There’s a good reason why I don’t consume caffeinated beverages after a certain point in the afternoon. If I do partake late in the day, I find myself wide awake at very odd hours of the morning contemplating chicken-and-egg kinds of questions.
Since I downed a cup of coffee with last night’s dinner, I had just such a mental debate f at an hour when I should have been sound asleep. The question that I ended up chewing on was this – are the gods created by our belief or are our beliefs created by the gods? In other words, do the gods exist independently of our belief in them? Do they live and possibly die regardless of human faith in their existence? Or is it possible that the gods exist only because we have manifested them? In which case, how much belief is necessary to create a god – is it quantity or quality of belief that matters? Is belief required to sustain them once created and do they die off if belief ceases?
I’ve come to the following conclusions after an hour of mulling over the subject: 1). There are some things that are, for mere humans, unknowable. I think this might be one of them. 2). If belief/worship can create deity, then I may be solely responsible for the Goddess of Curry. A good curry dish is, IMHO, worthy of veneration and praise. 3). I should not consume coffee with dinner under any circumstances, because I don’t get enough sleep and end up composing strange little blog posts about belief, deity, and really good curries.
I feel like I should just start by apologizing, because I may ramble a little here. Any time I’ve tried to write about this, my thoughts go skittering away faster than I can write them down and I find myself feeling more befuddled than when I started. Have you ever had that happen- the closer you come to figuring out something, the faster it slips just beyond your grasp?
Now that we have the befuddled part down, let’s move on the Baron… Baron Samedi, that is, the voodoo loa associated with the dead. I feel obligated to follow any mention of voodoo with the disclaimer that I am not a practitioner and therefore not at all qualified to speak in a detail about the religion, its traditions, or its practices. In short, voodoo is not really in my spiritual purview. So everything that follows are the ramblings of a befuddled non-practitioner, rather than someone who actually knows what they’re talking about.
Befuddled… check. Baron… check. Now onto the ‘bothersome’ part. Baron Samedi has been dancing around in the periphery of my personal universe for quite a while. It has taken me the better part of a decade to connect the dots of various experiences to even figure out who this shadowy figure is. Now that I know, I’m rather thinking of running away while loudly screaming before he actually gets around to telling why he’s here.
I’m used to working with various death-related deities and spirits, but as a general rule, I tend to be the one to contact them and then only for help with a matter at hand. When a death-related deity shows up unbidden, spends the better part of ten years lingering just out of view, and subsequently begins to hint at offerings, it’s a little worrisome. When it’s a deity associated with places that made me feel incredibly threatened, exposed, and uncomfortable*, it gets to be even more worrisome. Am I bothered by this? Yes. To be more accurate, my skin tries to crawl away without me every time I think about it. I don’t fear the Reaper, but I’m not so sure about the grave keeper.
So the question becomes what do I do with this? Hiding behind a gravestone every time the Baron makes an appearance doesn’t seem to be the most effective of coping methods. Asking him what he wants hasn’t exactly been useful (neither has subsequently saying “Would you please stop laughing now?” when my questions are meet with chuckling). Telling him to go away gets met with the same laughter and a hint of cigar smoke in the air. Unfortunately, Raid has yet to create an extra-strength deity repellent, so I seem to be stuck with him for the time being. Maybe I should just pour the rum, light the cigar, and hope for the best…
*I’m referring specifically to New Orleans and Haiti. I’ve been briefly to both and in both cases, the choice to go was not mine. I’ve written about Haiti being far outside of my comfort zone and why that was so. As for New Orleans, it was, for me, the psychic/metaphysical equivalent of sticking my finger in a light socket. Too much going on, too much power, too much chaos concentrated into a small space. Perhaps it has changed, post-Katrina, but I have no intention of finding out. One psychic light socket per lifetime is quite enough, thank you.
I sat down over an hour ago to write a thoughtful post about music and its value in both magical and spiritual matters. My writing muse has apparently flown to the Bahamas for a wild weekend and left me with nothing better to say that “Like music. Music good. Mmm… music.”Since a well-thought entry on music doesn’t seem to be in the cards right now, I’m resorting to the cheap but entertaining trick of list-making instead.
Submitted for your entertainment, here’s a list of of songs that I associate with the gods (may They forgive me). I’ve tried to avoid the blatantly obvious examples, like “Cernunnos” from Faith and the Muse or “Heart of Lilith” by Inkubus Sukubus. Some of these probably make sense only in my own head, a few are potential ear-worms, and at least one is definitely not work safe. You’ve been warned.
“Wrong” – Depeche Mode (The video creeps me out, but the song does remind me of him.)
“Bodies” – Drowning Pool (picturing all the while War from the novel Good Omens)
“Voodoo”– Godsmack (Ok, I don’t know who’s behind it, but every time I hear this song, a) my skin tries to crawl off my body and b) I start thinking that NOLA could not have been as bad for me as it seemed. Neither of these is necessarily a good thing. I know there’s a god, a loa, or something associated with this one, but I haven’t sussed out who. Thoughts? Anyone?)
“We Will Rock You” – (as done in a female voice, link is to Pink/Beyonce/Spears Pepsi commercial – better probably just to listen and not actually watch it!)
“Bartholomew”– The Silent Comedy (probably only makes sense in my head, but the song reminds me of my experiences with her, particular the line “You’re gonna sink or swim.. you’re gonna learn the truth”)
On that note, I’m wrapping this one up for the night. One more Pagan Blog Project post down! Feel free to comment, critique my taste in music, or rant at me for the ear-worm infections that now plague you. 🙂
As the Pagan Blog Project is focuses on the pagan experience through the eyes of individuals, I’d be extremely remiss if I didn’t include at least one entry about Isis, the goddess whom I follow. I always find writing about her a struggle. As with all deities, there is so much about her that is unfathomable and unknown to me and I feel that anything I say will fail to do justice to the great and terrible beauty that she is. What I can comfortably speak of are my history with her and how she’s come to be in my life.
First Things First – An Explanation
I feel that I need to begin with an apology (in the more classical sense of the word, that is), because I know that there are Kemetic reconstructionists out there who will get their kalasiris in a twist because I refer to Isis as an Egyptian deity. Yes, I am aware of the Aset the Egyptian/Isis the Greco-Roman argument. For the record, I see them as a single goddess, interpreted and named differently by two distinct human cultures, who focused on those aspects that were most important in each cultural context. I believe that the gods can be as multifaceted as human beings, if not more so, and choose to show particular aspects to us as it serves their purposes.
Frankly, for my practices and path, the Aset/Isis debate is irrelevant. My experience is this… the goddess that I follow has Egyptian roots but transcends that particular human culture. Whether I call her Isis, Aset, Queen of Heaven, She of the Sheltering Wings, or George does not change the fundamental qualities of Herself nor would it change how I relate to her (although I might be more inclined to giggle if calling her George). Unless informed otherwise by the Lady herself, I’m sticking to my guns on this one, so don’t expect me to engage in a debate about it. YMMV, I get and respect that. We can always agree to disagree.
God is Great… and a Girl like Me
It’s been mentioned elsewhere on this blog, but as a child, I lived in a Christian household and sporadically attended Christian churches. No matter what I might be otherwise told, I always envisioned ‘God’ as a woman. Nothing could convince me that God was the bearded old man that everyone seemed to assume. There was no doubt to me… then or now… that the face of God, my god, is that of a beautiful woman, neither young nor old, but timeless, powerful, and eternal. I remember getting into no small amount of trouble when I was quite young for telling one of my cousins that “God is a girl… like me.” To say the least, it was a little confusing to me that this was would warrant an angry reaction from anyone. At the time, I was too young to understand the tenacity to which people hold firm to their individual beliefs or the intolerance that such a statement could generate.
Walk Like an Egyptian
As sure as I was of my god’s gender as a child, I still called her simply ‘God’. As my love of reading grew, I found myself attracted to mythical tales from all over the world. I can’t say at exactly what point it was, but at some time in my late childhood, I began to form the opinion that this female ‘God’ of mine was related in some way to the tales of ancient Egypt. For awhile, I thought… and really wanted… it to be Nut. The reasons for this are lost to me now, but I remember pondering that this goddess of the sky could be the face of ‘God’. It made sense to me at the time, I think, because I was also developing an interest in astronomy and would spend summer nights stargazing. Still, when I called upon Nut in my thoughts, there was only silence in response. It didn’t take terribly long for me to get the hint that I was barking up the wrong proverbial tree. It took me until my late teens to suss out the identity of this goddess of mine.
On Choosing to Serve Her
I think it happens to a lot of us when we discover the identity of a presence in our lives… we have a moment of excitement and say “Oh that’s nice/cool/scary/OMG… literally.” After that initial sense of discovery, we tend to rock back on our heels and say “Now what? Are you expecting something from me know that I know your name? Or should I expect something from you? What do we do with this?” For some of us and for some deities, a simple acknowledgement of “Oh, that was you. Got it. Thanks!” is enough.
In this case, the introduction was only a beginning. It would take far too long for me to explain it all here, but over time, I came to understand that more was expected of me than simply acknowledging that she was the deity I’d always envisioned. It was expected that, if I were to call her my own, that I had to be willing to let her guide me, to acknowledge her position of authority, and to trust other guides and teachers that she placed in my path. I was longing at the time for a sense of understanding, acceptance, and purpose and found those things came easily when I allowed her into my life. So, I agreed to her terms with an understanding that I could severe my ties with her if I so desired (even to this day, she’s more than willing to remind me that I follow her by my own choice).
It’s been almost two full decades since I accepted her terms… and I still struggle with them. Again, the stories are too long to tell here, but I have mild problems with authority, tend to question it at every turn, and have no small difficulty trusting anyone who tries to push me out of my comfort zones. It’s become rather a joke that I can do things the easy (i.e., Her) way or my way. I still usually opt for my way, at least until it is blatantly obvious to everyone that I’m failing miserably in my attempts. Did I mention that I can be a bit willful sometimes?
I’ve been a devotee of Isis for a long while now and I sometimes I think that it was actually with her that the phrase “May you live in interesting times” originated. I know that there are a lot of people who think of Isis as a very nurturing, mothering goddess, which she can be without a doubt. I think it’s absolutely awesome that some of her followers find her to be a gentle, loving Goddess who cradles them under her wings as if protecting her fledglings from the storms of life.
This is not the side of her that I see most of the time however. For me, she is the Goddess of Hard Lessons, the Goddess of Tough Love, the Goddess of What-Doesn’t-Kill-You-Makes-You-Stronger, the Goddess of Rising-Up-One-More-Time-Than-You-Are-Pushed-Down. She pushes me far beyond my comfort zones, at times to the brink of my breaking point, ever reminding me that to appreciate joy one must also be willing to experience sorrow. Although I occasionally grumble about this constant tough love, I wouldn’t have it any other way, because I know it has made me stronger than I could have been otherwise. I know that whatever interesting times she throws in my path, they’ll be full of valuable lessons. For this, I am thankful.
There’s more that I could say, that I’d like to say, but I’m out of time for now. Thanks for reading my ramblings!