Who did it?

As in most religions, modern polytheists credit certain events in their lives to the Gods. Some of us more than others, for sure, and excluding those who believe the Powers care little for the petty circumstances of our small existences. So whenever something good or bad happens, especially if it’s important, a lot us assume that one or more deities were at work: we lose track of time, we’re late to some appointment, but that tardiness saves us from being in the middle of an accident; we’re out of town and get a phone call from someone we don’t want to meet and thank Gods we had that last minute feeling to leave; you keep missing important opportunities because something always happens along the way (traffic, power cut, family emergency, etc.); you wanted to stay home one night, but for some reason you have to go out and end up getting mugged; or maybe your life seems to follow an erratic path, but in the end it all adds up in some good way.

In a monotheistic mindset, all of these things can easily be credited to God. And when I say easily, I really mean it: if there’s only one deity who’s all-powerful and all-knowing, then everything that happens can only have something to do with him, directly or not. Even when there’s a (popular) belief in a fate, it’s often assumed that God is ultimately in control. And I sometimes wonder how far this Abraamic mental structure have been imported to modern polytheism: the Gods had a hand in it, be it a blessing, a trick, a lesson to be learned, penalty or providence; whatever the “weird” situation, They did it. And I’m not throwing rocks as if I’m above a fault, as sometimes I find myself following that same reasoning, unaware of its origin, crediting a deity with a particular event without considering other options.

The thing with polytheism, however, is that there are a lot more players in the game, so to speak. It’ not just you and a god, it’s also different deities with different agendas, wights with different behaviours towards humans, ancestors and Fate itself. Some of them may be helping you, others working against you; some are neutral, but may step forward for your benefit or not for some circumstantial reason, or maybe a particular motive may cause some to switch sides. Perhaps it’s just Fate at work or even you, out of your own free will, with no intentional divine hand in it.

Now I’m not saying the Gods don’t intervene in our lives. It is my belief that They do and sometimes in unexpected ways, with mutual benefit – the forwarding of Their agendas and our growth. My point is that by our strong devotions, the influence of a monotheistic mindset or maybe both, we run the risk of overlooking other players, namely our ancestors, land or even housewights. They’re there too, pulling strings, whispering, stretching out a helping hand or a tricking leg; out of Their own initiative or working together with the Gods. Maybe the smaller accidents that happened along the way to work one morning were the wights’ way of keeping you out of a greater accident, which you fortunately missed precisely because smaller things belated you. Or perhaps you keep running into someone because your ancestors want you to meet and get along with that person – a lost family member or a human relationship your deceased recommend.

“Who did it” is a question we should ask ourselves often, even if the answers aren’t easily found. Instead of just assuming beneficial or detrimental godly intervention, one should consider the part played by our ancestors and land or housewights in those everyday events that seem to shape our lives (even if the final answer still points to the Powers). To some if not most of us, however, this calls for some mental work that breaks with the monotheistic “thank God” habit, so well embedded even in our daily speech. But it’s worth the effort, if anything because it allows us to recover the kind of worldview the pre-Christian Europeans had, with a universe populated by a multitude of wights, all of which could be players in our lives (and us in Theirs).

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4 thoughts on “Who did it?

  1. Welcome back from the vacations!
    Another great text that makes me think. When someone next to me says the so common “thank God” I often reply “Is it?”. I do not have the answer to the question “who did it”, but I’m a believer, so I believe there’s “something” (Gods, Lares, Penates, Genium, etc, in my belief) that help us, in a way or another!

    Unfortunately I didn’t had the chance to visit the Altar near Alcobaça! Maybe some other time.

    Roderico

  2. Thanks, Roderico.

    Sometimes, if not most of the times, we may not have the answer to the questions, but even the simple look into it with a multitude of answers in mind is a mental exercise we should be doing.

    It just occurred to me that, because the initial spark that generated this post originated in a stream of thoughts on Heathenry, the text ends up referring to things in Norse terms, when really it matters for polytheism at large. I should edit it accordingly.

    And Gods and genii willing, the altar to Diana will be there for many years to come 😉

  3. I totally agree.

    I’ve credited Frey with things but these have tended to be major events/transitions of major importance – “miracles” (so to speak) which would be something one would expect a Deity to do. I do not, however, assume He is behind everything for much the same reasons you’ve mentioned here. There is a whole host of entities all around us, which have investment in what we do and could be considered “closer” than the Gods, including and especially land-wights which were known for harming as well as helping depending on one’s relationship with them.

    And also – speaking for myself here – those of us with some magical and/or liturgical background have spent a good amount of time and energy increasing what could be called “psychic” abilities. Sometimes what happens is a result of our own intuition, or our will attracting or repelling various things, and is not a result of any spirit or Deity activity at all.

    So, yes, good post (as usual). I’m looking forward to seeing the portable Frey shrine! 😀

    -Noni

    • I assume it’s easier to have an idea of who did it when you have “trained” psychic abilities. That’s why I’m trying to invest on meditation and some rune work, which is something I’ll be making a small post about, a bit like thinking or rather writing out loud.

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