Good-bye to all that
I’ve decided I am not going to finish the 30 Days of Polytheism meme. There are only nine more days, but the topics are progressively irrelevant to my practice. There are questions about other paths, faiths, practices I’ve explored, a topic I’ve already covered, and about how “my conversion” has affected my relationships with friends, family, lovers, co-workers. The short answer there is that it wasn’t a conversion, and it hasn’t affected those relationships, except insofar as it has broadened my connections with other polytheists, mostly online.
The notion of conversion implies that you were doing something wrong, and now you’re doing something right. I came to the decision that Christianity was the wrong religion for me, but that doesn’t mean it’s inherently wrong, for everyone, or that it wasn’t right for me at other times in my life. Deciding to worship Antinous did not and does not mean excluding Jesus from reverence, or trading one set of practices for another as you might trade an old uniform for a new one. The inherent nature of polytheism is that no exclusion is necessary. I’ve written Christian religious poetry and druidic religious poetry and now I write devotional religious poetry. I can perform a Green Tara sadhana in Tibetan Buddhist style, pray the Stations of the Cross in Holy Week, and still pray to Antinous and celebrate his holy days with full loyalty and devotion.
What the meme has hightlighted for me, above all, is something I’ve never really understood before: The difference between paganism as a subculture and polytheism as a religion. Please don’t take this to mean that I think anyone who identifies as pagan is not truly religious! I am certain there are many deeply religious people who identify as pagan, not polytheist, or as both. I barely know what’s going on in my own heart and mind, some days, without being able to see into the hearts and minds of others.
But there is a certain aesthetic, a certain ethos, a certain lifestyle which is Pagan, with or without a religious aspect. It’s photos of Glastonbury Tor, not the Parthenon. It’s gauzily clad maidens dancing through lush green forests, not boats gliding along the Nile. It’s Horned Lord and Green Man art, outdoor festivals, folky tunes on the guitar, and crystals, crystals everywhere.
Those things are all lovely, and they can be deeply meaningful. But those things did not help me when I came close to being suicidal. My friends helped me, and my gods helped me–Antinous, and the Tetrad++, and Glykon, the serpent god of prophecy and healing. They saw me through a very difficult time, and for that I am forever grateful.
If there is one misconception about polytheism I would like to clear up, it’s that it must involve having a lifestyle rather than being part of one’s life. I make offerings to my gods and pray to them, and I also hold down a 9-5 job, watch Marvel movies, write fanfic, read about disasters, listen to Baroque music. And if there’s one piece of advice I would give a seeker, it is simply to take the first step. If there is a god or goddess or deity who attracts you, do a bit of research, just so you know who you’re talking to; then wash your hands, make an offering, and introduce yourself. No one refuses clean water or a candle lit in their honor. The gods are always listening for us to speak their names. Speak, and be heard.