The Annunciation and True Polytheism

Yesterday, Niki Whiting posted an essay on The Annunciation, the Christian feast commemorating the visit of the angel Gabriel to Mary, telling her she would be the virgin mother of Jesus. Though Niki found she couldn’t remain in Christianity and has found a home in Paganism, she has done extensive study on Mary and feels a particular closeness to her.

The essay (Niki calls it a homily and I think that term describes it nicely) is good and it makes a strong case that for its time the Annunciation was quite progressive in its attitude toward women.

Despite its Christian context, it is a powerful lesson for Pagans: when a god or goddess calls you it’s never a trivial matter. What we are called to do may not be easy and it may not be what we had in mind, but when we say “yes” we allow something to begin that may be world-altering… and we’ll never know for sure until it’s done.

I’m a engineer. I like details. I like plans. I like detailed plans with drawings and timelines and checkpoints and status reports, always knowing exactly where I’m going and how close I am to getting there. It’s the only way to successfully run a large engineering project. But for the past ten years I’ve been walking a spiritual path with only a vague idea of where I’m going. All I knew was what I needed to do today, this week, this season. And so that’s what I did: starting a spiritual practice, reading books, joining a Pagan group and then taking a leadership role, starting studies with OBOD and then completing those studies 5½ years later, starting a blog, attending classes and festivals, serving on the Board of Trustees of Denton UU and of CUUPS Continental, and now studying for formal ordination.

I like where it’s taken me, but I’m not “there” yet. There’s something more out there, something more I’m called to do and be. I can’t see it – all I can do is keep walking towards it. But I know this: if I wait for a detailed plan I’ll never get there. Like Mary at the Annunciation, I need to say “yes” and trust that what I’m called to do is worth the time and effort it will take.

And that brings me to the second thing I took from Niki’s essay. If we are true polytheists, why shouldn’t we treat Christian stories and myths like every other religion and culture’s stories and myths? Why shouldn’t we simply ignore the unsupportable claims of exclusivity and take what wisdom we can find just as we do with Buddhism and Hinduism?

For many of us – myself included – those Christian stories and myths have been coated with harmful doctrines and bad experiences. It has been necessary for me to set them down for many years, to let the bad memories fade. They’re not all gone, and it may be that I’m responding favorably here because the Annunciation was a story I rarely heard growing up in a Baptist church.

But if I’m a polytheist and a universalist, and if I’ve healed and grown enough to be the confident polytheist and universalist I think I am, there’s no reason to ignore this wisdom just because some people think it’s the only wisdom.

I remain firmly committed to my path of Druidry and I remain firmly committed to the Celtic gods and goddesses who called me and who have guided me back to spiritual health. But I think I’m going to take a deeper look at the Jewish and Christian imagery on the Rider-Waite cards at this week’s Tarot class

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