(This is the first of a few articles I will be doing prompted by Jolene Poseidonae’s My Polytheism post. If you’re interested in hearing and seeing more, you may want to check out the new My Polytheism community on Facebook).
“We may be in the Universe as dogs and cats are in our libraries, seeing the books and hearing the conversation, but having no inkling of the meaning of it all.” – William James
We look up, and we look around, and we look within, and we see shapes moving. We feel their warm touch, and respond to their calls. Sometimes we respond out of curiosity, and sometimes because we recognize the shape and their voice and know that in following them we will find the things that we desire.
We often come to them merely for contact and attention. We want to feel their hands running down our backs, feel their radiant warmth as we approach them or they pick us up and pull us close. Our eyes close in ecstasy as they scratch our heads and we purr in rhythmic chants.
Once in a while they want to play. They show us things that we desire that dance just outside of our reach, or strange lights and visions that flash everywhere at once and drive us mad. The play exercises and strengthens us even if it a frustrating tease. Sometimes they provide us with treats, either because they like something that we do or they want to express affection.
Sometimes they do scary things with us. They take us to strange and confusing places where they or others like them do confusing and occasionally painful things to us. We usually return from the experience healthier in some way, or at least on the road to being on the mend. The experiences might be frightening, but we usually end up better for them.
We wander this library, looking at the books there as perches and soft, smooth places to rest, and never knowing what is within them. We climb bookcases full of information that we have no way to access, as our senses and the tools that we create based off of them are limited.
We make offerings to these beings. Sometimes we sing to them and it seems to please them. Sometimes we brush against them and stroke them, purring soft chanting words in vibratory rhyme. Sometimes we bring them gifts – shiny things or food that we wish to share.
They don’t communicate with each other the same way that we do, so it’s natural that it can be hard to understand them (though for those who have witnessed them interacting, it can be fascinating and, as anything else with them, confounding). Some of us have a knack for it, and some of us have watched their habits and made many noises at them, gauged their responses, and learned from experience. We’re still guessing much of the time, of course; it’s hard to be certain what a being so radically different is trying to convey (if anything).
Many of them are approachable. A few are known to be friendly to just about anyone who comes up and sings to them. Some seem to be picky or moody or hostile or uninterested. Some of those seem to like certain kinds of cats better than others and are far more apt to pick them up and pet or feed them.
We don’t know why they do what they do, or even what they are, really. Some of us love them, some of us are indifferent, and some fear them. I am convinced we can live full and happy lives without interacting with them, but I don’t want to. They feed me and pet me and care for me, and I do things for them. I’m in awe of them and what they can do. I know that they are not all-powerful or (for the most part) all-knowing and have limitations. I’m grateful to them for sharing a space and a life with me. I get confused and angry sometimes at what might seem like their games, but I still come back because I trust the intentions of the ones that I know best.
Anyone who knows me well knows how I love cats. I feel comfortable with them. I seem to be able to understand them pretty well. They are some of the most fascinating and beautiful creatures that I’ve had the pleasure of encountering, and I’m always up for meeting new ones. I know that not all of them will like me, and that’s fine.
More and more I’ve internalized the metaphor of pet-based polytheism, as my experiences seem to follow that pattern. I know there are places where it doesn’t quite fit my experiences (and likely less so other peoples’) but it helps me to understand the position that I’m in in relationship to them. I’m an independant human with many relationships with other humans, and as I said, I don’t think we quite need them to survive (though there are those of us who feel that we would not still be alive had it not been for their intervention).
The question of what exactly the Gods are is one that I’ve never found a satisfying answer to. I have musings and ideas and a model that works for me, but little else. What I do know is that I’ve met many people with vastly different models that can agree on most of the basic points. Indeed, part of the reason that I’m sharing this is to give people ideas of other ways that they can come to understand their interactions with the Gods. Hopefully they will develop and discover ones that work well for them and others, and help us as a whole to better understand the phenomena that we experience as polytheism (especially of the interactive variety).
A model isn’t set in stone, and mine may change some day if it no longer seems to fit the situation. In the meantime you can find me by my half-empty food bowl, begging because they are literally starving me or going to one of the places that they frequent and headbutting and purring at them to show my affection. Or maybe I’ll just be sunning myself in a window or hunting flies; I love the Gods but I do have important cat business to attend to.