The Gods: An Evolving Understanding

Photo by tarotastic

Ah, the Gods! No Neopagan blog would be complete without them. It seems that our multitude of Gods is what sets us so far apart from many in the Judeo-Christo-Islamic traditions (although the question of Catholics and their trinity and saints is usually brought up by some smartalec at this point). They also happen to be what sets us apart from the aethists and agnostics.

In the West, it seems the subject of Gods is a tricky one, because there is practically nothing about them that can be measured by our favorite tool, science. Now, I like science. I like it a lot, in fact. However, I have to admit that it is not always the proper tool for the job. In fact, science is usually pretty poor for dealing with things like emotions and social interactions, which are ultimately subjective in nature. The Gods run into the same problem, since rarely are two people’s experience of them the same.

Firstly, do Gods exist? I my own experience, certainly. And since I am at least fleetingly aware of my of subjective viewpoint, I cannot deny the possibility that for some others they may not exist at all. However, whether one considers experiences with the divine a conversation with one’s own inner wisdom, a conversation with a literal external being, or something else entirely matters little in the face of whether or not said experience has made you a better person. If your experience with the Gods leads you to become self-inflated or absorbed, rather than helping you grow and change in needed ways in your life, then you should seriously reconsider the value of these interactions. My Gods are those of Earth and Bone—everything that flows from them is not only infinitely wise, but infinitely practical to both esoteric and mundane pursuits.

In any case, my Gods are not the all-knowing, all-seeing, all-smiting Gods so often cited by monotheists (and likewise derided by Atheists). The Gods, while powerful, and with much vaster knowledge and wisdom, are still limited by their own personalities and by the natures of their offices. In many ways, I liken them to “Really Big Ancestors” in scope and sensibility—they’ve seen this dog and pony show before, but that doesn’t mean they can’t sometimes be surprised. So the question becomes not, “Do you believe in God?” but “Which Ones?”

I have also experienced that a God will manifest differently in different geographical locations. Nerthus of the Bog is quite different from the Lady of the Cave. Respecting the differences between these manifestations can be particularly difficult since it often leads to fragmentation of the deity—that is, rock-hard polytheists insisting that each location is indeed a different God. Personally, I’m a bit softer on this view. For instance, Anglo-Saxon Thunor and New England Thunor are most certainly the same deity. However, he wears a slightly different “costume” to better blend in with his duties in a different land. Just as we have different clothes and different behaviors depending on whether we’re attending a funeral or a luau, so to do the Gods.

It’s also important to remember that not all Gods are present all the time. They have their times of power and their times of rest. This does not mean that one’s signal clarity is off if one can’t connect with Apollo in Greece during the Winter—he’s off having a well-deserved vacation with the Hyperboreans. And that’s ok. Just because our Gods are not on call 24/7 (read: have lives oftTheir own), doesn’t mean they are any less potent. It just means a different set of social courtesies must be observed when interacting with them.

Finally, the Gods are still bound to obey the Great Law, just as all other things are bound. Thus, while they may be able to perform feats that seem miraculous to us, it is not because they are defying the Natural Order—it’s because they know of ways to work within it that we as humans do not.

So, Gods, yeah…I suppose you could live without ’em, but life with ’em is so much fun!

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