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Author Topic: Balance between "The God & Goddess" and polytheism  (Read 1677 times)

StagTracker

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Balance between "The God & Goddess" and polytheism
« on: August 24, 2015, 07:06:03 pm »
Just to set the stage, I've been with ADF for a little over a year.  Whereas many I've encountered came to ADF Druidry from Wicca-based models (i.e., either actual Wicca or Wicca-based stuff such as Cunningham's works but non-initiatory) I came straight into Paganism and ADF at the same time as I figured Wicca wasn't quite for me.  Fast forward to today and the ADF model doesn't quite click for me either, so I've been exploring other things including ideas from Wicca, general religious witchcraft, Feri, and such.  While ADF has some good stuff and I remain part of my local grove because the folks are awesome, there's a personal component I find lacking for myself in "bringing it home."  Witchcraft is proving to provide that internal development that I didn't quite get with ADF's models (no reflection on ADF... just how I jive with it).

Part of what wasn't working was what I call the "deity du jour."  As a beginner without a solid relationship with a particular pantheon, I haven't had a broad array of deities to call out and honor in relation to particular high days, workings, etc.  And I feel somewhat disingenuous picking one or two for a ritual just because some source links them to a particular high day.  Not that I'm beyond honoring a being for the sake of honoring, but I can't base my personal Paganism around that.  

In my current mode of thinking, there's a Divine Source... that ground of being that everything emerges from.  From there, the "God and Goddess" loosely duotheistic model has merit in that much in the universe is a dynamic between polarities.  Yin and yang.  Creation and destruction.  Male and female.  So I see the God & Goddess model having merit as embodiments of that dynamic... anthropomorphized representations of a myriad of things that emerge from a polar dynamic.  From there, I can see how you get "the gods" and "the goddesses" as separate entities that emerge from that dynamic.  Many of them are beings in their own right, yet still having ties back up the "family tree" to the divine masculine and divine feminine that then unify in that pre/non-gender source of all.

The place where it gets sticky is in ritual format.  When I do rituals for my grove that's not a question.  ADF has a certain format I have to adhere to.  I could just not help with rituals, but I want to support the group, especially since I'm one of the few willing to step up and do ones other than our senior druid.  At home, however, I'm wrestling with how to work a ritual.  This isn't set in stone, mind you.  I'm open to it evolving over time, but I still need to find a starting point.

Here's points I've been mulling over:

   1) I do have at least one deity that has emerged from the group of many to do some work with. So I get that they do step out as individuals.

   2) If the more "duotheistic" (not trying to assert Wicca=duotheistic.. just using the term as a handy reference) model is based on polarity and the interaction between two sides of various spectra, what does one do if they have a male or female deity they work with but does not generally work with one of the other gender that is a "consort."  That is to say, if you work with Isis and Osiris you've got that covered... but say you work most notably with Herne and Elen of the Ways?  Similar in some ways, but not related enough to draw a "consort" style relationship.  It seems some folks I've seen talking about their model use A god and A goddess, but do not limit the choice to those that are paired to a consort-style relationship.  It's simply one embodying a masculine side and the other embodying the feminine to represent those forces in nature... not a "they're totally gonna do it" kind of thing which I may be thinking of something that is a holdover from folks expressing distaste at Gardner injecting some of his... preoccupations.

   3) What about basing early work in the "God & Goddess" model but establishing that the intention is that deities are invited to step forward out of the crowd of many if they so choose?

Basically the problem is that I see the merit of the harder polytheistic approach in some ways, but it also sets the stage for sampling like at a buffet, even within a single pantheon, and for me that seems to present obstacles toward developing deeper relationships.  The "duotheistic" model keeps things a little simpler, but while I agree with the sentiment that "the universe doesn't get upset at what you call it," I also don't want to disrespect the individuality of beings.

So, TL;DR version... I'm curious as to how folks that blend concepts into a duo-polytheistic model manage to do so.

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Re: Balance between "The God & Goddess" and polytheism
« Reply #1 on: August 24, 2015, 07:50:14 pm »
Okay, first of all, I highly recommend that you have a look at this thread - I'll be immodest and say 'particularly my post in that thread' - for some basic explorations of the issues of gender-based polarity.
http://ecauldron.com/forum/showthread.php?12129-Male-female-or-masculine-feminine-polarity-your-views


Quote from: StagTracker;179206
   2) If the more "duotheistic" (not trying to assert Wicca=duotheistic.. just using the term as a handy reference) model is based on polarity and the interaction between two sides of various spectra, what does one do if they have a male or female deity they work with but does not generally work with one of the other gender that is a "consort."  That is to say, if you work with Isis and Osiris you've got that covered... but say you work most notably with Herne and Elen of the Ways?  Similar in some ways, but not related enough to draw a "consort" style relationship.  


Honestly, my gut feeling on this is that you don't.  Wiccan duotheism is built around two specific Powers who are that sort of partners, and pretending that sort of relationship with Powers that haven't got it strikes me as a terrible idea, at the very least theologically.

That isn't to say that two Powers might not have a dynamic partnership that's worth working with it in ritual, but once you're outside of a context of fertility-based pairings and into other forms of balanced pairs tagging on 'and they have to be of differing sexes' strikes me as, well, nonsensical.  If you've got an order Power and a chaos Power then the duality you're working with is order and chaos, and whether or not they could theoretically produce offspring is a total tangent.

Quote
It seems some folks I've seen talking about their model use A god and A goddess, but do not limit the choice to those that are paired to a consort-style relationship.  It's simply one embodying a masculine side and the other embodying the feminine to represent those forces in nature...


I would ask, though, what the relevance is if you're not either working with a fertility dynamic or collapsing the dualities so you're falsely equating many different poles with each other?  (See linked thread for what I mean there if it's not clear.)

Quote
   3) What about basing early work in the "God & Goddess" model but establishing that the intention is that deities are invited to step forward out of the crowd of many if they so choose?


That seems a sensible thing to do; it is, actually, basically how I started.

(What turned out to be the case for me was that a number of Powers refused to work with me until I stopped doing it.  Because I was basically blowing off Who They were in order to fit a model that wasn't even a good fit for me, no matter how hard I tried to wedge myself into that Procrustean bed.  That experience is why I'm down on gender-based polarity the way I am - basically, trying to do it wasted years and did some damage, and I figure if people fit that they'll find it easily enough, but someone who it doesn't fit really won't be helped by trying it, even as 'training wheels'.)

Quote
The "duotheistic" model keeps things a little simpler, but while I agree with the sentiment that "the universe doesn't get upset at what you call it," I also don't want to disrespect the individuality of beings.

 
Why does it seem simpler to you?  It feels to me, at this point, like an added layer of unnecessary complexity.  The Powers don't come in tidy sex-sorted pairs, y'know?
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: Balance between "The God & Goddess" and polytheism
« Reply #2 on: August 24, 2015, 08:24:45 pm »
Quote from: Darkhawk;179208
That isn't to say that two Powers might not have a dynamic partnership that's worth working with it in ritual, but once you're outside of a context of fertility-based pairings and into other forms of balanced pairs tagging on 'and they have to be of differing sexes' strikes me as, well, nonsensical.  If you've got an order Power and a chaos Power then the duality you're working with is order and chaos, and whether or not they could theoretically produce offspring is a total tangent.

What Darkhawk said.

My tradition works on paired deities, but having stepped away from fertility/procreation - so the deities called (when there is group work) - this is part of why I say my trad is initiatory religious witchcraft and not Wicca, for what it's worth, because I think that's a pretty key difference.

I do think that (in a society where gender roles are a thing that many of us live with) having representation of *different kinds* of roles is a really useful thing, particularly in group work, where you're looking for ritual that speaks to multiple people, ideally on multiple levels. And so factoring in gender might be part of that, in some rituals or circumstances.

But I think that, as a general rule, you want 'variety of role', and there are lots of other ways to get there besides gender, that are often a lot more appropriate.

The other part, however, is that if you do this, it's important to look at your ritual structure, and look at the places where both expressed gender polarity and other things might be getting in your own way.

(The Great Rite ritual, for example, is, um, designed for gender polarity in many ways. I believe there are ways to modify it, and to have it be about lots of different kinds of polarity, coming together to create a greater whole, etc. but coming up with language that works for that in ritual, restructuring the energetic patterns to make room for it, working around people's *assumptions* about what it means are not simple things you can sort out in an afternoon, as a rule.)

In personal work, sometimes I work with the personal deities I work with (who are consorts, and who are Totally Fine with the implied 'you have a sexual relationship with each other' because they, as individual deities, do.

Sometimes I invite just one deity I have some degree of ongoing relationship with.

Sometimes I invite more than one, but structure some parts of the ritual to allow for that (and for a reasonable dynamic for the individual deities involved.) Depends what I'm doing.

Gender balance also depends a lot on what I'm doing, and which deities I'm particularly comfortable inviting at that point in time.
« Last Edit: August 24, 2015, 08:25:04 pm by Jenett »
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Re: Balance between "The God & Goddess" and polytheism
« Reply #3 on: August 25, 2015, 01:01:13 am »
Quote from: Darkhawk;179208
Okay, first of all, I highly recommend that you have a look at this thread - I'll be immodest and say 'particularly my post in that thread' - for some basic explorations of the issues of gender-based polarity.
http://ecauldron.com/forum/showthread.php?12129-Male-female-or-masculine-feminine-polarity-your-views

Thanks for pointing that out.  Some good ideas in there.


Quote from: Darkhawk;179208
Honestly, my gut feeling on this is that you don't.  Wiccan duotheism is built around two specific Powers who are that sort of partners, and pretending that sort of relationship with Powers that haven't got it strikes me as a terrible idea, at the very least theologically.

That isn't to say that two Powers might not have a dynamic partnership that's worth working with it in ritual, but once you're outside of a context of fertility-based pairings and into other forms of balanced pairs tagging on 'and they have to be of differing sexes' strikes me as, well, nonsensical.  If you've got an order Power and a chaos Power then the duality you're working with is order and chaos, and whether or not they could theoretically produce offspring is a total tangent.

Well, the original idea wasn't to impose the relationship of a "breeding pair" on two deities, but then the question becomes one of why even base a ritual around a particular goddess and a particular god if they somehow don't work together in a way that yields results?  That's not to say any two put together must fulfill that role, but if you're putting one or the other into a ritual for the sake of "rounding things out" in terms of a heteronormative dynamic then that's really no better than the "deity du jour" I mentioned wherein you're picking a deity out of a pantheon to honor on a certain high day just because they're commonly associated with that day.



Quote from: Darkhawk;179208
I would ask, though, what the relevance is if you're not either working with a fertility dynamic or collapsing the dualities so you're falsely equating many different poles with each other?  (See linked thread for what I mean there if it's not clear.)

A very salient question.  I think I was veering on the ledge of falling into the trap of assuming the duotheistic model was more commonly associated with witchcraft simply because the bulk of the literature out there on the subject is from a decidedly duotheistic slant.  Where I had a hard time justifying embracing the Wiccan model was, while the idea of balance between forces has merit, reducing everything in the universe to a function of bi-polar relationships is an incredible oversimplification... not to mention a projection of human heteronormalcy onto darn near everything.  Anthropomorphizing cosmic and divine forces for the sake of relating to them can be handy, but at the same time can be problematic if everything gets painted with that broad brush.


Quote from: Darkhawk;179208
Why does it seem simpler to you?  It feels to me, at this point, like an added layer of unnecessary complexity.  The Powers don't come in tidy sex-sorted pairs, y'know?

It seemed simpler in that you have a single goddess and single god which embody and apply to everything.  But, as you have pointed out in this thread and most notably in the other one, that actually gets in the way of a lot of things.

The thing I came to remind myself was that, though cultures had sometimes large pantheons, not everyone worked closely with every being in that pantheon.  A fisherman may have little need to foster good relations with Cerridwen.  A smith may seek a special relationship with Brigid but not feel strongly pulled to the Morrigan.  So while the vast array of beings from the various pantheons may seem like a daunting selection to choose from when reaching out there to see who reaches back, it's helpful to keep in mind that a person is not likely to have 20 different deities they work with.  More than likely there'll be just a few, if that many, that they wish to try and forge a relationship with as those beings are relevant to things in their life.  And that's not to forget ancestors and nature spirits.

That's where the ADF model was losing me... at least the way I've seen some folks apply it, such as someone who perhaps focuses on the Roman pantheon suddenly doing a Celtic ritual for Lugh at Lughnasagh because "that's what that day is all about."  I certainly don't want to knock it for those that get something out of it, but it's been a big block for me developing a deeper personal practice.

In looking to witchcraft, I find its model resonates with me better in terms of nurturing the divinity within that can better connect to those otherworldly beings.  ("Kindreds" in ADF.. one of the things I do like from them.)  But with so much of the literature related to witchcraft being based on Wiccan models, it's hard to feel out that middle ground as a "squishy polytheist."  That is to say, I can acknowledge Artio and Bast as separate beings, but the distinction starts to lose me when distinguishing Odin from Woden.

In attempting to find that middle ground, I think I was falling into the trap of trying to blend two relatively incompatible models.  I think another issue is I'm over-intellectualizing.  While scholarship is good, there's a point at which one just has to sit down, shut up, tune in, and let the beings out there help inform your path.

The other thing I should keep in mind is there are different models or types of witchcraft.  The things that have yielded the best results for me so far would probably be best likened to hedge witchcraft.  I also have to remind myself there are many effective magical systems from many cultures, so I needn't cling to the notion that a duotheistic model is the only "proper" one.

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Re: Balance between "The God & Goddess" and polytheism
« Reply #4 on: August 25, 2015, 01:03:50 pm »
Quote from: StagTracker;179215
Well, the original idea wasn't to impose the relationship of a "breeding pair" on two deities, but then the question becomes one of why even base a ritual around a particular goddess and a particular god if they somehow don't work together in a way that yields results?  


Bingo!

Quote
A very salient question.  I think I was veering on the ledge of falling into the trap of assuming the duotheistic model was more commonly associated with witchcraft simply because the bulk of the literature out there on the subject is from a decidedly duotheistic slant.  


That's the trap I fell into when I was starting out - the A Goddess and A God model was everywhere, and pushed really hard by at least my interpretation of the books I got.

I would note that the witchcraft line I am training in is much more complicated on its model, and the last major ritual in my line that I attended did have two gods called - both male, and further both in the prime-of-life high noon of masculinity.  (This was not the first time I attended a draw-down of one of those gods; in that ritual, the other deity called was a prime-of-life female divinity of the tradition.)

Quote
It seemed simpler in that you have a single goddess and single god which embody and apply to everything.  But, as you have pointed out in this thread and most notably in the other one, that actually gets in the way of a lot of things.


It's also entirely inaccurate to the theologies of most deities.  The universalism of 'embody and apply to everything' isn't even held to be the case by all Wiccans, let alone everyone else!

(Though now I'm sort of tempted to sit down and hash out what the domains are of the deities I deal with in my personal rituals.  That might be an amusing thread, and I haven't started a thread for a while.)

Quote
The thing I came to remind myself was that, though cultures had sometimes large pantheons, not everyone worked closely with every being in that pantheon.  


Yep.  One might make an offering to all the gods, or to the gods of this festival day, or other things than that, but people would have specific affiliations, and would likely honour whatever Powers were traditional in their family line, or of their profession, or other things like that, or who were relevant to their particular problems.

Valentine has been known to say that being in with a particular pantheon is like having mob ties.  You've got the couple of people you might deal with regularly, and if you need something out of their line of expertise, well, there's a cousin who can probably handle it for you, you may not have met that cousin, but oyu're in the family.  ("Got this great miracle, practically new.  Fell off the back of a truck.")

Quote
So while the vast array of beings from the various pantheons may seem like a daunting selection to choose from when reaching out there to see who reaches back, it's helpful to keep in mind that a person is not likely to have 20 different deities they work with.


At least not regularly or intensely.

Also, not everything is a "reaches back" sort of relationship.  I've kept shrines to gods I've never so much as sensed a peep from, and that has at times been a very important part of my practice.

Quote
That's where the ADF model was losing me... at least the way I've seen some folks apply it, such as someone who perhaps focuses on the Roman pantheon suddenly doing a Celtic ritual for Lugh at Lughnasagh because "that's what that day is all about."


Well, I'd say that if one's celebrating Lughnasadh it's tacky not to invite Lugh, his name's right there.  If yer not working with Lugh, call it Lammas already!  Or something relevant in your trad.  (Our August festival celebration in our ritual group was many things, including Set's birthday.  He got an invite.)

(I'm going to go assemble that personal workgroup domains post now because that would be a laugh.)
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: Balance between "The God & Goddess" and polytheism
« Reply #5 on: August 25, 2015, 05:00:16 pm »
Quote from: Darkhawk;179229
Valentine has been known to say that being in with a particular pantheon is like having mob ties.  You've got the couple of people you might deal with regularly, and if you need something out of their line of expertise, well, there's a cousin who can probably handle it for you, you may not have met that cousin, but oyu're in the family.  ("Got this great miracle, practically new.  Fell off the back of a truck.")

 
Nice analogy.  And I suppose that having an "in" with one member is a good reason to explore a pantheon deeper to see who else in the family you might jive with.  I guess it's hard to sit with, but there is that needed period of putting yourself out there and searching around.

Anyway, I don't have any other profound realizations related to the matter, but I did want to respond and thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts, both you and Jenett.

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Re: Balance between "The God & Goddess" and polytheism
« Reply #6 on: August 25, 2015, 05:37:43 pm »
Quote from: StagTracker;179243
Nice analogy.  And I suppose that having an "in" with one member is a good reason to explore a pantheon deeper to see who else in the family you might jive with.  I guess it's hard to sit with, but there is that needed period of putting yourself out there and searching around.

 
And there's also stuff like -

I had a long-term interaction with a goddess, and I had no idea Who it was.  I got attributes and connections and personality, but names?  Piff.

Then I got a recognisable interaction with another deity, and spent months hassling that goddess with "Are you from the same pantheon?  Are you?  Are you?  Which one are you if you are?"

Having a clue what you're doing is optional, in other words. ;P
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Re: Balance between "The God & Goddess" and polytheism
« Reply #7 on: August 26, 2015, 03:46:35 am »
Quote from: Darkhawk;179244
And there's also stuff like -

I had a long-term interaction with a goddess, and I had no idea Who it was.  I got attributes and connections and personality, but names?  Piff.

Then I got a recognisable interaction with another deity, and spent months hassling that goddess with "Are you from the same pantheon?  Are you?  Are you?  Which one are you if you are?"

Having a clue what you're doing is optional, in other words. ;P

So far I've encountered 3 beings, one of most note.  When I'd encounter him in meditations I decided I would not rush to pin a name on him.  We had a few times we just sat and stared at each other across the fire in the meditative space I created.  In time, we began to interact some and I eventually told him I would like to deepen our relationship and it would be great if I had a name he'd like me to use.  The next day I got some pretty heavy signs it was Herne.  I get the impression that, whomever it is, he decided to take this name because one of my first exposures to Pagan figures other than Greek and Egyptian as a kid was Herne from the Robin of Sherwood BBC series.  I'm not entirely convinced it is distinctly the Herne of Windsor Forest, but rather he's conceded that name for my benefit.  At least perhaps for the time being.  

Of the other two, I have interpreted one as Elen of the Ways because she has antlers.  However, I have loosely referred to her as "Shaman Mother" since I don't yet have a real clue that it is indeed Elen.  Still, she's about the only goddess I've found that bears antlers.  The other one I'm not really sure about.  I haven't been as diligent about meditations of late.  

In terms of "clues being optional," that's one thing that has appealed to me with Waincraft.  The deities are not directly named but rather bear titles based on their roles.  Among those that are "ADF approved" for public ritual, I'm starting to lean toward trying the Proto Indo-European pantheon since some of them are a bit more conceptual than strongly unique characters like Cerriddwen, Talesin, Gwynn ap Nudd, and such.  In personal work I am a bit more inclined to honor a **type** of deity related to the event, time of year, or such whenever I don't feel a strong draw toward a specific one.  I try to make it known that I'm seeking a relationship if any are inclined, but that I honor those of relevance to that ritual in general, rather than picking one at random to the exclusion of others.

As another example, since I am exploring witchcraft as part of my personal path it's only natural that I would like to appeal to a being that holds influence over that area.  However, I don't feel right in just going through a Google search and saying, "Oh... Hekate... she's good.  I'll pick her." like I'm about to chuck a pokeball at the ground and say, "Hekate, I choose you!"  So, I've been putting out intention to find some being to help me learn.  I may start to put out some directed inquiries soon, but I also want to be open to whomever may step forward, if one does, even if it's surprising.  That is to say, there are the usual figures like Hekate, Aradia, Cerridwen, and such... but if the reason Elen has shown up on my radar is to introduce me to a more shamanic path I don't want to hold to any preconceived expectations that may blind me to possibilities.

In other words, I try to be mindful of the fact that the universe and kindred beings may deliver on what we ask... but in a way that fits us and our highest good, not necessarily in the way we expect. ;)

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