This might be a problem that those outside of Recon-inspired traditions may not face. The folks I know who are more Witchcraft and Wiccan-bent do not seem to struggle with this, even when they are also hard polytheists. What is “this”?
Poseidon entered my life before I’d found a particular tradition that spoke to me. I knew of some Hellenic recons, but that path didn’t call to me — granted, a large part at the time because I was refusing to deal with the less savory parts of His myth cycle — and He hadn’t yet begun to stress the “Family is important” thread that would eventually come up. He’d been in my life and the central point of my worship for a number of years before the Heathen type gods began to wriggle Their way in. It wasn’t Odin, to start with. It was Hela, and tangentially Thor, but mostly Hela. I didn’t know at the time that Hela was going to be my “gateway goddess” into the world of Heathenry. I was older, more secure in my polytheism, and interested in the history and cultures of our heathen ancestors in a way I never had been with the Hellenic history and culture. It was closer to home, it spoke to me, it made sense to my brain. It was “native” rather than “foreign”, in a way.
But I’m a woman who likes compartments. I like things neat and orderly. I like them to make sense. Heathenry was a great fit, and it was comfortable, and it made sense, and there was blood ties . . . but there was this one pesky thing. Poseidon. How did He fit in? Especially once Odin became more prominent in my worship, because Pops is intense and overwhelming and vivid. He pushes, and He is demanding — and in light of His beginning involvement, Poseidon began to become eclipsed. Was I wrong about being involved with Poseidon, when it was such a struggle to get interested in the cultures that previously worshipped Him, when it was so engaging and interesting to study the cultures that had worshipped Odin?
From the beginning of wondering this outloud, various Asatruar and other Heathens I interacted with, honestly meaning the best, suggested setting Poseidon aside. “There’s Aegir; you could focus on Aegir!” one suggested. The Heathens we interacted with in person respected other culture’s gods and goddesses, but did not allow any non-Heathen gods into their blots or sumbels, which was their right, but also left me . . . conflicted, I suppose. Hurt, even. I received much fulfillment, standing shoulder to shoulder with co-religionists and hailing our gods, and I hated that I couldn’t show my adoration toward Poseidon, He who had been there before Anyone else had been, the way I could show my adoration for Odin.
For a number of years, I described myself as a dual-tradition pagan. I had Heathen styled rituals for the Heathen gods, and I had Hellenic styled rituals for the Hellenic gods. I kept separate altars. I kept separate religious calendars. I put more effort into studying the Hellenic history and cultures. This latter point was good, as Poseidon had begun to stress the importance His Family had to Him. It was like learning a new language, and it was hard — I felt like an outsider for a very long time, with Them. An accepted outsider, for I mattered to one of Theirs, but ultimately still an outsider. And, little by little, my rituals came less frequently. I didn’t allow for organic growth between Poseidon and I. I dropped the calendars. I floundered.
I came face to face with the fact that being a dual-traditionalist was not working for me. I took myself out of my worship, I took myself out of my communing with my gods, and I forgot some important things. Like, most of the time formal observances do not work for me, when it comes to Poseidon worship. Keeping both Poseidon and Odin, these two Gods who would become the center of my life, in confined spaces, did not work, and trying to do so was going to cause spiritual death. One cannot capture the entire ocean in a box. One cannot keep the furious wind from going where it will. I desperately tried to label Them, to label me, to make myself become the label I’d given myself, but labels are not meant to hem one in, labels are meant to allow discussion and connection, are to add to understanding, not to detract from it.
I realized, after much angst and struggle, that I was the common ground, in my worship, in my devotion, that These Two had. That, in my private devotion, there could be no false boundaries, there could be no neat delineation. There could only be me, and Them, and what worked, and the discarding of what did not.
Which seems, upon writing this, as though it ought to have been obvious. It’s obvious now, it’s been obvious for years, but back in the beginning, it was a struggle.
The homogenization that some tend toward, in the more hard polytheistic traditions, strikes me as false, or at least as not being historically accurate. I get the purpose it may have for some, now. I do. But it does not work for everyone, and I suppose the point of this post is: if it does not work for you, don’t let anyone tell you — no matter their best intentions — that it must work for you.