The question this raises, ESPECIALLY in the Reconstructionist Pagan communities, is how do we determine if a being is or is not, in fact, a God or Goddess? Considering that in the ancient world there are records of people honoring various “Spirits of the Place” (such as rivers) as being, in fact, minor Gods and Goddesses there should be no real reason to disallow the worship of beings like Columbia or Britannia as Goddesses of countries or the honoring of Old Man River as part of that fellowship.
Recently, there has been a lot of controversy in the Pagan blogosphere over whether we should be paying cultus to modern or “found” deities. One example of this issue is the honoring of Columbia as the personification and Patron Goddess of the United States. Until Columbia was identified by name by a Christian Evangelical preacher named John Benefiel as being a “Pagan Goddess” (read “demon” in his world-view) who was out to spiritually destroy the United States, I really did not even have Her on my radar. But she is not the only one that could be included in the above category. There are people who honor other “modern day” Gods as well. These can include Missosopus, the God of the Mississippi River (also known as “Old Man River”) or Asphaltia, the Goddess of Traffic and Parking Spaces.
I feel that to over-simplify what does and does NOT qualify a being as a god rather than merely as a ‘spirit’ does not do any of us a service. This feels like mortals trying to limit the Gods into what mortals want them to be and for that reason seems to me to be a form of hubris.
Where a lot of the trouble seems to be coming into the issue is that we mortals tend to lump all the Gods as being on the same level of importance when according to the mythology, they weren’t. In Greek mythology, the various gods of the winds (such as Boreas) answered to the “lord of the winds” Aeolus, who in his turn answered to Zeus. This indicates that not only is there potentially a hierarchy among the Gods, but there are also divisions between major and minor gods. Some of this would certainly appear to have to do with sphere of influence as well as, to at least a small degree, seniority.
Why do spheres of influence and seniority end up being important to this discussion? Well, in ancient times, many of the “minor” Gods and Goddesses were children of other Gods. Triton was a sea-god who was herald to his father Poseidon but was not considered a major god despite his having fought against the Gigantes when they made war against the Olympian Gods. Who are we to say that some of the beings who have been making themselves known to us in the modern day are not a “younger” generation of Gods who are just now manifesting themselves to a humanity open to the idea of their existence.
How they manifest may originally be through humor. Good examples of this are Cafeina and Nicotina who I would most likely say were somehow related to Dionysus, the lord of Wine as they would be the Goddesses of Coffee and Tobacco products respectively. Asphaltia, who I mentioned earlier, would be a daughter of Hermes – and possibly Eris (because of road rage). Asphaltia also has a sister associated with the internet, Kyberia — who is almost certainly a daughter of the Lady of Strife and the Messenger of the Gods.
I realize that all of the “modern” deities I have spoken of in the last part would be part of a younger generation of goddesses and there are no male names in the list. I PERSONALLY feel that this is because the younger gods have not made themselves known by name yet rather than that they do not exist. I also feel that the younger male gods will start to make themselves known as well in a society where a polytheistic viewpoint is at least tolerated.
As long as we, as Reconstructionists, recognize that these are MODERN manifestations of our Gods and both treat them and discuss them as being modern, we should not be afraid to explore our relationships with these “found” deities nor should we be afraid to discuss them with others. We also should not be afraid to explore the ways that the elder generations are manifesting in the modern world. Our ancestors would likely have acknowledged that the changes that showed us these gods and goddesses were valid and found ways to honor them, after all…..