A primary focus in the material that I teach is on considerations of establishing a firm foundation for polytheistic frameworks of discussion, practice, cult-building, worship, spirit-work, and inter-faith engagements. This is the guiding philosophy behind writings on discernment, distinctions, differentiations, definitions – “The Ds” – and on hashing out elementary ideas for “101” primers, and on building living tradition beyond the blog. It is why so much of my writing and talking circles back to the ground-level discussions, on returning to the central concepts and requisite paradigms, as well as comparative discourse on what falls outside of the realms of polytheistic consideration (or theisms of any kind, such as atheist secular thought or other-than-theistic philosophies or reductive non-theisms). All of this is around the common goal (shared amongst many of my colleagues and co-religionists) of establishing a usable and solid ground for engaging collectively in the pursuits of polytheistic religious discourse, theology, practice, and development into a 21st century that would otherwise see these ways and traditions further erased, subjugated, or subordinated beneath other (more popular and immediate) concepts. To survive in any real way, our polytheisms (and the ways in which we talk about them, identify ourselves within them, or approach them as newcomers) need certain elementary – remedial – steps.
In my 2015 article “A Polytheist Primer1”, published by The Wild Hunt, I set out to write a basic introduction to some of the major developments in the increasingly visible discussions coming out of many circles of polytheism, for the purposes of presenting the topic to those who were unfamiliar with the discussions taking place, or else were unaware that polytheisms could (and do) exist independent of other major movements (such as Neo-Paganism). This was written primarily for those new to “the conversation” so that it could be referenced back to, rather than rehashing the same (exhausted, exhausting) answers with each new voice of challenge and/or “inquisitive erasure.” (There are many such voices. Remember, kids: don’t read the comments. Anywhere. Ever.) To this end, while met with high praise and warm welcome for the most part, my primer fell short in one area, by way of omission. In my efforts to properly define and distinguish between identity level Polytheists2, polytheistic religious traditions3, and the Polytheist Movement4, I neglected to address a fourth (and in some respects “larger”, if also more general) topic that is getting regularly talked around, yelled about, or spoken down at: the foundations of polytheism.
Recent years have seen some very important developments in tradition-specific discussions, and the developments of newly received or emerging regional cults, priesthoods, and mystery lineages. These represent one important sector of polytheistic focus. However, in a very large chunk of the discussions in online sectors of the English-language Polytheist discourse, which includes many of the efforts of the Polytheist Movement, dialog is not focused on tradition-specific details and platforms (such as the Thiasos of the Starry Bull5, or a particular hypothetical Northern Tradition devotional cult in Vermont6) but rather about the intrinsic and basic characteristics of polytheism itself, which is to say, Foundational Polytheism7.
This is a concept that I have been using (primarily out-loud in lectures and private teaching or consults with colleagues) for years to describe some of the necessary elemental and requisite considerations within the sphere of religious study, practice, and identity categorized as “polytheistic”. It is not a religion unto itself.
Foundational Polytheism is a collective starting point, a methodology of approach and procedure, for religious engagement and “entrance” into polytheism, in practice or identity, addressing particular distinct needs of polytheistic religions not adequately provided for elsewhere. It does not replace, or supplant, or override the internal structures of individual polytheistic religions, but rather, it provides a practical bedrock of foundation for those who might not yet have access to, or involvement with, or knowledge of, a given specific religious tradition.
Many people’s “in-road” toward polytheistic religion comes from contact or experience with certain deities – perhaps unsolicited and unsought, or perhaps merely unexpected even after years of engagement in a non-religious context such as magic – who they might not even know clearly the names of, or the cultures-and-traditions of origin. What is a person to do when they have heightened and profound religious and worshipful experiences with a god, but cannot even find their name, or perhaps have mis-identified them (it happens often) with similar but unrelated deities from another pantheon or tradition? How can one show up to right relationship with a god when they cannot even figure out who the god is, let alone what they want? Waiting until they’ve become an expert in a tradition that they cannot yet identify is unhelpful if that god is “at the door” already. What they need, right there and then — some guidance and tips or protocols or starter-practices — which can be used immediately, adapted right out of the gate; a methodology for the beginnings of laying a polytheistic foundation.
Not every person in this circumstance has access to credibly trained and professional diviners, spirit-workers, or clergy, (caution is advised that not all divination is created equal), and so can find themselves all-too-easily making wrong assumptions (informed perhaps by experiences with traditions or backgrounds outside or even contrary to the scope of polytheistic religion) leading to offense, transgression, or worse. It is important when seeking guidance to find somebody informed about the context and framework of the thing engaged; a monogamy-focused marriage counselor is probably not the proper fit for a polyamorous triad, because they’re not likely to be versed in the distinct needs, agreements, and configuration dynamics of a relationship structured in this way. Seeking religious counsel from a magician is unlikely to yield context-specific guidance, because the needs of a magician are different and distinct from that of a devotional religionist. (Most magical traditions the world over developed in conjunction with a religious structure: modern approaches to magic and witchcraft often avoid the importance of these, favoring “rugged individualism” and secular humanist disdain popularized by installments of Hell Blazer or Supernatural, where a protagonist will give the finger to the forces of the cosmos and slay gods, reducing, via fictional mediums, world-religion and spirit-tradition down to inconveniences that humankind must battle against for their independence.)
The purpose of Foundational Polytheism is to provide an accessible and basic (adaptive, elastic) polycentric matrix of concepts, approaches, paradigms, philosophies, and in general, advice for figuring it out without needing to reinvent the wheel. (For example: a devotionally offered votive candle is fundamentally different from a setting of lights candle-magic working practiced in Conjure. They are approached differently – for distinct reasons – and to synonymize them is to fail to recognize what either of them is. The ways and reasons that devotional offerings are approached as a topic of practices is rarely addressed in magically-derived traditions, and so this area represents a very real need that is distinct to religion, which many struggle with understanding.) Some folks might only need the support of some of these foundational structures in the beginning, before finding themselves in a tradition or course of study and practice which supplies the finer details and nuances needed; others may find themselves already in a tradition or practice which still doesn’t supply these nuances or answer their needs.
The most prolific voices on these topics are, largely, aware of the distinction between Foundational Polytheism and a specific polytheistic tradition (such as Gaulish Polytheism); but it is clear (and has been for a while) that the general readership might not always be able to recognize this.
One of the best examples I can think of is the reaction from certain sectors of Kemetic polytheism responding to Canaanite polytheist priest and author Tess Dawson’s article in 2013 8 about devotional offerings and some basic, general, “dos/donts” when approaching polytheistic devotions and rituals as a newcomer without the benefit of a structured specific tradition to provide clear instruction.9 In this article the author provided a thorough Q&A response to the sort of questions that a number of us in the leadership sectors of various polytheistic traditions – Natib Qadish, in this author’s case – field every day,10 through email or social media or private phone calls. In the article, the priest advised a beginner-to-polytheism that in most cases, eating something given to the gods as a food-offering was an offense, whereas in at least some Kemetic contexts, eating the offerings is exactly what is expected and is part of the ritual technologies of the religion, as it is through this exchange that the worshippers receive blessings from their gods.
The answer was around how a newcomer to polytheism could begin to engage with deities, perhaps when they did not have an overarching tradition to provide such answers, when these deities were already showing up. The author’s answer was on-point and wonderful and thoughtful and courteous; to the seeker, to the gods, and to the traditions who might supply different answers. This was a foundational response, with the caveat that individual traditions (and specific deities) might have specific structures, agreements, or protocols; foundational answers don’t replace or overwrite or challenge those. The response from some corners of polytheism were volatile and aggressive toward the author, who was accused of all sorts of things which were not said in the article, which was not an article about Kemetic religion anyway. It became a bit of a controversy overnight. (Thanks, Tumblr.) The thing is: this didn’t need to be a controversy, because the author hadn’t said anything controversial, nor challenged any other cult teaching. There are some good solid foundational basics for how to handle and approach the idea of physical offerings to gods, and these are to be treated as “elementary” rather than “universal”; a “best guess starting point” until you learn otherwise (from the deities in question, from the tradition or lineage teachings, or so forth).
In other words, many of these foundational elements essential to polytheistic religious approach are about basic approaches to core values, like hospitality, respect, piety, and reciprocity. Values which, frankly, the dominant world cultures in the West have not really done a good job of teaching. (One does not, for example, give expired meat as an offering in general devotional religion: that is offensive.)
As Edward Butler, PhD, stated in a recent conversation about these matters, the basic cultural and consciousness point that many people today are starting at with regard to the topics of polytheistic religion and polycentric theology or world-view is needing some exposure to and familiarity with some fundamental shifts in understanding (of self, of cosmos, of creation) not supplied by the parent overculture or societal milieu, in order to more fully and comprehensively “get” and “live” polytheism. It is not enough to say “the gods are real” and pretend as though this – without unpacking or exploring it further – is sufficient to install paradigm-level nuance of sense-and-relation beyond that which is supplied by our culture’s (Monotheist, monist reductive, or secular-atheist) societal norms. In other parts of the world, and in other times of world history, this is not the case, because there are there-and-then presumed culture exposures to certain basic understandings, many of which are not necessarily religious in and of themselves but become critically essential to the theory, practice, and embodiment of polytheism today. In other words, certain essential (foundational) understandings are absent from the 21st century Western assumed culture experience, and must therefore be hashed out and engaged explicitly, or else the space that these understandings is meant to hold will become occupied by some other (unrelated, or even contrary) paradigm.
Different people come to this conversation for different reasons, from different backgrounds, and with different experiences, identities, proficiencies, and needs. The purpose of the Polytheist Movement is not to represent people (as this is not what movements generally do), but rather to represent the stated and identified needs of specific demographics of people for the purpose of need-fulfillment, advocacy, education, and resource-based support. Examples of support include (most obviously) the writings found across the polytheistic sectors of the internet – from personal blogs to professional articles and columns – and professional teaching, training, and mentorship, or outside experts consulting with or advising establish(ed/ing) polytheistic religious traditions, cults, and dedicant communities.
There are some distinct demographics to consider when reading, writing, thinking about, or talking about polytheistic religious practices, and it is important that these distinctions be kept somewhat in mind to avoid accidental erasure (as a writer or commenter) or overly personalizing one’s interpretation of a given contribution (as a reader) and responding with hostility when the item in question may not have been intended to speak to or provide for that given person’s needs. Some polytheisms are extant indigenous11 world religions which have survived colonialism, genocide, and Monotheism’s cultural murder machine (missionary work) and need to be remembered and named, else they are assumed in writing to be gone and erased. Newcomers to “affirming with religious regard many real gods”12 might hail from any number of avenues into polytheism. Some are part of a polytheistic group or tradition13 but don’t have an identity-and-paradigm level investment or experience with these religions, while others do not have a group but are defined primarily by these things at the identity and paradimic levels. Some converted14 into polytheisms, and others did not15, and so on: in all, these are all different in-roads with distinct backgrounds, baggage, or interpretative bias.
Some of these groups will have different needs from one another, for different reasons.16 Some might have needs in understanding polytheistic foundations because they are totally new, do not have a formal tradition, and need help. At this time, this is who the ongoing public polytheistic dialog is often seeking to support, not because everyone falls into this category, but because this is potentially the category with the highest need in figuring the foundations out. Some will not need these foundations to inform their practices, because their practices might come out of a structured tradition which provides them the instruction that they need; but these may still benefit from learning foundations in order to better understand other people and traditions to avoid conflicts by assuming that their way is the only/right way.
Realistically speaking some people will not want, or need, to engage this material at all. And that’s fine. And those people should find themselves somewhere else to engage, and stop interrupting the material and contributions probably intended for others. Not everything is intended for everyone; the assumption that everything should be tailored specifically to a one-size-fits-all interpretation is an assumption of gross entitlement.
Nevertheless, it is also important that we acknowledge that there may be an ever-expanding set of needs that, given the marginalized nature of our religions and religious identities, may need to be filled later (or are current needs not yet addressed or even visibly identified), so that as a movement we can continue to grow and to do better. Examples include continuing to develop international and interfaith discourse, such that the values or behavior/philosophy trends of one privileged or focal demographic do not get applied with a broad-stroke across the global discourse, such that others are by definition excluded and even alienated with hostility. We must serve to recognize intrinsic non-equational distinction and separateness between disciplines, such as “the pursuit of religious devotions” and “civic political engagement, economic theory, or social justice”, even though one may intersectionally inform or direct the other. This does not mean creating spaces which tolerate racism, homophobia, misogyny, transphobia, or otherwise; rather that we must approach in good faith for the purposes of constructive building with a potentially exponential set of considerations, and an understanding that no one author, writer, reader, or teacher can account for the needs of everyone in the world who has polytheistic practices or identity.
There are no magic bullet solutions. Many gods, many people, many ways, many voices, many views, many ideas, many angles, many lenses of consideration, through which we can all together hope to find a future in this world for our traditions, for our religions, for our communities, for a thousand thousand years of Polytheists yet to come, that our gods – all of them, those named and unnamed, known and unknown, for they are countless – may be praised, remembered, honored, and hailed with voices raised together, or supported by peers and allies and collegial co-religionists the world over.
The content of Foundational Polytheism, being studies, writings, lectures, presentations, or informal pointers in a Q&A, are not “instructions” for a specific religion, cult, or tradition: they are the building blocks from which a person or group can assemble a structure of understanding the paradigms essential for elementary polytheistic theologies, ritual theory, devotional practice, spirit-work, and more.
Foundational Polytheism is elementary, education oriented, and amongst the primary contributions of the Polytheist Movement. It is not in contest with established traditions, although some established traditions may find it to be fundamentally essential, as many ritual or worship groups were founded without the benefit of such resources, having been previously formed-and-established without access to such understandings, teachings, and theological insights in the first place. There are a lot of modern and/or new polytheistic traditions which have no theological center, not because there isn’t a theology to their religions, but because there simply hasn’t been a large Western focus on polytheistic theology until relatively recently, more or less across the board (including in academia). When there is no center, or no ground underfoot, slipping and sliding and wild haymakers are what follow.
The Polytheist Movement is a way of describing a whole lot of different sorts of engagements and outreach and education, including discussions of Foundational Polytheism, and neither the Polytheist Movement nor Foundational Polytheism are “a religion”, nor seeking to decide who/what/why polytheistic religion and Polytheist identity are. They are seeking to create the spaces and contribute to the field of study of polytheistic religion, and the religious rights work necessary to see it protected, and prospering in this century of prejudice and continued erasure.
This is about listening, and about learning, and about providing freely for the purposes of polytheistic outreach, education, and support.
Foundational Polytheism is a good place to start, a methodology of approach, for those looking for a place to begin, and a good place to learn about elementary foundational understandings of theology, ritual craft and theory, practical concerns and community dynamics, interfaith discourse, for anyone who could benefit from these, as MANY existing polytheistic traditions in the US did not have the benefit of such a thing when they came about, and learning is never a thing that is “done”. Not everyone needs to engage, as not everyone has these needs: but those should kindly leave the programming respectfully in order to avoid rendering real and lasting harm to those who do, and whose stability-and-survival-of-self-and-religious-identity might very well depend on it.
Content Edits: July 20, 12:05 a.m.: “a methodology of approach and procedure,” was added to the central definition of “Foundational Polytheism”; “What they need, right there and then — some guidance and tips or protocols or starter-practices — which can be used immediately, adapted right out of the gate; a methodology for the beginnings of laying a polytheistic foundation.” was added in full as the closing sentence to paragraph 6. “a methodology of approach” was added to the first sentence of the concluding paragraph.
- The Wild Hunt’s “A Polytheist Primer”, http://wildhunt.org/2015/05/guest-post-a-polytheist-primer.html ↩
- “Polytheist” as an identifier, (e.g. “I am a Polytheist”) is an opt-in religious identifying term which communicates affirmation of many gods held in religious regard, at a level which is understood to intersect in a defining way with that person’s identity. Rather than merely being an affiliation with a community or practice that they are involved with, it is something that they are. This term does not refer to a single religion or a finite number of religions; it refers instead to the identity of a person with regard to their religious realities and experiences. ↩
- “Polytheistic religious traditions” and groups are specific religious traditions which are assumed to hold polytheistic frameworks of engagement, practice and belief. However, just as many religions in the world have their fair share of secular or atheist or non-theist persons in their internal communities, affiliation with a polytheistic tradition or group does not necessarily mean that a person is a Polytheist identified religionist. Traditions are containers that provide structures for directing community and worship to the gods, as well as that which may be received from the gods, based on unique agreements with those gods. Some groups may be tradition-specific while others may be regional and follow a form of Foundational Polytheism for guidance without a specific tradition or “technology” to inform their structuring and protocols. Religions have protocols; in absence of a tradition which informs those of a group, that group would be well-served by following some basic foundations, rather than eclectic whim. ↩
- The Polytheist Movement is a loosely organized human rights and religious rights movement made up of affiliated Polytheist-identified religionists and their allies, who are seeking to: expand the popular understandings of what Polytheist religion and identity is all about; increase the protections and dignities that they are promised by universal declarations; create outreach, education, and networking platforms for engagement. It is not a religion, or even a group of religions. It is a rights-based movement with the mission to protect those Polytheist-identified individuals from harm, erasure, and oppressive hostility. Its interests and aims are primarily in education, visibility, outreach and alliance, serving the needs of both Polytheist-identified persons and polytheistic religious groups, traditions and lineages. It serves to represent and provide resources of support for identified needs unique to polytheism. ↩
- Thiasos of the Starry Bull is an emergent Magna Graecian Bacchic Orphic religious mystery tradition, with growing international membership, regional ritual gatherings, and initiatory rites, whose followers devoted to the worship of Dionysos. ↩
- “NorTrad, VT” is a made-up hypothetical Norse-focused devotional cult that I sometimes use as an example in discussions, and one of its fictional members – Johnny Maple – is an atheist who is really interested in Norse culture and fellowship, does leather-working and metal-smithing, shows up on time to rituals (which he loves attending) and is respectful of frith and kin. That he is an atheist means that he is not a Polytheist; but his local cult accepts him as a member as kin, making him a member and practitioner of a polytheistic religion, just like an atheist Catholic who practices and attends mass is still a Catholic without being a Monotheist. “NorTrad, VT” is an example I use of a theistically inclusive polytheistic organization, in that its leadership structure does not deny access to those of unconfirmed or unexamined theistic identity; they enforce decorum on merit of behavior, conduct, and fellowship, and guide their rituals according to polytheistic precepts, without requiring every single participant member to be a student of religious studies, self-examination, or theology, merely to have a place to enjoy the benefits of the tradition and its worship. That said, the focus is on worship, not leather-making or metal-smithing; that some of the others may also benefit from Maple’s skills in these areas is an aside, and not central to the religion at large. ↩
- Foundational Polytheism – “a collective starting point for religious engagement and “entrance” into polytheism, in practice or identity, addressing particular distinct needs of polytheistic religions not adequately provided for elsewhere, which does not replace, supplant, or override the internal structures of individual polytheistic religions, but rather, provides a practical bedrock of foundation for those who might not yet have access to, or involvement with, or knowledge of, a given specific religious tradition”. Other terms that were lobbed around at various times for this include: core polytheism (rejected because of unacceptable association with Michael Harner’s “Core Shamanism” and its horrible culture-erasure), pan-polytheism (never caught on or outright rejected; perhaps confusing however because it suggests a merging of all polytheisms in literal etymological meaning), and so forth. “Foundational Polytheism” was arrived at while ruling out the defining terms “fundamental” (because of association with politically radicalized ideologies in our present and past world history and conflicts) and “elementary” (because I can’t hear this word and not imagine Sherlock Holmes saying it). “Foundations” are what are being talked about, taught, offered up, explored, examined; they are the building-blocks and bedrock of tradition, theology, and living authentic religion in practice and paradigm. ↩
- “I think a god called. Now what?” is an article by Tess Dawson from 2013, wherein she responds informally to a basic “newbie” question, with compassion and foundational insight. The closing section, on offerings, was targeted by some corners as being an attempt to “tell others how to do things” in an authoritative way, which any reasonable reading of the article will clearly demonstrate is not. This volatile response suggests several important things: 1) many readers on the internet are not reading critically or “in good faith”, and are instead actively seeking to find things to be conflictual around. 2) many readers on the internet are not critically informed or educated in the subjects that they are engaging in conflicts around. 3) many readers prefer constant conflict over critical and educational “good faith” discourse because it distracts and deflects from the deficits in their own understandings, thereby dodging any uncomfortable or chafing revelations that might be discovered in accidental self-examination. Many decentralized voices in the polytheistic discourse online seek to keep the whole conversation decentralized – that is, without balance, foundation, stability – because they themselves did not have this, and seem to be worried that it might mean they (lacking those things in some way or another) may not find themselves “welcome”. Except that these foundations and stabilizing critical discussions and discernments are for everybody who wants them or could make use of them: that’s the point. Certainly, though, nobody needs to engage the material at all. In any event, the active “conflict warring” between corners of the internet communities is constant and an ongoing problem, which can and must be resolved to some degree by further developments of stabilizing starting points, boundaries, and bar-raising expectations, otherwise the discussions are little more than dog-chasing-tail exercises in futility. ↩
- Polytheism is a category of religions, which can be most accurately understood as religions of relation, wherein a given distinct religion provides for its adherent a set of relationship guidelines, boundaries, expectations, protocols, resources, structures, and in short, agreements, between those specific worshippers (and/or clergy) and their specific gods. Figuratively speaking, polytheistic religions are like vessels, ships at sea, which contain the expectations and articles of practice and theologies that define the dynamics of relationship between genuine members of a given religion and their of gods. Each religion could be visualized as a distinct ship, or in the case of broader religions – such as “Hellenic polytheism” – as whole fleets of ships, with individual regional cults making up individual charter vessels with their own internal contents (which may or may not be autonomous from the fleet it “sails with”). As with all relationships, religious relationships have rules, boundaries, and expectations. ↩
- While many people engage in these issues primarily through social media or the blogsphere, some of us – clergy, mostly, but not exclusively – take our leadership and religious responsibilities a step forward and provide counsel, consultation, mentorship, and one-to-one education opportunities for a whole host of seekers from all sectors, generally without any compensation for our time or efforts, despite our professional training and qualifications in what we do. That most of us are unpaid in this pursuit, despite our dedication and availability and often professional-grade training, is a key thing that should be considered by anyone not engaging at this level of professionalism who would otherwise seek to attack with hostility those of us who are. We work tirelessly in this area on behalf of others, for the love of our religions, our cultures, our identities, our gods, and our communities. Getting attacked for that by yahoos on the internet is uncool. Sure, it comes with the territory, but maybe it could come a little bit less, or at least have the decency to aim elsewhere. ↩
- It should (hopefully) come as no surprise to you, gentle readers, to hear that the Western world has a fairly bloody history with regard to indigenous populations, cultures, and religious traditions. Those peoples who survived colonization (in North America, in Europe, in Africa, in Polynesia, in the Caribbean, in India, and elsewhere) and physical genocide are still not safe, for the major (Monotheistic) religions of the world (backed institutionally by major national governments, militaries, economic super-systems) are interested in eradicating their ways of life, worship, and religious connection at large, through any means possible. Missionary work is murder, period. Indigenous societies, traditions, and religious structures are at constant risk of eradication, when even the so-called “progressive” Leftists advocate for a supremacist uniformity or secularism, seeking to “cure” indigenous cultures of their “backward superstitions” by “sending them” some – to quote a prominent member of ADF speaking on the subject of Christian-influenced homophobia in Africa – “Western secular missionaries” (because colonial ideas don’t fall far from the tree, I guess). The radical Left seems to feel that any person or culture which holds to indigenous tradition and cultural expressions is courting fascist ideology and needs to be “reckoned”. The privilege-fattened Western post-industrial luxury world also seeks to criminalize and moralize traditions which practice traditional (ethical, specialist-trained) rites of animal slaughter, which in addition to their religious and cultural import, are often the primary source of food for the people in question. Pervasively invasive Western Leftist value systems – ironically often couched in the language of anti-colonization or anti-capitalism, while still drawing its actions and maneuverings almost exclusively from the playbook of both – and conservative Monotheistic
missionariesextermination goon squads, and “progressive” secular New Atheists (fraudulently claiming to represent science and reason) are, ultimately, all very real and active threats against indigenous rights, religious and otherwise. Tack onto this radical political-military regimes in the world at large, regularly bombing sacred sites or seeking to physically and murderously wipe out whole ethnic groups (such as the Yazidis), and major Western governments outlawing or systemically “blocking” essential religious actions (such as the United States Federal Government’s long-standing history of illegal raids on Native American religious practitioners to seize federally protected religious articles). The issues are too complicated to address in anything resembling comprehensive form here, but know that it is an act of erasure to assume that “polytheism” references “white Americans dressing up in historic European garb and praying in a city park” exclusively. It does not. The religious rights and expansive protections – and advances in visibility – earned by polytheistic religions as a whole can and will have ramifications for religious and cultural liberties at large, beyond those specific groups doing the activism… especially if those of more privileged/protected demographics make-and-keep themselves aware of the at-risk groups found throughout the world (without trying to appropriate/steal their religious identities or practices at the same time). White Western culture does not own polytheism. Fighting for religious rights is a part of fighting for human rights, as outlined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the United Nations. Indigenous rights include the enforcement and expansion of protections of religious freedoms. Discussions of polytheism by the privileged might not speak to the experience or specific traditions of indigenous populations, but they certainly can be involved in contributing to the expansion and defense of religious rights. ↩
- Polytheism is defined as the affirmation, with religious regard, of many gods who are held to be genuine and differentiated both from one another (hence the “many”) and from human consciousness. This definition is further added to by Edward Butler, in the Doctrine Universal to Polytheism. ↩
- ..not clear on why this matters? Many practicing Catholics are actually atheists or agnostics, but still practice and are very much Catholic, without being very much (or at all) Monotheistic, or remotely theistic for that matter. Secular Catholics are a thing. It is inaccurate to call these Monotheists; rather, they are adherents to a Monotheistic religion, while themselves being more accurately descried as atheists, secularists, non-theists, etc. ↩
- The majority of non-indigenous polytheistic religious practitioners in the Western world are converts to these traditions, generally from either a secular culture of origin or the overculture of Monotheism. Many also further converted “through” various magical, esoteric, or witchcraft oriented practices, which may or may not have included the affirmation of many distinct gods held in religious regard, but may also have dealt with dualist (god + goddess), or other-than-theistic (e.g. Gnostic, pleromist), or atheist underpinnings. Conversion into polytheism from any combination of these will result in distinct needs and experiences with regard to unpacking prior paradigms and “relearning” certain necessities in order to really “get” polytheism. Conversion experiences take time, and are best approached patiently, with an understanding that it is a process, not an automatic opt-in event. ↩
- Polytheists of either indigenous or non-indigenous culture-and-religion backgrounds may have been “born into” or otherwise “raised into” polytheistic religion, absent conversion process from another religious or spiritual background. Examples of such can be found in ancient indigenous religions (Hinduism, Shinto, Hawaiian religion), family traditions, and received new or reconstituted traditions. ↩
- Different people, different needs, different reasons… discerning between these is a discipline which requires some deep D’s: distinctions, differentiations, definitions. Discernment “is not a catch-phrase platitude to be whispered intently in New Age drum circles, glossy-eyed and meaningless. Discernment is a discipline,” and it takes some level work to get it right. The building blocks of discernment are found in the “the ability to recognize distinctions, which call for the active differentiation between some things from other things, which in turn relies on the knowledge or ability to seek the knowledge of the specific definitions related to those and other things”. Without these, there is no critical thinking, and everything is meaningless, and your words are without value, no matter how charmingly you bat your eyes when you say them. ↩