My answers to week 3 of The Mystical Seeker’s Year.
The first questions are to do with whether you give deity a human-like form or personality, or whether it is more like a force or energy. Also, whether the form of this personified deity, or the kind of energy is masculine, feminine or genderless.
This, for me, is complicated. I both recognise deity as an abstract force AND I like to indulge my desires to personify the spiritual with representations and forms. The abstract force seems genderless and sort of distant. But I also recognise forms. These can be gods or goddesses. I feel a strong connection to the feminine and so recognise many powerful goddesses in my personal devotion, such as Aphrodite and Athena. When I try to personify the wild mysteries of nature, some of that distant, unfeeling but awe inspiring and powerful presence, I do often picture the antlered god Cernunnos. When I reflect on the aspect of nature that I feel I can connect with and feel a sense of nurturing and love from, then I do feel that this energy is feminine but I am also capable of seeing this feminine force as an abstract energy and not personified either.
So my answer is complicated. I recognise both a genderless force or energy, and this represents power, mystery and also wisdom and insight and it’s kind of impersonal. But it is somehow also capable of manifesting as a feminine force of compassion and nurturing, and I can have a relationship with that. When I indulge in my poetic desire to connect with symbolic representations of the divine, and picture deity in human-like form, I often picture the mysterious and powerful antlered god, or I connect with strong goddess figures like Athena or Aphrodite.
In answer to the next question, I try not to relate to deity as a parent figure. The impersonal aspects of deity (the genderless force and the antlered god) are neutral or distant. The feminine force feels nurturing, so I suppose you could say it is an idealised form of mother. Certainly that fits the whole “mother nature” thing, and I can sort of relate to that. However that’s not related to my actual mother and I think that sort of concept could easily turn unhealthy, especially if your relationship to your parents was less than ideal. Athena however does remind me of my actual mother, which put me off of her at first. But I realised those qualities of wisdom and strength that she represents were qualities I sorely needed, and yes my mother was strong, intelligent and honest, so I suppose Athena does represent some of that. Aphrodite feels somewhat like a lover (but not exactly, deity is deity after all) and it was important to have a strong, powerful goddess who was also sexual because I have a lot of problems in my sexual life and I desire strong, powerful women, so I felt like I needed a goddess to bring those needs to.
The whole complement or opposite thing, with regards to the gender of deity is a little hard for me to answer because although I was born physically male I am transgender.
Finally the question about names and labels. I talk a lot about nature or The Universe when describing deity in the abstract. I do not yet have a name for the nurturing, feminine energy as I have only just discovered it during the course of all these questions. The personified gods that I honour of course have names – Aphrodite, Athena, Cernunnos. There are other deities I have had an interest in – Shiva, Hermes, Dionysus, Odin, Thoth. These did not come to mind when contemplating my relationship with deity and the answers to the previous questions though, which is interesting.
I get confused when answering these questions whether to focus primarily on my abstract concept of deity or to also acknowledge my indulgence in symbolism and my interest in these historic deities, which has made my answers kind of complicated. But both sides of my spirituality seem important to me, so whatever.