Monday, March 3, 2008

At the table of many Gods

I practice a polytheistic path, one that recognizes and celebrates a wide variety of deities and spirits. My path recognizes that there are historical methods of interacting with these beings that we can discover and work with today. Those methods and newer ones based on fragments of older ritual and thought are centered primarily on insular Celtic, primarily Gaelic models. 

I consider my practice to be primarily Celtic Reconstructionist Paganism. This, however, does not in any way prohibit me from worshipping other deities or working with spirits outside of the insular Celtic world or its paradigms. I am a polytheist. I believe that all the deities and spirits exist somewhere, that they are all real and can have an effect in the lives of their followers. There are deities and spirits that I'm not particularly interested in, but this doesn't mean I don't think they're out there.

As a polytheist and someone who does a good bit of Otherworld work, I find myself in a place where the doors are often open. Sometimes the spirits ask things of me that I expect. Other times, their requests bring me up against difficult choices and take me places that I never expected to go. A Cherokee teacher who lives locally once said to me that spirits talk to people who listen, and that our bodies and our ancestry are not of particular concern to them. This helped me immensely with an issue I struggled with for about twenty years, but it also has bearing on European and other Pagan paths.

As someone who does Otherworld work, who speaks to spirits, and who treats with deities and the dead, I often find myself in relationships with deities who are not a part of the families of insular Celtic deities. I honor Gods and Goddesses from several continents in my home. I have shrines for Sarasvati and Ganesh. I offer honor to Buddhist entities. As a child I was fascinated by the deities of Greece and Egypt. Spirits of the land -- animals, plants, places -- have no "nationality" or "race" and they are simply what they are.  When I do healing or visionary work for others, it is right and necessary to speak to and honor the deities and spirits that they honor, for they often will approach me and teach me how to help the person in a way they understand.

No culture and no religion has ever sprung from a vacuum. Each spiritual path that exists in the world today -- that has ever existed -- has been influenced by its neighbors. As a polytheist, this becomes an important part of my spiritual reality. And as someone that listens to the spirits, sometimes someone new and unexpected drops by. As a good Celtic Pagan it would be a violation of my practice to refuse them hospitality, just as it would be poor form to turn away the friend of a friend who came to my door unexpectedly with an introduction and a request.

It's important for us to remember that we have room for more than one culture's deities at our table. Joy and wisdom can be found in the cross-cultural pollination of such conversations and relationships. When Garuda sits down with Exu, surely something interesting is about to happen.

By this I'm not talking about randomly inviting deities from multiple cultures to a ritual and expecting them to work together and cooperate. But if they show up at the same time unasked, perhaps there's a message there for me. The universe is a very big place, and attempting to place limits and conditions on it from my particularly small human point of view is, perhaps, an act of hubris. I'm not going to sing a chant that equates all Goddesses with one singular Goddess, but if I have relationships with Brighid and Sarasvati the fact that they have similar interests means they might be willing to come and visit at the same time. They might even be willing to share altar space if there's very little room where I live.

Polytheism, done with respect and due caution, can be a freeing way of approaching deity. If someone's knocking, don't be afraid to answer the door. 


  1. My simple reply: Yes yes and yes. This isn't exactly a popular view on the East coast, though. It's not easy when the Gods Themselves decide you can't be kept to one pantheon.

  2. Well said, glad I found it, since Hathor is knocking a the door...

  3. Very well put, and very true. I could no more ignore the pull of the orixa right now than I could the pull of the Celtic gods unless the latter ordered me to walk away from the former. Some of them get along far too well, though. I'm not sure they'd do that without extremely good cause. ;)

  4. Thank you for the comments, folks. I'm planning a post shortly on why eclecticism and syncretism aren't the same, which gives more in this vein. There's a big difference between smooshing things together because you want to and honoring the deities of a variety of cultures because they came knocking.

  5. Very well Said. I am an ADF Druid and we draw much on the Celtic Druids as a template, yet Our Druidry is expanded to all Indo-European cultures. This is our identity and we see other paths as equally valid. Folks and either stress differences or come together with similarities.

    When the Tuatha De Dannan came to Erin, they first wished to share the land with the Fir Bolg. Myth shows they preferred friendliness and hospitality to opposition and hostility.

  6. Hi Patchshorts

    I only just saw your reply today and thank you for your comment. I obviously do believe that people can legitimately worship and interact with spirits and deities from many lands. Calling it "Druidism" or "Druidry" when one is worshipping, say, Greek Latvian deities doesn't actually make that much sense to me, though. I respect the research that many ADF folks are doing, but to me ADF's definition of "Druid" is a distinctly modern one that doesn't reflect on historical realities or even acknowledge the fact that each of the various Indo-European cultures has or had their own names for their religious specialists.

    Part of my feeling about all of this is that we need to be open and honest about our paths, both personal and collective. Some of that involves calling things what they are whenever possible. I may honor Siberian spirits as a part of my work and as I was taught by an Ulchi teacher, but I don't call that specific part of my practice "Filidecht." This in no way excludes any deity or spirit or culture from the things I do, I just take care not to deal with my Siberian practices as CR, nor do I deal with the Celtic deities within the framework of Ulchi shamanism or refer to them as Siberian.

    It's complicated to find the boundaries in personal practice sometimes, especially where technique may be cross-cultural but the individual deities and spirits are not. There should be room for exploration, but some things just are not and never will be Celtic or, in my personal opinion, Druidic -- like Siberian shamanism.

  7. *Calling it "Druidism" or "Druidry" when one is worshipping, say, Greek Latvian deities doesn't actually make that much sense to me, though. *

    Gah. That should read "Greek or Latvian".