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.