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I began this blog to keep a journal of my musings as a member of a Neopagan religion, as a Celtoi-Norse Polytheist and Animist. The phrase has always been misleading. Sometimes I call myself a Heathen. Sometimes I call myself Vanatru. Sometimes I call myself a Neopagan Animist. All of these are true, and all of these are somewhat misleading. I am not just a Heathen, I am also Druidic. I am not just Vanatru, I am Celtoi-Norse. I am not just Celtoi-Norse, I believe in multiple pantheons, each their own set of spirits, each with their own personalities, desires, and agendas. I have worked with Apollo, with Zeus, with Veles, with Thor, with Nit, with Wepwawet, with Djehuti. I have worked with other Pagans who worked with Kuan Yin, Tsukuyomi, and Astarte. While I have, up to this point, considered myself primarily a Northern Germanic practitioner with Celtic leanings, I have done things and helped out in ways that I could probably be considered a member of any of a number of religions within the Pagan umbrella, as well as Gnosticism.

I’m not good with keeping a journal, and a year’s hiatus from a blog that was supposed to chronicle my on-going journey shows that flaw in my practice. I love to write, but some days, the words to put to pen seem to escape me. Like anyone, I have work and projects that attract and even demand my attention. So allow me to start by stating that while the changes chronicled in this post may seem sudden, they are the product of a year of confusion, research, practice, and change.

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“What is a God?” This is a question that is important to ask in any deific religion. “What is a Spirit?” In any animistic tradition, it is good to define this as early as possible. “What is an Ancestor?” In any religion that recognizes and honors those who have passed, this is a worthwhile question to ask in the earliest stages of discovery.

“What is a God?” We have been hinting at the Gods’ existence since part 1. We have sheaves and sheaves of notes and chronicles of the Gods that populated Europe before Christianity. Of course, most of those were chronicled by Christians after the fact, but we’ll get into that later when we talk more about lore. We have some idea of what the Gods were viewed as, especially considering most of them are portrayed as often in, er, compromising situations as in virtuous ones. We have some idea as to the power some gods were viewed to have, such as the lightning of Zeus and Thor’s Mjöllnir hammer, or the shape-shifting powers of Gwydion, Loki, and Artemis. But what is a God?

We can speculate until the end of time at what our ancestors conceived a God or Goddess to be; the fact is, we will never know, because we have no unbroken line of practice and worship back to that time. Let me say that again:

We have no unbroken line of practice and/or worship back to Pre-Christian times. 

We have traditions, sure. We have old poems and half-remembered charms, certainly. We even have full sets of spells and incantations that come to us from that ancient world. However, we do not have anything that is untainted by the religion that conquered and superseded it. Christianity warped and changed much of the ancient views of religion, and even those that practiced both Christian and Pagan ways could not stem that tide completely. In the same manner, Pagan ways did influence and change Catholic religion, though that influence was much more subtle. As an aside, anyone claiming an unbroken line back to Pre-Christian times is likely lying, misinformed, or misrepresenting their tradition. So we have no certain way of knowing what exactly the ancients thought the Gods and Goddesses were.

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Anyone who knows me well knows two fairly simple facts about my belief system. One, I believe everything – let me emphasize that, everything – has a spirit. This includes the rocks, the trees, the computer I’m typing on, the monitor you’re reading this post on, cars, bikes, planes, trains, the planets in our solar system and the stars in the sky. There are different levels and degrees of spirit, meaning some are quite large and expansive, and others are very small and specific. Not all spirits are awake, some aren’t necessarily even aware, but interaction can change that state.

Two, while I am no longer Gnostic, much of my theology has been strongly influenced by Gnosticism. Gnosticism, to oversimplify a very complex system, supposes that all that is emanated from one being, and the goal of religion and mystic practice is to return to a state of oneness with that being through experience of the sacred and knowledge of the “truth”, where we get the term gnosis from. I don’t believe in the concept of salvation; I don’t see it as necessary. The world is tough, and sometimes it sucks, but this is not always a bad thing. The world is the way it is because of how we make it and how we react to it; unfortunately, like it or not, people made their own mess. Yet the concept of the universe as spirit has stuck with me, not as an overarching spiritual authority such as in monotheism, but rather as a particularly large spirit which may or may not be even aware of its inhabitants.

Everything having a spirit includes the big conglomeration of galaxies, rogue stars, comets, supernovas, and black holes, at least in my estimation. So, to say that there is not a creature that could be considered the One slightly bothers me and my logic circuits. On the other hand, the spirits I deal with are of this world, to overturn a stereotype, so to believe that this One has any clue as to what I’m up to or what I’m doing or what goals I have for the future is a major stretch. This means that I don’t deal much with this creature directly. I have no problem approaching it – if I have to approach it at all – through the intermediaries that are my Gods and Goddesses. I honestly wonder if they wouldn’t approach it through intermediaries themselves, like the spirits of galaxies or something like. There is even the possibility that, like the Aesir and certain Jotuns, the Gods are sometimes opposed to these other larger entities. The point is, the One, the “All”, is much bigger than one planet or even one solar system.

For monotheists, the “bigger than” problem is a non-issue, because it must be for the monotheistic model to work in most cases. The notable exception to this is Deism, which surmises that God started everything going and then let it run. In other forms, however, God is still a personable entity, going so far as to send prophets, holy men, even His own son (in Christianity’s case) to right the course of not the entire world, or even one continent or immense region, but one small set of people for the first few millennia of existence. In fact, it was only after Christ’s appearance that we see a major drive to convince other nations of their inherent godlessness and try to convert them – before then, the primary conversions were a side effect of the conquest of land, or the natural interactions of neighbors. This makes the whole angle a hard sell for me, but that is partially what faith is for: the evidence of things not seen. Specifically, I’m talking about the motivations of an entity supposedly bigger than the universe and yet so focused on one minute detail of a developing planet. Incidentally, this baffling piece of logic is not what eventually led me away from my Lutheran upbringing, but it did cement my animistic approach to religion after I became polytheistic, a time which overlaps my research into Gnosticism and my settling into a solidly Pagan worldview.

It may be obvious to others that I believe the animistic model described two paragraphs ago to be superior to the monotheistic model. Anyone who thinks so, however, would be wrong. It certainly works better for me and my logic circuits, but there’s much to be said for monotheism. I’m just not the one to be saying it. On the other hand, there are certainly those who have accused me of being monist, or even monotheist, because I believe in an “All” or “One” at all. This, too, I feel is incorrect, because a monist ultimately sees the spirits as aspects of this greater being, and I do not. The simplest way to describe this is, I am not my germs. My germs live in my body, they feed off my cells, they may even benefit me, but I am still a separate entity from them, even though when someone is pointing to me, they are pointing to my germs, as well. They are also pointing to my hair, my clothes, my toes, my bones, and my spleen, all of which are a part of me at that point and time, but are not me, either. In this same way, I can talk about the All and the Universe as being One, yet still differentiate between the All and the Gods and Goddesses and other spirits.

Yet, the universe still exists as a spirit, just as our planet does, just as our continent does, or our country, or state, or city does. All of these things have spirits, have a life force beyond the measurable pulse of blood or crackling of electromagnetic energy in the animistic worldview I espouse. While some are greater than any person on this planet can comprehend, it is not outside the bounds of practice to deal with such entities. At the same time, I feel it is dangerous to expect personal service from the All as if one would a God. By the same token the Gods do not need to be insanely large to be powerful. In heathen terms, the Gods are not bigger than Yggdrasil, or the nine worlds, yet the power they wield is still quite formidable. Even humans have a great amount of power to affect their surroundings, especially in this age of cranes and bulldozers. Using the body analogy again, my germs can still make me sick.

Quote of the Day

"The Lord tells me He can get me out of this mess, but he's pretty sure you're f***ed".
-Stephen, Braveheart