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 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.
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