The Pagan gods of Europe are a complex topic. As I explained yesterday (in the blog post I linked to), our forebears impersonated the deities and thus became them, but the gods are more than that!
The May King and the May Queen impersonated deities too, and the May King would get his title from winning a contest and by symbolically killing the old May King, so that the god in him could be reborn in the new May King instead. The May Queen would be selected based on her beauty (and would be given an apple by either the May King himself [like Paris….] or the participants in the May Queen beauty competition). The family elders impersonated the deities; when they died the young would symbolically kill the deities by cutting a wooden idol with a sword, so that the deity could be reborn in them instead. The gods could also be found in trees and animals, and they would make sacrifices to these animals by sharing their harvest or game with them. Each tribe would celebrate the god that was their progenitor as well. The gods were also their ancestors, or like in the case of Óðinn, the sum of their ancestors, reborn in them.
The gods were…. everywhere.
But we can better understand why, when we understand what a god is. How did they define them?
The Norse term for a god is áss (pl. æsir), from younger proto-Nordic *ans, from older proto-Nordic *ansuR, from proto-Germanic *ansuz, from the root *ans-. The meaning of this term is “spirit”, but the original meaning is actually “breath”.
Likewise, the Norse term for “spirit”, ánd (proto-Nordic *and) derives from the same root.
The Norse term for a goddess is ásynja (pl. ásynjur), from proto-Nordic *ansunjôn (pl. *ansunjuR), meaning “the most beautiful”.
The neutral Norse term for a god was goð, from proto-Nordic *gôða, meaning simply “good”.
Yes! Our Paganism is best understood as ANIMISM: the deities (spirits), good and beautiful, are in everything! Some lesser and some greater, some anthropomorphized and others not, and all are linked together in the divine concept we simply know as Mother Nature.
PS. If this interests you, you can find extensive information about which trees and animals are linked to which deity in MYFAROG.