This is the third in a series of posts in which I discuss four terms that polytheists use to distinguish gods from archetypes: "real", "literal", "separate", and "agents". In this post, I want to address the position the the polytheistic gods are separate from us in a way that archetypes are not.
I have heard hard polytheists come up with all sorts of words to distinguish their gods from Jungian archetypes. The gods, they say, are "real", "literal", "individual", "distinct", and "separate"; they are "persons", "beings", "entities", or "agents". The archetypes, it is implied, are none of these things.
Do ut des means “I give so that you may give.” It is one of the defining points of Roman polytheism, and it is the most important. It is in these 3 Latin words that we can lay out how the Romans viewed their Gods. It is in these 3 Latin words that we can lay out a different approach than what we likely grew up with in regard to relationships with the Gods and society as a whole.
Ask someone in the Pagan community about Roman polytheism and you will regularly hear that it was contractual to the point of lifelessness. Actually, ask a lot of Roman polytheists the same, and they will repeat that statement as well, preferring to take the outdated tone of early scholars of the Roman religion, who regularly were Christian and carrying on a long tradition of upholding their perceived superiority through biased writing and opinion.
What does it mean for old gods and their worshippers when the old gods are given new faces and personas in pop culture media?The recent upswing in portrayals of old mythic figures in pop culture (think of the Marvel movies, comic books like The Wicked and the Divine, TV shows like Supernatual, books like The Gospel of Loki, etc.) has put modern practitioners, especially polytheistic pop culture practitioners like me, in a bit of a quandary.What do you do when you’ve been working with a deity for years and suddenly a character with their name, but a whole new mythology and personality, becomes a pop culture sensation?If you’re introduced to a mythic figure via a bit of pop culture can you work with the old god with the same name?It can be more than a little confusing.In this article I’ll try and clarify a few points and, hopefully, soothe a few ruffled feathers.
In this post-Enlightenment world of science and rationality, we’re used to being able to label things cleanly and clearly, to separate them into distinct levels and groups and individual pigeonholes. And we tend to become uncomfortable when we can’t do that with any given subject. But the mindset in the ancient world wasn’t always so clear-cut. Both/and thinking was common, as opposed to the either/or thinking that dominates modern society. Sometimes it’s helpful to be able to hold several different ideas in your head at the same time, to accept the complexity of a situation as a positive rather than a negative. That’s the case with the ancient Minoan pantheon, thanks to the fact that the Minoans were henotheistic rather than cleanly polytheistic.
So what on earth does henotheism mean? It’s not a word you hear very often, even among the kinds of Pagans who like to get into academic discussions. The term was coined by the German philosopher Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph von Schelling in the late 18th or early 19th century as a criticism of the versions of monotheism that included both a supreme deity and lesser forms of divinity such as saints or lower gods. His idea was that ‘pure’ monotheism, the kind that denies the existence of the divine except for the single focal deity, is superior to other types of religious belief. He criticized the Vedic religions (Hindu and its variants) for professing that all the lower gods emanated from The One (Atman) and were reflections of that original unity.