What if my god doesn’t look like your god?
A long while back I had a discussion with a friend about what Thor looked like. I think if memory serves me, we were making poppets in the image of deities (like you do on a weekend when you are bored).
My image of Thor was different from her image. There followed a bit of a debate about whether he had blonde hair or red (we settled on strawberry blonde). Did he have blue eyes or green? Did he have a long beard or a short one? And this carried on in the same vein for quite some time.
I have also seen various blog posts and articles about what specific deities looks like. Some along the lines that the author’s version of that specific goddess or god is the only one.
Now, whilst I appreciate that there are some generalities regarding deities; for example, it is generally assumed that the god Odin only has one eye. The idea I stems I would guess, from old Norse texts that depict him that way. But what if Odin appears to you with both his eyes in full working order? Does that mean it isn’t Odin? Or that you have not meditated properly? Will he be offended and bring down thunder and lightning upon you?
The same goes for whether a goddess appears to you as a young, middle aged or old woman. What if you see The Cailleach as a maiden when most images of her are as an old crone?
At the end of the day my personal view is that the gods will appear to us in whatever form they believe we will recognise them in. I am pretty sure that deities don’t sit up in the Heavens/Summerlands/Asgard/*insert whatever you believe in* as we imagine them. They are after all, gods. They can be whatever shape, size, colour or ethereal mist they want to be.
People carved statues and painted pictures of gods, the images are portrayed as the human person visualised them. Giving the omnipresent gods a human form allows us mere mortals to connect far more easily with them. It gives us a point of reference and a focus for prayer and worship.
Some of the details such as hair and clothing colours and animals associated with deities come from ancient texts but even those will have come from a starting point i.e. that of a person visualising the god or goddess.
They look like us
We fashion the gods to look like us, Hindu deities have Indian features, Chinese gods have Chinese features and Norse gods have whacking great big beards…
I think we visualise them based on what is familiar to us, maybe our subconscious filters through our memories and puts together a ‘photo fit’ gathered together from paintings and images we have seen in the past. I think it all has to fit together for us to connect; if Athena appeared in gold leggings, a bullet proof vest and a policeman’s helmet it would just be silly and there is no way we would make that link to her. (Hey, who knows what she likes to dress up as on the weekend?).
Does it matter?
So, does it matter if Rhiannon appears to me with blonde hair but with raven hair to the next person? I don’t think it does. To me, they take on an image that they know we will associate with them and one that we can recognise them from.
At the end of the day the most crucial point is that we connect with deity and allow them to advise, guide and support us and for us to honour and thank them in return, isn’t it?
Those who are familiar with how I roll especially with my spirituality will know that my mottoes are ‘trust your intuition’ and ‘do what works for you’ and in this case, I stand by both of those again.
Your connection with deity is just that…YOUR connection.
This blog post from Nimue Brown covers some interesting points http://www.patheos.com/blogs/agora/2013/06/what-do-gods-look-like/