My experiences as a person are what cause me to identify as pagan and witch, and while I do loosely structure my religious rites on Wicca, my initiatory lineage is muddy enough that I can’t in good conscience claim to trace my roots back to Gerald Gardner. So I may call myself Wiccan when talking to general public folks for the sake of convenience, but to most pagans I tend to just say that I do my own thing.
I’m a witch because I practice magic. For me, it’s like breathing – I have to do it or the pressure builds up. I experience conversations with Deity several times a week. I use the word “Deity” as a generic term to encompass the various gods who speak directly to me, not out of any disrespect towards any of them.
When I’m in ritual and calling on deity to share the experience with, or to ask for guidance, I treat them as individuals because that’s how I’ve always experienced them. I’m extremely uncomfortable when people start referring to them as “archetypes”, or saying “all gods are one God” because that smacks of either disrespect or monotheism. You might as well say that “all Alans are one Alan” or something equally silly. Aphrodite and Venus may both be listed in the books as goddesses of love, but they’re very different individuals.
I do not discuss precisely which gods I work with on purpose. It’s a very personal thing, and part of the relationship is my word to keep it private. People who are going to inherit things from me in my will know, but they and my closest confidants are the only ones I’ve talked with about it. And I don’t necessarily stick to one pantheon. Different gods reach out to me and make their presence known, so I listen. I mean come on, they’re gods – of course I’m going to pay attention when they show up and put words in my head.
It’s funny to me how many pagans will look askance at me for that previous sentence, like I need anti-hallucinogenic medication because I listen when the gods talk. Or they try to talk me out of believing that my memory of the experience is real. Personally, I find listening to the gods much easier than trying to force my will on them, but that’s me. Your experiences are valid for you, whether they are similar to mine or not.
So there you have it. I’m a polytheist not because I believe the gods are real, but because I experience their reality. Sometimes I’ll get words from deceased relatives, elemental spirits, or gods choosing not to identify themselves. I do believe we have free will, so if some random entity encourages me to drop trou and start wanking in the middle of the grocery store I’m not going to feel obliged to do it, and figure someone’s just being silly. I may not do it, but I’ll smile at the mental image and enjoy life with gods who have a bawdy sense of humor.