In Defense of an Eclectic Pantheon

“Don’t mix pantheons.”  I hear this frequently in Pagan circles.  I have heard it for as long as I have been Pagan.  And I’ve never heard it challenged.  The idea is that we aren’t supposed to invoke Kali and Loki in the same ritual, for example, or Zeus and Odin, or … pick two any deities from any two pantheons.

This prohibition against pantheon mixing was at the core of Jason Mankey’s recent post, “Rolling the Religion Dice”.  This injunction is often made by hard polytheists, but is made by some soft-polytheists too.  Often they are quite open about their disdain for those who mix pantheons.  It is seen as a form of immaturity or ignorance.  Others see it as a sign of disrespect.  I hear this no-mixing-pantheons talk so often, it seems it must happen a lot, so I wonder why all the pantheon-mixers aren’t speaking up in their defense.

Now before I go any further, I have to disclose that I am not a hard polytheist.  I do not believe the gods are persons or conscious beings.  I’m also quite eclectic.  On my altar, I have images of Artemis and Medussa (Greek), Cernunnos (Celtic), Qetesh (Egyptian), the Venus of Lespugue (Paleolithic Pyrenees), Mary (Christian), the “Mother Buddha” (Buddhist — kind of), and others.  (Elsewhere in my house, I have images of Avalokiteshvara, Demeter, Jesus, Aten, and others.)  And so my perspective on this issue naturally reflects my own understanding of the gods and my own spiritual practice.

1.  Lightning didn’t strike.

I have heard some people who claim that dire consequences follow from such mixed invocations.  But, honestly, if this kind of mixing is anywhere near as common as its detractors claim, then we should be seeing some spectacularly bad outcomes on a pretty regular basis.  But generally speaking, lightning does not strike when Aphrodite and Baron Samedi get invoked in the same ritual.  You may wish it did, but it doesn’t.

2.  Why can’t the gods get along? (And so what if they can’t?)

All this anti-mixing talk seems a little like white supremacist anti-miscegenation talk.  If I can circle with a Hindu, a Druid, and a Vodoun practitioner, why can’t we call Krishna, Cernunnos, and Yemanja into the same room.  What do you mean they can’t get along?  Why not?  If the Hindu, the Druid, and the Vodoun practitioner can get along, I think we can help the gods to get along too.

And so what if they fight?  Plenty of gods within the same pantheon fight too.  The myth of ancient pagans are replete with stories about battles between the gods.  Do you think if you called Athena, Hera, and Aphrodite in the same room they would get along just because they’re all Greek?  I think the Trojans would disagree.

3.  Are they really so different?

I’m not so sure that there is really that big of a gulf between Krishna and Cernunnos and Yemanja, at least when these gods are invoked by contemporary Pagans.  I’m not saying they are the same deity or that they are aspects of the same archetype.  But when a group of Westerners invoke Krishna, is it really the same Krishna as Indians invoke?  When modern people invoke Cernunnos, is it really the same Cernunnos of the people that made the Gundestrup Cauldron 2000 years ago?  When Yemanja is invoked by white Pagans, is it really the same Yemanja of the Caribbean slaves?  I really don’t think so.

Whether you believe the gods are “real” or in our heads, I think the gods that come when we call are those that recognize our voices — the voices of contemporary Westerners.  It’s the Western Krishna that comes and the contemporary Cernunnos that answers to our Pagan invocations.  The Yemanja that shows up may be black, but if she is called by whites, then she is probably the black as “other”.  (See “White Women and the Dark Mother” by Cynthia Eller, Religion, Vol. 30, No. 4 (2000)).  I don’t think this makes the invocation of these gods, or their epiphanies, any less powerful or authentic.  It just means that all these gods are, in some sense, the function of the cultural context into which they are invoked.  If that is true, then there is no reason they can’t “get along” (or at least fight in a constructive way).

4.  The gods evolve too.

Jason Mankey writes that, while he adores both Shiva and Pan, he won’t invoke Shiva with a Western-centered ritual.  In contrast, he says, Pan has been involved with circles for at least 100 years.  But surely the gods evolve.  In fact, Jason implies as much, suggesting that Pan as in some way gotten used to magic(k) circles.  I know he wasn’t worshipped in a magic(k) circle in ancient Greece.  I suspect that the Pan that Jason invokes has evolved quite bit since when he was worshipped in ancient Arcadia.  And if Pan can evolve, why can’t Shiva?  Why can’t Shiva get used to circles too?  Surely there was a first time when Pan was invoked in a circle, too.  And I’m pretty sure that, if you can think of a name of a god or godddess, some Pagan has already invoked him or her in a circle.

5.  It’s all a matter of degree.

I agree with Jason that it is good to be thoughtful about invoking gods.  But I question some of his logic.  Jason acknowledges that Isis was worshipped all over the Roman Empire, and so “she’s probably pretty familiar with Pan.”  But while Jason says he wouldn’t ask her to bless his Greek-style ritual, he thinks she’d be fine sharing a Wiccan circle with Pan.  I don’t understand this.  The ancient Greeks in the Roman Empire were undoubtedly closer to the Romanized Isis than Gerald Gardner or the Golden Dawn society, from which Wicca is largely derived.  I could be wrong, but I suspect the reconstructionists would say that Isis would fit better in a Greek ritual than in a Wiccan one.  I’m not saying Jason shouldn’t invoke Isis in a Wiccan ritual.  I just think his logic is a little convenient.

Speaking of Isis, she is a great example of the evolution of the gods I was talking about above.  The Isis of the Romans had evolved a lot from the time when her name was etched on pyramid walls by ancient Egyptians.  And the Isis invoked by the Golden Dawn had evolved a lot from the Apuleius’ time.  And there is still quite a bit of distance between the Golden Dawn Isis and the Isis of present day Pagan rituals.  Hard polytheists are fond of asking Neo-Pagans, “Which Goddess?”  But if you are of the opinion that Isis wouldn’t be comfortable in any given ritual, I have to ask, “Which Isis?”

6.  Anything but Jesus?

I agree that it’s a good to be sensitive to the feelings of others you circle with.  And it’s a good idea to prepare people for what to expect in a ritual, especially if you’re mixing Pagan and Christian imagery.  Some Pagans may have strong negative reactions to Christian imagery and the names of the Christian god(s) — and vice versa.  But I found a certain bit of irony in Jason’s advice that people be warned in advance about invoking Jesus, since he did invoke the names of the Abrahamic god in the 1899 Ritual I attended at Pantheacon.

7.  So what’s really going on?

I have a theory about the prohibition against mixing pantheons.  I think it has less to do with the gods and what they do or do not like and more to do with us.  When we mix pantheons it creates cognitive dissonance, at least for some of us.  If we associate Pan with a Greek cultural milieu and Isis with an Egyptian milieu then calling them in the same ritual can be psychologically jarring.  It can pull us out of the state of suspended disbelief and the ritual looses its glam.

But it need not be so.  Pan and Isis have been invoked together for at least a century by Western occultists, which is probably why Jason experiences no dissonance calling them together in a Wiccan ritual.  This is in spite of the fact that the Arcadia Pan and the Egyptian Isis are separated by significant geographic, temporal, and cultural distances.  And if Pan and Isis can be called together, then there is no reason why others might also be called together, even Baron Samedi and Krishna.

I agree that ritual participants should be warned in advance if a ritual planner intends to mix pantheons — precisely to minimize the cognitive dissonance — but this has more to do with the people involved than the gods.  With a group of eclectic Neo-Pagans, this may not be problematic.  But for others, it may be a real impediment to an creating a sense of authenticity in the ritual.  But this as an aesthetic or psychological issue, not a metaphysical one.  I think all this talk about the gods being uncomfortable with each other is us projecting our own cognitive dissonance onto them.  If the gods are more than our projections, then they must be beyond such human limitations as xenophobia.  Let’s own up to the real reason for our discomfort.

Personally, I found the story Jason told about the Heathen circle beautiful.  First of all, it was a Heathen … circle.  The fact that people chose to “hail” Orishas, Greek Gods, Norse Deities and more, well, that just reflects the diversity of the people gathered.  Not every ritual should be turned into an eclectic free-for-all.  But I imagine that a ritual like the one Jason described, one that reflects the diversity of contemporary Paganism, can be a beautiful and healing experience for our community.

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  • JasonMankey

    I almost feel like if you are going to name-check me ten times I should get some warning and a chance for a rebuttal.

    I am no hard-polytheist, and I don’t think Paganism is hurt by people having people within its ranks who aren’t true believers in the gods. However, you and I are coming at this from different perspectives. You don’t believe in the gods as conscious entities, I know the gods are gods conscious entities.

    1. Ah yes, lighting didn’t strike, but what was the energy in the room like? Did the energy match the ritual? Was the energy welcome at the ritual? Whether or not you believe in the reality of the gods, I think we can all agree that calling certain entities/ideas/projections results in different kinds of energies being present. Did we need Ares at our Beltane Ritual? Could even just the idea make someone argumentative?

    2. Maybe the gods get along, maybe they don’t. Part of my article was expressing the idea that maybe you should know ahead of time. In my own experience I’ve found Pan to not be happy with gods of monogamy, but everyone’s experiences with the gods are different. I don’t think the gods are just names in a book, calling them has consequences.

    3. Why would Krishna be different depending on who is calling him? I don’t understand that. He’s Krishna, he has lots of texts dedicated to him, all kinds of pictures, etc., he’s a very specific god. The gods are far beyond my limited capabilities, and certainly how we interpret the gods is likely to change from person to person and culture to culture, but he’s still Krishna. I’m not saying everyone’s Krishna is the same, but I think they are all linked somehow. (That’s the Neo-Platonist in me talking.) I’ve seen people call to a god they didn’t understand and have it backfire on them.

    4. Shiva has been continuously worshipped for 2000 years (perhaps longer). For the majority of that time, and most of the time today, he’s been worshipped in a specific place, in a specific culture, in specific ways. Why would I want to force “my way” on a God? There are also issues of cultural appropriation I don’t want to get into. Shiva’s worship hasn’t been reborn in modern times like that of Pan, it’s always existed. If Shiva wanted his followers to worship him in a Wiccan context I assume his rituals would be different.

    I think you are taking some of my Pan statements out of context. Pan and Isis were both a part of the Greco-Roman world and were both worshipped within that world. By the year 100 CE they shared a culture, and about that time their worship was changing. The Egyptian Magical Papyri (sometimes also referred to as the “Greek Magical Papyri”) are not “Wiccan” but there are places where the two overlap. In the early 1800′s Pan returned to the Western World in a big way through English Poetry. Perhaps you think that’s just a lucky coincidence or that people willed it into existence to satisfy some sort of want or need. What if Pan did that himself, knowing that the world had begun killing its self due to pollution? What if he did that also knowing that his return in early 19th Century England would result in being a part of Golden Dawn rituals and eventually Modern Paganism as we define it today?

    Beginning in the early 19th Century there was also a revival in the interest of the Egyptian gods, in Europe of all places. Again, coincidence? Or perhaps not? Perhaps it had some sort of meaning and meant that those gods wanted to be worshipped anew in this place? That they felt needed again?

    5. I’ve written very strongly that I believe the gods evolve, but the gods are going to evolve on their terms.

    6. Yes we used a name of Yahweh in the 1899 Ritual, like most occultists probably would have in 1899 because materials were lacking. If you thought I was going to tell you exactly what was going to happen before a ritual that is meant to be surprising (and yes it’s posted online, but that’s not the complete version) well that would take some of the fun out of it.

    I support my Christo-Pagans brothers and sisters, but, there’s a time and a place for most things. There is so much baggage there for some people that a little warning is most certainly a good idea.

    7. I’ve had a lot of smart Pagans tell me today that they really agreed with my little article. That doesn’t make it right (and you wrong) but for those of us who work with the gods it’s obviously something that we see as important. What we call to has power, energy, and its own ways of being. I think its important to respect that power, to know that power, and to be prepared for what might happen when that power is summoned forth.

    On the upside (and you’ve now kept me up an hour past my bedtime), I’m glad I got you to write today.

    • http://daoineile.com/ Aine

      “I’ve written very strongly that I believe the gods evolve, but the gods are going to evolve on their terms.”

      I can’t even express how much I agree with this.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/allergicpagan/ John H Halstead

      “Name check”? (http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Name+Check) I know you’re not complaining about the increased traffic to your blog. :)

      (I did mean to shoot you a heads up. But I finished at midnight here — Central time — and put it off till morning.)

      I couldn’t agree with you more about the effects on the energy in the room and that calling the gods has consequences. Obviously we have different perspectives on why this happens, but I we agree that it matters.

      My issue has to do with the belittling of eclectics. “Religion dice” is a great trope (wish I had thought of it), but it causes damage. I’m not saying I’m right or you’re wrong about the gods. I just wanted to show that mixing pantheons is not so silly.

    • Cristina Ferro

      I strongly agree with you – 60 minutes’ applause.
      Well, this exactly is what I would answer. In particular the point 4.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/allergicpagan/ John H Halstead

      In response to why Krishna would be different depending on who is calling him: Sannion just posted this on his blog:

      “Selections from Christiane Sourvinou-Inwood’s Persephone and Aphrodite at Locri: A Model for Personality Definitions in Greek Religion

      “‘… Deities are shaped by the societies that constitute the worshipping group and develop with them….a pantheon is an articulated religious system within which divine beings catering for the needs of the worshipping group are associated and differentiated; and this nexus of relationships contributes to the definition of each divine personality

      “‘… the Greek deities existed at two levels-the local, polis level, and the Panhellenic level.

      “‘Too often, in the study of Greek divinities, the local personality of a deity is overshadowed by the Panhellenic one and the individuality of the different local deities is ignored. However, it is extremely unlikely that the establishment and crystallization of a Panhellenic persona for a deity so stamped out the local personalities that only insignificant variations remained. For the parameters affecting their definition differed in different cities, and again at the Panhellenic level. The realities and needs of the worshipping groups differed while some were common to all and also operated at the Panhellenic level. The composition and hierarchy of the pantheon also differed in the different cities, and again at the Panhellenic level. …

      “‘Hence the study of Greek divinities must not be based on the assumption that the divine personality of a deity was substantially the same throughout the Greek world. Consequently to avoid the danger of distortions we must study each local divine personality of a deity separately from the Panhellenic one, and not use evidence from the latter to determine the former. Instead, we must recover each local manifestation of the personality, and then relate it to the Panhellenic persona. Moreover, we must not extrapolate from one local cult to another and attempt to interpret an aspect found in one place through another found elsewhere. Nor should we conflate evidence from different parts of the Greek world. The result would be a totally artificial conflation that had no cultic or theological reality. The fact that a given function is, for example, associated with Aphrodite at Sparta only means that this function belongs to her in the context of a particular personality nexus. It is not necessarily found in all, or indeed any, of her other personality nexuses which, I have argued above, had a different profile. Nor is it an inalienable part of an integral complex which included all the aspects of Aphrodite from the whole of the Greek world, and which would be ‘the’ Aphrodite. …’”

  • C. E. Hoglund

    I’m not *entirely* sure I should get involved, but for what it’s worth… Here’s my response to Jason’s article.

    I’m a Heathen (Viking Age reconstructionist) and a hard polytheist, and I
    was involved with the aforementioned Heathen Circle event. It is true that we forgot to mention our personal preference that only Heathen deities be called, and so, rather predictably, we had a smorgasbord of deities who ended up being hailed. This situation actually comes up in Heathen rituals more often than you might think.

    People of all faiths tend to be drawn into Heathen events, due to the sense of
    community they find with us. And one of the core Heathen virtues is Hospitality. It’s not very hospitable to expect everyone at what is usually an eclectic Wiccan event to hail deities they don’t know; it *is* hospitable to give them the chance to honor their Gods if they so wish. Non-Heathens who attend our Blots and Sumbels regularly generally try to be good *guests*, though, and to stick to honoring Heathen deities when their turn comes up. Though yes, I’ve been in blots in which Jesus and Kali and Demeter and Oshun get called, and while it is definitely disconcerting, no one ends up dead.

    As a practitioner, I expect that the Gods who get called out of context at Heathen rituals show the same respect to our deities that we show to their followers. It’s what our Viking ancestors would have done. They did not have issues with the mixing of pantheons. When they were trading in new lands and came across a God called the White Christ, they just added him to their altars and hailed him along with the Aesir and Vanir (much to the dismay of any local Christian clergy). Also, most of our events take place under the vow of frith
    (peace), so, though these guests are unexpected, I’d think our deities would still treat them well and keep the peace.

  • http://daoineile.com/ Aine

    “If the gods are more than our projections, then they must be beyond such human limitations as xenophobia.”

    You know, that one of my gods that rules over consent maaaaybe being uncomfortable being prayed to alongside a god known for raping to and fro? I don’t think that’s called xenophobia. I also really don’t understand where people get this idea that ‘gods must be beyond [x]‘. Uh…why?

    While I understand that you’re coming at this issue from a different perspective, if you really care so much about people, you should acknowledge that people have legitimate beliefs as to why they would not be comfortable having cultures mixed. A few of the points you bring up are really, really close to outright white-washing or brushing off of cultural appropriation.

    You don’t think the gods are conscious entities, that’s fine – but this article, especially at the end, got pretty dismissive toward those of us who do.

  • Shauna Aura Knight

    I come at group/public ritual not as a Wiccan, I come at it as a pantheist and archetypist, so for me, I’m working with deities as stories. I’m just as happy working with Freyja or Isis as I am working with King Arthur–for me, the focus is on the story and the power of that ancient, archetypal story. And the story changes over time.

    The story of Isis and Osiris changed over hundreds of years, and also changed depending on where you lived on the Nile. The story of Isis changed when she was adopted/appropriated by Greeks and Romans. Sometimes I work with deities by name, like Hephaestus. Sometimes, I work with them by archetype. “Forge-Worker.” That might mean Hephaestus to some, Vulcan to another, Brigid to someone else, Goibhniu…for the purposes of my ritual work it’s the story that’s the important part.

    Generally the way I facilitate ritual makes space for a range of theological approaches–pantheists, animists, Pagan atheists, and soft polytheists generally have a positive experience. Admittedly, there are some basic facilitation challenges to working with deities from multiple pantheons, but I have found some ways to make it work. But–my bias is that I’m not a polytheist, so I’m not approaching it that way.

  • Daniel English

    I find gods manifest themselves as more reflections of the people that call them. I don’t see why one shouldn’t mix pantheons. Namely when the Romans in past times were all about the absorption of so called “foreign gods” into their cities. When they conquered a city they would appeal to the local gods to help whatever ends they were up to. I think the desire not to mix pantheons works for traditionalist in some respects but also turns a blind eye to the fact that the ancients often absorbed other gods.

  • Tony Rella

    My primary beef is when the Gods are called without thoughtfulness or conscious intention. If the purpose is simply to give a shout-out to all the Gods we love, then that is not a problem. If the ritual is to do a specific working or devotion, then I think it’s better to invite the Gods we intend to dance with.
    I do not like it when everyone invites their own God and then we do almost nothing with any of them. To me that is not effective ritual planning and the pantheon-mixing is a symptom of the lack of clear intention. It’s like throwing a fancy dinner and then inviting three respected public speakers who have plenty of other stuff they could be doing with their time, giving them honored seats, and ignoring them. If there is a specific reason to call both Isis and Pan and your ritual engages with both of them in a meaningful, respectful way, I’d be down to attend that ritual.

  • DawnM1227

    Sadly, it has gotten to the point where I see a link to a post on Patheos and my first thought is, “great, what sort of Pagan Panty-Twisting rant is happening now?” Because that is what it feels like. Honestly, I thought Jason made a good point, I read his post earlier, but since I’ve thought similarly for years now, just quietly went on my way. Which is not to say eclectic rituals cannot happen and work well, but it is very rarely done with any actual thought. It’s just a bunch of pagans throwing names out willy nilly in most cases.

    Here is what this whole argument is boiling down to, no one wants to respect the beliefs of anyone else even if they claim they do on the surface. Because, if there was respect involved, no one would be throwing any sort of fit as long as everything is stated at the beginning of the ritual as far as what is going to happen.

    A hard polytheist is going to struggle with mixing pantheons in some instances and it has nothing to do with xenophobia and more to do with having a pretty deep (especially in terms of recons), intimate and researched relationship and history with our pantheons of choice. There is more depth to some of those gods than you will ever find on wikipedia and just appropriating those around however you see fit… can seem offensive to a hard polytheist who ends up at an event not prepared for this at all… or worse, it’s their event and they either get told they are wrong or people do what they want anyway.

    So, if you (and I’m just using “you” to denote someone other than me) believe some version of all gods are one god or whatever… that is fine. I can respect that, but those of us that don’t would really like people to respect us too. Which means when you advertise doing a Norse-themed Yule ritual (and I’m more Greek Recon, mind you), I show up expecting that. I might start twitching when people start calling quarters with dragons. Does that make more sense? We just need to agree to respect each other, in any sort of dealing. Not just this.

    • Natalie Reed

      “Which means when you advertise doing a Norse-themed Yule ritual (and I’m more Greek Recon, mind you), I show up expecting that”. Yes, exactly. This is what I was wondering with Jason’s post. As someone who has never attended a Heathen ceremony, and likely went to it in order to have that experience, I would probably have walked away disappointed, thinking it was “just like Wicca”.

  • Hellfurian

    Here is my opinion on the subject. It all comes down to entitlement. What we feel we are entitled to do, and others must respect our entitlement. I am a hard polytheist. I use to not be, but through years of practice and experience, the gods have shown me very specifically that they are all different and very real. I am also an initiated Vodouisant (I belong to a legitimate Haitian lineage) and the Bawon cannot be “invoked”. There is an entire series of rituals that must take place to get a lwa to show up. To imply otherwise shows a blatant disrespect, and ignorance to how things work. I can guarantee that what you are doing is not working, that someone is faking it, and making it all up as they go along.

    Gods are complicated beings, most have existed when our own star was just being born. To say they have to evolve to fit into what we want them to (because a few wayward pagans want to evoke Kali and Ianus at the same time for some reason) is egotistical at best. Which Kali are you even talking about? For those OUTSIDE Hinduism, we see Her as some spooky multi-armed, and exotic wonder to be exploited because Her statues are found on smoke shop shelves. Well, to the actual devotee, they know how complex this goddess is. But again, we feel the gods of the world are owed to us, that the advanced and ancient protocol of the religion and region these gods hold dominion over has no relevance to us. Learn actual tradition? Heavens no!

    As far as the Hellenic religion, the gods simply will not answer you if you are doing things wrong. People seem to think the gods need us. That couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, the whole reason we offer and sacrifice to Them is to try to get their attention. The gods have existed for countless ages before man was created. To think they are our puppets is a strange thing to me. People have to ask themselves WHY they want to do this, mix every pantheon they can get their hands on. Why do you need to have multiple death, love, war gods/goddesses? Why would you not want to respect the thousands of years worth of traditions for these gods?

    When you actually learn the nature of each individual god , goddess, and spirit, you learn why it just won’t work to pull names out of a hat. When you actually spend time learning the traditions, the whys and the hows in each of these faiths, you will see why the concept is so odd. Once you refine your religion, experience the living gods, and initiate into a real legitimate tradition, you will see why this all matters, and how disrespectful it really is. I could write an article about the subject too, but it really isn’t going to stop any entitlement and get anyone to take the initiative to learn anything. Again, just my opinion.

  • http://docteurcaeli.tumblr.com/ Docteur Cæli D’Anto

    The fact that you are calling Yemanja a Vodou Goddess shows that you shouldn’t be mixing pantheons. Yemanja is a spirit, not a goddess, and she is NOT part of Vodou. Also, Vodou is a closed religion with spirits and ONE god who we call Bondye. While you don’t have to initiate to SERVE (not worship) the Lwa, you cannot approach most of them without proper training and protocol, and some without initiation. You must get to know them first as you could easily offend them and either they’ll ignore you or get angry at you. It would be like a random stranger knocking on your door because they want to ‘hang out’ with you.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/allergicpagan/ John H Halstead

      No thanks. I think I’ll just keep doing what I’m doing.

      • Bozanfè Bon Oungan

        Of course; showing absolutely no respect for living religions with spirits and powers that havent ever been a part of your systems… because of course you can play dress up and take from any of us willy nillly. Sad, really. If you want to see privilege and entitlement in action, it’s a glance in the mirror for ya.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/allergicpagan/ John H Halstead

          Speaking of “respect”, I find it interesting that some of the same people calling for greater respect for the gods seems to have such little respect for their fellow human beings. Why is it that some of the most pious devotional polytheists (you and others in these comments) are also some of the most contemptuous of any religious practice that differs from yours (i.e., “play dress up”, “willy nilly”, etc.)

          If you want to see disrespect, “it’s a glance in the mirror for ya.”

          • Bozanfè Bon Oungan

            Since when is calling out cultural appropriation disrespectful?

            Its not about it differing from my religion; it’s the fact that you guys are stealing *from* our religion and removing the agency of it’s priests and faith community.

            You’re not the victim here.

            • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/allergicpagan/ John H Halstead

              I find the allegation of cultural “theft” a curious one, especially in this context. Theft implies that I have deprived the legitimate owner of something of possession of that thing. How has my “appropriation” of the name Yemanja deprived you of anything?

            • Bozanfè Bon Oungan

              And again, I refer you back to “entitlement”. The fact that you have to ask that question exposes a very great deal of cultural insensitivity and ignorance towards religions that survive a history of oppression and insult.

              If you have not been initiated to clergy in those faiths, you *are* stealing from them by the very assumption that you’re qualified to serve those Names in a priestly capacity. These are living religions that work on their own; they’re not old dead names from a pre-christian pagan past to be revived by “saviours”. They have functional priesthoods, functional communities… and it takes entering those communities as a member of the faithful to be a part of the system. Otherwise, it’s cherrypicking and abuse.

              (and really, even use of the name is strange for a person who clearly states that these do not represent individual entities to you as you do not believe in such things…. why bother imagining yourself as qualified to serve a spirit that isnt even a spirit to you?)

            • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/allergicpagan/ John H Halstead

              I think there may be come confusion. If I invoke Yemanja in an eclectic Neo-Pagan ritual, I don’t think I am “serving her in a priestly capacity”, at least not in the way that (I presume) you do. Just like a Christo-Pagan is not pretending to be an ordained Catholic priest.

              Regarding “why I bother”, I can’t speak for all eclectics. Some do believe the spirits are conscious “entities”. As for myself, I’ll spare you the dissertation on Jungian archetypal theory, but suffice it to say that words and names and images have psychological power and I would draw on that power, a power which I perceive as coming from within and belonging to me.

            • Bozanfè Bon Oungan

              http://santeriachurch.org/safe-alert-cultural-appropriation-of-lucumi-religion-by-non-initiates/ You might want to read this. It’s a wonderful and amazingly well written article about these issues, written by a Lukumi priest and Elder.

            • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/allergicpagan/ John H Halstead

              Thanks. Believe it or not, I actually read that article when I was preparing to write about this subject on my other blog: http://witchesandpagans.com/EasyBlog/july-blogfest-in-defense-of-cultural-appropriation.html

              The Santeria Church article was prompted by those appropriating Lucumi imagery for personal gain. Above, I distinguished appropriation with that intention from appropriation with an attitude of reverence.

              I agree with article that “indigenous practices so that they become a costume, a fad, a decorating motif or the flavor of the month, the culture of the oppressed minority is ridiculed and seen as a simple object that can be shuffled about, traded or purchased for money.” But I think it is wrong to assume that this is what all eclectic Pagans are doing. Many people from traditional religions look at eclectic religion and automatically judge it as shallow, but this is not necessarily so.

          • Bozanfè Bon Oungan

            See, look at it this way.

            Are you qualified to self appoint yourself as able to lead a Catholic Mass and offer communion?

            -probably not; you’d leave that to the clergy of the actual religion.

            BUT… you’ll take freely from ours (while exposing you dont even know that much about it, seeing as you seem to feel Lukumi’s spirit, Yemaja, is a part of Vodou.)

            See the problem? We’ve got our own faith, our own clergy, and our own training programs… but, still, people think that they can just steal from us and that THEY are the victims when we say “please leave our religion alone”.

            • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/allergicpagan/ John H Halstead

              I couldn’t lead a communion in a Catholic church, just as I could not lead a ritual for a Voudun or Santeria community. But I can hold my own communion or communion for my own eclectic Pagan group. And I can invoke Yemanja in any way that seems fitting to that context.

              You can argue that it will not produce any real effect, i.e., that Yemanja will not come, but that’s a different issue altogether.

              Does a Christo-Pagan ritual in some way diminish the Catholic mass? No. Nor does the eclectic use of Yoruba names and iconography diminish your practice. There’s no theft.

              Now if I start calling myself Catholic or saying I practice Santeria, well, that’s a different problem altogether. That’s fraud, not theft. But that’s not what you’re complaining about.

              I keep hearing about “respect” in these comments. And I appreciate that there are forms of appropriation that are blatantly disrespectful, such as commercialization of a person’s religion. For example, I recall a controversy several years ago around a Spanish Burger King ad that appropriated the Hindu goddess Lakshmi. But there is nothing inherently disrespectful about an eclectic’s appropriation of religious imagery so long as it is done with an attitude of reverence. In my opinion, the determinative question is the attitude of those appropriating the images etc., not whether it offends someone else.

            • Bozanfè Bon Oungan

              You still dont get it…. sigh.

              In the religion where the orisha are found, they are CREATED for the person receiving the camino, or “aspect” if you will, of the orisha. There’s no single Yemaja; there are yemajas of river water, yemajas of salt water, pirate yemajas who drag their victims into the depths like sharks, even yemajas of brackish water and puddles.

              When a person is initiated to their yemaja’s mysteries, they receive her fundamentos, washed into new stones from the Yemaja of their godparent.

              Calling the name “Yemaja” isnt going to do anything, for one, but it cannot be respectful… there’s no way to respect the spirit in the way she actually functions for her religion when you’re acting outside of the way that spirit can even operate; the assumption that just because she has a Name that can be called means you can offer reverence falls flat when that reverence is only placed because *you* feel you can do so outside the aegis of the faith that carries her.

              In articles such as this one, you seem to be teaching the point that this behaviour is OK, all the while exposing your own lack of knowledge of a Name you claim to reverence and respect; THAT attitude leads others to believe you know what you’re speaking about or that you hold the authority to teach about that Name… which, since you stand outside of the traditions that carry that Name, you do *not*. THAT is where the cultural problem comes in.

            • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/allergicpagan/ John H Halstead

              I get it. I just disagree.

              If there are many Yemanjas (or Yemajas) then how can you know “my” Yemanja behaves like yours? Maybe we’re not talking about the same thing at all, and just using the same word. Like a word that means two different things in two different languages. Consider the use of “Jesus” as a proper name in Hispanic cultures. Some American Christians think it is disrespectful — one state court judge even refused to let a woman name her child “Jesus” — but it isn’t respectful in the Hispanic cultural context.

            • Bozanfè Bon Oungan

              That’s not how the many yemajas thing works; the camino of the orishas arent individualized. as in there’s a set number, such as the following:

              Ibú Asesú – this road of Yemaya is born in the odu Odí Meji (7-7). She lives in the sea foam where the waves crash on the shore. She is said to be forgetful and slow to answer her children’s prayers. Her color is sky blue.
              Ibú Achabá – this road of Yemaya was the wife of Orunmila. She is a mighty diviner that learned how to read the composite odu by watching her husband when he divined. Her color is turquoise or medium blue.
              Ibú Ogunte (Okuti) – this road of Yemaya was married to Ogún. She lives in the lakes and springs in the forest. She is a mighty warrior that fights with a machete, and enjoys rum and cigars. Her color is cobalt blue.
              Ibú Agana – this road of Yemaya is Olokun’s favorite but deformed daughter. She betrayed her sisters and is forced to carry a mask and serpent, and act as Olokun’s slave and messenger as her punishment. She was also married to Orisha Oko. She brings rain. Her color is royal blue.
              Ibú Mayelewo – this road of Yemaya lives in the middle of the sea and controls the currents of the seven seas. She wears seven different colors and owns the colors of the world which she keeps in a calabash around her waist. She lives in a basket surrounded by plates and her color is aqua.
              Ibú Okoto – this road of Yemaya is a powerful warrior, almost like a pirate. She wears pants and kills her enemies with a scimitar or daggers. She lives in the red tide that is dyed with the blood of her enemies she has murdered. Her color is navy blue.
              Yembo – this road of Yemaya is an orisha funfún (white orisha) that many consider in the court of Odudua. She gave birth to all of theorishas and in many ways is the cosmic mother of all things. She is the calm sea at the seashore. Her color is pale blue and white.

              If your Yemaja is, say, Ibú Mayelewo, she will behave like *everyone’s* Ibú Mayelewo that has that aspect; otherwise, the community will accuse you (rightfully) of faking.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/allergicpagan/ John H Halstead

    There’s some good comments about this on the Covenant of the Goddess Facebook page. https://www.facebook.com/covenantofthegoddess/posts/721445397878559

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

      That thread honestly made me want to throw up in my mouth a little bit ;)

      Seriously, though, this kind of thing highlights why a lot of devotional polytheists–to use the recent, popular term–want to disengage from general Paganism and not do ritual with them. Clearly the nature of one’s theology has implications for how one worships. Specifically, in this case, people who view all deities as just faces of one divine source–a popular choice in that thread–or that gods are just psychological projections, etc can lead to worship that the devotional polytheist crowd, or even the living cultures from whom the worship of these deities may come, find disrespectful to the deity or the traditions surrounding that deity. And then consequently, when the devotional polytheist crowd stands up and says, “Hey, this kind of thing is important to us”, the ‘all deities are just faces of one divine source’ crowd immediately accuse us of being dogmatic fundamentalists. If someone thinks that it’s all just some amorphous divine blob, and religion should just be do whatever you want as long as you get some vague spiritual experience from that, that person is never going to understand the people whose traditions have rules and standards and–gods forbid!!–beliefs!

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/allergicpagan/ John H Halstead

        I’ve noticed something over the past year or so. It’s that in these discussions about gods and beliefs and so on, whenever someone says something about another person’s beliefs like what you just said, something like “it makes me want to throw up in my mouth”, then there is a better-than-average, even high, probability that that person is a hard polytheist. Why do you think that is?

        I’m not saying all or even a lot of hard polytheists are dicks. In fact I met a lot of hard polytheists that I really like. People who are really not dicks, who are the opposite of dicks. I know it is just a vocal minority in these discussions, but it just seems like a lot of dicks are hard polytheists. I wonder why that is.

        I never cease to be amazed how folks like you can simultaneously act so wounded, by the mere fact that other people believe differently than you or are using the same religious language as you use but in a different way, and then, in the very same breath, characterize the beliefs of those other people in such a disrespectful, belittling manner as to suggest that no one has any standards or any beliefs but you.

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

          To be fair, I thought that between the fact that I used a ;) and began the next sentence with, ‘Seriously, though…’ that it would be obvious that that sentence was tongue-in-cheek. But, I guess the most guaranteed thing about communicating on the internet is that people are determined to read malice into every thing.
          I also cannot say that I’ve acted wounded; I’m not sure where you have gotten that impression from. I’m simply sharing my reaction to the thread to which you linked. And to restate my opinion on most of what I saw there: I find people using a belief that all deities are just faces or aspects of some more singular conception of the divine as a justification to plunder the world’s religions of whatever they want to be extremely objectionable. Not because I’m so personally wounded by that, and ‘oh I’m such a victim’ because of this, but because my sense of the world and of ethics leads me to that conclusion.
          As someone else said in another comment here: this all comes down to entitlement. Yes, I think it is troubling that so many Western, and especially American, Pagans feel that they are entitled to just take what they want, at will, without context, without understanding, without respect for the potential plight of the actual cultures they are stealing from.
          I will also note that you completely sidestepped the actual issues I raised in my comment–namely that perhaps theology does create irreconcilable differences in praxis–and merely responded with some twisted form of a tu quoque fallacy.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/allergicpagan/ John H Halstead

            Actually, I think it was more of an ad hominem attack. In either case, that was bad of me.

            But I don’t think adding a smiley face can smooth over every rudeness. It’s like insulting someone and then saying, “Just kidding!” — but really you’re not kidding. If it had just been that first comment, honestly I would have ignored it, but the contempt you showed in the end of your comment spurred me to respond.

            Here’s the point where I think your comment is disingenuous. You say:

            >”And then consequently, when the devotional polytheist crowd stands up and says, “Hey, this kind of thing is important to us”, the ‘all deities are just faces of one divine source’ crowd immediately accuse us of being dogmatic fundamentalists.”

            Your scenario paints the hypothetical devotional polytheist as the innocent misunderstood party. But that’s not what many devotional polytheists actually say. Or that’s not *how* they say it. In fact, that’s not how *you* said it. What you did instead was characterize pantheism or soft polytheism as a belief in “some amorphous divine blob” and non-dogmatic religion as “do whatever you want as long as you get some vague spiritual experience” and then imply that they pantheists et al don’t have “standards” or “beliefs”. This is what I am talking about. It’s the undiluted contempt that oozes out of the comments of some devotional polytheists that I’m talking about. And then it’s excused as zeal. *That* is what leads to charges of dogmatism and fundamentalism.

            I get that some devotional polytheists find other Pagans’ practices and beliefs disrespectful. But what can you do about it? Religious liberals recognize that the freedom of speech and religion are designed not to protect us, but to protect others from us. These rights are designed to protect the voices of those we disagree with. Fundamentalists, in contrast, think they can shout down those they disagree with. And when they can’t literally raise their voices — like on the Internet — then they make themselves “louder” by being rude and disrespectful.

            You do have a valid point about irreconcilable differences, though, at least for some of us.

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

              OK then, to be upfront, I do think that that comment thread–as Paganism on social media usually does–genuinely represents what is most wrong with modern Paganism. I also think that it is disingenuous of you to invoke the First Amendment when that only applies to the government. As an individual I have every right to speak up in the face of forms of religion that I find harmful, whether that is fundamentalist forms of Christianity or Islam, or Pagans whose theology is used to justify cultural appropriation. To be clear, since you seem to think I’m hell bent on attacking all ‘soft polytheists’ (since I don’t have a better term to employ here), I’d intended to respond specifically to the things I was seeing in that Facebook thread and not generalize (if it seemed differently, I apologize). Unfortunately, for every thoughtful person like you in Paganism, there does seem to be about 100 who are…well, not so much.

            • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/allergicpagan/ John H Halstead

              I get that. I have to fight against the “other people are stupid” impulse in me a lot. It’s slowly dawning on me that that impulse says more about me than about other people. I’m also coming to believe that being genuine and sincere and compassionate is more important than being “thoughtful” (in the analytical or critical sense of the word).

              I understand the function of the First Amendment, but the principle that we have to agree to let others disagree is a fundamental part of our unwritten social contract. Expressing our disagreements is equally important to a healthy community, but this has to be done in a constructive way. I’m learning (the hard way) that that means coming from a place of compassion.

              I have not done that so well in responding to you. And I’m sorry.

  • Jesse VanValkenburg

    I find myself enjoying points of both Articles. Guess I am a Wiccan based pagan in modern times Exploring myself and my own personal connection to the Gods. I do tend to Invite the God and Goddess for the most part together with the pantheon They belong to. I do this not because I think the Gods are or are not Different beings. (something I struggle to decided) But for focus and imagery within a ritual.

    That being said I worship in a form that is not pantheon specific. I respect a large group of European Pantheons. Greek, Roman, Celtic, Norse, and Egyptian are the ones I find myself drawn to so those are the ones I tend to invite to my circles. I do not mix Norse or Celtic with other pantheons. I will do many rituals in any one of the above pantheons.

    To me it is not a problem to have Egyptian, Greek, and Roman pantheons inter mix. They were worshiped together During those times. Mainly because of trade, and location. If the peoples of these Gods and Goddesses were inter-acting then I have o assume so were the Gods they worshiped.The Worship itself evolved and is still doing so,

    Roman beliefs or we could say culture was to absorb that which made Rome stronger. This meant absorbing some gods and Goddesses completely into the Pantheon others they choose to allow to exist as Guest.

    I think modern day Pagans have to evolve in some ways too. We are not like our ancient brothers who were in a location all or most of their lives. We have access to many cultures. Thus modern pagans tend to absorb into their belief system more than one Pantheon.

    For those of us that adhere to only one pantheon, and those that mix and match Based on this new cultural knowledge it should be respect for the Gods, Goddesses, and worshipers involved period. Snarking one way or the other is silly., and ignorant. Your believes and mine are just as valuable.

    What I am saying is this if a Public Ritual is being done by an eclectic and you are planning on attending do so without contempt, If your a modern eclectic and it is being done BY a hard polytheist Then by all means respect the chose of deities the Ritual coordinators have chosen to work with. Either way you are choosing to worship together in an open circle with members of many different Pagan worshipers. Respect each others values when coordinating by letting them know which way the wind blows at that Ritual. It is simple just let everyone know if your calling corners differently, using multiple Pantheons, have no problem inviting personal Gods and Goddesses, Wish to include or exclude any specific Deities for balance, or wish to have a specific pantheon only used right up front.

    Then if you read this and choose to attend RESPECT THE RITUAL and its coordinators either way and comply. After while everyone is relaxing and enjoying fellowship by all means enjoy the debate.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/allergicpagan/ John H Halstead

      I like how you’ve brought together the best parts of both perspectives in a practical way. Thanks

  • Natalie Reed

    “But when a group of Westerners invoke Krishna, is it really the same Krishna as Indians invoke? When modern people invoke Cernunnos, is it really the same Cernunnos of the people that made the Gundestrup Cauldron 2000 years ago? When Yemanja is invoked by white Pagans, is it really the same Yemanja of the Caribbean slaves?” I don’t even consider myself a hard polytheist (more…..limber), and I am pretty sure the answer to these questions is “yes”.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/allergicpagan/ John H Halstead

      I’m pretty sure “no”. Check out my comment in response to Jason’s below.

      • Natalie Reed

        I may seem like a different person to my boss than I do to my husband, but that does not mean I am not me.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/allergicpagan/ John H Halstead

          That’s a good point.

          But how could your husband and your boss know if they were talking about the same person? And are you *really* the same person in both contexts? I’m not convinced that our personality is so unitary. So what would that mean for the gods?

          • Natalie Reed

            LOL, well, I see your first point, but as you are implying that when Lugh is called in Ireland, a different entity shows up than when he is called in California, then you are much more polytheistic than you let on! And yes, I really am the same person, and this speaks to my point exactly. If we mere humans can express such diverse aspects of ourselves, how can we expect less of the Gods?

            • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/allergicpagan/ John H Halstead

              Yeah, in a very limited sense, I do think that makes me more poly- than the polys — because I don’t assume that all the Krishnas are one or all the Aphrodites are one. But I’m not theistic, as you know. I don’t think they are different “entities”. I think it is *we* who are different and so our gods are different. Like Xenophanes said.

              I guess my question is, can’t there be two gods answering to the same name? Your boss may know a “Natalie” and your husband knows a “Natalie” and they may have certain similarities, but they might actually be two different people. That is what Christiane Sourvinou-Inwood is saying in my comment below (in response to Jason).

            • Natalie Reed

              Many things are possible, but what you seem to be forgetting in our boss/husband example, is we already know that they actually are the same Natalie. Do I think that everyone who calls to Bran gets Bran to show up? No. Do I think that every time someone calls Bran and something shows up, then it is certainly Bran? No. But if Bran does show up, I do think he is the same Bran who has been showing up for millennia.

            • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/allergicpagan/ John H Halstead

              I can’t argue with your experience. But it doesn’t make any sense to me. I do really appreciate you being willing to talk to me about it though. Thanks, John

  • Silvia Shells

    Sorry, i’m not agree. Voodoo, Santeria, Hinduism are living religion now… I’m a gardnerian wicca and i’m also initiate in voodoo, umbanda and palo mayombe. I think probably you dont know some entity so well…

  • Kayja Athena Tigris

    For all those who don’t agree with mixing pantheons, how do you explain someone being called by deities from more than one pantheon. I was called, ever so subtly, by Athena in junior high which I didn’t consciously realize until many years later. More recently, I was called by Cernunnos. I might have called on each one once or twice when casting a circle, but my intentions were weak and uncertain. Definitely, not something that would get their attention. So how is it that my patron deities are so firmly ensconced in my spirit, when they are from differing pantheons and that isn’t allowed. To add to that, Odin has been making himself known to me, though not nearly as consistent or strong as the first two. That makes three pantheons. What do you think?

    • http://www.tarotize.com/ Lisa Frideborg Lloyd

      Kayja, same here! I think that more important than Pantheon is the resonance with the deity and our own personal calling.

  • Merlyn7

    I can understand and respect the hard polytheism position on not mixing one’s peas and carrots on the plate – but it’s something of a modern view. The ancient world was often quite eclectic and you will see Phoenician goddesses imported into Greece and given Greek origins (as happened with Aphrodite).

    I hear people say “The deities have made it very clear to me that they are individual.” And I can respect that for you. That is your experience. But often the sentiment seems to be “and therefore people who think all gods are one are wrong.” Like, empirically wrong. And that seems to be a little more certain than any of us probably have a right to claim.

  • Murigen

    “Pantheons” have been mixing since people started traveling.

  • P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

    I don’t disagree with what you’ve said here, John.

    It always intrigues me how some recons (who are often “hard polytheists”) will give certain examples of “historical syncretism” a pass, whereas not others. For example, it’s not unusual to hear some Heathens or Celtic Recons say that some degree of Norse-Celtic syncretism is acceptable, to the point of being “dual trad” in their practices, but often not mixing them–or, mixing them but calling it Scottish or Manx or what-have-you, where we know there were historical circumstances where a Scandinavian culture and a Gaelic one mixed. (But never mind that both Scottish and Manx both happened when the cultures were Christian!) And, of course, the actual historical and theological syncretism that is going on in most of the sources is Christian and polytheist, such that Cú Chulainn gets summoned by St. Patrick, or Cáilte or Oisín has a conversation with St. Patrick, and so on and so forth. Or, to draw from another example, the PGM material (including some that is specifically Antinous-related) often has a Greek deity alongside an Egyptian one, likewise alongside a Sumerian one, with further additions by Graeco-Egyptian Gnosticism (e.g. Abraxas) and the Greek understanding of the Hebrew god (i.e. Iao), and no one part of this can be removed or omitted because the spell functions as a whole drawing upon these various cultural-religious formulations for its overall effectiveness.

    I don’t mind those sorts of things, but decrying all other forms of syncretism as “mere eclecticism” is a double standard of the highest order.

    That having been said, there are versions of multi-culti practice that are better thought-out than others. Subsuming any and every possible deity under a Wiccan framework is a bad idea, in my perspective; but, having a ritual in which several different deities from different cultures are given offerings and are prayed to in different languages is a whole other story to assuming that one can actually summon or draw down XYZ deities from different cultures (and the “cultures” issue is the more important difference than the “pantheons” one, in my view).

    I suspect a huge part of it comes down to individual taste. Hellenics sometimes say Ekklesía Antínoou rituals are “too Roman” (as do other types of Pagan), whereas Religio Romana would say they’re not Roman enough, and so forth. Or, a given person may just not like genero-Wicca with The Dagda and Kokopelli and then Isis and Kali thrown in together. *shrugs* Anything that sounds odd can be done well, and anything that sounds permissible can be done poorly.

  • Serenity Lithae

    I came across this blog kind of randomly, but I figured I would comment; if even just to offset the groups of really ignorant extremist types that seem to be commenting here. I also tend to rant so this will probably be a long read.

    If I was forced to label them, I would say my views are: Eclectic Heathen/Pagan/Chaos/Buddhist/Energy-related/Willpower-related, Anti-theist, Humanist, etc.

    Personally, I don’t think it makes sense to believe in any sort of one religion completely. Especially considering why they were created, how many there are, the inability to prove them accurate in any way, etc. I am a bit spiritual but I
    mostly just incorporate beliefs I can relate to an feel are accurate into my overall view of
    the world, which is continually changing and evolving. I also have a deep respect for different cultures and like to study ancient cultures and their beliefs, I think studying the belief system of your ancestors can give it meaning as well.

    I also realize science exists to explain the world and universe around us, and most of what we experience that is considered incorporeal or supernatural are either aspects of our own psyche or just things about the world we are not advanced enough to explain yet.

    The religions of ancient people are the same as modern day religions in that they were created to explain away things that we could not understand at the time. A lot of which we can now explain. They are different in some ways, such as older religions tending to have more respect for nature, while monotheistic ones don’t even involve nature unless it’s as a sacrifice. Wicca being the exception since it’s a “new”, nature-based religion. I put new in quotes because it basically is taking from older religions (Celtic, Norse, Greek/Roman, etc) and kind of muddling it all together. Which generally I can agree with, but only when it’s on a personal basis, otherwise the point kind of disappears into a mass of social ques and status issues between people.

    Another thing that is really annoying about reading comments from the people below, it seems like everyone is turning spirituality into some sort of social status marker, like this person thinks they’re better because they’re so “pure” with this religion or that religion- which is just as bad as any monotheist (pushing things on to others). As well as making them seem kind of, well, insane or just plain willfully ignorant.

    They probably got offended at your comment about the cognitive dissonance because it’s true. There is tons of science supporting the idea of the placebo effect, it’s a very real thing that happens when people believe in things very strongly. I for one, think it is an awesome thing and can be used to our advantage, especially in spirituality. The gods may not be real beings that live and die, but our minds can create an avatar for us, and in this manner it’s pretty much the same thing. It also means that when anyone practices a spirituality or religion, it’s a very personal thing. Part of our own psyche become parts of these gods, and by calling on them it allows people to create more control and balance in their minds, which in turn allows us to solve emotional issues in ways we otherwise would have overlooked.

    A lot of people use religion and spirituality as a crutch, especially monotheists, or turn it into a social thing. Personally, I think that kind of defeats the purpose and starts venturing into the world of Ego.

    All things in moderation.
    Don’t wait for a god to come help you when you can easily change your life yourself.

    I believe that if “gods” are used at all, they should be used as archetypes to empower us and help us make right decisions in life. They shouldn’t be used as a scapegoat, or something to pray to in hopes they’ll fly down an rescue the sorry humans. I’m not sure if gods existed they’d be fond of that sort of weak-mindedness. I know the Norse gods wouldn’t, at least. I also don’t believe rituals are even necessary, I think if anyone wants to “invoke” a god, it just takes willpower. Rituals are a way of making your will physical, you can bypass physical rituals completely through willpower alone, though it would be harder for someone who has always relied on rituals since that tends to act as a catalyst for certain emotions. The physical ingredients or words are meant to invoke certain feelings in us, and cause something intangible to be more tangible. It’s more like a form of meditation/energy manipulation and visualization. Though rituals and that sort of thing are really good at creating atmosphere. I would guess that the energy created from those sort of events is a little different, especially ancient rituals before science was so widely used (since the belief would have been very intense). Though technically no energy is ever created or destroyed, so it’s probably possible to pull back that same energy into the form is was during those events.
    This seems like it could have something to do with the ‘gods’ you talk about being different for each summoning, on top of the psyche issues. I’d be interesting in getting a Kirlian camera and testing this out, seeing if the energy that’s picked up on Kirlian photography differs when a physical ritual is involved.

    Generally, I think people are allowed to believe whatever they want, all of this is just what I think personally and apply to my life. I think there is no reason to worship gods as being greater than us, we’re not such weak creatures despite how disappointing the world we created can be. After all, we created those gods.

  • Tess

    I appreciate you writing this because I’ve had so many of these same thoughts myself. I also find it really interesting that many of the commenters seem to have changed your position from “Sometimes, it may make sense to mix pantheons, so maybe we shouldn’t be so disdainful of the mere idea,” to “Everyone should conduct rituals with no thought, planning, or specific intention whatsoever,” or “All gods are the same, so who cares?”

    But then, like you, I’m not really a theist. The part of me that is, is radically polytheist, I guess you could say. Because I’m not a theist, I think religion is for people. People bring themselves to whatever they worship, and make it their own. I don’t think gods fit in neat little boxes–for the part of me that believes in them, my idea of what they are and what they encompass is always in flux.

    Also, for what it’s worth, I have the sense that our ancestors were not nearly so finicky about so-called “mixing of pantheons.” If it was working for your neighbors up the river or even your longer-distance trading partners, maybe it would work for you, too! Today we have much more extensive cultural mixing, so a little mixing of gods seems kind of inevitable. Perhaps not by randomly choosing names from a list, though.


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