You heard from a friend that Odin is a good, powerful god. You also like working with Osiris. Should you work them both in the same ritual? Will they get along? Who is Odin anyway?
There is nothing wrong with mixing pantheons, as long as one knows exactly what she is doing. This should only be done after much studying and learning about the deities in various pantheons, before using them together for magick.
The Hermetic tradition, for example, frequently mixes and matches deities from different pantheons, but it does so with a deep understanding of what it's affecting and why. It is this deep understanding, this gnosis of deity, that is lacking in most eclectic Pagan groups and traditions that mix pantheons.
When many Pagans mix pantheons, they do so without regard to the cultures the pantheons came from and the relationships between the gods or goddesses involved. Does Odin get along with Osiris? To answer this, one first must have a deep knowledge (more than what is found in books and essays) of who Odin is and who Osiris is. What were the Norse like and what were the Egyptians like, since those are the cultures that worshipped those gods. Who is Odin in the Egyptian pantheon? Who is Osiris in the Norse pantheon? What were the relationships between the Egyptian Odin and Osiris? What were the relationships between the Norse Osiris and Odin?
If one does not deal with these questions and many others when he mixes pantheons, he takes great risk that the spell or ritual he is performing will either be less effective, or in the worst case, can have very contrary results to what was intended. The energy of each pantheon can be quite different, depending on the cultures that worshipped them. The Norse were war-like, so their deities can tend to have a more violent tone in their power.
Another important question that must be asked is, "Why mix the pantheons?" If this is not asked, then all the work required to effectively mix the deities of various pantheons in one working is wasted. Why mix Odin and Osiris when Re and Osiris would be much easier and would yield a similar effect? One reason to mix pantheons is because the subtle tones of energy are different. Maybe one wants the exact energy tones that Odin provides and Re doesn't. They are different gods, after all. But if one doesn't have the deep knowledge of the differences between the deities of different pantheons, it would probably be more effective for them to do their workings within a single pantheon and wait on mixing until they have the knowledge and experience working with each deity in the pantheons considered has been acquired.
In the meantime, one should study the gods of pantheons she is interested in to develop her experience. She also can work with the gods of each pantheon in ritual, but use one pantheon per ritual. That will help attune the practitioner to the energy tones given by each pantheon and each deity. Meditating and conversing with each god also will increase one's understanding.
One way of doing this type of learning (there are many, of course) is as follows:
- Set aside as much time as is needed where you will be undisturbed. A half hour is probably good to start.
- Ground and center, using the method of your choice.
- Banish all negative energy from the space using the method of your choice.
- Cast a circle of protection.
- Call to the deity. Ask the deity to come into your circle and help you learn about him or her. Tell them that you are asking them with an open mind, and make sure your mind is truly open to receiving their wisdom.
- Light a candle to focus on. The flame of the candle can represent the energy of presence of the deity.
- Focus intently on the flame with all of your being. Let all outside distractions disappear and be meaningless. If your mind wanders to other thoughts, acknowledge them and let them go.
- You might see images, hear words or music, feel energy, or all of the above. Remember it. Feel it. Take in as much as you can.
- When you are finished, thank the deity for their presence and teaching, extinguish the candle, and take down the circle.
- VERY IMPORTANT! Write down your findings in a magickal journal as soon as possible after the conclusion of the ritual. You may even want to have a pen and notebook in circle with you so you can write it before you take the circle down. If your findings are not written important parts will be forgotten.
After a deep understanding of the deities, pantheons and cultures one wishes to mix has been attained, then one is ready to use the complexity and power that is gained from this. Not every pantheon has all of the energy tones one needs for a working. They might be close, but in powerful magick, close might not be close enough.
An illustration of one way to mix pantheons is to take the Hermetic tradition. They mix the Greek, Egyptian, Iranian, and Semitic pantheons together to create a powerful and complex mixture. The Greek, Roman, and Egyptian pantheons can be easier to mix than, say, Egyptian and Norse. This is because the cultures were very closely connected and worked together frequently. One thing to remember, especially with closely related pantheons, is that they are different. It's easy to forget that the Roman Apollo is slightly different than the Greek Apollo. Venus is not the same as Aphrodite. Zeus is not the same as Jupiter. Just because they are closely related doesn't mean that one can skip the deep learning and meditation required to understand and manipulate the subtle energy differences in each.
So, should pantheons be mixed in a single ritual? As previously described, the answer is both yes and no. Yes, it can add a lot of power and subtlety to a working, giving it that little extra punch and precision. But if a strong knowledge of the forces involved and their backgrounds and cultures is not first attained, then it can lead to ineffective magick and unintended consequences.
(Note: This article was first published in April, 2002 at The Witches' Voice)