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Author Topic: Opening up, going deeper, and maybe using titles instead of naming names?  (Read 2539 times)

StagTracker

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Okay, let's see if I can pull some coherence out of this swirling mishmash of ideas and questions I have blowing about in my brain like leaves on a windy day.

First off, a little background info.  I consider myself still pretty new to Paganism at just about two years of exploring and practicing.  I came into it by way of ADF rather than via Wicca as seems to often be the case.  I'm currently starting the OBOD bardic grade.  ADF has been a good start, but it isn't quite fitting me in terms of focusing on established IE pantheons.  

It probably bears noting that I am something of what I could call a "fluid polytheist."  I'm not quite as hard as seeing all of the gods and goddesses as completely unique and separate, yet I'm not quite as soft as "all are facets of one or two."  If anything, I resonate with the Hindu model that there is the unknowable, incomprehensible level of divinity... from there some key figures emerge... and from there others emerge.  They are, IMO, simultaneously distinct and yet part of something greater.  When it gets down to it, I believe I will probably end up being something of a henotheist... honoring and working closely with two or three or four key deities while acknowledging and sometimes honoring others as appropriate.  So I don't quite click with hard polytheism but neither do I feel genuine doing the "God and Goddess" thing.

Part of my problem is I have a hard time choosing a pantheon or even a particular deity and saying, "I'm going to honor and develop a relationship with them because they're neat" (or perhaps even "useful").  I do have ones I am drawn to and have brushes with.  I have started to honor and make offerings to see what relationships may form.  But in terms of exploring connections to other beings I have a hard time dedicating much to a being out of the blue.  It seems a little like trying hard to cozy up to someone you just met by giving them presents and telling them how great they are and simply expecting a relationship will form.  It doesn't seem to create the space needed to see if there is a reciprocal interest there.

This issue often comes up for me on some of my grove's high day rituals because there don't seem to be many in the group that consistently draw from their personal relationships when putting together a ritual.  This is probably because many of our few most active members, including myself, are still new and exploring.  But, as an example, my local grove will be focusing on Brigid for Imbolc this weekend.  I understand that this is pretty typical, but no one in this grove really works closely with Brigid.  They're mostly honoring her in ritual because, "That's what one does at Imbolc."  Similarly, we honor Lugh and Lughnasadh because "his name is in the day" and partly because one person did a lot of research on Lugh, but there isn't a closeness that really seems to motivate the choice.  It all just feels very much like picking names out of a book.  Now, I recognize that a ritual for a diverse group is not going to resonate with everyone each and every time.  That just can't be helped.  But at the same time it feels very hollow to honor deities related to a certain day just because some book or website says those are the ones typically associated with that day.

The question this raises in myself whenever it feels like we're just picking names out of a book is related to exploring and fostering my own connection to the gods and goddesses.  It seems to me that what I need to do for myself is essentially, "sit down, pipe down, tune in, and see who shows up."  At the same time, I feel like I should at least attempt to direct my exploration to some degree.  I personally do agree with the concept I have seen expressed in Hinduism that the divine will take names and faces that you personally can relate to... that you can even create a name and face and it will "don that costume you created."  But, at the same time I want to give beings the opportunity to be and express themselves.

So, I guess the first question to pull out of all of this TL;DR is how to go about reaching out to the gods and goddesses with some sense of direction but without forcing an artificial focus on a pre-established pantheon?

The second part would be thoughts on addressing with titles or types rather than a specific name.  For example, say I feel it would be good to connect with a deity related to healing.  It might ultimately be Brigid, Eir, or some other.  I'm playing with the idea of using a title such as "Great Healer" for now... at least until something shows up and I get to know them and how they wish to be known.  It seems like that might be at least more focused than "to whom it may consern" but at the same time isn't quite playing Pantheon Pokemon by tossing the ol' Pokeball down and saying, "Brigid... I choose YOU!"

Of course, some of our historical deity names are actually titles rather than personal names.

Hopefully somewhere in there was some thoughts that made sense.  I can try to refine anything if needed.  

Basically, I want to deepen my connection to that which we identify with "gods and goddesses" beyond simple high day honoring, but feel like picking a pantheon from the "ADF-approved" list is not for me.  I feel like, at least for myself, that is forcing me to reach out to the divine through an artifically-imposed lens of historical and academic concepts from long ago and far away rather than connecting in meaningful ways in the here and now with however those powers that be seek to express themselves to me.

Darkhawk

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Re: Opening up, going deeper, and maybe using titles instead of naming names?
« Reply #1 on: February 03, 2016, 11:12:09 pm »
Quote from: StagTracker;186099
I do have ones I am drawn to and have brushes with.  I have started to honor and make offerings to see what relationships may form.  But in terms of exploring connections to other beings I have a hard time dedicating much to a being out of the blue.  


So... don't?

Quote
It seems a little like trying hard to cozy up to someone you just met by giving them presents and telling them how great they are and simply expecting a relationship will form.  It doesn't seem to create the space needed to see if there is a reciprocal interest there.


I am usually the first in line to say a relationship with a god is like any other relationship.

However: relationships with gods are not necessarily about "reciprocal interest".

And neither are relationships with anyone else.

Intimate relationships with gods, yes, those are more like friendships than not.  But that is far from the only form of relationship that is out there in the universe.  The relationship I have with the postman is not about "reciprocal interest", it is about him delivering mail to me.  The relationship I have with my children's teachers is not about reciprocal interest; it is about my children's education, and what I do to help support that.  (Which reminds me I should check the calendar for when my next volunteer day is at school, whoop.)

For the most part, the things the gods are doing are not about us.  We may appreciate them, we may want to thank them for happening, but it's not anthropocentric.  The sun doesn't rise so that it's light when we go to work, but some people like mornings anyway.

Quote
This issue often comes up for me on some of my grove's high day rituals because there don't seem to be many in the group that consistently draw from their personal relationships when putting together a ritual.  


From my perspective, it is often actively inappropriate to draw on personal relationships when putting together a ritual.  Just because I have a relationship with a Power does not mean that those people I do ritual work with also have a relationship with that Power, and it would be presumptuous at best to assume that that's just... okay.

I firmly believe that the work that is done in a group needs to be heavily focused on the relationships that the group has, not the individuals.  And those relationships depend not just on what individual people do, but the nature of the tradition (if any; my group does not have shared religion, though we're building up a group Thing over time), the nature of the things being marked in ritual, and so on.  What the group does does not necessarily reflect personal practice, and vice versa; they will inform each other but they are not the same.

Quote
But, as an example, my local grove will be focusing on Brigid for Imbolc this weekend.  I understand that this is pretty typical, but no one in this grove really works closely with Brigid.  They're mostly honoring her in ritual because, "That's what one does at Imbolc."  Similarly, we honor Lugh and Lughnasadh because "his name is in the day" and partly because one person did a lot of research on Lugh, but there isn't a closeness that really seems to motivate the choice.  It all just feels very much like picking names out of a book.  Now, I recognize that a ritual for a diverse group is not going to resonate with everyone each and every time.  That just can't be helped.  But at the same time it feels very hollow to honor deities related to a certain day just because some book or website says those are the ones typically associated with that day.


When you're dealing with a holiday like Lughnasadh that is so closely associated with a deity that his name is in it, it seems deeply weird to me to not honour him.  It's not like there aren't alternate names for these holidays if one wants to do 'that festival on the WotY that is held at the same time as the Celtic fire festival named this'.

I mean, one of my projects at the moment is a version of the Egyptian calendar that's WotY compatible, but I don't call the 1 August celebration "Lughnasadh", I call it "New Year's Festival" because that's what goes there.  These words aren't just generic terminology for things celebrated on a particular date - they're pointing at specific religious traditions that actually exist.  If you don't want to be pointing at those specific things, you need to be using a word that doesn't do that.  "Lammas" is the more-generic term for Wiccish/Druish 1 August holiday celebration that I'm aware of.

And back to this idea of "closeness" being the appropriate thing there.  It isn't.  If one is working in a group structure that's using a calendar based on the fire festivals and using those names, then the group has a certain obligation to actually be attentive to the thing they claim to be celebrating.  Lughasadh isn't some plug-and-play festival where you throw in "oh, I've got a relationship with so-and-so so I'm going to use this holiday in order to chat with them".  That's like celebrating someone's birthday by inviting someone else out to dinner.

Personal relationships are for personal time.  Group practice is for the commitments the group makes.

Quote
So, I guess the first question to pull out of all of this TL;DR is how to go about reaching out to the gods and goddesses with some sense of direction but without forcing an artificial focus on a pre-established pantheon?


There are a number of ways to do this.

You can make offerings and perform rituals to the powers that are relevant to your life, of interest to you, or personally appealing.

You can make a commitment to the practices of a group and do the work that they have to cultivate relationship (assuming that the group is one in which developing that sort of relationship is the goal and which has effective tools for doing so).

You can find a functional religious system for yourself and deal as relevant to with the gods that are engaged with that system.

Off the top of my head; I'm sure people can come up with other options.
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Faemon

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Re: Opening up, going deeper, and maybe using titles instead of naming names?
« Reply #2 on: February 03, 2016, 11:39:28 pm »
Quote from: StagTracker;186099
I guess the first question to pull out of all of this TL;DR is how to go about reaching out to the gods and goddesses with some sense of direction but without forcing an artificial focus on a pre-established pantheon?


I suppose you could either leave those artificial structures and restrictions alone and just go on the personal gnosis that you're far more comfortable with, at least until you're ready to out and bridge that to the practices...or, you could find the authenticity in the pre-established pantheon by developing maybe a broader understanding of the context.

I liked this one vlogger's observation that it's helpful to look to the cultural concentration (geographically, or temporally) that gave a god the name and form we know best. That culture's values, priorities, sense of aesthetics, sense of humor, other members of the pantheon, or the cosmology and metaphysics...all serve as the infrastructure for the sensitivities that invited and interpreted this specific god. After that, we can examine iterations of that god over the transfer between cultures, over time, and even between individuals.

If you think It Is Written therefore We Should Do This, it might be correct inasmuch as it works for some people who take that as a starter, but it could also be putting the cart before the horse if you're not predisposed to that. What Is Written can be a helpful reference...but, a helpful qualifier for that it's a reference in the first place would be to ponder 1.) why it was written and 2.) how and/or who does that help?

Quote
The second part would be thoughts on addressing with titles or types rather than a specific name.


I do it all the time in secular/corporeal life, either creating a referent based on a prominent characteristic or an event ("The Tourist" or "Argyle" or "Gallery Boor") if they matter enough in life for me to identify them but I haven't caught their name. Even then, society sometimes provides me titles for people that aren't their actual name: maam, doctor, officer, the honorable (fill in this blank with family name) etcetera. Then there's the name itself, which might turn into a nickname anyway, and then the nickname becomes a title.

If an individual has taken several names from me on every level of relationship: nickname, personal name, inherited family name with social formality based on profession or marital status and gender, and title based on prominent characteristic or event, they're still the same person. The relationship might change depending on if they've taken offense (in which case that simply is not their name, their title, or who they are) or merely haven't glommed onto the trend that, it's you, Jim, you were The Tourist, and you were hilariously obnoxious but we're all quite fond of you now...we might still call you The Tourist sometimes even though you live here...
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StagTracker

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Re: Opening up, going deeper, and maybe using titles instead of naming names?
« Reply #3 on: February 04, 2016, 01:16:11 am »
Quote from: Darkhawk;186117
So... don't?

That would be the sensible thing. :)  I suppose where I was getting caught up with this idea of "pick a pantheon and start working with all of the beings" was a product of how things come through in the ADF dedicant manual.  Not to say it isn't a good body of work for those for whom it clicks, but I didn't find it to be a good foundation for building a deeper personal spiritual practice.

Most of my encounters with more particular beings hasn't been from following anything like ADF's model but, rather as I stated, "sitting down, piping down, and tuning in."


Quote
From my perspective, it is often actively inappropriate to draw on personal relationships when putting together a ritual.  Just because I have a relationship with a Power does not mean that those people I do ritual work with also have a relationship with that Power, and it would be presumptuous at best to assume that that's just... okay.

I firmly believe that the work that is done in a group needs to be heavily focused on the relationships that the group has, not the individuals.  And those relationships depend not just on what individual people do, but the nature of the tradition (if any; my group does not have shared religion, though we're building up a group Thing over time), the nature of the things being marked in ritual, and so on.  What the group does does not necessarily reflect personal practice, and vice versa; they will inform each other but they are not the same.

I can see your point.  I suppose where our problem lies is that our group has no common relationships and some have fallen into a pattern of HAVING to call deities out in a high day ritual.  As a result it winds up being less about what is going on at that point in the year and in the worlds around us at that time and more like a "worship service" for whatever deity is pulled out of the hat.  Hopefully we can hammer it out over time, but our rituals seem to be little more than Pagan-themed theatrics.

I suppose the answer, at least to my own dilemma, lies in accepting that rituals with the group will be mostly a social thing, and perhaps some meaningful elements, but I'm clearly going to have to step it up in terms of personal practice and rituals at home.

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Re: Opening up, going deeper, and maybe using titles instead of naming names?
« Reply #4 on: February 04, 2016, 01:25:43 am »
Quote from: Faemon;186120
If you think It Is Written therefore We Should Do This, it might be correct inasmuch as it works for some people who take that as a starter, but it could also be putting the cart before the horse if you're not predisposed to that. What Is Written can be a helpful reference...but, a helpful qualifier for that it's a reference in the first place would be to ponder 1.) why it was written and 2.) how and/or who does that help?

I think some of my conundrum stems from having fallen in with ADF at the start of my Pagan exploration.  They do a decent job of being flexible on an individual basis, but there is a definite overculture of, as you say, "We do this because it is written in the Eddas/Mabinogi/Ulster Cycle."  If that provides spiritual meaning for someone, great.  But I'm one of those for whom it doesn't so I'm just kind of feeling my way out from that general starting point.

RecycledBenedict

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Re: Opening up, going deeper, and maybe using titles instead of naming names?
« Reply #5 on: February 04, 2016, 07:46:47 am »
Quote from: StagTracker;186099
It probably bears noting that I am something of what I could call a "fluid polytheist."  I'm not quite as hard as seeing all of the gods and goddesses as completely unique and separate, yet I'm not quite as soft as "all are facets of one or two."  If anything, I resonate with the Hindu model that there is the unknowable, incomprehensible level of divinity... from there some key figures emerge... and from there others emerge.  They are, IMO, simultaneously distinct and yet part of something greater.  

I have a similar view, and many Paleo-Pagans of the Roman Empire had a similar view. Have you read Plotinus and other Neo-Platonists?

Quote from: StagTracker;186099
When it gets down to it, I believe I will probably end up being something of a henotheist...

I am not sure, if henotheism is the right word for your approach. Historical forms of henotheism have been quite angry and intolerant: Babylonians destroying defeated nations' temples and pre-monotheist Hebrews speaking about neighbour's deities in rather insulting ways. Judaism became more tolerant when it left henotheism and became fully monotheist. The fully monotheist Micah acknowledge that gentiles worship 'God', too, while the henotheist Hosea is a rather angry prophet. So henotheism may look good in a dictionary, but seldom in reality. You don't have to actively worship all deities in order to be a polytheist.

Quote from: StagTracker;186099
honoring and working closely with two or three or four key deities while acknowledging and sometimes honoring others as appropriate.  

That sounds like polytheism, not henotheism, to me. What an individual do in his or her spiritual life is not the same thing that everyone in their 'tribe' do.

Quote from: StagTracker;186099
So I don't quite click with hard polytheism

Neither did inhabitants of the Roman Empire. Interpretatio Romana and Interpretatio Graeca are examples of this. For inhabitants of the Roman Empire, each deity was known under many names among the peoples of the earth.

Quote from: StagTracker;186099
So, I guess the first question to pull out of all of this TL;DR is how to go about reaching out to the gods and goddesses with some sense of direction but without forcing an artificial focus on a pre-established pantheon?

The second part would be thoughts on addressing with titles or types rather than a specific name.  For example, say I feel it would be good to connect with a deity related to healing.

If you compare ancient pantheons, you will find that some types of deities repeat themselves often, even across linguistic borders: Many of these patterns are not limited to Indo-European-speaking peoples.

OLD DEITIES
  • Eternity
  • Demiurge (sometimes many-headed, sometimes Sun god)
  • Sea god and Sea goddess
  • Darkness god and Night goddess
  • Death
  • Cosmic and moral order
  • Cosmic bovine animal
  • Grandfather Sky
  • Grandmother Earth

OFTEN SIBLINGS
  • Star Mother
  • Sea goddess
  • One or two goddesses associated with Afterlife and/or Death
  • Agricultural Father (sometimes identical to one of his siblings)
  • Weather King (sometimes identical to one of his siblings)
  • Subsoil Water god (sometimes identical to one of his siblings)
  • Mountain god
  • Cosmic Reptile

YOUNGER DEITIES - SIBLINGS OR COUSINS
  • Thunder king/Slayer of Cosmic Reptile (who either defeat Sea and Death, or co-operates with Sea and Death against a common threat)
  • Queen of Matrimony
  • Goddess of waters (sometimes kidnapped)
  • Agricultural goddess
  • Sun goddess and Sun god
  • Moon god and Moon goddess
  • Several star deities

OTHER DEITIES
  • Sacred fire deity - priest(ess) of the deities, sometimes = Dawn goddess, Youth goddess, or Sun goddess (sometimes kidnapped)
  • Wind deities (related to Sacred fire deity)
  • Everyday fire deity, often craftsman god, sometimes assisting creator god
  • Sacrificial priest-god (sacrifices/murders his twin brother and cosmic bovine animal)
  • Victim twin/Judge in Afterlife
  • Sacred libation god
  • Love goddess
  • Goddess of culture (sometimes battle strategy)
  • God of culture, writing and magic (sometimes split in two, and/or mixed with Everyday fire deity or Shepherd deity or Psychopomp or Healer)
  • Shepherd deity (sometimes mixed with God of culture or Psychopomp)
  • Psychopomp (sometimes mixed with God of culture or Shepherd deity)
  • Healer (sometimes Cultural god or Dying vegetation god)
  • Dying vegetation god (sometimes Healer)
  • Protector against monsters
« Last Edit: February 04, 2016, 07:54:33 am by RecycledBenedict »

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Re: Opening up, going deeper, and maybe using titles instead of naming names?
« Reply #6 on: February 04, 2016, 10:03:22 am »
Quote from: StagTracker;186099

The question this raises in myself whenever it feels like we're just picking names out of a book is related to exploring and fostering my own connection to the gods and goddesses.  It seems to me that what I need to do for myself is essentially, "sit down, pipe down, tune in, and see who shows up."

 
Seconding what Darkhawk said, especially about the part where personal practice and group practice often diverge in this kind of thing - and really, probably *should*.

My training was in a group that did a couple of things that might be useful to you here.

1) Personal commitments:

Everyone was encouraged to develop personal commitments to / interactions with / worship of / work with particular deities that were specific to them. (The precise mode depending on the person, the deities, and other details that are individual.)

This was not an immediate thing: we started Dedicant training in February, and we didn't start doing direct things about thinking about that kind of interaction until late September. (When it was supported both by some specific assignments, and by a couple of meditations for exploration and beginning to form a relationship.)

2) Range of interactions

There is a lot to be said for a lower intensity understanding and awareness of other deities, especially those who come up a lot in the Pagan community in general (Brigid and Lugh being among those) and especially if you're doing group work and rituals that are open to guests.

My training handled this one by having us do brief research and creative projects on a different deity each month (writing up a 1-2 page summary of the deity and one or two of their stories, along with common associations, relationships in the pantheon, etc.) and then doing a creative project that went with that deity of our choice. (Art form up to the person: people did everything from art to sculpture to poetry to essential oil blending to garden design.)

The idea was that these assignments would give people enough of a grounding to feel they could make *some* connection with a deity in a larger community ritual setting, even if wasn't a deity they had a particular calling to.

Doing it for a dozen deities over a year often helped people narrow down their own interests for a more involved interaction, and normalised the idea that not every interaction with a deity in a polytheistic model was going to be amazing for them. On the other hand, spending a few hours a month learning some basics often gave people the basis for a bit more meaning in the interactions they did have.

That's one of the things about polytheism, after all - there are lots of different possible kinds of interactions, just like you have lots of different kinds of interactions with the people in your life. You might be very close to one or two, talk regularly to a few more, and then have a bunch more you go to for specific kinds of requests (because that's their speciality) or because they matter to someone you care about, and probably a lot more you're polite to, but have no real meaningful interaction with.

3)  Running the ritual

There's a difference between the people running the ritual and the people at the ritual here.

I tend to think that it's somewhat more problematic for the people running or designing the ritual not to have some connection to the deity.

That does not mean that it has to be a primary deity relationship for them - but it should be (in my view) more than 'I read some interesting stuff and now we're doing the ritual.'

My training group invited worked with a consistent pair of deities for Esbat rituals, and a different consistent pair for specific rituals (Samhain and initiations, notably), while deities invited to other Sabbats varied depending on the goal of the ritual and the people designing the ritual and running it. (Sometimes these were two different sets of people.)

When I was helping run a Sabbat, I'd make a point of spending a couple of weeks before it establishing at least some connection with the deities in question - usually a fairly simple shine (not 'go out and buy lots of stuff', but 'do some sketching and/or use things I already had that related to them'), do some background reading that went deeper than a brief summary, and just generally spend some time reflecting on that deity, and particularly the aspects or focus relevant to the ritual.

In other words, I'm not talking about a deep or long-running commitment here, but more akin to "I am going to be having this person visit, it is polite of me to take some time to figure out what kinds of things will make them welcome, and how to make this event they are invited to run smoothly."

If you have a group that regularly invites the same deities year-to-year, this gets a lot easier, because you build up some established interactions. It is more work, however, if you have a constantly changing set of deity invitations.

If your ADF grove is not already thinking about how to make things connect and/or how to encourage people who have particular deity connections to contribute to the relevant rituals and/or develop rituals that work with the connections people do have, that might be a good conversation to have with the grove at large.

(But again with what Darkhawk said: in any group situation, there may be times when what's a good choice for the group as a whole may not be a deity anyone in the group has particularly strong connections to.)

4) Be aware that there are probably some deities you or others will just - not connect with.

Brigid is one of those for me. All of my ritual experiences in Brigid-centered rituals have basically been "Yeah, you're so not mine, hi, have a nice day" from her. Not adversarial, just so not hers to do anything with.

And that means that if I go to a ritual that is going to focus on her, I don't expect to have a big personal meaningful experience. It's just not very likely. Sometimes I go anyway, because I care about the community involved (that will be my Imbolc this weekend...) Sometimes I've gone but volunteered to do things that are helpful but not about Brigid. Sometimes, I go "that thing, it is not the way I want to spend my time." and don't go.

Building a ritual and community structure so that people get things out of the experience even if they don't connect strongly with the deities being honoured is a good long-term goal. (Some of that you can do on your own - some of it is probably going to take some discussion with others, in group settings.)
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Darkhawk

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Re: Opening up, going deeper, and maybe using titles instead of naming names?
« Reply #7 on: February 04, 2016, 12:25:28 pm »
Quote from: StagTracker;186126
That would be the sensible thing. :)  I suppose where I was getting caught up with this idea of "pick a pantheon and start working with all of the beings" was a product of how things come through in the ADF dedicant manual.  Not to say it isn't a good body of work for those for whom it clicks, but I didn't find it to be a good foundation for building a deeper personal spiritual practice.


Here's a thing: nobody does this.

Really, literally, nobody does this.

Someone might set up a shrine to the pantheon en famille as it were, but that's not working with all the beings.  Someone might do ritual based on a set calendar of who gets honoured when, which might cycle through the major figures within a pantheon.

Nobody does "pick a pantheon and start working with all the beings".  Particularly not with this idea of developing intimate personal relationships with all of them all at once.  Particularly not with the idea that developing intimate personal relationships is a foundational step that has to happen.

Pantheonic work is a whole lot more like this:

Okay, so committed to working with the Alphabet Pantheon.

The next holiday is associated with Alpha and Beta, and I know something about Alpha, time to do a little more research into Beta, I guess.  Or I could just do something for Alpha on that day.  Meanwhile, Gamma is associated with a problem I have, so I'm going to set up a shrine and ask for Gamma's help with that, not because I have a personal relationship, but because that's who one goes to to ask for help, and it's all in the family.  My actual personal devotional stuff involves Delta, who is obscure and doesn't actually have any holidays we know about, but I feel that they're important to me and maybe I get some signs and feelings that suggest that that can develop into something substantial if I keep at it.  My co-religionist is big on Epsilon, so I know who to ask if something comes up where Epsilon is relevant.  I have a shrine to Zeta as a professional patron, Eta as a home protector, and Theta whose domains include my favorite hobby; I feel personally closest to Theta of these even though my practice involving Zeta is the most extensive.  I really can't stand Iota, so I do minimal stuff with them and only on specific festival days or at the Whole Alphabet Shrine.

Etc.  And maybe the Alphabet Pantheon as handled in a WotY has holidays that focus on Alpha/Beta, Epsilon, Theta, Kappa, Beta again, Iota, Gamma/Eta, and Lambda, so that's what one celebrates on that cycle.  And personal practice would have a whole lot of Delta, some Gamma and Theta, and Zeta and Eta.  And if something comes up where one calls on Mu, one calls on Mu, because that's how it works.  And maybe somewhere along the line you develop a UPG that Delta and Nu are related in some important way, and that becomes part of your thing, but since neither of them comes up in the wheelyear you're celebrating with your group, it doesn't matter to the group.  Or one of your friends comes up with some nifty connection between Theta and Xi, and you do a group ritual that explores that, and suddenly that revolutionises personal practice around Theta.  Omicron, however, being the god primarily known for being interested in lichen, continues to not come up as relevant and thus only gets anything out of 'all the gods' toasts, but hey, if you ever have a lichen-related issue you know who to call.

... I hope that wasn't a total mess to comprehend.  I was hoping doing letters rather than specific gods might make it more straightforward, and words are easier than A, B, C.

Quote
I can see your point.  I suppose where our problem lies is that our group has no common relationships and some have fallen into a pattern of HAVING to call deities out in a high day ritual.  


My group doesn't even have common religions let alone common relationships.  You're at least all ADF!  But focusing on deities too much may be part of your problem as well.

Here's what my group is in the process of doing:

We do gatherings on the wheelyear dates because we have a Celt, a sort-of-heathen, and one and a half religious witches in the gathering, so there's at least some overlap, because it's a good General Pagan Schedule rather than spend ages dithering over calendars, and because that's about as often as it feels useful to schedule things.

For each of the days, we figure out who has business, who has gods who are in season, and so on.  The focus is on our religious community first, and then group support for personal quests.  And over time we're building up a set of practices.  I think it was Beltane last year that we did the ritual pig sacrifice (a piñata shaped like a pig).  At midsummer we do a major banishing.  The goal long-term for Lughnasadh, especially since it corresponds with oldestkid's birthday, is to establish some sort of community athletic games; we already are set up for archery.  Over time it'll probably shake out to a regular invite list for Powers, though that will vary depending on people's practice at the time, depending on Who supports which of these things.  Even our most god-focused date - which would be Imbolc, as one of us is a Brighid devotee - is focused on our community: creative work of the past year, creative work of the coming year, blessings of milk and honey.

So I'd suggest: what is each high day "about" in your group practice?  Find what ritual work, what activities, and such work for that.  And which powers to invite - based on what the day is, whether it's their specific celebration, and what you are actually doing.
as the water grinds the stone
we rise and fall
as our ashes turn to dust
we shine like stars    - Covenant, "Bullet"

StagTracker

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Re: Opening up, going deeper, and maybe using titles instead of naming names?
« Reply #8 on: February 05, 2016, 02:07:49 am »
Quote from: FraterBenedict;186132
You don't have to actively worship all deities in order to be a polytheist.

Some part of me understood that, but I think I lost sight of it.  I've come across a bit of stuff that really bogs down into defining what type of polytheist one is, and sometimes it seems like it's best to not really worry about labeling what flavor of polytheism you fancy.  Especially early on in one's Pagan path.

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Neither did inhabitants of the Roman Empire. Interpretatio Romana and Interpretatio Graeca are examples of this. For inhabitants of the Roman Empire, each deity was known under many names among the peoples of the earth.

I'll have to look into that.  Personally I really like the concepts from Hinduism.  I would probably go that route if it seemed appropriate.

Actually, I had some ideas today while listening to Philip Carr-Gomm's "Druidcraft."  One was that at the level of "the god and goddess" I was thinking too literally.  Probably yet another product of my Christian upbringing and the whole "God is an invisible dude sitting on a cloud" notion.  Parallels were drawn to yin and yang and it clicked that the sacred masculine and sacred feminine - ideas which resonate with me - are just symbolic.  They are not truly a humanoid male being and humanoid female being off somewhere making the universe go 'round by knockin' boots any more than the concepts of harmonious opposites, yin and yang, are actual black and white "apostrophes."  I imagine this literalism can be something of a common issue with new Pagans.  Or maybe I hope that so I don't feel quite so dumb.  Heheheh.

What's interesting is that, in that moment of expanding my concepts to the abstract, I felt closer to the powers we label as "divine" than when I was taking them as beings that were literal in the sense of being humanoid but unseen.

To borrow from Zen, I was fixating on "the finger pointing at the moon" rather than the moon itself.

Building on that, it dawned on me that I can connect with whatever beings may be honored in ritual with a concept similar to "namaste."  That is, the divine in me honors the divine in them and opens to their teachings and blessings.  And that was a big element I found lacking with sticking to ADF's path as it is designed.  It is, to me, more of an "intellectual religious path" with a lot of emphasis on beings as separate and removed from us and not much in terms of cultivating one's own divine spark.  That's my take, anyway... others' mileage may and will vary.  And I think that was the real element that was lacking in ritual.  Not an actual connection to those deities honored, but something within.  In many ways that's a product of my shortcomings rather than the rituals... though we do have a long way to go in performing ones that come from within and aren't simply recitations from a script.

I also realized it made more sense to me to view deities as similar to bodhisattvas  or such - beings that have chosen to occupy their roles to help beings of the worlds including, but not exclusively limited to, humans.  

A good real-world parallel, kind of like the postal worker analogy, would be an outfitter I go to.  There's several people that work there.  I benefit from the work everyone does in that I can get parts for my bow, crossbow, rifle, etc.  But I don't know everyone that works there.  I do, however, know the guy that helps me with my bow really well.  I've even gotten some impromptu coaching from him.  So I "honor" the work everyone there does by being pleasant and conversational with them because I benefit from them doing what they do... but there's one there that I have a special relationship with, so I'm extra nice to him.  But even he and I aren't in some big reciprocal relationship.  I'm just benefiting from him doing what he does anyway.  It just happens that we jive enough that I get more from him than less frequent customers.

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If you compare ancient pantheons, you will find that some types of deities repeat themselves often, even across linguistic borders: Many of these patterns are not limited to Indo-European-speaking peoples.

One thing someone in my grove pointed me to that built on that was "Sea, Sky, Soil: An Introduction to Waincraft."  That takes a lot of the European pantheons and presents a generalized pantheon based on roles like you described.

StagTracker

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Re: Opening up, going deeper, and maybe using titles instead of naming names?
« Reply #9 on: February 05, 2016, 02:14:39 am »
Quote from: Darkhawk;186138
So I'd suggest: what is each high day "about" in your group practice?  Find what ritual work, what activities, and such work for that.  And which powers to invite - based on what the day is, whether it's their specific celebration, and what you are actually doing.

This is the direction I'd like to see us go.  Making it less about focusing on a guest of honor and more about doing things that bring us into mindful alignment with the time of year, what is going on around us, and such.  I'll try to keep what you mentioned in mind to help provide some clarity of purpose as our grove has discussions about how to make for more meaningful rituals.

RecycledBenedict

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Re: Opening up, going deeper, and maybe using titles instead of naming names?
« Reply #10 on: February 05, 2016, 08:46:39 am »
Quote from: StagTracker;186206
Actually, I had some ideas today while listening to Philip Carr-Gomm's "Druidcraft."  One was that at the level of "the god and goddess" I was thinking too literally. (...) Parallels were drawn to yin and yang and it clicked that the sacred masculine and sacred feminine - ideas which resonate with me - are just symbolic.  They are not truly a humanoid male being and humanoid female being off somewhere making the universe go 'round by knockin' boots any more than the concepts of harmonious opposites, yin and yang, are actual black and white "apostrophes."  

That reminds me of the Greek philosopher Empedocles. The complementary divine forces of Philotes (a primordial and higher aspect of Aphrodite) and Neikos (a primordial and higher aspect of Ares) interact in order to make the worlds possible. Philotes keep the worlds together, Neikos causes separation and individuality.

Quote from: StagTracker;186206
Probably yet another product of my Christian upbringing and the whole "God is an invisible dude sitting on a cloud" notion. (...) I imagine this literalism can be something of a common issue with new Pagans.  Or maybe I hope that so I don't feel quite so dumb.  Heheheh.

Back when I was a Lutheran I did definitely not believe in 'an invisible dude sitting on a cloud', nor did/do any of the Christians in my surroundings or my present-day Christian friends. My conception of God hasn't changed much since I left Lutheranism: I don't believe in the holy Trinity any longer, and the myths and history of the Hebrew (later Jewish and Samaritan) people has in my present view been reduced to something parallel to their Egyptian, Greek and Hindu counterparts, but the basic notion of The Form of Good and The Source of non-Being and Being is still the same. It doesn't matter if we prefer to call it 'God', 'Ein Sof', 'Amun', 'Neith', 'Isis', 'Zeus', 'Aeon', 'First Mind', 'Allah', 'Brahman', 'Ik Onkar' or something else. I prefer to call it To Hen.

Quote from: StagTracker;186206
What's interesting is that, in that moment of expanding my concepts to the abstract, I felt closer to the powers we label as "divine" than when I was taking them as beings that were literal in the sense of being humanoid but unseen.

Oh, yes. I believe I understand exactly what you mean.
« Last Edit: February 05, 2016, 08:53:05 am by RecycledBenedict »

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Re: Opening up, going deeper, and maybe using titles instead of naming names?
« Reply #11 on: February 05, 2016, 11:17:25 am »
Quote from: FraterBenedict;186214
Back when I was a Lutheran I did definitely not believe in 'an invisible dude sitting on a cloud', nor did/do any of the Christians in my surroundings or my present-day Christian friends.


American Ex-Lutheran here. Invisible Sky Wizard is a pretty common conceptualization in the US and not limited to any particular denomination either.
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RecycledBenedict

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Re: Opening up, going deeper, and maybe using titles instead of naming names?
« Reply #12 on: February 05, 2016, 11:45:11 am »
Quote from: Allaya;186215
American Ex-Lutheran here. Invisible Sky Wizard is a pretty common conceptualization in the US and not limited to any particular denomination either.


I am sorry to hear that. Does people not read Gregory Nazianzen, Pseudo-Dionysius Areopagita, John Scotus Eriugena and meister Eckehart on your side of The Pond? Or even Paul Tillich?

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Re: Opening up, going deeper, and maybe using titles instead of naming names?
« Reply #13 on: February 05, 2016, 12:37:56 pm »
Quote from: FraterBenedict;186216
I am sorry to hear that. Does people not read Gregory Nazianzen, Pseudo-Dionysius Areopagita, John Scotus Eriugena and meister Eckehart on your side of The Pond? Or even Paul Tillich?

I have no idea who any of those people are. Seriously.

Additionally, it would likely been seen as horrendously elitist to name-drop authors like that since the general assumption is that "well, doesn't everyone do that?" leads to the tacit conclusion that "since you haven't, you are clearly nobody of importance".
« Last Edit: February 05, 2016, 12:41:54 pm by Allaya »
Service is the rent we pay for the privilege of living on this earth.  — Shirley Chisholm
No doubt the truth can be unpleasant, but I am not sure that unpleasantness is the same as the truth.  — Roger Ebert
It is difficult to get a person to understand something when their livelihood depends upon them not understanding it. — Upton Sinclair (adapted)
People cannot be reasoned out of an opinion that they have not reasoned themselves into. — Fisher Ames (adapted)

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Re: Opening up, going deeper, and maybe using titles instead of naming names?
« Reply #14 on: February 05, 2016, 12:38:23 pm »
Quote from: FraterBenedict;186216
I am sorry to hear that. Does people not read Gregory Nazianzen, Pseudo-Dionysius Areopagita, John Scotus Eriugena and meister Eckehart on your side of The Pond? Or even Paul Tillich?


Many many people who identify as Christians in the United States have very little idea of historical or current debates about theology, apologetics, or other details. They know about what their particular denomination and congregation does (and what their part in it is), and many will know something about why.

The average is slightly better for really current topics (ordination of women in some denominations in the recent past, how to deal with ordination of GLBT clergy, how to deal with same-sex marriages) but even there, there are tons of people who not only don't know the details, but make it fairly clear they don't care.

Often that 'something' comes from the religious education classes in their own religion, which might have been 20 or 40 or 60 years ago (and 40 or 60 years ago, a lot of the teaching was rote memorisation or 'here is the thing we believe, with no discussion). A lot of that has changed in many places, now, but there's a huge variation in how much deeper theological or philosophical understanding people have (or want to have.)

One thing that I think can be hard for people outside the US to understand about the US in religious terms is that it can be very fragmented: there may only be a one congregation of a particular denomination within a reasonable transportation range, or even in metropolitan areas, only a couple that are realistically good choices for a given family or individual.

Within that church space, there may not be that many people who are interested in deeper discussion about religious topics, and in any given year, the ones who are may have other things that are a higher priority in their life (young children, eldery parents, acute illness, just plain focusing on something else.)

It's a chronic complaint of both my mother and my confirmation sponsor (both Catholic) about how much work they have to do to find deeper conversations about religion, and that's in Boston, a city with a multitude of Catholic parishes, a seminary, and a bunch of other intelligent and intellectually inclined people.

Many parishes sort of specialise (this one does great music, that one has a wonderful religious education program, this one has a bigger social justice focus, this one is much more traditional for the people who like that sort of thing), but it means the people with a more philosophical and theological focus tend to have to look for things like university enrichment classes, or a few specialised settings that aren't always easy to get to. Many do things piecemeal by running into other people at other events and then talking more.
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