One Deity or Many?
Early people connected spirits with the wind, nature, the stars, and the forces behind seemingly inexplicable phenomena. These divine beings were said to watch over creation and guide human destiny. As the earth's population grew and cultures interacted with one another — though war, trade, and migration — humankind's conceptions of the heavenly realm evolved.
Some spirits fell out of favor as our ancestors learned more about the actual workings of the physical world and the universe. In some instances, small tribal gods and goddesses merged with or gave way to deities with more extensive powers. Some deities went by different names and faces in different countries — Venus in Rome, Aphrodite in Greece, Amaterasu in Japan — although their attributes were essentially the same.
Whether you choose to honor a single god or goddess or many different deities is purely a personal choice. Witches, Wiccans, and Neo-Pagans — just like followers of other faiths — often disagree about the nature of the Divine. Many people believe that all spiritual paths are equally valid and all lead to the same place.
The ascendance of Judaism and Christianity, which extolled a single God, pushed out polytheistic religious beliefs in most of the Western world. The growth of Neo-Pagan, Wiccan, and Goddess-based spirituality, how-ever, has reawakened an interest in polytheism and led many people to consider multiple aspects of the Divine.
How do you envision the Divine? How do you integrate sacred energy into your own life? Do you believe in many gods and goddesses, one deity with many faces, or a single Supreme Being?
Even religions that uphold a belief in one Supreme Being distinguish different facets of that entity. Often the Divine is viewed as a holy trinity. Christianity, for instance, envisions God as having three distinct aspects: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Wiccans portray the Goddess as Maiden, Mother, and Crone. Islam talks of the three daughters of Allah, the eldest of whom presides over fate.
The early Greeks built three separate temples to Hera: one for the child, one for the wife, and one for the widow. Isis, Osiris, and Horus composed the ancient Egyptians' divine trio. The Zoryas (Slavonic warrior goddesses) represented dawn, dark, and midnight in one power. Carmenta (the Roman goddess of childbirth) had two sisters with whom she worked constantly: Antevorta (looking forward) and Postorta (looking back).
Choosing Gods and Goddesses
It is natural for humans to want to make gods and goddesses in their image, which is why there are literally thousands of names for the divine beings honored around the world. As you explore the myths and traditions of various cultures, you may feel an affinity with certain deities whose attributes correspond to your own spiritual vision. Some witches naturally relate to the gods and goddesses that are part of their personal heritage. Italians might gravitate to Strega, Scandinavians to Freya, Greeks to Sophia, Irish to Brigid.
A specific god or goddess might appear to a witch in a dream, meditation, or vision. Countless people throughout history have experienced visitations from divine beings. Myths and legends from many cultures speak of gods and goddesses interacting with humans. Such appearances aren't just a thing of the past — they can happen to anyone, anytime.
Some gods and goddesses may be “right” for you at one period in your life, while others seem appropriate to your path at other stages of your development. Young women, for instance, might admire Diana's vitality and independence; older women can relate to the wisdom of Hecate.
Once you've familiarized yourself with a number of gods and goddesses, you may opt to petition one or more for help with a specific task. If you are facing a formidable challenge or obstacle, you could call on the Hindu god Ganesh to assist you. Perhaps you wish to incorporate a certain deity's attributes into your own character. If you want to develop qualities of compassion you might align yourself with the Kuan Yin, the Asian goddess of mercy.
How Do Gods and Goddesses Reveal Themselves?
The answer depends on the person asking the question. If you tend to be a visual person, you might see a vision that you associate with a particular god or goddess. Isis, for instance, might send an image of winged arms or appear as a great bird. If your auditory sense is strong, you may hear a deity speak to you.
Brigid might invite you to stir her cauldron or Yemaya's song might penetrate your dreams. Apollo may make his presence known via the scent of bay leaf, one of his sacred plants. Suffice it to say that the Divine knows how to connect with each person through a medium that he or she will understand.
Many people believe that higher powers are always trying to communicate with us and are eager to assist us in our spiritual development. As Carol K. Anthony says in her book A Guide to the I Ching, “the light is always there, but we must be open to see it.”
Frequently, deities communicate with humans through dreams. While sleeping, you're more receptive to symbols and signs than you are in your ordinary waking state. Gods and goddesses may slip you messages while you're meditating, too. Perhaps you may receive insights while you're engaged in mundane tasks, such as putting on makeup or washing dishes — when your mind is only partly focused on the familiar activity, allowing room for spiritual discourse to take place.
Pay attention to signs. To American Indians, the appearance of an animal or bird may be a signal from a divine being who has assumed the creature's form in order to convey information. Listen to your intuition, too — hunches can be messages from a higher source.