Just what goes into figuring out what pantheon to follow, what gods to worship, what spirits to work with? That’s something that everyone comes to differently, and I’m no fan of claiming any one method is better than the others. Each method has benefits and drawbacks, and each person has to do what works for them, with respect.
Which of course leads to the question:
Does one get chosen or does one decide?
I would say most people come to this as a huge debate. And sometimes it can get contentious among the different sides on the issue.
After all, there’s a whole host of beliefs, ideas and also (yes, I think so) wishful thinking bound up into just how this happens and just how one should come about to their gods. Beliefs and ideas are easy, because different pantheons, different traditions, different families will all see the very issue differently. Different individuals will also look upon this all in various manners. Wishful thinking–because people have their wishes and hopes that they hold close. And many times what we believe in (spiritually, religiously) tells a lot about our deepest-held wants and desires.
Plus, I would argue, that a majority of people have an intrinsic desire to want to be right–I’m certainly one of them. And I’m not too proud to admit that failing of mine and just work from there. But this is the type of thing where I think there is no proper answer; both are equally valid, for different reasons when it comes to an individual level. Really, when it comes quite down to it, there’s not a lot of reasons for either side to be considered “better” or more accurate than the other.
Some people will fall firmly into the Chosen camp – where the gods choose the person to worship them. Others are going to fall into the Decide camp – where the person decides which gods to worship.
Where the gods choose the person
This is the version of pantheon-finding that was utterly rampant when I first started learning about the wider community online. So many people would talk about how the gods chose them. How Zeus, Athena, Thor, Odin, Jupiter, Thoth, Bast, etc…any of them called on the person and told them “you’re mine”. This is a pretty common kind of trope, actually.
After all, who wouldn’t love to have been chosen? Whether it be for some higher purpose, for some great calling, or just because you’re special. Anyone would love that. It’s nice to be wanted; anyone would say that.
Being chosen confers a special type of privilege for most. This is a familiar pattern for anyone even tangentially familiar with Christianity. The patriarchs, prophets, those worthies featured in the Bible, many of them were specially chosen by God. That choice sets them apart, makes them important; unusual and unique.
Who doesn’t want that?
And within a western cultural framework, many who call themselves underneath the umbrella of paganism come from Christian backgrounds. Or at least, they are from cultures so heavily influenced by Christianity that it’s impossible to completely remove yourself from it.
Being chosen is something special; it means that you above all others are important for some reason. There’s no fault to wanting to be that. It’s just natural. And natural impulses are there for a reason. If we’re special somehow, that means attention and important. Again, this is just basic to see.
So what does it really mean?
Being chosen means that a specific god or pantheon has reached out and said that the person belongs to them. Or is one of theirs. It’s a mark of belonging that is very important to a lot of people.
It’s a powerful calling sometimes, like a smack in the face; or other times it’s a lot of subtle signals that all add up. So like you get a strong message or signs overwhelming life that a certain god/goddess is pinging you. Other times it ends up being so subtle that it takes outside divination to figure out who or what it is. Still, it adds up to a particular deity that is contacting or attempting to contact and get in touch with you.
I know a lot of people online say that the Greek or Norse gods chose them. I also know that Kemetic gods are known to choose people as well. A big one that I am sure everyone is familiar with is the Morrigan choosing people, too. Which is all just to say that it’s a fairly widespread phenomenon among the larger “community”.
Then there are other pantheons where I don’t remember hearing much about gods choosing people. Like Slavic…and I’ve also not heard a lot about Mesopotamian or Canaanite gods choosing people (but that may just be also, as an obvious bias, the fact that I know of very few of these followers online).
Being chosen is one path, which gives a kind of connection where you know upfront that you belong, at least in some way. Not to say it is easy, because it may not be easy; but there is some kind of sense of belonging (so I would think), because you were chosen by one of the gods–or all of them–which gives a little bit of comfort.
I think there’s still uncertainty though. After all, there has to be a kind of pressure in wondering whether you are good enough. Whether you are actually supposed to have been chosen. It’s got to be anxiety-inducing, considering just why you got chosen; whether you’re living up to expectations.
All to say: there are ups and downs to being chosen by a pantheon, god or several gods.
Where the person decides on the gods
This is the second option. And certainly one I see a lot online.
People like to self-determine their beliefs. There’s a freedom of choice in getting to decide what gods you want to work with. So choice to decide is important, and it’s a huge draw. Consider how people come from proscribed religious traditions where they’re specifically told what to believe, exactly what they should think and how they should react. It’s small wonder then that one would then want to have the freedom to choose whoever they wanted to worship.
And really, there’s so many different gods to look at, to choose from–it’s actually rather overwhelming if you think about it. It gives a massive array of options to research, to learn about, to delve into for all sorts of information.
How many open pantheons are there?
The major ones off the top of the head: Greek, Roman, “Celtic” (Brythonic, Gaulish, Gaelic, etc), Germanic, Norse, Slavic. And others, too that are open for people to worship.
There are also though those closed religions and pantheons that get used by people. There are some religions that are absolutely closed to outsiders. And a section of the large community does not respect this. There are those who just pluck out deities from within their cultural context and just “plug and play” with different deities. So there is a dark side to decision. Because people don’t always have the research and understanding to respect every boundary out there. This can lead to tension, problems and real fights for beliefs.
But from open beliefs, open paths–decision is powerful. It gives the option to communicate with many different types of gods. There’s a lot of leeway to research and “try out” gods.
So deciding is a different game altogether.
It’s about measuring the gods, measuring oneself, and making clear choices on what you are looking for, what they are looking for and whether you want to be a part of that. And if not, well then you continue on and make a different decision.
In some respects, making your own decision about which gods you want to work with is a bit “freer”. You’re not under pressure of feeling you absolutely have to work with anyone, because the choice wasn’t made for you. There’s a bit of the sense of freedom to say no, should you want.
On the other hand, there’s stress. Because what do you do if you don’t get signs? Does that mean you’re being rejected? Or are you just monumentally head blind? – Obviously you can do/have someone do divination to figure this out, but that sense of uncertainty is there. You want to work with a certain god and they say no. What rejection is that? A big one.
There’s the worry of feeling like you may not belong. Because you chose them; they may not even like you. And there’s no guarantees in this path, none at all. And that’s a deep worry. Because as I said earlier: people like to feel important and wanted. This path does not offer up a lot of that–it’s kind of difficult to, since you decide, someone didn’t come along and pick you to join the group.
What path do you take?
Well, that’s just dependent on the individual, as previous.
Some people say they are chosen. Others decide on the gods they want to follow. Either one works. Because, again–individuality is a thing. Also, individuals have different talents. Some people are really attuned to the unseen and spiritual, others are totally head blind. So some people connect very well and have an easy choice, whichever way it goes. Other people struggle more and have a more difficult path to figure out who to work with and worship.
Each path has ups and downs. Good points and more struggle points. Benefits and drawbacks.
My path was on the “decision” track.
I’m head blind and therefore can’t hear/sense/see/etc any signs. So even if a god was trying to whack me over the head, I’d never notice it. Or at least, not originally. I might figure it out like 5 years later…looking back and seeing a pattern or a change. So I’m not the type of person who you’d stereotypically think was chosen by the gods.
Not to mention, I know from divination that I was not chosen by any god, any pantheon. Not even in the slightest, to be quite honest. This doesn’t hurt anymore (though it totally did when I first realized it…eh, back about 5ish years ago); because that’s just the way it is. I can mope about it, or just deal with it and move on.
I choose to move on. I wasn’t chosen. That’s nothing wrong. It’s just different ways of going about it. And when you aren’t chosen, well you go on with life and make a decision. That’s the only real option left, unless you want to wallow around and just wait for something to happen; as though willing someone to choose you will actually happen. What else are you going to do?
Deciding gave me freedom to choose just who I wanted to work with. My own decision was highly influenced by family history, family culture…and admittedly my own selfish interests. So I started out going along with the Slavic pantheon just because it was interesting and I liked it. I also wanted for there to be a connection. So I started off.
I’m lucky, the longer I’ve been along this path, with some divination and a lot of research–I know that I decided on the right path. I belong here, it’s where my beliefs should lie. So my decision ended up putting me on the right path, exactly where I guess (at least for now) I’m meant to be. Which is comforting, because that means I decided right per say.*