In the Book of Luke, an angel appeared before shepherds and said “Do not be afraid.” Logically, there is no reason to be afraid--angels usually bring glad tidings. But they are also intimidating because of their unfathomable knowledge and power.
Pagan Gods are the same way. They are comforting, enlightening, and honest; but They are also overwhelming. Seven years into my faith, I still feel afraid when I contact (or even consider contacting) a deity whom I’ve never worked with before.
If you feel this way, you’re not alone. I often receive questions such as, “What do I say when I pray to Them?” or “What if I do something wrong?”
Recently, I have pondered all of these questions while building a relationship with the Egyptian God Thoth. So I’m going to run through the process with you: choosing a deity, studying, and beginning your relationship.
How to Choose a Deity
“How do I decide which deity to work with?” is probably the most common question in the Pagan realm. The short answer is: Whoever you want. But I’ll address some concerns that many people have.
I have met many people who stress over worshipping a God and Goddess, or “matron and patron.” This stems from a Wiccan tradition--or rather, some peoples’ interpretation of a Wiccan tradition (see: How Do Other Deities Fit into Wicca?). If you do not subscribe to Wicca or this idea, do not feel pressured to work with two deities.
Many are interested in deities that represent an interest or hobby, such as art, sun/moon, education, or the home. This can work for some people; for instance, I first reached out to Thoth for writing advice. But you and your deity do not need to have the same interests.
Some people feel drawn to certain deities, and they don’t know why. I’ve had several people message me saying, “I feel drawn to Hades, but I have no interest in death work!” which is exactly how I felt when Hades reached out to me.
Gods and Goddesses are more complex than They seem on the surface. For instance, Hades is the Lord of the Underworld; but if you research Him further, you’ll find that He governs wealth, seasons, fertility of the land, gems, mourning, and justice. Perhaps those aspects will impact worshippers later on.
Over all, if you feel drawn to a deity, shoot your shot. You don’t need to have a reason to like a certain deity. Try the relationship and see where it goes. If it doesn’t work out, don’t fret; some deities are only in our lives for a short time.
One more thing: I highly recommend working with one new deity at a time, especially for beginners. Tackling a few Gods or an entire pantheon at once can get overwhelming.
What to Study Before Working with the Deity
Before you start giving offerings or setting up an altar, study your chosen deity. After all, you need to know what your deity prefers for Their offerings or altar.
By “study,” I’m not just talking about the myths (although those can be useful). Research how the ancients worshipped that deity. What offerings did that deity receive? Did They pop up during certain holidays? Did certain cults or occupations worship Them? Usually, the ancients did not view the deity as we perceive Them through mythology today.
One of the simplest ways to understand how the ancients worshipped that deity is through epithets. Epithets are a word or phrase that describes a certain quality of that deity. Some of Thoth’s epithets include ”He who drives away evil” and “He who created purification,” which tells me that He governs protection and cleansing.
Another method is through art. In ancient Egypt, ancients painted certain deities in specific colors. All of those colors had different meanings. Often, art also portrayed deities with an animal or object that was sacred to Them.
As you research, you might notice that some things do not translate to the modern age. For instance, Hades worshippers are not sacrificing black goats anymore. If this stumps you, look into modern worship. Pagans often talk about how they worship deities on blogs and social media accounts. You might gain some inspiration there.
One last thing. While researching, you might notice that cultures and countries all worship deities in a certain way. You must ensure that you are working with a deity with regard to Their culture. This is called appropriate worship. For instance, I wouldn’t worship Thoth in the same way I do Hades, because They are from different cultures.
How to Conduct an Introduction Ritual
Deities are like new friends: you need to build a relationship with Them, even if you are just working with Them and not worshipping. Immediately jumping into demands is rude. Because of this, I recommend an introduction ritual.
Although the word “ritual” might sound solemn and serious, it really isn’t. This ritual can be casual and lighthearted; you don’t have to use “thees” and “thous” if you don’t want to.
The introduction ritual has two main components: an offering and a prayer. By now, you should have learned about appropriate offerings through your research. If you need a foolproof offering, consider lighting a candle. It works for almost any deity. If you do not know how to give offerings, see Offerings for Deities: the Basics.
After giving the offering, begin the prayer. You do not need to recite a prewritten prayer (unless you want to). You can say it in your head, write it down, mutter it, or even sing it. Whatever feels the most comfortable.
If you don’t know what to include in the prayer, here are some ideas:
For more examples, see: If You’re Struggling with Pagan Prayer, Read This.
Many have asked how to end a prayer, or whether to use “Amen” or “Blessed be.” You do not need a sign-off like that if you would feel uncomfortable reciting it. A simple “Thank You for Your time” is good enough. You could also press your hands together, bow, or blow out the candle. These small actions might make the ritual’s ending feel more final.
If you want to conduct divination, feel free to do so. You likely will not receive a grand revelation from the deity, like a vision or voice in your head. Instead, the signs might be more subtle, such as a high candle flame or a meaningful song appearing on your playlist. If you’d like more examples, read Is It a Sign? Interpreting Messages from Deities.
If you are feeling so nervous that you can’t focus, try meditating for a few minutes beforehand. Or, wait until you feel calmer to conduct the ritual.
Also, here is an important tip: do NOT make any oaths, devotions, or swearings yet. You’ll want to make sure that you get along with this deity before becoming a devotee or something similar.
How Do You Know If You Do Something Wrong?
If you’re like me, you might be worried about doing something wrong. Nobody gets worship right on the first try. What if They don’t want to talk to you again? Or what if They end up not liking you?
In my experience, it’s pretty difficult to irritate a deity as long as you’re respectful. I’ve spilled offerings, screwed up a candle so the wick wouldn’t burn, and accidentally caught stuff on fire during rituals before (always keep a water bowl nearby!) None of those incidents broke my relationship with the Gods.
That being said, some Gods might prefer not to work with you. Or more likely, They want to work with you, but They prefer that you do certain things.
If you do something “wrong”--say, you give an offering that They don’t like, or you call Them something They don’t appreciate--you might get this “off” feeling. For example, I call Hades “Lord Hades” quite often. But when I used the title “Lord” with other deities like Zephyrus and Thoth, They didn’t like it.
When this happens, simply correct your behavior. In my case, I said, “oh my bad, I won’t call You that anymore.” Mistakes like these are not make-or-break scenarios. If you continue to act in a way that a God doesn’t appreciate, out of spite or disinterest, then you might have a problem.
If you constantly think “I’ve done something wrong” throughout the ritual, you might be too anxious. Our minds can overtake our spiritual sense when we feel powerful emotions. Take a break, work through your feelings, and try again.
Some Tips to Remember
How do you feel about working with a new deity? Did I miss anything? Let me know in the comments below!