This post was inspired by the MyPolytheism project.

I go to my altar at night. On the altar are images of many gods, and other symbols which are sacred to me. There is Venus of Lespugue -- she is one of the oldest goddesses.  There is Diana and the Horned God, who is known by many names.  There is the Mother Buddha and Nataraj.  And there are images of gods who have no names, except those known to me. 


I light a candle and I pray:


This is my sacred fire.

This is my holy place

These are the words of my prayer …


And then I call my gods—the gods within.


I light a black candle and call the Loathly Man:


Here is light,

Leaping out of darkness.

But thou art darkness,

Leaping out of light,

Leaping out of me.


The Loathly Man takes many forms in my mind: the dark child, the midnight sun, the red dragon, the provoker of strife and the thief of sovereignty.  And many stories come to mind when I invoke him: the Leviathan, Mordred, the Holly King.


I light a green candle and call the Green and Amber Man:


This light can blind,

But I can grope.

This fire can consume,

But thou canst be ashes.


The Green and Amber Man also has many forms in my mind: the sun child, white son of the night, the bright youth, the phallic lord, the green man, the lord of the harvest, the dying god.  And he too has many stories: Gwyn ap Nudd, Mabon and Horus; Apollo, Ra and Balder; Dionysos, Osiris, and Yeshua.


I light a red candle and call the Scarlet Woman:


Thrice burned they thee,

The thrice reborn,

Ever and anon,

Even now,

Thou livest.


The Scarlet Woman takes many, many forms in my mind: the earth mother, dea nutrix, and also the devouring mother; the maiden, muse, and initiatrix; queen, sovereignty, and the lady of the beasts; seductress, succubus, siren and manslayer; the womb and the tomb, the fertile abyss, death-in-life and life-in-death.  And many myths call her to mind: the stories of Ishtar, Mebd, Shakti, Magdala, Demeter, Gaia.


I hold this space. And I listen. I listen to the place where the words come from.


These are my gods.


They are aspects of my higher Self—but then so is my waking self.

My relationships with them are as real as my relationships with other people in my life—indeed, the gods often hide behind the faces of other people in my life … or behind the face I see in the mirror.


They are dangerous gods too—especially when they ride me when I am not conscious of them or when one of them becomes tyrannical and tries to dominate the others.


And then I go outside ... to my other altar. I kneel down beneath the white ash tree in my backyard, before the headstone of my great-great-great grandfather -- the headstone which was discarded and later discovered by a farmer plowing his field. 


I have offered many a libation over this headstone. I have poured clear water, viscous oil, and dark wine over that stone. Beneath it is buried the effigy of the slain god which was placed there during the autumn equinox last year. 


I breathe in the cool air. I feel the moist ground beneath my feet and sink my fingers into the soil. I look up at the stars, unimaginably distant and yet present.  And I listen to my other gods—the gods without. 


I listen to the ground and the sky, the night and the stars, the wind and the ash tree. These gods are part the Great Goddess that is the Earth--Mama--who is part of the even Greater Goddess that is the Cosmos—as am I. Though the Great Goddesses have spoken to me before, it is rare for me to hear them--they are too vast. 


So I listen to ground and sky, night and stars, wind and tree. I listen to these gods with my ears … and because they do not speak with words, I also “listen” with my nose, my tongue, my skin, and my eyes. The gods speak to me, in a language not of words, a language both alien and yet familiar—familiar to a part of myself that often seems alien to me, but it my true Self.


The gods-without call to the gods-within and the gods-within awaken.

The gods-within and the gods without are not the same, but they are connected, connected through me.


The morning sun rising in the east and the Bright Youth are not the same, but the sun I see through my window in the morning calls to the Bright Youth in my brow … and the Bright Youth responds. The full moon calls to the Muse, and the waning and dark moon to the Dark Maiden who is a part of me too.  The earth I touch with my fingers calls to the Mother, in both her guises, Nurturing and Devouring.  The bright green shoots rising from the earth and the green leaves on the trees on my street in the spring, these call to the Stag King in my loins.  The red leaves fallen to the earth in the autumn, these call to the Dying God in my solar plexus.  The spring storm that rises up suddenly in the west calls to the Storm King in my breast.  The night sky, the dark space between the stars, calls to Mother Night, my death come to make peace.


The very passing of the seasons calls to the gods-within me: the Sun Child and Mother Night in the winter, the Stag King and Lady of the Beasts in the summer, the Dying God and the Manslayer in the fall. 


The gods-without call and the gods-within respond.  These are not anthropomorizations.  I do not project the Lightbringer onto the sun.  The sun is still the sun, an unimaginably large flaming ball of hydrogen a hundred million miles away whose light is filtered through 10 miles of atmosphere.  But when I face the sun in the morning and raise my arms and recite an invocation inspired by the Rig Veda, I am speaking to that sun in the sky and to the Sun/Son within me. 


Let others say their polytheism is more authentic.  Let others say my gods aren’t real enough or distinct enough.  Let others say that I’m afraid to answer the call of their gods.  Let others say my gods are limited or safe.  I know better.


These are my gods. They are real without reification. They are mine, and I am theirs.


I am an archetypal polytheist and a naturalistic animist (and many other things besides).  Maybe this don’t make sense to some people. They’ll have to deal with it.


In the meantime, I’ll be communing with my gods.