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A Pagan Epistemology

By John Beckett

[Snip] Epistemology is a philosophical and theological term that basically means “how do we know what we know?” It’s a very complex subject and I don’t intend to explore epistemology so much as engage in it. How do we know about our gods and goddesses?

We know about gods and goddesses from their stories. This is how most of us first met the gods of our ancestors. I still have a copy of The Greek Gods published by Scholastic. I ordered it through the in-class book sales program (do schools still do that?) in 3rd or 4th grade. It’s a collection of abbreviated biographies and stories of the twelve Olympians (well, eleven of them – they left out Ares) and while I read them as fictional stories, they obviously had an impact on me. While I ordered and read dozens of the Scholastic books it’s the only one I’ve kept with me over the years.

Every culture has these stories, though some are more accessible than others. They give us basic information about our goddesses and gods: their parents, circumstances of their birth, their areas of interest or responsibility, their likes and dislikes, their heroic (and in some cases, infamous) deeds. The stories give us an introduction, but they do not tell us everything there is to know about a god or goddess any more than a newspaper article tells us everything there is to know about an ordinary person.

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