Friday, June 27, 2014
PBP- Week 26: Multiple Gods with the same focus
One of the big debates in the Pagan world is about the nature of Gods. When I was learning, the prevalent explanation for deities was that divinity itself was nameless, formless and pretty much unknowable, however it expressed itself in the form of individual divinities (as well as in the rest of reality). In this view, different deities are like the different masks that divinity would wear, though the unseen face behind all the masks was eternal and unchangeable.
But this view doesn't really work for some people. In a way, it is sort of like saying that all human beings are the same person because underneath our differences we are all humans. Sure, we are all people, but you and I are not the same person at all. I do feel that there is divine nature in all things, but that doesn't make all things one (on more than a philosophical level). Likewise, I don't feel that all Goddesses are the same anymore than I believe all women are the same.
I was thinking a while back, however, about deities that are considered to be influential in the same field. It is pretty common to find lists of deities for various purposes: love, justice, peace, thunder, moon, sun, plants, animals...the list goes on. I have never felt all the deities in a particular list are the same (and it somewhat irks me when people pull deities from very different pantheons and try to treat them as if they are the same when they only share a few characteristics).
I don't work exclusively within a single pantheon. There are deities that I work with that come from very different backgrounds. So when I am thinking of calling upon a deity to work towards a goal, sometimes there are multiple deities that come to mind. There are many moon deities, sometimes even multiple deities strongly associated with the moon from within a single pantheon. So when I work with the moon, should I pick one deity to work with? And if I do, how do I decide which one of the many moon deities I have worked with to work with on any particular occasion.
Sometimes there are distinctions. For example, love deities come in many forms. I would work with a different deity when working towards love with my husband than I would for love with my son. But sometimes I work in a purely honorific way: such as a ritual to show gratitude for the sun for it's presence in my life. In such a case, I would want to include all solar deities. I see this sort of like working with my ancestors: sometimes I may want to work with a single ancestor and sometimes I want to work with all my ancestors. In the same way, I can work with the Sun, and through the symbol (the sun itself), honor and work with all solar deities.
Another thought that came to my mind was if deities would be offended if I worked with one of them over another. Would Thor be upset if I worked with Grandfather Thunder? This is a bit more tricky in my mind, and much more individualized. I think we all have different relationships with deities, and even with different deities. It is up to me, when I work with deities, to figure out what type of relationship I have with them and what allowances they will give me. Some deities might have restrictions that I am not able (or willing) to work with (like requiring exclusivity), and it would be unwise and pretty rude of me to try to cultivate a relationship with that deity while ignoring their restrictions.
Our minds are complex and wonderful things. When multiple things are associated with one purpose, it can be almost impossible not to think at least a little about all of them. We might not even be aware of the direction our thoughts are taking, and yet still we give that mental nod to all things that are connected in our minds. Even when picking just one deity to work with, we still honor the others by connecting them to the work through our mental maps.