30 Days, Day 3: Beliefs — Deities

What is a deity?

That, functionally, is the fundamental question. The Heathen gods do not work in the same way as the Christian God is supposed to work. They are not omnipotent, omniscient, or omnibenevolent. They are not immortal. They were not around at the creation of the universe. While some of the principles are there in other parts of the mythology (quite possibly Ginnungagap, for example), the gods themselves bear no resemblance to such concepts as Ein Sof or Brahman.

This raises the important question: Is belief in the Gods even necessary to be Heathen?

I would generally say “no.” There is no reason we all have to be the same, and what defines us as Heathens is (or should be) the practices we engage in, not the specific beliefs we have about the nature of gods and wights. The original religions of our gods also tended to be more orthopraxic rather than orthodoxic, so the practice is more important than the specific beliefs underlying them.

I believe in the gods because I have interacted with them. I admit the possibility that there are other explanations for my interactions, but regardless of the specifics of how my interactions work, it presents a useful model for understanding. But this leads us back to the question: what makes them gods?

When we have so few touchpoints with the most common religions in the US for what we call a god vs. what they call a god, what forms the basis for our understanding?

Essentially, I use a a fairly broad definition, based on Kaldera’s definition that he uses in his books. Loosely stated: If something is orders of magnitude bigger, older, more powerful, and wiser than I will ever be I call it a god and give it the appropriate respect.

This means I don’t make a distinction between gods and demons in a Northern Tradition Pagan context. Rarely are things personifications of good or evil–even Fenris-wolf has his moments–and there are plenty of examples of the good guys working with the bad guys to get things done in the surviving myths we have, and the line between groups of gods can get a little fuzzy.

So unless I have another equally-appropriate term, I will tend to err on the side of calling something a god. It just needs to be understood that when is say Odin is a God I don’t mean it in the way a Christian might talk about Jehova, let alone Ein Sof.

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