Combining Paganisms: Dual-Trad

I’ve recently added a god from the Slavic pantheon into my practice, and will probably add a few more eventually. Thing is, if you want to have just one practice/religion, instead of doing separate things for separate traditions, you can’t just smush them together – you have to figure out how to match up their edges, or layer them, or re-sculpt them into another thing entirely.

This is an ongoing process, one you have to feel out for yourself. I started out now knowing how I could possibly follow two traditions at the same time – I was a Heathen, but I was also following a god – just one god, not a bunch – from another tradition. Was I a Heathen 95% of the time, and a Slavic Pagan the other 5%? Did I just pretend Veles fit into Norse polytheism and afford him a place in the cosmology that didn’t exist in the extant mythos? Did I create an equal blend of both Norse and Slavic traditions, even though I was still mostly devoted to the Norse?

Ultimately, you have to feel out for yourself what’s comfortable for you and your gods. But, here’s what happened to me, as time went on.

  1. I had completely separate shrines/altars for Veles and for my Norse gods. I spent separate time on them and gave separate offerings. Keyword here: SEPARATE. Like I’m two different people, one of whom worships Veles and the other worships the Norse.
  2. I decided it wouldn’t be so bad if I put some Veles pages into my bók. They have a different decorative border to mark them as Slavic as compared to the Norse, but they’re side by side.
  3. Quite unconsciously, I started thinking of Veles as an honorary Norse deity (as well as an independent Slavic deity). Like a close family friend, or a blood-sister. One of the gang, who happened to fill a little gap in the existing mythos (which was solely Norse). It’s like I stripped him of his Slavic context as much as possible and inserted him into the Norse, even though he’s still Slavic. This stage didn’t last long and I don’t think it was…’ethical’, for lack of a better word.
  4. Again, unconsciously, my conception changed again: Veles, as a major god in the Slavic pantheon, along with all his stories and associations, exists simultaneously (and sometimes contradictorily) alongside the Norse, not separately, but harmoniously.

By contradiction, I mean this: in Norse mythology, Hela is the goddess of the underworld, which is called Hel, and is generally cold, grey, and a little monotone. In Slavic myth, Veles is the god of the underworld, which is called Vyraj and is green, full of meadows and grass and cattle (and other season gods). This is a contradiction on its face: but both can be true at once, when we’re talking mythologically, and they’re both ‘true’ to me. So in some way, I am not a blend of Norse and Slavic, so much as both at the same time.

5. I combined the altars and now Veles’ stuff is mixed in with the Norse.

Instead of a chocolate-vanilla swirl cake, I’m a double-layered cake, one vanilla, one chocolate, and you get both layers in one slice.

However you develop your dual trad, you might try just letting it form its own shape naturally, without too much influence or force from you. You need to make sure your gods/spirits are okay with whatever you end up doing, but letting it develop naturally is, I think, the best way of creating a practice that works and lives.


Finding Veles

I’ve ‘adopted’ another god into my personal practice. Surprisingly, to me at least, this god is not part of the Norse pantheon. You can’t help who calls you. Veles, of Slavic mythology, is the god I was talking about in my post Identifying a God – it took me months to identify him, and now that I finally have, things are falling into place.

I’ve always felt…different in and around forests. Specifically, dense, old, dark forests, with tall trees and thick canopies and plenty of moss and detritus covering the ground. Other people never seemed to feel the same way I did in forests. For years, I thought this feeling was just another example of Sehnsucht – my Ache – that feeling of spiritual displacement from a spiritual home or physical location where perhaps I’d never been. It only occurred to me a few months ago that that feeling could actually be the presence of a god.

Unfortunately, there are a shit-ton of forest gods around the world, so this search was not going to be easy.

All I knew was that this god was associated with dark, old forests, decay, and dirt. This wasn’t a hunter’s god, or a particularly friendly god; this was a wild god.

The search took months. It was full of panicked googled, a long list of potential gods it could be, and even a table of possible gods and applicable attributes that I filled in.

One night, I’d tried to put the search from my mind. I went to the movies with my partner. Before we went in to the theatre, something occurred to me: I’d completely overlooked the Slavic pantheon, which had never been on my radar before.

In a frenzy (this whole search was full of frenzy), I opened the Wikipedia page, and when I saw Veles’ name, a feeling overcame me like the wool had been pulled from my eyes. (Wool reference…very appropriate.)

I still wasn’t sure it was him. Weeks followed, of me going back and forth, doing more and more research. Veles isn’t primarily known as a forest god.

In the weeks (months?) that followed, I kept coming back to him. Eventually I did some divination. Some thinking. Turns out it was him the whole time.

I’m not accustomed to having deities from more than one pantheon, but I am forging ahead with this relationship. Veles is so different from the Norse deities I’ve known.