Pagan Op Ed

Low-Maintenance Polytheism

I grew up in the 60s and 70s. I am too young to be an old hippie but I was certainly aware of them when I was a little girl. Something about the whole exploratory, self-seeking, live and let live, “everything is beautiful in its own way” sensibility has stuck with me ever since. So, I’ve spent my life trying to live up to an ideal of seeking understanding of others. I don’t always reach it, but I try. I try also to be kind. When in doubt, be kind. Choose the kinder option. The world is not kind (nor is it unkind) but I can choose to be.

At the same time, I’m someone who lives in her head more than in her heart. It’s been a process to learn that sometimes I ought to trust my heart–and sometimes I ought to think twice about what my head comes up with.

I’m a polytheist because I worship many gods. That’s pretty much the definition. I call myself a polytheist; you’re welcome to do likewise. I’m pretty sure I’m on the liberal end of the polytheistic spectrum (as I am with the recon spectrum) but “polytheist” is meaningful in a way nothing else is.

I’m a pagan because why wouldn’t I be? It’s an incredibly broad, inclusive, and useful term, one which I’ve used for myself for decades. I understand why some polytheists don’t use the word but for me it works.

I not only worship many gods, I believe in them; there’s not a lot I’m certain of in spiritual matters but I am certain of that (the existence of the gods, not their specific nature, which I suspect is both unknown and unknowable). That said, I have no problem with humanist pagans or atheist pagans (although I, myself, am a theist), or community-focused or nature-focused pagans (although I, myself, am god-focused).

This may be less of an issue for me because, while I do participate in rituals, including group rituals, the heart of my religious experience is internal. (Being naturally a bit anti-social may help as well. :)) If I were suddenly unable to attend any group rituals, it might affect my practice but it would not affect my religiosity.

I am lucky in my local, in-person spiritual community–they are, to a person, a supportive and understanding group. They are heathen, so I share only that religious focus with them, but no one has ever said a bad word about me practicing more than one polytheistic faith.

I am lucky in how I am able to interact with the broader polytheist and pagan communities, which is to say, at my own comfort level. They are (you are) good folks across the board, as a rule, each doing the work they are drawn to. Not everyone has to do everything; if it needs to be done, someone will do it.

The gods see more than we do, and their existence and their power is not contingent on belief. My own experience of deity is that on the whole I don’t think they are easy to (unintentionally) offend, that they recognize the wide range of human capabilities and limitations, and they cut us way more slack than we tend to cut each other.

The gods are not always kind, but they are, I think, almost always understanding.

Categories: Pagan Op Ed

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