I recently read a guest article written for the Wild Hunt, by Anomalous Thracian, about polytheism. The article was obviously very thought-out, and Thracian put a lot of effort into putting together a fairly long, well-written article. As such, I can respect and appreciate this article based on the merits of effort and flawless execution of the English language. However, I found myself shaking my head in disagreement while reading it; and, since it is not my usual style to rain on peoples’ parades in their own blogs (even if they are only a guest within that blog), I thought I’d confine my reaction to my own blog.
What bothers me about this article, along with the overall tone that might be more at home in a court of law than in an online article dealing with religion or spirituality, is that I really don’t see that polytheists are getting such a tough time from the Pagan community that such an article is really needed. I am a polytheist who doesn’t just stop at believing in the existence of the gods within a pantheon I happen to identify with: as I state in my Paganism page, I believe in all the gods, from all the pantheons, to include ‘the’ god from the monotheist religions. More complicated, I am also a pantheist, reconciling the difference between these two concepts by regarding Nature (the universe, cosmos, all that is contained with in it – simply all that is) as the supreme being. The gods I regard as higher beings in their own right and with their own individual identities – like all other beings though, still a part of and connected to Nature. They are as independent from Nature as you or I, and at the same time as interconnected with it as you or I.
That’s not exactly a common belief, from what I’ve encountered so far; but I’ve never experienced a single Pagan who has in any way shown “oppressive prejudice” against this belief. It’s my belief, after all, and I simply refuse to allow it to be oppressed upon. I’ve never felt the need to sit down with others and carefully explain to them how they might best serve the role of “ally” in my panlytheist (it’s really the only name I can call it) approach to life. For those I’ve even bothered to explain this belief to (the topic of religion just doesn’t come up in normal conversation where I live), the choice to respect my belief or not respect it has been their own. I don’t take that choice personally, as it’s not a choice for my own person to make. That the article draws its structural inspiration from GLAAD is fine – I suspect this might also be where the legalesque use of the English language also stems – but really, do polytheists also need to hoist a flag and start marching in parades? If so, then who will be next? We could always have a go at organizing a parade for the Discordians … it would be easier than one might think, as we’d likely be the only ones showing up ;-)
The point is, when we start delineating our boundaries in such a rigid fashion as that used in Thracian’s article, we begin to separate ourselves from others. We create an us vs. them in an environment where inclusiveness should be our greatest strength (sorry, but I can’t help but think of the different factions shown in Monty Python’s The Life of Brian). As a polytheist, as I’ve already stated, I believe in not just many gods, but all gods: it is therefore not a difficult leap for me to believe in all the multitudes of individual people out there, as well. And, just as I respect all the gods but do not feel the need to follow them all, I also respect other people without feeling the need to follow them all or cave in to their contrasting beliefs or ways of going about their lives. I tend to think this should be easy enough for any polytheist to do. I do not feel a need to draw up boundaries and separate myself from other people, and at the same time pass out a primer that outlines how these people I’ve just ostracized can best serve as my allies and stop oppressing me. I know Thracian wrote that this article was not intended to “… force any conflict or competition,” but the rest of the article seems to dispute this claim.
Judging by the support being offered in the comments section to Thracian’s article, I’m sure there will be plenty of people who disagree with my perspective here. I feel like this article, while on the surface using a formal and proactive tone, concedes a victim mentality that I simply do not identify with or relate to. As a polytheist – or panlytheist, even – as a Pagan, as a human being, I am not a victim. I am also not a member, nor had I even heard of before reading this article, the Polytheist.com organization … I’ve simply never felt the necessity to look for such an organization to belong to.