Okay, so the other day I was in the city making meals for homeless people and hanging out with some self-described hipsters and progressives. All very nice people. Well, this one guy, who called himself a Marxist/Atheist/Buddhist (wow, what a label) asked me if my polytheistic religion precludes belief in the deities of other cultures. He seemed to think that all religions were like Christianity, in that they deny all manifestations of divinity save for their own, and was so shocked by my answer that I don’t think he believed me. He immediately went into a tirade about how he hates being witnessed to (where did that come from?), and I quickly had to tell him that most Pagans and Polytheists don’t proselytize, to which he seemed skeptically impressed. He never did allow me to answer his original question, however.
Since the incident, I’ve had time to reflect on my personal experiences with gods from Pantheons outside my own. I do have a few. Two gods from both the Norse and Egyptian Pantheons, and one who is oftentimes included in Christianity. I’ll start with him then go on to the others, since he was the one who got me moving forward on the Path, after my last ditch effort to make a connection to the god of the Bible.
I used to talk to Lucifer about every little thing that bothered me about Christianity, from women’s obedience and gay issues, to the divinity/humanity of Jesus, and the fact that the god of the Bible is a schizoid maniac. He was a good listener, gave decent advice to a ten – twelve yr. old, and ultimately encouraged me to seek religious expression outside the confines of Monotheism. From what I experienced, he is nothing like the Christians portray him to be. He was both challenging and motivational, and was a source of strength when I was most in need.
Bastet and Isis
I was obsessed with Egypt as a young girl and teen. I had images of Bastet all over my room, and drawn inside my school notebooks. I knew nothing of her worship (or worship of any ancient gods) at the time, but I’m pretty sure I was worshiping her without even knowing it. I had a little spot on my vanity for a small cat figurine that I associated with her, and I was constantly putting fresh dandelions next to it. I’ve always been a cat lover, and whenever one of my cats has died, I’ve said a prayer to Bastet so that they might find her, and find peace.
My experience with Isis is much more brief, but very profound. I’ve only called upon her for assistance once in my life, though I did study her myths for some time before hand. It was through the myths that I came to know her as a nurturer of children. So, one night, while I was babysitting a very restless and upset little girl (just over a year old), I called on Isis to help me calm her down enough to get her to sleep. She and I sat together in front of my altar as I did this, and I swear, the change was instantaneous. The baby started giggling and cooing, when previously she’d had only tears. She fell asleep in my arms a few minutes later, and I have been extremely grateful to Isis ever since.
Odin and Loki
Now this one is weird. I’m a writer and illustrator by hobby, and back when I was just out of high school I was working on this silly original manga, the title of which escapes me. What I do remember, is that Odin and Loki were my main characters. I have no idea what possessed me to name them thusly. I don’t really think I did. I think the two gods barged into my life through the manga of their own free will. They certainly were a lot more developed than the other characters, and actually talked to me.
By this time I had been Wiccan for several years, but didn’t know anything about Norse Paganism. I couple of months later, I would meet an Asatruar for the first time, who just happened to be a follower of Odin. Before we parted ways for what would prove to be the final time, he carved and gifted to me a gorgeous image of Odin riding Sleipnir, out of a coconut shell. I treasured it and kept in on my altar until sadly, the fire which prompted my move to Texas, destroyed it and everything else I owned at the time.
As far as Loki is concerned, he didn’t leave after I abandoned the manga, nor did he leave when Odin did, which was around the time my Asatruar friend moved away. The god stuck around and was quite good company for a long time. I studied his myths and some of Odin’s, and was increasingly drawn in by him. I set up an altar to him and made regular offerings of flowers and poetry. I was falling in love with him, there’s no doubt about it.
Then, when I met the man who I would later marry, Loki took an instant dislike to him, and attempted to destroy the relationship. No, that’s not quite true. I meant to say, he blew it the fuck up. Scared the shit out of me.
After everything died down, I patched things up with the future hubby, and I haven’t been able to have anything to do with Loki since, even though I still feel that charismatic draw that only he has. Also, because of our history (mostly the fact that I am apparently compatible enough with the god to actually fall in love with him) Apollon has forbidden me to speak to, or in any way make voluntary contact with Loki. Yep, he’s that particular god I think I’ve mentioned before.
So, to answer that Marxist/Atheist/Buddhist dude’s question, even though he’ll never actually read it, no, my belief in and love for the Olympians does not in any way preclude the gods of any other culture, foreign or otherwise. I don’t need to have direct experience of them all just to know that they exist. The fact that they have worshipers, and the fact that we are having discussions like this one, are proof enough.