Which Gods Can You Trust?

Pagans, particularly modern Hellenic Polytheists and those of the hard polytheistic bent, will usually agree that the gods have their own agendas. This is clear in the earliest mythos of Homer. The gods take sides, have personal alliances, have varied personalities, and while our prayers are sometimes answered they are also sometimes ignored. So how can we trust them?

I visited a forum recently in which a poster asked this:

Currently, I’m a new pagan, only been pagan for about maybe a year or so, but how did you guys know which gods or goddesses to trust?
I realize that upon entering a relationship with any deity, there will be conditions that you will need to abide by.

It’s a very general question that I’m not sure how to phrase properly. However, how do you find a god or goddess who is open-minded, willing to let you ask questions no matter how irreverent, and just think for yourself? – gracesong

Zeus, the king of the gods, and controller of ...

Bust of Zeus via Wikipedia

My answer is this: Read up on the mythology of the god in question before approaching Them. This will give you a good start.

With many gods, you have to show that you are trustworthy first. That trust is built on exchange, you’re much more likely to develop that trust if you hold true to your side of the exchange than if you don’t. If you offer something in exchange for favor, then be worthy of Their trust and follow-through with your offering/sacrifice.

If you’ve done your reading, and keep your side of the exchange, then the rest is trial and error. Some gods will be indifferent to appeasement. Only They know who They favor.

If you’re not sure what to offer, then ask. If you don’t know which god to thank for something unexpected, you can say something like, “Hear me Zeus, if you are the right god to address, thank you for….” or “To whichever god blessed me with….thank you, I leave this offering for you.”

If you’re inclined towards the Hellenic Pantheon, these gods are known to be approachable:

  • Hestia – The hearth and seat of the home, what could be more inviting than that? She gave way to Dionisos and relinquished Her seat on Olympos when he was recognized as a god.
  • Hermes – He may play tricks on you, but he welcomes all kinds of people.
  • Asklepios – Very kind and known to accept all sorts of offerings (including a child’s dice) for healing.
  • Hypnos – The benignant god of sleep.
  • Which gods do you trust, and why?

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    11 comments on “Which Gods Can You Trust?

    1. Labrys says:

      I definitely agree with the statement that deities have their own agendas. I often think they rarely align with the human program. Of the Greeks, I have found Hekate most approachable, while Athena merely tolerates me, at best, for doing a necessary task.

      But then, I am again veering away to pantheism more than theism….so perhaps I am not the best reference?

      • I am inclined to conceive the relationship between humans and the gods as described by Yvonne, a member of my demos: That humans are to the gods what house cats are to humans. Some humans are not paired well with some gods. Others have a remarkable relationship. The trick is finding which god will feed you, shelter you, and pet you. If you are not welcome in one god’s “house” then escape and find another caretaker.

    2. birdonwing says:

      Thank you for posting this! I’m new as well, and this is one of my main issues at the moment.

      So far I have gone with something much like “to whomever god who…-” because I am pretty sure the gods I am drawn to mostly aren’t among the open invitation kind of group. I don’t know if “drawn to” is the right way to put it anyway. Most likely it’s me liking them better than some others for reasons I’m not entirely conciously aware of ( though there is some sort of logic to it, mostly), or, maybe, perhaps one or two actually wanting/liking attention? I don’t know, and maybe I never will. I have this feeling I wouldn’t really notice a god’s ( or goddess’) dislike or like unless they started having floating, burning glow-in-the-dark sentences appear somewhere in the air whenever they felt like telling something. Which, let’s face it, is not very likely. Heh. I just hope that feeling of being out of sync when it comes to this sort of thing fades as I drift farther away from agnosticism.

      Everyone seems to recommend trying to connect ( I have a feeling this is once again the wrong word..) to Hestia first, but I don’t really know how. I’ve read up on Her, her cult, myth, etc – but I just can’t seem to..I don’t know. Maybe I just formed a wrong kind of idea of her; but as a not exactly homely person who doesn’t really feel connected to the local community on a deeper level, it just feels strange. Am I just not understanding Her the right way?

      • What a thoughtful comment; I will try to honor your questions with equal thoughtfulness..

        Truly, it’s my pleasure to write on subjects that are helpful to others. And if you have any requests, please do feel welcome to comment or contact me in another way.

        Regarding knowing whether They like you, or are listening, to you; this is one of those cases in which, “You’ll know it when you feel it.”

        There have been a handful of occasions when this has happened to me but I’ll give you one in particular: I was driving when I heard on the radio about Katrina and the devastation it had caused in New Orlenes. At that moment, I turned off the radio and called out (particularly to Poisidon, but also to any others who would listen) “I pray to the Immortal Ones, and I ask that we might live together in peace!” and I quite literally felt them listening to me as a shiver running through my entire body. There was no doubt, no speculation, it just was.

        I did chuckle out loud about this comment tho’, but only because it reflects my desire so acutely,”…unless they started having floating, burning glow-in-the-dark sentences appear somewhere in the air whenever they felt like telling something.” That would be pretty fantastic, wouldn’t it?!

        If you want to be heard by the gods, then there are two other essential things you need to know…well, a few really…but these first: You need to call to them, almost demand it; second: address the particular god with as many epithets as you know. This evokes all of His or Her different domains and shows that you are aware of just who you are addressing. Third, remind Him or Her of your relationship with Them, such as offerings you have made, or blessings He or She has given you, or have given people in mythology in the past. So the template goes something like:

        “[Evocation] Hear me, Pallas Athene! [Reminder of Relationship] If ever I have given you sacrifices, If ever I have sung your praises, If ever you have blessed me with talent in crafts, hear me now! [Appropriate Epithets] O Grey-eyed One, Patron of crafts, [Proposed Exchange]I ask for your blessing as I begin this new project, and in exchange, I will make an offering to you. [Reminder of Her Past] As you gave Athens olives, upon which their wealth grew, [Contingency]I will give you sponde of olive oil upon completion of my project. [Closing] Please, accept and delight in this offering! [Just in Case] Or, if this does not please you, send me a dream and I will abide by the vision!”

        Concerning Hestia, remember that we’re much more concerned with orthopraxy than orthodoxy. Think of what you can do that is in Her spirit. That could be as simple as tending the fire at a BBQ or privately at home, adding a little fat from your meal to the flame. You can also say a small prayer to Her as you clean your home, care for your family, or cook for your guests – something as simple as, “In honor of you, Hestia.”

        I hope that this gives you some signposts along the way. Do please check back in and let me know what you experience, and feel free to comment with more questions. You are welcome here.

    3. Kaye says:

      This is quite interesting. I haven’t thought about whether I trust the Gods before, possibly for the same reason why I cannot win a strategy game to save my life. Thanks for writing it. 😀

    4. Apollodōros Hēkataios says:

      It is my opinion that even if you don’t feel specially connected to a deity, and found that he/she didn’t really welcome you when you tried to approach them first, you mustn’t stop offering them worship, things might change over time.

      My first sacrifice to Athēna was a complete disaster, nothing seemed to go right, and I ultimately just stopped the sacrifice to prevent anything else going wrong, to minimize any wrong I was doing to Her.

      The next day I approached Her again (I’m a student and I was studying for exams at the time) and this time things went better. I offered Her a different kind of incense (frankincense instead of sandal wood), my prayer went smoothly (the day before I couldn’t find the right words), I had learned some of Her epithets to recite during the prayer, and finally I asked her forgiveness for any wrong I had done to Her, and asked her for a due punishment if I had wronged her somehow. When I was checking my Facebook later that day I saw a notification that a friend was going to participate in ‘Don’t Check Your Facebook Day’ a few days later. The timing led me to believe this was (at least part of) the punishment Athēna prepared for me, as Facebooking was a big part of my life then (now a bit less so), so I also participated in the event.

      I prayed many times more to Her when I felt I needed her assistance, and things went much better since.

    5. Lilies says:

      That was a very interesting and informative post. I am new to polytheism and I would like to know how one can tell which god or goddess has sent a particular sign or blessing. I realize, like you said in your post, that one can say thanks to whomever blessed me, but I would like to be able to know which deity it was so I could thank them personally and perhaps it could be the beginning of a relationship.

      • Khaire (Greetings) Lilies,

        I’m glad you enjoyed the post!

        Generally speaking, if the theoi choose to tap you on the shoulder and get your attention, you can’t miss it. When I sense They hear me and notice me, it’s a deeply physical feeling. For me, it’s felt like a shiver throughout my body and a sense much like public speaking – a heightened sense of things, like being watched, and the spotlight is on me. Here is an example of one such profound experience I had in response to Athene.

        But more subtle, indirect signs? Look for things that happen out of the ordinary and research which god would have domain over that realm.

        Here’s another story: I was driving home from work in Michigan (land of cars in poor conditions and dangerously inattentive drivers) when I find the car in front of me leaving a trail of sparks. I try to avoid it by switching to another lane, but that car was destined to take my off-ramp ahead of me. I follow at a distance but can see that something metal is swinging back and forth against the pavement. I say to myself, “What is the pious thing to do?” and think about Zeus in His aspect of looking after the needy and Hermes in His aspect of looking after travelers. So I veer to pull up on the shoulder of the road behind the car, which is also pulling over.

        Quite suddenly, that piece of metal flies off the tail end of the car straight at where I would have been if I had not decided to pull over.

        My heart is beating furiously in my chest, and I take a few seconds to collect myself. I check behind me, then swerve between the metal on the road and the car and pull up beside it. I roll down my window and ask if the driver is OK. He says “Yes…was that my muffler?” I say, “Yeah, do you need to borrow my cell phone to call someone?” and he says, “No, I’m alright.” So I continue on home, praising the theoi for looking out for me.

        There was, and still is, no doubt in my mind that that was a sign. That was Zeus and/or Hermes saying, “You did the right thing, and because you did, you avoided an accident and arrived home safely.”

        The take home message is more than “You’ll know it when you see it”; it’s “You won’t need to ask that question if a god or a sign presents itself”.

        If you have any other comments or questions, please be welcome to post here or contact me privately. Enjoy reading!

    6. Lilies says:

      Thanks for your kind reply. And thank goodness you and the other driver were safe.

      • Here’s another tip: signs of the theoi seem to appear (and by “appear” I mean both happen more often and/or be more visible) when you engage in ritual. By ritual, I mean repeated spiritual behaviors, however small those gestures are. Hesiod said, “First, whenever you come to your house, offer good sacrifices to the eternal gods.” This can mean keeping a bag of barley in your car and offering a pinch from it to your household gods at the gate when you return home every day. It means kissing your fingertips in salute when you pass your household shrine, or see the sun or moon for the first time that day, or a breathtaking scene on your morning drive. It means giving to charity in the gods’ names. And it means giving the first bite off your plate or sip from your cup for the gods.

        Our religion isn’t about sitting quietly thinking deep thoughts, it’s about meaningful actions and openly dedicating them to the gods.

        Thank you for engaging me with this great question! And thanks for your good wishes too! Khaire Lilies!

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