So the main reason why I’ve been missing in action (as I mentioned in my last entry) is that I’ve been training for a new job for the past three weeks. Today, I got into a short conversation with one of my training pod friends who asked for a link to this blog; I’d mentioned it earlier in the week. I’m actually writing this post on my break, because they asked me a question that people have actually been encouraging me to talk a little about recently (mostly my husband, but it’s come up in a few Discord servers that I’m on, too). That question was:
“What drew you to polytheism (or at least the subject of it)?”
So, what drew me to polytheism…? Good question. I’ve thought about why I became a polytheist - and I’ll talk a little about that - but I’ve never really thought about what piqued my interest in the first place. Something that I’ve not talked about on this blog is that for the first sixteen years of my life or so, I was Protestant. My mother is Born Again and was raised in the Brethren Church as well as Greek Orthodoxy, and all through my childhood - and especially in my teenage years - she was very openly religious and condemnatory of “non-Christian” actions. I wasn’t anywhere near as devout as she was, but my Christianity meant a lot to me, and I really tried to live by the tenets of Church of Scotland Protestantism.
Where my approach to religion now really deviates from my approach to religion then is in the reverence, and I suspect this is probably the root of why polytheism works for me. As a Protestant, I had a constant sense of guilt in the pit of my stomach. I had gay friends, and I couldn’t imagine why the God I believed in could punish and hate such wonderful people. I remember my first minister, who is a good family friend and one of the best people I have ever met… but he would read from The Book of Revelations every Sunday, to the point that even when I had stopped being Christian, those media scares of “the end of the world has been predicted today” still made me feel sick to the stomach with fear. Just in case I had made the wrong choice.
I also felt a constant drive to prove myself, which I don’t feel as a polytheist (at least, not to such an extent). My parents chose not to baptise me, instead leaving me to make the decision in adulthood when I felt that I was, I don’t know… properly dedicated to God. They never feared that I wouldn’t because it could not occur to them that I would be anything but.
As it is, I am dedicated to a God… just not the one(s) they expected.
Anyway, the point is that this is something that I wanted for myself as well. I went to Christian rock band concerts (don’t laugh) with my youth group, and I cried afterwards because I had not been “taken by the holy spirit” in the way that others had been. I couldn’t find that zen, what I now think of as trancing; I didn’t have that connection to their God. I wanted to be baptised, and I argued that I should be, because I thought that it would fix everything. (And as a side note, in any religion - making big, grand gestures that you are not ready for will never fix anything. Be patient, put in the work, self-evaluate whether the path is right for you.) And I wasn’t, and it didn’t. There was no magic wand to wave.
And when things in my home life began to dissolve around me, I found myself growing bitter and tired. I had put in all of this work; I had taken three steps forward, and my God had taken none at all. Why was he letting things happen? Why wasn’t I seeing the rewards of loyalty to the creed? (Something, too, that I now know is flawed thinking… but I was young, and hurting.) TL;DR I lost my religion, and when I went to university and getting out of that stressful situation didn’t suddenly make things better I felt like I was lost at sea, looking for something to believe in but unwilling to let religion back into my life.
So this isn’t really the question that I was asked, but I think that it’s the context. Because it was at this time that I met the man who is now my husband, a self-professed “heathen”. And he talked quite gloriously, I’ll admit, about Thor and Odin, and his Gods, and the stories and folklore. And I had always been interested in folklore and mythology, but it wasn’t until talking to him that I realised that stories can also be real, or not real but just as important as if they were. And here was my then-friend holding up a model of religion where the gods didn’t seem to have any commandments and quite often did things like fuck up and invent the net then immediately transform into a salmon.
Which sounded pretty nice to me. A faith system without any major expectations of me and where I could kind of make up the traditions as I went along? (I came to polytheism through one rather reckless bit of spiritwork, and then some frantic research in the Witchblr community of tumblr. So, Deerpocalypse and Spongecakegate and all of that.) Sign me up
There’s something kind of liberating about the vastness of polytheistic systems, as well as the cultural diversity. I work pretty much exclusively with the Norse Pantheon, but I know people who work with the Norse, the Greek/Hellenic, the Kemetic, the Gaelic, the Welsh, unknown gods with unfamiliar titles… and we all call ourselves polytheists, in some way or another. Or we use more general terms that fall under the same umbrella, and that's absolutely fascinating as well. Because modern polytheism - of the sort that I practice - is very much the result of convergent cultural shifts. We don’t need to send letters or make telephone calls to talk about our Gods anymore, and so more people are coming to consider polytheistic contexts outside of their local norm.
I also feel more involved with my Gods as a polytheist than I ever did as a Protestant. I talk with them; I don’t just pray when I need something, or because somebody tells me that I’m supposed to. I do things for them; they feel like anybody else I know, where if I see something that reminds me of them, I’ll pick it up as a gift, or such like. I learn from them; not just from studying ancient texts, but from getting involved with other polytheists, and by picking up books on topics that I didn’t think had any relationship to polytheism but which completely change my point of view. And I am a student of mysteries and a storyteller, at heart.
There is no “proper” way to become a polytheist, but I think that curiousity drives me to become a better one. It put me on a path that allowed me to find something to believe in while also believing in the development of the self, and it made me religious again without feeling guilty.
So how about you, readers? How did you become a polytheist? If not (or if so) what draws you to polytheism? Why is it important to you, and what interests you?