Where My Paganism Has Led Me.
I started this blog while in the midst of completing my Dedicant Path work with ADF. Before joining ADF in 2015, I was an on-and-off again eclectic pagan with no formal practice, filling in the gaps with spiritually-empty agnosticism. Though my practice is now regular and structured, I am still in the process of tweaking it for the best fit. I don’t imagine this process will ever end, but perhaps the changes will become less frequent.
I have chosen a hard-polytheistic orthopraxy, but my beliefs about the divine remain agnostic. In the end, it matters not whether the gods I call on are independent beings, semi-independent beings, manifestations of my mind or archetypes. I use the language of hard polytheism regardless of which belief I am leaning more towards at any given time. Whatever the source of deity, it communicates with me and guides me along the path of self-improvement.
Upon beginning the Dedicant’s path, I was anxious to get to know all the deities of my new hearth culture (and a few from the Norse for good measure). My personal pantheon underwent several changes during the first two years until I finally felt at home with one that was more focused on celestial bodies (Sunne, Mona, Eorthe) than on anthropomorphic deities. Even the language I use to honor the sun and moon has become less anthropomorphic. I initially referred to the moon, for example, as Mona’s ward rather than as Mona himself. I wasn’t consciously aware of this development until I developed an interest in planet and star veneration outside the earth-moon-sun trio, and I realized I had already been on the path to astrolatry all along. Incidentally, I aspired to become an astrophysicist from the age of 12 through most of my 20s, but academic life eventually wore me out. Sometimes all the detours can cloud our senses from realizing the path we’ve been following all along.
My personal pantheon still includes Woden, Frigg, and my gatekeeper and first patron, Thunor. This too was an organic development for which I later understood significance. Woden and Frigg can be thought of as the archetypal God and Goddess, though I interact with them as if they are independent beings. Thunor is the one who led me onto my current path, who wards and opens the gates to the Otherworld, and whose hammer is the symbol of my faith. In other words, he symbolizes and grants access to my spirituality. It’s as if my non-theistic side worked on my behalf while I pursued hard polytheism. I am now left with a pantheon that could easily adapt to a non-theistic approach if it ever needed to.
My practice also includes veneration of nature spirits. Of all the otherworldly beings, nature spirits are the only that I’ve never struggled to believe in. I suppose this is because I am vehemently animist. The nature of deity is beyond my comprehension, but the various various manifestations of the same animistic essence that resides in us is easier to wrap my head around. The universe is alive and worthy of veneration, from the smallest unit of matter to entire galaxies.
Last, but certainly not least, are the Ancestors. I am as agnostic about the afterlife as I am about deity, but I value the wisdom preserved in the memory of a life well-lived. I honor my ancestors by recalling their lives and leaving my mind open to contact should any part of them live on in another form. I sometimes like to believe that deity is nothing more or less than the spirits (merged, independent, or something in between) of the dead. And perhaps that the nature spirits, who can be fickle and seem to live outside of our human-constructed morality, are the spirits of non-human dead. Agnosticism doesn’t keep me from speculating.
My current practice involves dedicating to a specific deity, spirit, or related group from my pantheon each month or semi-month. When the honored being of the month is a celestial body other than the Earth, Moon, or Sun, I extract lessons that can be applied to my life from a study of its historical, mythological and scientific significance. My dedication to other beings takes a similar, but more personable approach. My motivation is always spiritual growth and self-improvement, but I approach my primary patrons with the understanding that our relationship is reciprocal and with the assumption that they are autonomous beings with agendas that may or may not have anything to do with my own.