Deities are a funny subject. Different people perceive them in different ways. Who’s to say which is right and wrong? Certainly not I.
And yes, that title should be sung to the tune of Depeche Mode’s ‘Personal Jesus’
My personal approach to Paganism is through the eyes of an animist. I guess you could call it Animistic Paganism. My concept of Animism is that nature itself (not just here on Earth but throughout the universe) has a soul. Plants, mountains, animals, the sky, entire planets, entire galaxies even have and are made up of the same divine, creative energy at their very basic level. I believe in the saying “As above, so below, as within, so without, as the universe, so the soul…” Hermes Trismegistus. So, I look to nature and the universe when I seek answers to life’s great mysteries. There are certain patterns and interactions of energies that occur at every level throughout the universe. The macrocosm and the microcosm. In pondering these things I believe it is possible to grasp a better understanding of the nature of deity.
How does animism relate to monotheism, duotheism, and polytheism? Some believe it is the great grandaddy of all of these concepts. Long ago, in the tribal antiquity of all of our ancestors from all cultures the world over, some form of animism was the spiritual root of the beliefs which they adhered to. Long before gods were given names and religions were founded people believed that the wind was a spirit, the fire was a spirit, that mountain was a spirit and the life giving water from the river was a spirit. All later concepts of how the divine might be constructed came about after each tribe or culture first grasped the concept we now call animism.
Because we are Pagans living in a modern day world, my sisters and brothers and I at Temple Of the Standing Stones adopt many of the ritual elements and god/goddess names and concepts into our practice that a great number of today’s Pagans are familiar with. I’ll talk more about our practices in another article but ultimately my beliefs about deity stem from this core concept. Some of our temple members may speak of the divine as ‘The Lord and Lady’, some may refer to them as ‘The gods’, some may use more encompassing terms such as ‘The Kindred'(meaning gods, ancestors and nature spirits). That is all okay. Those are reflections of each individual’s perception of and relationship with the divine at this point on their spiritual journey. But ultimately, I believe all of these concepts lead back to animism.
To me, within this concept are the elements by which we may explain gods, goddesses and other forms of divine beings which we may perceive of. In Hinduism, for example, there is the expression Namasté which is often interpreted to mean “I bow to the divine in you.” I too believe the divine resides not only outside of ourselves but also within each and every one of us. From ancient Celtic sources I get the concept of ghosti which relates to not only the guest/host relationship between ourselves and other people but also between ourselves and our deities. So, taking this into consideration, my concept basically is that as conscious parts of the divine fabric ourselves, and having been descended from our ancestors who also believed, we are all essentially co-creators of the world we live in. The guest/host relationship between ourselves and our deities boils down to this to me. The gods have always been and always will be because the divine energy of their creation is eternal and lives within us. We need them and they need us for our mutual growth and manifestation. So, if several million people throughout the world believe the goddess Brighid exists and have a concept and perception of her then that is a lot of collective energy and intent. With that much energy and intent, how could that goddess help but to manifest and exist? That is my personal take on it but some may have another take. Pondering these great mysteries of the divine and sharing our perceptions with one another is what makes getting together with other Pagans such a great thing I think.
The field of quantum physics has taught us that by merely observing something we change it. The interaction between one consciousness within the fabric of creation and another is unmistakable. Not to mention inherited memory and self organization of systems as put forth by Rupert Sheldrake when he speaks of morphic resonance (a fascinating scientific theory by the way). What I’m getting at here is that if our ancestors believed in these gods and through inherited memory these deities live on and are self organized or manifested from the creative energy of the universe, then we in turn believe in these same deities, then they just, simply are. Your perception may be different and I would like to invite you to come share yours with us on our Temple Forum so that perhaps together we may all grow and learn.