Being an *actual* polytheist, meaning I actually believe in the individuality and agency of the Gods, makes for interesting conversations at nearly any Pagan gathering. Given that where I live at least, those who share my religious belief (regardless of their particular practice – Wiccan, Hellenic, Druid, Heathen etc) are definitely in the minority, at least among the people who attend the same sorts of functions I do. There may be other hard polytheists out there, but they’re not attending the meetups and public gatherings as far as I can see, not in any great numbers.
I have met up with some local heathens, and while they are very nice people, we don’t seem to have much in common with most of them. We disagree on what constitutes racism, we disagree whether or not European cultures are worth saving, whether a girl identifying as a boy is a thing that should be encouraged, whether UPG (unverified personal gnosis aka the Gods speaking to you personally) and SPG (shared personal gnosis aka the Gods telling many people the same thing) is a relevant part of building a tradition or in deepening one’s spirituality and should be spoken of in mixed company, and more that may nor may not be actually relevant to forming a lasting religious tradition. Something that struck me was that, while they have read the lore, and are more experienced than I in the actual lore by at least a decade, was that they seem to have picked and chosen which parts of the lore they use to support their belief (and twisting a lot out of context) while ignoring those parts that do not agree with their views. That is my opinion based on very limited interaction so don’t take what I say as face value, it may be that further talks would reveal a different understanding.
So it was with pleasure that we met a husband and wife at our first large “interfaith” gathering this past year. They and we had a lot in common. Because of them we (OK I, it was my decision to go and Mr. TF went along) went to the already existing local meetup. Over time we began discussing our personal philosophy and spirituality. We found a lot more in common with them. One of the most important things being that at least two of us are actual hard polytheists and have had spiritual experiences that have convinced us of the reality of the Gods.
All of us have experienced the disappointment of going to ritual only to have frivolity and disrespect be a part of the ritual. All of us, both the agnostics and the polytheists, have felt that it deters from building an actual living religion that will grow into something more, something that has an entire culture integral to it. We all have experienced the desire to be a part of something more, something that would actually sustain a people.
It seems to us that people make the jump into Paganism as a rebellion but that’s where they stay. They don’t grow, they don’t take to heart “know thyself,” they don’t take responsibility. So when crisis hits, as it always will, they have no reserves, nowhere to turn, nothing to sustain them. And for some of them crisis remains a permanent part of their existence – because they don’t understand the personal power they have to change it, don’t understand the power the Gods have to help them change it. As at least two of the four of us are believers in the Old Gods of the North, we have a baseline that helps us understand the expectations the Gods have of us.
So we have been talking. And we have no firm ideas but we have a starting point. At the next large interfaith gathering, we are going to make sure the left over catered food goes to the needy. In OUR community. Not to the food bank or anywhere else. And we are going to set up guidelines for this for all future gatherings. If we’re going to talk good words about hearth culture, then we’re going to make sure our hearth is cared for.