Whereas on my Solstice break, I met a buddy for espresso, tea, and dialog. We have stayed in contact on social media however we hadn’t seen one another in a number of years. It was a beautiful expertise – I want I might do it extra usually.
One of many issues we coated in our moderately broad dialogue was how what we and others known as “the polytheist motion” is all however gone, and the way a lot we miss it.
Polytheism is as outdated as humanity – it is possible humanity’s default non secular place. Monotheists have been attempting to wipe it out for hundreds of years they usually’ve failed, as a result of as quickly as they let up on implementing orthodoxy, individuals go proper again to acknowledging and honoring the Gods of the solar, the moon, the wind, the rain, and of each different side of life. The fashionable Pagan motion started partially when individuals bored with Christianity and returned to worshiping the Gods of our ancestors.
Within the mid-2010s this development accelerated, particularly on-line. Unexpectedly we had polytheist blogs, polytheist web sites, and polytheist conferences. I used to be in the midst of it and I liked it. It was intellectually stimulating and spiritually inspiring. A few of my finest writing got here out of that interval, together with my second ebook Paganism In Depth: A Polytheist Method.
It obtained contentious at occasions. Polytheism grew to become the fashionable taste of the second, individuals began calling themselves polytheists who had no concept what it meant, and efforts to attract vital boundaries had been attacked as “gatekeeping.” However regardless of the turmoil (and in some circumstances, due to it) there was a groundswell of devotion, worship, scholarship, and artwork – all directed in direction of the various Gods.
After which it pale away as shortly because it started.
A few of those that left found that polytheism wasn’t for them. That is effective – like all of Paganism, it isn’t for everybody. Some acknowledged the fact of the various Gods, however determined that magic or self growth or activism was the middle of their apply, not devotion.
Some obtained burned out by the conflicts.
A number of obtained burned up by the Gods themselves.
The cruel realities of life impacted some. It is exhausting to be religious when your roof is leaking, or if you’re coping with well being points, or job points, or household points.
A number of degenerated into far-right and fascist politics. They could nonetheless be working towards polytheists for all I do know, however I needed to lower them out of my life for my very own psychological well being.
I miss the studies of ecstatic experiences, the speculations on what they imply, and the planning to facilitate extra. I miss the works of devotion and scholarship. Primarily I miss the conversations, each on-line and in individual.
I do not blame anybody who did – and is doing – what they imagine is finest for themselves.
However I need to specific my gratitude and appreciation for many who are persisting of their polytheism.
I give thanks for these whose worship has at all times been personal
One of the crucial frequent complaints throughout the top of the “polytheist interval” was that it overemphasized these of us whose apply was public. “Arguing on the web is just not worshiping the Gods.” And whereas that grievance was considerably simplistic, it additionally contained a sound level.
On the finish of the day, being a polytheist is about forming and sustaining a relationship with a number of of the various Gods. And whereas group worship and apply is sweet and useful, there isn’t any substitute for the sort of every day devotion that by its very nature have to be carried out alone.
A few of us write and discuss our every day devotion. Others do not. Each are legitimate approaches.
There are those that had been worshiping the Gods earlier than it grew to become fashionable, who worshiped the Gods whereas it was fashionable, and who proceed worshiping the Gods now that the trend-seekers have moved on to one thing else. We by no means hear about them as a result of what they do is between themselves and their Gods.
I thank them for his or her persistence.
I give thanks for many who honor the Gods in numerous methods
I do not need to give anybody the impression the web now solely comprises monotheists and non-theists. I come throughout polytheist discussions on Twitter on a reasonably common foundation. However most of them are grounded in Neoplatonism.
Neoplatonism was the final of the key faculties of philosophy in antiquity. It started across the 3rd century CE, continued till it was suppressed by Christianity, and by no means actually disappeared from Western thought. It was extra influential within the growth of Christianity than most Christians care to confess.
Neoplatonism is a really mental strategy to polytheism. Whereas I recognize the deep pondering that goes into it, it would not match nicely with my experiential strategy. It isn’t fallacious – removed from it – nevertheless it’s not what I do.
However it’s polytheism, and it is public polytheism. And so I thank those that persist on this expression of polytheism.
I give thanks for many who embody the Gods on different paths
One of the crucial frequent complaints throughout the top of the polytheist motion was that some individuals had been “attempting to create polytheist orthodoxy.” I will not say that by no means occurred, however most of such expenses had been both a misunderstanding of boundaries, or somebody mistaking a author saying “that is how I do it” for “that is how you need to do it.”
Not each polytheist’s apply seems like mine – nor ought to it. And as a lot because the worship of the Gods is the core of my apply, it isn’t the core of everybody’s.
There are witches who acknowledge the fact of the Gods and who sometimes honor Them, however whose apply is centered on working magic and creating their expertise. There are these whose apply is centered on private progress, however who embody the Gods in that apply. And there are those that hold busy with this-world issues and nonetheless discover the time to say the occasional prayer and pour the occasional providing.
One of many many issues I despised rising up in a fundamentalist church was the insistence that everybody was alleged to be “on hearth for God.” It was an all-or-nothing factor that left no room for individuals who needed to be good Christians and stay abnormal lives. I by no means need that in Paganism and polytheism. I desire a faith that has room for accountants and plumbers – and witches – in addition to for clergymen and mystics.
And so I thank those that embody the Gods of their apply despite the fact that polytheism is not its core.
I give thanks for many who hold shifting
After which there are those that by no means stopped what they had been doing. Some had been energetic polytheists earlier than it grew to become common, some found polytheism throughout this time, and a few – together with me – had our polytheism strengthened and refined. This path and the Gods who’re a part of it known as to us, and as soon as we began following it we by no means left.
The back-and-forth conversations are principally gone, however I nonetheless write in regards to the Gods when I’ve a thought or an expertise price sharing – or when They inform me to write down about Them. So do a couple of others. Huge rituals have not been a factor since earlier than Covid, however small rituals could be highly effective too. The ecstatic experiences are much more uncommon lately, however they are not what’s most essential – they usually have not utterly gone away.
I miss the stimulating discussions we had within the mid-2010s, even people who obtained contentious. I miss the explicitly polytheist conferences and this system tracks on the bigger Pagan gatherings. I miss the alternatives for group worship, particularly people who facilitated ecstatic experiences.
I miss the individuals, a lot of whom had been mates. Some nonetheless are.
I fault nobody for doing what they should do to deal with themselves, for realizing they belong on a unique path, or for taking their devotion personal.
However I give thanks for many who persist on this sacred journey to worship the Gods, to study extra about Them, and to expertise Them for ourselves.