In Search of a Pantheon
[Note: This essay is primarily for those living in the USA.] A thought has crossed my mind that needs to be addressed. It is the common custom of Neo Pagans in this country (America) to reach out to pantheons that are associated with countries and/or locales other than those found here. For instance, neo pagans in this country will commonly invoke the Tuatha De Danann whom is associated with various areas of Ireland. Or perhaps they will invoke the Olympians of the Greek pantheon or the Nordic pantheon and what have you. Often these various deities are by nature of their being, associated with a particular river or sacred well or mountain, or other geographic area particular to each area and/or country. Their presence and influence is woven into the customs and histories of the people who dwell in those areas.
My question is does the members of these geographically located pantheons extend their attention and/or influence to those outside of their historical areas of influence simply because neo pagans request them to do so?
Does not each set of Deity have a demarcation line that they simply do not cross? And if they were to do so, would this not create a basis for war against the Deities whose territory they have infringed upon? After all, do not humans serve Deity rather than the other way around? Let’s face it; America is in all reality, a mongrel country when it comes to a national identity.
When one goes to Italy for instance, folks there are Italian, in Japan, they are, ethnically Japanese and so forth on around the world. Only in America is there a melting pot of so many different ethnicities that leaves us without any discernable identity as a true national identity.
Does this mean that we have no discernable pantheon of our own and thus the overwhelming and common tendency to poach upon pantheons not associated with this country?
Of course one could suggest that we turn to the Native Americans, who are the true Americans of this country and utilize their pantheons. After all, they have Deities that are associated with the original people of this country. Their Deity is connected to this land and not to Germany or England or China or what have you. Their Deity is connecting to and associated with the geographical landmarks that are found here in the US and not across the ocean. Their belief systems even include a belief in the wee folks known by various names such as the May-may-gway-shi, the Mekumwasuck, the Nagumwasuck, the Ohdows and so forth.
But then we would have to face the reality of the actions of our forefathers who came here with an arrogant and domineering attitude. Our same European forefathers who did their best to shut down the native beliefs in the Deity associated with this land and who tried to enslave the original people of this land to spiritual beliefs that originated from foreign lands and a foreign God/s. And such a sad and disrespectful practice unfortunately has continued on to this very day.
If we are to impugn the original children and thus the true believers of the Deity associated with this land we know as America, can we really expect such Deity to now hear our spiritual pleas?
Even the very children of these native Deity distance themselves from the label of Pagan. There is a clear and established resentment towards those of European descent who claim a connection to what Native Americans see as spiritual beliefs which are foreign to those they see as encroachers and thus not to be understood by those they regard as outsiders. And from the looks of it, such views may very well be legitimate considering the ongoing history, past and present, towards Native Americans.
But then this essay is not about ostracizing folks for actions against this people or that. It is about taking a pragmatic view when it comes to how we view and thus how we develop and advance our spiritual beliefs. For if we don’t have the ear of Deity, what validity do our individual spiritual beliefs have?
Of course one may argue that such pantheons are simply labels for a unified supreme energy. But then why have so many different pantheons when in essence they all represent the same human characteristics that one would use such labels to identify with? Of course having so many different pantheons provides populist material for the many self-proclaimed experts on Neo paganism to sell their plethora of paganism 101 books.
But then is this the premise for Neo Paganism. Creating a market in which to sell modern concepts of spiritualism? Or is there a deeper understanding and spiritual goal for taking belief systems that have in many instances been practiced unaltered for centuries. That is other than giving them a modern label, such as “Neo Paganism” in order to set up a different set of parameters that does little to contribute to the original spiritual intent and goals associated with such ancient beliefs. Which brings us back to the Neo pagan concept of Deity and pantheons in America…
If we accept the blatant practice of “selling neo paganism” based upon the whims of modern entrepreneurs for what it is, and if we accept that pantheons associated with lands foreign to America have little or no interest and/or influence here, and lastly, if we accept that the pantheons associated with the native lands of America are not friendly to those of European descent, then where does that leave Neo pagans in America?
Quite frankly I do not have the answer to such a personal spiritual question, for I am not seeking to sell any books on this subject. Like most of you I am simply a student of the mystical arts and I do not claim to be a master of anything. But if I were to make a suggestion, it would be to put aside the many populist books that seek to tell folks how to connect with their individual spirituality.
One person’s experience is not a one size fits all. That concept is what Abrahamic religions are based upon. As pagans we have the freedom of individuality and thus the possibilities of discovery that works for us on a personal spiritual level. Following this suggestion I would be remiss not to point out that Deity starts from within. And as such, one may want to actually go out into the woods, fields, mountains, riversides and so forth. And once there one may want to try actually connecting with the Deity/spiritual presence that resides in such locations.
If there is to be a label (for we humans have a need for such a connection) than rather creating a name/label that comes from a foreign land or even a populist book, allow the experience of the moment to speak to your heart and soul. Perhaps by actually reaching out in such a realistic manner, one can actually connect with the spiritual identity of such locations in ways that greatly exceed just reading a book on the subject.
And is it not such a personal experience, that each of us who follows a mystical path exactly that which we are reaching for? And would not such a connection put one in attunement with a spiritual essence/Deity that is associated directly with our current abode and culture?