Personal Pantheon -Post inspired by Helio Pires

Over at Golden Trail, a very cool blog exploring spirituality that explores a pretty wide amount of topics in regards to Paganism, polytheism, spirituality, the Gods, and other related topics.  This is the blog that started me off thinking about my person pantheon, and where I came from.

It’s funny; when I was working with the Egyptian Gods I more or less worked only with Them, occasionally paying homage to Brighid and Bres, the Gods I worked with before Anubis, and Bast, etc. Then, when I found myself being pushed, by Anubis of all Gods, to finally acknowledge my ties to the Nordic Gods, I had a bit of an internal freak out.
Questions ran through my head. How could I have done so much with the Egyptian Gods, then go to the Nordic pantheon? Was I betraying my role as a Priest of Anubis? I was very dedicated to working with the Egyptian Gods; I had devoted years of practice to Them. Did I do wrong? Was I being a bad Pagan by mixing so many pantheons in my work and worship?

I eventually came to the idea that exclusivity was never part of my arrangements with my Gods, and that my work with Them was not incumbent on whether or not I stuck within Their pantheon. I did what research I could do to learn the practices and work from lore and myth on Them, in every case where I encountered a new God. Where there was information lacking, or where the ancient ways could not be done, we developed new ways and means. In my work with the Norse there was a lot of lore I had to learn, and scant pieces of descriptions of ancient techniques. A lot of work with the Nordic Gods, comparative to my work with the Egyptian ones, has had to be communicated to me/worked with me.

The changeover actually challenged me in a lot of ways beyond what I described above. I was very comfy in my role as a Priest of Anubis and ceremonial magician alone; I had worked many years to achieve the title of Priest that He bestowed on me. When He told me that day, about three or so years ago now, that I was to stop mainly working with Him, it initially felt like a slap to the face. Of course, that was a lot of my ego, but being blood-bonded to Him through a ceremony He put me through, at the time it felt a little like betrayal. If I was doing so well, I thought, why hand me off to another? If He was proud of my work (which He told me He was), why would He not want to work with me anymore?

Of course, these thoughts were largely driven by my sense of comfort, and some by ego (i.e. “I worked so hard for this, why now?”), but I did not at the time factor in where Anubis might have wanted me to go, or where my Wyrd was supposed to lead me. Once I did transfer, Odin more or less immediately pointed to me and said “Son, I’m going to train you be my Priest and a shaman.”

This prompted another freak-out on my part for another few reasons:
Oh Gods, what will that be like? Shaman? Are you serious? I’ll just be called a plastic shaman, a wannabe shaman, an imitator. I can’t be a shaman; I don’t have a tribe, any knowledge of shamanism, etc.

So for the first year of working with Odin, I learned about being His priest and being a shaman, but I refused the title. I think that, too, is where multicultural learning from the Gods is hard. I have no words besides Northern Tradition Shamanism for what I do; I’m not a vitki, as I don’t strictly work with magic, and I’m not a seidhmadhr as I don’t strictly do trance work and spirit work. So when I finally picked up the words and ran with them, Odin was pleased, but I had struggled a lot because I did not want to be seen as a fake, as ignorant, or as stealing from other cultures.

It took a lot more effort to bring together spiritual practices into my growing shamanism, but working with Odin and the Gods of the Norse, and Raven Kaldera’s books on the matter, helped immensely. Yet I also find the work I have done with Anubis incredibly impacting on my current work; I’m able to translate many ideas and works He gave me into my work with Odin.

I have no doubt anymore that Gods from many pantheons talk to each other; prior to my work with Anubis, I probably would have denied it, or at least said “It doesn’t happen that much.” Now, I’m quite convinced the Gods speak with each other on a regular basis, given my experience.

As to your [Helios’] question “what of multicultural personal pantheons and how does one know his or her place in the midst of it” I think is answered by where your Gods put you. Anubis and Bast alone, claimed me for a year within Their pantheon, and of the two I worked with Anubis the most. Only after that first year did the rest of the Egyptian Gods seem interested in contacting me. By this time I prayed and offered to Brighid and Bres, but that was the extent of the work I did with Them unless working on behalf of a friend or loved one. After struggling to find my way as each new pantheon embraced me, the Gods were the ones who showed me, whether through unfolding work, or direct contact, where I stood with Their People.

When I began working with Him, Odin introduced me to concepts I was not comfortable with at all, from being a shaman, to, within the first year, being one of His sons.  I went through periods of deep, deep doubt, both of myself, and my way.  I questioned my integrity as a Pagan, asking in various ways if what I was experiencing was right.  As an Egyptian practitioner and a ceremonial magician, skepticism was a finely honed skill, something I used to keep my spiritual experiences corralled so I could understand them after having them.  I still use skepticism, but not as a whipping tool as I had then.  Then, it was something that, until I was faced with overwhelming evidence, tended to crush many a spiritual revelation, and dismissed many mystical experiences.  Odin broke me of this poor habit quickly, telling me if I was to work with Him, in any capacity, I would need to move beyond obsessive skepticism and into trusting faith in myself, Him, and the new spirits I had begun working with.  To do otherwise was to invite insult, both to myself, and those with whom I worked.  After all, He told me, I understood what hubris, delusion, self-fulfillment, and a great many other abuses of power looked like, and anyway, that my problem wasn’t hubris, but being completely meek about who I was and what I could do.

Being humble is one thing, but overt meekness to the denigration of oneself, one’s magic, and/or one’s accomplishments was something Odin did not tolerate.  He also did not allow me to slacken when the going got rough; if anything, He piled more work onto me when I thought I could take no more.  For instance, when I started learning the Runes He had me read them for group members.  When I got frustrated by stumbling over meanings and referring back to books, it inspired me to work harder.  He knew just how to light a fire under me and get me to move.  Yet He also knew how to dim that fire when I got too obsessive or taken with something; till I came into my own after the first year of working with Him, there was a lot of fixing and adjusting that He put me through.  He made me learn the layout of the Nine Worlds within that first year, alongside the Runes, and I am eternally grateful He pushed me at just the pace I needed to learn: quick, but not thundering, pondering but not motionless.

Once I moved through my deep doubt after the first six months of working with Him, I entered a period of feverish work with the Runes and learning the Nine Worlds deeper than I had the previous months.  I just felt like I could not get enough books, enough knowledge, enough perspectives on all the lore, the Runes, the Gods.  I bought books on lore, the Runes, read online versions of out-of-print books, and gave myself over to the same fire that had taken me when I first started working with the Egyptians.  Yet, unlike then, the fire wasn’t all-consuming.  It was tended, in bits, like each book was another log on the fire, making a nightlong vigil of my spirituality.  I’m grateful to have taken the longer, more ponderous road.  It let me digest the material I was taking in easier, challenged me in more subtle ways than if I had simply blazed through it.  Anubis encouraged me to absorb all I could, then would put me through deeply powerful rituals of transformation once He saw I had gained enough knowledge in a subject to test it.  Odin did little, continuous tests, as did many of the Norse Gods, little ones as I took in more material, testing more than my knowledge of lore and Runes, but especially testing my faith in myself, and on occasion, in Them.  When these tests were finally over in the first year, He asked me if I would acknowledge myself as His Priest and as a Shaman.  I found it incredulous that He would bestow these on me so quick.

I asked Him why, and He sat me down to talk.  I had honored Him in ritual for years up to this point, since I started honoring Anubis, but He had always desired me to come to Him when I was ready.  Further, Anubis and He had more or less been grooming me for such work.  I asked Him how, and Odin told me that the work with the Dead, the many, many spirits, the magic I knew, the magic I was coming to know, they all were part of the experiences He wanted me to have.  He seemed a bit irritated with me for my incredulity.  However, He gruffly informed me that my work and learning were by no means over.  Part of being His Priest, as He told me, was working deeper with Him, learning more about Him whenever I could, in addition to bringing what messages He gave to others, or whatever else He wanted me to do.  He also, for this honor, made me swear to help the elderly when I could, and that when I could, to honor soldiers, and fighters (not just military).  Throughout our relationship, that idea of “when” has been pushed.  It made me consider when I truly could help someone; I found myself reconsidering a lot of old ideas I had about it.  It made me push myself further than I would have had I never questioned it, and instated an even deeper reverence for those older than myself.  I don’t think that people older than myself get a free pass to be jerks or whatever, but I do treat the elders with even more respect and humanity than I did prior to this work with Odin.

When I finally assented to taking on both the title of Priest and Shaman, I worried if I could do it.  I worried, as I noted above, about being a ‘plastic shaman, a wannabe, etc.’  Odin shook His head at me and said it was something He bestowed on me for my work previous, but especially, for the work I was now called to.  The title, He explained, while important, was also simply a description for what I was called to.  Further, it was something I had not asked for, but something that I was given, and I should be grateful for it.  Chastened and feeling more confident, we began working closer, and my confidence has grown immensely since.

Accepting my Wyrd, accepting that this is my path has been hard.  I would not have come to it without the many experiences, lessons, tests, and work the Gods and spirits gave me before coming to Odin.  I would not have had it if They had not all helped me build my faith, bit by bit, experience by experience, giving me the tools to discern as well as believe.  In turn, Odin and all the Gods and spirits with whom I now work have shaped me anew, bringing to me new concepts and ideas, and in some cases, building on old ones.  Even as I work as a shaman and Priest of Odin, I know I have more to learn, new things to experience.  By honoring where I have come from, and what I have done, I am more open to my Wyrd, acknowledging that I am meant to be here, doing what I am doing.  So I honor a multitude of Gods who have helped shape me in the Pagan Priest, Shaman, and Warrior that I am.  They crafted me together, even if some took less time in it than others.  It deserves honoring; it deserves Gebo.

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