We need new stories about the Gods.
They are already being told. Take for instance, Freyja and chocolate. There are few who worship Freyja who won’t say that chocolate would be a fine offering for Her. It’s sensual, rich, contains chemicals that excite warmth and passion, and is associated with pleasure and wealth. People have offered it to Her, and they report that She seems to be happy with it. Despite the fact that it was not present in the lands in which She was worshiped in the old days, Her folks seem pretty solid on it being a good offering.
What I told you just now was a story about a God and Her interaction with Her followers. This is the more casual sort of story, the hearsay of “shared gnosis”, but it’s an important one because it shapes modern practice. There are different and more personal ways of telling it – for instance, you could tell your own personal story of Freyja accepting your chocolate offering instead of a broad anecdote based on observation – but it comes to the same thing. We have new experiences of the Gods outside of the context of the lore.
When we look at examples like this we realized that we have a lot of modern stories about the Gods. Tales of their interactions with us, tales with their perceived interactions with one another. Things that were not written down by Christian monks and preserved against time through state-owned narratives; lived experience with these holy powers.
Sometimes modern stories seem to contradict the lore. While some Pagans are willing to ignore modern experiences when they do so, it’s important to recognize that sometimes the lore contradicts the lore; the ancients had a variety of beliefs about things, and while an orthodoxy may have existed in one region and one time, the cultures that most reconstructionists or revivalist polytheists use for inspiration stretched for centuries or millenia in a variety of places; there was room for differences of opinion on a grand cultural and historical scale. We only have small windows to look through of the things that were widely believed enough (and had enough official state sanction) to be preserved in a form where we can read them.
I do not place any literal belief in the stories about my Gods. To me when they do touch on a numinous truth rather than merely being a social or cultural tale (and how does one tell for sure?) they are an indication of the character of the beings involved. I don’t believe in Freyja or Loki as people with skin and limbs and heartbeats (though the Lady does have a heartbeat after a manner of speaking) but witness them as great spirits tied to greater forces.
I learn about things that they can do from those tales. I learn about how they interact with mortals and one another. If we only look to ancient lore for those stories then we limit our view of our Gods to only what the ancients perceived. While it’s important to know where they came from I believe that it’s important to recognize that they change as well, and that their interactions with us can reflect that.
I know of a few Pagan writers who pen new stories for the Gods (check out The Third String for tales of the Dagda, and Lofn’s Bard for new tales of the Norse Goddesses that don’t get much face time in the Eddas), generally ones that they are priests for or have strong devotional ties to. Just as with the ancient lore, they don’t need to be taken literally, and probably shouldn’t be. They teach you about the Gods through the lens of people who know them well; if your own experiences with them differ then it may be good for you to tell or write some stories to explain your perceptions as well.
Our Gods deserve the dedication of understanding how they fit into the cultures that they arose from. They also deserve the benefit of understanding that comes with knowing that they can change or present themselves differently to different people at different times. While there may be some polytheists who are aghast at the idea of any new thing ever being associated with a deity I find that the majority of us already have our own little stories about who they are and how they act. Sharing them through media or books is just another step to increasing awareness of them of how they manifest in modern times.
It takes a lot of foundational material to create a theology and for many of the revivalist or reconstructionist paths we are still building that; our understandings of how the ancients viewed their Gods, and our understandings of how they may interact with us in new contexts. For many of these paths we are at the very beginning of putting together something that may (if of course we don’t end civilization; that seems less certain in this age of fascist takeover, weapons of mass destruction, and climate change) grow into something even more lovely and rich as we grow with our understandings of our Gods. For that to happen we need more stories, new stories, stories that challenge and stories that confirm, stories that illustrate and stories that mystify, stories that help us to understand how the Gods are speaking to us today.