I’ve been pondering this question a lot lately, rolling it over in my head. The Roman answer would be that the local spirits are Genii, Lares, and Manes. We have Columbia, who came from Libertas, but is Her own Goddess despite some discomfort of the origin of her name.
But none of this sits well with me. To say it’s not enough isn’t quite right, but I think I want more than this generic naming and placing of the spirits I encounter here within the context of a historically European religion.
I can sit and study all day the religions of the Native Americans, but those religions are not something I am working into my own tradition even if we recognize and honor the Dead, trying to atone on some spiritual level for what my white Ancestors might have done on this soil. I have that generic 1/16th Cherokee that can’t be proven. My father raised me with some specific beliefs from a couple tribes, not appropriated, but learned from someone claiming membership to said tribes (in a time before the great New Age appropriation started). They are practiced in my home, but it will never be something I teach outside of our own family cultus. It isn’t mine to teach.
So I face the great American mutt dilemma, possibly a very historically Roman one, and I find myself looking around at the world around me that is the New World going Now what? Do I box these spirits into the confines of Roman Syncretism, knowing very well how much we know about how Gods didn’t exactly mesh correctly even back then? Do I relate to these Gods as Apollon? As Odin? As Someone else?
I suppose I could, but something in the pit of my stomach tells me that’s not the way I should be going with this. This is not what They want of me. We carry the Gods of the Old World in our hearts and spirit, but how do I find a way for them to historically relate to America? How to I make them current?
And this is the time of year where I say I don’t. I can’t. I won’t. This is the time of the River for me. It’s time for me to visit with the Missouri River, giving offerings and thanks. Sitting down with the Entity that whispered to me “Welcome home,” realizing that it was the place of my blood. Each river has its own Spirit or God connected to it, and this one is large and powerful. This one is a God. And it has been here longer than the religions of man.
What do I call the God of the railroads that were the lifeblood of the West, which rose in greatness and then fell into obscurity… And yet this Midwestern Spiritworker living in the heart of Katy Country can’t help but feel the chill run through her as she watches a train cross across the fields of corn in a river bottom. There’s a God there. What is Its name?
Who are the Mountains?
Who are the Plains?
Why do the European myths fall short to me while the myths of the Americas feel like they are not mine to touch? Why are we so complacent, complaining that Americans have no cultures like the romanticized Europeans, but falling into the grooves of ancient religions that don’t fit quite right in the space we’re in now?
Why do I sometimes feel like I’m about to shoot off into the space of birthing something new? Why can’t I simply be at peace and ease with where I’ve been all of these years?
Someone whispers to me, “Inertia is death. And I am the hand that pushes you.”
I have a good feeling I know Who it is.
6 thoughts on “Who are Our American Gods?”
I’m glad to see another person thinking like I do.
I’m doing my best to muddle through this answer for myself, and hopefully I’ll have more to say on my personal discoveries. I’ll share. 🙂 I’d love to hear your thoughts!
Well, I just don’t understand how if all the ancient civilizations have all these Gods for EVERYTHING, why do we not? Why is America monotheistic? I just can’t wrap my head around how Christians, Catholics, ect. can just mock all the polytheists, and tell them they are wrong for believing in many Gods, then act like their God is SO important and how there can ONLY be one. Maybe there is only one? Maybe their God is actually one of ours? What is our Gods are just their God? It just bothers me.
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We have started to recognize our Gods here, which is a Very Good Thing. Libertas and/or Eleutheria is just one or two (who knows?). I do not like the name Columbia some have named our nation’s protectress. I do have kledons but have yet to hear. Themis Unmasked is also important to me. In my area, the mighty Connecticut is definitely a God. So, we have an amalgamation: the Gods who came with us and those who are here. I do not usurp the Mohegans and the Pequots here. I hope the Mohegan Medicine Woman will be bringing back the tribal lore, as the granddaughter of the Tantaquidgeons I am sure she will do her best. I am not as knowledgeable about the Pequots.
I feel like so much is coming out of the East Coast right now, and it’s great. But I’m curious about your usage of the word usurp here, mainly for the sake of my own clarity? I’m pondering what you’re saying, and the sentence could go two different directions in my brain. So I figured it’s better to ask for clarification, if you wouldn’t mind. 🙂
I consider Uncasville/Montville my home town. This area is also the original area of the Mohegan Tribe. Thank goodness not too many of them left during the colonization period. According to lore, the Sachem told them to pretend to go along with white man’s ways so they would not be forced to move. The Tantaquidgeon family was always in a position of leadership. When I was a little girl we went to the little museum Gladys (she was an anthropologist by training and the tribal Medicine Woman) and Sachem Harold had started in town. I learned about the land spirits and the like. Personally, I would like to know more. Anyway, I will not use their names for the spirits because I am not Mohegan (I am of Russian and German heritage). This is what I feel is usurping. Naming is a Very Important Thing in any culture. I know the spirits will know that I am talking to them and will probably appreciate the fact that I am not stealing the relationship they have with the Mohegan and tthat I want to develop my own relationship with them.
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