Pagan Magic asks:
Do you see the Gods and Goddesses as individual entities, each with their own power? Or are they universal archetypes? Do you even believe in a divine entity? Are the Gods and Goddesses aspects of the whole? How important is it to you to worship them? What experiences have you had? We'd love to hear your views.
My answer —
I think we are all sparks of the Divine fire, metaphorically speaking, i.e. expressions of God — or like one point that expands out and out into many. I tend to see deities and angels as somewhat closer to that original source, but we are all aspects of that. We are in God and God is in us. And when I say we, I mean everything. I'm monotheist, polytheist and pantheist all at once, seeing no inherent contradiction in that. It is, instead, a paradox.
I sometimes say The Universe when I mean God or Deity or Source or Great Spirit — and I experience that Universe / God etc. as having a personal connection and relationship with me. (Much as I might look after my own finger, say, if I also related to that finger as sentient and autonomous.) This Source I see as beyond gender, and surely beyond our comprehension in many ways. When you realise that there are colours our physical eyes cannot see, how much more is there that we cannot in this form apprehend?
For everyday purposes I prefer to focus on the female aspect of Deity, and have no problem meaning that when I say 'God', although I do also use the term 'Goddess'. I think the individual deities are as real as you and me, though not in physical form in this dimension in the same way that we are. I have personal relationships with a number of them. I also see them as embodying archetypes, and again perceive paradox rather than contradiction.
Years before I identified as Pagan, a magician friend who was clairvoyant told me that this own patron deity, Thoth, was with me. He described Thoth, and I realised that this was the same dude who had been hanging around me since earliest childhood. (I always had awareness of the spirit world.) So I knew him as a friend, guide and guardian already, and knowing who he was simply deepened the relationship. I regard him as my patron deity too.
Then, when I first self-dedicated to this path, that morning before I did the ritual I kept being presented with spiders, both in the flesh and in mental images. I got the message and dedicated myself specifically to the Goddess in her aspect as Great Mother Spider. I identified her by the name Arachne, though also aware of the Native American version. It seemed appropriate, as Spider is the Creator (as weaver) and I'm a poet. But then I came to know what a great gift it was from the Universe, that I was directed that way. A witch with hubris tried to attack me and some of my friends and helpers. (The ultimate target was someone else we were close to, but even so, we all felt the effects.) She had some Native American heritage and her totem was Spider, so many of the attacks came via venomous spiders. They were all averted: close calls, and frightening, but not fatal. We soon worked out where it was coming from, and were able to raise enough protection that she gave up. But my point is, just before the attacks began I had been guided to put myself, in effect, under the protection of Spider — and so, while she could mount the attacks through her own connection with Spider, they were then turned away (not only from me but also my allies) by the same agency.
Later again, forming a coven with some like-minded friends, I participated in a journey meditation for each of us to find our specific deity to guide us in this venture, and Ariadne came to me.
There are others I relate to also, in various ways and through various circumstances. Their personalities are distinct and individual.