Some trends I’ve been noticing about my chosen deities

Now that I feel I have completed my deity pages, I’d like to write about some things I’ve noticed about each of the deities I have chosen, some trends or pattern they seem to follow at least by what seems like chance, and some things that a number of these deities have in common or each reflect in their own way, or at least most of them do.

 

Popularity and unpopularity

Each of the chosen deities seems to have their own history with popularity or prominence within their respective cultures. Varuna was the ruler of the heavens and the supreme deity in the early part of Vedic India, but it seems was not necessarily as popular as Indra, and he was dethroned from his position as supreme deity and became less popular, until he was eventually eclipsed by the new deities such as Shiva and Vishnu and was just not worshiped anymore, much like (ironically) the creator deity Brahma, though the original Varuna likely lives on in the Zoroastrian in the form of Ahura Mazda, who is at least treated with respect by his devotees. Astaroth, as Ishtar, was once one of the popular goddess of ancient Babylon, which makes sense given her associations with love and sex, and she even had cults outside Babylon, but with the rise of Christian monotheism she became treated as a demon, and her association with sex and the cult of sacred prostitution likely contributed to her being with particular disgust by the Christian world. In Egypt, Amun-Ra was one of the most popular deities, and the two deities who would be fused to become him, Amun and Ra, were two of Egypt’s most important deities. Amun-Ra even gained prominence as a national deity and was even considered the ultimate expression of divinity in Egypt. But over time, Amun-Ra lost the prominence he once had in Egypt, and, like Astaroth, was seen as a demon with the rise of Christianity. With Beelzebub, he was largely a way of likening the cult of Baal, which was popular in the Levant, to feces. For the Israelites, Beelzebub represented the opposite of their cult of Jehovah, and was the lord of demons, and as the Western world eventually aligned with that point of view via Christianity, Beelzebub became the Devil, or Satan, the one who we were all supposed to loathe and despise for supposedly being the source of all evil, and if he wasn’t seen as that then he was seen as a powerful demon. However, not all of my chosen deities were once popular but then became unpopular. For Shiva, the opposite is true. Shiva started out as Rudra, and in Vedic times Rudra was a deity who was worshiped primarily out of fear rather than devotion because he was seen as very terrifying deity, but he eventually gained more benign and even universalistic connontations as Shiva, grew more and more popular and to this day he is one of the most beloved deities in Hinduism and one of the most recognized deities in general. Ashura started out as Asura, and Asura in Vedic times used to be an abstract concept referring to power, strength, or might, then became a term for demons or hostile beings in the Hinduism we know, then became a term for jealous and wrathful demigods in Buddhism, but in Japan he became Ashura, a protector of the Buddhist faith, and was treated with some positive status and even got a famous statue at Kofuku-ji in Nara.

A crowd of people paying homage to Ganesha, one of the new deities who eclipsed the Vedic deities of India.

 

Violence and war

Although Ashura is supposed to be the war deity in this configuration, more deities than just him have been associated with war or violence. In ancient Babylon, Astaroth/Ishtar was not just as goddess of love and sex, but also war, and war itself was even referred to as the “dance of Ishtar”. Shiva, as Rudra, used to be a violent deity himself, and he was feared as being unpredictable and even malevolent. Even in his current incarnation, Shiva himself is chiefly associated with destruction, and can assume wrathful forms such as Bhairava and Mahakala. Amun-Ra was not himself a deity that was specifically violent or had a violent history on his own, but Ra, one of the deities that became him, was capable of manifesting violent power in the form of a separate entity in order to exact whatever wrathful or vengeful desires he felt. In addition, the ram in Egypt was venerated in matters of warfare as well as fertility. Rather fitting for the astrological ram Aries who is associated with Mars, the planet associated with and named for a deity of war. However, Beelzebub isn’t explicitly warlike, despite his association with the likes of Baal/Hadad and Set, and Varuna has nothing to do with warfare or violence at all, though has had some association with death.

An image of Kala Bhairava in Nepal

 

Demons

It seems all of my chosen deities have had some history with demons, or with being demons. Beelzebub is the ruler of the demons and a powerful demon himself. Astaroth is a goddess with demonic attributes, or more or less a demon who was once a goddess. Shiva himself was sometimes said to have a horde of spirits called Ganas, or Bhutaganas, sometimes identified as demons. In Iran, Rudra/Shiva was seen as a demon, or rather daeva, named Sarva. Varuna was an asura, in fact he was called Father Asura, but towards the end of the Vedic period the asuras had become treated as demons, and although Varuna was now said to be an asura who left the side of the asuras to join the devas, he was viewed as having demonic or sinister qualities. Some sources say who controls or watches over the demons of the ocean. Ashura was believed to represent the asuras, the very same demons from Hindu lore, though in Buddhism though less demons than hostile demigods. Amun-Ra was never associated with demonic forces, though he would eventually be incarnated as a devil in Christian demonology, just as many of the old deities were. Ra did have Set guarding him on his journey through the underworld though, and Set would later come to be viewed as a kind of demonic deity.

The ganas (or bhuta-ganas), Shiva’s spirit hordes

 

Opposing forces

Most of my chosen deities have had a distinct role in the concepts of “good” and “evil”, or of order and chaos (many cultures before Zoroastrianism and Judaism didn’t really have any sort of cosmic division between “good” and “evil”, though they often presented a division and conflict between order and chaos, and even then there was often a ), in their respective mythologies. Amun-Ra was seen as an upholder of Ma’at, the Egyptian concept of order, truth, and balance, and was praised as a lord of truth in hymns. He also represented the sun, which was believed to battle with the forces of entropy. Beelzebub, as the ruler of the demons, was seen as the lord of darkness and the source of evil in the world. Shiva, as we know him, is one of the deities associated with good and righteousness in Hinduism. In fact he’s so righteous that he refuses to destroy asuras who didn’t do anything wrong simply because they are asuras (unlike Vishnu, who always favors the devas no matter what). He does destroy asuras if they prove to be a threat, or if they insult him or his wife, but won’t destroy them simply because of them being asuras. As the king or representation of the asuras, Ashura tends to represent the anti-gods of both Hinduism and Buddhism. As I’ve previously mentioned, Varuna was once the lord of the heavens and the one who upheld , but eventually became associated with the demons or anti-gods. However, in Iran, Varuna became the inspiration for Ahura Mazda, the lord of order, truth, and all that is good. I don’t think Astaroth originally had a vital role in any kind of duality in Mesopotamian or Semitic myth, but Astaroth was once hailed as the Queen of Heaven, and later descended to the underworld. I guess that merits an association with both the forces of light and darkness? There’s also the duality of creation and destruction to consider. There’s no doubt that Amun-Ra was always considered a deity associated with creation in Egypt. Shiva is chiefly associated with destruction, but he has also been associated with creation in many circles. Shiva is even shown to prevent the untimely destruction of the world in some myths.

I’m not sure where this is from, but it looks like it’s a Babylonian relief.

 

Sex and fertility

Astaroth is probably the deity most associated with sex and fertility, but two other deities have their associations with sex and fertility. Amun-Ra was seen as a fertility deity, chiefly due to his association with the ram (a fertility symbol), and his association with fertility often tied him to the Egyptian phallic fertility deity Min. The ram as a fertility symbol was associated with the deities Khnum, Heryshaf, and Banebdjedet. Shiva has sometimes been associated with sexuality through the lingam, a devotional representation of Shiva meant to represent the potential and energy of the divine. While the lingam is a phallic symbol, it is traditionally connected to the potent energy residing in the cosmos while the female counterpart, the yoni, represents passive space. Traditionally, the sexual organs of the human body are symbolically used to represent the space, energy, and the totality of existence through the inseparability of male and female, rather than simply sexuality and sexual intercourse. However, one could argue this is a way of shying away from the enshrinement of sexuality itself.

Egyptian relief depicting Min, Qetesh, and Resheph.

 

And there you go, these are all the common threads between the chosen deities I can think of.

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Revised prayer/mantra

It had just occurred to me that since the pantheon of symbolic deities has changed, I need to change the prayer to accommodate the changes. Here is the updated prayer:

By the righteous spirit of Guan Di,

the heavenly desire of Dairokuten Maou,

the fearsome will of Asura,

the youthful persevering fire of Agni,

the watery depth of Varuna,

the horned force and dark draw of Beelzebub,

the primeval creativity and destructive force of Shiva,

and the guiding principle of Chaos and freedom,

with Liberty and Justice at my side,

I proclaim my individuality and invoke strength and fire within

So mote it be

Am

One other thing to note. Shakti is not mentioned this time so that I can stick to the deities and guiding principles. I can likely honor Shakti another way. Also, I may start looking into individual prayers for individual deities, rather than solely rely on a single universal prayer.

Resolution of the pantheon

I have spent some time considering the pantheon, and I am pleased to say I have come to a conclusion.

Chi You, the deity that once enshrined stubbornness, will be overtaken by Guan Di, the Chinese deity who was originally the historical warrior Guan Yu. He will represent the warrior, righteousness, honor, and the spirit of the warrior, and my aspiration and admiration for all of these things. He also maintains the link to Chinese culture. Since he is traditionally viewed as a god of loyalty as well, he can also represent commitment and loyalty to oneself and what one believes in morally, but without self-stifling stubbornness or being bull-headed (no pun intended). Guan Di’s righteousness is intended to reflect righteousness as a human characteristic, a standard or obligation to be imposed. And finally, Guan Di’s status as a hero god and origins in a historical hero pretty marks him as a god of heroism, which ties into an important part of what I want to try to be.

Dairokuten Maou will remain, and in fact he’ll have a little more to him now. He remains the representative of lust, desire, want, and pleasure, but especially heavenly pleasures. Remember, though he is meant to be the lustful deity, he is also meant to be tastefully lustful, not a deity that intends to be crass in his lustful nature. He could even be a mild epicurist.

Asura, aka Ashura Matsuda, will remain in my pantheon, but he cannot remain as the god of righteousness now that Guan Di is here. He will remain as the god of passion and the strong mind, and symbol of the desire to be a strong person in life and to act with passion. He might just retain his association with light, owing to the history of the name Asura. However, he may be more commonly referred to as just Asura from now on, and may be more closely aligned to the Buddhist Asura King and an early singular deity named Asura who may have been worshiped in India. It is possible that some of Asura’s qualities may unintentionally invoke stubbornness, but it can be countered.

Varuna will remain in the same light as he currently is. He is the god of water and watery traits. He is the god that is deep, reflective, kind, tender, mystical, and aquatic. He is also a harmonious deity.

Murugan will be replaced as the god of youth by Agni. Agni is the Vedic Hindu god of fire, but he is also eternally young, which earns him the god of youth title here as well. He will be linked with the ram, and thus associated with Mars and Aries, because I am comfortable with Aries being a part of my picture. Agni can also be associated with the sacred fire, not just in the Indian context but in all religious contexts, including the sacred fire of Persia and the Zoroastrian faith, the sacred fire of Rome, even the Biblical fire.  Agni is also said to be associated and compared with the sun and the sun is also said to be one of his forms. Although there is already a full solar deity in the Vedic pantheon (Surya), the celestial flames of the sun (which in turn bring radiant light to the earth) are also seen as a form of Agni. Interestingly enough, Agni is also associated with lightning, with lightning being the atmosphere form and the flame being terrestrial. Agni can also be associated with food and hunger, not least because of fire’s consuming attribute, and that of Agni himself. Not to mention Guan Di’s association with not just the warrior but also heroic qualities makes Murugan’s role as the hero redundant. Finally, an additional symbolism which also relates to his eternal youth. As the fire is re-lit always, he remains immortal and ever-young, but that could also refer to resilience; even as things grow old and dark, dawn will always rise again.

Shiva will remain, but with additional qualities and connotations. He represents the great creative force, but in his capacity as the destroyer he can also represent the thrill of destruction and destroying waste and clutter to create space. As the symbol of primal energy and spirit, he could be a God principle of sorts, and Durga can be venerated alongside him as the female manifestation of the same energy. Interesting to note, Shiva is the wild god of destruction and creative energy, but at the same time he also seems to be a harmonious deity. I guess that’s true to his nature as a deity where opposites meet. His intensity and emotionality remain a fact. He can also be associated with light, in part because of his association with truth which pierces ignorance.

Beelzebub will remain, but with additional qualities and connotations. He is the deific link to Satan as a principle, and my interpretation of Satan (because lets face it, Satan seems to have different names for different people). As Satan, he is the one who gave mankind a sword with which to fight oppression, he is the wielder of the lightning bolt and bearer of the true light, commander of the violent winds of passion and fires of the underworld, and the king of the demons and the wilderness of chaos. He is darker and more bestial than Dairokuten Maou, but he also represents my ideological process, my belief in spiritual immortality and spiritual autonomy. In a way Beelzebub is my ideology and Shiva relates to nature. Also, in lieu of anyone else, he’ll also be the god of heavy metal. 😉

Liberty and Justice will remain the same way they were. They may join Beelzebub/Satan as my gods of ethics.

The Deities page(s) will be updated accordingly, and eventually new paintings will be added.

Three deities, four deities, five deities…?

You know it’s often occurred to me that I’m not really doing anything about the deities, or the system that involves them. Well, the truth is I haven’t had many revelations regarding what to do with them, and I haven’t devoted much to ritual. That said there is one idea I did get once.

It may be entirely possible that I might downscale my system of deities to four or three deities. If three, then it would become a trinity consisting of Shiva, Shakti, and Satan (or Baphomet). If four, then it would become a quadrinity consisting of Shiva, Vishnu, Shakti, and Satan/Beelzebub. In both cases, Shiva represents destruction, fire, and intensity, Shakti represents the divine power of life, the earth mother, and the fierce light of emotion and passion, Satan represents the dark force of life, but also freedom and power for the individual, and Vishnu represents structure, preservation, and water. The latter formula could also be expressed in a group of five, with Baphomet at the center possibility representing Chaos, primordial force, or some ancient cosmic principle connecting the deities surrounding the Baphomet. Mahakala could also be the central figure, but the Fires of Chaos itself could also take the central place without a deity embodying them.

There is a problem with that though. Either way, it would leave no room for Astaroth (consort of Beelzebub’s just as Astarte was to Baal), the goddesses Liberty and Justice, and deities such as Chi You, Dairokuten Maou, Asura, Kartikeya/Murugan, and Varuna, who you may remember are the rest of the Seven Deities I listed. Not to mention that Vishnu would end up overtaking Varuna due to both of the fact that I’ve represented Varuna similarly to how Vishnu represented (though Vishnu is more heavenly than the traditionally more chthonic Varuna, as chthonic as a deity still associated with the heavens gets), especially with both of them having something to do with water, structure, and balance. Also I’m tempted to consider other deities such as Venus, Amun-Ra, Set, and Aiyanar (a local Tamil deity said to be the offspring of both Shiva and a female Vishnu).

That all said, I need to meditate on this whole subject more. I just hope I can find time for it in my schedule and lifestyle.

By the way, I’d like to thank Tadashi for the term Fires of Chaos. It will very likely make a welcome addition to my regular terminology and vocabulary.

The fly ritual

As I make an effort to be more conscious of ritual, I’d like to talk about a small ritual I have planned involving a clay idol of a fly. This idol was made in art college last year in ceramics classes, where it was made outside the brief. The fly represents Baal, particularly as Baal-berith.

baalberith

The fly idol of Baal-berith.

The idea was inspired by a form of Baal-worship that, according to the Book of Judges in the Old Testament, prevailed in the land of Israel, especially after the death of the judge Gideon, as well as the idol’s description as having the shape of a fly. The Rabbis considered the idol Baal-berith to be associated with Baal-zebub, or Beelzebub, who was known as the deity of Ekron. Jewish tradition apparently states that some of the Israelites were so addicted to the cult of this idol that they would carry an image of the idol in their pockets, even kissing it from time to time.

My plan is not to kiss the idol, mostly because there’s something a little too strange about the idea of kissing the idol of the fly. So instead, I plan on a more modern take, and instead press the idol against my chest, preferably in a way that I’m hugging it in a devotional manner. The idea of this ritual is an obvious subversion of the Judeo-Christian covenant, a metaphor for personal covenant with Baal, or Satan/Beelzebub, which itself is primarily allegorical, not literally theistic. The allegory is my association with paganism (albeit represented in a Biblical form) and with Satanism, my link to them through my own ideals, and the true covenant, my commitment to my ideals.

At some point in Halloween, I chanted a chant of my own with the idol close to my chest, I said “Satan guide me, Satan be my heart, my soul; I am my heart, I am my will, I am my soul, and I want to be in my perfect form. A fire that cannot be stopped.” This is by no means a theistic chant. I consider it a chant for confidence and survival, and should be taken as a daily chant. It represents my connection with the prince of darkness, the god of liberty, my personal identification with the entity, and my admiration for the figure.

How I intend to celebrate Halloween

“Baphomet Pumpkin Carving”, made by King-Arturia-Emiya on Deviantart.

Halloween is coming in only two days, and I have been pretty excited about it (even despite recent worry and dejection regarding my course, which is now behind me). This year, I have a very particular plan on how to celebrate it. In retrospect, this post should have been out much earlier, but I have been scrambling with planning my celebrations and writing that down. So anyways, here it is now, before it’s too late.

First, I will begin Halloween by eating a red apple, a symbolic gesture in honor of the devil and the freedom given to Adam and Eve by the serpent. I will also make sure to carry out this ritual on the beginnings of each day of Walpurgis Night (April 30th). If I can’t get a red apple to eat during breakfast on that day, I will find a red apple and make sure not to eat anything before eating a red apple. Of course it would be easier just to get an apple a day or two in advance.

After that, I will live out the day as I normally do before returning home and wiling away the afternoon before the night falls, maybe getting some university related stuff out of the way until then, just so it doesn’t take up time during the night ahead. I’m not immediately planning on listening to a ton of Slayer since I have already been listening to a lot of Slayer before Halloween, even though Slayer might be good for the mood.

After the usual Friday evening pizza with my brother and my dad, I will wait for last of the trick-or-treaters to retreat into their homes after getting whatever candy they can, and then eat whatever treats we still have at home that I feel like home, thus covering the indulgence aspect of Halloween. Then as the night draws on, I will spend some time in my room, in the dark (although if I can get lit candles in there that would be nice), and try to do one or two things I wouldn’t normally do (or that I do think of doing but don’t) while listening to music. All the while, I will be wearing my Venetian-style devil mask. Might even through in a Satanic prayer, this is after all considered a Satanic holiday after all.

All-in-all, my main hope is to have Halloween that is mildly ritual, while at the same time the idea for me is to have fun, in my own way.

Baal, Satan, and the evolution of the horned one

This post is about the evolution of the devil, and the concept of the Horned One, or more or less my analysis of it.

Before the rise of Judeo-Christian ideas, there was no concept of a lord of evil, no cosmic enemy, no Satan. There were gods of darkness, fertility, the underworld, and other things that we may associate with the Christian devil, but no embodiment of evil, or “the enemy” to be more truthful. The only time there was a concept of an enemy god was from the point of view of various peoples and tribes, who might have considered the gods of enemy or hostile tribes as evil. In the pagan world, every deity out there was capable of both good AND evil, and could inflict fortune or harm depending on whether you were on their good side or their bad side.

Then Zoroastrianism arrived onto the scene and introduced religious dualism to the world, with the conflict between the god Ahura Mazda and the devil Angra Mainyu as its central myth. Ahura Mazda symbolized order and morality from the heavens, as well as (from their viewpoint) truth, while Angra Mainyu represented chaos, evil, and destruction. They battled against each other, and were believed to be equal in power, but it was believed that Ahura Mazda would end the world and judge all of mankind. It was the first time any belief system that used a god to make people demand conformity to a religious morality had been created, and it would survive the modern age as the basis of the Christian faith.

In the Jewish faith, there was no embodiment of evil, though Jehovah did have an enemy: the pagan Baal, who was often identified as Beelzebul or Baal-zebub. Beelzebub as the lord of the flies, was Baal himself, a way of mocking the followers of Baal. In the Old Testament, Baal is frequently mentioned as the chief rival of their religion, and this likely signified Baal as the greatest heathen power, and the god of the Israelites frequently calls for the death of his worshipers and his prophets. He would be identified as Bel in a story involving Daniel, who you may remember from the Biblical story of the lion’s den.

Baal Hadad

Satan, on the other hand, was not the enemy of Jehovah, but was very much in service of him. In fact, the Jewish term “Satan” meant adversary, an agent of opposition, and could refer to anyone, supernatural or no (for example, King David was suggested by Saul that should be a Satan to the Philistines). The term “ha-Satan” refers to “the adversary”, and did refer to an angel under Jehovah’s command who tested and accused individuals in his name, basically acting as a prosecutor, judge, jury, and executioner for him when he wasn’t interested in doing it himself.

Christianity would alter the Jewish concept of Satan, the adversary. For them, Satan was the symbol of everything evil, and for the Christians, pagan meant godlessness and godlessness meant evil. He was also the god of this world, which to them was also evil. But for them, this lord of demons was still called Beelzebub. In the New Testament, the devil is actively identified as “Beelzebul, the prince of demons”, thus Beelzebub is the Satan of the Christian faith, whose symbol is the serpent (like the serpent of Eden), or the dragon. And Beelzebub’s old form as Baal, along with the appearance of other pagan gods, all of whom were believed to be Satan in disguise, would become his standard depiction from the Dark Ages onwards. The Jewish and Christian traditions created a new form for Baal, the embodiment of carnal spirituality and pagan worship they opposed so long ago and transformed into evil.

For some reason, the Christians have identified him as Lucifer since medieval times, but Lucifer has nothing to with the devil. The name Lucifer means “light-bringer” and refers to the morning star, or Venus. Jesus was actually referred to by that title in the Bible. Lucifer was also the name of a Roman god, but it is mainly a title, with no connection to the devil save for the modern age. Lucifer may also have been the Latin name of a minor Canaanite deity named Helel ben Shahar, who challenged the authority of the deity El.

The devil archetype would eventually take on form of Baphomet as described by the occultist Eliphas Levi, and years later the pagan form of The Horned God. In Wicca and Neopaganism, the Horned God is a modern symbol of the male side of the pagan divinity and is associated with nature, sexuality, wildness, and life and death, and often the underworld. Although the Horned God is not really the same as the Christian devil figure, some believe the Horned God was around about the same time as the Dark Ages and was the source of the Christian depiction of the devil (though this theory is usually dismissed by scholars). In a way, neopagan The Horned God was a reaction to Christianity, a syncretism of all the horned gods to create a male symbol of the pagan divinity, though it appears to be a mostly vernacular European archetype.

The Neopagan Horned God, in very good company

Satanism and its offshoots have imparted a new way of understanding the devil; an emblem of our carnal self, a symbol of, or even a spiritual guide for, the path of self-godhood, and spiritual individualism, absolute power to take control of ones own destiny, being slave to no one. This Satan is a reaction to Christianity as well, but far more defiantly against Christianity than the neopagan Horned God. For Satanists such as myself, Satan is the symbolic antidote to Christian programming and authoritarianism.

I myself identify as both a Satanist and a pagan, though I have little interest in the soft, gentle ideas of The Horned God (which while romantic to some isn’t very romantic to me). I take the Baal of the Bible, Beelzebub, a symbol of the pagan power and spirituality and the enemy of Judeo-Christian religion, as my Horned God, thus playing on the evolution of the devil, Baal, and the horned god, thus I have my satanic Horned God. Beelzebub is his name, Baal is also his name, The Horned God is his title as the symbol of the primordial force and elements, Satan is his title as the enemy of Abrahamism, and Lucifer is his title as the serpentine liberator, the dragon is also his title, thus I still feel free to use those names (though I’ll probably use the Lucifer name less), but the ancient metaphor for carnal spirituality lives on, but I am taking him to the modern age as the god of Pagan Satanism.