Most witches don't believe in gods. They know that the gods exist, of course. They even deal with them occasionally. But they don't believe in them. They know them too well. It would be like believing in the postman. ~ Terry Pratchett, Witches Abroad

Photo: Trickster goddess, Wikimedia C.C.Once upon a time, a long time ago, I was a cute little witchlet armed with a copy of The Spiral Dance in one hand and The White Goddess in the other. I dove in, like you do, with exuberance. Reading Tarot! Casting spells! Trance journeys! Rituals! Meditations! Communing with trees! I did a self-dedication rite that I wrote myself! My awesomely shiny ear-wet witchiness was a sight to behold.

Possibly because I was kicking up such a fuss, a being started talking to me. She said I should call her Rowan.

"Are you THE GODDESS?" I asked.

"No, I'm something you can talk to," was the reply.

"Well, how come I don't get to talk to the real thing?" I wanted to know.

Suddenly, I was aware of the vast, cosmically profound black and starry depths of the Universe, and the intelligence that permeates it all, an intelligence so immense and complex that it is impossible to apprehend even how immense, complex, and profound it really is, only that the least touch from it overwhelms.

My brain did that thing that computers do when you try to run too much information through them. I blue-screened. *BOGGLE BOGGLE BOGGLE BOGGLE*

. . . then it went away. Rowan said, "That's why."

One could arguably describe this as a cautionary tale, yet a couple decades later I still count it as one of the most important and treasured spiritual experiences of my life. I got there by being a smartass . . . which is to say, by being myself.

One thing I know about Gods: You can't be fake with them. They will smack that nonsense right out of you. You have to be who you are, however you are, and any profound spiritual path will tend to make you more so. This is not the facile "what you want to make of it" approach to spirituality, but something far more ferocious. What happens when you gaze unblinkingly into the depths of your own soul, day after day?

In my case, funny stories. It is what it is.

There are precedents for this. Traditional witchcraft often has a rather different approach to the Gods anyway, at least in my little corner of the Craft; we see them as beloved peers, not our masters. They are bigger and smarter and more powerful than we are, but companions nonetheless. Not so much like the postman but sometimes, a bit like that friend you love who tends to blow into town and turn your life upside down and drag you on deeply uncomfortable adventures during which you learn a lot and turn up later with some great tales to tell. Actually, that's a pretty good description of my whole life, now that I think of it.

In the story of Persephone, one of travel between realms, loss, and transformation, Baubo made Demeter laugh by lifting up her skirt. From other cultures and religions, there's Hanuman, Eshu, the Laughing Buddha, and the archetypal Zen master who does crazy inexplicable things and sometimes whacks you on the head, after which you become enlightened. Then there's Coyote . . .