God created man in His own image, and man, being a gentleman, returned the favor.
So. What the heck is a god anyway? My speech coach always counseled me to define my terms early in the work before I confused people. We all have our own definitions, especially so with emotionally charged terms-and the Divine is about as emotionally charged as it gets. Nevertheless, let's take a crack at a definition and see what we get.
In a rhetorical tactic that would bring joy to the heart of my third-grade teacher, Ms. Kotek, let's start with a dictionary definition_:
1. A being conceived as the perfect, omnipotent, omniscient originator and ruler of the Universe, the principal object of faith and worship in monotheistic religions. The force, effect, or a manifestation or aspect of this being.
2. A being of supernatural powers or attributes, believed in and worshiped by a people, especially a male deity thought to control some part of nature or reality
3. An image of a supernatural being; an idol.
4. One that is worshiped, idealized, or followed: Money was their god.
5. A very handsome man.
6. A powerful ruler or despot.
So how, as men and as Pagans, do we define the term "god"? That's not an easy one to call out. For starters, we immediately hit the problem of defining "Pagan"-and that discussion could take over this manuscript faster than kudzu eating your front lawn. (To paraphrase the great Alton Brown: "That's another book.") There is also the consideration that this book isn't just for Pagans, though I am certainly writing it from a Pagan viewpoint; for that reason, we need a definition with some flexibility and some utilitarianism.
If we look at the definition above, though, we can probably work on it a little until it fits our purposes-rather like someone might customize a car, or a software load.
For starters, definition _ can go right out the window. The one thing Pagans share, in my experience, is that we don't believe in "perfect, omnipotent, or omniscient," at least not as a practical day-to-day definition of godhood. If there is a single originator of the Universe, They have better things to do with Their time than worry about if we're having sex with the wrong sort of people. As for anyone "ruling" the Universe-well, again relying on my own experience, you don't hear about that much either in Pagan thought.
Now, a thought about the phrase "my own experience" before we go any further. My colleague Galina Krasskova, in her brilliant book Exploring the Northern Tradition: A Guide to the Gods, Lore, Rites, and Celebrations from the Norse, German, and Anglo-Saxon Traditions, uses a great concept that I am hereby borrowing with credit: the UPG, or Unverified Personal Gnosis. A UPG-the term was apparently first coined in Kat MacMorgan's Wicca 333 and is commonly used through a lot of the Reconstructuralist community-is a revealed truth about a deity or practice that is received through personal religious work. The example Krasskova uses is that the goddess Freya likes strawberries to be dedicated or sacrificed to her in ritual. Nowhere in the extant body of Norse lore was this ever written down, but enough Ásatrú have discovered it on their own that it's passed into general practice.
Simple enough. Here's the rest of the equation: a lot of what I'm going to cover in this book is UPG, either my own or someone else's. This book is not meant to be taken as an authoritative, historical record of pre-Christian practices. There will be prayers and workings in this book; I did not translate them from Middle Norse, Ancient Etruscan, or High Atlantean. There will be spells in this book; I did not receive them from my grandmother in the kitchen. This is information-call it Wisdom if you like-that I have gathered over eighteen years as a Pagan, fifteen years as a Wiccan priest, eight years in Pagan Pride, and three years as an initiated man of the ManKind Project. If I find anyone misquoting this book as gospel truth passed down through the centuries, I will tie them down and make them read the collected works of Bob Larson and Michael Warnke.2
Now, back to our definition above.
We can eliminate definitions 3 through 6 almost as easily. We are not talking about idolatry; we are not talking about Brad Pitt; we are not talking about rulers with delusions of godhood; and we are definitely not talking about God in the classic graffiti sense of "Clapton Is God" (though interestingly enough, I can envision a universe where Eric Clapton is the direct manifestation of the Divine-but only while playing guitar). We're starting to run out of options here, but we have one more possibility.
Let's try definition 2 on for size. Wow! We have a working definition. "Believed in and worshiped by a people." Check. "A male deity thought to control some part of nature or reality." Check. "Supernatural powers or attributes." Well, I could quibble about this; in my opinion, the gods are extremely natural, and sometimes it's man who's outside of that loop, but other than that semantic point, I can live with it.
So, after we strip away the definitions we don't need, we get it boiled down to this:
"God. (n.) A male being of extra-human powers or attributes, believed in or worshiped by a people or peoples, usually governing or personifying some element of nature or reality."
That works pretty well, but we still have an interesting sticking point. The book is called Sacred Paths for Modern Men, not Sacred Gods. Why is that, do you think? Okay, okay, I admit it, it's not a rhetorical question. This book isn't just about the gods, it's about how the gods relate to the men who worship them, follow them, serve them, work with them, love them. This isn't about Them, it's about us-and what Their resurgence, presence, and love mean to us in the modern day.
As men, we are just starting to realize that we, too, have been victimized by the patriarchy, by the power-over structure that has developed in our world over many years. We are starting to learn that the chains we put on women weighed us down as well, and we didn't even see the damned things until they were pulling us under. We have forgotten how to cry, to scream, to hunt, to love, to honor, to teach, to initiate. It is this lack of a spiritual and ancestral heritage that has led many men to the Pagan paths, and it is this heritage we are rebuilding and reclaiming every day.
We rebuild this heritage in a lot of different ways. Some of those ways are constructive. We get back to our primal selves, what Robert Bly called the Wild Man, through work with other men in safe spaces. We express our pain at the roles that society has tried to force us into, through therapy or group work or personal journeying. We rediscover the functional Divine Male through religious, shamanic, or magickal work.
Then there are the destructive ways. Drinking or drugging to excess; emotional, physical, or sexual abuse; escape into the stale clichés of male life expressed through cheap beer commercials, reruns of Jackass, Girls Gone Wild, substance abuse, or bad fraternity parties-all these have one thing in common: Through our destructive habits we hide from the pain we feel at having no sacred male heritage, pain we cannot express because our ability to feel has been systematically crippled by society and by ourselves. Our tribes are gone, our hunts futile, our emotional defenses laughable. We have nothing. We're just drones.
But it doesn't have to be that way. We can embrace ourselves and demand our sacred nature back. Society took our gods, our tribes, our elders-we can take them back, or make new ones. If this isn't magick I don't know what is; I think rebuilding an entire spiritual archetype, the Sacred Male, is Great Work enough for any lifetime! What this book is about, in the final analysis, is this process. By examining the stories, symbols, reality, and nature of the gods, we examine ourselves, and in Their reality we find the keys to change our own deep male realities for the better.
So this is about Sacred Paths for Modern Men-our own, our sons', our fathers', our ancestors', our gods'. This is about rebuilding the tribe that is Pagan Manhood and stepping up to take our rightful place-whether that place be Sacred Consort, Horned Lord, Wise Sage, Trickster, or any of many other names.
Speaking of those Names . . .
1. "god." Dictionary.com. Reprinted from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2004). http:// dictionary.reference.com/browse/god (accessed May 29, 2007).
2. Larson and Warnke are two of the more extreme manifestations of Christian evangelical "occult experts." Warnke was a Christian comedian who would lecture on his days as a Satanic witch high priest-all of which turned out to be fiction. Larson is a so-called "occult expert" who lectures police departments. Both of them are the kind of self-appointed truth-distorting "experts" that keep Kerr Cuhulain busy.