Many reconstructionists will be familiar with this term, but it doesn’t seem to be used as often in other Pagan religions. It’s a fantastically useful concept, so it’s our Weekly Tip. (Although at this point it looks like it’s becoming our Weekly Word Definition or something. Ah well! Forward!)
UPG stands for “Unverified Personal Gnosis”, though depending on who you ask, the U may stand for “Unsubstantiated”. Either is fine and acceptable. It refers to understandings you have of the gods (as well as concepts and situations related to your religion) that aren’t backed up by the lore (that is, mythology and so forth). For example, your interactions with Venus may have led you to believe that she likes the colour pink and offerings of sparkling grapefruit juice, or that Oðinn is not a fan of peach schnapps. There’s no mention of these things in lore (…to the best of my knowledge…), but because of some experience you’ve had in ritual or meditation, you have come to this conclusion. It may even have been a direct teaching.
UPG is a great thing, and something we should all take heed of, but it should always be understood that this is your UPG, and not something anyone else is required to accept. In discussing a deity etc., it’s always wise to alert people when something you mention is your UPG. “This is just my UPG, but I’ve always felt that….” is a good way to start. This way everyone knows where they stand, and understands what you’re saying; while they may not agree with you, many people will respect that you don’t expect them to agree with you. It also means people won’t sit there thinking “Gosh, I’ve never heard that before. I wonder where it’s written?” and spend three days going through all the lore they can find in vain.
What’s wonderful is when you have an item of UPG and you are reading through the lore and you come across the very same idea. Your UPG is now Verified. (Hooray!)
On the other hand, you may come across something in lore that directly contradicts your UPG. In this situation, you may want to reassess what you have come to understand. Hold up the two contradictory ideas and let them percolate for a while. An example of this is the apparently wide-spread feeling that Hekate is a crone goddess, while Greek lore and art portray her as a maiden.
Occasionally some conclusion you come to via UPG will be shared by others. This is SPG – Shared Personal Gnosis – or PVPG – Peer Verified Personal Gnosis. Examples of this are the Unofficial Lokablót date of April 1st and Freyja’s apparent enjoyment of strawberries. These ideas have been reached by worshippers completely independently of one another, and because they are shared by so many people they carry more weight than just your average UPG. However, they still don’t carry as much weight as lore.
Lore will always carry more weight than UPG. You don’t have to accept it over what you have come to believe, and lore isn’t necessarily gospel, but don’t expect others to trust you over the lore. On the other hand, you don’t have to accept anyone else’s UPG, either.
(Disclaimer: Mercury is in retrograde. Please forgive us if this is a bit confused.)
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