Of Gods And Men…And Cons
By Rev. Robert Nolan
I have been attending CTCW since it began and have always made an effort to offer up something interesting, with varying degrees of success. This last year (2015), I offered a workshop on the origins of gods, not culturally or psychologically, but the metaphysical process of how we bring them into existence. Being a magician, and therefore not always possessed of a rational level of humility, the only logical finale I saw to this presentation is to try to make a god ourselves. Thus was born Connie, The Patron Goddess/Spirit of the Con.
‘But wait,’ you might say, ‘you can’t make a god. Gods are all powerful beings beyond the scope of human knowledge.’ and you would be right to an extent. In today’s world most people get their concept of “God” either directly from, or from a source influenced by, a monotheistic religion. Since a monotheistic God is in charge of everything, and people can’t understand everything, a God must be beyond us. Looking at polytheistic cultures, however, and you see a world divided into manageable parts. The Hindus have the all powerful Vishnu, but they also have Aruna who is the god of the red sky at sunset and is still god enough to bless those who honor him. The ancient celts had Bormio, who was in charge of all sacred springs and gave the waters their healing properties, below him however was Loudiri, whose only divine power was ensure the safety of those on pilgrimage to a particular spring in Gaul. And just a few years ago a small daoist village raise up one of it’s own to godhood after the end of a virtuous life so she could watch over the village as its patron. Gods can come in all sizes and those smaller ones can come from us.
The next question is of course where do gods come from. The vastly simplified answer is gods come from us. They come from our veneration and our use of them a a medium to interact with the universe. Most of the time, gods come into being organically; a child prays to her dead mother’s spirit, her children follow her example and soon there is a household good looking out for the family. Sometimes a powerful spirit might see a people in need and decide to help them. Sometimes there is a natural feature which has a profound influence on a peoples lives and the venerate the animistic spirit behind it, such as Pele in Hawaii. All of these take existing entities and raise them up, but there is another way.
The personification of abstract idea is one of the more interesting ways in which gods come into being. They are often identified by their regalia, and often go without names. We see these all the time; Justice, with her blindfold, sword and scales; Lady Liberty with her crown, tablet and torch; Victory, winged with shield and laurels held high. Sometimes these personifications grow beyond their beginnings, such as what appears to have happened with Athena. Once she may have been a spirit of wisdom, with her arms and owl, invoked by leaders for guidance, but with time and the bounty her wisdom granted she became the great patron goddess of one of the greatest cities of its age.
It is this act of personification which we used in making a patron spirit for the conference, because a con is nothing but a convergence of abstracts. We gather at an agreed time to share knowledge as a community, but in doing so we create something more, like a pocket in the world outside of our lives where expectations and preconceptions shift. The energy of that is amazing and giving it a voice and presences carrying through from year to year could build into something astounding.
To bring her into being, first we had to know what she was to be. As stated earlier, personifications are defined and identified by their regalia, so the first step was to determine what she was carrying and what it meant. Firstly, she was female, not sure why but it felt right to everyone in the room. In her left hand she carries a notebook, for the knowledge to be given and gained. She has glasses which she wears on her forehead, the mark of one who has been and will continue to be ready to read and embrace knowledge. She wears sensible shoes, not the bare feet of one who humbles herself nor the flashy shoes of one who must be the center of attention. She bares an ambiguous medallion of faith, for many in the community bring their faith with them but do not seek see one supreme. She has a satchel slung across her body because there is much she comes with and much she takes away, and out of the satchel sticks a bottle of liquor because we come in celebration as well. Lastly, in her right hand she carries a bowl of cough drops, just like the one the organizers leave out at registration every year, because like them she is looking out for our welfare at our gathering.
Once we had her regalia, we struggled with a name. Many were proposed but the only one that stuck was Connie the “Con Spirit”, corny as it is it seemed to fit. Those of us present gathered the energies and built her as a construct (if you don’t know how that is done, it is too much to go into here). An artistic rendering of her was made and she was introduced to those attending the con, many of whom contributed their own energies and some of whom looked like you’d expect when you say you made a god that afternoon. She stabilized and the beginnings of an independent personality emerged. She was kind and somewhat sarcastic, but above all inquisitive.
Over the year so far I have tended a small shrine to her on my altar with a small bowl of cough drops and a picture. I have invoked her presence when I have gone to similar events and sometimes she comes, sometimes not. When I have been doing research, or reading up on other people, I can sometimes feel her presence unbidden. It may be her role and purpose, it may be the number of high level practitioners who participated in making her, but Connie is by far the most dynamic and independent willfully constructed being I have ever been a party to.I have no doubt that with our care and respect she could be a goddess that outlasts us and looks after not just this con, but those which come after it. It maybe that fifty or one hundred years from now, pagan conference organizers will be saying little prayers to Connie that people will come in good spirits and leave happy, and healthy, and filled with the Spirit of the Con.