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Deity, Metaphor, and Masks

This post was written by Anna
on March 29, 2011 | Comments (1)

Readers, please enjoy this guest blog post by Ember Grant, author of Magical Candle Crafting.

As a Neo-Pagan, I’m often asked about gods and goddess. Do I worship a pantheon? If so, which one? This is a tricky question. Basically, I feel that the universe and our natural world represent the divine power, and this is what I honor. But in order to bring deity to a personal level, I really do need to ask myself what I believe about the gods and goddess of my ancestors, or the ones currently worshiped today.

Well, I know what I don’t think about deity. I don’t think there’s one singular ominous being of a particular gender, belonging to one specific religion, floating above us, always watching and judging. And I certainly don’t think “he” has a long robe and flowing white beard and sits on a cloud behind pearly gates.

The religions of the past are fascinating to study; cultures like the Egyptians and Greeks (and many, many others) had sophisticated systems of polytheism. People often say those deities no longer exist, but, if that’s true, it’s only because large groups of people stopped believing in them. Our beliefs make something real.

There are so many religious traditions in the world that it’s futile to label them as right and wrong. It’s more than futile, it’s impossible. Yet our world continues to face wars born out of religious disputes. I often wonder why everyone can’t agree to disagree. Perhaps it’s because some people insist that their way is the only way and everyone else is wrong. They believe it is their duty to convince the rest of the world to join them and they devote their lives to it. Some people are unable to see beyond the metaphor, to the real meaning of the divine, rather than merely a cultural interpretation of it.

This is where metaphor comes in. People have many individual differences, but many cultures share the same stories, filtered through the minds of people for centuries. Most of the stories are being retold—they existed thousands of years before. We experience the same life events and emotions, despite the time period we live in. We learn from these stories, these universal truths of humanity—the metaphors change to reflect the times.

I believe divinity is a presence, something unexplained that is the very essence, the very life force itself. You can put any kind of mask on it, make it look like a man, woman, or animal, but it’s still the same idea. It’s like a giant crystal or cube—different people on different sides will see a different facet. But it’s still the same thing.

Ultimately, belief in deity is purely personal. People speak to their gods and goddesses, call on them for guidance. We can view them as part of ourselves, or distant beings we can beseech for help. These divine beings can be individual personalities or aspects of one being. As individuals, we’re all on the journey of life, and this is our choice. We’re all different, but in many ways the same. Just like our gods.

Our thanks to Ember Grant for her guest post! For more from Ember, visit her Author Profile for a full list of her articles and more information on Magical Candle Crafting.

Reader Comments

Written By Blackbird "BB"
on March 30th, 2011 @ 11:20 pm

Thankyou Anna,
A quite thoughtful Essay, so please excuse me for taking a moment to offer something of a different view, as a Neo-Pagan on this path for some 30 years myself; and for most of that time very interested in this Question.
As to the Ultimate nature of Deity, I personally believe the Hindu’s are closest to right, that that Ultimate Deity is Us and is all around us. Where I disagree with most other Deists is the oft quoted statement that God is Love, it’s hard to align ones mind to our reality and still hold that opinion I think;
But if the Soul is a focus of conscious energy as I believe it is, then I do believe that there are other entities of conscious energy as well, some quite different from us, some less so, creatures we have interacted with for millennia. Some of whom at least which have made it their business to help humanity and others that apparently cant stand us.
Devi, Djinn, Angels, Demons, and Gods. Yes we have given them many names … but after a 10 year long relationship with she I call Nan, whom I honor as the Goddess Innana, I Gno they are quite real. It was no act of my subconscious when she knocked a Tarot Deck she wanted me to use for a given reading off my bookshelf; and no accident that the art of the 6 of Pents of that deck Uniquely spoke to my Qs Question.
I have for 10 years Honored Nan, as the Goddess Innana, I have not asked the world of her, as I know she is not THE WORLD; but I do Gno this as well; I have an Ally Ancient and Powerful, and she watches over me. Ama tu ANKI, BB.

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