Working with gods from living traditions

The most popular gods in the Pagan community are drawn from the Norse, Greek, Egyptian, or Celtic pantheons. Loki, Apollo, Isis, and Brigit are incredibly popular deities. Their original cults, however, are long dead. Modern pagans and polytheists need not fear stepping on anyone’s toes when they invoke Odin or Bast. Certainly, there is a great deal of bickering between the reconstructionists, the eclectics, the Neo-Wiccans, and the people who were just minding their own business when the Morrigan showed up, but for the most part, the arguments about how one should properly honor Diana take place between people who were raised practicing some other faith. How then does one honor a pagan deity whose worship is still very much alive?

For one thing, one does not call them “pagan.” Ganesh is Hindu. Guanyin is Buddhist and not actually a goddess, so stop calling her one, because she worked really hard to become a bodhisattva. Hindus and Buddhists are not Pagan. Not all witches are Wiccans. Not all pagans are Wiccans. Not all magic is witchcraft. Satanists aren’t evil. They can be pagan if they want; a lot of them are pretty nice people. Are we cool here? Good. Let’s move on.

If you worship a god from a living religion, there is one thing you must keep in mind above all else: the practitioners of that religion are totally justified in telling you how they feel. You are worshiping¬†their god. If they don’t like it when you pair Ganesh and Lakshmi on your Wiccan altar listen to them.¬†Nobody can make you change what you’re doing, (Ganesh and Lakshmi might not even mind it – though I kind of think they’d find it weird, especially Lakshmi) but if you don’t acknowledge that Hindu (or Buddhist, or Shinto) gods belonged to the Hindus (Buddhists, Shintoists) long before you ever heard of them, you are behaving in a manner that is insensitive at best, and racist at worst.