The Simplicity of Polytheism
Polytheism is very, very simple. It really is. One is a polytheist if one believes in many Gods as individual, distinct Holy Powers – i.e. Gods – with agency and Being external to humanity. In other words, if you have One real God, and you add Another, and then Another the answer to how many Gods you have is a pretty simple equation: if you answer less than three you’re not a polytheist. There is a corollary to this: it is our place to venerate the Holy Powers. That’s it, that’s what makes a polytheist but it’s apparently a very difficult equation for some people to master. That’s ok. I always had trouble with math too. Not everyone is equally gifted.
Humanist-friendly writers today, many of them on Patheos are attempting to sub-divide polytheism into categories: devotional, relational, etc. The reason behind this is partly to force a fracturing of polytheistic traditions and partly to allow those who have zero belief and/or zero veneration of the Gods entry into a body of traditions. That is the sticking point, you see: those who understand that in restoring polytheism we are restoring a body of traditions and those who have utterly no comprehension or respect for that fact and want to force the dissolution of traditions in favor of a pseudo-spiritual mish-mash. It’s not enough for those who aren’t polytheist to practice and build their own traditions well, they must force ours open to their “ministrations.”
There is only one polytheism: that which acknowledges the Gods and venerates Them. All polytheistic traditions are at heart both relational and devotional. To imply that they aren’t is not only incorrect but remarkably uneducated in what polytheism actually is. Of course to educate oneself, one would have to talk to those working within polytheism, listen to them, and stop attempts to define our religious identity out of existence.