Q: How does this site define “Polytheist”?
A: While our individual columnists and contributors may have different theological or cosmological stances within their diverse range of traditions, lineages, and religious paths, Polytheist.com is built upon a foundational principle of honoring many gods. By this we acknowledge and affirm the basic meaning of the word “Polytheism”; many gods.
The definitions currently accepted and used by many polytheistic scholars breaks things down as follows:
- “Polytheism” is a category of religions and religious approaches and religious identities which at their core affirm with religious regard that there are many gods, who are considered real and genuine, possessing of some expression of agency and/or autonomy separate from human consciousness.
- “Polytheist” is a personal identifier (e.g. “I am a Polytheist”) which denotes that the person’s paradigms (world-views) and image-of-self (identity) includes centrally the affirmation with religious regard of many gods, who are considered real and genuine and so forth, as per above. Not all Polytheists are members of specific polytheistic religious groups (see below) just as not all members of such groups are themselves personally Polytheists. A person is a Polytheist when they hold genuine religious affirmations regarding the nature and existence of many gods, and this is not limited to (but may obviously include any/all) concepts such as beliefs, practice, or collective affiliations.
- “Polytheistic religious groups” or traditions is a set of collective identifiers for describing the intentions of certain groups or lineages or distinct religions, which are formed centrally around the idea of religious regard/worship of many gods. Some of these may limit their membership to Polytheists, while others have a varied range of followers/members, including those who do not yet know their theistic identities, are still figuring it out, or are there for different reasons. (The best example from the “Big Religions” for this is in the Catholic faith: not all practicing Catholics are actually Monotheists, despite being regular attendees of Monotheistic religious worship; many Catholics consider themselves to be culturally Catholic, but actually secular/atheist at heart. An atheist who attends mass regularly and maintains membership in a Catholic community practice is still a Catholic, but they are not a Monotheist, by definition.)
Q: Doesn’t all of Neo-Paganism have “many gods”?
A: It has been made clear through decades of debate, authorship, and development of various traditions, movements, and philosophies that this is not the case — and that is okay. Many Neo-Pagan movements and traditions do indeed honor many gods, while others reduce down to a basic dualism (God and Goddess) or archetypalism (psychological archetypes largely drawn from Jungian psychological theory, and 20th century treatments of meta-myth in literary and culture traditions). These differentiations have given way for a necessary and intentional identification of Polytheists, for whom the basic premise is clearly theistic (rather than archetypal) and plentiful (rather than singular or dualistic).
Q: Do Polytheists worship every god from every part of the world?
A: Some Polytheists and Polytheistic traditions are very big, very syncretic, or otherwise intersect with a very large set of divine families, pantheons, and so forth. Some Polytheists are very tradition-specific in their worship, and only engage with a single family or regional “set” of gods. Some people may only hold devotional relationships with one or two gods, amongst an entire pantheon of deities, while others still may attempt to honor collections of gods from many traditions who all share common relation to a given sphere of influence, vocation, or trade. All of these can be considered Polytheist religious approaches. Somebody whose worship is restricted to one deity out of many, but whom otherwise does not deny the other gods, is considered a henotheist, which is a still a kind of Polytheism.
Q: Is this “Polytheism” a new religion or an old one?
A: “Polytheism” refers not to a single religious body or group, but to a category of religious traditions, families of lineages and theological understandings. There is no single Polytheism; as with the gods themselves, these traditions and approaches are many. Some approaches involve applying reconstruction methodologies (sometimes very heavily, sometimes in an only cursory fashion), while other approaches rely entirely on presently lived engagements, relations, and received or inspired content. All of these can be considered expressions of Polytheist religion.
Q: Are you anti-Neo-Pagan?
A: No. Quite the contrary, it is the belief of the founding staff of Polytheist.com that there is an essential “And, not Or” identification that must be left on the table. By this we mean that there is no necessary contradiction between a Pagan identity (which for many is social, communal, magical, or even political) and a Polytheist identity (which is generally considered religious). We believe in fostering healthy relationships and building important bridges between different groups and platforms — Pagan and Polytheist alike! — as well as keeping interfaith dialog open as an option for cooperative and collaborative undertakings, including issues of social justice, ethics, and education.
Q: Are you anti-Abrahamic?
A: No. As a site and a major collaborative community project, Polytheist.com is not “against” any other group. We exist as a safe space for discussions important to, and conducted by, Polytheist identified religionists.
Q: Are you anti-Monotheist?
A: Polytheist.com is not “anti-“ anything. This community platform exists as a safe space for discussions important to, and conducted by, Polytheist identified religionists. While these discussions are public, interruption from those not interested in furthering Polytheist theology, community, and religious community development are simply not welcome. Whether these interruptions from Pagans, Monotheists, Dualists, Atheists, or Archetypalists, they will be uniformly and silently swept away as spam.
Q: Why do you have so many _________ people writing for your site? This makes me uncomfortable.
A: Polytheist.com exists to serve a diverse body of Polytheist religious individuals, groups, demographics, cultures, and social identities. This includes individuals of various racial, cultural, sexual, political and gender-variant demographics. We are an immensely inclusive platform proud to be built by such a diverse, talented, and bold team, each selected as a community voice for their valuable vision and insights. We have Polytheist clergy, professional scholars and authors, devoted laity, and voices who are both new and old to the “field of discourse” on these subjects. One of the only things that we will not ever tolerate here, from our writers or commenting readers, is bigotry or prejudice. We encourage our writers to state comfortably their identities (be they pertaining to religion, race, culture, gender, sexual orientation, or otherwise) in their author bios, as identity is fundamental to the understanding and exploration of any lived and authentic Polytheism. We honor many gods, and in honor of those gods, we honor many types of people, proudly and protectively. This is a safe space. We are sorry if you are uncomfortable by this broad inclusivity and progressive stance toward honoring identity with grace and dignity. In light of racist events across the United States in the last few years, and especially in 2014, and in recognition of those individuals whose lives have been unjustly lost or irrevocably harmed by systemic injustice, Polytheist.com has issued a formal statement. We see the injustice, and we do not stand for it.
Q: Who “runs” Polytheist.com?
A: The site is owned and operated by “Anomalous Thracian” (Theanos Thrax), a full-time priest and spirit-worker, who also blogs (when there is time for it). While the administration of the site, as well as the selection of the writers and contributors, falls under his sole control and authority, the vision for the site is a shared and collaborative undertaking which has been fashioned and continues to be developed based upon constant, ongoing and organic dialog with and observations of the various Polytheist communities and movements. There is no other authority, financial entity, or creative influence involved; no other group or parties have a say, and there are no secret Illuminati puppet masters.
Q: Can I write for the site? I have this great idea for a [column, article, story, song, hymn]…
A: Please refer to our “Submissions and Recruitment” page for more information. In brief, the answer is, “Maybe”, but only if you are approached and recruited for it. The administration of Polytheist.com does not take open solicitations, we do not do “calls for submission”, and at this time we are not accepting “walk-in” volunteering of writership. We are already a team of two-dozen talented and diverse voices in our regular columns, with a small (and growing) collective of rich and talented voices joining for guest contributions throughout the year. We have other divisions and programs under development behind the scenes, to maximize and refine what we are able to offer to the broader Polytheist community. Recruitment is based upon observed quality and caliber, as well as in-house referrals: our writers and contributors are welcome and encouraged to “vouch for” a possible new voice. This does not in any way guarantee that a referral will lead to a writing position. We are not interested in becoming too large of a team, as we believe in quality over quantity.
Q: I don’t want to write (and I’ve already read your “Submissions and Recruitments” guidelines), but I’d like to be involved. Is there a way that I can help or be a part of Polytheist.com?
A: In short, yes. Everyone can help, by reading and sharing the content of our writers, by joining in healthy and important conversations, and by cultivating a continually maturing sense of Polytheist identity in all of our communities. More directly, we may at times be taking in new people to help with maintenance or moderation, social media, and the like. In addition, you can always help by donating to our project: sponsorship is welcome, in both an ongoing and individual fashion. This platform has been built out-of-pocket and is held up by hundreds of hours of volunteer engagement every month. Your financial support helps offset those costs and keep the project financially feasible into the future.
Q: Aren’t you a blogging site? Why don’t you use the word “blog”?
A: Blogs and online columns are slightly different, and both are considered highly valuable in modern media and internet relations. However, even traditional enterprises in mainstream journalistic development often have a hard time differentiating the two, with varying opinions on what makes a blog a blog and a column a column. Polytheist.com chose to go with the term “column” to emphasize an intentional step away from the heavy focus on individual personalities which is often present in “the blogging community”, not because there is anything wrong with this — many of us are also committed bloggers! — but because this site focuses on the development of Polytheist issues, theologies, and community, rather than discussions of who is or is not totally rad, wrong, right, or ridiculous. We also aim to compile regular in-print published formats of our work in anthologies and other special projects, and find that in most cases “columns” translate better into this direction than many approaches to blogging.
Q: Are you anti-blog?
A: No. Please stop doing that.
Q: You don’t seem to have any people from the _______ demographic of Polytheist traditions. Are you anti-_____?
A: Seriously, no, we’re not “anti” things. Please stop that. Polytheist.com is an inclusive community platform, which is doing its best to be diverse and varied in voices, visions and value. If you would like to recommend a group or tradition who you feel is not well represented at this time, please do so! We love suggestions like that. This doesn’t mean that we will be able to immediately accommodate this, but we really really really will listen.
Q: I don’t believe in gods or the supernatural, but I’d really like to [discuss religion or philosophy, have you host material discussing these things, etc], can I be part of your team?
A: Polytheist.com exists to provide a platform for Polytheist voices, as these voices are frequently under-represented in other areas or faced with active attempts at erasure from more privileged groups or movements. We host a diverse team of writers who address issues and concerns regarding living, modern Polytheist religion and theology, not its study or conjecture from an atheist standpoint. You would probably have better luck discussing these topics at a philosophy or atheists-on-religion platform. Many of these such places exist, however for the time being there is only one place dedicated to serving the broad Polytheist identified religious communities in this way.
Q: Aren’t beliefs in the supernatural and “many gods” really primitive and underdeveloped? Didn’t [branch of philosophy] in the [period of history] prove this sufficiently for you? Why are you going backwards?
A: Obviously we don’t agree with you, and you’re unlikely to find yourself having a meaningful time here, or making comments that will be permitted on our site. This place exists to serve Polytheist voices discussing Polytheistic religions. We don’t feel like we’re going backwards; our clocks and calendars go the same direction as yours. (Also, in addition to being Polytheists, some of our team are professional educators, scholars, and writers in the fields you’ve mentioned.) There’s probably a clever hash-tag somewhere that explains just how privileged and ignorant this question sounds in the context of intrusively thrusting it at a community that exists for a really pretty self-explanatory purpose.
Q: Isn’t this all just a bunch of superstitious nonsense?
A: Really? What are you, eight? I’m sorry your parents lied to you about the flying reindeer — and that you believed them when they explained that the humans are the center of the universe.
Q: Do you accept typo corrections which include snarky and trolling immaturity inserted for the sole purpose of being a dick on the internet, and include ironic typos in their delivery?
A: Correction suggestions and clarifying questions are useful. We try to catch everything, but sometimes things slip by. The occasional “the the” may appear, and of course will be cleaned up on noticing if and when it does happen. However, taking tones of snark and trollishly sophomoric attitude in pointing out corrections is unnecessary and annoying; your comments will not be approved, and these will get you flagged and documented as a potential offender to be further scrutinized on any subsequent comment reviews. All comments are reviewed, and we remember how people behave in our home.
Q: Don’t you all realize that you’re going to Hell?
A: Ooh! Which one?
Q: Why do you use the word “gods”, instead of “deities” or “divinities”, which are more gender-neutral?
A: The word “god” has a complicated history. In the English-speaking world, we often struggle with the realities of an amalgamated lexicon drawing itself from a variety of cultures and languages of origin, patchworked together with translations woven through other translations, often dressed up with the meanings or definitions drawn from entirely other different languages. This is complicated. Languages are complex like that. However, with a little bit of history behind the word “god”, one can understand it to be actually not a masculine term, as is often assumed in progressive movements and schools of thought. The word, which of course came into prominent use in association with Christianity’s conception of a single all-powerful force, following the cultural and religious genocides that brought monotheism as the dominant (and only acceptable) form of religious thought and practice into what would later become the English-speaking parts of Northern Europe. Prior to these conversions (and subsequent, problematic translations), the origins of the word referred not to any gendered cosmic force, but instead to “that which is invoked”, and similarly the act of invocation. “Originally a neuter noun in Germanic, the gender shifted to masculine after the coming of Christianity.” (Online Etymology Dictionary, a reputable and well cited source for word origins.) In this sense, the word “god” is being reclaimed by modern Polytheists; just as the legacy of our cultural understandings of religion, philosophy, and other-than-human elements in creation — and indeed, creation itself! — were robbed by a monotheistic machine, so too was our very ability to discuss the various forms of our pantheons, and the myriad spirits associated therein.
Just as gender-related social justice developments (such as movements of queer advocacy, feminism, and civil rights) often involve the “reclaiming” of words which were inappropriately stolen, rebranded, and used to injurious effect upon a population, modern Polytheists are seeking to reestablish control and ownership of their own identities at a linguistic level. As part of our essential religious and cultural identities involves the many, many gods of our traditions, heritages, and indeed living relations, the right and freedom to do so is of fundamental importance.
Not everyone in these Polytheist discussions will use the word “god” or “gods”, in preference for alternatives such as “deities” (coined by the early Christian St. Augustine, from the gendered Latin) or “theoi” (from the gendered Greek), while others incorporate more modern descriptors such as “Holy Powers”, “divinities”, or the like. Of course, language use is the right of each individual or group to find the best way to authentically navigate, and all of these preferences will be supported here at Polytheist.com. However, as this is meant to be a “common ground” upon which a diverse population of Polytheist religionists from all over the world will gather, from a widely varying culture and language background and an even greater variance of social, class, and gender backgrounds, the word “gods” will be most often employed by the site developers and project directors (for examples as it appears in our motto, “Honoring Many Gods”) for the purpose of establishing firmly and protectively our right to express linguistically the identities that we own, in relating devotionally to the gods whom we revere.
Finally, on the subject of “gender in language”, here is an important snippet from a polyglot linguist communications director, translator, and language theorist engaging professionally in over 226 languages and translation in 576 language pairs, who I keep on hand for such cases:
“So gender. Gender and genre have the same etymology for a reason. They just represent a category of things. So while the more common examples of gendered PIE languages that have masculine and feminine are well known, Bantu languages have at least 10 genders. In modern linguistics, because of the risk of gender being misunderstood as sex, they’re usually all called “noun classes” now. Gender does not imply sex, although it tends to be actively informed by it (but not universally). And grammatical plurals in PIE languages tend to take masculine forms, and so do cases where the gender is unknown. [With] gendered lingo for Greek and Latin, I think it’s important since people forget that gender and sex are not the same thing, in general, let alone in linguistics. Due to Latin only having three grammatical genders, and because if the reason somebody doesn’t like “god” derives from its [masculine] usage in Christianity, using an alternate word that was coined entirely to talk of Christian theology isn’t a better choice.”
Q: I am experiencing ______, can you recommend someone qualified for me to [hire, seek support through, consult with, send donations to]?
A: In an effort to continue to develop our inter-faith and Polytheist religionist community, networking, and resources, it is an aim of Polytheist.com to begin assembly of a living list of resources, from professional spirit-workers and diviners to mental-health counselors who are knowledgable enough about Polytheism and spiritual considerations to not unfairly pathologize them (which is a real concern for many of us, and a deterrent for many to receiving adequate mental health care), as well as educators, theological consultants, content-specific editors or research assistance, sacred artistry and craftsmanship, devotional musicians, writers, and more! Please stay tuned for updates on that, which will be an ongoing and organic community offering.
In the FAQ, there is an error within the response to “Why do you use the word ‘gods’, instead of ‘deities’ or ‘divinities’, which are more gender-neutral?” The response is thoughtful and good, but there is a minor mistake. The polyglot you quote says Latin has two grammatical genders. It has three: masculine, feminine, and neuter. Neuter, however, is not ever used for people, including gods, so for the purpose at hand, only two genders would apply, but there are indeed three. As an aside, there is a Latin word “numen”, which is grammatically neuter, and means divine power or divine will. It’s the root of the English word “numinous.” It is a thing the gods have, but it is not a god.
Error identified and correction forthcoming! This was almost certainly my bad in cobbling the quote together, as this was actually two conversations that I spliced together (with permission) for the FAQ, and I probably mis-transcribed it. Thank you for catching this!