gods, demons and stories

I have a reasonable amount of personal history as a polytheist, relating to gods as independent entities with which we can form relationships. With neopagan polytheism one has varying amounts of mythology and lore to draw upon, and everything you can find is potentially helpful in finding your gods, and making relationships.

Paganism in general seeks collective identity and validation in groups, communities, traditions and paths, whether they are based on things like Wicca, or on specific pantheons that had historical communities of devotees. Some of the more symbolic approaches to pantheons and mythologies treats them as role models and reflections of what is possible or validated in a culture. Others treat their stories as having far deeper meanings, beyond psychology, politics or sociology.

For those who might be termed “hard polytheists”, the mythology and lore is of great value generally, but the god is an individual, not a job description, and the relationship is not predictable. The god is a person (though not a human one), not a cog in a celestial computer, no matter how awe inspiring. This is one of the things that made the disclaimer of UPG (unverified personal gnosis) rather meaningless but telling. Gnosis is always personal, because it is a direct experience, and despite some thinking that they have the low down, the idea of verification is stretchy and subjective at best.

Nevertheless, the stories that we have told ourselves about the gods, that we have received and repeated, they do have implications for the collective that accepts them. We hold stories up as mirrors to ourselves; how we see ourselves, how we want to see ourselves, and even sometimes those things that we would rather not recognize.  Our experience of the gods, on the other hand, is intimate and individual.

When it comes to Satanism we have a spiritual movement which collapses the moral authority of any collective or society. The individual is definitively sovereign in Satanism. For theistic (and polytheistic) Satanists, we have all manner of what are effectively deities, though we often refer to them as demons. Some of these appear (from their names) to be what were once Pagan gods and goddesses, and some can’t be so easily placed. Yet what they all share is the dissolution of an overarching cultural narrative. We have a plethora of actors but no pre-set story, which is fascinating, because polytheistically, if one is not worshipping a story or a culture, then you again have actors (more properly persons), and the story may give you an understanding of the deity, but does not define them, and less still does it describe a narrative that the deity is somehow fated to repeat endlessly.

We have to forget the conventional moral implication of the word “demon” in Satanism of course, but more importantly, I think we can consider what it means, when the individual Satanist meets gods that have become free of collective story.

Is it for nothing that we somehow mirror each other in this one respect? That we find ourselves free of judgements and cultural stories? I think at the very least the circumstance is poetic, interesting and potentially companionable.

Of course they may have stories, histories untold, and a world our imagination might apprehend and relate. They certainly have characteristics. But in our world as Satanists, the meaning is the individual, their empowerment and fulfilment. We call what reflects our deepest meanings. I believe we call, and are called by, what we are already in relation with, whether we know it or not.

What story will you write for yourself today?

Dr. Fausto by Jean-Paul Laurens [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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5 Comments

    • and indeed why not? if we can be individuals, why should we not create individual mythologies? if they are not real, and just “stories”, then we can rewrite them. if the actors in myths *are* real, then they have living, changing stories, as all living things do. either way, a living system is nearer to art than religion as far as I can see. It is only coercion and threat that makes us imagine that religion is more serious or valid than art 🙂

      • My personal universe has not always been the same though. Elements and characters tend to recur on somewhat strict or elementary basis, but the world and sometimes the story undergoes changes. I only hope this doesn’t go on forever, and that my universe in its current form is a more solid one, with new characters and stories added but without the whole thing changing again five years or so later.

        I often think of my personal universe as the place I might go back to after the end, thus making the afterlife for me a kind of chaotic playground.

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