Ritual Possession and the Nature of Deities

Gus diZerega keeps a Pagan blog on Beliefnet. As many of us – particularly UUs – do, he tends to focus on politics and the here and now of religion. But he’s got a new post up titled “Are the Gods in Us?” and it’s exactly the kind of religious thought piece I most enjoy reading (and writing, when I have something worth writing about).

He writes in the context of Drawing Down the Moon, the Wiccan ritual in which the Goddess is invoked into the High Priestess. And he tells a story of when he experienced ritual possession as part of a Brazilian drumming ceremony. This all leads him to the conclusion that the Gods and Goddesses of Paganism are outside us. From my own experiences, I agree.

From a theoretical point of view, ultimately I think All is One – we are all a part of one Universe. Just as the femur is part of the leg and the leg is part of the body and the body is part of us, so are we and the plants and animals and rocks and trees part of the Earth and the Earth is part of the solar system and the solar system is part of the galaxy and the galaxy is part of the universe… along with a lot of other things and beings that we barely have a clue exist.

At the same time, my arm is different from my leg, you are different from me, and the Gods and Goddesses are different from us. Some are the personification of natural forces, some are deified ancestors, and some are aspects of the Divine. We are all connected, all part of the same web of Life, but we experience Life and each other as separate entities.

This is mostly a logical construct, but I’ve had one experience of ritual possession. The experience was very real, and very different… I was still there, but I was pushed aside, and Cernunnos spoke to me, and through me. If I ever had any doubts the Gods and Goddesses are real (however you care to define “real”) this ended them.

Though several deities have spoken to me since, I’ve never tried to repeat that experience. It was a special night that brought together the people I needed to perform the ritual – I haven’t asked them to indulge me again. And part of me is afraid I could become addicted to the experience… though whether that would be a good thing or a bad thing remains to be seen.

Ultimately, we are all One, but the Gods and Goddesses are real, distinct beings. I know, because I’ve experienced them.

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