Humanity is capable of many great things. One of the things that I place on that list is the ability of humanity to believe. It is upon our beliefs that we build the foundations of our everyday existence. From the small to the grandiose, everything we do is affected by the simple, constant fact that we believe. Everything we interact with is based upon this. Don’t think this is correct? Maybe you’re right. However, I would like you to think about all of the small rituals you and others do.
For instance, let’s look at breakfast:
- Do you say a prayer before you eat?
- Perform any type of ceremony?
- Do you make your food the same way everyday?
Have you ever wondered why? I think this is because of what we believe (whether consciously or unconsciously).
To quote (at length) the character Sam from American Gods by Neil Gaiman:
“I can believe things that are true and things that aren’t true and I can believe things where nobody knows if they’re true or not.
“I can believe in Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny and the Beatles and Marilyn Monroe and Elvis and Mister Ed. Listen – I believe that people are perfectable, that knowledge is infinite, that the world is run by secret banking cartels and is visited by aliens on a regular basis, nice ones that look like wrinkled lemurs and bad ones who mutilate cattle and want our water and our women.
“I believe that the future sucks and I believe that the future rocks and I believe that one day White Buffalo Woman is going to come back and kick everyone’s ass. I believe that all men are just overgrown boys with deep problems communicating and that the decline in good sex in America is coincident with the decline in drive-in movie theaters from state to state.
“I believe that all politicians are unprincipled crooks and I still believe that they are better than the alternative. I believe that California is going to sink into the sea when the big one comes, while Florida is going to dissolve into madness and alligators and toxic waste.
“I believe that antibacterial soap is destroying our resistance to dirt and disease so that one day we’ll all be wiped out by the common cold like martians in War of the Worlds.
“I believe that the greatest poets of the last century were Edith Sitwell and Don Marquis, that jade is dried dragon sperm, and that thousands of years ago in a former life I was a one-armed Siberian shaman.
“I believe that mankind’s destiny lies in the stars. I believe that candy really did taste better when I was a kid, that it’s aerodynamically impossible for a bumble bee to fly, that light is a wave and a particle, that there’s a cat in a box somewhere who’s alive and dead at the same time (although if they don’t ever open the box to feed it it’ll eventually just be two different kinds of dead), and that there are stars in the universe billions of years older than the universe itself.
“I believe in a personal god who cares about me and worries and oversees everything I do. I believe in an impersonal god who set the universe in motion and went off to hang with her girlfriends and doesn’t even know that I’m alive. I believe in an empty and godless universe of causal chaos, background noise, and sheer blind luck.
“I believe that anyone who says sex is overrated just hasn’t done it properly. I believe that anyone who claims to know what’s going on will lie about the little things too.
“I believe in absolute honesty and sensible social lies. I believe in a woman’s right to choose, a baby’s right to live, that while all human life is sacred there’s nothing wrong with the death penalty if you can trust the legal system implicitly, and that no one but a moron would ever trust the legal system.
“I believe that life is a game, that life is a cruel joke, and that life is what happens when you’re alive and that you might as well lie back and enjoy it.”
All of this brings me to the word ‘allotheism.’ ‘Allotheism’ is the worship of strange gods. What qualifies as a ‘strange’ god? I think that would be highly subjective to what one believes.
‘Strange’ as defined by Dictionary.com
- unusual, extraordinary, or curious; odd; queer
- estranged, alienated, etc., as a result of being out of one’s natural environment
- situated, belonging, or coming from outside of one’s own locality; foreign: to move to a strange place; strange religions
- outside of one’s previous experience; hitherto unknown;unfamiliar: strange faces; strange customs
- unaccustomed to or inexperienced in; unacquainted
By these definitions, a ‘strange’ god is one of a wide variety of things, but what really makes a deity strange?
It has been my experience that many people in modern Paganism (and Heathenism) are hesitant to be identified with or to work with some deities due to their personal and very valid beliefs. In some groups it is considered taboo to even mention the name of some deities. I think it is our own personal beliefs that make a deity strange. It is our notions that we carry (for whatever reason) that lead us to define something as thus. It may be through our eyes that we see the world, but is our beliefs that give it color and definition.
I have worked with a pretty obscure deity for a large portion of my life. His name is Dalua (Da-loo-a). He is an interesting god, and one you don’t find many people paying homage to. Dalua is a deity from The Immortal Hour, a 1908 play by Scottish playwright Fiona Macleod (a pseudonym of William Sharp). While the play is based on Celtic Mythology, Dalua is likely to be the creation of William himself based off of some untold inspiration. Dalua is the ‘Amadan-Dhu’, or Dark Fool, the Faery Fool, whose touch is madness or death for any mortal; even his falling shadow causes bewilderment and forgetfulness. Dalua is The Fool who is also an Elder. In essence, Dalua is a sacred trickster while at the same time being an adept. In my own experiences through my interactions with Dalua, I have found him to be somewhat akin to Hermes, Herne, and Merlin while remaining unique, darker, and separate from these deities.
Many people would label Dalua as a Dark or Underworld Deity. It has been my personal experience that many Pagans find working with deities who carry such a label to be somewhat of a taboo or an anathema. Given humankind’s interaction with the dark and the unknown, an interaction generally based in fear, this certainly makes a degree of sense to me. We spend a great deal of time surrounding ourselves in light and knowledge to combat such fears. It’s why our cities have become so well illuminated, why we leave lights on in rooms that don’t need them, or light candles in windows so that people can find their way back. Those practitioners who chose to disregard these cultural norms (the fear of the dark) and worship dark deities are themselves feared, because embracing the dark means embracing the things that dwell in it.
Again, based on my experience and studies, I have found that those deities who are considered dark tend to be the ones that touch on common themes such as war, death, the underworld, and change, topics that make people nervous or afraid. Interaction with a deity who is considered to be a Dark or Underworld deity is an unfiltered one, because these deities represent such primal and archetypal concepts like those mentioned above. People dislike the idea of an unfiltered divine experience in regards to that deities’ dominion. People tend to get very skittish when working with deities like Loki, Kali, The Morrigan, or Pele for example, or even talking with the people who work with said deities.
Let me share a personal story with you. Let me tell you how I came to meet Dalua. I was all of 15 and it was a Friday night. My parents were out of the house at a workshop given by RJ Stewart, a prolific writer on the subjects of Celtic Myth, the Underworld, and Faery magic. My parents had left me some money to get some food and I decided to walk a short distance (less than a half mile) to the local McDonald’s for dinner. It was a walk I had made many times as I walked almost everywhere when I was that age, so I thought nothing of it. As I was walking down the sidewalk I started getting verbally heckled by some boys who were hanging around in a parking lot of strip mall that was close for the day. I ignored them and kept walking but, they followed after me eventually catching up to me and asking me if I wanted to buy any weed. They began to surround me and continued to try and get me to make a purchase. When I told them I didn’t have any money to make a purchase, and tried to leave one of them pulled a gun on me. I turned to face him, and extended my palms up. I told him he could have what money I did have. I recognized him. Here, holding a gun on me, was a kid I had been going to school with since the second grade. We had been over to each others house, I knew his parents, we still even went to the same high school. They patted me down and took my wallet and pager. After that they ran across the street and left me alone. I’ve always wondered why a kid would pull a gun (even if it was fake) on another kid, especially one he known for so long, for so little gain. He got six dollars and a cheap pager. I walked down to the gas station on the corner, called the police and filed a police report. The cop was kind enough to give me a ride home and she called and notified my parents at the number they had left for me in case of emergencies. The police picked up the kid I had identified the next day when he returned home.
Upon hearing what happened, RJ said that he would allow me to come to the workshop even though I was so young. It was a weekend long workshop of his book the Underworld Initiation. It was there during that weekend that I began my first voyages into the Underworld and working with the Dark Goddess. I can hardly deny the serendipity of the timing of events that led me to be here. It was not just some perfunctory set of occurrences that led me to being in that workshop.
Over the next couple of years RJ returned for more workshops and each year I attended. It was during one such workshop that we studied The Immortal Hour by Fiona McLeod. I remember that during one of the guided meditations I noticed an unusual and overgrown path. In the words of Robert Frost, “I took the one less traveled by, / And that has made all the difference.” I walked down the path, and at the end of it I met Dalua siting on a stone bench on the side of the path. He bade me stop for a moment. Have you ever had one of those experiences where time gets all wibbly wobbly? That happened to me as the events of the past few years began to fall into place. I found it difficult to breathe after each realization of how the events were connected. I could hear the strain of my breath rattling around in my head. I could see how each event had led to this moment. Dalua said, “I have been waiting for you to come” and made a symbol of a lightning bolt over my forehead, and I blacked out. I woke up at the end of the meditation with the rest of the group with a very large headache. When a chance became available I talked with RJ and my parents about the experience, and the message was clear. Dalua had claimed me as one of his servants. That night after the workshop, I dreamed of the underworld and the dark places the deity Dalua took me to.
Since then, I have been working with Dalua on and off again for most of my adult life. He always calls me back to him.
Do you have any allotheistic experiences?