The Face of a God

P. Sufenas Virius Lupus has a post on Patheos about the various sides of deities in polytheism. (This is my hint for you to go read it if you haven’t.)

This weekend I was blessed with the very close presence of one of my gods. His presence is very distinct, to me, and I often find myself on my knees about him.  Not because I feel compelled or submissive (though, I should note, submissiveness is not a bad trait in my eyes, as long as we retain our own selfhood), but because the amount of power, the amount of presence, the way the air seems to condense and strain, and the sheer amount of love – I can hardly hold myself upright at times.

the Dierne is certainly a force.

When I first began trying to write him down, contain him (always a fool’s errand), he would turn away from me. Not cruelly, but coyly. It fits well with who he is, watching over and engaging in the hunt and chase of love and romance and friendship, but for a long time I was frustrated. I wanted to see his face. I wanted to know him.

One day I did, and I couldn’t quite come back from that. My life wasn’t shattered, I didn’t fall apart at the seems, but it did change me. He wasn’t a drifting force at the side of my vision, laughing and representing something I had seen but never known, but instead like light and fire and shadow all at once, and his face was forever in my mind.

There weren’t (aren’t yet) words for him, though I reach out every day for more. And words capture pieces of him, and the masks on my shrine represent pieces of him, and piece of books and stories hold clues to him, but the whole of him is a feeling that is hard to say. Perhaps because it is too intimate. Perhaps because all words and no words would fit him. Perhaps because he changes the second I try to pin him down, because he is not a pretty specimen to be oohed at. He is so contrary and, dare I say, childish, that if I were to give him a trait in words he would defy me just because. When I thought I had him – a childish god, a Boy-King – there he came, waltzing in and showing me, no, I would still not have all the pieces of him.

Which makes sense – he’s a god, I’m a mortal (though he was once more mortal as well!).

But still I reach out to him, and still I feel him respond, and it fills me with emotions like lava and whirlwinds. I am left raw. Songs burn in my ears. Scents become guide posts, and touch is near-painful. There is joy, and there is release, and there is trust. He is frightening, no doubt – in some masks a warrior, a fighter, handling spears and guns and baring his teeth, wading into bloody waters, killing past lovers – but to me he is the night sky. He has died and drowned and returned again and learned the skill of being in many places at once, touching sky and sand, and he is such beauty sometimes I fear I may lose myself in him.

Bones and Blossoms – 1

He always guides me back though.

I was hesitant about writing this. Encouraged by the knowledge that our stories do matter, but hesitant because so often – no matter how we discuss them – relationships with the gods are called ‘too Christian’. Often, Pagans or polytheists are pushed (by our own co-religionists!) to define ourselves somehow by Christianity. “We must define ourselves opposite them.” “We must have an opinion on Jesus.” No, I don’t. I’m a polytheist. I worship many gods, and some of those gods are remarkably close to me, and all I have great love for. (And truly, we cannot win – if we are distanced from our gods, we are ‘too Christian’; if we are close, we are ‘too Christian’.)

But I cannot deny what I have experienced, or what I have felt, or the ache for him – and other gods. If I could sing searing words with my tongue (if I could sing at all), how I would, to show my love for them. Instead, I write. Instead, I exercise. Instead, I drink coffee. Instead, I dance while I am alone. And I embrace them, or thoughts of them, or love for them, and care little for if I am ‘too this’ or ‘too that’. I’m me. I share myself and what I perceive to know. That’s all I can be.

About Aine

Aine Llewellyn is a 20 year old girl creature currently mucking about in southern Arizona. She enjoys the winters and rain but can’t stand the heat. She is a difficult polytheist that natters on and on about her faith.

  • Urban-Pooka

    I cannot tell you how hard this hits me. Yes. Just this. THIS.

    • Aine

      -bows- Thank you.

  • Christine Kraemer

    > (And truly, we cannot win – if we are distanced from our gods, we are ‘too Christian’; if we are close, we are ‘too Christian’.)

    Fascinating. That’s not an attitude I’ve come across yet.

    • Aine

      I’ve seen it all the time, less offline but still a bit so. I think, in the Pagandom I’ve experienced, the ‘too Christian’ or ‘you’re really a Christian!’ is thrown out to stifle differing opinions or experiences with the gods; it especially comes up in the religious vs spiritual (as though there need to be some divide…) conversations.

  • yvonne

    I think there is a problem when someone says a deity told them to do something, and does not filter it through their critical faculties. I have been known to invite them to reflect on how it would feel if they substituted ‘Jesus’ for the name of the deity in that sentence.

    I think the accusation of being too Christian when someone is perceived as being distant from deities comes from the idea that this means one is munging them all into one and collapsing into a form of monotheism.

    That said, there needs to be the equivalent of Godwin’s Law for discussing Paganism, along the lines of, if someone brings up Christianity, they have automatically lost the argument. Or at least, if they use Christianity as a straw man, or as a stick to beat other Pagans with.

    • Aine

      Why bring Jesus up in that first point at all? Why not just ask for discernment? Why inject Jesus into a discussion…that isn’t about Jesus? We can strive for discernment and sense without comparing our experiences to ones Christians have. They’re our individual experiences, and we should view them through the eyes of our religion.

      It doesn’t really matter if someone’s theology is ‘all gods are one’ – why are we comparing it to Christianity? Why not address it first from the standpoint of their religion and then, if necessary, add in comparisons to Christianity? Why is it so often the starting point? We need to start from our religions first, and then try to hammer out what we might have incorporated but don’t wish to from Christianity.

      • Christine Kraemer

        I think so many of us do that because we live in a Christian-dominant context. The conversation would be different if we all lived in India or China or the Middle East.

        I would like to see a more developed comparative Pagan theology that, at the very least, took its points of comparison from religions other than Christianity (and also acknowledged that Christianity, too, has theologies, not one theology).

  • P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

    It’s wonderful to be reading further about your process and your experiences with the Four Gods. I totally know what you mean…