They are REAL, I tell you!

Yesterday was a great day, this morning has been a very nice leisurely morning, and my mind is poking at things. Before I go into this at *all*, I have point out: I haven’t read any of the myriad posts that are likely floating around, regarding this topic. Honestly, I don’t care what other people are doing in their spiritual lives, I don’t care where they are finding the spirits and the gods. At the end of the day, if I care at all, I care that their experiences are enriching their lives in a way that is beneficial to them. (Okay, and true, it’s a topic close to my heart and I am a voyeur, so I *do* like to hear about the spiritual lives and practices of others, but it does not negatively impact my life if they are doing something I decide is wonky!) I only even know about the back and forth between folks on this topic because Beth has mentioned it, in passing. The topic? Comic heroes, from my understanding, being worshipped as though they are heroes in the classical pagan sense, as though they are gods. It’s not a new phenomena, at all, and it’s not the first time there’s been a hubbabaloo regarding it. It doesn’t color my worship or my relationship with my gods or ancestors, and it’s not likely going to. However, it _is_ a curious thing for me to consider, so I’m poking at it, and I figured I’d poke out loud. Helps me think sometimes.

Why am I poking at it? On the one hand, I’m always curious as to why people feel the need to tell others how they are doing it wrong. I’m assuming that’s happening here; it seems to whenever there are strong feelings on a subject. On the other hand, with the way my writing — which is most conveniently labeled as fiction — happens, the organic seeming way the stories come to me, I have to stop and wonder about other “fictional, created” things being labeled as “not real” in the way that the gods and ancestors *are* “real”. It’s an interesting tangle. I *am* a hard polytheist; the gods and spirits *are* real. For as long as I’ve been writing, I’ve always hastened to add that my characters are real, yet not. But . . . I don’t know how true that is. I don’t think it is, across the board, true on the same level, all the time. It’s caused me angst a time or five: if this character comes across to me in my daily life as tangible to me as Poseidon does, is that proof that I’m crazy? Is that proof that He’s not really Real? Or, are t/They *all* really Real?

I’m ashamed to say that, for a time, these worries kept me from the keyboard. Until I decided I didn’t care — my gods, my spirits, my ancestors, my stories — these all worked to make my life more livable, made it make more sense, made me a better person in this world. And then, it got worse, right? Because The Fairy Queen of Spencer’s Butte and Other Tales was written as a thanksgiving to the spirits of this place, and was inspired by those very spirits. Not all of them, but every story in that collection was, to be completely “out there”, told to me, to share. So, with the stories in that collection? There are land wights I’ve met, nymphs and trolls and shapeshifters, people who are not human. Some have passed through my life and are gone, the story they wanted told written down and shared. Others linger, telling me more, demanding that I write more, filling my thoughts with their experiences. They are as real to me as Poseidon is, as Odin is, as Bragi and Thor and my various ancestors.

When it comes to characters, popular pop culture characters, iconic characters, I have to wonder how much of an egregore has been built up around them, to make them real, more real, than they might otherwise be. And I have to wonder which other spirits may be using tools that are available to them, to reach people who are reaching out in desperation, in desire, in need. I’m not drawn to worship all the gods, or all the ancestors, or all the spirits, because they have been neglected for so long. I offer my devotion and respect and love (and sometimes simply just my respect) to those who make up my devotional life, not because they were worshipped before and deserve it now, but because they deserve it now. And in a lot of cases, those I offer worship to matter to me because they matter to s/Someone else who matters to me. A whole host of the Hellenic gods are on my radar simply because of Poseidon. The same is true for some of my spiritual ancestors.

Mostly, though, I’m poking at this idea of “real”ness, and humanity’s seeming need to draw the lines and boundaries for other people. Pagans are not the only ones who do this, not by a long shot. I suspect it’s tied into our territorial instincts. Here’s the boundary, this is us, that’s them, this is what demarcates the separation. I worry that we, in our hast to have others take us seriously, if we don’t try to pin down the nature of the Gods too much to our understanding and our limitations. And, I marvel that I no longer care exactly how the “characters” who come to me are real in a different or same way as the spirits I interact with are real. For years that was a driving fear. It’s amazing to realize that, at some point, quite unknown to me, it ceased to be.

What makes a spirit a spirit worthy of veneration? How it comes into existence? Is there only one way for one to begin to *be*? Must all things that exist be born in a way that we can understand it as having been born? Must spirits be rooted in the past, in an unchanging form, in order to be authentic? Must the interactions take the form of interactions we find appealing/acceptable/authentic, or can they not be more fluid than that?

And for something completely different, I leave you with: 102_0137a River!

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15 Comments Add yours

  1. Diane says:

    I hadn’t realized this was “a thing.” I know I’ve been weirded out when spirit guides have chosen the guise of a pop cultural character. The conversation tends to go something like this:

    “Dude, you’re from Star Trek, so obviously you’re a figment of my imagination. Go away.”

    “Do you seriously think this is what I look like? I just picked something you’d recognize and that would fit with what I’m telling you. So are you going to listen or not?”

    That’s different, though, than building a hero shrine to Iron Man. I guess I can see how someone could find that a useful way to approach literal hero-worship. If I were to explore that, though, it would be more along the lines of (to continue the analogy) Iron Man as a modern expression/interpretation of Herakles. (That analogy doesn’t really work, but it’s the best I’m coming up with on short notice.)

    Your point is well-taken, though, that some of these characters may have developed into an egregore due to their prevalence in our cultural consciousness. *ponders*

    1. naiadis says:

      Tricksy spirit guides!

      I guess I really just turn off the minute someone starts, “But THAT isn’t valid!” I can go along and say that a group gets to decide if something is or isn’t valid or acceptable to them, but beyond that I really have no patience for it. I am not walking that particular path, I am not living that particular life, I have no idea the various nuances that are making up that experience, etc. My gods have never manifested as any sort of pop cultural thing, but, you know, I’ve got me some mask-loving deities in my Family. I wouldn’t put it past Them.

      1. Diane says:

        It’s funny, but your post, the original post that launched the brouhaha, and various discussions from school about “the hero’s journey” versus “the heroine’s journey” kept running through my mind as I watched IM3 today. They have yet to gel into anything coherent, but one of the things that kept coming to mind is that I’ve never really grokked hero cultus in the first place. I can admire a hero/ine, real or fictional. But actual worship has never quite made sense to me.

        Were I to create a hero shrine of some kind, it would be with the intent to have reminders of inspirational people around, and so it wouldn’t really matter if they’d had literal existence or not, so long as the inspiration factor was there. If I were to do ritual involving heros, and if there were a mix of real and fictional representations, I suppose it would involve thanking the real people for what they’d done that I found inspirational and thanking the creators of the fictional ones for what they’d conveyed through their creations.

        It’s particularly intriguing to ponder this stuff this weekend, when we’re (supposedly) honoring our fallen soldiers (by having barbecues?).

        1. naiadis says:

          The only way that I really *get* hero worship is as an extension of ancestor veneration — often in this case it would be in terms of ‘spiritual’ ancestors, I guess? So, like, Egil Skallagrimson? Er, no. Not so much with the veneration. Herakles? Not really. Theseus? In theory, I want to add him, and other “children” of Poseidon’s, but in practice, I never seem to. Not really because I think they are horrid, but I don’t connect with their stories, they aren’t really a part of my religious life, and let’s face it: mythically speaking, Poseidon’s got some monstrous off-spring. On my list of those who get hero cultus in my practice? Julian has his place there, and from far more modern times, Steve Irwin. Then again, my hero worship has little more to it than thoughtful prayers of gratitude as the occasion calls for it, so, yeah, really it looks far more like ancestor veneration than anything else. So I likely have nothing useful to say about it.

          You know, the way Memorial Day is treated boggles me as much as how Easter is treated — which, I find more offensive than Christmas in its commercialization, oddly enough. I just. . . . Happy Memorial Day!! What?!?

  2. Soli says:

    I’ve been aware of the talk happening but doing all I can to avoid it. And it’s an odd thing for me, as I also associate with Discordians/borderline chaos magicians who can make a good argument for such characters being the Gods of our time. They are certainly more recognized than Those to Whom we build shrines. I think it’s something more complex though, that makes a god. It also ties into another post/rant I want to do that for some reason needs to be said. That this isn’t all psychology or “just in our heads.” Anyway I will save that one for later.

    1. naiadis says:

      I do enjoy your rants.

      I don’t know that I can (or even really care to) define what makes a god a god and not “just” a spirit. Names have power, and we do like our names and boxes and explanations. Every time I think of this, I think various folk who were vague about naming things, rather than our exact naming. THIS particular tree is this, and this almost the same by slightly different tree is THAT, rather than naming them based on their likeness. There’s a difference, but I don’t know that I can or want to put a name on it.

      I remember, now and again, why I do like the Discordians.

      1. Soli says:

        yeah, I do have some awesome Discordians in my life. ❤

  3. Iðasfóstri says:

    I like this post 🙂 And Tony Stark is both Daedalus and Icarus at once DUH.

    (Actually, when it comes to action movie narrative, I am pretty universally disappointed, because (especially IM3) they paint a world where the individual is powerless, and utterly dependent on the hero. I can’t help but come out of a film thinking “suppose this is reality: what is reality like if this is a description of reality?” and coming away annoyed at the implications of most of them. STORIES ARE POWERFUL STOP TELLING THAT STORY.)

    1. naiadis says:

      Thank you!

      I have to admit, I haven’t seen a lot of the more recent movies. We saw Thor, eventually, well, *because*, but that’s been it. But, I heartily agree, that is a bad story to tell. 😦 (And, alas, not surprising.)

      1. Soli says:

        I’ve seen Thor and the Avengers. I maintain that in the films, Nick Fury is more Odin than Odin. Makes things a lot more interesting for me.

        1. naiadis says:

          We were so disappointed with Hopkins playing Odin. Partially, because we thought it would be good! Granted, limited, and yeah, the whole ill-Odin storyline is blah! But . . . awesome actor! Awesome god! What could go wrong??

          . . . . oh.

          1. Soli says:

            More Odin than Odin. It has me excited to see what will come next.

  4. Teka Lynn says:

    I know that spot! I visit that park a lot.

    1. naiadis says:

      I don’t go nearly as often as I should, which is nuts since I’m closer to it now that I was when we first moved here. But then I get home, where there are cats! And the dog! and the books! and less people! and it’s hard to convince myself to go *out*. Which should get better as it dries out a tad. 😉

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