Thursday, February 28, 2013

"He is Me, but I am not Him."

My favorite line from "American Gods" comes when Shadow goes to Iceland and meets Odhin. Shadow confronts the Aged Wanderer about his doings in the Americas, to which the All Father replies: "He is me, but I am not Him." This one sentence sums up a great deal about my own personal philosophy on the Gods.

Gods are strange critters. They change based on where you plant them. Maybe they are just so large, that new aspects come out when given the freedom to do so. I honestly have no idea. But I like the idea of interactive change. Terroir indeed!

Mamman Brigitte via Gracjana at
The best example to my mind is dear St. Brigit, aka Bride, aka Mamman Brigitte, aka the Lady that Just Won't Quit. Celtic Goddess extraordinaire  Saint of the Roman Catholic Church (who still has wells and trees sacred to her), and of course here in the Americas partner to La Baron. Something I didn't know about religious history and oppression, was that quite a lot of Irish were shipped to the Americas as slaves or indentured servants, because they wouldn't give up many of their pagan ways, and they were a pain in the backside to the British.

The Irish mixed quite nicely with other oppressed folks and Mamman Brigitte "Who comes from England" (as per her songs) took up with the Old Baron and New Mythoscapes were born. A red haired, milk pale Goddess of force, fire, and the Dead.

Is she the same Lady who the Celts adored back when Iron and Bronze were the avant guard of technology? To me, yes.. and no. She grew here. She mixed first with Roman Christianity, and then into the African Diaspora religions. The vine cuttings were Celtic, but grew in new soil to become something, someone, new, and just as lovely.

My Dear Shiva (unsurprisingly: ganja, dreads, dark skin tone, etc, etc, etc.) has a large Rastafarian following, as quite a lot of Indians were "imported" to the New Indies. Of course with Dear Maha Dev there is also all His permutations into Buddhism: Lha Chenpo, Mahakala, Yamantanka, etc. Each sharing a root, but each a different flower.

There are some who say that Shiva made it all the way to Greece as Dionysus, "The Foreign God from the East". Known explicitly for His "Foreignness", His constant intoxication, His worship at holy mountains,  His association with rivers (Stix and Ganga), and the wild, mendicant behavior of his devotees. Sometimes Shiva is associated with the Elder Dionysus, and Kumara/Skanda with the Younger Dionysus. Both are associated with bulls, and both are said to grant whatever you like after ardent Sadhana, even if it wrecks you personally or the world generally (King Midas anyone?). The similarities were so similar that Greek and Indian priests of their respective God, recognized each other as worshiping the same being, as far back as Alexander's invasion of India. It is also worth noting that Dionysus himself was said to have "conquered" India back in the day. Alain Danielou is a spectacular resource in this regard for the curious and curiouser.

Bulls, Ghosts, Intoxicants, and Nudity..
Everything good in life.
There are even links that Mahacinakrama Tara was an import of Xi Wangmu, the Great Mother of the West in Daoism. Modernly pictured as quite clothed and demure  but traditionally depicted as a fanged and clawed woman with a tiger's tail, who would either grant you the secrets of Immortality or devour you from her abode on Mount Kunlun. In Buddhist/Hindu iconography she is shown with fangs, draped in tiger skin, claws, with her left foot forward. A Shamanic Chinese Goddess to a Tantric Indian Devi, to a Buddhist World Protector

Isis even made it to India as Pattini, whose oldest temples and images are very Grecian, but whose worship and interaction are decidedly Indian. See Mogg Morgan's Isis in India for further education.

However, things may stay "The Same", things always change. The Old Gods can be the New Gods. New Gods. Hell, maybe they are just growing as people. It sure would suck if everyone treated me the same as they did when I was sixteen. Not to mention the fact if Deb and I picked up and moved to Paris, and lived out the rest of our long, long lives there, that we would be dramatically different people in a decade, than we would if we stayed put in the Garden State. Same beings, different people.

It is a bit disconcerting when you start to really interact with the Gods as people. Real people. It's the same as if you got to know one of your favorite celebrities or inspirational movers and shakers both past and present. Hell, even that awkward transition from co-worker to friend is similar. First you see them as functional. Sometimes purely so. A strange kind of objectification, where they are more vending machines than people. Which is strangely fine to me, if you want to accomplish tasks with them. You need something done, you pay your service fee, and an expert is sent out to your abode to help you with your problem.. Much like the chimbley sweep I had business with today, in fact.

A more civilized Xi Wangmu with
Kirin companion
They are still people, but you don't know them as people. It's not Rick, the grandfather, who struggles with gender identity and had a brilliant past as a vaudevillian cross dresser. It's Rick the handyman who always smells like high end perfume, so you assume that he is also handy with the ladies, but boy can Rick fix your faucet!

These changes happen because of one thing: Relevance. When someone is simply a task oriented drone, before you get to know them, they are relevant for the completion of a task. When you interact with them as a person, and dare I say it, a friend, they become relevant to your life. They are a real person, part of the supporting cast of the drama that is your own life, maybe even a co-star. You two will fight for billing, probably, but it doesn't have to be contentious. You work together, and that crazy synergy multiplies both your efforts instead of just adding them. Relevance can also be put under the header of Survival. Things that do not change die, and become food for something else. In order to survive there must be a change. You want your environment must be relevant to each other, until you either transcend your environment, or you die. Also, be careful not to kill your environment in the process of your transcendence, or again.. you will die.

When there is a shift like this, there is an increase in relevance, in personal interaction, and in changes of survival for all concerned. That my friends, is beautiful! That is, if you can make a friendship work. You can't force a friendship after all.. believe me, I have tried.

Back when I was a younger occultist, in the high culture of the late 1990's, I was involved with the ACoD, a magical group that was focused on the Arabian roots of Hermeticism, as well as semi traditional Ruhaniat. Working with Ishtar became a staple of the organization, and try as I might, we did not connect well. I tried for YEARS to work within the system, with the spirits, and very little progress was made. I just didn't fit in.

Flash forward about a decade and I gladly, ans very successfully work with Dame Venus, of Tanhausser fame, who dwells in the verdant Venusberg. I was taught that Venus and Ishtar were the same person just in different clothes, so to say. That never satisfied my gut. Georgia peaches from a modern strain are far different than a Chinese peach from a wild tree six thousand years ago. Both are peaches, but different peaches.

They are the same, but different. New flower, old root. Same plant, different soil. Same being, different person. He is me, but I am not Him.

**Just as an addendum.. I am not trying to tell you how things "really are". As if I could! Just some food for thought. My own opinions on these things change with frightening speed and regularity. Just some ideas, not hard beliefs.


Gordon said...

All I picked up from this post was that you and Deb are moving to Paris forever and that I'm really looking forward to that.


I may have skimmed.

(Also now I want to read American Gods again.)

Cole said...

Right on. Interacting with Gods as People was a huge shift for me. I started off with an attitude derived from Peter Carroll and RAW, getting very inconsistent outcomes.

What brought things to a head for me was a series of experiences similar to that you describe with Ishtar. I had decided that Athena was exactly the deity I needed guidance from, qualities of Wisdom and Strategic Vision in particular. Every approach I could think of was met with silence that got colder and colder as time progressed, until it was made clear in no uncertain terms that it wasn't going to happen.


Mr. J. said...

@Gordon All things are possible! Especially now that I am on the passport path!

@Cole It's not an easy thing to admit, and a lot of times we are taught that you absolutely SHOULD force friendship on this or that being, because that is what they are good for.

And that is a bunch of crap. It's like being a teenager and longing for someone who just isn't in to you, and who most likely would not be good for you.

The best relationships tend to happen organically, I've found. Forced, top-down things don't tend to work in nature.. not for very long anyway.

Good on you for bowing out and not forcing your face deeper and deeper into a blender. ;)

Aghor Pir said...

My experience with Ishtar (also started through ACoD) wasn't bad. We get along, she helps at times, she brought me my significant other, but she made sure that I knew that my path was a different one. With the Hindu gods on the other hand it just felt like the relationship was natural and not forced... especially with Shiva and His family; I didn't have to do anything to prove myself to them... they knew who I was, and they loved and accepted me without conditions, just the way I am. Even though I was raised Muslim I just clicked with them from the beginning like no other pantheon. I called, they answered. We drank chai and ate paan together. We joked and we laughed. It was like a family reunion. And it's been a beautiful bhangra dance ever since.

-Aghor Pir

Lonnie said...

I'm enjoying the thread going through the blogs lately. The Gods are a mystery worth exploring no matter what your take is on them.

I tend to agree with the idea that the Gods flow and change over the aeons.

I really like your analogy of modern Georgia Peaches and Ancient Chinese Peaches. Great point! I've had many people try to convince me that some of my favorite divine allies are different cloaks for the same God. Well, I don't think Isis and Freya are the same. They're both awesome in their own ways. Nor do I think Odin and Hermes are the same fella. Maybe brothers? Definitely neighbors.

It's a worthy thought exercise. Approach them as friends and allies. They are relationships to be developed. Great post!

Mr. J. said...

@Aghor Pir Wonderful to see you my friend! I hope your walk about is going well!

I felt the same feeling of coming home with Shiva and His family. I have also found that I perhaps get along too well with Ma. She is a powerful force in my life, but damned if I am strong enough yet to endure some of her help. That is a blender I put my own face in periodically. Thus far, the blender wins all the time.

@Lonnie 1. It's good to see someone else named Lonnie. For a while I was afraid that name only existed inside my family! ;)

2. The relationship thing, to me, is really important. It also helps with time management. Instead of a spiritual game of Pokemon, you form a relationship, and you can only have so many close relationships, friendships, acquaintances, work friends, etc.

Being actual friends also gives you a chance to develop a relationship that is deep enough where you aren't just getting what you want, but what you need, and that is pretty priceless.

Lonnie said...

Jow, I'm liking the way you think. We're in agreement.

And another Lonnie? Poor bastard. That's my name, my dad's name, another couple guys I know. Must be an Illinois thing. Granted, I only know three others. And to stay on topic, we are not the same being despite the name. Ha!

Mr. J. said...

@Lonnie Not just one poor bastard, but three! My Grandfather, my uncle, and my cousin.

For us it would be a South Carolina thing ;) Though, Lonnie does often get paired with cool classical names in my family, like Virgil and such.

andressa said...