American Gods and the Growth of Devotional Polytheism, Part 2: Dilution and Transcendence

American Gods reflected — and probably magnified — a dissatisfaction among many Pagans with popular forms of Paganism. And it offered one possible alternative: literal belief in the gods and devotional forms of worship. Popular Paganism was failing to produce the kind deep religious experiences that many of Pagans craved, and devotional polytheism promised to answer that craving. [Read more…]

American Gods and the Growth of Devotional Polytheism, Part 1: Fantasy and Inspiration

There has always been a close relationship between fantasy and contemporary Paganism, and for the most part, we Pagans are unashamed of it. A work of fiction may open a person up to having a very real experience to which they were not open before. For example, a person might read American Gods and develop an interest in devotional polytheism, from which they proceed to learn more and seek out a direct encounter with the gods. But saying that works of fiction played an important role in the Pagan revival does not deny that it was inspired by powers which transcend the minds of the authors of those works of fiction. [Read more…]

Why I don’t trust the gods (at least not if I’m alone with one)

I think it’s a mistake to assume the gods are benign. The word “worship” derives from the Old English word for “worthy”. I wonder then, why have I rarely seen the question asked whether the Pagan gods are worthy of worship. To put it another way, why should we assume the gods can be trusted? If the gods are paragons of virtue, are they not also paragons of vice? The polytheistic gods, as I understand them, are not necessarily good and they are not omni-benevolent. If the myths are to be believed on any level, the gods are just as flawed as human beings — they just have more power. Why bow down to power, if it is not paired with virtue? One answer perhaps is that the gods should be worshiped because they are — just as nature can be worshiped because it is. Nature is not moral or virtuous, but worship (or reverence) is a natural human response to it. But worshiping something and trusting it are two different things. I don’t ever assume that nature is benign or trustworthy. Why should we assume the gods are trustworthy? [Read more…]

A Devotional Practice with the World at its Center

I realized that devotional practice is not limited to deity-centered religion. There can be an earth-centered or nature-centered kind of devotion too. What I needed was to develop a devotional religious practice, not toward gods, but toward the world. I needed to embrace the world as my Beloved, as my waiting lover. The world is that Divine Other I have been seeking who can draw me out of my ego. And I need a religious practice that will affirm, encourage, and sustain this embrace. [Read more…]

Why I Don’t Call Myself a Polytheist

In the recent debate over my alleged misappropriation of the term “polytheist”, I think something small, but significant got lost in the debate: I never actually called myself a polytheist. The offending post was entitled “(Neo-)Paganism is Paradox”, and it listed nine theological concepts which characterize my Neo-Paganism, including panentheism, polarity, process, and … yes, [Read More…]