Something I've been giving a lot of thought to lately is personal relationship with deity and whether or not it is appropriate or wise. I wanted to share my thoughts and hopefully spark some conversation, especially from a CR perspective on this. Please bear with me as much of this is from a Heathen perspective rather than a CR one (I am what you might call a Gaelic Heathen) and will be a little lengthy.
In paganism one often finds people who are devotees of this or that deity, sometimes to the extent of being henotheistic (or flirting closely with it). In my experience, nearly every hard polytheist I've known have tended to favor or feel a closer connection with a certain deity or a handful of deities, even while worshiping the entire pantheon, so the tendency is understandable. The concept of individual relationships with deity strikes me as a rather new development (as in, something I'm not sure existed among our ancestors). That's not to say it's bad per se, just perhaps a recent phenomenon.
At a recent event I helped host we had a Théodish presenter who gave a lecture about the worldview of the tribes of the Gods. One of the things he presented was how the Gods, busy as they are with things that are more important that our individual needs and desires probably don't hear our prayers or if they do are less likely to respond to them. The idea is that when we assemble as a group and give worship to the Gods, often in concert with blòt (blood sacrifice) or some other large, formal offering, the Gods are more likely to pay attention. The needs of the group is more important than the needs of the individual. It is also believed that one's ancestors (who are gods in their own right) have a more vested interest in the person and therefore individual worship should be directed to them and one's cofgod (house god or house wight).
Of course, if you know anything about Théodism (literally, "tribal belief"), this belief makes sense in a Théodish context and validates or is validated by aspects of their worldview and structure. The weofodthegn or priest is the intercessor on the group's behalf to the Gods. The priestly class of the Irish seemed to occupy a similar role as well. From a Heathen perspective the argument could be made that an individual within a group who seeks a personal relationship with, say, Odin but through seeking it offends him and harms their own maegen (hamingja or "luck") may also wind up harming the shared maegen of the group.
A related idea is that there is a certain arrogance and ignorance in thinking that A) the Gods are at our beck and call, B) are always interested in what's going on with us and C) always have our best interests at heart. The lore of the Germanic and Celtic peoples are certainly full of stories that demonstrate the fallacy of so thinking. At the same time, I do think there are deities that are more...sympathetic to us, for instance Thor or Brighid. I think that it isn't always wise to court the attention of the Gods; there's a reason so many kennings exist for them. The attention of the Gods can be demanding, exhausting and downright interferes with our life, sometimes in ways we'd rather it didn't.
Then there's what we know from the lore. Often the characters in the myths that could be said to have a close, intimate connection with deity were kings and Heroes (note the capital H) and possessed of singular skill and magic ability. In the case of Heroes, they were often semi-divine (case in point, Cú Chulainn). Often it is seen these relationships came at quite a price for both Heroes and kings (who were sacrificed in some cases if crops failed).
Several years ago I would've answered the original question with "Yes, personal relationships with deity are appropriate and wise!" without hesitation. Now, I'm less quick to answer in such a way. I've certainly sought such relationships in the past and they haven't always worked out well for me. I'm still noodling through this, but I think that personal relationships with deity are possible but take a longer time for an individual to cultivate than a group. Whether or not seeking them out is wise or appropriate I think depends on several factors. One would be the intent and knowledge of the individual (to say nothing of the maturity). Another would be the deity in question. I've known several people who, shall we say "invent" their relationship with a deity to get attention, to seem "powerful" or "spooky", what have you. At best they're just quacking in the void with no harm done. At worst...well the consequences haven't been pretty.
At the same time, I recognize that people DO have experiences with the Gods that are deeply moving and I don't discount the notion that sometimes the Gods do take an interest in us. I've certainly experienced both in my time. Just as there's a certain arrogance in making assumptions about the Gods, so too is there a certain arrogance in making baseless assumptions about a person's experiences with one. I think that if we have the attention of the Gods or even think that we do, caution, wisdom and deliberate, well-informed action is necessary, never something to be done lightly. Of course, if one actively seeks that out, they had better be prepared to pay the price. I don't know that the Irish or Scottish had a similar notion, but I personally believe in the Heathen concept of "a gift for a gift".
Thanks for your indulgence! Thoughts?