Pausing Polytheist Practice

Pausing Polytheist Practice October 1, 2014

Christianity places an emphasis on a “relationship with Jesus;” it privileges that relationship above all other relationships. Christianity and monotheisms also see the physical world in need of domination and/or subjugation and/or stewardship; the physical world is most certainly not one to be in relationship with. What polytheism and witchcraft have been teaching me is the reality of a complex web of relationships that exist between me, communities, spirits, deities, and other other-than-human entities. (I prefer other-than-human to non-human, as the latter wording still privileges humans in an either/or connotation, rather than the broader and more open descriptor of the former.)

In the last few years I have been re-evaluating my existing relationships with human friends and family. I’ve been assessing just how I make friends and what kinds of people I seem to attract and pursue. This has been a painful, isolating, uncomfortable, lonely, and ultimately liberating process. Kali has been an instigator, ally, and comforter for me in this process.

While in meditation during Kali puja last night I had a flash of insight. This morning I stumbled upon a brilliant blog post by Anomalous Thracian on polytheism and relationship, which added more juice to the stewing. Among the many lucid things The Thracian says in his post I found this particularly insightful:

Not all relationships in polytheistic religious devotions or practice will be direct and transcendent or descendant or two-way-communicative. Not everyone has to be able to talk to the spirits and have them talk back, or use their well-polished “god-phone”5 to dial up every pantheon in the phonebook. …It needs to be clear that just as there is an enormous amount of diversity in the gods themselves — because poly- means many! — there is a huge and myriad selection of ways to be in aware relationship with them… and with ourselves, and our spirits, and the land around us.

Ain’t those words the truth!


I am hard on myself, in just about every aspect of my life. I expect a lot out of myself, my life, and my relationships. Mostly this works in my favour, though not always. Sometimes the joy comes when I back off and stop taking things so seriously. Occasionally that is needed even in my spiritual work.

So as I sat in meditation before Kali at my altar I realized I need to re-evaluate my relationships with my gods just as I’ve been doing with my human relationships. Here are some of the questions I am asking myself:

Is this relationship mutually desirable? Mutually beneficial? Am I chasing the gods? Do I need to work so hard? If so, why? If not, why am I doing that? How am I being treated by this god? What are they asking of me? Is it desirable and/or possible at this time? Ever? Why am I honoring this god? Is it because they are flashy and cool? Am I avoiding them? If so, why?

I’ve decided that when Navratri ends on Friday night, after my final Saraswati puja, I am going to take a break from my devotions and religious observances. I’ll start up again at the end of the month when the Samhain season begins. I want to see what occurs in the spaces when I am not observing. What thoughts come up? What do I hear? What happens to the relationships I’ve been building? I want to make sure my intentions are healthy.

I’ve already told Kali I plan to do this. “It’s not you, it’s me. This isn’t a break up, I just need some space to figure things out right now.” You know, just like people do in relationships.


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  • This post really speaks to me. Thank you!

  • Wow–those questions are utterly different from any I would ask inwardly. That’s not to say that they are wrong questions, but I am struck by how much they are not my questions. Maybe it’s my stage of life (empty nester, established marriage) but these are not questions that I can relate to right now.

    “Is this relationship mutually desirable? Mutually beneficial?” As with my marriage these questions seem to have settled out for me some time ago. Likewise, a question like “Why am I honoring this god? Is it because they are flashy and cool?” seems like an old question, not relevant to where I am right now.

    The analogy with my marriage seems to me to be a good one. Because, as with an established human relationship, it does still matter, asking questions about the health of the relationship. But for me, at least, the questions are different than the ones I asked when my relationships were new–more about checking up that we are still attending to one another, not growing stale.

    Thanks for making me think.