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Author Topic: Reconciling Multiple Paths  (Read 1506 times)

Demophon

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Reconciling Multiple Paths
« on: June 10, 2015, 07:23:13 pm »
I don't know if this is a real problem, since I know in many parts of the world, it's perfectly acceptable to follow different religious traditions without internal conflict, except in parts of the world where the norm is to follow monotheistic traditions that are very exclusive of any other kind of worship.

I go through phases of "hard" and "soft" polytheism, and ultimately I do consider myself a monist. On the ground, though, I tend to treat the gods I follow as distinct individuals. I like the idea of hard polytheism, it would make life so much simpler if I could subscribe to that view completely. Two goddesses I follow are Hekate and Aphrodite, which don't seem especially similar at first glance, but I find them to have a similar "energy" in that they both have that kind of triple influence over all three realms of heaven, earth, and sea, and both can be associated with Nyx, the primordial goddess of Orphic tradition. Another favourite deity of mine is Isis, who, especially in her Hellenized guise, can be universally equated with almost any deity. Hathor being another goddess who plays a large role in my practice has significant overlap with both Isis and Aphrodite. I do have a witchy influence to a certain extent, and I know that the "all gods are one god, all goddesses are one goddess" thing isn't necessarily a requirement, but I do think the god and goddess of pagan witchcraft traditions such as traditional Wicca are very universal, and there is room for understanding other deities as different manifestations of the central pair.

So yeah, I feel like taking a "hard" polytheistic approach would make everything less complicated my brain when it comes to following various paths, but I find so much overlap when it comes to deities from different traditions, and even within the same culture, that it's hard to make it work. On the other hand, I don't want to choose to only follow Aphrodite rather than Hekate and Isis, because I find the other deities have something different to offer. I guess my main problem is that when it comes to worship, I can treat different deities as distinct, but the cosmological overlap of many deities makes it hard to understand them theologically as distinct, if that makes sense.

RandallS

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Re: Reconciling Multiple Paths
« Reply #1 on: June 11, 2015, 07:57:07 am »
Quote from: Demophon;175978
I do have a witchy influence to a certain extent, and I know that the "all gods are one god, all goddesses are one goddess" thing isn't necessarily a requirement, but I do think the god and goddess of pagan witchcraft traditions such as traditional Wicca are very universal, and there is room for understanding other deities as different manifestations of the central pair.

It is possible to "understand deities" that way without them actually being that way. The gods are what they are (one deity, two deities, one group, many groups, etc.) no matter what "crutches" we use in our mind to help us understand them.

Quote
So yeah, I feel like taking a "hard" polytheistic approach would make everything less complicated my brain when it comes to following various paths, but I find so much overlap when it comes to deities from different traditions, and even within the same culture, that it's hard to make it work.

I have the opposite problem. I see so many differences in ritual, history, areas of interest, personality, etc. that I find it hard to make the "all gods are one god, all goddess are one goddess" think work at all.
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Jainarayan

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Re: Reconciling Multiple Paths
« Reply #2 on: June 11, 2015, 12:01:56 pm »
Quote from: RandallS;175987

I have the opposite problem. I see so many differences in ritual, history, areas of interest, personality, etc. that I find it hard to make the "all gods are one god, all goddess are one goddess" think work at all.

 
Same here. I have an affinity for the Hindu gods, but they are so unlike the Norse gods it's impossible for me to consider them anything but distinct, i.e. hard polytheism. The Norse gods are rough-and-tumble and like their meat, beer, ale, and especially mead. Those things are (almost) never offered to Hindu gods, who are more contemplative. In fact, I don't even know of any stories in which the Hindu gods eat (except one involving Vishnu on a hunger strike). Whatever I do for both pantheons is kept miles apart. They may have once sprung from a common Proto-Indoeuropean source, but they are greatly diverged now.
śivāya vishnu rūpaya śivaḥ rūpaya vishnave
śivasya hridayam viṣṇur viṣṇoscha hridayam śivaḥ
Vishnu's appearance is Shiva; Shiva's appearance is Vishnu
Vishnu is the heart of Shiva; Shiva is the heart of Vishnu - Skandopanishad
 

Darkhawk

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Re: Reconciling Multiple Paths
« Reply #3 on: June 11, 2015, 03:07:09 pm »
Quote from: Demophon;175978
I know that the "all gods are one god, all goddesses are one goddess" thing isn't necessarily a requirement, but I do think the god and goddess of pagan witchcraft traditions such as traditional Wicca are very universal, and there is room for understanding other deities as different manifestations of the central pair.

 
Room if one wants to limit them dramatically, or only deal with powers that suit that model.  Keep in mind that that sort of central pair logic is one that is fundamentally of erotic heterosexuality (in the form of Wiccish traditions; others are less straight) and that not all gods like to be wodged into that particular context or fit there neatly.

(I mean, I deal with a god who is mythologically attested as telling his nephew he has a nice ass.  Who, back when I was limiting myself theologically to Wiccish stuff, refused to deal with me until I stopped with the box thinking.)

Quote
I can treat different deities as distinct, but the cosmological overlap of many deities makes it hard to understand them theologically as distinct, if that makes sense.


Task portfolios are not theology.  I have three kids, two of whom I birthed myself, and I work extensively with several powers with ties to motherhood; that does not mean that I am everyone's mom.  I am not every woman, and it is not all in me.

When you're talking theology it's mostly something more structural.  Many pagan religions have sex-stuff in their creation stories, for example, which might superficially look like it matches up neatly with that core couple, but not all of those stories are reproductive; there is autoeroticism in there too, and some more complicated stuff as well.  And you get other sorts of creation in there - creation by word, creation by actully making a thing, the fascinatingly evolutionary cosmos of some Greek writeups, and so on.  That's the level where theological structure comes into play, not "this power and that power have these traits in common".

(Now my brain is going "How many storm gods can we invite to a ritual?" which is probably not a good plan for midsummer, even if we do need the rain.)
as the water grinds the stone
we rise and fall
as our ashes turn to dust
we shine like stars    - Covenant, "Bullet"

Sophia C

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Re: Reconciling Multiple Paths
« Reply #4 on: June 11, 2015, 03:53:20 pm »
Quote from: Darkhawk;175992
Room if one wants to limit them dramatically, or only deal with powers that suit that model.  Keep in mind that that sort of central pair logic is one that is fundamentally of erotic heterosexuality (in the form of Wiccish traditions; others are less straight) and that not all gods like to be wodged into that particular context or fit there neatly.

(I mean, I deal with a god who is mythologically attested as telling his nephew he has a nice ass.  Who, back when I was limiting myself theologically to Wiccish stuff, refused to deal with me until I stopped with the box thinking.)



Task portfolios are not theology.  I have three kids, two of whom I birthed myself, and I work extensively with several powers with ties to motherhood; that does not mean that I am everyone's mom.  I am not every woman, and it is not all in me.

When you're talking theology it's mostly something more structural.  Many pagan religions have sex-stuff in their creation stories, for example, which might superficially look like it matches up neatly with that core couple, but not all of those stories are reproductive; there is autoeroticism in there too, and some more complicated stuff as well.  And you get other sorts of creation in there - creation by word, creation by actully making a thing, the fascinatingly evolutionary cosmos of some Greek writeups, and so on.  That's the level where theological structure comes into play, not "this power and that power have these traits in common".

(Now my brain is going "How many storm gods can we invite to a ritual?" which is probably not a good plan for midsummer, even if we do need the rain.)
There's a very fun BBC radio comedy sketch where several sun deities from different cultures are arguing over who brings the sun up, and by what means. And making fun of each other.

Ra: “Oh and how do you make it rise, may I ask?”
Sol: “Well how do you think? I climb into my fiery chariot, pulled by my two eternal horses and ride in triumph across the sky!”
Ra: “Right! You see that proves it! You know nothing about how the sun works. You didn’t even mention the giant dung beetle!

From transcript here http://j-f-s-p.livejournal.com/5894.html
"We're all stories, in the end. Make it a good one, eh?"
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Sefiru

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Re: Reconciling Multiple Paths
« Reply #5 on: June 11, 2015, 07:09:21 pm »
Quote from: Darkhawk;175992

Task portfolios are not theology.  [...]
When you're talking theology it's mostly something more structural.  


My brain immediately went, "Homology vs analogy!" (ie. similarities between life forms that are due to common descent, vs those that are due to living in similar environments.)

Demophon

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Re: Reconciling Multiple Paths
« Reply #6 on: June 15, 2015, 10:55:47 pm »
Quote from: Thorbjorn;175991
Same here. I have an affinity for the Hindu gods, but they are so unlike the Norse gods it's impossible for me to consider them anything but distinct, i.e. hard polytheism. The Norse gods are rough-and-tumble and like their meat, beer, ale, and especially mead. Those things are (almost) never offered to Hindu gods, who are more contemplative. In fact, I don't even know of any stories in which the Hindu gods eat (except one involving Vishnu on a hunger strike). Whatever I do for both pantheons is kept miles apart. They may have once sprung from a common Proto-Indoeuropean source, but they are greatly diverged now.


To me, the difference in the ways different cultures honour Deity has more to do with us than it has to do with the gods. Humans project their own cultures and societal characteristics on the Divine, and I doubt the gods really care what we offer them, but psychologically it helps us feel closer to higher power(s) and mixing cultural symbolism can be problematic and confusing (but not for everybody). At least that's my perspective.
 
Quote from: Darkhawk;175992
Room if one wants to limit them dramatically, or only deal with powers that suit that model.  Keep in mind that that sort of central pair logic is one that is fundamentally of erotic heterosexuality (in the form of Wiccish traditions; others are less straight) and that not all gods like to be wodged into that particular context or fit there neatly.


I know Feri Tradition, in particular, is more gender-fluid. I have a few of Victor and Cora's books, but I'm sure you would agree it's too difficult to study on my own. It seems like Feri practitioners can vary greatly, and differ a lot from what Victor and Cora originally taught, so it seems like it can be hit and miss to find a decent teacher. Not that there are many in Canada, anyway. I live in a fairly large city, but the pagan community here is pretty scant, and even the rare BTW covens I've come across seem pretty eclectic and generally kooky.

I don't know if I necessarily subscribe to the "central pair" concept myself, I just meant that from what I know about Wicca, its deities are universal, and I like that. I'm more of a monist, really. I see Deity as an abstract force that can manifest itself in diverse ways with an underlying unity.

I always seem to find myself coming back to Wicca, or at least some kind of pagan witchcraft. I'm interested in Feri, but like I said, it's hard to delve to deeply into it in my current situation. I feel like I should pursue some kind of formal training, if not with Feri than BTW. I like that witchcraft generally is pretty inclusive of various gods and pantheons, but still has its own structure, and a worldview that makes sense to me.

Quote from: Darkhawk;175992
Task portfolios are not theology.  I have three kids, two of whom I birthed myself, and I work extensively with several powers with ties to motherhood; that does not mean that I am everyone's mom.  I am not every woman, and it is not all in me.


That made me giggle :D:


Quote from: Darkhawk;175992
When you're talking theology it's mostly something more structural.  Many pagan religions have sex-stuff in their creation stories, for example, which might superficially look like it matches up neatly with that core couple, but not all of those stories are reproductive; there is autoeroticism in there too, and some more complicated stuff as well.  And you get other sorts of creation in there - creation by word, creation by actully making a thing, the fascinatingly evolutionary cosmos of some Greek writeups, and so on.  That's the level where theological structure comes into play, not "this power and that power have these traits in common".

(Now my brain is going "How many storm gods can we invite to a ritual?" which is probably not a good plan for midsummer, even if we do need the rain.)

 
Good point, thanks.

Darkhawk

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Re: Reconciling Multiple Paths
« Reply #7 on: June 16, 2015, 02:40:17 pm »
Quote from: Demophon;176110
I know Feri Tradition, in particular, is more gender-fluid. I have a few of Victor and Cora's books, but I'm sure you would agree it's too difficult to study on my own. It seems like Feri practitioners can vary greatly, and differ a lot from what Victor and Cora originally taught, so it seems like it can be hit and miss to find a decent teacher.


Worth noting that what the Andersons originally taught also varied wildly depending on the student; they were good enough at what they did to personalise everything on the fly.  Which is one of the reasons Feri lines differ so widely, and why finding a compatible teacher is rather more complicated.

Quote
I don't know if I necessarily subscribe to the "central pair" concept myself, I just meant that from what I know about Wicca, its deities are universal, and I like that. I'm more of a monist, really. I see Deity as an abstract force that can manifest itself in diverse ways with an underlying unity.


Well, some would say they are, and some wouldn't.  My experience is that the universality of Wiccan deity is much heavier in non-lineaged Wicca derivatives, thought it also exists in some BTW groups.  The Wiccans I've met personally in meatspace tended more towards, "... no, my gods are not universal, this is not an everyone-is-welcome tradition after all."
as the water grinds the stone
we rise and fall
as our ashes turn to dust
we shine like stars    - Covenant, "Bullet"

Demophon

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Re: Reconciling Multiple Paths
« Reply #8 on: June 16, 2015, 04:47:17 pm »
Quote from: Darkhawk;176120
Worth noting that what the Andersons originally taught also varied wildly depending on the student; they were good enough at what they did to personalise everything on the fly.  Which is one of the reasons Feri lines differ so widely, and why finding a compatible teacher is rather more complicated.


That makes sense.

Quote from: Darkhawk;176120
Well, some would say they are, and some wouldn't.  My experience is that the universality of Wiccan deity is much heavier in non-lineaged Wicca derivatives, thought it also exists in some BTW groups.  The Wiccans I've met personally in meatspace tended more towards, "... no, my gods are not universal, this is not an everyone-is-welcome tradition after all."

 
I have heard that too, though I think it's one of those things that depends on the individual. Doreen Valiente described the witches' gods as the primordial all-mother and all-father, and her Charge of the Goddess does say that "the Goddess" was known by many names, and lists the ancient goddesses who are identified with her. Not that Doreen is the ultimate authority on Wicca, but she's pretty close, and I personally prefer her works to Gerald's. If I'm not mistaken, the gods of Wicca do have specific names that are oathbound, but my understanding of them is that they are similar to the Greco-Roman cult of Isis and Sarapis, for example. They are unique gods in their own right, but highly syncretic and universal in influence.

I do kind of think that anything called "witchcraft" attracts a certain demographic of people who want to be seen as different or special, so will emphasize the exclusivity of the communities they belong to. While Wicca is an initiatory path, so in that way it is exclusive, I struggle with the concept that the gods belong to only a specific group of people. I'm sure there are different opinions that are valid, but that's my perspective.

Darkhawk

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Re: Reconciling Multiple Paths
« Reply #9 on: June 16, 2015, 10:19:05 pm »
Quote from: Demophon;176123
While Wicca is an initiatory path, so in that way it is exclusive, I struggle with the concept that the gods belong to only a specific group of people. I'm sure there are different opinions that are valid, but that's my perspective.

 
One of hte people I'm thinking of said in so many words that people who were called to the honour of that particular set of deities would be the people who seek out initiatory training, because that's how one recognises the call.  Basically, that people who don't want to do the sort of veneration those deities like are clearly not called to venerate those deities.
as the water grinds the stone
we rise and fall
as our ashes turn to dust
we shine like stars    - Covenant, "Bullet"

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Re: Reconciling Multiple Paths
« Reply #10 on: June 19, 2015, 08:46:01 pm »
Quote from: Demophon;175978
I don't know if this is a real problem, since I know in many parts of the world, it's perfectly acceptable to follow different religious traditions without internal conflict, except in parts of the world where the norm is to follow monotheistic traditions that are very exclusive of any other kind of worship.

I go through phases of "hard" and "soft" polytheism, and ultimately I do consider myself a monist. On the ground, though, I tend to treat the gods I follow as distinct individuals. I like the idea of hard polytheism, it would make life so much simpler if I could subscribe to that view completely. Two goddesses I follow are Hekate and Aphrodite, which don't seem especially similar at first glance, but I find them to have a similar "energy" in that they both have that kind of triple influence over all three realms of heaven, earth, and sea, and both can be associated with Nyx, the primordial goddess of Orphic tradition. Another favourite deity of mine is Isis, who, especially in her Hellenized guise, can be universally equated with almost any deity. Hathor being another goddess who plays a large role in my practice has significant overlap with both Isis and Aphrodite. I do have a witchy influence to a certain extent, and I know that the "all gods are one god, all goddesses are one goddess" thing isn't necessarily a requirement, but I do think the god and goddess of pagan witchcraft traditions such as traditional Wicca are very universal, and there is room for understanding other deities as different manifestations of the central pair.

So yeah, I feel like taking a "hard" polytheistic approach would make everything less complicated my brain when it comes to following various paths, but I find so much overlap when it comes to deities from different traditions, and even within the same culture, that it's hard to make it work. On the other hand, I don't want to choose to only follow Aphrodite rather than Hekate and Isis, because I find the other deities have something different to offer. I guess my main problem is that when it comes to worship, I can treat different deities as distinct, but the cosmological overlap of many deities makes it hard to understand them theologically as distinct, if that makes sense.

 
I am a hard polytheist so I see them as distinct entities into themselves that in a few cases merge and become a kind of squishy to use a word from TTR. Mainly that is on my kemetic views. Add in my hellenic and christopagan views and no wonder my mind is bent. :p But yeah, I just get the feeling that they are all distinct. I don't look at Bast and think she is also Artemis to use an example. They are both, in my view, very different. I have always been a hard polytheist, it is just the way my mind accepts it.

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