Crowdsourcing Pagan Theology

Teo Bishop —  April 30, 2013 — 132 Comments
"God" printed in many fonts on many colors, Essex Studios, Cincinnati, Ohio.

“God” printed in many fonts on many colors, Essex Studios, Cincinnati, Ohio.

The following statements are true:

★ There is one god.

★ There are many gods.

★ There is a god named G-d.

★ There are gods that are nameless.

★ There is a God and a Goddess.

★ There is one god, but that god is broken into two gods; one is male, and the other is female.

★ Gods have no gender.

★ Gods have no physicality.

★ All of what is, is God.

★ All of what is, is god-less.

★ There are no gods.

★ The gods are imaginary.

★ The imagination is the birthplace of deity.

★ The imagination is a temple, in which deity can be honored, spoken to or summoned.

★ We are God.

★ God is love.

★ God is not love.

★ The Gods are unique persons, each with their own temperaments.

★ The gods are merely aspects of one Deity.

★ The gods are aspects of ourselves.

★ Everything is the Goddess.

★ The Goddess is in everything, but also distinct from everything that is contained within her.

★ My cat is a god.

★ We are all deities.

★ You are divine.

★ We are only human, and that is enough.

★ We are human and divine; incarnate.

★ The gods are present here.

★ The gods are both present and absent.

★ The Goddess is omnipresent.

★ The gods are not omnipresent.

★ No one can understand what the gods are.

★ The gods can communicate exactly what they are.

★ The gods are….

This list could go on. Forever, perhaps.

I say that these statements are all true, recognizing full well that they are also (depending on the statement and particular reader) equally false.

Subjectivity is a Pagan value.

I’m musing on these statements of “truth” on the eve of Beltane, and will continue to do so as I prepare for my joint-presentation on Pagan theology at the annual Beltania Festival in Florence, Colorado. William Ashton, the Organizer for Mountain Ancestor’s Protogrove in Boulder, Colorado invited me to share the stage with him and teach this 101 course as a part of Beltania’s Stepping Stones series. I gladly accepted.

During our initial planning sessions, William and I discussed the various ways that Pagans conceived of deity. We’ve covered most, if not all of the general categories:

Monotheism
Polytheism
Dualistic Monotheism
Pantheism
Monism
Panentheism
Atheism

But the more I think about it, the more I believe that it isn’t enough to tell people, “These are the categories of belief. Here’s how it looks on paper.” You have to provide them examples. They need context in order for these -isms to be relevant.

That’s where you come in.

I would like to turn the Wild Hunt’s readership into a lecture-hall of teachers, each of you explaining to the average Pagan noobie what Pagan theology is.

More specifically, what your Pagan theology is.

We’re going to crowdsource theology. That way, when I join William at Beltania I will not just come with my perspective, but I will bring all of yours, as well.

Here’s how it will work:

1. Post a comment on TWH

Explain your Pagan theology in the comment section. Use one of the “truth” statements above as a writing prompt if you like, either explaining how it is what you believe or how it is exactly not what you believe.

Write honestly. Write about your perspective, your vision and experience of “truth”. Be the teacher you wish you had when you were just developing your own paganism. And, keep in mind that there will be many differing opinions and perspectives here. No one need to feel the need to correct others – the point is to crowdsource multiple perspectives, and to hold space for those differing perspectives.

2. Tweet your Pagan theology

For every day between Beltane and the beginning of Beltania (May 9th) I will tweet from @TeoBishop the following question:

What is your Pagan theology?

Respond to this question, and include the hashtag: #mypagantheology

Your tweet might look something like this:

I honor one god, but I also believe that there are many gods. #mypagantheology

3. Write your Pagan theology on your own site

Many TWH readers write for other Pagan media sources, including blogs and other online journals. If you’re among this group of people, write your 101 explanation of Pagan theology on your site, then post a link in the comments of this post.

Then, when I join William to explain the basics of Pagan theology, I will direct our students to this blog post and to the #mypagantheology hashtag. They will find your words, read your stories, and learn – from you – what a Pagan theology can look like.

 

So have at it, friends. Unleash your vocab, unlock your mind and explain to the questioning Pagan what your Pagan theology looks like.

 

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Teo Bishop

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Teo Bishop is a contemplative, a bard, and the author of Bishop in the Grove.
  • http://dashifen.com/ dashifen

    The imagination is the birthplace of deity just as the imagination is the birthplace of stories and of discovery. It is with our imagination, the filter on our perceptions, that we discern our reality. It is, therefore, also our imagination that leads to the subjective understanding of a situation based on the observer.

    While I am not a physicist, my understanding of quantum mechanics is that the smallest particles of matter can exist in different states at the same time. People who are physicists call this a super position of states. It’s what allows an electron to exist as a particle and a wave depending on the situation until such a time as that situation is observed at which point the super position collapses in to a single result.

    My Pagan theology indicates that the gods are the same. They can be multiple or singular, immanent or transcendent, generous and capricious all at the same time. It is our need to work with these powers that determines how they respond to us in any given situation. During ceremonial magic, it is important to believe that we have within us an immanent creative force that can be utilized to bring about change in the world and, therefore, we do. Alternatively, during a ceremony of sacrifice it can be important to see that we are sacrificing by giving to something separate from us be that power a god, a spirit, an ancestor, or simply the Earth herself. And, therefore, we do.

    The imagination is the birthplace of deity.

    • http://www.bishopinthegrove.com/ Teo Bishop

      Thank you, Dash! This is wonderful language.

  • http://www.facebook.com/fathergia Conor O’Bryan Warren

    About a month ago I actually wrote out a cosmogony story that contains a good bulk of my beliefs. It is a modern myth I guess you could say: http://anowlandtheatre.blogspot.com/2013/03/the-cosmogeny-of-conor.html

    Functionally I am a Hard Polytheist, Conceptually, I believe some Gods may be the same God, and some Gods are present in one culture only. I will always treat them differently though, regardless of my suspicions.

    • http://www.bishopinthegrove.com/ Teo Bishop

      Thanks for sharing this here, Conor!

    • http://ofthespiae.hellenistai.com/ Ruadhán J McElroy

      Theology and cosmogonies aren’t one in the same, though. A religion’s theology is its theory on the nature of “god” (or the gods, or the divine, etc…); a cosmogony is a scientific theory or religious mythology regarding the origin of the universe. The latter may address the former, but in essence, they aren’t the same thing.

      I trust that you probably knew this already; I’m just pointing it out for those who might not know the differences.

      • http://www.facebook.com/fathergia Conor O’Bryan Warren

        Oh yeah, definitely! I probably should have mentioned it. That cosmogony story just contains a lot of my theology. Thanks for explaining that. Sometimes I forget to explain my thinking on things. . .has gotten me into trouble a few dozen times I’d say.

  • http://www.facebook.com/BlakeOctavianBlair Blake Octavian Blair

    I am polytheistic with shamanic animist beliefs as well. There are many gods. They are distinct individual personalities and they truly exist. All gods are not one god (yet, *some* gods may be one god), but there is a Universal Source above all gods as well. All things, plants, animals, humans, places, objects – animate and inanimate, have a spirit. This spirit is can be communicated and worked with.

    • http://www.bishopinthegrove.com/ Teo Bishop

      Thank you, Blake!

  • SteveG

    All of the statements are indeed things people believe, but
    they cannot all be true. That is epistemological relativism, and it leads to
    the kind of logical incoherence that threatens to keep paganism forever a
    marginal religious movement, seen by the wider world as the habitat of the
    confused, the kooky and the disaffected.

    We do need a serious approach to theology, and simply
    declaring every wild intuition people may have to be “true” – or a
    more qualified “true for them”– is not that.

    What is a god? How do our gods and the capital-G God of the
    monotheistic religions differ in kind? Are the gods the ultimate source of the
    universe, the creators, or are they creations within it? And if the latter,
    just who or what is the Creator, or is the universe self-existing and eternal?

    These are serious and important matters, and they will not
    be solved or even approached by simply declaring that “My cat is a
    god” is “true” just because somebody somewhere thinks it is.
    Subjectivity is a fact of life, but actual truth is objective. If something is
    true, then it is true whether you believe it is or not, true whether you know
    it or not, true whether you like it or not.

    “Rain is pleasant ,” is a subjective statement. It
    is an opinion, true for the person speaking it, maybe or maybe not true for
    someone hearing it. “It is raining heavily right now” is an objective
    statement. It is true whether you like it or not.

    That objectivity is what pagan theology should strive for,
    hard as it may be to get there.

    • http://www.bishopinthegrove.com/ Teo Bishop

      The cat bit was intended to lighten things up a bit, but your point is well taken.

      “Subjectivity is a fact of life, but actual truth is objective.”

      Ok. What is true, then? At least, what is true when it comes to theology? Could you articulate something that you believe to be true theologically that is also true empirically? I think your insights in that regard would be very valuable to the attendees of my upcoming class.

      Thanks for such a well thought out comment!

      • http://twitter.com/vogelbeere + Yvonne Aburrow

        Cats are divine. Every cat knows this.

        (Coming back later with a longer response.)

        • Maria

          I was thinking the same thing! If cats aren’t divine, mine did not get that particular memo. :)

    • http://www.facebook.com/ezelnio Erin Zelnio

      “That is epistemological relativism, and it leads to the kind of logical incoherence that threatens to keep paganism forever a marginal religious movement.”

      Except that “Paganism” isn’t a religion itself–it’s an umbrella term for non-Judeo-Christian western religions who choose to identify themselves under said umbrella (e.g. some practitioners of Vodou identify with larger pagan communities and others do not). Trying to enforce one cosmology upon a group of otherwise unrelated religions for the sake of social and political coherence is unnatural and counterproductive. Wicca and Hellenismos may, at times, share similar deities, but they are not the same religion.

      • http://dashifen.com/ dashifen

        The same could be said of Christian denominations, though. Eastern Orthodoxy and the Southern Baptists may share similar deities, but they are also not the same religion. There are common threads beyond the non-Judeo-Christian-ness of our Pagan traditions that can bind us. I’m not sure that these ties are related to theology and cosmology — or it may be that they are not solely related to these ideas — but I think it is our duty going forward to begin to find them.

        • http://www.facebook.com/ezelnio Erin Zelnio

          The difference between Christian denominations and modern non-JC western religions choosing to lump themselves under “paganism” is all the Christian denominations came out of a similar root. You cannot say the same of “pagan” religions with any real confidence. Furthermore, to use myself as an example, I see nothing wrong with Wiccans believing what they do while at the same time being completely certain that what I believe is true. I would not be happy at all if those Wiccans came along and told me I HAD to incorporate what they believed into my own spirituality–or even just said I did–for the sake of presenting a united front against those religions that do not identify themselves as “pagan.” Likewise, I would never tell Wiccans the same. We’re totally different religions, and we, as the Pagan community, need to learn to be okay with that.

          • http://dashifen.com/ dashifen

            I’m perfectly okay with being different religions, but I just think we do stem from a common root — or from common roots — and we can grow from them to build a stronger community. No one has to be the same as anyone else and I’m not expecting anyone to be so, but I truly fear for the future of our paths if we continue to think of ourselves as separate rather than connected.

          • http://ofthespiae.hellenistai.com/ Ruadhán J McElroy

            For someone who tries to draw an analogy about light existing as both particles and waves depending on the context, you sure seem resistant to the notion the notion that different religions can share interests without forcing homogeneity.

          • http://dashifen.com/ dashifen

            I cannot stress enough: I do not want homogeneity. That is not beneficial to any organism, biological or social. Further: it can’t happen. The very things that make us individuals make it impossible to achieve homogeneity. I am not asking anyone to conform to any standard set by myself or by anyone else.

            However, just because I value plurality over singularity doesn’t mean that I don’t see a common root from which our Pagan traditions stem which I hope will eventually bind us closer together than our differences separate us. We share a common idea: that the spiritual practices of cultures that thrived prior to their introduction to predatory concepts that can be found within monotheistic theology can provide spiritual inspiration in the modern world.

            But, just as separate plants grow from the same set of common seeds, this ideal doesn’t require you or I to be the same. In fact, it creates a reality in which we do not need to be the same based on the ability to choose the practices and the cultures that we choose to use for our own personal inspiration.

            I apologize if my words were unclear before but I hope that this helps you understand my point of view.

          • http://ofthespiae.hellenistai.com/ Ruadhán J McElroy

            However, just because I value plurality over singularity doesn’t mean that I don’t see a common root from which our Pagan traditions stem which I hope will eventually bind us closer together than our differences separate us.

            What “common root”? PIE language? I think that’s a well-established theory that’s only weakly refuted anymore. You have yet to define this “common root” you say you believe in.

            We share a common idea: that the spiritual practices of cultures that thrived prior to their introduction to predatory concepts that can be found within monotheistic theology can provide spiritual inspiration in the modern world.

            That’s not a “common root”. The mythology of Abraham is a “common root” amongst Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Baha’i, Mormonism, and the Rastefarians. The mythology of the “New Testament” is the “common root” to Christian sects.

            You haven’t given a “common root”, you’ve given a shared idea that, at best, is coincidental and and unintentional “unifier”.

            But, just as separate plants grow from the same set of common seeds, this ideal doesn’t require you or I to be the same.

            Er… What? You really don’t make good analogies.

            I mean, yes, individual carrots grow from the same seeds, but they’re still carrots (say, Christians). Selectively breeding carrot plants to have certain traits will eventually produce several breeds of the same plant species and can eventually create subspecies (different sects), but they’re still carrots, their common ancestor is pretty indisputably clear.

            On the other hand, while botanists see common traits amongst apples (Heathens?) and pears (Romans?), and can point to several sub-species of each, and several breeds within certain sub-species, an apple is not a pear. One could even argue that they share a common ancestor, but contrary to what may seem correct on intuition, that common ancestor is not the quince (Hellenists?) or the loquat (Shinto?) or rowan (Celts?), or any other pome currently known. They’re not the same. Hybridising these fruits can produce interesting results, and some of them can hybridise with minimum complications, but not all of them can hybridise, cos that “common ancestor” is so far removed that, at best, only traces of it can still be observed, and there’s little reason to believe that these “traces” are any more significant than coincidence. Many of the religions haphazardly lumped together as “pagan” have less trace of a “common root” amongst each-other than that, even though it’s far easier to hybridise two different “pagan” religions than it is to cross a quince with a medlar.

          • http://dashifen.com/ dashifen

            I’m sorry we disagree. I think I understand what you’re saying, but I think differently. Thank you for your time.

          • http://ofthespiae.hellenistai.com/ Ruadhán J McElroy

            Why is that something to be sorry for? I thought you LIKED diversity?

          • http://dashifen.com/ dashifen

            I may like a diversity of ideas, but that doesn’t mean that I have to accept every one of them. I find your point of view hostile to the very world that I want to live in and yet, in light of them, I equally find my own to seem indefensibly naïve.

            To be honest, I’ve struggled to respond with tact and, as a result, I think it’s clear that I need to sleep. My day starts at 4 AM and trying thus far unsuccessfully to reconcile our words has kept me up far later than is healthy.

          • http://ofthespiae.hellenistai.com/ Ruadhán J McElroy

            Hostile? How is it hostile to acknowledge that there’s precious little that “unifies” the pagan community? Is it “hostile” to acknowledge that while sharing some similar traits, the Deer family (cervidae) are clearly different from Bovids (cows, buffalo, sheep, goats…)? Perhaps there’s something you’re mistaken about, in which case I’d like to try any make myself clearer, but the fact that the various “pagan religions” have little in common, and barely enough evidence of a “shared root” to formulate a stable hypothesis of PIE religion doesn’t strike me as an inherent hostility. I mean, sure, Deer, Bovids, even Equids are all hooved mammals, but that’s not really enough of a “common thread” to group them together; the more you examine those scientific families, the more you see a lot of differences.

            Now, sure, there’s a “pagan community” that certainly spans the Anglosphere, and other parts of Western civilisation, but what binds that community is not religious, in and of itself. Religious communities simply happen to be a starting point for that. It’d be like saying “all vegetarians are united by Buddhist ideals”, when that’s just not true; not only are there Buddhists who do eat meat, but while Buddhism has certainly been an influence on many Western vegetarians, there have been about a dozen other influences, as well, and then thre are vegetarians who are only interested in the physical benefits, and then there are vegans, and then there are people who simply don’t like the taste of meat (I’ve met at least one such person). It’s as silly to me to say that all pagans are “united by common threads” as it is to say that vegetarians are — and vegetarians share at least as many traits amongst each-other as pagans do.

          • http://ofthespiae.hellenistai.com/ Ruadhán J McElroy

            The difference between Christian denominations and modern non-JC western religions choosing to lump themselves under “paganism” is all the Christian denominations came out of a similar root. You cannot say the same of “pagan” religions with any real confidence. …. We’re totally different religions, and we, as the Pagan community, need to learn to be okay with that.

            Exactly. “Diversity” is about celebrating differences and coming together over shared interests in spite of those differences, not about forcing homogeneity in a misguided interest of unity.

        • http://ofthespiae.hellenistai.com/ Ruadhán J McElroy

          The same could be said of Christian denominations, though. Eastern
          Orthodoxy and the Southern Baptists may share similar deities, but they
          are also not the same religion.

          I’m getting really tired of pagans saying this sort of thing about sects of Christianity. Sure, it looks good in print, might even make sense when one says it out loud, but here’s the thing: There is far more that unites the “Eastern Orthodox” (why stop there? Are they Greek? Lithuanian? Russian? Don’t tell those three they’re the same thing….) and the Southern Baptist than the Wiccan, Hellenist, Heathen, Kemeticist, Pictish recon, British folk witch, and North American General Eclectic.

          * The Southern Baptist and Eastern Orthodox share a common mythology. The “pagans” do not.

          * The Southern Baptist and the Eastern Orthodox share, or mostly share a religious language. The “pagans” do not.

          * The Southern Baptist and Easthern Orthodox DO, in fact, generally share a deity, the “pagans” generally do not. Seriously, don’t tell a Hellenist that her Hekate is at all the same as the “crone” of American Eclectic Wicca.

          * At most, the separation between the Southern Baptist and the Eastern Orthodox are minute details of theology; the “pagans” often have completely different theologies and cosmogonies from each-other.

          • http://egregores.blogspot.com Apuleius Platonicus

            There are at least three major problems with your objections, Ruadhan.

            First, the relative conformity of modern Christianity is only due to the systematic extirpation of other forms of Christianity that did not conform. If we were to include Valentinians, Donatists, Arians, etc, under the Christian umbrella, then it would be much harder to claim that these are all “the same religion.”

            Second. the idea that Greek Orthodox, Baptists, Lutherans, Catholics, etc. are all the same religion is explicitly rejected by the core teachings of the Greek Orthodox, Baptists, Lutherans, Catholics, etc. For example, Luther was excommunicated by the Catholic Church, along with all of his followers, placing them unambiguously outside of Christendom. Likewise, Luther, Calvin, etc., explicitly declared the Catholic Church to be the Instrument of Satan. And if you think Southern Baptists accept Catholics as Christians, then you have a lot to learn about Southern Baptists.

            Third, the theological differences that separate Catholics from Protestants with respect to the Sacraments, Salvation, the Priesthood, Miracles, the Virgin Mary, and the intercession of the Saints, are more than sufficient to meet any reasonable criteria for having two distinct religions.

            The bottom line is that the idea that there are many different forms of Christianity is itself completely foreign to Christianity, so who are you, Ruadhan, to say otherwise?

          • http://ofthespiae.hellenistai.com/ Ruadhán J McElroy

            First, the relative conformity of modern Christianity is only due to the systematic extirpation of other forms of Christianity that did not conform. If we were to include Valentinians, Donatists, Arians, etc, under the Christian umbrella, then it would be much harder to claim that these are all “the same religion.”

            Considering the current reality, that’s irrelevant.

            Second. the idea that Greek Orthodox, Baptists, Lutherans, Catholics, etc. are all the same religion is explicitly rejected by the core teachings of the Greek Orthodox, Baptists, Lutherans, Catholics, etc. For example, Luther was excommunicated by the Catholic Church, along with all of his followers, placing them unambiguously outside of Christendom. Likewise, Luther, Calvin, etc., explicitly declared the Catholic Church to be the Instrument of Satan. And if you think Southern Baptists accept Catholics as Christians, then you have a lot to learn about Southern Baptists.

            Well, sure, if you want to tackle each sect individually, you’re certainly onto something, but it’s still a clearly observable fact that all these sects share more in common than they’d like to believe, and furthermore, they share far more in common with each-other than the average North American Eclectic Pagan has with a Kemetic recon, as a quick example.

            Third, the theological differences that separate Catholics from Protestants with respect to the Sacraments, Salvation, the Priesthood, Miracles, the Virgin Mary, and the intercession of the Saints, are more than sufficient to meet any reasonable criteria for having two distinct religions.

            Under an incredibly strict interpretation of the definition of “religion”, sure; by that logic, Orphics and Pythagoreans were of different religions than Dodekatheistic Hellenism, and I can get behind that notion. On the other hand, again, there is far more that Catholics and Protestants (or Orphics and Dodekatheists) have in common than Eclectic Wiccans and Kemeticists have in common.

      • MichaelH

        Good point, Erin, although Steve’s is well-taken too. What you describe here may be the real problem.

        I DO tend to see that most of the polytheistic groups are part of one religion, whether Hellenismos, Heathenry, my own ADF or something else. Mirroring the old cultures, different groups have different gods, but the general pattern of believing in many gods and honoring them in ritual and offering is in common among them. In the past, as they mingled, the gods found devotees outside of their original cultures without anyone thinking they were “changing religions” if they added, say, Isis to their altars along with Zeus and Artemis.

        But Wicca is indeed very different, as are New Age thought, and a variety of other groups, movements and idiosyncratic individuals who all come under the larger label of ‘pagan.’ It probably is a mistake to think of ‘pagan’ theology as one thing.

        • http://twitter.com/vogelbeere + Yvonne Aburrow

          Hi all, not all Wiccans are duotheist. Many are polytheist, including me.

        • http://ofthespiae.hellenistai.com/ Ruadhán J McElroy

          In the past, as they mingled, the gods found devotees outside of their original cultures without anyone thinking they were “changing religions” if they added, say, Isis to their altars along with Zeus and Artemis.

          As an aside: I feel that the notion of “Isis is an Egyptian deity” is as outdated at this point as seeing Adonis as a “purely” Canaanite deity —or even Aphrodite as a Canaanite deity. The gravitation of Isis’ cult, or rather that of Aset, from Egypt to Hellas and the rest of the Greco-Roman world is clear, as its relatively recent history. If you’re familiar enough with the mythology, Adonis’ cult is clearly an import from Canaanite / Phoenician mythos, but by the time of Hesiod, is easily argued to have been thoroughly Hellenised. If you’re familiar with the archaeology, the cult of Aphrodite was likely a Semetic import, as well, but Her mythos doesn’t reflect this as clearly “because reasons”, as the kids say (or rather, I’m not going to detail all those hypotheses in a comment). Even Kybele, celebrated as a “foreign” cult in Hellas, has a Hellenised mythology.

          By the time Aset was redubbed Isis, Her cult was thoroughly Hellenised. Her relevance to the Hellenic pantheon is as a “foreigner”, and at least once ancient writer synthesised Isis with Io, and I do find the similarities clear enough to be worthy of acceptance.

    • Phae

      The idea that Truth must be objective is what has lead to some of the worst atrocities in human history. The Universe is more complex than that. Truth is paradox. All is equally true and equally false. All at the same time.

    • Sarsen

      Lots of cultures throughout history have seen animals as divine. Often *specific* animals, either as representatives of deities or as deities themselves…Egyptian cats in Bubastis, the geese of Juno Moneta, monkeys in temples in India, Coyote and Raven, etc etc. It’s not a trivial concept, not in terms of history and what people have actually believed world-wide. I would say the thinking here needs to be expanded a bit; the whole discussion seems to have some Western monotheistic blinders pinned on it somewhere. What does it mean to see an actual living animal, or group of animals, as divine? Is that pantheistic polytheism or something else? How does it relate to the concept of humans as divine, which our current culture in the West seems to have taken on board more easily? Namaste.

    • http://ofthespiae.hellenistai.com/ Ruadhán J McElroy

      Well said. But…

      I’ve long maintained that the pagan community has a serious inability to tell the difference between opinions (subjective statements about one’s personal feelings about something) and facts (true or potentially true statements that are objective in nature, or based on observances). The truth of facts can be argued with further data that can support or refute the truth it purports to state. The truth of opinions cannot be argued because the nature of their truth is highly personalised and subjective. “I think President Obama is doing well,” is a statement of opinion, as it says nothing about anything President Obama’s deeds, just personal feelings about the man’s overall performance. “President Obama was born in Hawaii” is a statement of fact that can be easily supported with evidence. “President Obama was born in Kenya” is a potential fact, but one that is easily disproved with evidence. “In my opinion, President Obama was born in Kenya” is a statement that demonstrates a clear inability to tell the difference between opinions and facts.

      If a statement is potentially true, such as in the theology of a religion, a contradictory statement can only be equally so in the same context. On the other hand, “paganism” is not a religious movement, and hasn’t been for some time, and I find myself questioning whether or not it ever really was. “Paganism”, at this point, especially in North America, is more a counterculture movement than anything, sharing more in common with the Yippies and the New Left of the 1960s than a true religious movement. The fact that there is such a major overlap with pagan religions certainly leads to confusion but the overall movement is not a religion, but a subculture that recognises many religions that the mainstream typically does not.

  • NolaJ

    There is one god, that is energy. This one god is divided into many aspects, some male and some female – which are different manifestations of that energy, that control specific things in the universe. When you pray to, or invoke a certain one for a spell, you are simply manipulating that energy.

    • http://www.bishopinthegrove.com/ Teo Bishop

      Thanks for sharing this, NolaJ!

  • MichaelH

    Wow, this is an interesting exercise.

    I have only a little time to comment, but I’ve been recently reading up on Greek philosophy as a gateway to a modern pagan theology. The ancients considered the questions that theology tackles, and over the span of a thousand years or so, came up with some answers (not always agreeing.)

    I provisionally think that there is a “First Cause,” a “Source” behind the universe, and the gods — along with everything else in the universe — emanate from it. The gods are vastly more wise, powerful and far-reaching than humans, but they are not the ultimate Source.

    I think (though my understanding at this point is still forming) that it was Plato who first formulated this idea. The general thrust is that everything that exists comes from something else — children are born to parents, plants grow from seeds created by older plants, etc. Either that chain of causation is never-ending (“turtles all the way down”) or else there is at the very beginning a power that is self-existing and uncreated — the Source.

    Christian theology appropriated much of the Greek thought and identified their God with that Source, but it started several centuries BCE and was not considered monotheism because the Source was not a personal being.

    But I do have a lot of study yet to do.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1186404199 Crystal Hope Kendrick

      This describes much of my belief as well. The Gods came from the Source, but the Source is not personified. I might say it defies classification. It creates and is creation. I love my paradoxes.

  • http://www.facebook.com/Necrobane Josh Owens

    I believe that we are the Universe looking back upon itself. Microcosm to Macrocosm.

  • Baruch Dreamstalker

    I believe in the Gods, but as archetypes in the collective unconscious. This does NOT mean I relegate them to the imagination. These are inherited imprints, reflecting things that happened to our species. And they are powerful, especially if ignored!

    I stay away from arguments about the existence of God/s. They are puerile attempts to apply reason to that which is apprehended primarily by intuition. I say “puerile” without intent to insult; I was wrapped up in such concerns as a boy of 40.

    My primary devotion is to the Goddess and the “generic” sacrificed male deities, because that is what fits me; I don’t try to press them on anyone else.
    Thank you for this opportunity, Teo!

    • http://www.bishopinthegrove.com/ Teo Bishop

      And thank you for sharing, Baruch!

  • http://egregores.blogspot.com Apuleius Platonicus

    Personally, I like the list of Pagan theological “commonalities that cut across lines of group and tradition” that Christine Hoff Kraemer came up with in her “Seeking the Mystery: An Introduction to Pagan Theology”:
    1. pantheism
    2. polytheism
    3. reverence for nature and the human body
    4. taking inspiration from pre-christian traditions and modern traditions that have resisted conversion to Christianity
    5. the importance of ritual practice
    6. trust in direct personal experience as a source of divine knowledge
    7. acknowledgement of the principles of magick
    8. virtue ethics and non-harming
    9. pluralism

    • http://www.bishopinthegrove.com/ Teo Bishop

      What a wonderful book, no? Thank you for reminding us of it here!

    • cernowain greenman

      This reminds me of the “Seven Principles of Paganism” that the Higginbothams discovered among American Pagans:

      1. You are responsible for the beliefs you choose to adopt.

      2. You are responsible for your own actions and your spiritual and personal development.

      3. You are responsible for deciding who or what the divine is for you and forming a relationship with it.

      4. Everything contains a spark of consciousness.

      5. Everything is sacred.

      6. Each part of the universe can communicate with each other part and these parts often cooperate for specific ends.

      7. Consciousness survives death.

      -from _Paganism: an Introduction to Earth-Centered Religions_ by Joyce and River Higginbotham

      • http://egregores.blogspot.com Apuleius Platonicus

        I have always liked that list, too. In fact, I think that points 2, 4, 6 and 7 bring out things that are not sufficiently addressed by Kraemer’s list.

  • cernowain greenman

    Being able to alter our consciousness is one of our talents as Pagans and it allows us to experience the Divine in different ways at different times.

    My understanding/perception of the Divine depends upon the
    type of consciousness I currently have.
    Sometimes the Divine is personal, other times the Divine is an abstract
    concept or an archetype, and other times the Divine is something felt rather
    than mentally conceived.

    My personal encounters with the Divine (in various forms and
    various genders) occur when my mind is in a relational state.

    When I perceive the Divine as an abstract idea, I general
    perceive a Central Well of Mystery (or as Tillich would say a “Ground of Being”)
    from which many Goddesses/Gods/Avatars spring forth. The Goddesses and Gods create more beings so
    that the spiritual and physical worlds are full of life.

    Othertimes, I feel the Divine, its presence, and perceive it
    to be with me, in me, moving through me and through the world.

    Since magick is the ability to alter one’s consciousness in
    conformity with one’s will (Dion Fortune, et al), for me as a Pagan, it is
    important to recognize how we willfully change our consciousness and how that
    change alters the way we perceive the Divine.

    • cernowain greenman

      To give only an intellectual explanation of how we perceive the Divine misses out on much of what we experience as Pagans.

  • Sarsen

    I have gone by different names at different points in my life, including “Mama.” Most of them have to do with my relationship with the person or people calling me by that name; people who grew up with me know me by one name, those with whom I have an adult professional relationship another, some segments of the Pagan community another. Yet all of those are certainly “me.” I also ascribe to the notion of multiple souls, or selves, which possibly complicates the matter and possibly doesn’t.

    I ALSO have memories, some of which are partially substantiated, of past lives. Assuming those aren’t figments of my imagination, were those people also “me”? I think so, but not in the same sense.

    I also perceive myself to be part of a numinous unity, a vast divine consciousness that is self-aware but on very different terms than those on which *I* am self-aware.

    Are the Gods less complex than we? I don’t believe so. Nor are trees, stones, clouds, stars, or cats.

    I might point out, having mentioned it, that the ancient Egyptians deified cats. If we take ancient practice as a guide, we have to be careful to acknowledge that that allows nearly any set of beliefs under the sun, and that sticking to one culture doesn’t simplify the matter overly much either.

    • Sarsen

      Just so you know, I asked my cat if she were a God. She said, “Mrow?” and looked slightly shifty.

  • Maya Ravensong

    There are many Gods and Goddesses. They are aspects of Deity
    that we can choose to interact with. There are many kinds of aspects. Some people
    only interact with one, some interact with many. The forms deity takes can be
    different for different people- including creatures other people think are imaginary.
    The mind/body/spirit is a temple, in which deity can be honored, spoken to or
    invited in. The Earth is alive, conscious and She and all her creatures are divinity
    and need to be honored. We can talk to divinity, it can choose to talk back- or
    not. How Divinity talks back is different for various people. Divinity can
    choose to “meddle” in the affairs of earthlings, but it could also choose not
    to as well. Compassionate love is divinity in action. The number 9 is a key to many
    things. Fractals show the microcosm/macrocosm, so do rocks that look like satellite
    images of earth. It is all the same, we are all the same, we are divine.

    • http://www.bishopinthegrove.com/ Teo Bishop

      Thanks for spelling out your beliefs, Maya. I appreciate it!

  • Medeina Ragana

    This whole post is very Zen Buddhist. ::smile::

    • http://www.bishopinthegrove.com/ Teo Bishop

      :)

  • Eric Stix

    Having been a philosophy student, I love this kind of open-ended, speculative thinking and the act of reducing it to something that can be named. Before even addressing beliefs about the nature of spirituality or a deity, I prefer to clarify that I am a positive agnostic (not just “nobody knows” but “nobody *can* know”). This isn’t to cheapen anyone’s deeply rooted personal and intuitive experiences (I’ve had several of those myself!), but rather because genuine Knowledge-with-a-capital-K should be demonstrably true.

    Because our experiences with and beliefs about deities are inherently personal and conceptual, I call myself a soft polytheist. There are countless gods, between those recorded in myth, those honored in polytheistic religions to this day, and those worshiped by multitudes of modern monotheists who believe different things about the nature of their one deity. The God of the Catholic church is not the G-d of the Jews or the God of the Westboro Baptist Church, however much they may all want to argue otherwise. What is worshiped differs by the worshiper.

    In considering the nature of (g/G)(o/-)d[s] — which is a large enough question to require consideration of the origins of life, the universe, and everything — the belief I have come to is most closely reflected in panendeism (an animating consciousness and order, both immanent and transcendent, that exists within, throughout, and beyond all things). Brahman. Go deep enough on the subatomic level, and everything is the same energy moving in different patterns. The patterns are temporary; the energy is infinite.

    The choice to make a “pagan expression” of my spirituality helps me to experience that oneness. It’s an honoring and observance of the world of which I am a part.

    • http://www.bishopinthegrove.com/ Teo Bishop

      Wonderful comment, Eric. Thank you for sharing it here!

    • Northern_Light_27

      I really love this one!

    • http://www.facebook.com/wyrd.wiles Wyrd Wiles

      It’s good to find a fellow Pagan Agnostic :) Merry Meet.

  • Wintersfrost

    I believe in two equally balanced complementary deities, a Goddess and a God. Which sustain the universe and exist throughout it. While I do recognize various gods as being distinctive personalities, I view them as aspects of a greater whole. Though I treat them respectfully as if distinct.

    I parallel my spiritual views with a scientific view of the universe and find that they compliment one another increasingly well the more science discovers.

    • http://www.bishopinthegrove.com/ Teo Bishop

      Thank you, Winterfrost!

  • http://www.facebook.com/stag67 Sean-Thomas A. Gunnell

    You forgot one option: There is no God.

    • http://www.bishopinthegrove.com/ Teo Bishop

      I did get “there are no gods.” It kind of covers it. :)

      • Cat C-B

        Right. Why disbelieve in just one god? (So limiting! I wonder why so many atheists settle for it.)

        • http://twitter.com/vogelbeere + Yvonne Aburrow

          Hi Cat. They just assume that all the other ones don’t exist, as a given. Quite often, atheist writings address Christians, saying “You know all those other gods that you don’t believe in? Well, we go one further and don’t believe in yours either.” Polytheism just isn’t on the atheist radar as a serious possibility, for some reason.

          • http://egregores.blogspot.com Apuleius Platonicus

            “You know all those other gods that you don’t believe in? Well, we go one further and don’t believe in yours either.”

            And looked at this way, atheism becomes just a very logical, even inevitable, next step step after monotheism.

          • http://www.facebook.com/wyrd.wiles Wyrd Wiles

            The danger within this line of thinking is the idea that there is a religious progression. The idea of Animism>Polytheism>Monotheism>Atheism is outdated. The Anthropological community has moved away from this notion.

          • Nick Ritter

            Leaving Animism and Polytheism out of the conversation, though, it does make sense that a tradition of monotheistic religions that deny the existence of all gods but one would pave the way for denying the existence of all gods whatsoever. In other words, a case could be made that Atheism developed historically as the arguments of Christianity against the existence of other gods were turned against Christianity itself.

          • http://egregores.blogspot.com Apuleius Platonicus

            Wyrd Wiles: “The danger within this line of thinking is the idea that there is a religious progression. The idea of Animism>Polytheism>Monotheism>Atheism is outdated. The
            Anthropological community has moved away from this notion.”

            Personally I do believe that there is a regression from polytheism to monotheism to atheism. However, the transition from polytheism to monotheism is a radical departure, in my opinion, while the transition from monotheism to atheism is more of a natural and logical extension. Indeed, to the polytheist there is no meaningful difference between monotheism and atheism, because they both are based on precisely the same principle: the rejection of the Gods.

            As far as animism goes I think there is no great difference between animism and polytheism, if any difference at all.

          • http://egregores.blogspot.com Apuleius Platonicus

            Polytheism>Monotheism>Atheism isn’t a progression, it is a regression.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            “Polytheism just isn’t on the atheist radar as a serious possibility, for some reason.”
            No atheist ever grew up oppressed by a puritanitcal, science-denying, public-square-monopolizing polytheism.

          • Genexs

            I’ve talked about this with a number of atheists. The more strident ones feel that as belief in one god makes you crazy, belief in many makes you more crazy. Also, I think the reason we really are “not on the radar” for so many atheists is that what we do and how we behave contradicts their expectations of how religious people are suppose to act. So, they choose to ignore us instead of re-evaluating their attitudes (How scientific of them! Heh!) But there are some others, mostly the more liberal ones, who seem to feel we are rather harmless. The fact that we don’t proselytize is a salient point for them. Many also are fans of Greek philosophy.

        • http://egregores.blogspot.com Apuleius Platonicus

          It’s much more difficult to disbelieve in all the Goddesses and Gods. it also would require one to gain actual knowledge of all of humanity’s many and varied religions, which, of course, are assumed by many atheists to be just so much stuff and nonsense, so they cant’ be bothered.

  • Hennie

    Humans are just not equipped to KNOW the truth; why this is, I don’t know. That makes that any position taken on the (non)-existence of Goddess(es), Gods, immanent or transcendent or both is as valid as the person experiencing this, likes it to be. However, though we can’t be certain about anything, there is one thing, that I would hope all people would share : contemplating before acting; trying to view in advance what consequences one’s action have and if possible don’t act if damage is done, or minimise the damage as much as possible.

    • Lucía

      Fully agree. I would add that, though we are not equipped to know the truth about divinity, we do have the ability to perceive divinity and the imagination to turn our personal perception into an image that is what we call “gods” or “God/dess”. In that sense, to me, all gods exist, meaning that they all reflect divinity, and they don’t, meaning that none really describes it.

  • http://www.walkofthefallen.com Labrys

    Either all the gods/goddesses are real, or none are real. And being human IS enough, if only we embraced our humanity and chose to take action instead of awaiting some never-quite-active deity to do “it” for us. I don’t believe we can truly “know” what is ‘out there’ after this life; but we certainly can know THIS life and it should be the sphere of our action. If I were a deity? I’d be pretty fed up with my “children” never growing up and getting to work!

  • sacredblasphemies

    I believe that there is an ultimate reality behind all deities (and all of us as well). Call it Nature.

    Ultimate Reality is unknowable to us, unrelatable. Our interaction with God, Goddess, or the Gods are ways that we can conceive of this essentially unrelatable reality and interact with it. And we can have deep and very personal interactions with the Divine in these forms. The moon is not a goddess. Neither is the sun or stars or even the Earth, but we can connect to Nature through these things. We are just as part of Nature as the rocks, the sea, the dirt, and anything else. However, we have the illusion that we are separate.

    I typically worship Nature as a Goddess. I’ve been very influenced by Hinduism and specifically Tantra (as well as bhakti yoga and Sufism). I’m fond of Goddess in the form of Lalita, the beautiful Red Goddess who loves laughter and joy. She plays with us constantly, shifting the veil of illusion so that sometimes we perceive the inherent oneness and connectedness of all, and sometimes we forget and are stuck in our egotism. I also worship Her son, Ganesha. But these are forms. Interfaces.

  • Franklin Evans

    I see my spiritual universe in three parts, and I describe it using that most obvious of events in our daily lives — the cycle of the day. I do not, however, bind myself to the linear progression of day and night, but use these to symbolize the aspects of my spiritual vision.

    Light is the place of growth, change, action and energy. It varies from the gentle ray of sunlight gleaming through my window to the glaring and blinding sun on a cloudless day. It can show me the smallest detail, or hide everything by forcing me to turn away or close my eyes.

    Dark is the place of rest, stillness and turning inwards. It varies from the blackest absence of any visual image to the soft world of dreams and imagination. It inspires me to connect with my world without my eyes, to smell, feel, taste and hear more clearly.
    Shadow is the place between, where all things are possible because it links me to both Light and Dark. It is the place of choices. It is my place of balance. What goes where is irrelevant other than that balance is the middle point. I see, on my path, Light to my left, Dark to my right, and Shadow in the middle. The spectrum is my horizon, spanning my path from perceived limit to limit in whichever “direction” I am facing. I call myself shadow warrior, not because I am in Shadow all of the time, but because it is the start- and end-point of my travels.

    My physical life is a series of places, moment to moment, which I and those around me perceive as static. I sit in my chair, I stand in a checkout line, I arrive at a destination. The human mind expends no more energy than necessary to make use of these perceptions. There is the appearance of stillness. When I am moving, perception and my human awareness step in and increase the energy for the moment or series of moments. I play a PC game, I type this message, I gather my groceries from shelves in aisle after aisle. There is the appearance of change.

    On my spiritual path, stillness and change are illusions. However, as a human my material perceptions are still engaged, and I filter my perceptions before, during and after my spirit partakes of the series of moments. Balance is a state of mind, not a physical place. It is neither stillness nor change, it is both together, and it is an aspect of every moment I experience. I may, and do, at times link my spiritual balance to my physical balance, but that is part of my filters and not representative of the experience.
    Our local universe has an overall balance. That balance, however, may not be apparent in a microcosm like a single continent or nation. Thus, one can speculate that finding a Hitler or Stalin (today, we might say a Saddam Hussein or Slobodan Milosevic) in one microcosm should prompt us to find a M. Ghandi or M.L. King, Jr. somewhere else. Balance is not guaranteed in a microcosm or over a (relatively) short time span like one decade or one lifetime.

    The Great Mother speaks from within my heart with a gentle reminder that I am connected through Her with all other things, animate or inanimate. She speaks to me from the hearts of other humans, a not-always-gentle reminder that I am not alone within Her womb of Creation. I see Her in the cat that begs for my attention, the neighbor’s child who has fallen and scraped his knee, the tree that welcomes me to its shade, and the lightning storm that both energizes me and chases me to shelter. Once or twice in my life, I have heard Her voice as one amongst many such voices, and I know that there are connections that are beyond my human limits to perceive or comprehend.

    • Franklin Evans

      I wrote this about 6 years ago, out of a similar motivation to what Teo expressed here.

    • Franklin Evans

      I am not pleased with Disqus, not at all. My first post is missing two paragraph breaks, between:

      “hear more clearly.” and “Shadow is the place”;
      “not representative of the experience.” and “Our local universe”

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnbeckett/ John Beckett

    I’m a hard polytheist practicing within a framework of pantheism and mysticism.

    I explain that in this blog post: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnbeckett/2012/09/this-i-believe-this-i-do.html

    • http://egregores.blogspot.com Apuleius Platonicus

      I am always glad to see someone who doesn’t think that pantheism and polytheism are somehow mutually exclusive.

      • Cat C-B

        Word.

  • Ruby Sara

    My theology of deity is a combination of monism, animism, and cultural polytheism.

    My Monism: There is one Movement/Force/Being…Isness. The Isness moves through and is and is not all things and no thing. Everything everywhere is part of the Isness: human beings, plants, animals, gods, spirits, angels, chocolate, grass, tennis shoes, books, burritos. The soul-shaping and life-altering Silence of the Isness moves through all things, and contemplation/mysticism is the work of individuals perceiving that Silence, the great and amazing Whole, if even for a nanosecond. The Isness is Alive, The Silence is Aware – and, of course, it is Love….but Love in such a way as we can only barely understand the word. And the Isness is all words and no words, forever and ever.

    My Animism: All living beings (and maybe even some created “inanimate” objects and almost definitely some ideas/concepts/emotions) have sentient spirits that exist in relationship with each other and can and do communicate with each other. The Earth is a sentient being.

    My Cultural Polytheism: Some spirits have been layered by human beings with story and have become something larger than they were before – these are gods. The gods are beings outside of us, but they are also processes molded by us – they are thunder, and stories about thunder. I call them storied spirits. Christ is a storied spirit of compassion/justice…Dionysos is a storied spirit of wine/intoxication/madness…Demeter is a storied spirit of grain/motherhood…etc (naturally they are more complex than I am making them out to be here). Storied spirits cross over and under each other – they overlap because human experience overlaps. They are also unique from each other because human cultural experiences are unique from each other. Some stories are no longer relevant to our cultural/social/political world, so I do not give them any attention, and the less attention we give them the more these stories fade. Gods, demons, nature spirits, angels, the fey, and spirits we have yet to encounter at all…all exist within the incredible diversity of the Isness, and there are worlds within worlds within worlds and layers upon layers.

    This was my theology as a Pagan, and as a Christopagan / Hermeticist it remains my theology. It is not perfect and it is naturally always shifting and evolving, but it works for me.

    • http://www.facebook.com/safiyya.hawkwood Safiyya Hawkwood

      I’m SO glad I’m not alone! My views are almost exactly this, but you said it so very much better than I could!

  • http://b.rox.com/ Editor B

    I don’t believe in God, but I do believe in a goddess. She has a real existence which can be verified by science. I call her Gaia, and I’m thinking of the theory developed by Lovelock, Margulis et al. I’d stop short of saying that I worship her. Reverence, yes, but worship connotes to me a duality, a subject-object relationship. I think we need to emphasize our participation in Gaia, as an integral part of her. I call her a goddess; some might call her a super-organism or something but I think that misses the point. There is no other organism like her; she inspires reverence and awe. Some might accuse me of using the word “goddess” in a novel fashion, but I think there is ample evidence that whole cultures have felt this way. The resonance with the poetry of ancient pagan religions revering an Earth Mother is felicitous. I don’t presume to impute sentience or intelligence or intention to her, but I don’t pretend to understand her mysteries. I anthropomorphize, but it’s not problematic to me, because I think that a romantic-erotic re-imagining of our relationship to the whole is what our species needs at this moment in our history — especially if that history is to continue to unfold. Nothing less than the survival of our civilization is at stake, and despite many reservations about the harm we do, I deeply love our humanity.

    I’m not quite pantheist, not yet; I’m not ready to see divinity in the stars or whatever matrix of logic underlies or generates physical reality. I’ve called myself atheist for over a quarter century, so it feels odd to profess a goddess, but I’m going to embrace this contradiction. I find the mythic stories of other gods and goddesses,
    Demeter and Persephone in particular, infinitely compelling, even if I don’t believe they have a real existence, so I guess that makes me a polytheistic atheist.

    they have a real existence, so I guess that makes me a
    polytheistic atheist.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1307548316 Holly Heiman

    I believe in the power of the Universe, as one huge, infinite source of energy. There is an unimaginable force, that connects to our brains and bodies…that can create anything possible. This force or energy is what ‘life’ is. Earthling humans are mostly too un-evolved and mired in violence to understand or fully connect to it.
    Because of this, I also believe in ‘entities’ the likes of which Earthling humans have
    named…such as Athena, Odin, and The Morrigan, to name a few. I also believe some ‘species’ have developed into higher beings, called ‘angels’ by us.

    The basis for my belief system is years of studying and practicing many spiritual beliefs, and constantly wanting to fall back on my scientific knowledge, which I’m comfortable with (most humans are most comfortable with proof-oriented beliefs!).

    I’ve found it entirely feasible to combine faith and science. Not only does our current state of evolution (and complete lack of knowledge of how our BRAIN works) hinder our understanding, it leaves the possibilities wide-open. And that makes me happy.

  • PurplePagan

    It’s always tricky (and occasionally dangerous) to label ourselves, but I think the best I can do is call myself Eclectic Grey. It’s about balance for me.

    We are of the deities as the deities are of us. All the cosmos is energy and matter, to varying degrees, and therefore the cosmos is internally symbiotic. It is our responsibility to treat the cosmos as we should treat ourselves because, by extension, it is ourselves. The cosmos and deities, while sometimes appearing chaotic, seek patterns and balance given that we also seek those things.

    How’s that for some mangling of personal pronouns? ;)

  • Lupa GreenWolf

    I am moving more and more through pantheism and into a more naturalistic/humanistic paganism. The more I engage with the physical world around me, not in symbols and abstracts, but in concrete experiences, the less need I have to “prove” that beings emanating from nature exist literally. I am more than happy to work with the totems of animals, plants, and fungi and the like, to in my work they are very real and present. But I do not expect that they are objectively real in the same way that the animals, plants, and fungi themselves are. If a totem (for example) is anything, it is a combination of the natural history, behavior, environment, and other salient details of a species, along with all the relationships that species has with other beings, and the stories and other things we have observed and created surrounding that species. As to deities? I feel they’re much the same, only for aspects of the complexity of the human condition.

    I long tried to reconcile the many arguments that people have had in various religions over the nature of individual deities, as well as of the Divine in general. These seem to be less based on any universal evidence, and more on people projecting their subjective opinions and experiences outward. Because of this, I finally gave up on trying to come to any objective reality of deities and spirits and the like, and no longer consider it particularly important. As cliche as it may sound, when my path is more concerned with cleaning up trash around an adopted piece of river, or observing the changes in a place I hike over time, the arguments over the objective vs. subjective reality of deities just don’t compare in my mind. But my path is very nature-based, and I know for some people theirs are very deity-based, and so what’s important to me isn’t necessarily what’s important to everyone, and that’s okay.

  • Cat C-B

    Thanks, Teo. It’s great to have the chance to contribute!

    My theology reflects my attempt to understand both my Pagan and my Quaker experiences–the Quaker identity forming later than the Pagan.

    In a way, my whole blog, Quaker Pagan Reflections, is about this synthesis. But one post that deals with my theology (comparing it with that of Quaker and non-Quaker Christians I know) is entitled God Stuff and God Talk, and it is at http://quakerpagan.blogspot.com/2007/08/god-stuff-and-god-talk-cat.html .

    My husband’s much more succinct statement of his Quaker Pagan theology is also on the blog in an essay entitled Peter on God and the Gods. You can find it at http://quakerpagan.blogspot.com/2008/08/peter-on-god-and-gods.html

  • http://www.patheos.com/Pagan Christine Kraemer

    This is an excerpt from my book, _Seeking the Mystery: An Introduction to Pagan Theologies_ (note the plural). The entire introduction and part of the first chapter are available through Amazon preview, here: http://www.amazon.com/Seeking-Mystery-Introduction-Theologies-ebook/dp/B00AFEKW2C

    I also blog (with Yvonne Aburrow) on Pagan theologies here: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/sermonsfromthemound/

    ******

    Despite a great diversity in beliefs and practices, there are recurring attitudes and behaviors that meaningfully unite contemporary Pagan traditions into a religious movement (rather than a single religion). Although the only trait that all Pagans share may be the use of the word “Pagan,” *most* Pagans hold *most* of the following attitudes.

    1. Pantheism, panentheism, or animism. Pagans experience divinity in the physical world. Pantheists see the world itself as a deity (“All is God/dess”). Panentheists believe that deity is present throughout the material world, but see deity as more than just the world itself (“God/dess is in all things, and all things are in God/dess”). Animists see a spirit or soul in all things (or sometimes, all natural things), and may or may not acknowledge a unifying deity.

    2. Polytheism. Pagans honor multiple gods and goddesses in their religious practice. Some Pagans are soft polytheists and see the many gods as aspects of one God/dess, as aspects of a Goddess and a God, as Jungian archetypes, or as metaphors for natural forces. Others are hard polytheists and understand the gods as individual beings, separate and unique in the same way that human beings are.

    3. Reverence toward nature and the body. “Pagan” comes from the Latin paganus, which probably meant “a person from a rural area.” For many, the word “Pagan” reflects a nature-oriented spirituality. Accordingly, Pagans often celebrate natural cycles and may be passionate environmentalists. The body and sexuality are treated as a sacred part of nature. (See also ecotheology.)

    4. Reference to pre-Christian myths and traditions and/or indigenous traditions. Pagans look to pre-Christian religions, or to religions that have resisted conversion to Christianity, for ways to connect to the land, to themselves, or to the gods/the divine.

    5. Ritual practice. Pagan identity comes from the practice of ritual. Rituals may celebrate the seasons, the cycles of the moon, or the accomplishments of one’s ancestors; honor a deity or deities; or mark life transitions such as births, deaths, and weddings. Pagan rituals often employ drumming; dance; ceremonial fires; incense; physical representations of earth, air, fire, and water; or other sensory elements.

    6. Trust in personal experience as a source of divine knowledge (sometimes called gnosis). With some exceptions, Pagans give personal experiences more authority than texts or received tradition. They emphasize intuition and knowledge felt in the body.

    7. Acknowledgement of the principles of magick. Many Pagans believe that ritual acts performed with intention can alter consciousness, and therefore, reality. Such rituals function similarly to prayer in other religions. Pagans who practice magick often refer to themselves as witches or magicians.

    8. Virtue ethics. Pagan ethical principles often focus on relationships, and ethics are tailored to individual situations. Virtues and values are considered more important than inflexible rules. Most Pagans value cultivating the self, one’s community, and the earth while avoiding harm to others. Celebration, community
    service, creativity, harmony, and love are often emphasized. Pagans who look to ancient warrior traditions, such as Germanic and Celtic cultures, may instead stress honor, truth, courage, and fidelity.

    9. Pluralism. Pagans usually consider the traditions of other religions to be as potentially legitimate as their own. No one spiritual path can be right for everyone because people have different spiritual needs.

    Even as I lay out what appears to be a definition, however, I want to be clear that these are not *defining* characteristics of contemporary Paganism. Rather, they are *emergent* patterns of behavior and belief that I have observed in my fifteen years in the contemporary Pagan community—commonalities that cut across lines of group and tradition.

    I do not intend this list to be employed as a litmus test for whether a group or individual is Pagan. Many Pagan groups may share only five or six of these qualities, and which five or six will vary from group to group. However, I point out these qualities so that Pagans might gain clarity about what makes Pagan community attractive—why Pagans feel more at home among other self-identified Pagans than we do in other religious communities.

    • http://www.bishopinthegrove.com/ Teo Bishop

      Your book is a tremendous resource, Christine. It’s definitely on my list of books for new Pagans to pick up. Thank you for sharing this here!

    • Faoladh

      Will there be a print version available at some point in the near future?

    • http://egregores.blogspot.com Apuleius Platonicus

      It is so refreshing whenever someone emphasizes what Pagans actually have in common – and especially when this is articulated so well. Thank you!

  • Foudatz

    I call myself a religious atheist and, for lack of a better way of putting it, an atheistic hard polytheist pagan (apparent oxymoron acknowledged.) I don’t believe that anything like deities exist out there in the world as some separate conscious beings (or as some sort of conscious source energy, etc.); I believe gods were and continue to be created by the human mind. However, I don’t think that this makes them any less meaningful, important or powerful. I believe that there is a great deal of wisdom and lessons about life, ourselves, each other and humanity as a whole that we can learn from religious stories, concepts and experiences with gods and goddesses. I work with deities in my personal practice and have had many powerful experiences. I believe that deities and religions are intimately entwined with the particular culture they came from and should be understood within that context (without necessarily limiting personal subjective experience with those deities). I, personally, don’t find universalizing or fitting lots of different deities into overarching archetypes particularly meaningful. (And I don’t mean this as any offense to people who do.) I’m the sort of person who doesn’t consider ‘Diana’ and ‘Artemis’ just different names for the same goddess (hence the “hard polytheist” part.)

  • Ben Schuman

    The gods created humanity, and humanity created the gods. All things – living, dead, animate, and inanimate – are connected by a force of some kind (call it The Force, if you like). This Force encompasses the sum total of all life experience (human and otherwise) and is, therefore, too vast for the single human mind to comprehend. We can, however, perceive limited aspects and portions of the Force when we are particularly receptive. We recognize those aspects as having certain personalities, so we call them Isis, Zeus, Quan Yin, Brigid, etc. And we give them stories and faces to explain what we perceive and make them “more real”. These gods are real because we have created them and given them shape. We recognize them and they recognize us in return. They have individuality, but at the same time they are part of a larger whole, as are we.

    Put another way: Each of us is a single drop in a vast ocean. The all-encompassing Force is the ocean itself — comprised of those individual drops, but nonetheless a thing unto itself. The gods are waves — comprised of but necessarily larger than the individual drops; still part of the all-encompassing ocean but also somehow separate and apart. We, as the drops, are part of the gods, and of the same substance.

    So, what we call the gods are humanity’s own limited attempt to comprehend the nature of the universe. [Just my personal opinion, of course - your mileage may vary.]

  • WindReader

    Atheist Pagan here. the more I study and understand the Universe the less room there is for deity and the less need there is for deity.

    Barbara Walker said in her book “The Book of Sacred Stones” that to “truly love Nature you must love Nature truly”. when we anthropomorphize Nature we run the risk an anthropocentric relationship with Nature. we need to interact with Nature as humans without demanding that Nature become like us. Nature can’t and won’t bend to our whims.

  • WindReader

    meant to sign in – sorry

  • Kathy

    I am a solitary wiccan. I hope to some day have a coven to worship with. But for right now I’m happy with practicing on my own. This has been one of the influences in my interpretation of how the Divine works. My personal belief is that there is a God and a Goddess. Seperate and distinct. However, the God or Goddess have many sides to them. Like the average woman has many sides to her, the mom, the business woman, the lover, excetera. Each side is a part of the whole, but distinct from the other in its own way and time. I believe that each social group came to understand the God and Goddess in their own way, inflenced by what they themselves hold dear. Many of the old religions have a goddess of love, or motherhood, or battle. Each of these goddesses represent a side of the Nameless Goddess, and each of these goddesses present their facet in a way that is meaningful to the people who worship them. I personally worship the God and Goddess both as a whole, and also in their aspects as represented by the gods of the Aesir, or Old Norse gods. That dosen’t mean that I think that the Hellenistic gods don’t exist. Just that the Gods of the Romans and Greeks don’t speak to me personally the same way they might to others. The same goes for any other pantheon. There are times I will pray to either just the Father God, in all his glory, or to Odin specifically if I desire help or guidance or blessing over something for which he specializes in, such as runes. It may sound confusing to some, but I find it easy, and even logical to grasp.

  • http://www.facebook.com/aedh.rua Aedh Rua

    I like to call myself a “Goldilocks Polytheist”, not too hard, not too soft. I tend to see the Gods as individual beings, but *some* deities are indeed the same as others. This is especially the case for deities that are have extremely similar names and iconography. So, for example, Thor, Thunor, and Donar I see as the same deity. Things get more complicated when we cross cultural lines, but I find it hard to believe that, say, Perun, Perkons, Perkunas, Taranis, and Thunor don’t have something to do with each other in theological as well as the more established historical and linguistic terms. That said, I’m not going to privilege one culture over another, not even something like Proto-Indo-European culture, that seems to be historically antecedent to other Indo-European cultures.

    I am also humble enough to realize that the nature of the Gods is a mystery, and that I, as a human being, do not have all the answers.

    Personally, I am a Gaulish Polytheist, and this includes more that just the Gods I worship, but also mattes of culture, language, ritual, religious vocabulary, and so on.

    It should be pointed out that hard polytheism was the default position of only certain ancient polytheisms at certain points in history. Most ancient polytheisms had room for many philosophical schools and theologies. For example, Cicero’s “De Natura Deorum” features a dialogue among representatives of three different schools that have very different approaches to the Gods. The entire Interpretatio Romana forms another example. According to Christa Ovist’s “The Integration of Mercury and Lugus: Myth and History in Late Iron Age and Early Roman Gaul”, the process of identifying Gaulish with Greco-Roman deities has roots *predating* the Roman conquest of Gaul. In any case, neither Romans nor Gauls were sufficiently hard polytheists to object to the process, nor to stay away from the worship of deities like Mithras and Isis. Even the “all Goddesses are one Goddess” theology of *many*, though not *all* modern Wiccans has an ancient echo in the speech of Isis in “the Golden Ass” of Apuleius. Here we see a speech that could be found in a modern book on Wicca, in a work written 2,000 years ago.

    I tend to think, that as a small religious minority in a generally hostile culture, whether we are one religion, a group of allied religions, or something more complex, we ought to imitate the ancient example, and find room in are hearts and minds to accept our diverse customs and theologies. It is, ultimately, strongly in our interest.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=614318627 Joanne Dunster

    In an infinite and largely unknowable universe anything I choose to believe about the Gods will, by the laws of big numbers be almost certainly and completely wrong. Truth is unattainable for one as small as I am. If it/they are indeed Gods they have the power to exist in as many ways and forms as they wish. Therefore I encounter the Gods through all the different lenses they appear, I obey the rules of those lenses, I draw inspiration and strength from those encounters and I make peace with paradox.

  • Matsi

    I am a solitary eclectic Pagan whose beliefs are panentheist and animist.

    The gods are both part of the physical universe and separate. They exist in the imagination and outside of it. Every being came from a single source. While the gods came from a single source, they are also their own unique beings. One can have a personal relationship with one or many gods.

    The divine can be connected to in the context of being both one and/or many depending on what is needed for the individual. Every belief system is valid since the divine cannot be truly understood. No single belief has a monopoly on Truth.

    The divine is also every particle of the physical universe. Everything has a spirit that can be related to and communicated with. As such, every life is sacred and equal. I thank the spirits of what I eat and use for their life. The earth is our mother, and we should care for her and respect her.

  • http://www.facebook.com/norma.hamletzarpak Norma Hamlet-Zarpak
  • Fred Johnston

    For me, the Pagan path is a tripod, the three legs being Polytheism, Animism, and Ancestor Worship. I worship the Gods. I see them as many, distinct, independent cosmic forces, beings beyond our mortal understanding manifesting in mythic forms that we can relate to. I worship the nature spirits, and try to live harmoniously with them, the elves and elementals. I honor the dead, the spirits of my ancestors, pray to them, and give them offering.

    • Lucia

      I, too, honor the dead.

  • http://www.facebook.com/adrian.moran1 Adrian Moran

    I just wrote a blog post relevant to this question.
    http://www.adrianmoran.com/polytheism-in-a-modern-age/

  • Ashley Yakeley

    My paganism largely follows that of Alain de Benoist in his book On Being a Pagan. http://summerisle.dreamwidth.org/353.html

    The sacred grows out of or is an aspect of the “ordinary world” and is not separate from it. For instance, Thor, the god of thunder, is also the god that is thunder. The sacred is what we have unconditional respect for.

    There is no objective truth nor objective values or morality. Different people and different cultures have different perspectives, and different gods to uphold their values. Even the same person holds multiple perspectives. Tension and disagreement between perspectives is normal and healthy and part of the communication process, and is represented in mythology by disputes between the gods.

    There may be “one God” as well, but (following Jan Assmann), it is an inclusive unity rather than a Mosaic rejection of “other gods”.

    The sacred might be found in any part of the world or any part of one’s life. It’s unexpected and particular, not uniform or even or equal. We find the sacred both individually and collectively, so it is, or should be, rooted in our culture. Especially, the sacred is found in particular places, and in the relationship between culture and place.

    The sacred grows out of not just nature, but of culture. The gods also call us to endeavour, to surpass ourselves, to grow. For instance, Venus to endeavour to love, Vulcan to create, Loki to succeed through cleverness. And collectively we are capable of anything. “Nothing that we propose to do shall be withheld from us.”

  • Gede Parma

    http://www.gedeparma.com/?p=304

    This stimulated a blog post for me in response(ish):

    “It may be quite obvious that I feel, or am of the opinion, that there are beings/spirits identifiable as Gods that do in fact exist in the Eternal Cosmos. This would be an accurate interpretation of the subtext to what I have written. However, if the question is, do I believe in the existence of Gods, I would respond that it doesn’t matter whether I do or not, I will engage with Them anyway. This engagement with Them presupposes that I experience Them in my life – this is true. I also engage with, interact, and have encounters with spirits and beings not classed as deity by human cultures or condition(s).”

  • LaurelhurstLiberal

    The gods are highly specific. Just as my mother is not a universal image of a mother figure, but a specific person with a unique history and identity, the gods are distinct and are themselves. In fact, they are more specific than people, because they’re bigger and more complex. Thor, for example, is the red-bearded friend to the common man and slayer of giants, but he is also the exalted consecrator of holy places and the thunder god. I don’t think you can worship a generic thunder god, or male god, or horned god, any more than you can love a generic mother. Once the relationship becomes intense and personal, it must also grow specific and detailed. This is why I am a hard polytheist.

  • http://twitter.com/Ravan_A Ravan Asteris

    Cosmogeny: The mythic cosmogeny for my tradition is at http://diamond.asteris.org/cosmogeny.shtml It’s the starting point for our discussions of deity. You may note that no single planet or species is identified.

    There’s more, with a decided Neil Gaiman twist, in that we also believe that massed belief creates gods in societies. But I need to do my writeup on that.

  • http://www.facebook.com/melinda.reidinger Melinda Reidinger

    I believe there is a unified matrix of being, becoming and potential. It
    can be called Goddess (or something else) by those who are so inclined, but of course those are
    just metaphors. Consciousness is one of its integral properties. It may be embodied or non-embodied, and it moves in swirls and eddies through space, time, and “matter.”
    Some of it, of course, resides in us, and some moves perceptibly
    through us, or beyond our faculties of perception. Deities are part of
    this mystery.

  • http://www.facebook.com/ingaleonora Inga Leonora Westerberg
  • Pingback: A Matter of Perspective | Australis Incognita

  • Guest

    The Gods are unique persons, each with their own temperaments. I can see this belief within myself but most of my beliefs are unknown to me. I learn over time pieces of my belief. It’s not all clear to me. I feel called to a particular tradition or template. I learn it and take from it what is most useful to my personal Wheel. What is joy to me and how will I use my time to express it? What festivities will I engage in? So I may add those of ancient gods or goddesses to my Wheel of eight. I use this expansion to emphasize the kind of energy I wish to follow. I find myself honoring many goddesses but three main gods. I know that this is not the end. Whenever I feel called to a god or goddess, I go with that instinct. They are individual to me. But the gods and goddesses are not the end of it. The Earth and the Sun and the Moon hold a special place. I’d love to learn of all the constellation and all the variety of life on the earth. The act of the Wheel. stirring, planting, growing and harvesting is a major part of what I feel practice is for me. I learn with the seasons.

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  • http://www.xkcd.com/285 Eran Rathan

    I am an experiential agnostic henotheist heathen. I have experienced beings that I label ‘gods’ for lack of a better term. They are entities that are both physical and non-physical, have much greater awareness and ability than humans, but are not ‘perfect’ (for a given value of the word). I am agnostic in that I have no way of knowing for certain who or what these entities are, and I am only certain in the existences of those whom I have personally interacted with. I am a henotheist because I do not think it is possible to have multiple allegiances, and one should have a clear ‘chain of command’ to prevent possible screw-ups. I am a heathen in that I follow Odinn (though, Athena has been asking for my attention for some time, and I am not quite sure what to make of it, but She has been getting more insistent of late), and I am an ancestor worshipper.

    I believe that there is a single Source (the Tao), but that it is non-sentient. I believe that everything will eventually be explainable by science, but that doesn’t take away from its inspirational or reverential qualities.

  • http://www.facebook.com/rua.lupa Rua Lupa

    All is God, Many Gods, No God… – Nature Requires Diversity to be Healthy, Resilient, Adaptable. Ehoah.

    Saegoahs (Seekers of Ehoah) feel that there is need to live harmoniously within Nature to ensure well-being. To be a Saegoah, you only need to agree that the Basic Three Tenets are True,

    ‘One of the many ways fulfillment can be found is through Nature’

    ‘Nature, being inseparable from humanity’s existence,
    is important in human pursuits’

    ‘As humans are a part of Nature,
    it is important to ensure our connections within it are harmonious’

    Nothing else is required because in agreeing with this you would naturally actively work toward being completely harmonious within Nature.

    Ehoah maintains the ground base of what is currently known and confirmed through the scientific method, where each individual or group can perceive Nature in their own way on top of this.

    Having and being involved in other practices is encouraged because Nature requires diversity to be resilient and adaptable, and diverse views allow for more harmony and respect among people.

    The following quote is sometimes used to summarize the outlook of Saegoahs, “There is no one right way, as there are many paths to the same destination, you just need to choose the path that feels most right to you, even if it means blazing it.”

    to learn more go to the official Ehoah Website http://ehoah.weebly.com

  • Michele C.

    I find that written language is so limited sometimes. After all, we just don’t have enough words for everything out there and even when we think we do, we find that the majority of the planet can’t even understand our words. I find that talking about the divine makes me feel as though my words are something like, “You know, it’s like that one thing that sort of feels like that one time when I was somewhere that wasn’t here.” It tends to make a lot more sense in my head.

    That being said, I know that when words fail me, I fall back on the ultimate communication technique, music. Music, like math and emotion, is a universal language for humans. Therefore, the divine should be something that can be grasped by all even if it cannot be explained.

    My gods are like music.

    When I need a pick-me-up, I call on something happy that makes me want to dance and sing. When I feel like having a moment with my husband, I put on something slow and intimate. For every part of my life, there a song to go with it. Like my gods, I am never without my music. It follows me everywhere and provides a language that lets me communicate with the world around me, even if I have nothing in common with whatever or whomever I’m speaking with.

    My gods, like my music, are all different and yet still the same. Some are closely related to each other, like my country and Irish music. I see their roots starting from the same point and branching out to fulfill certain needs in the world. Some don’t seem to have any connection, like my Yo-Yo Ma and my 80′s pop hits. However, when I look deeper, I see that while they seem so dissimilar, they share the same components. A key signature, notes and a clef. They are not the same, but they were built from the same elements.

    Not everyone shares my taste in music. Their speakers blast different tunes and their hands beat a different rhythm. Sometimes, two genres come together and fusion of sounds makes a whole new experience. I find myself sharing a conversation in music with someone who’s playlist has nothing in common with mine except this one piece and for a moment the connection is amazing.

    My gods are like music. I call on different ones when I need them and they are at once familiar and completely new every time I hear them. Sometimes they come out of the speakers unexpectedly and call on me to react in a certain way or provide me with a memory long forgotten. They have many faces and many names, but at the end of the day they blur into one heart beat that lives beneath the surface of everything.

  • http://twitter.com/BTNewberg B. T. Newberg

    The gods are cultural traditions to which we respond, and in doing so we learn something of nature, each other, and ourselves.

  • http://www.facebook.com/gypsika Annika Mongan

    Inevitably my pagan theology will be informed by my
    training as a Christian theologian, either by contrast or comparison. I
    still – or once again – believe in transcendence. I am not an atheistic
    pagan. I believe in one transcendent spirit, supposing this makes me a
    monist. I waiver between believing that God is *in* everything and that
    God *is* everything, but I lean more towards panentheism. But don’t ask
    which of the three kinds of panentheism I would subscribe to.
    Surprisingly to me I have come to like the multitude of deities,
    although I am certainly not a hard polytheist. Maybe I am a
    panentheistic aspectal polytheistic monistic theist with just a touch of
    non-dispensational post-millenial Christian eschatology.

    But one thing I know for sure. I could become a
    pantheist tomorrow. I could become a pagan atheist. I could become a
    hard polytheist. I could change my theology completely and still be a
    pagan. No matter which fancy theological label I apply to myself in the
    future, I will not let go of my devotion for this love that is the
    fabric of our beautiful cosmos. And no matter how my theology shifts, it
    will never cause me to be excommunicated from our eclectic pagan
    community. I celebrate this knowledge on the day I was born into this
    world. Blessed Beltane!

    http://witchesandpagans.com/Cross-and-Pentacle/my-pagan-theology.html

  • Ealasaid Haas

    I’ve studied enough philosophy and judicial history to know that the evidence of our senses is suspect at best, therefore I believe it is not possible to know for sure whether the Gods literally exist from an objective standpoint.

    But I also have shrines to several Gods around my home, and a working altar, and I perform magical spells, so. Yeah.

    I wrote about this for last year’s Pagan Blogging Month. I call myself an experiential pragmatist — what matters to me are my experiences and whether shit works, not empirical truth. http://www.ealasaid.com/blog/2012/06/05/pagan-values-blogging-month-experiential-pragmatism/

  • Pitch313

    I take a Craft-rooted approach that favors practice over theology. Things have happened to me/I have done stuff that I have not been able to figure out or find the sense or wisdom within for decades. If I actually have done so.

    Deities and Guardians and non-human beings may be like us humans. Or not. But thypically, they probably will not be confined by our concepts, discourse, and thinking. I’d say, for instance, that monotheism involves worshipping one out of many, even if montheists insist that it’s worshipping the proper one among all the rest. But the deities and guardians may be ROLFLTAO over it all!

    Magic is as magic works itself out.

  • Pitch313

    Maybe I mean ROFLTAO?!?!?

  • Pitch313

    Also CEILING CAT…

  • Sarah

    Quakers were crowdsourcing religion before it was cool.

    • http://www.bishopinthegrove.com/ Teo Bishop

      And this, Sarah, should be a t-shirt.

  • http://www.facebook.com/wyrd.wiles Wyrd Wiles

    My Pagan Theology.

    I am an Agnostic Heathen. What that means is that while I honor the Gods, and experience their presence in my life, I acknowledge that this experience is ENTIRELY subjective. I have no more proof that the ancient Gods of Scandinavia exist in an objective sense, then a Christian “young Earther” has that the planet is 6000 years old. What I do know is that by following the examples set down in the Eddas and the Sagas, I have improved myself, and my life in general. I know that when I call out to the Shining Bride, I can feel her power with me. Is it all in my head? Is it objectively provable? Does it matter? I will never claim that the Gods are FACT, however I will claim that they have been a major force in shaping my life.

    To utilize a pop culture reference: Does it matter if there is a spoon, if it still gets the soup to your mouth?

  • Malaz

    When I thought about this article, and read
    the initial comments, I wondered what the most appropriate response would be.
    Should I:
    A. reprimand
    some responders for being too p.c. and attached to their books and definitions?

    B.
    reply with the short and sweet version of “what would you say if you were the
    teacher?” or

    C. should
    I use some of those definitions and books to attempt a framework for
    discussion?
    I chose C….simply because calling someone
    too p.c. could be just self righteousness
    I will include my B. response at the end.
    Meanwhile:
    Allow me to begin with this:
    I am not a teacher. I will never claim to
    be a teacher (by which I mean a person who “teaches” or “leads” a spiritual
    tradition)
    I am, by modern definition, a PolyMatrotheological,
    Open Animist, Non-Tradition, Divinitus Coalescum, Kemetan/Kassamite/Shinto practitioner.

    WTF??? Yah…it’s a mouthful. What this means
    for those who didn’t take Latin is:
    I believe in many Goddesses (no male
    deities). I believe in a world full of spirits, of places, rivers etc…(so it
    doesn’t much matter what culture they are venerated in). I believe that
    tradition…(see the dictionary definition) even in the hands of well meaning
    people will always…always…always turn into a hierarchy therefore, no teachers,
    no gurus, no holy text, no messiahs…etc..
    I believe that divination is the root of true spiritual practice and that the
    Spirits/gods..etc.. are the only true teachers.
    Because of that divination, I have taken
    Egyptian, Mesopotamian and Japanese spiritual practices as part of my own.
    Because of divination, I have a highly
    complex, very specific and rigorous practice which is entirely my own and which
    fulfills me.
    The Spirits taught me that I should (as in
    the case of the Hindu Devata) put certain Goddesses ‘before’ others and have
    become a priest of Sekhmet, Neith, Dagar and Amaterasu-No-Kami (though…Sekhmet insisted on being first…) but depending on the Festival or Moon, I am a temporary priest of many, many others (but not all…I don’t acknowledge some goddesses, like Hathor or Ishtar in any way.) I’ve been divining since I was fourteen and have been practicing in this way for 15 years.

    Answer B:
    If I had any advice for a new Pagan…it
    would be this:
    Find a method of divination that works for
    you.
    Find a pantheon that works for you.

    Ask your gods what you should be doing, not
    a teacher, not a lama, not a holy text…just you and your gods.

  • http://www.miraselena.com/ Heather Greene

    interesting project. Just got around to posting my blog response: http://www.miraselena.com/2013/05/01/my-pagan-theology/

  • Donovan LaFon

    I believe there are many gods and goddesses and they are loyal to you if you are loyal to them. Each of them are unique unto themselves and wonderful for it. But they aren’t the only ones out there. Your ancestors are there to back you no matter what and help keep an eye on you in times of need.

  • Liz

    When I was 16yr – 18yr I went looking for religion ( I had a belief but wanted to see if what I believed fit the world I saw) The few churches I visited didn’t fit – I always thought if I wanted to talk to god I could I didn’t need someone to interpret for me. My religion was one of the world around me ( I didn’t know it was called Pagan), everything had a voice if I could only hear it.

    When I was 25yr I was in a MVA and am supposed to have died and revived. I don’t KNOW – I was in a coma – but when I came out I KNEW that what I believed was right for me. The world is my church and the beings in it are my teachers, guides and voices of the spirit that is apart of us all.

    I am Pagan with multi god/goddesses that speak depending on what I need to hear. But what others will call their path depends on what they need to hear.

  • Nick Ritter

    This is my stumbling attempt to write down a theology. It is
    vague and abstract, which is as it should be because words can’t really capture
    what I’m writing about here. It is also clumsy, which is due to my flaws as a
    writer – although I will also use the excuse that it is very difficult to write
    in prose what is better suited to verse, or music, or any other form of art.
    This writing is of necessity incomplete. My understanding changes as I continue
    to learn and experience more.

    First, there is “the Holy,” by which I mean holiness as such
    as well as everything that can be said to be holy. Thought of in mythological
    terms, it encompasses the gods and their world, a world infinitely vaster than
    this one and more real, fuller of meaning. The Holy is beyond human
    understanding or speech – incomprehensible, ineffable – and is perceived
    differently by different people in different cultures. That world touches on
    this one, bleeds or breaks through into this world, giving this world reality
    and meaning. The times when that world breaks through into this one are holy
    times; the places where that world breaks through into this one are holy places.
    These times and places are not all of them known or predictable: the new discovery of the Holy is always possible. Religions are specific cultures’ traditions of understanding and being in a relationship with the Holy.

    There is a structure to existence, an order, a pattern, a way that things are; this order is part of the Holy. This order is beyond human understanding or speech – incomprehensible, ineffable – and vast enough to encompass contradictions: chaos is part of the greater order, death is part of life overall. Although this order or pattern is beyond human comprehension, attempting to understand it so that we can live in accord with it is perhaps the central part of being human. This order is felt when we see beauty, when we perceive harmony, when we sense the rightness of things (one aspect of this rightness is justice).

    There are the gods. They are of the order of existence, and they dwell within the “other world” of the Holy. As that world touches upon this world, they also dwell here. Their deeds in myth are in that “other world”, but as that world touches on this one, their deeds are also here. The gods are each beyond human comprehension, as is their totality – the society or family of the gods. The gods have both individuality and togetherness: that is, each god can be seen as a focus of reality, meaning, and holiness, as can the relationship between gods in their contexts of belonging together. A god protects, oversees, embodies a certain part of the order of being, a certain kind of holiness, a certain part of the Holy. Gods are just that: gods. They cannot be reduced to something else more comprehensible to the human mind, they cannot be pigeonholed or categorized; when one attempts to do that, to make the gods something that the human mind can turn over and analyze, one is no longer dealing with a god but rather with a construct of one’s mind. The mystery of gods is irreducible, as is the mystery of the greater order of being, as is the mystery of the Holy overall.

    There are myths. A myth is a deeper truth, the transmission of a flash of insight from that ineffable beyond, translated into a narrative so that it can be told to others, to give them a glimmer of the original insight. As such, a myth should never be understood as having merely literal truth. Myths should be understood as having the same sort of truth as art, as song, as poetry. Art, including song and poetry and dance – and especially ritual as a kind of “Gesamtkunstwerk” that
    incorporates visual art, music, song and poetry, dance and other ritual
    movement and ritual acts – is vital to our approach to and relationship with
    the Holy. This is because these things speak to us on a deeper and more immediate level, and because they spring from that level, than rational discourse.

    The Holy is not knowable through reason alone, and so our knowing must partake of the non-rational as well. As such, our understanding of the Holy, or the order of
    existence, of the gods should not be through reason alone; one should approach
    this through reason, through instinct, and through a deep artistic sense – in short, with all of one’s faculties.

  • GearoidMacConfhiaclaigh

    Late to the party but…

    I believe in a many distinct Gods and Goddesses, each with their own personality. I worship the Gods of my ancestors, though I will honor the Gods of others as well. I believe as a polytheist I need to reject, remove, and replace the monotheist assumptions I was raised into and learn to view the world without the limits placed by monotheist assumptions. I believe that the ancient Celtic culture, more specifically Irish, holds many lessons for us today. I also believe that the most appropriate way to approach the deities I honor is through language and culture of those ancestors, though obviously some things will be different.

    I also believe and honor the other Kindred (gonna steal an ADF term here). I’ve also made a commitment to the “warrior ethos” of the culture, and try and model myself and my life in that way.

    So I guess compared to most people I’m sort of a fundamentalist pagan, or very conservative at least.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=690580325 Terence Patrick Ward