An Experience of the Gods that Left Me Floored

An Experience of the Gods that Left Me Floored June 14, 2023

Not all questions I get require a full blog post to answer. Here are some shorter ones, and my responses.

What’s an experience of one of the Many Gods that just left you floored – that changed all of your preconceptions about Paganism and the deity in question?

The one that left me floored was my first ecstatic experience of Cernunnos. There is nothing like a first-hand experience of a deity to remove all doubt that yes, “all this” is real.

But I think the most important experience was when I spent nine nights meditating on each of the Gods of the Egyptian Ennead. At the time I was very much a soft polytheist, mainly because I was still working my way out of the monotheism of my childhood. But as I meditated on Isis, Osiris, Set, Nephthys, and others, I realized that my experience of each God was different. I experienced Them as different persons. And if I experienced Them as different persons, it would make more sense to think of Them and relate to Them as different individual persons.

I am a polytheist in large part because Isis is not Osiris and Osiris is not Set.

photo by John Beckett

I’d be curious to hear your thoughts on Godspousing and/or non-spousal romantic relationships between Gods and mortals.

I have no first-hand experience with this and very little second-hand experience. There is some historical precedent for it, though not a lot. I understand it intellectually but I struggle to relate to it emotionally and spiritually.

That said, it’s very important to some people. I give great deference to other people’s religious beliefs and experiences, at least when they’re not hurting anyone else, which God-spouses rarely do.

This is one of those things where I live and let live and spend my time on the things I’m called to do, and don’t worry about things that for the most part don’t concern me.

photo by John Beckett

Rebecca Buchanan asked:

If you could see your favorite Pagan book adapted into a television series or film, which would it be?

I’ve read a lot of magical fiction (mainly urban fantasy) but not much that’s explicitly Pagan or polytheist. But of what I’ve read, the one I would most like to see made into a movie is Lammas Night by Katherine Kurtz. It’s a fictionalized version of Operation Cone of Power, the series of workings by witches and occultists to stop Hitler from invading Britain in World War II. Operation Cone of Power is a great story and I’m surprised no one has made a movie out of it yet. I think the closest anyone has come is Disney’s Bedknobs and Broomsticks. And that’s not the same thing.

Cat Gina Cole asked:

What role of activism do you think the current Pagan community needs to take in our current social climate?

That’s a hard question to answer as asked, because our current Pagan community is so diverse (which is a good thing) and so divided (which is a bad thing). We can’t agree on what needs to be done, much less how to do it.

At the least, it’s everyone’s responsibility to be an engaged citizen: to stay informed, to vote in every election, and to let your elected officials know how you feel about important legislation. Beyond that, it’s up to individual Pagans to decide how much time and energy they can put into political activism, and in what ways.

But I also think we can make a difference simply by being who and what we are, especially when we do it openly. We can show the mainstream culture that Nature is sacred, that gender has many expressions, and that things like consent and bodily autonomy are fundamental rights. We can influence the wider culture by making good art.

If your calling is to be out in the streets with bullhorns and signs, then do it. I can’t do that, and I’m not going to push myself and others to do what we can’t do. I am going to encourage everyone to do what they can do, whatever that may be.

photo by John Beckett

I remember you writing once that you don’t believe in the Christian God, but I’ve been wondering if the Christian God could be a God who has a colonisation/imperialist streak and wants his people to spread his message? Countless people say they have had a real experience of this God, and with the aspect of Jesus. They are having real interactions with Something, so what are your thoughts on that?

As a polytheist, it would be disingenuous to accept the existence of every God known to humanity except for this one… or three… though I tend to think two. So I believe in the existence of the Christian God, and I absolutely believe in the existence of Jesus. I just don’t believe all the things Christians have said about them over the past 2000 years.

And then there’s the matter of the multiplicity of the Gods. Last year I said I think that white Christian nationalists are praying to a God I call “Yahweh-Paul-Calvin” – the vengeful God of the Old Testament,  filtered through the missionary zeal and misogyny of Saul of Tarsus, and presented in the context of the cruelty, patriarchy, and might-makes-right of John Calvin.

Does the Christian God really want to be worshipped as the only God? Or do His followers want justification for their imperialism and colonialism? I don’t know. As with the question on God-spousing, I think I’m better off focusing on my own religion and leaving Christian religion to the Christians.

photo by John Beckett

Someone sent me a link to this very good post from the Patheos Progressive Christian channel titled Stop Saying, “There, But for the Grace of God, Go I.” and then asked:

I believe the Gods I work with support me, and, when They feel it is justified, for Their own reasons, protect me. How do you see grace in a Pagan context?

Grace is not an exclusively Christian concept. Grace is simply the blessings of the Gods, the gifts They give us and the whole world because They are good. I completely agree with Gregory Smith (who wrote the post on the Progressive Christian channel) that we should never allow ourselves to feel superior or special because the Gods have blessed us.

As Pagans, we tend to emphasize reciprocity. The Gods give to us so we give to Them, in hopes that They will give to us again. But we are mortal humans – we are incapable of paying the Gods back on a one-for-one basis. I don’t think They expect that of us. It’s enough to do what we can in our human-to-divine relationships, and in so doing, set a good example for our human-to-human relationships.

And also, if the Gods do good things simply because They are good, what example does that set for us? If we wish to be good, let us do good, not because someone may reciprocate, but because it’s the right thing to do.

photo by John Beckett

Maintaining a regular spiritual practice helps maintain my mental health. Unfortunately, the more stressed and overwhelmed I become, the harder it gets to maintain my regular practice. I end up in a vicious cycle where I can’t manage to engage in the work that makes me feel better.

Regular spiritual practice helps us deal with the ordinary stresses of life. It helps us put bad things into a broader context so we can deal with them. But it’s not a panacea. If you’re stressed because your roof is leaking, the answer isn’t to meditate more – the answer is to fix your roof.

The problem is that many of the “leaky roofs” we face aren’t within our power to fix.

Since you mentioned mental health, let me emphasize that if you need a mental health professional, see one. I know it’s not that simple – or that cheap – but resources are available. Don’t try to handle everything on your own if you don’t have to.

When I get to the point where I’m overwhelmed, the first thing I do is go take a long walk. And while I’m walking, I start listing out all the problems / challenges / stressors that I’m facing. Name each one.

What is it? Where does it come from? How is it impacting me right now? Many of my stressors are less about what’s actually happening and more about the overall environment. If how I’m responding isn’t helping me and it isn’t helping my more vulnerable friends, then I need to change the way I’m responding. It’s OK to set things down and come back to them when you’re in a better place.

Then for the things that are impacting me right now, what can I do to make them better? Make a plan and start working the plan.

And while you’re building your plan, don’t forget to schedule joy.

This may not put a new roof on my house, but it will usually patch the holes. And that lets me get back to living the way I want to live, including my regular spiritual practice.

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