Unlike monists or duotheists who see all gods/goddesses somehow being One, we polytheists view and experience them as individuals. As a result of this view topics on the nature of the gods comes up pretty frequently. One topic that comes up more frequently than others is what gods ARE the same and which ones are actually different people. This does not only apply to different gods in differing cultures, like comparing Lugh and Odin….but within the same or related cultures like the Irish Lugh and Gaulish Lugos or Danu and Anu in Ireland or the three/five Brigids of Ireland.
Everyone in these conversations has valid reasons for what they do and believe but there appear to be two camps. Splitters, who believe more in the individuality of the gods, and Lumpers who recognize that some gods are the same with minor linguistic differences due to the distance of time and geography. To confuse things more, some of us are both Lumpers and Splitters, depending on the deity and the information available.
I am a Splitter. Mostly. That means that in most instances each name is a different deity, unless there is a strong compelling reason linguistically and functionally to show they are the same. And sometimes, I have to go with the experiences I have, and my gut/heart call it aisling or imbas.
Examples of Splitting:
Brigid – I split the Brigid’s into as many as five. The three daughters of the Dagda (Poetess, Leach and Smith) and the two judges (Brethra and Ambue). The tales clearly separate them but from a functional and linguistic perspective they are the same. I split them due to my experiences.
An Morrígna – There are three, no six goddesses associated with this name. The Morrígna are a group of goddesses all with similar purpose. The names found in the tales are: Morrígan, Badb, Macha, Anann, Nemain and Fea.
Danu/Danann and Anu/Anann – NOT THE SAME. Not the same. We are not even sure of Danu is a goddess as she is not named in the mythology but derived from Danann while Anu/Anann is one of the Morrígna. I split them because in my work in the military one of the goddesses of war is not also a water goddess.
Examples of Lumping:
Manannan mac Lir and Manawydan fab Llŷ – Despite differences in mythology these two names apply to the same person. The linguistics are clear and the changes in mythology make sense given the differences in the cultures of Ireland (island) and Wales (mountainous). Note that Manannan mac Lir (Manxman of the Sea) is not his name but a title of sorts. His name in Ireland is give an Oribsen and there is working theory that he is Fintan mac Bóchra (wiseman of the ocean).
Finn mac Cumail and Gwynn ap Nud – This is harder to explain in a single paragraph, so an article is forthcoming. However, the first names are cognate as are the names of their ancestor Nud/Nuada. Both are associated with hounds and hunting and have free reign in passing between the worlds.
Lugh/Lew/Lugos – Linguistics show these names are cognate but time and geography separate them. However, functionally the cult of Lugos remained fairly intact thus making these gods one and the same.
So there ya go. Examples of splitting and lumping. Some polytheists lump more, some split more but we can all pretty much agree that in the end it is the worship that counts and the gods don’t seem to be as concerned with their nature as we are.