Queer I Stand
Populating Polytheist Pantheons: What To Do With "New Gods"
According to ancient Greek and Roman practice, the answer was always to be found in oracular pronouncements. The hero Eunostos of Tanagra, for example, was a human who was wrongfully killed in his community, and whose spirit was terrorizing the community in which this occurred. An envoy was sent on behalf of the community to the Oracle of Delphi, and the Oracle suggested that Eunostos should be reckoned as a hero and given a shrine, which was done, and everything went back to normal, so long as the rules of his cultus and the restrictions upon access to his shrine were observed. I've had several independent confirmations of the divine status of these new deities in my own practice through several oracles I've consulted. (No, this wasn't just a tarot reading or rune-casting; it was an actual oracle who goes and asks questions of a particular deity in a state of oracular trance!) So, that aspect of things seems to be in order . . .
But, I think the major difficulty is one that has been a topic of discussion lately, particularly at Patheos' Pagan Portal: building a temple or shrine. When confirmed by the oracle, Eunostos got his sacred grove; Serapis got his temples in Egypt, and eventually elsewhere as well; Antinous got his holy city and his local societies and associations in the late antique world; and even Glykon got his oracular shrine in Ionopolis. Unfortunately, I don't have the money to build a bricks-and-mortar shrine, even of the 10' x 10' variety, to these new gods at this point. I can narrate their myths easily, and discuss them on my blog, and do rituals to them to my heart's content in my own practices and include others in doing so, and I can encourage others to give these deities form in their own creative arts; but, what else can be done, short of building them a temple? How best does a polytheist who has such experiences as these go about honoring these deities, especially when it is clear that the deities in question have a relevance that is much larger than one's own personal practices?
These are questions that I am currently struggling with, and I suspect that future posts in this column will also deal with it further. In the meantime, I would be very happy to hear your own thoughts, experiences, and discussion on this matter!
It is my suspicion, however, that just as we have seen a drastic growth in the rates of population over the last few decades, and likewise we've seen a significant increase in the number of modern self-identified Pagans and polytheist groups in that time, so too will we start to see an expansion of deities, not only in terms of new aspects of deities that will come into being for our own times and situations, but also of entirely new beings who have never been known in previous human history. It's an exciting prospect, certainly, but also one that needs to be approached with great seriousness and sincerity for our traditions to continue to grow, and for our ideals of pluralism and our theologies of polytheism to be true to their words.
P. Sufenas Virius Lupus is a metagender and a founding member of the Ekklesía Antínoou (a queer, Graeco-Roman-Egyptian syncretist reconstructionist polytheist religious group dedicated to Antinous, the deified lover of the Roman Emperor Hadrian and other related gods and divine figures). E is a contributing member of Neos Alexandria and a Celtic Reconstructionist pagan in the filidecht and gentlidecht traditions. Follow Lupus' work on the Aedicula Antinoi blog.