Wrestling With Gods: Pagan Gnosis through Jewish Eyes

It’s six in the morning, and my sleep ends abruptly with a too-vivid dream of a male voice that is not my husband’s whispering in my ear. “Hey, boo, are you awake?”

I give a start, then, I sigh, “I am now. What’s up, Hermes?”

The rest of the conversation occurs astrally. He asks me what I’m going to do today, I ask him how things are going in Greece. I get up, shower, dress. We chat over breakfast, and I tell him about some person I just met who he’d like. He reminds me that I left my keys inside the freezer, suggesting that I really ought to just leave them on my bicycle.

Sounds nice, right? I have a best friend who can make sure that the walk light is on when I need to cross the street, or that a taxi pulls up the minute I get lost anywhere. Okay, so, he also sometimes donates my laptops and cell phones to the poor without asking me. No one is perfect. I accept his faults, he accepts mine. We enjoy each other’s company as much as any two people could reasonably be expected to.

There’s just one problem: I’m an Observant Jew.

I have known a large number of people who expressed bafflement that I could have such experiences of Pagan deities and remain as religiously Jewish as I am. After all, I recognize that their gods exist, how could I not worship them?

I answer that Judaism is a religion of law and tradition, not one of faith. Like a Buddhist, I ask, “What do gods have to do with my religion?”

 

Keeping It Jewish

I am not seeking a syncretism. I don’t consider myself to be a Hellenic Pagan, I don’t attend Hellenic festivals, I don’t belong to any Greek Pagan organizations or mailing lists. I doubt I would be welcome there if I tried. I am also not trying to find a place for Hermes in my Judaism. I know too much about Judaism to think that such a thing is possible or appropriate.

“Lo yiyeh l’cha elohim acherim Al Panai”

“Thou shalt not have other gods in My Presence”

“Al Panim” doesn’t actually translate as “in my presence.” It literally means “On My Face.” The word for face here is related to “b’panim,” the word for insides. It also means, idiomatically, something like “all up in my business.”

Breaking this down for meaning…

“On my face” — Like a mask. Do not, in other words, worship another deity and say, “Hashem is an aspect of this deity.”

“On my insides” — Do not look at God and say, “the other gods and goddesses are aspects of Hashem.”

“All up in My business” — Do not mix other gods into Jewish worship or practice.

That’s pretty exhaustive. Syncretism in a religious sense did not seem like an option, and I like my religion. Running around with pagan deities just didn’t seem…. kosher.

I’ve tried a number of solutions to the problem of having Pagan gnosis. Certainly, Hermes seemed pleasant enough, so my first solution was to try and prove to myself that the entity in question was a projection of my unconscious mind, or some other being, maybe an angel, that I was simply interpreting as Hermes because of my Pagan past. I was secretly excited by the notion that he was a projection of my unconscious mind, because he seemed to be able to do some pretty blatant acts of magic.

The most concise rebuttal to this proposal is that my smartphone needs an ancient Greek lexicon, because the entity’s propensity to pepper his speech with Ancient Greek often sends me to language resources. I need Wikipanion too, because he’ll make reference to Greek deities I’ve never heard of. I have some basic awareness of who the Olympions are, but Thalassa, Dione, and Thetis were not deities I would have known about otherwise.

If he’s a projection of my unconscious mind, why does he know a language I don’t? If he’s some other sort of culturally transcendent entity, why is he specifically speaking in Ancient Greek?

Nope, he’s an ancient Greek something, all right. Now what?

This wasn’t exactly an issue I could bring to a modern Rabbi, so I consulted the Talmud about what to do. In Tractate Avodah Zarah, the issue of living in a world full of Pagan religions is discussed at length. The sages considered the power of these non-Jewish deities to be very real, and possibly detrimental to a Jew because their influence makes it more difficult to adhere to Judaism. They discuss the difference between gods that are currently worshipped and gods who are no longer worshipped by their people. They also discuss the exact manner in which each deity is honored so that no Jew might accidentally worship or invoke a pagan deity, which, in the ancient world, was a very real concern. They discussed circumstances where ancient foreign deities could be avoided and circumstances where they couldn’t.

Having consulted the Talmud, I decided that this was a circumstance where a pagan deity could not be avoided. He was there and I didn’t put him there.

I was free to just go about my business, because there was really nothing else to do.

“I’m not going to worship you,” I told him.

“I’m not asking you to,” he said.

 

What Does It Mean?

We all share a single universe with a single, pan-human metaphysical reality. We not only understand these things differently owing to our cultural backgrounds, but we individually find meaning in them in different ways.

A polytheist is entirely justified in saying that even if one could incontrovertibly prove the existence of an all-powerful creator deity, it wouldn’t really be helpful to them in deciding how to conduct themselves in a moral or ethical fashion. One valid interpretation of polytheistic traditions might be that each god or goddess is the exemplar of certain kinds of virtues. Their stories might be seen as instructive about how these virtues are best applied. Without cultural context, without the interpretive tradition, what use is Creator to a polytheist even if It does exist?

Jesus might have lived, too, and died, just like the Christians say. What difference would that make? Maybe he even came back from the dead. Plenty of cultures have stories like that, including mine. To Christians, it is a miracle that represents the promise of salvation, but that understanding is based on things that no one can prove, like the idea that a human soul is born destined for damnation. You and I are not obligated to force ourselves into seeing it that way, if the shoe doesn’t fit. We are not obligated to believe that “salvation” is necessary. Even seeing the miracle first hand wouldn’t so obligate us.

Just so, I do not believe that the Greek pantheon exists, I know that it does. Those gods are very real, and I see the reverberations of their existences daily. What does it mean to me? What does it say in response to the essential questions of my faith? What does it say about the ultimate metaphysical nature of all reality and how all things came into being? To me, it doesn’t answer those sorts of questions. I still have to look to Judaism to make meaning of the world. It is for that reason that I am Jewish. To me, even if you could incontrovertibly prove that Creator didn’t exist, or that Judaism wasn’t a valid path to it, Judaism would still stand on its own two feet as a tradition of philosophy and a practice of mindfulness.

Does not being worshipped make Hermes angry? What is worship, anyway? I don’t treat him like I treat my own deity. I don’t smother him with praises, or ask him for favors. I listen to him, and accept him exactly as he is, just like I would do with any human being. If I worshipped him, I suspect he wouldn’t just drop by and say, “My day is crap.” My relationship with him doesn’t have to follow the same rules as someone else’s to be valuable to him. It may be valuable specifically because it is different.

 

The Moral of the Story, I Guess

One thing I have learned is how emotionally attached such ancient gods are to their followers, to the ancient culture that they came from, and even to the descendants of that culture who no longer follow the ancestral faith. When it comes to that subject, even a deity so tolerant and liberal that he apparently wants to hang around with a Jew turns sour.

“Look there,” he once said, pointing at a Greek Orthodox church. “That is the betrayal of my people […] There, my heart lies buried.”

Though he understands that Christianity is valid, that religion is a language for expressing basic human spirituality, that maybe the same essential values are still in that faith, he is not happy with Greeks practicing a religion that excludes his pantheon. That a person of Greek descent should turn so far away from their ancestral religion fills him with sadness and horror.

I don’t imagine that the Hebrew deity feels any differently when She loses Jews to other religions. Even those who have been brought up outside of the faith are probably not unknown to Her, and She probably hopes every day that She will be remembered by them, even if their relationship with Her doesn’t follow the same rules that mine does.

In that sense, knowing Hermes has given me more respect for Judaism as the ancestral tradition of the Hebrew people, and a better understanding of what the Jewish people mean to the Jewish God. Knowing Hermes has caused me to learn aspects of Torah I never otherwise would have.

With proper context, exposure to Pagan deities can make a person a better Jew. As for these gods, their religion, Hellenismos, defines them as sacred personalities. In a world where they are often represented as archetypes or emanations from a complex of deities, perhaps the company of anyone — however much they might be a blasphemer or a heretic by their standards — who won’t try to change them is a welcome addition to their divine retinue.

 


Aliyah Bat Stam is a kabalist, Jewish educator, ceremonial magician and Torah Observant Jewitch. She exists primarily for the purpose of irritating people who like to put things into boxes (literal or physical), and secondarily for the purpose of making people of all ages think. In her spare time, she likes to study Greek and Hebrew mythology, and jump up and down shouting at the guy on the O.U. Daf Yomi recordings. For more of Aliyah’s writing, check out her blog, Jewcraft.

  • http://www.forgingthesampo.com/ Kauko

    I have to admit that the main reason why I left Judaism- even though I loved it, and I still hold affection for it- was that I wanted to worship these other deities. I felt stifled in the restrictions to not do so in Judaism; my heart wanted to honor other gods and local spirits, give offerings to my ancestors (on a side note: I also got tired of the politics within Judaism over who is a Jew. As someone who was deeply observant, but not Jewish by Orthodox standards, I was so weary of having to navigate through all of that.). 

    • Aliyah Bat Stam

      Man, that stinks. 

      That is the sort of stuff that happens when people treat Rabbis like Priests. They’re not. It’s just a guy with an opinion.

      We know it’s a really big problem. Orthodox converts sometimes have to convert twice, in direct contradiction to the laws of the Torah. Usually, the just solve it with a Gerus l’Chumra, or a token immersion to satisfy the whiners. 

      And yeah, if you are tired of politics, Judaism is a terrible place for you. Everyone argues about everything all the time. Personally, I find the arguing to be interesting, and it doesn’t upset me. One time, though, I just about body-slammed a kosher certifying guy because of kashrut politics. THIS IS WHY WE CAN’T HAVE NICE THINGS! 

      Everything has it’s problems, I guess. 

      But you know what? If they ruled that you aren’t Jewish, and you are happy with what you are doing? Take it as a blessing. 

  • Barbaryan

     Hi Aliyah, I was wondering why Kabbalah lessons are so actively promoted to non Jews in the western world lately with posters in subways and paper ads? Your faith is rather closed to the non Jewish world.  Do your priests pass you the notion that we had crossed the big  line lately? Our Gods tell us that skies do not belong to Jehovah any more, so human energy and will of non Jewish Kabbalah  followers must be collected to substitute for it.

    • Aliyah Bat Stam

      Hi Barbaryan,

      I’m confused about what you are suggesting. What I hear you saying is the following:

      1) At one point in the past, the majority of people worshipped the Hebrew Deity.
      2) People are no longer doing so in such great numbers anymore

      Therefore 

      3) The Jews are trying to collect magic from Non-Jews to prop up their religion’s failing current.

      I also hear an assumption that the Hebrew deity and the Christian deity are the same deity? Is that a correct understanding of what you are saying? I guess I’m inferring that. 

      There are a few assumptions that I am sure that I detect, namely:

      A. The Hebrew Deity is of or pertains to, the Sky. 

      B. There are Jewish priests that are somehow in charge of an organized Jewish religion.

      Let me clear those up. 

      A. The Hebrew God is a God of Nature. That is why Jews celebrate the cycles of the harvest and the moon. 

      B. We have people who study the Talmud. They have lots of opinions. They are slightly more in charge than the people who know less about the law. If you don’t like the opinion of one person, you can go to another guy who also studied the law, and learn with them. These people can be male or female. A Rabbi is only really “Prima Inter Pares,” the first among equals as it were. No part of the religion requires them. You can get married without them. 

      • Aliyah Bat Stam

        And in answer to your question — because bad people want to make money off of things that don’t belong to them.

      • Barbaryan

        No Aliyah I was saying that Hebrew Deity was in charge of the skies last 6k years and this primacy is being challenged now. Do you feel the waves now? Waves of the  Assa,  the Ragnarok, the Armageddon, the last battle?

        • Aliyah Bat Stam

          So you are saying that, for six thousand years, for example, when the Egypt was at the height of it power… When, to cite another example, Babylon’s gods were worshipped by the majority of people throughout the Middle East…in China, where people practiced Shinto, that the Hebrew deity “ruled the skies” in all these places and at all these times? Like, in Sweeden? Odin couldn’t get his stuff done because Hashem was in charge of the planet?

          I’m very impressed. I had no idea that Pagans thought so highly of our Tribal deity! 

          No, I do not feel the “waves of Ragnarok.” I do not participate in the Norse religion, nor do I generally speak to Norse deities. I am not a part of that mythological consciousness. I am not a Christian, so I also don’t have a “last battle.” 

          We have a thing that is like a last battle, though. The Jewish lore says that in the End of Days, Hashem will cook the Leviathan and the Behemoth as history’s biggest Surf n’ Turf. 

          True story. 

          Hashem is sovreign over the Jews. I think that’s enough for any pantheon: to be sovereign over their cultural following. 

          • Barbaryan

            Odin,  Indra, Perun and other battle Gods being from the Host of the West did not invade hosts of Gods of East where your God is in, so when Earth is in the Galactic east for that time all Gods of Irii Svarga left their people. There was no Odin here when your Lord took over. It took a while though for your people to bring glory to their Creator, things don’t happen overnight. Now Gods of the West are back.

  • Kaitlyn Dickerson

    This was a fascinating read; thanks for sharing your experience!

  • kenneth

    Don’t take this the wrong way, because I truly mean no disrespect, but why does “the central hub of the pagan channel” feature a blog about a non-pagan Jew practicing Judaism? I mean on the one hand I see real value in everyone learning about other faiths and cultures and understanding the experiences that transcend all of them, but what does it teach pagans about the day to day business of being pagan? 

     I’m more of an eclectic than a traditionalist, and I’m not one to harp on telling others who and what a “real pagan” looks like. I agree putting things in boxes can blind us to larger truths. At the same time, I think distinctions matter. The reason this sticks in my craw a little bit is that popular culture seems to think that anyone who has an unorthodox (small o) or open-minded spirituality or who uses any sort of metaphysical practice is “pagan.”  Encouraged in no small part by New Age retailers and publishers, there is this zeitgeist which says liberal feminist Christians who like crystals are pagans. Anyone who does Tarot or divination or magickal workings of any kind is pagan. Anyone who isn’t fundamentalist Abrahamic and likes the metaphysical aesthetic of neo-paganism is pagan. 

     That bothers me because it dilutes paganism down into meaninglessness. You’re being very forthright in delineating what you practice and believe, but the implication still seems to be that mystical Judaism is just another flavor of paganism with a different deity. Maybe I’m over-thinking this and should just be content with the notion that we can all learn from divergent viewpoints. It’s just hard to envision a polytheist pagan who doesn’t worship YHVH getting accepted as a regular contributor on the Jewish Channel because they happen to incorporate Kabbalah in their practice or had some experience of Jewish deity.

    • Aliyah Bat Stam

      Kenneth,

      That’s a good question.

      I actually think that the intention of my editor is to respond to what is effectively a preponderance of discussion about Judaism without Jews present or presenting on the subject. 

      To play devil’s advocate, if Judaism isn’t relevant to Paganism, why are you all so busy discussing my Deity all the time? When YHVH is no longer a major topic of discussion, and when people are no longer engaged in posting polemics full of anger and misinformation about Judaism and Christianity, then you are correct, I will have no place here, and I will be happy to pack my bags and go.

      Instead, the truth of the case is that Judaism IS a part of Paganism. 

      It is a part of Paganism if for no other reason than it is constantly discussed. Hashem is as much a part of Paganism as the Devil is a part of Christianity. Take a look at Pointedly Pagan, if you don’t believe me. 

      A cartoon of Judaism is presented in place of fact. Judaism is an Earth based, ethnic tradition that traditional strands Wicca, in particular, borrow quite a bit from. Mind you, borrow, often enough, without giving credit where credit is due, while vilifying the beliefs of the people who invented it and continue to include it as a part of their religion as well as their theology. 

      If I were to tell you “I practice an Earth-based Panentheistic tradition that sanctifies the Masculine and Feminine within the divine,” you’d say I was Pagan. If I told you that I recognize a plurality of divinities assembled into a Henotheism, and call said individuals in the course of practicing magic, you’d say I was Pagan.

      Bring up the mention of YHVH? Oops! Not Pagan anymore!

      Paganism needs to be something more than simply excluding one deity.

      • Barbaryan

        I agree with Aliyah Bat Stam that this discussion is valid. YHVH is a Lord of Host that we happen to be in last 6k years, but that Host is one of many really Judaism  is Jewish paganism as their God is the tribal God of their people.

        • Aliyah Bat Stam

          Maybe we can draw a distinction between Jewish Paganism and Jewish Universalism. ::shrug::

      • kenneth

        I don’t think you ought to pack your bags. It was really a question more about the thought process of curation of why you’re here and how you relate Judaism/Paganism. Your answer is very helpful in understanding where you’re coming from.

         Judaism is relevant as much as it is a factor in the development of neopaganism and also the sort of political and cultural disputes between elements of monetheism and polytheist communities. Judaism indeed has some deep parallels with pagan traditions and tribal religions. They are worth noting and interesting in their own right. 

         I don’t think it’s an accurate model to depict Judaism as a pagan religion which just happens to have a different god. Though it might recognize a plurality of divinities, the absolute blanket exclusivity of worship demanded by YHVH makes Judaism fundamentally different from pagan polytheism. Judaism, as with Christianity and Islam, are not pagan, nor compatible with paganism on a practicing basis, and I think glossing that fact over is the way to productive discussions nor peace between our various communities. 

        I leave my own disputes with Abrahamic traditions on the level of the people and actions involved rather than the theology. I mean it in the nicest way when I say I truly don’t care what YHVH or any god says to his own people. I only care what they perceive He commands when it becomes relevant to my personal safety or freedom. I don’t have an issue with Christianity. I have an issue with a sizable but very determined minority of Christians who believe I should be harassed and legislated into their religion or deference to it.

          I have not had that problem with Jews because I have never met one who felt compelled to convert me or got on my case for not keeping Kosher or keeping the Sabbath etc. I think we are in general agreement about the issue of cultural misappropriation/syncretism. One of the main reasons I broke from traditional Wicca and Masonic sorts of ceremonial magick was rooted in the very issue. They were training me to invoke Judeo-Christian gods and entities and employ Kabbalah for pagan purposes while denying up and down that these things were inherently Jewish or Christian (Jewish, really, at their roots). They spun them as just some sort of universal metaphysical technologies, and that struck me as deeply inauthentic and disrespectful and a barrier to my ability to relate to my own ancestral and adopted deities in an organic way. 

        I wholeheartedly agree that Paganism needs to be defined as much more than “not Abrahamic.” I work toward that end as I can, and I think that phenomenon is beginning to fade as our community matures and second and third generation pagans move forward without the baggage many of us carried from our childhood faiths. 

      • Lēoht Sceadusawol

         “Paganism needs to be something more than simply excluding one deity.”
        But no one can agree on what that something is (or should be).

    • Aliyah Bat Stam

      Although, as an aside, I also practice non-theistic Druidry. Just saying. 

    • Lēoht Sceadusawol

       I’d see this one as interfaith.

      What this post is about, to me, is an adherent of an Abrahamic faith system discussion their relationship with other, pagan, gods.

      What we have is an example of polytheism in a literal sense – a belief in more than one god.

      The critical part, as I see it, is that belief does not automatically equate to veneration, worship or even respect. Merely a conviction on reality.

      I could, of course, be completely misreading it, but the experiences talked about are entirely valid here.

      If nothing else, it shows that no one path, system or tradition can lay claim to the gods. If anything, it is the other way round.

    • http://www.facebook.com/chkraemer13 Christine Hoff Kraemer

      Basically? Because I’m the editor and I think the writing of an ex-Pagan Orthodox Jew is interesting. ;>

      > Maybe I’m over-thinking this and should just be content with the notion that we can all learn from divergent viewpoints. 

      Yes. And whoever mentioned that Patheos is an interfaith website, and so we often feature interfaith writing, also yes. And finally, what Aliyah said about educating Pagans about Judaism (since they tend to talk about it a great deal but don’t know that much about it), yes as well.

      • Sunweaver

         Puffy. Hearts.

        Lord Hermes willin’ and the crick don’t rise, one of these days I’ll get out and meet you in person and hug your neck. ‘Cause Yes. This.

      • kenneth

        I think pagans are well served by learning everything we can about the world and everyone in it. It’s no accident that many pagans know their Bible better than most of the Christian missionaries who bang on their door with pamphlets. Paganism in the West has a deep tradition of a burning curiosity about everything.  Our progenitors created the Library of Alexandria, which was the Wikipedia, Library of Congress and MIT all rolled into one in the ancient world.  I think we can benefit at the Pagan Channel by hearing from Jews, and Muslims, and Hindus or anyone.

         What was a bit unclear to me initially was whether Aliyah was writing as a Jew to relate that faith to Pagans OR taking the tack that “I can address you as a pagan because I’m really just a pagan with a different deity.” I now understand the intent to be the former. I cannot agree with the latter for reasons I already outlined.  I think this is all a very productive discussion and one worth continuing. I simply take the position that it is an interfaith rather than intrafaith dialogue. 

  • Lēoht Sceadusawol

    I can get a fair bit of what you are saying.

    I like to self identify with the phrase ‘godless Heathen’ – I believe in a whole lot of gods, pantheons upon pantheons of them. I don’t follow any of them, though. This makes me, technically, ‘godless’. I do find resonance with the ways of Germanic tradition, which makes me, in a way, ‘Heathen’.

    When I talk to people about belief in the gods, I ask them a question: “Do you believe in the table before you?” (I often seem to converse whilst eating.)

    They cannot prove it exists, so they must believe it does in order to interact with it. This does not mean, however, that the feel any need (or desire) to venerate the table. The table simply ‘is’.

    I see the gods in the same way. Some I get on with, others I do not. What I do not do is bow to any of them.

    • Aliyah Bat Stam

      Yeah, now that’s what I’m talking about. That is EXACTLY my experience. The weird thing? Greek deities seem prefer this to being shoved into “archetypes” and evoked as “complexes” of deities.

      The Ancient Hellenic religion describes its gods as “sacred personalities.” To be deprived of the one thing that is most holy in yourself is a great tragedy. I think that’s why I find myself in their company. They just want to go and talk to someone that isn’t going to try to change them.

    • Aliyah Bat Stam

      I’m serious. I want to high five you so much. What country are you in?

      • Aliyah Bat Stam

        State. Whatever. 

    • Barbaryan

      Good point brother, old Norse pagans don’t bow to Gods we hail them as we give glory to our parents for the gift of life. Our Gods are our parents and our relation with our parents is respect and love.
      Bowing to Gods is a relation of a slave to his master which is foreign to Norse and Slavic  faiths.
      Begging favors from Gods is disrespectful also.
      We know Gods of our people exists but we don’t have any debts before them as they gave us nothing only tried to enslave us.
      Being Barbaryan I have no problem hailing Odin or Thor as they are relatives of my God, but not to omit or disrespect any of the Gods that gave me the gift of life  we simply hail 
      Goy Rode!!!
      which means Glory to our bloodline, our Gods and our descendants.

      • Barbaryan

        please read “our people” as ‘other people’

      • http://www.facebook.com/fathergia Conor O’Bryan Warren

         Ah! You are that insane racist who was posting on Under the Ancient Oaks, how’s that going for ya? Really, if you are going to propose such insane theories as you are want to do, about people only being able to worship Gods in their bloodline, I’d highly suggest that you learn to articulate yourself more thoroughly. Foreign (and I really hope you are, because your English is atrocious) or not, it doesn’t change the fact that your writing style makes it nearly impossible to understand what you are trying to get at. Why don’t you go lurk on the various Heathen/White Supremacist combo forums that exist?

  • Lēoht Sceadusawol

     I would say I am from Wessex, but that country hasn’t existed in over a thousand years. So, will have to go with south west England.

  • Lēoht Sceadusawol

      I would say I am from Wessex, but that country hasn’t existed in over a
    thousand years. So, will have to go with south west England.

  • Lēoht Sceadusawol

     I think that any person (gods are people too) wants more than to simply be objectified.

    I wouldn’t want to be a god, especially not a pagan one – how often are the gods invoked/spoken to purely for what the supplicant wants? It reminds me of the scene from (Disney’s) Aladdin where the genie complains about having to grant wishes all the time. None of his former masters thought of him as an individual in his own right, they merely saw him as a commodity of power – a resource to be used when desired and then put away until next time.

    • http://www.facebook.com/fathergia Conor O’Bryan Warren

       Exactly this. It is why I make offerings just to make them sometimes. It is my way of telling the God or Goddess, “Hey, I’m thinking about you. I honor you” I get slightly put-off every time someone says the “work with Aphrodite” or prance around saying “I used Athena in a study-spell last week” or summat like that. There is a certain abuse in those words.

      Speaking of put-off, I ponder if I’m the only one who felt highly skeptical and uneasy with the author’s stating that she and Hermes had casual conversations, as well as the implication that Hermes is more concerned with the status of his ancient worshipers ancestors than his current worshipers. I haven’t been worshiping the Gods as long as some, but I’ve never found them prone to idle chit-chat, nor have I ever had them communicate to me in terms of language. Gentle pulling feelings and an inclination welling up that is not my own and birds doing bird things at the perfect moment have been preferred methods I’ve noticed. Honestly, I find it a bit hard to believe that a God would take casual interest and speak a hodge-podge of English and Classical Greek to a random Jew, of all people. Call me skeptical. . .

      • Lēoht Sceadusawol

         I’ve had casual conversations with several gods. At least one I have even flirted with (we are good friends, and go way back.)

        Everyone experiences divinity differently. Difference does not mean wrong. Perhaps the gods prefer to communicate with you in a non-vocal manner for their own reasons?

        • http://www.facebook.com/fathergia Conor O’Bryan Warren

           I’m extremely skeptical, even then. If a person can prove themselves, that’d be a separate issue altogether, I’ve known one so far who could prove his claims. For example, I’m a devotee of Hermes, all she’d have to do is, perhaps tell me what kind and color my necklace is, or perhaps even white color offering bowls I use on my altar. Based on all that was said, that should be easily done. Till then, I remain dissuaded. The same goes if you made specific statements about a deity I actively worship, or if anyone else did. Accepting things at face-value just isn’t what I do. 

          There are some folks I believe, but they’ve proven themselves, as I said. Accepting things at face-value automatically is a dangerous habit.

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

             I cannot even prove to you that I exist. Some things have to be taken on faith.

            Personally, I am something of a sceptic – I prefer a scientific method to a mystical practice. As such, when I had my first religious experiences (direct communication with gods), I looked into what the gods said/did and cross referenced it with established knowledge of those self-same gods. It is too easy for the brain to fabricate fantasy.

            I convinced myself, through research, that I could not have created my experiences wholly from imagination. I don’t, however, expect anyone else to blindly accept what I say. Of course, I am not about to share the specifics with randoms on the internet, so we will have to simply agree to be respectful of belief, even if we disagree on fact.

            • http://www.facebook.com/fathergia Conor O’Bryan Warren

              Your typing is proof enough for me to exist. Anyone purporting to have contact with a particular God or Goddess that I worship, they’d simply have to provide me with information about my practice relating to the God or Goddess in question that the God or Goddess would have access to and they would not. Refusal or inability to do so is indicative of phony-ism to me. Of course, you, you I don’t care much about whether or not you say it, as long as you aren’t saying anything about the Gods which I worship or the like.

        • Kenneth

          I figure it’s not a productive exercise for one person to get into the business of trying to rule on the validity of another person’s experience of deity. If you get into that business, you’ll never have time for anything else in your life, you’ll end up presuming to tell a lot of gods what they could or couldn’t have said to someone else, and you’ll be starting a fundamentalism movement that paganism just really doesn’t need. 

          It might be true that Aliyah’s account of an experience of Hermes is uncharacteristic based on your experience of Hermes (which might be longer and deeper). One might say that her experience is atypical of most or all of the known accounts of Hermes published. 

          That doesn’t mean it could not have happened or did not happen or that Hermes might not have a reason he considers sound for doing something that strikes you or I as atypical. The gods and goddesses in general don’t lose a lot of sleep worrying about whether they live up to our expectations of them. 

          Maybe she used to belong to Hermes in a former lifetime. Maybe he wants her to come back to his service. Maybe he needed to talk to a Jew about conveying a message to pagans? Maybe it was just an artifact of REM sleep or a hiccup of neurotransmitters? We can’t know. I consider it a damn good day when I can sort out the reality of when gods talk to ME.  One can still be skeptical of her claims, but unless her revelation of Hermes stands to harm you in some way, why invest the energy? 

          I do think there is a productive debate to be had about how monotheistic religions and pagan practice and identity are or are not compatible.  I don’t think we will make much progress by attempting to judge the authenticity or sincerity of human-divine interaction at the individual level. 

          • http://www.facebook.com/fathergia Conor O’Bryan Warren

            Well, mainly because it does stand to harm me. Accepting everything at face value is harmful, it allows the scandalous to take advantage of people’s naivety and for status seekers to carefully concoct lies to better themselves. If no one challenges those who claim to be in direct communication *which is what literal speaking is* and does not challenge the person to prove their connection then we risk being complacent and believing whatever we want to hear because we want to hear it. I find Pagans unwilling to challenge these  claims of direct communication because of fears of validity, but the fact of the matter is that challenging them is essential to our well being. The way this article reads, it paints Hermes as some hokey Greek-inspired imaginary friend. Not to mention the various implications of the importance of practicing your Ancestral religion, which implies by the by, that I should be a Heathen or CR of some sort because apparently it makes the Gods sad when they see their kind turning from their ancestral faith.

            There are just so many things in this article that command an explanation, and unless she is willing to prove it, it is hokey. I’m disappointed that I’m the first person to call this out really. 

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

             In Paganism, everyone is a prophet.

  • Sunweaver

    I think I would like to take you home and keep you.

    My fellow Pagans used to give us the side-eye when we did something from Jewish practice. I, at least, come to it from the exact opposite direction as a Hellenic Polytheist who finds value in the rituals and practices of Judaism, but I am reading what you’re saying and nodding vigorously.

    Exposure to the Jewish God has only strengthened my relationship to the Theoi and the whole experience has been one of added value, if you catch my meaning.

    Anyhow, great big puffy hearts for your post!
    -Sunweaver, who is having trouble logging in from the iPad :/

    • Sunweaver

      Nevermind! Login achieved!

    • kenneth

      I was one of those who gave the side-eye when the group did something from Jewish practice. Not because I think there’s anything wrong with it, but because it has always been my understanding and direct experience of YHVH that He is really not cool being one of a portfolio of deities.

       This is the very thing I think Aliyah can shed some light upon. When, from the Jewish perspective, does cross-pollination and appropriation cross a line? For Pagans to acknowledge the reality of YHVH and for Jews to acklowledge the existence of other gods is one thing. It is quite another to worship across those lines, and I think there is a vast gray area in between. What does it mean if I invoke the Jewish God or Aliyah invokes a pagan entity in ritual but claims not to worship that deity? Is it a simple acknowledgement of them? Is it honoring them (which is tantamount to worship)? Are we trying to invoke them as as a tool or servitor to do our bidding while offering nothing in return?

        This is the sort of stuff that never gets talked about in interfaith discussions and I’d love to hear some different viewpoints on these matters. I’m all for interfaith work in the sense of building bridges as neighbors. I struggle much more with syncretism or the idea that all religions are different roads up the same mountain. I can be convinced otherwise, but I’ve mostly seen the chasm papered over rather than substantively addressed. 

      • Sunweaver

        I want to give your reply a thorough and reasoned response, but am juggling a baby and everything else right now. I’ll get back to you.

        • Lēoht Sceadusawol

           Are there not laws against juggling babies? ;)

          • Sunweaver

            Heh.
             I want you to try to feed a baby, write a thesis, make a dinner, and write about Pagan stuff and tell me it’s not very like juggling.

        • Kenneth

          For my money, do the baby juggling, thesis writing and dinner serving first. The issues I raise are far from life or death matters, and they will surely not evaporate in the meantime.  I don’t even expect they will be definitively settled in one sitting or even one lifetime. If they could be, they would hardly be worth asking. I see them timely as the modern pagan movement matures and concepts of who or what is pagan evolves, and as we get to a size that we need to seriously engage other diverse faiths and demographics. 

          • Sunweaver

             This is, however, something I want to address, so I will get to it. I’ve kind of touched on it in some of the articles I’ve written, but never really gone into what it means to blend Jewish practice with Hellenic Polytheism when you’re coming at it from the Hellenic Polytheist angle.
            I’ll get to it. It’s just going to be a minute.

  • Koren M.

    Hi there! 
    I’m currently in a group that deals with both Jewish and pagan practice – I feel a bit like I’m in the middle of the two.  I have no trouble finding resources on the pagan side of things (I’ve been looking into that for years) but I’ve felt more and more of a draw to Judiasm and frankly am not entirley sure where to start.  I’ve read your articles (here and on your blog) and the version/interpretation you share there is very similar to what feels right to me. 

    I was wondering if you had any recommendations on books or other materials?  (I’ve tried browsing through Amazon, but there are so many transltions and editions of the primary texts, and even more books *about* those books I’m not sure where to begin.)

  • http://http//lesliebard.blogspot.com Leslie Fish

    Heheheheh. It’s simple, really. The Pagan gods are little gods of Earth and its natural forces; Yahweh, however he got promoted, claims to be a bigger god — a god of all heaven and Earth. Well, just because some businessman becomes a whopping multimillionaire doesn’t mean that all the small businesses in town shut down. ‘Tis the same with the gods.

    –Leslie < Fish


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