Any polytheists in the house?

Well, I'm writing this because I just read JMG's A World Full of Gods and found it very intriguing, one of those books that you happen on that just happens to mean something to you at a certain time in your spiritual or intellectual journey. So I have a few questions! I was hoping this would be a place where other polytheists might happen to be and so I wanted to just post this here.

For a polytheist, what explains where your god/the gods come from? For example in a cyclical cycle of time, is there a set of gods that remain throughout multiple cycles or are gods also subject to the creation/destruction? How long do they live? How did they get to be gods? As opposed to, like, people. I know there might be many different explanations like, for example, ancestor spirits, but I was wondering what some other answers might be.

Also ... how do you go about meeting a god? This isn't a silly question. The book really struck a chord with me and my husband and I were able to identify with the nature/wonder/god thing he describes. (I'm going off of very little sleep now so I hope I'm not too hard to understand.) We thought, you know, do you find a place on the earth that's important to you and find that it's a god? You know, a symbol of an actual god. Or do you read myths and hope something sounds good? Or do you "pray?" I say that like that because I was a very devout Christian for a long time and that path no longer has any real meaning to me ... talking to something inside your head, feels like just that. And also -- I was taught that any kind of meditation or openness to anything in your head opened you up to demonic possession! Ack! So that would be hard to overcome that idea for me.

I guess maybe the book seems good because it kind of provides this answer that, hey, maybe I can have a god involved in my life. It has seemed like something that's been missing in a small way. I've been resigned to agnosticism for a while, but am hoping to find something a little more in line with what I think I want to believe. Mostly I just find that I find complete satisfaction in my relationship with my husband and I think that was mentioned as one of the ways you can find a god?

Anyway, that was quite a ramble, but I hope someone here has some info that could be helpful!

For me, I've given up wondering about the nitty gritty details of divine existence. It makes me happy to act as if there are many Gods out there, so I do. That's the practice that fulfills me spiritually, for whatever reason, and their biographies beyond what has been handed down through myth is irrelevant to the practice. Orthopraxy vs orthodoxy.

Justin Patrick Moore's picture

I've considered myself a pantheist, or panentheist, most of the time, but with strong polytheist tendencies. And I believe that various Goddesses & Gods return at the appropriate times, speaking to humanities pressing needs. There are powers in this world, and behind this world, and they can reach out to the person who is open to them. This requires not only an initial alignment of the individual towards such a deity, but also requires the individual to make further adjustments in her/his life to further align themselves with the deity. And like any relationship, there are periods of joy and periods where it all feels like a lot of hard work. But, as in a marriage, the work is worth all the effort put into it, as the benefits of such a union are enormous.

Dream work is at the core of my own magical praxis. Many of the deities I work with first appeared to me in the liminal state of dreams. As I explored my dreams I was called to do the work of these Goddesses and Gods and beings in the waking world. Synchronicity, as so eloquently put forth by Sophie Gale in her reply to you, is another way the powers behind this world and within this world can reach out to us. We just need to pay attention.

I am sure in time, the right deities will appear to you, who will help you on your path. They help us and we help them. It's a mutually beneficial relationship.



Mama2, what excellent questions! I wish I had some good answers. At the risk of grossly oversimplifying, I would say that the power of individual God/desses wax and wane like the moon. Where do they come in the first place? It's complicated--very, very complicated. Oh, you can say Hesta is the personification of the hearth, the sacred center of one's home. Hera is the personification of marriage. Zeus and Thor are the personifications of thunder... Yahweh was the personification of the desert volcano; his home was Mt. Sinai, etc, etc... This one is the All-Father, that one is the All-Mother, the Sun, the Moon, yada, yada. And we were all zygotes once upon a time, but how did we develop our personalities? How did we become who we are? Nature or nuture? Our DNA or the expectations of our family and friends? Life challenges? It's complicated.

Many places have their own energy, their ley lines, their genus loci or devas. People are drawn to these places and they feed the energy and the energy feeds them and there is more energy...and you have Stonehenge and New York City... Plants have energy, animals have energy, and people are drawn to that energy and the energy is drawn to the people and again it all becomes more intense.

Joseph Campbell said there were two kinds of humans--hard-headed, rational people and people "who were open at the back of the head." The people who are open at the back are dreamers and mystics and crazy people, and the powers, the energy, the Gods, the Mystery, the Grace can flow through them. And these people can give form and personality to that energy and the energy and the Mystery and the Grace can transform these humans in turn. It's a Cosmic Dance that has been going on for eons...

My own story...I was four years old when my parents to me to the Illinois State Fair. And in the Dairy Building there was a large glass case set on a plinth in the middle of the building and in that refrigerated case there was a lifesize cow made of butter. And I was smitten with wonder. When I opened to that cow, the Egyptian Goddess Hathor claimed me.

Now it took another 45 years before I knew I had been claimed... I am a fairly hard-headed, rational person... I was a punk Christian kid for most of my life (adults were all hypocrites--pious on Sunday and SOB's the rest of the week). I clung to my holier-than-thou brand of Christianity well into my thirties, and when I finally made a break, I was hung up in my hard-headedness. I couldn't intellectually make the leap from God the Father to God the Mother--even though the Women's Spirituality Movement was in full flower and I could sense Goddess energy all around me.

But Hathor believed in me. When I was a teen, my best friend was hooked on Egyptology, and one of us found the story of "Hathor and the Destruction of Mankind." Traditionally Hathor is the Goddess of Love, Music, and Dance. In most versions it's the Lion Goddess Sekhmet who avenges Ra, but in this version it was the Cow Goddess Hathor. Mankind had turned away from her father Ra and insulted him, so Ra sent his daughter to punish men. And she got so involved that she nearly wiped out all of humanity. In horror, the Gods gathered a huge number of urns of beer and dyed it all red with madder and dumped it in a huge pool. And when the sun came up, Hathor thought she was looking at a lake of blood. She lapped it all up, got drunk, wandered away to sleep it off, and Mankind was spared.

Well, we thought this was the funniest story we had ever heard--a drunken, killer-cow Goddess! Right out of National Lampoon! And we styled ourselves "The Daughters of Hathor." Okay... Move on thirty years. My every first email handle was Hathor. Just months before my 49th birthday, I found a wonderful shirt--a black and white gurnsey cow with a chartreuse nuclear warning symbol in the middle of her forehead. On the front it said, "Apocalypse Cow." On the back, it said, "Hot guitars, crazy chicks, and the virtues of milk." Still no clue. Within weeks of my 49th birthday, I sat up at six ayem one morning and pretty much said, "OH MY GODDESS!"

And I now work with several aspects of God the Daughter. When Hecate/Baubo showed up about eight months later, I immediately welcomed her attention. My coven was celebrating Samhain/Halloween, and somebody asked my to tell the story of Persphone and Demeter, and--another National Lampoon moment--I went off on a tangent about Hecate flashing Demeter, and we were all laughing hysterically, and then it was months of frog jokes (Baubo is a frog goddess). But I already had a frog fetish. There is this wonderfully purient art book called "The Joy of Frogs..."

Cernunnous is the only God I work with on a regular basis and The Lord of the Animals came one night when I was in horrible pain.

As I said at the beginning, the Deities wax and wane according to the times. Pan was a very minor god in Greek mythology, but the Romantics called him at the end of the 19th Century. He was needed in the depths of the Industrial Revolution, and he came. No doubt other God/desses will be called during the Long Descent. I expect you have Gods or Goddesses who have been talking to you for a while now. Stories that have been speaking to you, places that have been calling to you... One of these days your head will just "open at the back" and the Deity will walk in and you'll say, "OMG you are real!"

I have been reading JMG's Druidry Handbook, and did my first ceremony for Samhain today. I felt nervous, and awkward, and unsure what to expect. I love the image you shared of a god or goddess walking into the back of my head. I was brought up Catholic, but the only remnant of that seems to be a lot of knowledge (I won't say trivia...) about saints, and the need to cross myself after praying. Today I asked Ceridwn to come to my ceremony and share her wisdom. It felt right.

Brightest blessing, Katsmama! We all feel silly and nervous and awkward starting out. We are modern, rational people, right? And calling ancient Celtic Gods on forgotten Celtic holidays is not rational. --But it's wonderfully liberating to intentionally stop being rational! It can be exhilerating. Sacred Sex, Sacred Play are my watch words, and my favorite rituals have always ended up with us laughing like loons--which probably explains why I haven't been to a good ritual in eons. The best ones always ended with a water fight with the holy water and then chocolate and alcohol.

You may find, upon closer examination, that some of those Catholic saints have Pagan roots. St Fermin is a great one! The San Fermin Festival in July, aka "The Running of the Bulls" in Pamplona, Spain, is an example of what we used to call "cheesy Pagan festivals." St. Fermin was supposedly beheaded on September 25, AD 303, so his feast day was originally celebrated at the Autumn Equinox. Seriously? Fermin as in fermination? Cut down at harvest time? And his mentor was a disciple of St. Saturnin, who is even more unlikely. The San Fermin Festival was moved to July in 1591 because the weather was better at time of year.

I hope you develop a long and meaningful relationship with Ceridwen.

David Trammel's picture

I'm more of a "there's a God out there, but one who has a strictly hands off policy" kind of guy.

I grew up a Christian, yet over the years have evolved into a reincarnationist with the belief in a diety.

I can't justify my belief in a just and caring god, yet one who lets such misery happen in the world, without the idea that we come back each time after death.

How do you resolve the idea that someone who grows up with a perfect middle class family, and all the perks, gets to go to Heaven, and some poor kid in the Inner city, with a meth head mother and an absent father, who joins a gang to survive, is going to Hell?

Makes no sense to me, assuming each of those persons are loved and cared for by God.

If God lets such misery happen, then God is a sadist. If God can't prevent such misery, then God isn't omnipotent, and hence, is not God.

That lead me to believe that we each come back as many times as it takes, each time learning what we need to learn about this human existance.

Do we then ascend to a higher plane, I don't know, but believing as I do, does make the ups and downs of life in general, alot more bearable.

Teaching moments as you

The computer ate the first draft... Anyway, I bought that book recently too, but since I am largely agnostic it was more out of appreciation for JMG's writing style than deep interest in the subject. I find it hard to deal with the iffiness of pagan beliefs. Spending a lot of time building a relationship with an entity that "might or might not" exist outside your own head is like getting serious with that hot chick on the internet who might actually be a 50-year-old guy - first figure out what is actually going on, I say, and then I'll decide what if anything to do about it. But I recognize that this may be a Western dualist attitude.

OTOH, I have to admit that for years I have felt that we were honoring the goddess Bastet by serving our own household goddess, aka the world's best cat. And once in a state of desperation I asked her if she'd consider doing a favor for my husband, since he is the world's best cat-daddy - and it did happen, which is what JMG calls a "weak miracle." And I've never been sure that Bastet shouldn't get part of the credit. (And the reason the first draft of this message disappeared is that our little hairball jumped up on the laptop as I was about to finish it - purely by coincidence, I'm sure.) Other than that one incident, I certainly don't "pray" to Bastet; I just revere the essence of cathood that she represents (even if she doesn't exist as such).