There are a lot of videos and blogs I need to do, but as usual when multiple topics pile up that I want to get to in some semblance of order, something else crops up that feels more immediate and wants to be discussed right now. This is one of those things.
I want to talk about Deity, God, gods, the Universe, theism, and what have you. And what have you?
Lately I've been seeing a few articles from Patheos about polytheism, theism, atheism, people who believe in the gods as literal versus those who view Deity more as archetypal energies, and so on. I also had an opportunity to get together with a friend of mine yesterday, who asked me a bit about the gods and the many viewpoints about them that exist within Paganism. There is also someone I chat with online who is beginning to discover how they personally relate to Deity, if at all. I know I've kind of talked about this before, so forgive me if it sounds repetitive, but I wanted to put down some of my thoughts at this time.
Without putting labels on it, I want to just talk about my ideas of Deity and how they (They) appear in my life.
It's honestly somewhat hard to describe how I view the gods, sometimes. I usually say that I view them mainly as archetypal energies, expressions of real energies present in the Universe that we, as humans, perhaps cannot fully understand, and thus characterize and give form to. In a sense I believe that all separate Deities come from the same general energy source--the "Highest Power" I recognize being the Energy of the Universe, Universal Energy, or just The Universe (I've referred to it in all those ways). But at the same time, I do not think those different archetypes are the same. Athena is not Artemis is not Isis is not the Morrigan is not Hecate. Or, to put it on an even more even footing, Zeus is not Odin is not Osiris is not the Horned God. I wouldn't ask Athena for help with something in Aphrodite's realm, nor would I call Thor when Cernunnos wants the job. They are different "people" to me, different gods... But I don't view them as literally existing in a physical or ethereal plane somewhere on another level of existence and able to visit us if they will. And I do think even in their difference, they all come out of the same Universe.
There are some labels you may know which you are now trying to fit into this, but I ask you, please attempt to refrain from labeling for the moment. Often, the labels are too restrictive and no definition fits exactly right, so we end up chopping something off in order to make the belief fit the box.
So let me talk about how the gods show themselves to me.
I have never seen a Deity manifest itself in front of me in physical reality, not even as a spectral sort of form or energy signature, like one may think of a ghost, or a mist, or anything like that. I have only seen "physical" forms of Deity--that is, they looked person-like, as they are depicted in 2D art and statuary, and interacted with me as another being would--in dreams and meditations and so on. Those connections are very important to me and are often the way I receive messages. It is this way that I have met Hecate at the Crossroads, sung with Taliesin, created art with Brigid, and learned responsibility from Athena, among several others. And yes, because I work with and worship no specific pantheon, and view all the gods as teachers, mentors, and those with whom one can build relationship, I do hear from and forge connections with those from different pantheons at different times of my life, when only they personally would be able to deliver the message I need to hear, not a similar deity from another culture. As I said, even though many share traits and characteristics across cultures, they are distinct from each other.
In my waking, non-tranced life, however, the messages I receive from the gods are through Nature. If a tree calls to me, I know it is the Spirit of that Tree--either that individual tree, the physical thing in front of me, or the Tree as an archetype and representative of all trees of its type--speaking with me. But each tree, or Tree, is also representative of Deity, to me. I associate Oak with God energy, and Willow with Goddess energy. Others may not feel gendered to me, and simply represent Deity or the Universe. I have often received answers, support, or guidance from the Winds, and feel that it is God and Goddess sending me a message through them. The Sun and Moon, as well, are representatives of God and Goddess, and while I do associate certain gods and goddesses with the Sun and Moon (Apollo and Artemis, to name a common pair), it is also just general God and Goddess energy, or the Sun and Moon themselves.
Nature spirits are their own beings with their own lessons. When I leave an offering for my friend Willow, a willow tree near the lake where I used to live and who I go to visit still, I am leaving a gift for her personally. I am continuing my personal relationship with her, with that willow tree, lower-case letters. And through that connection, I know that I also honor the spirit of Willow, of all willow trees, and that if I am far away from my old house and my specific willow tree friend, I can connect with her and the spirit of all Willows through any willow tree I happen to meet on my travels. And since Willow is a messenger or representative of the Goddess for me, it is a form of Goddess worship and connection to the Sacred Feminine. But I do not make an offering to Athena by giving offerings to my friend Willow. (Obviously, I would use an Olive tree for that purpose. =P ) It is Willow, and Goddess, not a specific goddess, that I reach through connections with nature spirits.
Sound a bit convoluted and multi-faceted? Good, I hope it does, because it feels that way to me, too. So I read these things about polytheists and theists and atheists and I know what the definitions mean, but that doesn't help me know for sure how I should feel about the way people talk about them and delineate them. I know there are people who are solidly in one camp or another in terms of how they view Deity. I just don't feel like I am, all the time. I definitely feel like there's a general "zone" I fit into, if you will... If the belief in Deity were a scatter-plot with a few different spectra to base our views on. There's an area I lean toward, but again, people don't usually talk about all these multiple different ways of relating to Deity, and the layers it may entail. Or maybe I'm just not seeing those blogs. So I wrote one. Because I'm sure if I have these views, no one else has the exact same ones, but probably a lot of people share similar views. So this is for us. And for you. And for them, or Them, whether you use big or small letters at different times.
Don't Forget To Be Awesome,
and Blessed Be.
P.S. I wasn't sure where in the above this would fit in, so I'm adding it here. I wanted to acknowledge that the tendency to view Deity as literal or symbolic may, or may not, make a little more sense when we know someone's previous views of Deity if they were ever a member of another faith. My family attempted to raise me as a Catholic, but I never did believe in a literal Christian God who lived somewhere on another plane of existence, whereas some of my family members did, and do. So it's not a surprise to me that I would still not believe in that when it comes to other gods in another religion. Some people who do strongly believe in the Christian God as literal would probably also view Pagan gods as literal, because that's just their concept of the Divine as a whole.
If you'd like to see other places I've talked about Deity in the past (over the course of several years, mind you, so my views may have changed or I might have articulated them better in this post), you might like some videos I did for the PaganPerspective channel: The God Concept, and Definitions and Multiple "Theisms". You can also search this, my blog, for posts mentioning Deity/gods, and search the PaganPerspective channel uploads or blog (HERE) for keywords such as "God, gods, Deity" and so on. We recently did a whole month answering questions about Deity. Thanks for reading! Blessings~