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Posted by on in Paths Blogs
Existentialism Part 1: Perceived Reality

How do I know the gods are real? How do I know other people outside myself are real? How do I know I am real?

After experiencing the mysterium tremendum during my initiation and dedication to Freya in 1989, I could feel the presence of the gods. Until 1997, there was no question in my mind that the gods were as real as anyone else because I could feel them. I could feel the presence of their minds the same way I could feel the presence of the minds of other human beings. I chose to believe the evidence of my own senses. That which I perceive as having a mind that can press against mine is real: trees and the spirits of trees, animals and animal totems, humans and human ghosts, the sun and the goddess of the sun.

In today's science, it is possible to induce sensation, vision, and hearing by stimulating the brain-- and I know this because I read about it, which ultimately means I chose to believe what a news reporter wrote about a scientific study because, in the final equation, I believe that what my eye saw was in fact words written by another person and not something my brain invented because of false stimuli. I chose to believe that other people exist and that what I perceive is true.

Whether to believe in what I perceive is an existential question. I think that if I chose not to believe that the things I sense with all my senses are real, I could not function as a human being. I would just sit around disbelieving everything, until I starved to death from not eating the food I didn't believe in. I chose to believe that what I sense is real: that food is real, and I can eat it to sustain my body, which is also real. That when I see an object across the room, that object is real. That when I feel sunshine on my skin, that the sun is real, and my skin is real, and heat is real.  I chose to believe that when I sense someone's mind, what I am sensing is real, whether they are a human, animal, spirit, or god.

Where does one draw a line between "real" and "imaginary?" If one draws that line because of social pressure to disbelieve in gods, one must first believe that other people are real for their opinions to matter. If one senses the gods with one's senses, and disbelieves in them because other people do not sense them, that is putting a faith in other people ahead of one's perceived reality.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs


One of the things that I have added to my practice over the last several years is to give offerings to the spirits, the Ancestors, and the Gods who inhabit my world and who I work with .Before I left for Kaleidoscope gathering in Canada this year, I ‘put my working altar to bed’. I tidied and dusted it,  put the skulls away and requested that the spirits rest but be watchfull while I was away and in turn promised to bring them back gifts if they would do so.  I did not want my house sitter to feel uncomfortable while she was staying but I also wanted my house to be proteted.  Apparently I was so successful at this that my cat, who it could be said, is also a spirit, also spend the entire month in the hall cupboard and only came out when my lovely house sitter was asleep or out of the house.. but I digress

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • J'Karrah
    J'Karrah says #
    I give daily offerings of fire and incense to our family gods. I try to choose scents depending on the season (light, airy and fl
  • Mistress Polly
    Mistress Polly says #
    ohh i have not thought of them an an indulgence.. most interesting place to come from.. *ponders this*.. might have to spend some
  • Jamie
    Jamie says #
    Mistress Polly, Another great post! Glad you had another nice visit to North America. I try to offer things related to the sphe
  • Linette
    Linette says #
    I do offerings. To remind me, when I get confused on the issue, that I am part of this whole event we refer to as The Universe.

We make our destinies by our choice of gods. -- Virgil

In my last post, I wrote about the danger of trivializing the gods.  In this post, I want to discuss the danger of trusting them.

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I am a Jungian Neo-Pagan, which means that, theologically speaking, I fall somewhere between atheist Pagans and devotional polytheists regarding the existence of the gods.  By placing my beliefs in the "middle" here I do not mean to privilege my beliefs, only to make the point that I both agree and disagree with both groups about different things.  One thing I agree with devotional polytheists about is that the gods should be taken seriously. 

I worry sometimes that we Neo-Pagans don't take our own gods seriously enough.  I disagree with devotional polytheists about the metaphysical nature of the gods, whether they are "real, independent, sentient beings" or real, independent semi-conscious archetypes. (Carl Jung called the archetypes "gods" and compared the psyche to an “Olympus full of deities who want to be propitiated, served, feared and worshipped”.)  But one thing I admire about them is the seriousness (the "piety" if you will) with which they approach the gods.  

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs

In his old age, the poet Simonides went to live in the court of Dionysios, the tyrant of Syracuse.

One day, Dionysios asked him, “Simonides, what is a god?”

“Give me a day to think about it,” said Simonides.

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My religious practice is mostly Wiccan.  Were I practicing a Heathen, Celtic Reconstructionist, or some other NeoPagan tradition, my examples would differ but I think my point would remain the same. 

Wiccans have a primary pantheon of two major deities, the Lord and Lady. We also have a number of mythologies describing these deities’ relationships. Taken literally they are not consistent with one another.  In some but not all Wiccan traditions She is viewed as having three guises: Mother, Maid, and Crone.  Sometimes She will have three dimensions but not as mother, maid, and crone, as with Hekate.  Sometimes She is treated as a single goddess.  The Horned Lord is sometimes seen as the Oak King and the Holly King.  At the solstices they engage in ritual combat, dying to be reborn.  In other Wiccan contexts and traditions He is treated as a single deity, and sometimes as an aspect of a more inclusive deity. 

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Posted by on in Paths Blogs

In honor of the Winter Solstice and Christmas I offer this story of the birth of a god recorded by Jung. In this selection from his Red Book, Jung describes in symbolic language the consequences of the death of his god. Jung is overcome by how his god is made small, like an egg which he can keep in his pocket. He is left disoriented by the loss of his god. So Jung takes the egg containing his god, protects it, nurtures it, while it gestates into something new.

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