What Does a Relationship with the Pagan Gods Look Like?

In the past, I’ve written about connecting with deities and have made a few videos of general tips about how to find a connection with a deity. But I keep getting questions along the same theme, and these questions come from people who are new to paganism, people who are beginner or baby witches, and even judgmental non-polytheists who insist that paganism is an exercise of fantasy. Those questions all essentially boil down to: What does it mean to have a relationship with a deity at all? 

Early in the path or during the phase of exploration, eople want to know what it looks like, sounds like, and feels like to have a “patron.” They want to know specifics. Do you pray? Can you hear the gods, or see them? Do they come to you in dreams? Do they perform magical spells in your life? Just how suprasensory is this relationship, and just how grounded in reality is it – or is it not? 

To be truthful, I don’t know the answers to these questions. I’m sure every person who is pagan or simply religious will describe their relationship with their god or gods in a different way. But what I can do is explain what my relationships look like, how they differ between gods.

What’s different about the pagan gods from monotheism?

Many people who approach polytheism come from an Abrahamic upbringing. The majority, at east in the American context, are Protestant Christians and a few are Catholics. Leaving these religions for a pagan path doesn’t have to mean a complete rejection of the spiritual value or ultimate reality of those entities. For me, Judaism and the god of the Jews is still very real to me, even though I consider myself a pagan. I still observe, to some extent, Shabbat, read Torah, and feel a sense of reverence for Hashem. But my relationship to that god and the Jewish tradition in general is much more about feeling a connection to my ancestors, my people and my culture. It’s about acknowledging that these are the teachings and ways of life that enabled us to survive these centuries and have given us our distinct ethnic and spiritual identity. Hashem as a god is, to me, the inspiration and divine source of my people. I don’t feel a personal relationship with Hashem, not in the way that I hear Christians describe their relationship to figures like Jesus or Mother Mary. The Torah teaches us that Hashem is a mysterious god, one who we wrestle with throughout our lives, disagree with, contemplate, and seek to understand. What I imagine when I picture Hashem in my mind is the Big Bang and Hubble telescope photos of strange nebulae.  

But my relationships with pagan deities are deeply personal, sitting somewhere between worship, friendship, and mentorship. The pagan gods are more relatable to me as a human being because they are so intimately personified through their mythology, artwork, and connections with the natural world that I myself can observe. Pagan deities feel much closer to my lived experience as a homo sapien in this planetary sphere, whereas Hashem, the Jewish god, relates more to my contemplation of this planetary sphere whizzing through the vast reaches of spacetime. 

So, what constitutes a personal relationship to a patron deity?

Now, what does my personal relationship to my patron deities look like? Well, it’s a little different for each one. I work with or worship a variety of deities from a few traditions, such as Celtic, Baltic, Canaanite, Norse, and Kemetic. Depending on what pantheon the deity in question is from, my practice shifts a little. I try to incorporate as much of the traditional or ancient ways in which a deity was worshipped while still appealing to my modern sensibilities. 

One example is my worship of Kemetic deities like Bast, Isis, or Nephthys. These goddesses are representative to me of personalities and traits that I would like to inherit in myself, so spending time with them is key in growing more like them. When I feel righteous anger or rage, I lean on Bast; I might light fragrant incense, put oils on my skin, and sit in a dark space illuminated by candlelight and let myself slip into a trance with Bast as my guide. She helps me explore that anger and find a suitable, healthy outlet for it. Isis is the ultimate woman and divine mother, a devoted lover who embodies the throne upon which the royal line sits. I find inspiration from Isis particularly in my professional life, allowing her to teach me to be more confident, forthright, and daring in my workplace. I would pray to her to give me the words to ask for a raise or speak to an intimidating client. I would also lean on her when I feel that I haven’t been engaging my husband with romance, and I might try to embody her mentally in expressing seduction and love. 

So yes, I do pray to my gods. Many of my prayers take the form of whispers under my breath when I need guidance or inspiration, while other prayers might consist of spending all day working on a poem I read aloud under the full moon before lighting the paper on fire as an offering. I’ve also taken strongly to rewording ancient hymns to suit me and my needs, and enjoy using these on sacred days, special occasions, or with my daughter.

How to have magickal and psychic experiences with your deity

As for the really woo-woo bits, I find it interesting that people who come to paganism are always really preoccupied with whether or not they can expect to have visions, dreams, or clairaudient experiences with their deities. The short answer is no, you should not expect this from a spiritual relationship with a pagan deity. But that doesn’t mean you can’t cultivate that kind of relationship. 

If you’re like me and come from a Biblical background, whether that be Judaism, Christianity, or Islam, you’re probably familiar with stories about Bible characters suddenly experiencing the presence of God. There’s a burst in the heavens, a crack in reality, or an angel suddenly descends. These moments herald major prophetic changes to not only the character’s life, but the world around him or her; and, usually, send the character into a fit of fear or terror. Similarly, these moments can happen in our personal lives and aren’t that uncommon. I had never heard of the Baltic deity Laima or the Norse deity Nanna, but both appeared to me in dreams and announced themselves, their name, and were surrounded by their symbols – things I in no way couldn’t conjured on my own in the dreamspace. These were visions, sent to me by the goddesses themselves. But my relationship to Isis, who I love most dearly, has never had a visual element to it. She speaks to me in subtle ways – she makes her presence known by events in my life, strange objects appearing in my path, and whispers I hear within that I could easily confuse with my own intuition. 

If you crave this suprasensory experience with a deity, don’t try to force it. Instead, focus on improving your own psychic senses so that when a deity decides to reach out to you in this way, you might actually experience it rather than miss out. Simple habits like keeping  a dream journal, practicing meditation, going on silent nature walks, eating or drinking mindfully, getting up early or staying up to stare at the moon – these are all ways you can begin exploring your own psychological and spiritual depths in a manner that will allow you to notice when something is there that isn’t coming from you, but coming from somewhere – or someone – else. 

If you’re not psychically inclined, then don’t think that these experiences are what validate your spiritual practice or your relationship to a diety. If we think back to the ancient world, we know that it was the role of priestesses to help the community communicate with the gods; they acted as mediums, because not everyone can, or is meant to, have that sort of psychospiritual conncetion with other dimensions. Some people have, through occult study and ritual, forced that connection open, and descended into near madness because it simply wasn’t the right thing for them. Be okay with that too. 

Just because some people have these skills doesn’t mean that you’re lacking spiritual skills of your own. Maybe you can’t hear or see your deity, but you have a strong telepathic connection to the animal world. Maybe dream visions don’t come to you, but you have a magickal green thumb that enables you to cure any stricken plant that comes your way. Maybe you’re not a spiritual healer, but you are a physical healer. 

The physical world we live in is just as important as the spiritual one, and both the physical world and spiritual world have multiple dimensions. Deities aren’t the only spiritual entities; there are ghosts, spirits, sprites, nymphs, elves, and all manner of beings that I personally have never connected with. Maybe you do.

We need people with all sorts of talents to help us navigate our spiritual life and our life here on this planetary sphere. So don’t think that your relationship to deity needs to look or feel a certain way just because some teenager on WitchTok thinks her gods appear in her bedroom as literal apparitions to scold her for skipping school.

Find what makes your heart and soul sing, and get good at it. 

How I Named the God Who Visited My Dream Space

Atum, the self-created god of Before-Time, came into my life by reaching out to me in a dream.

This is by no means uncommon; many pagans experience the divine or Spirit communication through dreams, and that often leads us to question and wonder at what we witnessed. Very often, we can sense that the Being in our dream is a deity – but Who?

I’m of the opinion that the gods find us in sleep because dreams are limitless. It is only there that our consciousness is willing to defy the laws of physics or storytelling and visit the familiar and unfamiliar, all in favor of gaining a lucid experience. When we wake, we’re left to interpret symbols; but with Divine dreams comes the challenge of interpreting the Divine.

I want to walk through this process by exploring how I uncovered my patron, Atum. It began with a lucid dream from a mysterious Egyptian God. I devoted hours to research the details of my dream in order to narrow down who it had come from – and what I did once I had a couple guesses on their identity.

The Dream

I’m grocery shopping with my partner at our usual market when, at check-out, I’m suddenly convinced that it would be silly of us to go home and cook. There were a few hours left to the evening, I told him. Instead, we should get on the last ferry to Jamaica, or Costa Rica, or wherever it takes us.
We arrive on an island somewhere in the sea. My partner is present but I don’t know where. The island is a large, round, and pure sand with tufts of grass on its borders. We’ve arrived with a dozen other seekers, here to witness the Man wake-up. This happens once every 30 years.
The sun is setting, and I see stars. A bright constellation in the shape of an arrow catches my eye first, followed by one that looks like a cave art drawing of a human being.
As darkness falls, we gather in the sand and begin to spread out. The Man wakes up.
In the dark, he pulls liquid light from beneath the sands and fashions them into the souls of animals. A cheetah spirit, tall and boundless, pounces on me; I felt the weight of her paws on my shoulders. When we touched, she became briefly material; when we broke away, she returned to liquid light form. I laughed at her nuzzle.
I made eye contact with a lion. It was a brief moment steeped in profound, deep love.
There were other animals. In addition to lions and cheetahs, I saw orangutans, gorillas, a bear, crocodiles, and vague beasts I didn’t fixate on. Indeed, these are some of my favorite creatures of the Earth – with the exception of a crocodile.
Then I see the Man.

He appears in front of me, almost floating above the sands. He’s older, dark-skinned, with small patches of white in his hair. His eyes are shut but I can sense that he sees me through the lids. He carries a staff made of wood, but it’s strong like metal, with a hook on its end. It emanated a creative power.
The cloak he wears shifts in color from dark green, deep blue, to brown.
I gaze up at him for a moment, smile, and bow my head. Tears in my eyes, I thank him for this gift of “the most beautiful experience of my life,” and I return to interacting with the light-being animals.
But time is short. The sun begins to rise, and they all collapse back into the sands. The Man disappears with them for another 30 years. Tears finally spill from my eyes, and I call out to him as “Jupiter.” The crocodiles, however, do not disappear. As the sun hits their bodies, material snakes emerge. I run from them back to the boats and realize only then that I am alone.
Who is this God? This mysterious Man wouldn’t leave my mind’s eye, but luckily the dream was extremely lucid and provided a good stack of details to use in research.

300px-Egypt-Hieroglyphs

Step 1: Isolate the Concrete Details

I knew He must be an older man associated with arrows, wild animals, and perhaps blindness if I’m to guess from his shut eyes. I received a sense from Him that He had a need for darkness in order to create – a very common archetype – and I sensed ethereality in Him too. What stumps me most is the Jupiter calling card, as I’m confident he was not a Greek or Roman deity. The number 30 is also notable.
My first thought was for this to be a call for working with Amen-Ra/Amun-Ra, but some part of my intuition told me it could’ve been a dream from Khnum to begin worship of him. At first, I was hung up on animal associations. What Egyptian God is associated with cheetahs, lions, and apes?
Later, as I sat at my pottery table, it occurred to me that in the dream I specifically thanked him for the “gift” of the experience to connect so deeply with these animals. Indeed, big cats, apes, and bears are all part of my animal totem spiritual work. They’re my favorites since childhood. So, perhaps the animals had more to do with me than him.

Step 2: Divine

I was able to perform a little divination late at night, underneath the Sagittarius Waning Moon and the planet Jupiter shining brightly beside it. The only reason I was up and noticed that the Moon was positioned so perfectly in my living room window was that my cat, Zhu Li, had been running in circles meowing like a fire had started.

I reluctantly got out of bed, half expecting to find a rodent in the garden. Instead, it was quickly obvious that it was the Moon and Jupiter she was meowing at. Both were perfectly positioned in the garden window as if peering in at us. I was beyond giddy at the synchronicity of arrow imagery and Jupiter from my dream earlier in the afternoon and resisted the urge to shake my partner awake. I quickly found and lit a fresh pillar candle, burned frankincense, and sat at the window. I tied a blindfold around my eyes while facing Jupiter.

I asked: What was this dream gift’s deeper message? The answer was short, but hit me to my core:
“Show respect for all things that take form. Nature carries many secrets.”
That was the divined answer I needed, the founding philosophy upon which I could figure out who the dream had come from.

Step 3: Gratitude 

This mysterious Egyptian God didn’t appear out of nowhere. He arrived through a plea I had put out into the universe, asking for a masculine energy to come into my feminine-dominant life. I requested the Goddesses I work with, Aset/Isis, Bast, and Asherah, for assistance in finding a male patron God, because my own research and worship wasn’t leading anywhere that fit.

Step 4: Interpretation and Research

I was offered some very specific hints at His identity: the number 30, the planet Jupiter, arrows, specific animals, and the short divined message: “Show respect for things that take form. Nature carries many secrets.”

alien-planet-3823298_960_720.jpg
Image Source: ChristianBodhi/Pixabay

The Planet Jupiter

Modern planetary correspondences to ancient gods is a tricky business. I’ve seen more than a dozen sources relate Osiris to Pluto, for example, when we know that the Ancient Egyptians had no knowledge of Pluto in the first place. I like to make some room for these correspondences, though. Pluto is related to Hades, God of the Underworld. Osiris is an Egyptian counterpart. So, naturally, we would attach the planet to both gods. I don’t see anything too wrong with this.
Which leaves me with this: what does the planet Jupiter symbolize on a spiritual and mythological plane?
In Greek and Roman myth, Jupiter/Zeus is the Father of the Gods, the Sky Father, and a King. In astrology, Jupiter represents expansion, spiritual enlightenment, travel, fortune, and is associated with Sagittarius’ arrow and the fish of Pisces.
From this, I can deduce that I’m probably looking for a King of the Gods type figure. Someone who is likely self-created or, at least, someone transcendentally spiritual in tone. This doesn’t narrow down my list of potential Gods much, but it does cross a few off like Thoth/Djehuty.

The Number 30

In my dream, I was told that the God woke up every 30 years to perform what I saw. In numerology, the number 30 is reduced to 3. This happens to be my personal lucky number, but it’s also associated with creative expression in both numerology and Tarot. In Hebrew Gematria, 30 is associated with 3/Lamed, another personal favorite of mine. Lamed and Qof are the only two Hebrew letters to rise above or below the written line of text, something I’ve always found funky and attractive. The Hebrew term “Father in Goodness” shares a 30 value.
So far, so good. I can assume he’s creative (which, honestly, was pretty obvious from him literally creating souls in the dream).
But what of the 30-year cycles related to Saturn? I’m big on researching Saturn returns, and am anxious for my own. Could this God share characteristics of Saturn as a Lord of Karma, maker of bones, or one who brings order from chaos?
With this idea, I’m tempted to add Set to my list with a little question mark. Perhaps he’s related to the God of this dream somehow.

 

Arrows

The most obvious answer to arrows is Neith, the Goddess of war and hunting. Interestingly, her consort is Khnum, one of the Gods on my list. Her son, Tutu, is a curious mix of snake, lion, human, and crocodile with his symbol being arrows.

Animals

Speaking of animals, let’s look at those.
As I stated in my previous post, some of the animal symbolism in the dream felt gifted to me as an encounter with my spirit guides rather than an expression of this God. But, I could be wrong. The primarily interesting animals were the crocodiles and snakes, who did not disappear with the sun rising, and the big cats who I interacted with physically.
Cheetahs are associated with Mafdet, a Goddess who protects Ra and is sometimes depicted with a head of snakes rather than that of a cheetah. As Sekhmet and Bast, two lioness goddesses, are also protectors of Ra, I could deduce that the cheetah who pounced on me and the lion who observed me were protecting the God in my dream. In this case, that could be Ra or one of Ra’s many synchronized forms. Maahes, a male lion God of war, doesn’t fit the vibe of the dream, so he’s crossed off the list.
As for crocodiles, Sobek is another protection God. His other qualities of military victory, virility, and safety don’t match the dream, but his relationships to Set and Khnum keep both of them on the list. Set is thought to be his father, while Khnum either his father or son.
Finally, the crocodiles turning into snakes. Snakes are infamously associated with Apep, the enemy of Ra. It is curious that I ran from the snakes left behind with the God’s departure from the island, and Set is the God who assists Ra in fighting off Apep.

Step 5: Deduction

Based on these, the most obvious answer could be Ra. He takes the form of a lion or a snake and is the creative force behind all life. But the dream began with dusk, centered on stars, and lacked any blazing sun of inspiration.
The most likely candidates were two:
Atum, God of the Evening Sun and an Elder. He is the first father, fathering Shu and Tefnut from the waters of Nun, and all things are said to be made of his Ka. The liquid light of the spirits in the dream would match this. His tears created the first human beings and, though a solar deity, lifts the dead to the starry heavens. When in animal form, Atum appears as a snake, a lion, mongoose, ape, bull, or lizard.
Secondly, Khnum, God of the Nile and Pottery. Khnum is an interesting God because he makes the bodies and Ka of human beings on his pottery wheel. The clay he uses comes from the Nile that he himself inundates with water. In the dream, the God I encountered lifted up the liquid light of these animals from the sand. I myself am a ceramicist, so it wouldn’t be surprising if he came to me. The arrow in the sky could be accounted for as his consort, Neith. His animal association is simply a crocodile.
In the writings at Esna, Khnum is said to be the father of Ra with Neith. That’s a fun detail, but I’m going to exclude it since this seems to be a Roman influence.

Step 6: Reaching Out

My process going forward was quite simple. At my altar, I created a candle and offering plate for both Atum and Khnum. Beer, water, and bread are traditional and simple if you’re Kemetic, but there are a plethora of ideas for offerings. For Atum, I included a labradorite crystal because I associate them with the Before-Time; for Khnum, I made a clay figure of Him. From there, I will meditate, pray, and wait patiently for a sign.

Because I focused exclusively on the Egyptian Gods for this search, I included those prayers. What I found through meditation and ritual was not only confirmation that the dream, in fact, came from Atum (woo!) but that Khnum was more than happy to receive worship from me.

Now, they both have a prominent place on my altar.
I hope this write up of my research process is helpful for you in your own search for God or Goddess. If you’d like any pointers on interpreting dream messages from the Divine, leave a comment or shoot me a private email. I’m always happy to help with dreamwork.

Magickal Writing Prompts to Connect With Pagan Deities

I frequent pagan forums and social media circles, and often see the same question repeated again and again – often desperately: Is (x) a sign from (y)?

Opening ourselves up to metaphysical spiritual belief in the age of science is hard. It’s easy to explain to someone that you walked away from organized religion, even praised in mixed company, but to share that you walked into paganism or polytheism renders all kinds of weird questions.

“You don’t really believe in that, do you?”

“I mean, you just see them as archetypes, right?”

Or, my favorite: “Do you have any proof?”

I think our obsession with understanding dream symbols or thirst for a “sign” is an inner battle to reconcile these questions. It’s enough to get them from others, but often we have them within ourselves. Even after years into a pagan practice and countless journal entries detailing sublime experience, once can still fall into doubt. I do.

The important part is that we show up for our spiritual wellbeing and choose practices that enhance our minds, hearts, and health. Choosing to work with a god or goddess can be more religious for some, but psychospiritual for others.

Wherever you are on the spectrum of belief, I want to offer you a list of organic and everyday connections that exist to help us find deity and approach Spirit.  Within yourself are already a multitude of organic threads just waiting to be sewn into a spiritual fabric.

If you feel called toward connecting with deity, here’s my advice: write down your responses to this list. Writing forces you to slow your thinking down and truly consider your ideas, thoughts, and desires with depth and care. Writing pieces of yourself down puts them into the universe; out of the mind and into physical reality.

Take these ideas into a journal, ideally one that you’ve chosen to be a place for spiritual work. It can be a Book of Shadows or something else.

1. Numbers

If you’re interested in numerology, you can use numbers like your Soul Path number and find deities or spiritual practices connected to those numbers. Lucky numbers work too. My lucky numbers are 3 and 8, and in my case, 3 is incredibly powerful in all aspects of my life. I’ve found Vishnu and Auset to be my focal points and recognize 3 in them. Vishnu has had 9 incarnations (3×3) and Auset recovered Ausar from the dead to become pregnant and give birth to their child, creating a sacred triad.

What about you? Are there numbers you’ve felt drawn to? Do you have any lucky numbers? Do things always work out the first time you try them, or does it seem to always take three – or seven? Do your relationships with others come in twos or fives? Does your birthday mean anything to you? What about your birth time, or place? If there’s a number you feel at home with, explore it! What deities are related to it? What direction?

2. Animals

Not long ago, I had a profound dream from Atum. In it, he rose spirit bodies from the soil – bright blue energy beings – and they were all the animals that I loved and connected to the most. In the dream, he guided me to them and when I reach out to touch them, they became material. There were gorillas, lions and tigers, crocodiles and elephants.

Everyone has some sort of animal connection within them. My personal belief is that these can be representative of past lives before we incarnated as humans, but perhaps you have a more shamanic perspective that animals are guides and offer us spiritual medicine.

Were you obsessed with wolves as a child? Do you find yourself watching spiders closely rather than jumping away? Does seeing a falcon take your breath away?

Maybe you found yourself getting a dragonfly tattoo out of nowhere, or there’s something about the octopus that gets your heart swelling with intrigue. Write these down. Check the World Wildlife Foundations adoptable endangered species. Which would you choose? What element or directions do you associate these animals with? Which ones do you want to experiment calling upon? And, finally, what deities hold the same animals sacred that you do?

Processed with VSCO with s1 preset
Paintings of Aset and Sekhmet

3. Music

My partner swears by music. That’s the number one way he feels that Spirit communicates with him, and he will stop everything to honor those moments. Sometimes it’s a song that comes on in the grocery store, other times it’s the both of us having a tune stuck in our heads.

Of course, it doesn’t have to just be the radio.

Think about the music you go to when you’re emotionally well; not full of happiness, not in a valley of sadness or pain. What do you like to study to, meditate to? What songs come on when you’re out at restaurants? Is there a song that just pops up at the strangest or most needed of times? Look at the words, the genre, the meaning of these songs or these types of music. If you’re into soundscapes, seek out elemental or nature deities. If you like hip-hop, seek out deities who are playful or assertive. Classical could lead you to deities of balance or justice. Try making music, just with your hands on the table. What rhythms do you find yourself producing? What’s your vibration?

4. Joyous Moments

What makes you happy? I know, loaded question; but it’s true. If you find joy in painting or the arts, you might want a deity who can spend time with you while you pursue that. If you’re really into bath bombs and other luxurious self care routines, that sounds a lot like a good offering to Aphrodite!

Maybe bath bombs aren’t your thing, but tea in the morning is. Do you like being surrounded by friends, family, or strangers? Write down the moments of your life where you felt the most blissful. Write down what moments you want to collect before this life has ended. What deities reflect similar habits or goals? If you want to backpack along the Ganges or in Europe, think about the deities of travel and movement. If you’re passionate about building a family, ask yourself why you want one and look at the many Mother Goddesses you might have something in common with.

5. Weirdnesses

This might be the most important and will require slowly opening your inner eye. Look! For! Weirdness!

These are not coincidences, these are communications. Track your moods, your feelings, your interactions. Did a friend mention a film or historical figure that’s been in the back of your mind lately? Did that license plate you read have the initials of someone you care about? What imagery or feelings keep appearing in your dreams? Do you keep finding pennies everywhere you go?

If you’re not experiencing weirdnesses in your life, throw yourself into a new situation, new people, hobby, or activity. Breaking routine is an excellent way to invite the universe to have a hand in authoring your day.

Processed with VSCO with g2 preset
Forest shrine

Patience is True Magic

These are simple journaling activities to help you place yourself in the greater world we occupy. Spiritual journeys are deep, personal, and a long-term commitment. Don’t choose a deity just because they’re popular, or you feel like you need one.

Your own divinity and power to manifest does not reduce because you’re not throwing food at your altar for a “patron deity” every week. In fact, patron deities are a lot rarer than social media might have you believe. Allow this process to be what it is – a process. Allow time to discover your spiritual home. There’s no rush. You’ve lived lifetimes and you will live more.

Spirit guides are already here, waiting for you to listen. The more you reflect on the inner workings of your mind and heart, the more you’re saying YES to magic and saying YES to ascension.