Fluidity of Paganism, Polytheism

Di benedicaris vos.

The modern trend of polytheism and paganism tends to coincide with much religious and social liberty. The trend is often most remarkable amongst liberal, developed nations, though that does not mean to imply it is not in less liberal or less developed nations. As a result of its place of growth, modern polytheism tends to be as fluid and liberal as the societies in which it finds its genesis.

Modern polytheists tend to hold rather open views on the definition of their religious beliefs. Just as the myths of yore tend to conflict in some way, so too may an individual’s polytheist beliefs. Just as Abenaki myth is divided over which god or hero created humanity – some give that role to Kchi Niwaskw (the Great Spirit), others to Gluskonba, and others to other gods or heroes, so too is myth divided into age and where it is from. The best example of this is the religion and mythology of Kmt, ancient Egypt, whose various cities were divided over which gods they worshipped over others. For instance, the Heliopolitan Ennead applied to the city of Heliopolis in Lower Egypt and was prominent in the 6th Dynasty, after the 5th Dynasty’s prominence placed on the sun god Ra. However, in the same respect, Memphis’s importance of the god Ptah was identified with the primeval mound upon which Atum created the first two gods and, therefore, gained prominence over the Ennead in some respect.
As one can see with the case of Kmt, mythology – which the modern polytheist movement is based on – varies over time, region, municipality, city, and even household. Therefore, just as the liberal societies out of which modern polytheism arises, modern polytheism is a mismatched array of Wiccans, Kemetists, Greek and Roman revivalists, Asatru, Druids, et cetera. And, in many ways, it is often very easy to identify with more than one religious path. One may worship a Greek pantheon and hold some uniquely Roman gods; one may even follow the Roman Capitoline Triad, believe in the Heliopolitan Triad, follow numerous other pantheons, and also believe in the four premier Hawai`ian gods Kū, Kāne, Lono, and Kanaloa.

To the outside observer, this may seem conflicting and contradictory. And it often is. But to the modern pagan, this eclectic array of deities does not mean to them that their religious faith is wrong or should not be followed for any issue arising due to overlapping mythology from time or place. Each individual in modern polytheism is responsible for their own religious path, providing the utmost religious freedom. Research, study, and care must go into one’s own religious path, as well; many modern polytheists – some of which happen to be armchair historians as well – do not find this challenging and, instead, find it educative and enjoyable.

Many modern polytheists also tend to “tap into” a certain deity because of what that god or goddess happens to specialise in or focus on. For instance, I “tap into” Athena for her role in civilisation and defence of poleis; many follow Aset (known by her Greek name, Isis) because of her role as a faithful wife and as a caring mother; many follow Vesta for her role as a pure virgin whose focus is security, health, and the hearth. Someone who is a farmer or a gardener may be interested in Demeter or Persephone; someone who is an artist may like Athena just as a novelist may prefer Djehuty (known by his Greek name, Thoth); someone living near an ocean may like Neptune. The fluidity of modern polytheism is made progressively fluid by the amount of personal factors one has in their life and their religious beliefs.

For instance, if one is modest in terms of their sexual lives, they may not focus as much on gods such as Min, a pre-dynasty creation god who is said to have created humanity by ejaculating upon the world, or on Aphrodite. If someone is a pacifist or gets butterflies at the site of gore, they will also most likely not follow the Aztec god Xipe Totec, our Lord the flayed one. Even underlying beliefs – my belief of different levels of existence based upon one’s karma, another’s varying belief in theism, or even one’s transcendentalism – may lead one to believe in one god over another, one hero over another, et cetera.

The modern polytheism movement, therefore, is one of liberal religious expression. As a Buddhist and a polytheist, this liberalism is often expressed in my own religious beliefs; for others, they may be Wiccans and hold onto tenets of Greek or Kemetic revivalism. A few may be monotheists who believe in different aspects of the same god or some may even be those who believe in varying degrees of monotheism (there is a higher god, but there are also other lesser gods). This movement is one of liberalism, which often coincides with liberalism that gives rise to micronationalism. But, more importantly, this fluidity of modern polytheism gives one important vision to the micronational context: culture.

Sacra Flameno


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