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Day 3: Deities

Because there are slots later in this meme that accounts for specific beings and pantheons, I am going to instead use this part to describe the natures and roles of deities in my view.

It used to be that I would just consider myself a strict polytheist, meaning that every deity is its own being in the way many humans consider each physical individual to be their own person. Nowadays it’s not so straightforward (though I still could be considered a polytheist). I have a tendency to be analytical about life, but deities are so difficult to do that with. For starters, no individual is going to meet most of the known deities in the world, let alone unknown ones. All we have to work with, for the most part, is what someone else says. Second, with the beings we DO have personal experiences with, we often still work with assumptions based on other people’s word, and sometimes there are disagreements. When there are disagreements, how do you know it’s actually the same being? How do you know the being you’re contacting is actually the “right” one? Third, how on earth is a deity that’s supposed to be connected or rooted in a specific geographical location or a specific group of people contacting you halfway across the world? Why would they even do that to begin with?

See what I mean about being analytical? I was that kid that  Sunday School teachers loathed.

It came to a point where I even questioned my questions, because they just weren’t getting any answers. I went back to square one, this time with my cultural interests in hand, and started doing comparative analysis on deities from various Eurasian cultures (I figured sticking with what I know instead of thinking globally would make it easier). I started looking at the human-deity relationships more than the mythological descriptions, and started developing a line of thinking similar to the creators of Waincraft. I had noticed that there are underlying similarities in function that numerous deities shared, which previously would have been considered coincidences or neighboring influences. A short while later, a discussion started on Asatru Lore’s forum on “gods as functions”, which went into the idea in great detail. That pretty much cinched it for me, because things were finally starting to make sense. Not everything of course, but I’m ok with that.

Where I am currently is a mixture of polytheism and god-functions. I keep the polytheistic belief with the beings that I have had personal experiences with. I “know” they’re there, so I can assume that they are their own beings. This tends to be associated the gods of low mythology (the ones with local cults) and totemic qualities (meaning clan-based, as in the academic form of “totem”). The ones that I do not have experience with, or the high gods, tend to be considered god-functions instead. For example, Thor/Donnar/Perun/Parom/etc. I treat the names as titles (referring to a Storm God) rather than representing individual beings. I do not assume the storms in Chicago are directly from Donnar or Perun all the way in Europe. I instead assume that there is a storm being HERE that’s the cause, and I call it a deity name as a title to refer to the storm-god function.

Confused yet? Trust me, in practice it’s not really that complicated. For one thing, it’s not like I meet a lot of deities in the first place, so I hardly have to think about these categories. I also don’t have to do anything with these categories when reading about deities in my heritage’s mythology, because they’re just in the stories at that point. If there are deity-associated holidays, like with Boldogasszony on Dec. 26th, then I simply pay respects to the deity and their associations at that point. No need to get into categories when I haven’t actually met them.

As for my other questions, such as the ones regarding long-distance contacts, I pretty much gave up on those. I figure that, if humans can figure out a way to communicate and mingle from afar, then so can gods. Besides, those questions would not have been useful in any way even if they could be answered, so there was no point in pursuing them.

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Day 2: Cosmology

Day 2 of the 30 Days of Paganism meme. I’m currently waiting for the Dead Supper to finish cooking, as it’s the eve of All Soul’s and the start to both Winter holidays and ancestor veneration. It’s not much, just a pot pie and some fruit, but it’s something decent that we can share.

Hmm, cosmology, where to begin. Well, for starters, there is the folkloric view that I’m sure many of you are familiar with. Three levels, Upper, Middle, and Lower, forming a tier that can be illustrated as a tree or a mountain. We and much of visible earth exist in the Middle realm. The Upper realm is accessed via climbing up the World tree or World mountain, and the Lower realm is accessed via going down a cave, well, or similar holes in the ground.

It’s all well and good for art and stories, but I have a problem with leaving it at that. At the very least, there’s got to be numerous intertwining “trees” and “mountains” connecting many aspects of the three realms. Falling into a hole under an ancient tree isn’t going to lead one to THE underworld, it’ll be A world. Which brings me to one of my main assumptions: the otherworlds aren’t so “other” in that they might as well be totally different planets. I believe that there are layers of reality, the different worlds so to speak, that are all here (just go watch a Miyazaki movie, something like Totoro, you’ll get what I mean).

Of course, these are not the beliefs of someone who has done anything to travel to different realms, physically or otherwise. It’s simply the views that have made the most sense to me so far.

The second main assumption comes from my ecology background: the web. Ok, ok, and it also comes from my arachnology background,  but particularly ecology. You remember those food chains or food webs? It really is like that, and EVERYTHING, from the richest human to the seemingly insignificant bacterium, are connected to numerous other beings. When you trace out all the connections, it’s like a huge, dense web and nothing is left out of it. I view the concept of worlds and realms similarly. I can’t imagine that any world exists on its own.

The third, and final, assumption is also the most simple and applicable for my case. The home vs. the wild. My home is my “land”, the forest is their land, and things happen when that border is crossed. It’s the stuff of numerous horror stories and what-not-to-do folktales, but personally I don’t mind it much (this goes back to my tendency to go to liminal spaces I mentioned in my community post). Plus, I have to enter the forests and fields anyway for work, even if there’s danger.

So there you have it, my 3 types of worlds that describe my cosmology.

Edit: I went through this post so quickly that I forgot to mention my favorite “view” of the worlds. Evidence is scanty, but in Hungarian lore there are plenty of stories of a world tree that a taltos must climb to accomplish whatever he is doing (often a young boy, which makes me wonder if these tree-climbing theme was an initiation ritual or a time to realize his powers he was born with). There is one form of that world tree that is said to grow out of a horse or deer skull. Given that antlers do look like trees, and how widespread the deer cult was across Eurasia, it’s not a stretch to imagine a body or a skull having the worlds grow out of it. Look at Norse mythology, they took it much further and cut up a giant, using various body parts to make the worlds and people.

While not always practical or applicable, for reasons I explained earlier, I do imagine the worlds most frequently as the World trees growing out of a deer skull, antler-like, in a primordial ocean. The same primordial ocean reference in the creation story from Hungarian legends. This helps me both in art and in making a loose organization of the wihts, like the gods (only done for my own sake).

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Day 1: Why Paganism?

Finally starting off the 30 days meme I mentioned in my previous post, on the night of Halloween no less. I got the time, the handmade mocha, and a lovely movie playing in the background (Howl’s Moving Castle) to celebrate the start of the holiday season. I know it’s unorthodox, but I’m a little too old for trick-or-treat (*sad face*) and I’m not much for drunken parties.

So why go into Paganism? Or more specifically to my case, why get involved with the heathen kind of it (in the context of contemporary categories)?

Mainly it was circumstantial. I started off with the Wicca-influenced ideas as a young teenager because that’s all that was available back then in the library. This was just before the time of a million websites and databases to check things out with. I grew up Roman Catholic, and had an issue with the gender inequality at the time, so I mentally left the Church and sought out the nature-based “Wicca” instead. I never could get fully into it though, it was too ceremonial for my taste and reminded me of the Church as a result. It was interesting to read about though, and I read that alongside stuff regarding Shinto and Taoism (I really got into that from my love of foxes and foxlore that was started as a child by that same wonderful library). Again, as far as “nature-based” stuff went, that’s all that was available to me.

The next wonderful circumstance was meeting some lovely people who were involved in neoshamanism. Yes, yes, I know what you’re thinking, they’re one of THOSE people, sitting in drum circles and pretending to be Indian (or whatever other stereotypes exist). Well, that’s the beauty of it, they weren’t. I can’t recall a time when they DIDN’T emphasize community, research (particularly scientific and historical), being aware of one’s own circumstances and being realistic about it. No Llewellyn/Harner nonsense here. It was because of them that early on I realized that, whatever I chose to do, it won’t be worthwhile without actual work put into it. I didn’t have to waste my time with silly ideas of being a shaman too (yes, I’m ashamed to say I actually entertained that notion as a teenager and early adult; we all did stupid shit at that age, right? Right??).

Ok, so that’s the start of it. How I got from that to heathenry was through an unexpected plot twist: Rune divination.

No joke, and I’m sure those two words alone are enough to make certain recons clutch their pearl hammers in shock. I still do rune casting, even knowing that it’s a New Age idea. It, and other forms of divination, have been the only magical/pagany things that have been consistently meaningful and accurate. Not just for myself, but for volunteer clients.  So being the history lover that I am, I found out about the 3 rune poems and through that I became interested in Germanic history. A particular forum was recommended as a good place to learn the history, and I ended up joining it.

That forum was what “made” me go heathen, another one of those happy circumstances (if I ended up on some other forum, like the thankfully-defunct Skadi, I’d probably be turned off from heathenry forever and never know all the cool shit I know now). I went in just for the rune information, not interested in anything else because I thought Asatru was just Nordic stuff (and I have no connection to Norway or related countries). Over time though I ended up learning a lot from the senior members and how they’re forming heathen traditions within numerous cultural contexts instead of the Asatru form. This inspired me to delve into my own family’s history, after I worked through some family issues and became more comfortable with concepts like ancestor veneration and community. Thanks to them, I’ve been working on my “own heathenry” and that’s where I’m at right now.

I like the practicality, the adaptivity, and the sturdy base it provides me. I know heathenry isn’t the only way to get those traits, but it’s the way it works for me. With having a historical base to work on that’s more accessible because it’s from my own family’s heritages (meaning that the languages and worldviews are already familiar, rather than trying to relearn all that to understand completely different cultures), I feel more comfortable dealing with things like UPG and “spiritual” concepts like magic and gods. I’m a scientist, it’s second nature to use past information to justify present ideas, and to nitpick everything this way and that.

I’ve never been more content and certain in religious matters than after discarding contemporary religious concepts. All Christianity did was made me feel angry, worthless, and disconnected from the world. I no longer feel that way.

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