There are many Pagan polytheists who believe they have daily personal interactions with the Divinities they worship. It’s not unusual to hear someone talk about having a conversation with their Deities while they’re having breakfast or commuting to work, or actually having visions of their Deities while taking a shower or mowing the lawn. Some even claim they can hear their Divinities speak to them with human words and human voices. Is any of this real? Are we all just suffering from hallucinations, or are we in fact communicating with Higher Powers on a day-to-day basis?
It’s impossible to answer this question. It could be that we’re all really experiencing something truly paranormal; it could be that only some of us are and that others aren’t; or it could be that we’re all delusional and are simply interacting with “imaginary friends.” Granted, most other Westerners would probably vote for the latter option, but there’s no way to prove that either. We may never know the truth about the Gods, what They actually are or why we have the experiences with Them that we do; and while the outside world may not approve of such experiences, most of us have no interest in trying to get rid of them and are perfectly healthy and content.
Most of us.
I’ve seen some posts lately from people who believe they’ve been raped by certain Deities and who are still dealing with the trauma that was caused by this experience. I’ve heard stories of people being put into situations by Deities where they are made to suffer serious physical harm and mental anguish. These stories are truly disturbing and my heart goes out to those who believe they’ve actually suffered such horrific events. But here’s my thing: as a polytheist, I’m not going to sit here and tell you that your experiences aren’t real. For all anyone really knows, they could be. But I am going to tell you that just like people who are traumatized by other flesh-and-blood human beings, you need help. And I’m not just talking about lighting candles, making offerings, casting spells or praying to other Deities. I’m talking about going to a doctor and seeking mental help.
I realize how that probably sounds; you probably think I’m dismissing your experiences as “crazy talk.” No, I’m not. I don’t always believe everything other polytheists tell me, because let’s face it; some people really are out of touch with reality, and some folks really are just liars. But if you are actually suffering a real, observable trauma from something you’ve experienced that you truly think was paranormal, then I don’t give one shit if it was objectively “real” or not; that simply doesn’t matter. The only thing that does matter to me is that you really are suffering and that you need help. More specifically, you need the kind of help that religion cannot possibly give you.
That’s an unpopular opinion among Pagans; many of us seem to think that when we have problems, we should just cast some spells or say some prayers and they’ll go away. (And then – when the problems don’t go away – it’s supposedly the individual’s fault for not having enough faith or not being strong enough or not doing their spells right…which is absolute horseshit.) But if you fall down a flight of stairs or accidentally swallow rat poison, whom would you call? 911, or your local palm reader? You’d call 911 of course. When our bodies are broken and bleeding, no amount of praying is going to save us. And the very same principle applies to our minds, because our minds are as much a part of our bodies as our skin and bones. When your mind is broken and bleeding, no religion on Earth – not Paganism, not Christianity, not Buddhism nor Shinto – is going to fix it. Religion can be very helpful; it can give you hope and a way of finding meaning in your life. But praying to a God won’t mend broken bones, and it won’t mend a broken mind either.
I also realize that some people are very nervous about talking to mental health specialists about their experiences; they think they’ll be treated poorly simply for being believers in the first place. But here’s the thing: psychiatrists, psychologists, counselors and therapists are actually very respectful of religion. They have to be, because they recognize its potential usefulness in promoting good mental health. If you start seeing a therapist and tell her about the time when you were raped by a Deity, she’s not going to treat you like you’re a freak. She’s not going to laugh at you or call you crazy or stupid. She’s going to treat what you’ve experienced as a real event and she’s going to help you find a way of dealing with it. No, she might not believe that what you’ve experienced is 100% objectively real; but you can’t really fault her for that, and she doesn’t need to believe it to do her job. She’s not going to try and “convert” you to atheism or materialism, either. She’s going to help you find the healthiest and most effective way for you to cope with your problems; and if for some reason she doesn’t, that is her own failing. It doesn’t mean you should give up on seeking help altogether; it just means that therapist is not right for you and that you should look for someone else.
I see a therapist whenever I need to, and she has been really helpful to me. I too was slightly worried about being judged for my religion when I first started looking for help, but here’s what I did: I looked online and found a local specialist who’s Chinese and who comes from a culture that isn’t dominated by white American Protestantism. At our first session, I asked her if she’d mind telling me what her religious upbringing was – not “What’s your religion?”, mind you, but what her parents raised her to be – and it turned out to be a combination of Buddhism and Chinese folk religion. Well that worked out just great, because she also knew what it was like to feel marginalized by our predominantly Christian culture (perhaps even more so than I). I therefore didn’t have to worry about her judging me for my faith, because to her it was just another animist/polytheist religion like the one she’d grown up with. The idea of believing in many Gods or interacting with Them personally was not unusual to her at all. So if you feel that you’d like to start seeing a therapist, I’d encourage you to look for someone who comes from a similar cultural background.
Again, just because someone is a polytheist doesn’t mean I have to accept everything they claim to experience as being true. I hear all kinds of things that make me go, “Nope, not believing that!” (And you know what? We have every right to be skeptical about each other’s experiences; it would just help if we could all be a little more politic about it. There’s a difference between being skeptical of something and being a completely dismissive prick.) But every now and again, I hear a truly disturbing claim that I don’t want to believe…but which appears to have had observable traumatic consequences. We need to get past arguing whether such claims are objectively real or delusional; we need to cut right through the bull and right to the bone. The real issue here is whether people who are suffering from such horrors are seeking and/or getting the proper medical and therapeutic help they need. And a big part of that problem has to do with how we as Pagans treat such people. We need to do the responsible thing and treat their problems seriously, and we need to encourage them to seek proper help. Dismissing their problems as fantasy and treating their need for mental help as a moral weakness isn’t just foolish and irresponsible; it’s also purely and simply evil.
(In my belief, it’s exactly what
Apophis wants us to do to each other in this case…It’s just one more thing the Backward Face uses to try and engineer the dissolution of every human soul. I say we put that son of a bitch back in its proper place and start getting right with Ma’at when it comes to how we treat our brothers and sisters in the Gods. How about you?)