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Are the Norse Gods the Only Gods?

Are the Norse Gods the Only Gods?

On one of the myriad groups I occasionally hang out on, I noticed someone was asking if the Norse gods were the only gods.  In this world of monotheistic gods, it’s not as strange of a question as pagans would like to think.  Are the Northern deities the only gods out there?  And if they aren’t, what makes them better than any other gods?

Polytheistic Beliefs

First, let’s look at polytheism, as a whole.  There are basically two types of polytheistic beliefs: hard and soft.  If you’re a hard polytheistic believer, you believe our gods are individual and physical beings.  That Thor really rides a chariot pulled by two goats and Sunna drives the chariot of the sun, being chased by a wolf. You believe that Odin is really in human form and there are little demigods wandering around this Earth.

Soft polytheistic believers tend to believe the gods as archetypes.  They may believe the different pantheons are simply manifestations of a core pantheon.  Or they may believe that the gods are aspects to a single god.

What I Believe as a Polytheist

Before we get much further in my arguments, let me state my own position, so that there isn’t any confusion.  I tend toward a soft polytheistic belief of archetypes, BUT given that I have dealt with the gods directly, I believe that the gods can take forms we humans can see and interact with.  (They are, after all, gods.)  I also believe that at least in this Universe, our gods go by many names and manifestations, but they are the same gods wherever you go.

Now, that I’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s talk about whether our gods are the only gods out there.

The Only Gods?

It’s common today to think that our way is the only way.  That our gods are the only gods.  In some ways, I’m sometimes tempted to think that route, but that’s wrong. That thought is a holdover from monotheistic beliefs. The history of Norse polytheism suggests that our ancestors didn’t consider the Norse gods to be the only ones.  We know that our Northern ancestors borrowed beliefs and gods from other pantheons and affected other pantheons, in kind. For example, the Kievan Rus worshiped the Slavic gods, which bear an uncanny resemblance in many ways to the Norse pantheon.  That’s not surprising, given that the Varangians, known as the Rus, came from the Norse lands and settled in Russia and other Slavic lands.

Not the Only Gods

We know that the Icelandic peoples worshiped Jesus alongside the Norse gods, given the Icelandic Cross/Thor’s Hammer.  It’s also suspected that the Vanir are a group of gods that got assimilated into the Northern pantheon sometime in the past, thus making the Aesir and Vanir to be two groups of gods that merged to give us our current pantheon.

So, given that the Norse weren’t picky about who they worshiped, if it fit their world view, they would have a tough time with the concept that the Norse gods were the only gods out there. I suspect the attitude changed with the appearance of monotheistic religions and their insistence on their god being the “one true god.” When someone tells you that your belief is all wrong and tries to persecute you, you can bet that push back is going to be that Odin is better.

Let’s Dig Deeper

But, let’s consider the evolution of religion to begin with.  Religions, whether polytheistic or monotheistic stem from the ancient roots of animism and then shamanism.  If you go back through the evolutionary time period for religion, you’ll see that we’re looking at a type of pantheism which eventually split out into a Proto-Indo-European main religion.  This religion eventually split off and morphed into the polytheistic religions of Europe.  The similarity between our god and other gods caused the Romans to refer to Germanic gods by Roman god names. I don’t think this  was an egotistical classification by the Romans, either.  The Romans certainly weren’t fond of Celtic and Germanic tribes.  For Romans to ascribe their own gods to ours would’ve suggested that the belief was similar.

So, if our religion is derived from an older religion, and our religion is closely related to other polytheistic religions, what does that mean for being the only true religion?  Since religion is derived from the same roots, our gods are similar to the other gods within the European pantheons.  Granted, we have cultural differences. If our gods are the same gods as those in the Celtic pantheon, the Roman pantheon, and the Slavic pantheon, then how can we hold up our gods and say they are the only gods?

What if They’re Not the Same?

Even if you don’t believe that the Norse gods aren’t other gods in other belief systems, the fact remains that most northern polytheists would readily accept a god or two from another pantheon. And if tribes met peacefully, if one god was similar enough to another, I could easily see our ancestors adding those stories to the legends. A good story, after all, is a good story.

The problem I have with separating out the gods from other pantheons is the roles they take on in nature.  Thor is the thunder god.  Does that mean that we must worship the Thunderbird because we’re in America and that is the creature of thunder here?  Does that mean that in Ireland there is only Taranis and not Thor?  Of course not.  Thunder and lightning are the same everywhere on Earth.  In fact, it behaves according to the laws of physics everywhere in this Universe, so one could potentially argue that Thor is a Universal god. Gerd is an Earth fertility goddess.  So is Demeter, Gaia, and a host of other goddesses. Again, the Earth is the Earth, despite its variations. What causes the crops to grow one area is the same as another. Again, physics.

If you’re a hard polytheist–which is getting pretty difficult to do in the face of science–you may decide that I’m full of shit and there really is only one Thor, one Tyr, and one Odin. But then, again, I think most of you who read this blog are tending toward soft polytheism anyway, with occasional forays into believing that the gods can take any form they choose. If it happens that Odin takes on Zeus’s form, so what?  If Thor is Perun to the Slavs, who cares?  In the end, they are our gods, and that is really all that matters.

 

 

When the Other Gods Call to You

When the Other Gods Call to You

You’ve been in a religion for some time.  Or perhaps you’ve not been in a religion at all.  Maybe it is Christianity; maybe it is another pagan religion.  Perhaps you’ve been agnostic or even atheist.  Or maybe you’re a Heathen like I am.  Regardless, now you’re looking at a calling and…it’s not a god or goddess you follow.  What do you do?

Getting Beyond the Shock

If you’re a Christian or someone who have been in the Abrahamic religions, this is often a complete shock.  Same goes for atheists, who are more likely to think they’ve gone crazy hearing from a god or goddess.  Depending on your religious upbringing, you may think the deity is some form of demon coming to tempt you away from the “One True God.”  If you fall for the Yahweh argument, you’ll never get anywhere with this.  Instead, you’ll turn down a potential positive and more personal relationship with the gods than you ever had with the god of the monotheistic cults.

If you’re a pagan, chances are you’re probably open to it.  But there are pantheons and there are pantheons.  For example, if you’re Heathen like I am, and you’re called by someone like the Morrigan, you’ll be arguing with yourself over whether you’ve just become “Wiccatru” and not on the straight and narrow path of Asatru.  Well, maybe, maybe not.

Who is Doing the Calling?

The first step is to understand who is contacting you.  Most of the time, as I understand it, the calls are pretty subtle.  Mine was sudden and intense.  If it’s a Heathen calling, it could be a god or goddess, it could be an ancestor of yours, or it could be a spirit of the land.  If you think it’s another god or spirit from a different pantheon, it could be one of the many manifestations of a Heathen god or spirit.  You see, many of the pagan religions came from a singular Indo-European source and the Heathen gods are often their gods, but just different names and manifestations.

Some gods and goddesses are specific to a religion, in which case, I recommend talking to someone more knowledgeable in that religion to understand what is happening.  It might be their deity or it might be something else. Without having a clear knowledge of who is calling, you just might not be speaking with the deity you think you’re speaking with.

Do You Really Want to Deal with this God or Goddess?

Once you establish who you’re dealing with, it’s up to you to decide if the god or goddess is someone you want to talk to.  Some deities have some pretty nasty reputations and they can be nothing but trouble, even if they’re from the Norse pantheon.  Then  again, depending on the god, you may or may not have a good relationship with them.

If it becomes obvious that the god you’re speaking with isn’t the god you think it is, it’s up to you to decide if you really want to deal with them. Some gods and goddesses aren’t trustworthy, and just because you’ve heard of them doesn’t mean they’re the right deity for you.  Pagan deities are like people–they have their positives and negatives.  Even my own god, Tyr, has pitfalls, although I tend to downplay those negatives because of all the positives.

My point is that as someone who is being called, it’s up to you to decide whether you should answer it.

When Not to Work with a God or Goddess

You’ve gotten a call from a deity.  Before you get all starry-eyed, think about what you’re committing yourself to.  Is this god or goddess asking you to do something against your morals or against the law?  Are they looking at having you harm someone or yourself?  If the answer is yes, then say no and walk away.  Take the high road here.  Don’t be like Abraham who was asked to sacrifice his only son as a burnt offering because apparently Yahweh gets his rocks off watching humans squirm, even though he is supposedly omniscient and omnipotent.  What was the purpose of THAT mindfuck?  Tell me that.  Don’t say to prove loyalty, because an omniscient and omnipotent god would already know the outcome.

Look, sometimes what a god wants and what you want isn’t in your best interest.  Don’t fall for the “god’s greater plan” bullshit.  If it’s a good plan, then there should be a quid pro quo.  Yeah, it’s a god, and you can still say no.  Can they fuck up your life for saying no?  Sure.  But then, they’ve shown you their true colors anyway.  Do you really want to work with a vindictive and dangerous god who is likely to harm you more than help you?

The Upshot of Dealing with Deities

Dealing with gods aren’t always sunshine and light.  If you get a call from a god or goddess, study the Hel out of them and get a good feeling for who they are.  Talk to priests or priestesses of that religion and get their take on your contact.  Be aware that you may not have been contacted by a god, but by an ancestor, a wight, or some other denizen looking to make contact.  When you do finally establish contact, find out what they want.  If what they want isn’t against your moral code or the law, then you have to decide if you want them in your life. (If it is against your moral code or the law, run like Hel.)  Above all, keep your head when this all occurs.  You may have to step gracefully out of the relationship.  Lastly, even if the god or goddess isn’t from your pantheon, you should still accept the contact if it is a favorable one.  After all, the deity thought enough about you to visit.