Thoughts On Cult Images
NOTE: The following is a thread I posted to my Twitter account @Ptahmassu on July 31, 2021. I have presented the text here exactly as it was Tweeted on Twitter.
Enlivened cult images are material forms inhabited by a divine emanation and are thus part of the deity's personality. Yes, the image IS the deity, but not all of the deity. There is always a larger Numinous aspect to the Deity at the same time as being a focused embodied one.
Deities choose to enter images that are made in accordance with the Deities wishes, thus enlivened images represent the iconography expressing how the deity chooses to interact with human beings in a given form and circumstance. The image serves the deity and human beings.
It is misguided to suggest that the image is the totality of the deity, the complete expression of the deity, but it is equally misguided to say that the image is not the deity and is only a symbol of something wholly abstract. The Gods are limited to neither understanding.
The Gods can and do enter Their material creation and activate it as holy, alive, dynamic, and demonstrative of the Gods and Their interactions with the terrestrial sphere. Enlivened cult images belong to the Numinous and the material spheres.
Monotheists have done their best to strip indigenous traditions and polytheisms of their interaction with the Gods, Spirits, and Holy Powers via images that are conscious and possess divine life. Their attitudes against images still pervade polytheists and Pagans today.
Not all images of deities are alive with the Divine essence; only specifically enlivened images are so possessed, so we need to keep that distinction in mind. But we need to cast off the monotheistic baggage still governing the revival of our traditions. Snip the guilt.
To downplay the significance of our God-images or apologize for them by saying "the image is not the god" is to accept the diminishing of our Gods and traditions by those who would see these annihilated. I for one am not apologizing for or downplaying my devotions. Never.
The Gods are never limited to or by any form or manifestation, and that includes the Numinous as much as the material. The Gods can make Themselves finite as much as infinite; They can shrink and grow Their presences as They choose, and engage through every created principle.
There are ritual specialists in every polytheistic community, and part of this specialization is knowing
how the Gods enter material forms and take hold of them, how to recognize this phenomenon and engage appropriately with it. Images are part of that sacred process.
Your failure to comprehend the mechanics of God-images in no way detracts from the demonstrable fact that polytheist societies throughout history have recognized special images as living aspects of their Gods in the material world.
Only an ignorant soul would recognize an image as the only presence of a deity in creation. Likewise, an equally ignorant soul can only recognize a deity in the abstract, separate from the material creation. Both views are utterly ignorant.
Polytheism gives us recognition of the Divine as plural and manifest throughout creation; not only in spiritual essence or abstraction, but in the physical expression of creation we can see and touch and taste. The Gods are not removed from our sphere of sensing or being.
Truly enlivened cult images are images participating in the manifestation of a deity in our world. To
deny that this is possible is to suggest that the Gods are bound to the spiritual world only and do not enter material forms because these are lesser and unworthy of worship.
Enlivened cult images are part of a two-way phenomenon, with the Gods using the images as much as human beings are using the images. If this was not so, the maintenance of cult images universal to polytheism would have died out thousands of years ago.
Cult images cannot be made by persons who have not mastered the metaphysical and magical practices through which manmade images are enlivened and become acceptable vehicles for divine consciousness. Many images that look like Gods are not gods.
Teachers who are instructing that enlivened god-images are only for human use and are not the Gods they represent are showing their clear ignorance of the mechanics behind divine manifestation and possession. Shame on you for pretending to represent the ideals of polytheism.
I think there are teachers in our communities who need to be educated on the proper methods for crafting, birthing, and serving God-images according to traditional models and cultic precedent. Having genuinely enlivened God-images is part and parcel of polytheism.
So too is comprehension of what our enlivened God-images are and how they function differently from just ANY image of a deity. Such distinctions are carefully noted in the historical record of many polytheist societies and are available for study. It's a tough education, I know.