Devotional Polytheism (Pagan Blog Project, Week 8)

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Galina Krasskova posted an excellent set of blog prompts around devotional polytheism on her blog yesterday. I intend to use them to direct some of my posting here, whether part of the Pagan Blog Project or not. I love the idea, and thank her for sharing it!

For this week, I’ll handle #1:
What wealth have the divinities brought into your life?

That’s a huge question. Can I attribute anything specific to my deities, in terms of wealth? How do I define wealth in the first place? Is it necessary, or even desirable, for deities to bring me wealth? Do They do it all, or am I also responsible for some of it? I could blog for a long time….

For my purposes here, I’ll define wealth as ‘an abundance of a thing,’ and leave it open-ended; and I will not get into the question of whether or not deities are obligated to bring me wealth, if I have responsibility for it or not, etc. Let’s just talk about the basic concept.

Yes. I do believe my Egypto-Thracian deities have brought me wealth. They have done so in a number of different ways, too, starting even when I was a child and continuing to today.

They brought me spiritual wealth in the sense of opening my mind and my horizons to the beautiful, diverse world of Spirit. In recent years, I realized that I was experiencing Egypto-Thracian deities long before I was practicing a strictly Kemetic religion, and that They were the ones Who introduced me to  other gods and spirits that I needed to get to know along the way. (Thank You.)

They also brought me ancestral wealth – both my father’s bloodlines and my mother’s go back to lands that are defined as Thrace (northern Thrace on my father’s side, and Macedon on my mother’s). Through getting to know these divinities, and allowing Them to be present in my life, They have connected me back to my ancestors – and vice versa. It is humbling, and something incredible, to know that my ancestors and my gods are both part of a big circle or cycle that keeps us together.

In terms of monetary or material wealth, I’m not sure They’ve done much there – but then again, I don’t think I ever put that on Them. I have never expected my deities to function as giant gumball machines in the sky that hand out goodies when I ask. (That doesn’t mean I wouldn’t accept some material assistance from the Powers, of course…)

I’ve also received a wealth of work (in getting to know Them), a wealth in friendship and family (from the people whom They have connected me with over the years), and a wealth in lots of positive things for my own life, from confidence and protection to joy and delight in Their service.

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Delay, Discernment, Disappointment, and other D words (Pagan Blog Project Week 7)

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Delay happened with this week’s Pagan Blog Project. I was at a conference, and thus was unable to get online. So there’s the first “D” word this week. (Damn.) (there’s another!)

Secondly, I was going to write about discernment this week. Anything I would’ve said could not have been said as eloquently as it’s already been expressed by Tess in her post on discernment this week, so I will encourage you to go read it right here.

Disappointment is a big D word for me right now. Big things in terms of my personal growth were supposed to happen this weekend, and due to unforeseen circumstances, they didn’t. It’s hard not to read between the lines and wonder if there are bigger things at work, but I just have to disengage (more D words!) and let things go. My job now is to accept and trust that there were larger reasons at work, and that when things are ready to happen, they will. Not an easy thing to do, when you were really looking forward to the experience. But it’s all there is.

There’ll be a better D post on Friday. I promise.

Catching up (Pagan Blog Project Week 6)

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Things have been rough for me offline, with a family death followed on instantaneously by starting a new program at my new grad school, and now preparations for a weekend of lecturing and conference/work. I am sorry to have been behind, and hope to get caught up with all of you soon.

Since my brain has no space left for a new topic, I’ll catch up by sharing links to some interesting things I’ve been reading lately, that you might want to read too. I’ll be back next week with something far better for topics beginning in “D.”

1. People are starting to meet each other in person (gasp!) with this Pagan Tea Time thing. Back in the day I was one of the progenitors of a “Pagan Tea House” on the AOL network. Loving both that people are using a similar name for the idea, AND that they’re getting to know each other as human beings and not just words on screens. Keep it up.

2. In this post, Oracle talks about ritual as a “love letter to the Gods.” I could not like this post enough.

3. The difference between purity and perfection, beautifully stated, by a Kemetic Orthodox priest.

4. Even if you don’t like rain or children, this will give you life. Or it should.

5. On conversion and appropriation, or what happens when the religion you once appropriated starts appropriating you….

6. Respect the divine weapons, even when they are aimed at you. (I love me some Hanuman!)

7. On compassion and unification (or, more blessing and less smiting)

8. Have a good week and we’ll talk soon!

I’m not the only one who thinks this way

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In relation to my recent posts concerning polytheism, monotheism, and the influence of the latter on the former lurking like a black hole around the periphery of contemporary polytheism and Paganism (here and also here), this came up in my reading for a class this evening, and I decided to share.

“It may be stressed that neither the number of deities worshiped, nor the absence or presence of definite (and carefully worded) answers to the eternal and unanswerable questions of man separate decisively a polytheistic from a monotheistic religion. Rather, it seems to be the criterion of a plurality of intellectual and spiritual dimensions that sets off most of the higher polytheistic religions from the narrowness, the one-dimensional pressure of revealed religions. Instead of the symbol of the path and the gate, which may be taken to be the ‘kenning’ of monotheism, a primeval, inevitable, and unchanging design or order (dharma, rta, shimtu) organizes the multifaceted structures of polytheistic religions. They are characterized by the absence of any centrality and by a deep-seated tolerance to shifting stresses, making possible the adaptability that such religions need to achieve their millennial lifespan. It is open to serious doubt whether we will ever be able to cross the gap caused by the difference in ‘dimensions.’ … Western man seems to be both unable and, ultimately, unwilling to understand such religions except from the distorting angle of antiquarian interest and apologetic pretenses. For nearly a century he has tried to fathom these alien dimensions with the yardsticks of animistic theories, nature worship, stellar mythologies, vegetation cycles, pre-logical thought, and kindred panaceas, to conjure them by means of the abracadabra of mana, taboo, and orenda. And the results have been, at best, lifeless and bookish syntheses and smoothly written systematizations decked out in a mass of all-too-ingenious comparisons and parallels obtained by zigzagging all over the globe and through the known history of man.”

From Ancient Mesopotamia: Portrait of a Dead Civilization, by A. Leo Oppenheim (pages 182-3).

More on the black hole

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Note: this post is an extension of, and reference to, a post I made Friday as part of the Pagan Blog Project I’m taking part in this year. You can read that post by clicking here.

There hasn’t been much conversation on my blog itself, but elsewhere, I’ve seen a bit, about what I’ve had to say. Thank you to those who took the time to read, and to comment. I was writing very early in the morning after a long week with a death in the family. This is not an excuse for ¬†places where I left out important parts of my argument, in any way. It is an explanation of why that happened, and why I’ll write some more here, in the form of response to very good questions that were raised.

But Agi, monotheists do rituals too.
This was the most common response to the article, both from monotheists and from Pagans and/or polytheists. It seems there is a difference, and it still seems like that comes down to whether or not said Pagans are living in the proximity of the monotheistic black hole; nobody’s broken that theory of mine (yet; I’m secretly hoping someone will). And it is true. Some monotheists are exceptionally good at rituals. Islam and Catholic Christianity are excellent examples of monotheisms with an intense ritual focus. The main difference is that those rituals come from two places. Either they are pre-monotheistic rituals that were folded into monotheism as it took hold (now there’s a subject for its own blog for the next, oh, 5000 years), or they are rituals provided for the monotheism’s use by the instructions/scripture given by the god to its people, as in the case of Islam’s five pillars.

The difference between polytheistic ritualizing and monotheistic ritualizing is that the former is done to participate in the same world with the gods: to celebrate with Them, to ask Them for help, to acknowledge Their presence at all levels of the world, seen and unseen. Polytheistic ritual is done explicitly to reinforce both the gods’ presence in creation, and to deepen a two-way relationship between the gods and humans in the created world. It does not require belief to be effective. It does not negate the existence of other gods who might not be served by a particular ritual, and while it can have personal benefit for the individuals who practice it, that is neither its main purpose nor its focus of existence.

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