Sun gods and pious polytheism
Yesterday I went with my ex-husband and his wife to the Episcopal church where he is presently the organist. They have a Christmas morning service in which the sermon is replaced by a carol-sing (a thing which ought to happen more often, if you ask me). The church is a fairly typical Episcopal parish of the Mid-Atlantic/Northeast: Contemporary language in liturgy, progressive theology and politics, a decent balance between good ritual and social outreach. I enjoyed singing the familiar carols, even though my voice is woefully rusty and I stumble over the changes made to texts for the sake of current theology (“pleased as man with man to dwell”, please, not “pleased as man with us to dwell”).
PSVL said to me a while back, before I had made the decision to go polytheist, or realized I already was, that Jesus and Antinous have been friends for a long time. Lately, after more than six months away from any Christian liturgy or devotion, I have been looking at my relationships to Jesus and to the Anglican tradition and coming to see that while I have respect but no devotion for Jesus, I have an aesthetic love for the tradition and genuine devotion to my ancestors within it–a lineage of saints, poets, preachers, musicians, and mystics mostly congregated within the British isles. And so I put an icon of the Virgin and Child on my shrine, went to church with my family, said the prayers, sang the hymns, and received Communion, with a clear conscience.
One thing I did not do, however, was to recite the Creed. That is where I draw the line. From a Christian perspective, I do not believe the propositions of the Nicene Creed, and I will no longer recite it and commit myself to it. On the other hand, from a polytheist perspective, it doesn’t matter what I believe. I was in the sanctuary of a god, one whom I used to worship exclusively, and therefore I did the things one does in the presence of that god, as I was taught to do as a child, and without offending the customs of that congregation. Then, like a good Episcopalian, I went to brunch after the service, to which I was treated as a Christmas gift.
This evening my shrine is alight with candles, fragrant with incense, and laden with offerings of drink and sweets. The icons of Mother and Child and of Julian of Norwich remain enshrined; the former will probably stay out for the twelve days, while Julian is always with me. I feel at peace and a little bit hungry. I wish a joyous celebration of the feasts of midwinter to all.