When did it first dawn on you that the divinities are real?
Frequently. As in, I need to be reminded fairly frequently. My sense-memory of their presence fades all too quickly, leading to worries that they were never there in the first place. Until they show up again.
I’ve believed pretty much everything about the gods in the last 25 years, except for the Atheist Pagan view of them as being only cultural symbols, memes running in our brain meats–but just because of that “only.” I think they are cultural symbols and memes, and a whole bunch of other things besides, most of which I’ll probably never know.
When I started on this path, back at the end of the 1980s, I was practicing an ecclectic Wicca derrived mostly from Spiral Dance and Drawing Down the Moon. It was more than twenty-five years ago, in Iowa, and those books were the only contact we had with other Pagans. So, we did rituals to The Goddess, and I did get a feeling I’d come to recognize as divine presence. Not a sense of personal identity, mind you, but we called and somebody picked up the line.
Where it turned around for me was Yog Sothoth.
Yes, the imaginary god from the writings of H.P. Lovecraft and his friends. One night, I decided to try and summon something rather than just call The God and The Goddess. Being mostly solitary at that point, in my early twenties, and smarter than I was wise, I figured that there were enough people who knew of Yog Sothoth, even enough magicians who tried to work with it, that there might be something out there answering to that name.
So I cast the circle as I did every month at the full moon, and when I got to the deity invocations, I started calling Yog Sothoth by all the names and attributions I knew from years of reading Lovecraft.
And I started feeling a presence forming.
And the voice of my better sense, who was apparently down at the pub when I concocted this plan, rushed up and said, “Think this through. Even if all you’re calling up is the collective imagination devoted to visualizing this entity for fiction, do you remember what inevitably happens to people who succeed in calling it up?!?”
At that point, I rather hastily–and politely–shut things down, banished a lot, and went to go pet my cat. A lot.
The take home here, other than Be Careful What You Ask For, is that this was my first experience of a sense of divine presence associated with a specific name, history, and personality. Oh, I’d done the thing where one rattles off god-names, thinking that all gods are one god, and had good results as far as that went. I’d even theorized that working with just one mythical god (instead of naming ten or twenty of them at once) might be good, due to tighter focus if nothing else.
But the idea that there were individual entities attached to these names was something that was only theoretical for me. Until I tried summoning Yog-Sothoth.
Don’t try this at home, kids.
My lover Ember and I have decided to go through Galina Krasskova’s Devotional Polytheist Meme questions together, over the next several months. We encourage our friends to follow along, and welcome links to other people’s answers in our comments, as well as your thoughts on our answers. Ember’s answer can be found at her blog, Embervoices.