Exploring spirituality somewhere between the Emerald Isle and the Black Land....

Thursday, August 22, 2013

The Ultimate Cocktail: Mixing Pantheons

When I first started this blog, I thought I'd be writing a lot more about what it's like to follow two different paths at the same time (and now three, because back then I wasn't a Canaanite polytheist yet). It's pretty clear now that the reason that I only write about them separately is because I keep them separate in practice. It only makes sense that my blog would follow that same pattern. But here at long last, I have something that involves all three.

One issue that pops up on various forums and groups is whether or not it is appropriate to follow multiple spiritual traditions or paths, and how to go about doing so. It is this issue that I'm going to address today.

To anyone who has has read this blog before, it must be unsurprising to hear me say that I think it is absolutely appropriate to honor more than one pantheon of deities. I'm sure it is also unsurprising to hear me say that what I recommend is keeping your practices separate. The only real trick to this is keeping a separate shrine for each pantheon, and after that, tailoring your rituals to each specific path in regard to that path's gods, their mythology, and the culture from which they come.

One of the most basic reasons I say this is because once you've separated everything, it's easier to get a sense of what works well for each pantheon, and which deities or practices (if any) mesh well. Another important thing to consider is that one thing that is acceptable to one pantheon's practice might be taboo in another. Blood, for example, can be a powerful offering to certain Celtic deities, but in certain Kemetic religions, blood is fairly widely considered to be an inappropriate thing to have at a shrine. Other such offerings include pork (which was never named in Canaanite texts as as an offering to the Iluma) or incense made with dung as a binder (which is a big no-no in both Kemetic and Canaanite traditions). Kemetic and Canaanite religions also often require some form of purification before ritual, whereas ritual purification isn't as commonly practiced in Celtic traditions.

So let's say you're working with two different pantheons of deities, and you are keeping those paths completely separated. How do you make this work? How do you strike balance between them and give a fair share of your time and effort to each?

Well, if you have a path that is primary, that pretty much solves the problem right there. You may only practice your secondary path as you see fit, or perhaps once every month or so. However, if that's not the case, one thing that works well is dividing ritual time evenly between the pantheons. For example, if the Netjeru get offerings one day, the next offering can be made to the Déithe. Or you can alternate between weeks or months (or whichever time period works for you), with the Netjeru getting all of the offerings and rituals for one month, and the Déithe getting all of the offerings/rituals the following month.

The only issue with this is that every now and then you may feel the need, either on your end or the gods', to focus on one deity or pantheon for weeks or even months at a time. A pantheon might suddenly become primary (if one wasn't before), or whichever pantheon was primary might change for a while. For well over a year, I was focused very heavily on my Kemetic path, but once I established my Canaanite shrine, my path was almost exclusively dedicated to 'Anatu and 'Athtartu for about three months. In my experience, the gods tend to be quite understanding when it comes to realizing what you need at any point in time. Besides, another deity's turn probably won't be far behind. The key to this is that it requires a certain amount of attention and intuition to maintain this balance, to know when which god wants what when, but you'll get better at it as you go along.

However, I know from experience that it's not always possible to have the space to set up two or three (or more) different shrines. And I'm sure there are also cases in which keeping them separate just doesn't work for an individual. If you want to mix different paths into a singular practice, the most important thing to keep in mind is what is considered acceptable to the deities (purification, blood, etc.), which I mentioned before. If I had a shrine to the Iluma and Déithe, I would refrain from offering "impure" incense at that shrine. I might not offer pork, either. Pig may make a wonderful offering for Celtic gods, but not so much for the gods of Canaan. If I felt I needed to give Mannanan Mac Lir some bacon, I might make a small, temporary shrine elsewhere, and offer it there. Again, attention and intuition are very important here. As you go along, the gods will let you know where the lines are.

While I will freely admit that I don't get the appeal of mixing deities of different pantheons into one practice, the recon-snob in me can't make too much of a fuss about it, because it was done in ancient times. Greeks honored Heru and Anpu as Horus and Anubis, and Egyptians honored 'Anatu and Yamu as Anat and Yam. Moreover, the Greeks and Egyptians honored these gods within the religious contexts into which the deities were adopted. I know that there are plenty of discussions as to how appropriate doing a similar thing in modern times is, and I think there are good points on both sides. But in the end, I think that as modern polytheists, honoring our gods and having respect for them and their cultures is the most important thing.

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