|Lesson 3 - Finding your Personal God
SCHOLA AETII·THURSDAY, 24 MAY 2018
There is a plethora of Gods, first the 12 Dei Consentes, of course, and then a great number of other Gods, both Roman and maybe from other Pagan Pantheons of personal importance. The spiritual needs both of the past and the present suggest that any Cultor has one or a few Deities who whom he or she is closer, like selecting a few Patron Gods.
The knowledge of the Mysteries is by and large lost to us. What we can do however is, we can dig into the long traditions of Western spirituality at large, and from there on forge new Mysteries or re-interpret the old ones, which are all rooted in the ideas of the Pagan and Polytheist ways, while satisfying our individual appetites. So to a degree, if we animate the spiritual experience of the Mysteries, we have no alternative than to adapt some general Western practices into our way, as long as we mentally still draw a line in our mind, which part is classic religious practice and what part is personal spiritual development. Or in Roman terms: Sacra Publica and Sacra Privata.
Choosing a personal God can be easy or difficult. To some a Deity just comes, in a way. You may see a statue or picture, you may hear a myth or legend, you may participate in some ritual and feel a connection. There are many ways in which Gods came to people through what at first may appear as coincidence, and then they build a relationship with this Deity over many years. Sometimes for a lifetime, sometimes for a decade, and then they move on. Some on the other hand tell me that finding a personal deity seemed rather difficult to them. There is no short way, no simple advise, other than look, seek and keep an open mind. Be ready. Like seeking a boy- or girlfriend, seeking too desperately can have the averse effect. Modern Polytheism is and should be something experimental, something you enjoy trying out stuff. You do not need one personal deity, there is no need for such limitation, but you should avoid working closely with too many Gods in a close relationship at the same time. Work with one, and then stay on that path for a good amount of time. Most Pagans tend to gather 2-4 personal deities over the years and keep these in an inner circle, like you have some good friends. These few personal favorite Gods serve as teacher, family, patrons and guides in your life. The first thing you do, when you found your personal God is, find a statue. I really emphasize this. Paganism is a visual thing, and paintings and two-dimensional pictures only go so far. Trust me, you'll notice the difference, when you have a 30 cm large statue on your altar, instead of just a small painting. Today we are lucky that figurines for almost all Gods can be acquired. See finding one as a gesture of effort to your God. The people of old believed their Gods put some of their essence into a statue. A Temple was not a gathering place for the followers, it was a house where the God lived.
If you have one God and a statue or figurine, be sure to place it on a central place, ideally in the middle of your altar. Place him or her there, and say words of welcome. Something personal, not formulaic. Don't write this down before, just speak out of your heart, like you would welcome a friend who visits you or someone who moves in with you. Keep in mind, a God is supposed to become your friend, but he is also a level or two above you. So be familiar, but not too familiar. Don't be afraid to make things wrong. We Romans believe that the Gods are per se benign towards humans, they know us and our flaws, and they are not cruel and harsh overlords. Just let him stand there and do the same or similar welcoming to the God every day. Let him become a part of your home, do simple daily prayer and welcoming. Do not start serious work right away. But do not neglect daily prayer. It is better to do prayer daily but brief than just every few weeks and then for hours. Regular attention is the key. After the God has settled in, usually after a week or two, make the official welcoming ritual. In the following time, do research about your Deity of choice. Read stories and legends. For many Gods there are also modern novels or even comics, if that is your thing, but take myths always with a grain of salt. Polytheist Myths are not a “Bible”. Also you may find paintings. Many people paint Gods and Goddesses. Find activities or places connected to your God. If you chose Apollo, you may try to learn a music instrument, ideally a string instrument. Or if you chose Diana, you way do walks in the woods, especially in the light of the full moon. Look up what your God stands for, and try to go to places or seek activities that fit to his description, in honor to your God and your friendship. Devoting yourself to a God doesn't mean you just talk in front of his image. Incorporate him into your life, like you would think of a beloved person frequently every day. Every time you pass the statue, bow or greet. One important tip: Do not talk too early about what you do. This is between you and that God. You may mention it, but the early weeks should be between you and him, as something intimate and private. If you had a new girlfriend or boyfriend, you would not shout out all the private details for the sake of piety either. It can sort of undermine the magic. You can write or speak about it later, after half a year, when you are accustomed to each other.
Also, look for signs. Watch your dreams. You may want to write down your dreams, if you do not do so already. Especially in the first weeks and months it may be a good think to write a journal, which contains stuff you do, insights, feelings, the result of you communing with your God, everything that comes to your mind, so you have something to check up later. Your deity teaches you lessons through life. Sometimes through inspiration, or dreams. But be prepared that things happen in your life. Some of them you may not find pleasant. Gods are teachers, not wishing wells. If something happens, ask yourself what it tells you. Take your time and have patience with the relationship to develop. If you are unsure, or frustrated or puzzled because something happened, commune with your God in an honest and personal matters. That you need to be respectful doesn't mean you have to hide personal frustration. Gods are different kind of beings; they may not understand your perspective as you may think. So speak up. The regular work is the key here. That includes regular sacrifices, at least of incense, but also food and drink, which is placed before him, and given into his possession. That food and drink is then sacred, belonging to the God, and you may take it and consume it thankfully as something he shares with you, and thus some of his blessing is consumed and absorbed by you. Of course keep special attention to the Sacred Holidays which fit to the Deity of your choice.
There is usually a time, when the initial fire diminishes to a glowing coal. That is normal. A human friendship isn't of the same intensity all the time, either. Do not take it as a bad sign. A God or your interest may retreat a while, and come back later. There is no need to make any formal break or ending. You invited a God into your life, and like a friend, he is sometimes closer, sometimes for a while you go your ways, and then meet again. If you place a new God on the altar someday, be sure to speak your thanks to the other God, and put his statue in a decent, honorable place in your house, so you show him, you keep valuing him, and still offer him something from time to time.