There are plenty of folks abounding who are eager to tell you what polytheism is, and is not. There is no shortage of people with opinions they wish were firm boundaries. You aren’t a polytheist if: you don’t put the gods first; you don’t believe in the gods in the right way; you ‘bring politics’ into your religion; you don’t decry the destruction of ancient polytheism and the ruthless conversion of entire peoples.
There are plenty of people talking about The Polytheist Movement, and I’ll be honest here: seeing such a wide variety of ways of practicing, of worshiping, of bringing the gods into our world narrowed into such a small, singular way of speaking, makes me weep. It makes me frustrated. It makes me want to run far away and bury my head in the sand. Bottom line for me: I don’t give a fuck how you worship. I don’t give a fuck what the Powers you’re involved with ask of you.
Look: there is no ‘Polytheist Movement.’ There are a bunch of people who are working hard to make polytheism visible, who want to see it as a viable option, who want people to find the gods and know they’re not alone. Even with those I disagree with vehemently, I’ll concede that that’s something we have in common. But that’s where it ends. Don’t let the vocabulary trick you into thinking there’s one united Polytheist Movement, where we all agree on some fundamental things. There isn’t. We don’t.
My gods do not need me to help people find Them. They’ve been doing just fine for all this time. Who the fuck am I, that Poseidon needs me to get people to worship Him? I adore this God. I love this God with all my being. I tie myself up in knots for Him, and surrender, again and again and again, my comfort, my desires to be private and uninvolved. He’s created a person who strives to be compassionate and kind, where once there was only apathy and distrust. He is amazing, and I’m grateful that He deigns to share anything at all with me — but let me make this clear. He does not need me to get people to Him.
Within traditions, sure, there should be unifying goals and tenets. But polytheism is not a singular tradition, and I hope to all that is holy it never will become one. The way to counter monotheism — if we must — is not to model how we build communities based off what they’ve been doing, and getting wrong. Common ground MUST be rooted in hospitality, and not in same-ness seeking.
My polytheism does not tell you how to worship, and it never will.
My polytheism does not tell you how to believe, and it never will.
My polytheism does not tell you what the gods want from you, and it never will.
My polytheism does not pretend to be a holy war seeking enemies at every turn. Holy wars cannot be won; that’s not just a bad analogy, it’s a doomed one.
My polytheism does not require you to leave your concerns and issues at the door. It doesn’t demand that you pretend that our experiences are not connected, and the world in which we live does not inform our interactions with the Powers.
My polytheism will never pretend to be something it’s not. It’s contemporary and new and messy. It’s not a revival of polytheism of yore, because we will never be removed from the context we are in, and the wide spread of monotheism will not be undone. I don’t dream for a world in which these things never happened, because it’s not the point, and also, call me a heretic, but I don’t want a polytheism that is controlled by groups of people.
My polytheism is not rooted in PCPG, and it never will be. My relationship with my gods is mine alone, and you have no power in it. You’ve got no place in it, any more than I have a place in yours.
My polytheism is not concerned with whether you’re a theist or not — in fact, I’m likely to be curious and intrigued, because my polytheism is not threatened by your lack of belief in the gods as distinct, individual beings, and because different ways of telling the story of how and why and what is fascinating. If the only thing we can find worthy in common is how we believe in the Powers, we’re in trouble, and no amount of ‘correct polytheism’ is going to fix it.
My polytheism does not look like yours, maybe. I’m concerned with polytheism remaining visible. I’m concerned with those coming after us not necessarily having to do SO MUCH WORK to get to the point of simply interacting with the Powers. I’m not concerned with building close, intimate community beyond my immediate family, because quite frankly, I don’t trust people. I’m not involved with various communities, because generally I’m a home-body, and except for this blog, private. I’m a solitary worshiper, and I’m not interested in doing religion with other people, which is another thing that maybe makes me a ‘bad’ polytheist.
I’m still a polytheist. I’m still a devotional polytheist, even. I still want polytheism to be a visible, viable option for generations to come.
When people speak of ‘the Polytheist Movement’, when people speak of polytheists as though we are one homogeneous group of people, please remember this is bullshit. We are not. If the Gods are good, we never will be.