Confessions of a somewhat squishy polytheist

In my wanderings of the World Wide Web today, I came across a fascinating post by a blogger new to me: The Allergic Pagan’s discussion of “Three (or more?) ‘Centers’ of Paganism”. John Halstead, to give the blogger his proper name (it’s on his “About Me” page) divides Neopaganism loosely into earth-centered, Self-centered, and deity-centered, or in the terms he borrows from Graham Harvey’s book What Pagans Believe, Celebrating Nature, Working Magic, and Honoring the Deities.

Well, give a druid a triad, and she’ll come up with at least nine meanings for it. Halstead’s triad resonated with me strongly; it suggested the three major power centers of the body, belly (body), heart (mind), and head (spirit), and the three major divisions of the spirits in much pagan thinking, land spirits, ancestors, and deities, and all the various correspondences to those triads that one can come up with. More importantly, perhaps, it mapped out my own progress within paganism. I began as an earth-honoring, nature-celebrating eclectic neopagan, incorporated Hermetic magic and theurgy along the way, and finally have gotten round to honoring, and working with, and coming to terms with deities.

I honestly don’t remember at this point how the first contact between my pantheon and myself was made. I might be able to uncover it by rooting around in this blog’s archives, or in my history of Livejournal blogging, but I might go into the labyrinth and never come out and finish this post. Suffice it to say that I do remember wishing I had a “patron deity”, because that’s what all the cool kids seemed to be doing, all the hot pagan bloggers–having intense, melodramatic relationships with patron deities.

… I’ve mentioned my tendency to have relationship drama in religion and not in my marriage, right? Just so we’re all on the same page.

My impression is that while I was wistfully wishing, without an awful lot of focus or really knowing what I was wishing for, deities began to show up. By “show up” I mean that I found myself thinking about them, researching them, and then having conversations with them, usually at their instigation and not mine. Many of the contacts came when I was walking to work, or doing dishes, or taking a bath or shower–that is, when I was in a light trance state due to repetitive activity. I vividly remember one contact that began with a conversation on the light rail: A god appeared to me and identified himself. He was tall, muscular, mature, red-haired, naked except for some jewelry, and… kind of shiny.

I say he appeared and talked to me while I was in a light rail car, riding back into the city from a run to the ‘burbs. What I mean is that he appeared to me in my imagination. Once in a great while I perceive magical or spiritual things with or apparently with my physical senses; it’s not impossible for me, but it’s rare. But most of my spiritual contacts are “just my imagination”. It’s just that I’ve always had the sense that the imagination is not simply a private laboratory where the mind cooks things up; it’s a room with at least two doors, and only one of them is the door from my mind. The imagination is a place where I make things, but it’s also a place where I can meet things. Ancestors, deities, fictional characters, dream people, my imagination is where they come to meet me.

I realized pretty quickly that there was a connection among the different deities who were tapping me. They were all Celtic, mostly Gaulish/Continental, and had been syncretized by the Romans with their own deities. The Shiny Naked Guy who visited me on the train identified himself as Grannos Apollo. The star goddess I was aware of around Imbolc wanted to be called Dana. Shiny Naked Guy had a shiny silver sister named Sirona who liked to visit me in my bath. I was at work when a quiet, gravelly male voice spoke to me from behind me, over my shoulder, and told me he could help me on the job. I never saw him, but I got an impression of age, wisdom, and physical ugliness. He identified himself as Ogmios, cognate to Oghma, inventor of the Ogham… and god of cataloguing?

My consistent contacts have been with Grannos, Sirona, Dana, Lugus, Rosmerta, Taranis,

Relief from Autun depicting Rosmerta and Mercury

Relief from Autun depicting Rosmerta and Mercury (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sulis, Belenos, Ogmios, Nodens, and Catubodva. I have read what I can find about them; most, possibly all of the surviving evidence for their character and cult is in artifacts, not in literature. I go very much by UPG and I freely admit that. The interpretatio Romana and the slightly greater amounts of information available about their cognate deities in other cultures have helped. I have had enough melodrama with them to make an American television series–all of which, honestly, has been my fault.

I called on Catubodva recently, making a considered offering and earnestly asking for help, and she came through. I’m beginning to get little nudges from my pantheon again, to hear them. My intuition/psychism/whatever, such as it is, mostly comes through hearing rather than seeing. I listen to the voices, of a poem, a fictional character, my gut feelings, or a goddess. I am listening to my gods’ voices and, finally, daring to speak aloud their names.

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One thought on “Confessions of a somewhat squishy polytheist

  1. John Halstead

    I love your description of the imagination as a room with two doors. I don’t know if you are familiar with Jung’s practice of active imagination, but he described it in very similar terms. He personified what he encountered in his imagination and would speak to and listen to the “persons” he met there. He even advocating ritualizing the encounter in some way later.

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