So picking through my Notes from the year I came across this which I don't think I've blogged, although I am getting old and notice that I repeat myself...
The Gods : What are they, and where do they come from?
Whilst the Jungian Collective Unconscious theory from psychiatry is appealing and has some validity within a view of the gods, I think it only represents one side of the coin. If the coin has two faces and a middle, the middle being the relationship between the 2 faces, then it can represent the middle view of the gods. If you interpret the collective unconscious with a cultural explanation - that each culture has it's own Collective Unconsciousness, which in day to day language is explained by cultural stereotyping. I don't think it explains the other faces, the god/esses face OR an individuals own viewpoint.
Which then raises the question of their origin - are they purely human constructs, which supports the Collective Unconscious theory, or natural phenomena that humans interpret as Gods? I tend towards the natural phenomena theory on most days (other days I tend towards the Jungian Collective Unconscious). I'll probably cover whether the gods are 'real' in another post as that leads straight into what is real and what is the nature of reality which as the link shows is a big, big subject.
To continue the coin analogy this means that the gods themselves are a natural phenomena, whilst our interpretation is individual but filtered through our Collective Unconscious which is represented by our language and cultural bias.
Do the myths reflect their origins?
Not in detail, the Norse creation myth has large gaps around the genealogy of many of the Gods - particularly Mimir and Frige but also Hana/Hoenir. There is no Celtic creation myth so that it is unknowable. Particularly if some deities seem to have had human avatars/incarnations such as the Celtic Taliesin or the Norse Rig (thought to be Heimdall) additionally things can get confusing when our culture has been overlaid with monotheism and the cultural filter has been biased by a coherent view of a single god.
I think the myths reflect a culture's relationship with their Gods and how they've listened to their Gods.
How are the gods of different pantheons related?
If the Gods are a natural phenomenon then their appearance will be impacted by their location. Just as my behaviour is different at work and at home, or in a foreign clime I think so are theirs.
So are the Celtic Taranis, Ango-Saxon Thunor and Norse Thor one and the same? To be honest I don't know - I suspect that in the same land they are one and the same but the names reflect their appearance at different times viewed through their relationship with a different Collective Unconsciousness.
Is the Greek Zeus the same as the Italian Jupiter or the Celtic Dagda and the Norse Odin? Personally I don't think so or rather we should certainly not treat them so, the differences are too great in both the landscape and the Collective Unconsciousness that they relate to.
Which raises the question, which Neil Gaiman uses as the conceit for his book American Gods, is someone working with Thor in the US working with the same Thor as someone in Sweden?
Are they one and the same or different? The American working with the North American Thunder God whom they have called Thor, the Swede working with the original Norse Thunder God known, amongst other names, as Thor.
I think I tend to believe the latter situation - so for me there is the Gewessi Thunder God in Southern Britain, I feel that his range covers to the south of Brittany in Northern France and North up to the Borders of Britain, in the west it's Wales (it could extend to Ireland but I've never been there) and in the East across to Germany. He has many names, I know him best as Thunor but often use the name Thor as everyone knows that name and few know him as Thunor. Thunor is different to the Nordic Thor but they are more similar than the Thunder God of the American Plains.
Part of the reason, in the example above, the Thunder god is different is because their wives, as Goddesses of the land, are quite different. To take Zeus and Odin as an example Hera, possibly started as a corn goddess, is epitomised as the jealous wife, whilst Frige, whose home in Fensalir suggests a more generic fertility role, is known as the wise wife out-smarting her husband. This may well also drive the differences between the two societies in how women were treated.
Within the Northern tribes and the Indo-European tradition there is the Father Sky - Mother Earth model, and the deities mostly worked in pairs so within the Indo-European tradition I think what we know from both the Celtic and Germanic traditions show similarities to the Shiva/Shakti Hindu tradition e.g. this would relate to the passive feminine Sunna and active male solar energy in Balder, with Mani as the passive male lunar whilst the Disir or possibly Freyja (I would argue) represent the active female lunar energy. The Celtic may have a similar view if we return to the Breton Legend of St. Anne and update it with a pagan Celtic view
“In the beginning there was Annwn, Gwynvyd and Abred and within Gwynvyd there was heaven and earth. And the earth (Anne, Anu or Danu) was without form and void (Anne, Anu or Danu was barren). And darkness (affliction and confusion) was upon the face of the deep (on the face of Anne), and the Spirit of Heaven (Joachim, Beli Mawr or the"Fair Shining One") moved upon the face of the waters (the waters of Anne’s tears to console her). And He said, ‘Let there be light (Mary, the great music or Oran Mor) … and the gathering together of the waters (the gathering of the graces) they called maria (the seas, Mor or Mary).”
How do they interact?
With whom? On an individual basis they appear during meditation, dreams and via natural coincidence or synchronisity. They are the transrational within the patterns of our lives.
On a macro level through their influence on our language and culture they have wider influences which may explain differences between the historical role of women in the Gewessi lands and other lands, such as the eastern Mediterranean. These patterns ripple down to us through history. I would argue that the Northwest European cultures have had a much more equal bias with women than the Classical and Middle Eastern cultures due to this influence, but that is another post.
What is the significance of & the relationship between the natural and cultural attributes they are associated with?
My personal perspective is that the natural and cultural attributes control the perspective that we understand them by - this enables the follower of a pantheon to interpret and gain wisdom by understanding their interactions. The nature of the interactions between land, sea and the sky and the wider natural cycles provide clues to their attributes.
For me I think the Gods choose you, not the other way round. Exploring why a God/ess is important to me has enabled me to deepen understanding of myself. This all started, for me, when I chose to be pagan. I verbally and emotionally renounced being a Xtian and chose a pagan path, that seemed to be the invite that brought my pagan pantheon to me. At the time I was naive, cynical and with only an intellectual grasp of natural philosophy as an abstract concept. Events and coincidences which could be wrapped up as 'life lessons' appeared. Loca or Loki, my pagan tutor had turned up, but I didn't know it and was a slow learner, he was a harsh tutor from the school of hard knocks. It took me a couple of years to work out who 'he' was! I'd always felt the energy of the Green Man, who to me is known as Ingvi-Freyr or The Lord (which is always useful at Xtian festivals) once Loca had got me started on this Gewessi path Ingvi then worked with me to deepen my understanding of the gods and the land. Finally when it came to knowing myself my main tutor has been Frige who, turns up unexpectedly and usually within my home - her area of influence.
And yet Zeus, Thor, Thunor, Taranis, Indra, Jupiter and many others could be distinct entities.
What is the function/identity of a thunder god in relation to natural storms?
In my epxerpience Thunderstorms are naturally different in their formation and effect and this is different in different parts of the world and happen at different times of the year. The typical thunderstorm in southern Britain is an exciting event, often providing release from oppressive summer weather and one you'd stay up for and watch - at the right time it provides the water needed to ripen the harvest and at the wrong time can damage the harvest. A typical thunderstorm in Texas is a very different affair, a bigger (well everything is bigger in Texas) and more violent event that you might see from a distance but probably don't want to get caught in.
And to other thunder gods of other cultures?
So Zeus (I'm not lived in Greece and so this is conjecture) is much more of a mightily smiting God and friend to the Aristocracy whilst Thor, although he mightily smites the Jotuns, is seen as a benevolent God who is responsible for the fertility of the land and is a friend to the common farmer.
What is their relationship to the land and ancestry?
Personally I think that the relationship of the Gods is part of understanding a natural landscape and environment. It takes walking through the land, understanding the history of your landscape and feeling the land to understand that relationship - then going to other lands (for example on holiday) and doing the same in a new landscape to realise there is a difference. It goes back to the concept of the male-female energy working together to produce a unique
I think the view of a pantheon is related to a cultural ancestry rather than a biological one. I don't think the gods of the Northern Tribes care too much about our modern racial views of ancestry.
And finally, are these things important to consider or does a simple belief/experience of them suffice? Yes I think they are important to consider so that you can know your own mind and beliefs as a pagan. To know thyself, which I think is one root of modern paganism, you need to understand and. be able to answer questions from outsiders, these questions will tend to relate to your pantheon and the nature of the Gods. If each Pagan owns their relationship with Gods/Goddesses/Spirit or is an atheist it is necessary to understand and be able to articulate your beliefs.