Since contemporary paganism lacks a singular theology, every pagan must develop their own account of gods, spirits, and other supernatural beings. A detailed ontology might enumerate hierarchies of entities and their domains, but any ontology must be grounded in a coherent metaphysical explanation of such beings. For the purposes of a general account, one can ignore the vagaries of category and hierarchy and focus only the principles that make supernatural beings possible. The term “Powers” used here will represent an inclusive set of gods, totem spirits, demons, fairies, and other unseen entities that attract veneration, supplication, or appeasement.

While “Powers” must be defined over a wide set, all members of that set share the characteristic of sacredness. Whether benevolent, malignant, or neutral, Powers belong to the non-ordinary space and time of the sacred. One does not experience Powers as one does fellow humans, animals, or plants, so a metaphysics of Powers is needed. A metaphysics of Powers does not need to prove that such entities exist per se, but it does need to address how their existence is possible and how one would gain knowledge about them.

Without some argument in favor of their existence, developing a metaphysics of Powers lacks a immediate significance. To motivate a general account, one needs only a weak existence claim such as existing as phenomena. Whether or not Powers exist as independent entities, their associated traditions and communities demonstrate that they are experienced. If one can grant that subjective experience includes entities described here as Powers, one should also grant that a metaphysical account of Powers must be possible to set boundaries for existence claims.

Assuming that Powers exist as experiences allows one to derive a few characteristics. Powers resemble thoughts, beliefs, fantasies, and other “mental” constructs in that they are experienced as immaterial substance confined to the cognitive landscape. While conventional idioms would describe such apparitions as existing “in the head,” immaterial substance lacks extension in space or time. By definition, material substance is extended in space and time and available to sight, sound, touch, taste, and smell. Immaterial substance contrasts as not extended in space and time and unavailable to the coarse senses. Strictly speaking, Powers have no location and take up no space.

If Powers have no location, one must also infer that the potential to experience Powers is not bounded by the individual body, brain, or mind. There is no reason to think that one person’s experience of a Power is necessarily experience of a different Power, as if each subject manifests a Power anew in each experience. If two subjects would agree that the objects of their separate divine experiences are the same, one can infer that they experience the same Power, much as one might say two people share an idea.
As the shared perspective of a power grows and changes, the power can be said to develop accordingly, containing the multitudes of its past and present. The collective creation of Powers distinguishes them from other immaterial objects. When immaterial objects find themselves available to an engaged collective that attaches significance to them, they become Powers in an apotheosis of ideas.

Taking these characteristics together, Powers represent the individual’s encounter with collective ideas. They are real insofar as they are experienced as real, insofar as ideas are real. Powers serve to remind the individual that they are also members of a collective, that they stand in the shadow of something greater, that we are waves in the ocean. The Powers reminds us that we are water.