Paganistan: Notes from the Secret Commonwealth

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Peering through the Eye-Holes

Posted by on in Culture Blogs

It lies at the opposite pole from All gods are one god.

All gods are distinct.

So Thórr ≠ Perún ≠ Perkunas ≠ Zeus ≠ Jupiter ≠ Indra ≠ Ba'al ≠ Changó?


Although, in a History of Religions sense, I can see a certain merit-of-convenience to the hyper-Distinct school of thought, I have to ask myself: just how far does this extend? Is African Changó a different god from Brazilian? Is the Thunderer of my valley existentially distinct from the Thunderer of your valley next door?

If a dreary monism is the danger of “All gods are one god,” is not the danger of “All gods are distinct” atomization? Personally, when I see gods getting smaller and smaller, I worry.

Looking at pagan history, I note a pronounced tendency to look for one's own gods behind the masks of other people's.

Cross-pantheon identification is an inexact science, to say the very least. (Perhaps it's more of an art.) But since sharing a god binds people across ethnic divisions, it seems to me ultimately a societally (if not theologically) beneficial act, in the hyper-tribal world of the paganisms, to identify one's own gods with those of others.

A Heathen, a Hellenist, and a Santero live next door to one another. One day, a beautiful big thunderstorm blows through and waters all their gardens.

So, whose god did the watering?

Better, it seems to me, to say that Gods show themselves differently to different people in different times and different places.

Better, it seems to me, to ask: just Who is peering through those eye-holes?


Above: Figurine (“Eye Goddess”), Tel Brak (Syria), circa 4000 BCE


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Poet, scholar and storyteller Steven Posch was raised in the hardwood forests of western Pennsylvania by white-tailed deer. (That's the story, anyway.) He emigrated to Paganistan in 1979 and by sheer dint of personality has become one of Lake Country's foremost men-in-black. He is current keeper of the Minnesota Ooser.


  • Ian Phanes
    Ian Phanes Monday, 27 February 2017

    You asked: Is African Changó a different god from Brazilian?

    This question has been carefully considered Sandra T. Barnes, though focused on Ogun, in "The Many Faces of Ogun", the introduction to _Africa's Ogun_.

    I recommend that all thoughtful pagans read the essay, particularly because Barnes is careful to avoid coming to any absolute conclusions while raising the right questions.

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