Faith(s) + Respect

I’m pretty openly not-Pagan. I left that label a lot later than I should have, considering I had most nothing in common with the majority of Pagans I met and had ceased to share anything like common practice years ago. When I did leave the umbrella, it was for a simple reason: there wasn’t room for me under it – or, rather, I would have to change everything about myself to fit. Awa puts it very poetically:

I’m tired of stepping into the umbrella to discuss Big Important Matters of the Community. I don’t feel like a member of it at all and the umbrella has massive gaping holes when I step under it. And there isn’t a way to patch it. It’s too late, the fabric was ripped and shredded by those who stood under it decades before me.

Thankfully, though, this post is not going to focus entirely on the whole Pagan debate (which happened before I was born…and after…and will probably continue after I die), partially because no one listens to each other. Rather, my thoughts concerning that were stirred from the recent discussion on multi-faith practices, which is where I find myself meditating now.

I think of myself as pretty solidly polytheistic. No matter what I do (religiously or not), I approach it from a polytheist and/or pluralist point of view. This can make religious discussions very difficult, and there’s no end to the times I’ve been told that I don’t really believe what I believe. Predictably, the frequency of that caused me to withdraw from practicing with others. I’m not involved in any offline religious communities. I’m not sure I want to be.

That doesn’t mean I only practice one sort of devotion, however. I’m a polytheist and I worship many different gods, and I don’t worship them all in the same way. The Four Gods receive very different devotion than Antinous and friends. This has never seemed dual-faith, though. Rather, it seemed the sensible approach to different deities with different expectations, origins, and needs. It is quite likely, I think, that I see no divide in my faith because there is nothing in either of those devotions that requires a division of my faith. I am still, through them all, a polytheist.

Where I encounter issue is those paths that I am interested in but which would require me to shift, ignore, or water-down my polytheism. Monism and I are bad friends and worse bedmates, and no matter how much I wish to be involved with certain groups I find it problematic (at best) that I would be unable to fully live my faith. I suppose in this way I could certainly not be a member of two faiths.

Ultimately, I find that I place my gods first and foremost in this issue. Where they lead, I go. (Well, there are certain reservations, but.) When I feel that my duties or obligations to my gods are being stepped on or tossed away because they’re difficult to deal with or make people uncomfortable, I make scarce. This can happen in a group regardless of what they identify as – Pagan, polytheist, Heathen, what have you. The issue has always been respect, for me, and whether I (and my gods) are being respected. Of course, it’s required here that I point out that I don’t expect my gods to be believed in the same way I believe in them or even to be believed in at all, but that the restrictions and obligations they have given me are treated as real and not scoffed at.

And it is likely that I don’t view myself as a multi-faith person because my faith – my experience of the gods – has always been polytheistic. In this way, I am very much a person of one faith.

Some Thoughts on Polytheism
Basics: the Clarene (Mundane)
Basics: the Clarene (Values)
Happy 5th Anniversary
About Aine

Aine Llewellyn is a 20 year old girl creature currently mucking about in southern Arizona. She enjoys the winters and rain but can’t stand the heat. She is a difficult polytheist that natters on and on about her faith.

  • Soliwo

    The word ‘multi-faith’ sounds very odd to me to begin with. One can have multiple religious allegiances/ memberships and these may be conflicting. But I would not describe this as ‘dual-faith’ in any way. One’s personal faith (whatever that means in this context, it is left rather undefined as of yet) is usually not self-contradictory as we humans tend work towards a coherent outlook on life, which in yours (and mine) is based on polytheism.

    What is dual-faith? Even Christo-Paganism doesn’t seem very ‘dual-faith’ to me, I see an entirely new construction. They may participate in both religious communities – which would be rather hard and probably will result in some conflict in one group or the other – but their own outlook does not necessarily have to to be inconsistent. Yet if Christo-Pagan is meant to be equal part Christian and equal part Paganism, literally as dual-faith, that doesn’t seem to be making any sense at all.

  • Jason Mankey

    I’m always confused by “I’m pretty openly not-Pagan” while blogging at Patheos Pagan. This isn’t a criticism, I’m just confused by it. I realize that the whole Pagan=Eclectic Wicca generalization is frustrating, and is probably the reason so many in our tribe (and if you are writing for the tribe and being read by the tribe . . .) want to leave the term behind, but you are here. I don’t see why the generalization has to matter, write stuff, just don’t use the word Pagan in it.

    I can’t help but think that if you and I sat down and had a real conversation that we’d find a lot to agree about. Sure, we might not ritualize the same way, but I’m sure we’d have an interesting talk about our gods and find a lot of common agreement.

    There are a lot of us Pagans who are multi-faith. You see a lot of Druid types who are also initiated Witches, and initiated Witches who work with the OTO, and Witches who do (authentic) Hellenic style rituals. I think Paganism has always been at least “multi-practice” if not multi-faith. The great thing about Modern Paganism is that you aren’t boxed into only one belief system

  • Aine

    [edited]Again, as I stated in the article, it boils down to respect each and every time – and that includes respecting how people identify. Regardless of any other factors.

  • P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

    I very much agree with you here, Aine.

    When people ask me what my religion is, I don’t say I’m the founder of the EA (I generally identify as a “member” of it first and foremost!), or that I do CR, or anything else: I say I’m a polytheist, and I also happen to be an EA member, an NA member, a CR practitioner, and so forth. I approach Shinto from a polytheist (as opposed to monist or monotheist…and yes, some people do that, strangely enough!) perspective, and likewise Hinduism (though not all Hindus do, and some even argue that Hindus aren’t polytheists), and likewise Christianity, Islam, and Judaism, and any and every other religion I encounter as polytheistic. That fits my experience, my understanding of the term and its most prevalent usages, and thus it’s my identifier.

    I hate it when I am dealing with a group or an individual who then tries to tell me that my gods really aren’t what they are, or that my experience of them is in some way “flawed” because I’m not seeing the monistic underlying “REALITY” of everything, etc. We are similar in being bad friends and non-viable bedmates with monism, thus! ;)

  • Aine

    Indeed! After all, it would be just as rude and presumptious for me to say, ‘No, you’re not ~really~ a monotheist, cause there isn’t ~really~ just one god’. Trying to shove my belief at another person is not cool :/ But somehow, though that is clearly rude, it is ridiculously common to run into the ‘haha you don’t ~really~ think that, do you?’ attitude in Pagandom.