So occasionally I wake up with random thoughts in my head - this was one of those days. I'm really just typing my thoughts as I have them here so it will likely be disjointed and perhaps contradictory or illogical :)
I've been doing study on Cernunnos lately and it has had me contemplating an idea that I've come back to on and off throughout the years of who exactly creates the gods. Let me lay some foundation work here. I believe in a divine source - whatever you want to call it - from which all things emanate and from which all things are connected. This source is neither masculine nor feminine, it goes beyond boundaries of gender. This source is a part of each and every one of us, in fact it is a part of everything and in this way we are all connected together. Now this is a pretty generalized idea that lacks a lot of specifics but I believe that the reason for this is that we cannot actually comprehend this Divine source. Our human capacity as it stands is simply unable to wrap our minds completely around such an entity/power/idea, so how do we reconcile this?
For me this is where the question who created the gods comes into play. If we go back far enough into religious/spiritual traditions and systems we usually find evidence of the divine manifesting in everyday things. Spirits of trees, rivers, the volcano etc are worshiped or honored as something 'other'. We add significant value to them for their life giving force, their destructive power, their ability to provide us with necessary resources. We do not fully comprehend these things but we comprehend enough to sense something 'other' within them. Now, I'm sure a lot of people will call it superstition, ignorance, fear and several other things that basically claim that early man just didn't know any better, and believe me I've read the history books etc that highlight this. But I have to wonder, if you are living that closely with nature, if it is such a vital part of your survival you must surely be more in tune with its energies than we are today and therefore are probably more aware of the divine source that lives within all things. I think we find it hard in the modern world to really grasp what it must have been like. Think about it. Say you've lived in the city your entire life, perhaps it hasn't been a great life and you've spent a lot of time on the streets, or around high crime areas, in order to survive you've developed an intuition and sixth sense about your surroundings. You instinctively can feel when danger is approaching, or a variety of other 'instincts' that enable you to survive. You have an awareness of your world. Or take farmers, how many farmers can predict the weather better than any degree'd weatherman you've ever seen? How many of them have a sense of what the land is going to do, or when their animals are going to birth etc. These are senses we develop because of our surroundings and situations and most of us who live in the modern world have had these senses dulled. So bringing my tangent back on topic, I feel that the early spirits of the land were our sensing of the divine spark in things, a sense that morphed over time.
As things changed within society and the world around us changed our senses we began to feel a need to humanize those spirits we had previously acknowledged as a part of the divine. So the spirits become humanized gods, they become deities of specific places or the more overarching early deities such as Gaia or the early Titans. That is not to say that the spirits of certain places are not still honored, but it is more often by those of the local areas than as a whole societal thing. As time continues ideas of gods develop further and we begin to see deities emerge that are associated with ideas or places that are of import to the now. Deities that already exist are morphed into something else, or adapted, separated our into parts and a variety of other transformations that adapt with society, complex pantheons begin to emerge.
So how does this relate back to my question? Quite simply I believe that 'we' created the gods. That is not to say that they don't exist. But rather that the gods are our own faces applied to a divine presence within the universe. They are how we have adapted and developed our sense of the divine in relation to how we view its connection with ourselves. It doesn't matter if you believe it is one god or 500 they exist in that we have created their existence as a way of connecting to that divine. Of course this then throws up many questions. If the gods exist because we create them does our lack of worship destroy them? Can we create new gods? If we create them how much do they really exist, are they actually gods or just masks? I'm sure there are more but I'll pick those 3 for now.
If the gods exist because we create them does our lack of worship destroy them? My answer to this is not entirely simple. If everyone suddenly stopped worshiping Odin would he cease to exist? No. Firstly, because the god Odin is a part of the greater divine and you cannot eradicate that greater source without eradicating all things. Secondly, if you look around the world the god 'Odin' has many counterparts throughout various cultures, he is an archetype that exists in the universal consciousness and therefore in some sense will always exist. The historian in me also wants to claim that unless you also manage to eradicate all evidence of his every existing you can never truly remove the idea of him from the world, eventually someone is going to pick it up again - just look at the resurgence of pagan beliefs lately.
Can we create new gods? You know I'm probably going to get shot down for this but I believe you can. I know, blasphemy blah, blah, blah. But anyone who has looked at the history of religion can figure out that hey - we created new gods all the time, didn't I just write about that. But there seems to be this idea that we must honor the gods of the past and all other gods are impostors or a joke - where does that idea come from? Okay, obviously some religions feel this way, but look at early pagan systems, the Romans conquered most of Europe and into the UK, they discovered new gods they hadn't heard of before, so what did they do - they incorporated them for the most part. Now before anyone gets up in arms and starts bombarding me with evidence of when the Romans weren't so friendly about others gods, I know that, I'm just talking in broad generalities here - for the most part the Romans assimilated before the Empire got to big for its britches. So why can't we find new gods today? For my system you can, the gods are an aspect of the greater divine and therefore if you choose to see that divine in something new and different then go for it. Heck, look at Cernunnos (see, we got back there eventually) most of the evidence that exists surrounding this deity is sketchy at best, a lot of sources say that the name was more of a title than an actual deity. But Murray got to talking about his as the witches god and people went with the idea and now he is. He is a deity in his own right, something that he perhaps had not been previously. Things change, deities change, the universe changes, the constant is that divine source, the variable is how we choose to interact with it.
If we create them how much do they really exist, are they actually gods or just masks? Now this is a tricky one for me to answer and I'm not sure I'm going to do it justice here. I do not believe that the gods exist as stand alone deities, they are aspects of the divine that are manifested through the prism of our reality. I do not believe that one day Zeus is going to step down from high and visit us all, I don't believe we are descended from gods in any other way than that we share the same divine spark. I do believe that you can work with separate deities, that they exist in enough of a sense that each has its own attributes and personalities because we have imbued them with these things. It is somewhat linked to the debate of can you share pantheons. Some will argue absolutely against it, others say do what calls to you, I'm personally in the later boat. If you feel called to work with Ganesha, The Rainbow Serpent and Freya then by all means do so, they each have a filter on the divine that obviously works with what you need. Now, the idea of whether gods with clash is something slightly different for me. As I stated, I believe there is a certain level of manifestation that we have applied that has focused our ideas. Just as certain aspects of nature clash, of our own personalities, so too do certain aspects of the divine manifestation. Poseidon and Athena have been manifested for such a long time with a certain spin on their relationship that it would take some serious effort to break that manifested reality, I'm not saying it can't be done, but don't be shocked if things get a little rocky there for a bit.
I'm not sure any of the above makes any sense to a mind other than my own - but there it is, my rather long winded take on who created the gods.