Too often, when we start traversing the various pagan and polytheistic hemispheres, we begin to see this turn of phrase in a very negative association. For example, when I asked about it on Tumblr earlier, Stag Kings Wife commented and mentioned that they did not like this particular phrasing. This is actually quite common. But, I’m an odd duck or the odd man out, so to speak. I actually prefer to use this phrase because it gets people to (A) read what the fuck I’m saying and (B) I enjoy trying to explain that not everything that is negatively associated is actually as all bad as people make it out to be.
Now, when I discuss deity collecting, I’m not talking of the rather, herm, youthful desire to work with ALL THE GODS. There does seem to be a very naïve desire to have many deities to work with or to worship at any given moment. As someone else remarked on a group I am a part of, they tend to associate this desire with a very Pokemon mentality. Now, I don’t know what this Poke-stuff is but I do know the phrase, “collect them all!” I sold the cards at Spencer’s along with the other card games, so I know that in that realm, you need to collect all the cards or the ball-thingamajigs and have everyone to show off to your friends. There is a very real atmosphere of this in polytheism, but I tend to associate this infatuation with youth and immaturity. What newbie doesn’t start out with stars in their eyes and the want for ALL THE GODS?
However, among the rank and file of the polytheist communities, there are people who do work with, worship, or form attachments with various deities. I am an example of this. I know a few others, besides Stag Kings Wife as shown above, who also have a sort of “open door policy” when it comes to communing with other deities. These people, like myself, collect deities. We aren’t doing this with the moon and stars in our eyes, approaching whomever we feel a tug from or just for the sake of it. We have these deities coming out of our ears, more often than not, because they show up at our doorstep, wet and asking to be let in. And most people cannot say no when they get a deity giving them a hang-dog look like that.
The thing is that I generally and honestly believe that these deities are knocking on the doors of polytheists with “listed numbers” for a reason. They know that we are very busy and active and working with other gods, so why not go on in and take a peek? And if they like what they see in us, then they may decide to head on over and start forming a relationship. As I said to Sard and Devo earlier, “Maybe they’re so tired of no followers that they crowd those of us with listed numbers.” And in same vein, as Sard said, “But yeah, some Gods (like Herishef) have such a small following, it’s depressing, and sometimes They’ll bug the shit out of people. They need us just as much as we need Them, ultimately.”
While I can’t quite say if that’s the case for all the gods in my arsenal, it would make sense as to why Bes and Ptah showed up to me; why Sard and Helms have started working with lesser known deities like Herishef and Wenut; and why there are a slowly but surely growing number of people who can qualify as “deity collectors.”
However, there is still very much the negative association to take into account here. I can’t really understand this mentality. It seems like an awful lot of monogamy in a realm that really doesn’t deserve it. As Devo said earlier while we were discussing it, “Sometimes, I think we modern polytheists have a bad habit of limiting the deities we will have in our lives. I mean, in JP and in AE, it was not uncommon to visit different shrines and pay tribute to all sorts of gods – not just your local deity of choice. And priests serviced more than just one god in daily rites. Yet many modern practitioners seem to think of a lot of our worship like monogamy. Where you only have the select few gods and nothing else – so to go elsewhere is like cheating or whoring yourself out. I think there are extremes in both directions, and very few really fit into the middle well.” It is quite possible that these very sentiments, perhaps at the darkest heart of people who rant against this sort of collecting, is the crux of the problem.
We come in from religions, more often than not, where there is just the single deity to consider. In Catholicism, there is a flavor of polytheism to the whole thing. In some other Christian sects, there is a sort of trinity. Both of those second examples could allots for at least coming into polytheism with the ability to pacify three deities and maybe even a few more. So perhaps this intense desire for the working with a limited number is just a holdover from Christianized values and belief systems. Perhaps, it stems from a lack of understanding what the ancient cultures we emulate were really like or what they were really about.
Then again, maybe the issue is just the simple fact that not as many people as I am alluding to have had gods knocking on their doors, hang-dog and sad-faced, waiting to be let the fuck in as you-all have work to do. Or if they have had them knocking, they’ve slammed the door, locked that bitch up tight, and salted the entrances as well. I am sure as hell guilty of that last bit. I do it with every deity that wants in outside of the household gods I worship. Every single one gets a door slam, a door locking, a severe talking to, eye rolls, whining, bitching, moaning, screaming, kicking, salting, etc before I finally give in and say, “Sure, okay.”
I do it that way because then, I kind of know that they’re around for a reason and it could be pretty important.
But beyond all that and how I go about this, why the hell is this thing so negative? Why can’t we develop relationships with gods outside of our comfort zone? Why can’t we be all open and honest? Why can’t we let our current list of gods put up a giant fucking neon sign over our heads that say, “THEY’RE LISTENING; COME ON DOWN”? Why can’t we let our numbers be listed? And again, I ask, why can’t we move outside of our comfort zones?
To limit ourselves is to limit our practices, methinks. And as more and more people enter polytheism, find the popular gods, go with the tried and true gods that everyone knows, those of us have been around for a while will start getting knocks from the lesser-knowns. We’ll start “deity collecting.” And we’ll be thought of as “speshul snowflakes” with a complex.
And while I do have a complex or six, I can tell you I am not a “speshul snowflake.”
I just happen to have a listed number.