A few years ago there was quite a kerfuffle about pop culture paganism. Okay, I’m totally downplaying it. It was pretty much a knock-out drag-down fight where people from all over were weighing in on their private blogs and tumblrs. It was a thing for at least a week.
It’s a weird thing to debate to me because I’ve always been using pop culture and non-magical media as inspiration for my magic. I developed my system of energy manipulation through a children’s fantasy book when I was ten. I taught myself scrying from an adult fantasy book not long after that. There is a book series that I’m fairly confident I wouldn’t have survived high school or college without. I read it daily and it helped shaped me in troubled times. I always had a few copies of the books on me, and it got to the point where a friend had copies in her bag in case I forgot mine.
People find hope and faith in all sorts of places. It seems really weird to me that people would disparage anything that others find faith in. Who cares who or what someone else worships? Their worship doesn’t disgrace your deity or deities. If you feel that it does, then it’s something that’s off in your thinking, not the other way around. I mean, there are plenty of faiths that want to have one deity above them all but… uh, that deity’s existence doesn’t necessarily mean other deities don’t exist?
Plus, historically, there are a lot of deities we recognize now that were sort of adapted or merged from other deities. Some of this is due to our historical understanding and some of it was due to regionalism. This is basic, Wikipedia-level knowledge.
Creating deities isn’t new. And worshiping non-deities isn’t new either. It just isn’t. After all, some traditions invoke the elements into their circles, and they aren’t typically considered deities. Sacred, yes, but not deities. Ancestor worship is a world-wide phenomenon and those ancestors aren’t considered gods. Pop culture paganism isn’t just interested in pop culture based pantheons but all aspects of paganism. So pop culture based spells, sacred entities, and so on.
And why not now? Why not now when there’s so much else in the world then there was back then? Who cares if someone you know online worships a god of coffee or a goddess of procrastination? Who cares if they are following the Outsider from Dishonored or are serious about the Elven pantheon from Dragon Age? Who cares if Link and the Legend of Zelda is their source material? What difference does it make if they live by the Jedi codes? So what if they have a shrine to the deity of quantum mechanics? That entity gives them hope, faith, courage, and strength. It makes them stronger. It’s one of the major reasons why people become involved in religions to begin with.
Anyway, there is no proper list of requirements or a checkbox one must fill in to become a deity. There is no list. There is absolutely no such thing as a proper deity because any deity is a proper deity. This is a personal thing. You’re going to have to make up your rules or what is and isn’t a deity yourself.
I could tell you each deity needs attributes or associations, but that’s not strictly true. What each deity usually has is a sphere of influence.
A sphere of influence is the things the deity influences around them. Let’s take Hermes. Hermes is the god of boundaries and thresholds; doorways. This means he crosses between worlds. In fact, except for a few rare occasions, he’s the only deity that can cross between the realm of the dead (as he’s conductor of the dead and an emissary), the mortal realm, and the realm of the gods. This means he has influence in all three locations. Let’s go further. He’s a god of traveling, of journeys (since he’s a god of doorways). He’s also a god of transition, movement: again, traveling, change, etc. This means he’s key and ideal for anyone who’s livelihood relies on traveling. He’s a messenger, right? An emissary. He passes knowledge and information onto others, especially the masses. This means he’s key for any knowledge, wisdom, speechcrafting, or works of art or literature. He’s passing that information on, giving up that culture to others. He’s even a bit of a trickster in some myths, which plays well with his cleverness and previously discussed influences. These are the things he is: we know this because of the source material, the literature we have on him.
So, Hermes is a god of herdsman (travelers), heraldry (messenger), omens (messenger), trade (travelers, messengers and bringing things to the home), travel, luck (because you’d bloody well need it with traveling and hoping someone doesn’t kill the messenger), the dead (again, emissary of the dead), thievery (literally within his mythos), language, education, the arts, literature (again, communication via messenger), athletics (you do that much traveling and you’d be in shape too), and finally the home.
Now the home is interesting here isn’t it? He’s a god of travel but he’s also a god of doorways. Your doorways. To your home. Why the hell wouldn’t you ask such a god to guard your doorways from trespassers? Why wouldn’t you ask for luck and grace as you pass under his doorway each and everyday? You return the same way as well.
That’s all in his sphere of influence. And it goes further. Hermes is associated with rams, due to mythology. So rams are in his sphere of influence. So are certain types of trees, symbols (winged hat, shoes, and staff anyone?). Hermai are a specific symbol that appear over doorways, crossroads, and regular roads as a mini shrine to Hermes himself. And that’s just off the top of my head. I’m sure someone out there has a whole huge list of what he’s associated with, all information gathered through mythology and historical, cultural research.
That’s his sphere of influence. Now, how does this relate?
Each deity there is can be broken into spheres of influence. Anything from the smallest fae to the greatest deity. All can be broken down into their associations, into their spheres of influence. As a creator of your own deities, you have to create your own mythology and spheres of influence for each of your deities. How detailed they are is up to you. You’ll find it’ll grow through associations humans make with objects.
I’ll take an example from one of my fictional novels-in-progress.
Deandr is a god of death, luck, intoxicants, war, and madness. He shares madness with two other godesses, the goddess of love and passion and the goddess of music, tricksters, and inspiration. Because Deandr’s a god of death and war, he’s worshiped by warriors. He’s a god of fighting (see: death) and intoxicants so he’d be popular among brawlers and drunkards. He’s a god of luck so gamblers and thieves would find him irresistible. He’s also a god of madness – madness from drinking, from the throes of winning and losing, of adrenaline, blood lust, grief, despair, death, etc. He’s a god of a lot of things. Carrion birds, flesh-eating animals, animals used in combat (like horses), animals considered lucky (rare animals, like albinos, or two headed snakes) would all be part of his sphere of influence. Any plan used to make alcohol or intoxicants would be in his sphere of influence. Lesser attached but still considered would be children born of illicit drunken affairs, prizes from war, money and commerce, crafting, brewing, games. These are things that are attached to him simply by association, even if they strictly aren’t in his sphere of influence.
Now, obviously, spheres of influence can overlap with deities – this is true of all mythology, again, using Hermes as an example, he shares his status as a god of messengers with Iris and he shares his status as a god of the home with Hera and Hestia, depending on the home.
So the answer is there is no list. You have to decide what each god is in control of and from there let the associations grow. What does that god influence?
I’ll use a pop culture example. Let’s go with Cecil from Welcome to Night Vale. He’s the Voice of Night Vale – so speaking is his thing. But he’s also a messenger of news and plays music residents might not otherwise hear. So he’s the the bringing of new things, changes. He’s ruler of words, carefully crafted. But it goes deeper than that. He’s charismatic. He has influence and can dominate over people. He can sway public opinion, for good or bad. It goes, again, further. He’d also be great at self-deception, love at first sight, and living or creating his own world. He’s a big part of his community and clearly loves it so he’d be great for worship within a community.
For our purposes, this means he’s skilled with all chants and word spells, he’s mesmerizing so he’d be great with influencing and dominating others. As a radio host he’d had a radio personality – meaning he’s partially an illusion. He’d definitely be the entity you’d want to call upon if you had to make a public speech, need to convince someone to do something for you, or send a secret message. Associations would be music, words, voice recordings, any type of broadcasting equipment, broadcasting towers, cats, Carlos, and various other things he’s mentioned as a personal interest. All that from a character who’s physical appearance and off-radio personality we don’t even know.
So when you create your deities, sit and really think about them. If they’re a god of water then what does water effect? Well, there’s animals living within it, there’s atmospheres of the sea, there’s darkness and light. There’s stillness and movement. It creates life and can kill. It’s literally a whole world. It can partially suspend gravity (as shit can float on water). And that’s just the beginning. That doesn’t even get into the composition of the water itself or how humans use it. It doesn’t get into that we’re made up of water. Water comes from the sky as well, can be both solid, semi-solid, and liquid (transforming much?). And it goes a ton further than that.
All of that before you get to the setting up of the altar, shrines, or holy spaces. All of that before offerings, rituals, and invocations. Can you skip those steps, sure. But you’ll find that you’ll connect much easier on a rational level when you have things laid out. You’ll find people will take you more seriously (and you’ll take yourself more seriously) when you have it all laid out.
This is a long-term, deeply personal project for each person. It will require quite a lot of thinking and researching the source material. It’ll require you to decide which source materials to follow when you have conflicting information. It’ll require you to think and really connect with this entity as you develop your practice. No two people approach the same entity in the same way – that’s true in any religion. It’s true in pop culture paganism too.
Good luck to those starting this endeavor. I hope this helps provide some thoughts on your path. I’m happy to be a sounding board to bounce ideas off of, if you’re stuck! Just drop me an email. Best wishes!
[Updated and adapted from my original post here.]