hearth altarWhen I was young, my little sister died of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. There was less understanding back then, and even at my age I heard the whispers in the village. I saw my parents friends remove themselves from our lives, people talking about our family in hushed tones, my step-mother sat almost catatonic on the sofa staring out the window, my little brother confusing my baby dolls with our deceased sister. I stood by my sisters graveside, watching this tiny coffin lowered into the earth, and I felt angry that this big, sweaty priest who knew nothing about our family and yet dared to speak of my baby sister and our family grief. Through all this, I felt my sisters spirit still in the house. I was aware of her presence in ways that other family members were not and it confused everyone. I did not display the same grief as others, because for me a part of her was still with us and that gave me comfort. I felt isolated in my understanding that death was not the end. I felt confused and sad for the loss of my sister and the pain her death brought to our family. I felt comforted and relieved to know there was something more than flesh and bone. In grief and a desire for understanding, I looked for God. I wanted answers. I found no comfort or answers in the Christianity I was brought up around, so I started to explore alternative belief systems. By the time I was a teen, I was fully immersed in the exploration of Paganism, Buddhism, Taoism, Witchcraft, and techniques of awareness and spiritual development. Later I studied psychology, I travelled the world, I read voraciously and I talked to some fascinating people. Slowly I developed my own practice and personal spirituality that honoured my understanding of death and dying.

In my twenties, after a rather shocking spiritual experience, I dedicated myself to studying Wicca and Witchcraft. I developed a deeper understanding of magic and transformation, and I truly transformed my personal life. During my practice I would call upon the Lord and Lady, I would connect with the Masculine and Feminine Divine and the spectrum in between, and I could sense the power and presence of the Divine – yet I did not connect with specific deities. In fact I rather enjoyed discussing the reality of distinct and different Gods, or all Gods as one God, or Gods as archetypes, or Gods as entities, or Gods as universal energy. I talked and listened, and in private I formed no conclusions but continued to work with the very abstract concept of Divinity from an energy spectrum perspective. I was happy enough working with my abstract philosophy. That is until a Goddess spoke to me.

I look back and I see all the early signs. Much like how a pregnancy leads you to see pregnant women everywhere you go; my early connection to this Goddess meant that I saw her influence everywhere, I heard her name, I was directed to her attention in many ways. It wasn’t until I repeatedly felt her presence during meditations that I acknowledged this connection to myself. Unlike the sense of Divinity-in-abstract that I was used to working with, I could feel the presence of someone distinct and unique – much like child-me connecting with my sister-spirit. It was as if someone were there in the room with me, sitting with me in contemplation. Her very ‘realness’ is experiential and difficult to describe, but her presence cannot be denied. Eventually, I asked her name. It was no surprise when she gave it to me as all those early signs came back to me in the clarity of twenty-twenty hindsight. I asked if she were real. Her chuckle was both internal and external to myself; I both felt it and heard it. Her answer played me at my own game:

“Are you?”

Ok, fair enough, you got me. We could chase this philosophical rabbit into eternity and never catch it. We would never be sure of anything but our willingness to chase – and even that would be up for debate. My second question was “Why you? Out of all the Gods, why you?”, and her answer was just as enlightening:

“Because I am who you perceive a Goddess to be.”

I meditated on that for months. I came to the understanding that although she reached out to me, I had been reaching out to her unbeknownst by my conscious mind. I had contacted her with my very essence of being, living and learning, and she heard me. She heard me, and she waited until I was ready to hear her. For many years now we have had a pleasant personal relationship, and through her my understanding of Divinity has expanded.

RRivers logoI have come to accept and understand that the Gods, all the Gods, are unique, distinct and separate from each other. Yet they are also connected. Much like people are unique and different, yet still a part of various cultural identities, and further still connected to all of humanity, the Gods are also unique and separate from each other, yet still a part of their cultural identity (their Pantheon), and still connected to each other by their very Divinity. We are human, different and yet the same in our humanity. They are Gods, different and yet the same in nature of Divinity. Through all this, Gods and people and all life forms alike, runs a thread of Universal Divine Force – we all exist as a part of the web, connected and entangled, but this Universal Energy is what the web itself is made of. With this understanding that the abstract would never be completely abstract again, I started to reach out, to connect and to acknowledge the Gods in many ways. I continue to work with archetypes, as they are powerful in their own right, and I continue to work with the thread of Divinity and the spectrum of energy I perceive as Masculine and Feminine Divine accessible both within and without, but I also work with specific deities. I have a personal and close relationship with a Goddess and a God, a complex and deep relationship with a Goddess of death and the underworld, a working relationship with several deities, and a nodding acquaintance with others. I have found their realness comforting more than confusing, like the awareness of extended family across the globe. When I wrote my latest book I wanted to include invocations and evocations for a variety of deities, which meant reaching out to Gods I had no prior connection to. I read, I meditated, I made altars and offerings and I listened. Some of them answered, and some of them offered to work with me. I learned some valuable lessons writing The Woven Word, not least that just because a God exists does not automatically mean that they want to work with me. Relationships with deities are unique to each practitioner – just because a God has called you, does not mean that they will call to me; just because a Goddess asks one thing of me, does not mean the same Goddess will ask the same thing of you. I can safely say that my experience with various Gods and Goddesses of different pantheons has cemented my understanding of Polytheism – Many Gods. There are indeed very many Gods, all alike in dignity, all unique, complex and fascinating. All very real.

Uncertain

I was shocked and disbelieving

When you spoke to me

It was not like you whispered

Not like you crept into my bedroom at dawn and slowly roused me from sleep

You laughed and danced and shouted and skipped

Into my vision

You found me amusing

I challenged your very existence

Your right to reality

Well, can you blame me?

I was happy tucked up in abstract philosophy

Am happy with the concept of never, forever and always still

But you told me to doubt my own reality

You used my abstract against me

And should I find myself in existence

I should accept the possibilities

Being offered to me

I guess we should always accept the possibility of being wrong

Or right

Or unsure anymore

If you keep talking

I will keep listening

(‘Uncertain’ is taken from Poison Pen Letters to Myself by Romany Rivers (c)2013)

PBP2014

This post is a part of the Pagan Blog Project 2014

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Comments
  1. Inga Leonora says:

    So enjoyed this post on many levels. Thank you for sharing it, and your experience.

    “I have come to accept and understand that the Gods, all the Gods, are unique, distinct and separate from each other. Yet they are also connected. Much like people are unique and different, yet still a part of various cultural identities, and further still connected to all of humanity, the Gods are also unique and separate from each other, yet still a part of their cultural identity (their Pantheon), and still connected to each other by their very Divinity. We are human, different and yet the same in our humanity. They are Gods, different and yet the same in nature of Divinity. Through all this, Gods and people and all life forms alike, runs a thread of Universal Divine Force .” This. Yes. All of this. And so many more things in this post.

    I so often have the “hard polytheist cringe” whenever someone declares a god to be the “same as *insert cultural equivalent*” as if they are just language versions of one thing. More like distant cousins, living in different countries, but maybe working in the same industry. Or, as it happens, more often described in terms almost verbatim as you have described your understanding of Deity.

    I particularly enjoyed Her return serve. 🙂 Ah, Great Ones! I’m sure they spend a great deal of time giggling at us, the way we do at small children as the come to terms with new ideas, watching the light switch on… 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • I am pretty sure I have caused that cringe in the past! We all come to understanding in our own time, and for me it had to be felt, experienced, not just intellectually understood. To be fair, when we are raised with the scholarly comparisons of deities – especially the Greek and Roman Pantheons – it is difficult to see how Gods so closely described in the same terms with the same spheres of influence are in fact very different. However, they are. I wonder if the Gods have ever looked at each other and cried “Dude, look! It is my brother from another mother!”.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Inga Leonora says:

        I think if you are not cringing, whatever the topic, you’re making another pagan cringe. Even if it is internal. (And mostly with a lot of acceptance, I think.) Gods know I have caused it too! Lol!

        I have never seen a vision or heard the utterance ” Dude, look! It is my brother from another mother!” But now I think on it, I would give an arm for that privileged! I have shared many a polytheistic daydream when sharing pantheons regarding the meeting of various deities, in some sort of weird ‘The Simpsons’ or ‘South Park’ manner with added UPG of awesome goodness. Our silly human humour, it’s like the two favourite dead guys and a bar scenario. Another one of those things that belongs to the Gods and the Great Mystery, that we might never get our heads around, and no doubt cause for them to giggle at us… 😀

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Artemisia says:

    I really enjoyed this, thanks for posting it! I 100% agree and relate to what you wrote, and the poem made me smile 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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