsible for the wind. His children have names like "whirlwind" and "storm squall".
Huracan, the Mayan wind god, also occupies people today: Huracan lives on in linguistic terms in "hurricanes" and "hurricanes".
Gods make wind. Or: wind makes gods. Many stories, legends and myths bear witness to the power of the wind.
"Vayu, the Indian god of the wind, is challenged by other gods to a competition. They want to find out which of them is the strongest. To do this, one by one they leave the human body. In this way, one after the other, people lose their hearing and sight , the movement, the sense of touch. But it always lives on. Then the wind god Vayu leaves the body and the person dies. This is how the other gods recognize Vayu's strength and they bow before the Lord of the winds. " From the Indian Upanishads.
Was Yahweh a Wind God?
The list of wind gods goes on. Yahweh, the God of the Hebrew Bible, could also have started his career as a wind god. But then Yahweh rises in ancient Israel first to the highest God and then to the only one. A concept of God that not only shapes Judaism, but also permeates Christianity, Islam and other monotheistic religions.
At the beginning, however, Yahweh is not yet worshiped as the only God, but as one among many. Some scientists argue that his name derives from the root of the word for "blow" and "storm". The idea of a unique creator god could have its origin in a local lord of the winds: a storm god who conquered the world.
Yahweh is not only linguistically connected to the wind. The Bible repeatedly reports that God works in a storm. It also fits that Yahweh is accompanied by the Ruach, the divine wind, breath or spirit.
With the Ruach, a more abstract concept was added to the many wind gods, who blow through the world in a very concrete and tangible way. With Yahweh and Ruach, a monotheistic breath seizes man: the absolute secret.
Yoga: inhale, exhale
But the Ruach is not unique. On the contrary: Similar concepts can be found in many cultures, philosophies and religions. For example the Indian Atman. In Hinduism Atman means "breath", "breath of life", "soul". Quite similar to Prana, which is also of central importance in Hinduism. Prana is also translated as "breath" or "life energy".
“If we look at the ancient Indian scriptures, then Prana is an invigorating principle, which is also manifested in the breath, also in the bloodstream. Also in the metabolisms, the digestion for example. So wherever energy works and is converted, so that Life processes are possible. "
Michael von Brück is not only a religious scholar. But also evangelical theologian, Zen teacher and yoga teacher. Zen originally comes from Buddhism, yoga from Hinduism. The breath plays a central role here - in Zen as in yoga.
The breath plays a central role in Zen and Yoga (imago / Westend61)
"The breath is the hinge between the conscious and the unconscious. Breath happens all the time. Whenever I live, it breathes. It breathes in me. But at the same time I can shape my breath consciously. That means I can breathe briefly, I can breathe long, I can breathe evenly, I can smile, pant. And all these different forms of breathing have an effect, have a range of effects. They create mental states, emotional states, also concentrations or non-concentrations. As everyone knows who in exam situations or fearful situations: Suddenly the breath is different. And when you can control the breath again and calm it down, the emotions also calm down. "
Prayer flags: prayers blow into the world
Wind and spirit are connected in the breath - not only in Indian Prana. The Chinese Chi also means breath, air, power or energy. In Japan the concept is known as Ki and in Korea as Gi. Tibetan Buddhism knows something very similar.
"There is always a so-called lung with all mental processes. Lung, that really means: wind."
The close connection between spirit and wind in Tibetan Buddhism can be seen in the prayer wheels or prayer wheels, which are also driven by the wind. And on the prayer flags, called wind horses: They are colorful, about the size of napkins and are no longer just blowing in Tibet, but also in many German front gardens.
Tibetan prayer flags (imago stock & people)
"The prayers that are written on such a flag or such a prayer wheel should then be carried into the world by the wind."
So the wind is supposed to help people on their way to nirvana. Nirvana, that is the goal of Buddhist existence: the exit from the cycle of suffering. And wind also blows through the idea of nirvana: It can be translated as "blow away".
"Two monks argued over the temple flag, which was fluttering in the wind over the monastery gate. One said: The flag is moving. No, replied the other: The wind is moving. So they argued and could not come to an agreement. Then Master came Huineng over and said to the monks: Neither the flag nor the wind moves. Only your mind moves. " Anecdote from Zen Buddhism.
"What is the color of the wind?"
"Who has seen the wind? Neither you nor I. But when the trees bow down their heads, the wind is passing by." Yoko Ono - Who has seen the wind? (1969)
Yoko Ono wants to know who saw the wind. And gives the answer himself:
"Nobody has ever seen the wind. But when the trees bow their heads, the wind passes by."
The wind has been going through people's heads for thousands of years - but they never get a grip on it. Wind animates mankind to complex philosophical and religious considerations. And to very simple questions:
"What is the color of the wind?"
This sentence also comes from Zen Buddhism. A koan: a seemingly simple statement that actually cannot be mastered with logic.
"What is the color of the wind?"
Michael von Brück explains that so many religions and philosophies recognize a connection between wind, breath, life, spirit and soul:
"People in these cultures feel that the reality we are dealing with is not only, and by no means primarily, this material world that we can touch and knock on."
Wind and Spirit: Both are not immediately visible, but can be felt (imago)
There is more than matter. Opposite the material, the gross world, there is a subtle one. And this subtle world cannot be seen or touched - and yet it is there. The subtle is a form of reality ...
"... which is then still naturally experienced sensually in some way, otherwise it would not be tangible at all, but is not so firmly bound to space and time and to our fixed categories in general."
This subtle world cannot be scientifically proven. It exists in faith. In it the wind and the spirit touch: both are not visible, but can be felt. Both are flighty and constantly in motion. Wind and Spirit: You have no place and no time. Wind cannot not be. On the contrary: Wind is omnipresent - that's what people believe of God too.
Perhaps these similarities explain the many common names of wind, breath, life, spirit or soul: Indian: Prana. Chinese: Chi. Tibetan: Lung. And the Hebrew Ruach, as it is so often described in the Bible.
"Breath of wind, breath of wind, said Kohelet. Breath of wind, breath of wind, that is all breath of wind. What advantage does man get from all his possessions for which he strives under the sun? One generation goes, another comes. The earth stands in eternity. The sun, which rose and set again, breathlessly chases it back to the place where it rises again. It blows south, turns north, turns, turns, blows, the wind. Because it keeps turning, it returns, the wind. I observed all the deeds that were done under the sun. The result: It is all a breath of wind and a breath of air. " From the book of Kohelet.
Hagion Pneuma: the Holy Spirit
Differentiating itself from Judaism, Christianity emerged 2,000 years ago in a cultural area that is shaped by Greek: linguistically, culturally, philosophically. The New Testament is not written in Hebrew, like the older books of the Bible, but in Greek. And so the Hebrew Ruach meets the Greek Pneuma.
Pneuma also means breath, breath of wind or spirit. The Greek philosophy knew Pneuma long before Jesus was born. And then it also plays a central role in the New Testament:
"The wind blows where it wants, and you can hear its rustling; but you do not know where it comes from and where it is going. So it is with everyone who is born of the spirit."
The Hebrew Ruach and the Greek Pneuma combine to form a basic theological concept of Christianity: Hagion Pneuma - the Holy Spirit.
"The spirit that is free, that blows everywhere, that is not tied to language, not tied to race, nor is it tied to a certain religion - the spirit is free. And it is, so to speak, the divine energy of creation to one new creation - as Paul puts it - to bring about a καινὴ κτίσις. This new creation is not just a new universe with new stars and so on, but a new spiritual reality. "
Pentecost: the wind and the foundation of the church
According to the religious belief, the Spirit of God works in the world. He has his biggest appearance on Pentecost. Then the Holy Spirit descends on the apostles. Or is it the breath of God or the holy wind? In any case, the Acts of the Apostles chooses stormy words:
"When the day of Pentecost came, all the apostles were in the same place. Suddenly a roar came from heaven like a violent wind, and flowed through the whole house. Everyone was filled with the Holy Spirit and they began to speak in foreign tongues preach as the Spirit gave them - as the wind gave them. "
The painting "The Outpouring of the Holy Spirit" by a South Swabian master around 1480 (dpa / Schnoerrer)
At Pentecost, the wind made a major contribution to the emergence of a new religion - this is how the story could be interpreted. Because in Christianity the Pentecost miracle is considered the foundation of the church.
Driving force in the history of religion
Not only was the Church born in a storm. The wind has made countless gods great and has itself risen to the divine principle, to life energy, to the breath of soul. From America to New Zealand, from Hinduism to Christianity: the wind has left traces of religious history all over the world. So is wind a driving force in the history of religion?
"I think so. Now, of course, I don't know all religions, and of course that's one thing that has different weightings. No religion is the same as another. But look: our human body and our human existence is for decades, maybe remained the same in these basic physiological functions even for thousands of years. And whether we live in Africa - also today - or in South America or in Europe: We have the same body. And we all have this experience of the breath. And we have this experience, that we are dependent on the breath, that the breath passes through us. "
There are two graces in breathing:
To draw in the air, to discharge oneself from it;
That presses, this refreshes;
Life is so wonderfully mixed.
You thank God when he presses you
And thanks to him when he lets you go again.
From Goethe's west-east divan.
"We are connected to all other life in the breath"
"But we are in the breath - and that is now an important aspect that plays a role in Zen, for example - we are in the breath connected to all other life, and very intimately."
Michael von Brück: religious scholar, theologian, yoga and Zen teacher.
"Because you breathe in the air that I breathe out now. And I breathe in the air that you breathe out. And if there were animals or plants here, then we are dependent on this very intimate exchange. The air goes very deep. I often tell my students that this exchange of breath goes deeper, is almost more intimate than sexual exchange. "
The breath becomes a symbol for the universal connection with the world (imago)
So has the wind become so significant in the history of religions because it was recognized as the breath of the world, the breath of God? The breath exchange with everything and everyone, with girlfriend and enemy - according to Michael von Brück, this breath exchange can lead to a higher level of knowledge:
"All living beings are mutually dependent on one another."
The universal connection of everything with everything
In order to illustrate this dependence, Michael von Brück uses an idea of the theologian Friedrich Schleiermacher: the human "feeling of absolute dependence".
"This feeling of absolute dependence on an underlying force - some call it God, others call it Prana, others call it - I know. But there is this feeling: life comes from such a universal context. The entire evolution of life, including spiritual evolution, has this root from which we are all connected. "
The wind, it blows always and everywhere, even in people. In this way it becomes a symbol for this universal connection between everything and everything.
"I think that is a basic motive that has brought people to celebrate Pentecost and even let religious symbols work on them."
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