I remember when my daughter, then about 2 and just really getting good at communicating her thoughts, let us know that Thor was her brother. This was interesting, because at that time our family connection to the Northern Gods was not as clearly delineated, and I don't think I really even knew that she knew for certain who Thor was. "Really?" we said, "Are you sure?" Not trying to shake her, just sort of surprised and wondering what she was thinking in her little head. "Oh, yes. He's very big. And strong." She was very set in this, and never wavered in her belief of him as her "brother". "My brother will keep me safe," she would say, and we understood that she meant "her brother Thor", not her three mortal older brothers. Out playing with a friend at about not quite 4, a thunderstorm came up (unusual for where we then lived) and her friend was very frightened. "Don't worry," our little one said, "That's only my brother Thor killing Giants."
Now 12, I asked her about her brother Thor. "Well," she said, "I guess I knew he wasn't my brother brother, but that was the only word for it that I could think of."
One of our sons also just up and declared a close relationship with Thor when quite young; I'm still not sure how he came to know of him. But to him for years, there was as good as only one God, Thor. Not that he was rude about any other Gods, but when it came to him, Thor was the only one that really mattered. And he made it clear it was a very close relationship; he just didn't think of using the word "brother".
My particular focus at the time was more with the Celtic Deities, so I found all this…interesting. But over the years I have tried to pay attention to any relationships like this that pop up, and to be supportive of them, because I truly do not feel that these are driven by the children, but that for some reason, these Gods are choosing to show particular encouragement and support to these children, and that this needs to be honored. Some of the Deity relationships that have sprung up have not been ones I would have expected at all, causing me to think hard about the nature of the Gods and who they are and what their agendas might be, as opposed to any neat labeling system I myself might have wanted to impose on them-annoying categorizer that I might otherwise be.
It has also given me the impetus to look at my own interactions with the Gods in a more open light. I still have a tendency to want to put things in neat boxes and explain everything-but I try to remember that that's just not going to happen. I was not raised to know the Gods, but I was raised to recognise the Fey, or spirits of various kinds, which helped some. But it took decades for me to realise a communication from a God when I saw it.
As a young girl (maybe 5?), I had a small girlfriend who would come to visit me, and we'd play for hours altogether. She was definitely my closest and best friend during childhood. Then one day when I was maybe 7, she came to me and said she had to leave, but that I could walk her home. Now, I had never been over to her home, strange to say, but she said it was close and I wanted to be with her for as long as I could, so I went with her. After what I remember as a short walk we reached a long building with many doors. (Like a brick row house. Nothing like any of the architecture where I lived.)
Standing outside one of the doors was a woman I had thought she'd referred to as her mother, but I was taken aback when I saw her-for she was dressed in something that covered her from neck to ground, but her face was quite clearly half white and half black, and I don't mean caucasian and negroe, I mean white and black. My friend took her hand and they went into the building and I walked home and never saw her again.
As you may have guessed, years later when I broached the subject with my mother, trying to find out if she remembered anything more about my friend, she looked at me funny and said that I was the only one who could see her. She said that I just up and started playing with an imaginary friend and then one day said that her mother had come for her and that she had gone home and never played with her again. (Perhaps very interesting or not was that I said that she had gone to her home in India.) Years later reading of Hel I was struck immediately by her being described this way, as in having cold chills wash over me-there was no doubt that I had met her. ('What a fascinating woman-so chilling.' Gomez Addams)
Or in a much more emphatic "encounter", being literally struck by lightening at the age of 12, and receiving no known harm from it.
In times past, I think these things would have been understood in a certain light, but our culture has become bereft of the knowledge needed to properly comprehend them. One thing to certainly take from all this though is that the Gods do not require the parents to acknowledge them to be there for the children. I believe that this is partly because the Gods, or at least some of them, simply care deeply about children, and partly because of oaths and friendships that existed between our ancestors and the Gods.
I actually thought for a long time that I had no personal connection to the Gods or any "guardian" type being. Now I'm struck by the protection and support I was shown by them. And I'm also struck by the fact that I could not have made up or imagined these things, because I could not have known to do so. Just like my little girl years later with her brother Thor. She knew from Thor what he was about. My son knew from Thor that he was always good and never broke his promises. Now certainly they knew enough to know his name, and we did not try to hide knowledge of him from them, but frankly at that time most of what we saw about him written at a children's level was not very respectful of him, so it didn't come in the door.
Now, if I as a particular reverer of the Dagda, had been upset that my little girl was instead developing a relationship with Thor, I feel I would have been not only squashing a very special thing in her life, but I also would have been closing my own eyes, perhaps, to truths about the Gods. Perhaps it has to do with mixed bloodlines, sonce my children have connections with all of Europe and with Native Americans; and perhaps it has to do with 'adoptions' into various bloodlines. This is possible. But I do think that as humans we are more the same than not, and I certainly do not think that a God is going to care what anybody's pedigree is. What they might care about along those lines would be whether or not you are connected to someone in times past who kept faith with them and asked them to protect their descendants . I think many of our ancestors did do this, and I think the Gods have stood by our families, even through times when we or our intermediary ancestors might have forgotten about them or not even known about them-or even reviled them. Particularly, I think they have stood by the children. Or it could be simply that certain Gods are choosing to call certain people to themselves for their own purposes. For whatever reasons they have, as we as pagan parents allow it, the Gods are able to introduce themselves more clearly to our children.
My family has thus come to acknowledge a special connection with both the Northern Gods and with the Celtic Deities. But, really it is more complicated than that, because our family is more complicated-and perhaps the Gods are also. Indo-European might come closer, but I wonder if this is really an accurate term, and not just a high sounding dodge. How to explain how Ganesha worked his way into the family? And we have taken to referring to Baron Samedi as an 'uncle', because of his choosing a relationship with me. It reminds me of my Uncle Andy when I was young. He was Chinese, and I remember asking my Mom on what side we were Chinese? And she had to explain that him and my father were very close friends ever since they had shared a room for a year when my Uncle Andy had been an exchange student. I have also read of an Irish mother who was writing about her young daughter who was adopted from China. She wrote how her daughter developed a markedly Irish spirit, particularly a gift for Irish dance, despite their initial efforts to keep her in touch with her Chinese heritage. This is life-and I do not think it over odd that the Gods should also work this way.
I also think it may be possible that the Gods themselves are deliberately fueling these cross-cultural relationships in order to give us more information and insight into them. We have lost so much "lore", with various people groups being able to hang on to different scraps here and there. We need to keep in mind how much damage merely twenty years of harsh English law was able to wreak on the Scottish culture. I think it is hard to comprehend just how much we have lost under hundreds of years of monotheistic tyranny. Peoples may be at war, but I do not believe that Gods war with Gods. Jupiter was not at war with Donar. Something that we as modern Pagans should be able to grasp is the inherent fraternity of the Gods, and use this to the extent it is possible without being merely reductionist, to rebuild and reclaim our Pagan heritage.
So, although I feel strongly about the passing on of our pagan heritage to our children, and I think that in general, a more cohesive cultural context can help with that, I think we need to listen to our children and listen to the Gods. Remember, we have relatives and friends from many backgrounds-and some of them are Gods.
©2007 Oak Hedge