Can polyteism and Wicca overlap?

That's a question! The topic is so big, one can write a book about it. My intention is not to write a book about it, reason being that my answer to this question is that I simply don't know the answer. 

The problem of it is (as well as many other questions that has a word 'Wicca' in them) that understanding of the divine is vastly different between traditions and individuals, even if we talk only about the Wiccan world itself. When it comes to basic practices and principles of doing things, one can always say something general that is pretty much applicable to any particular lineage or coven. But when it comes to the beliefs in the Gods, one has to be much more careful. The reason behind this is, that in my view Wicca teaches you how to do things, but the way one interprets them is up to him/her. Who are the Gods and what are they? Question just as complex as the question "Who am I?". One does not simply find the answer in The Book of Shadows.

What I do know however is what are my opinions on an overlap of Wicca and polyteistic world view. More precisely, how do I percieve the divine. The reason why I want to elaborate on this issue using the basis of Polyteism vs. Wicca contrast is one specific observation. It seems to me that from all the possible ways of understanding the divine principles there are two particular ones that are often subject to heated debates and clash on regular basis. The question that best defines this contrariety could be put like this. Are all the Gods and Goddesses different faces of one God and Goddess (often a description for Wiccan beliefs), an ultimate divine principle or are they individual divine beings (an opinion I call a polyteistic paradigm)?

I think many of us spent lot of time thinking about this. I did too. Worshipping the Gods, doing sacrifices, conducting the rituals to their honor, enjoying their living presence and inviting them to our lifes and our hearts is the best answer I was able to come up with so far. However let's have a look at the second best answer, an answer that can be shared among us via internet.

I noticed that both paradigms often misinterpret each other and they are sometimes even used to invalidate different paths or to provide a feeling "we know it better". I have seen and heard quite a few proponents of both paradigms describing their view of the divine. There are few statements that often repeat themselves and several assumptions being taken as a definite.

Those  who are of the opinion that Gods and Goddess are various aspects of one God and one Goddess (Wiccans, ecclectics, Dianics, etc.) seem to perceive this opinion as the ultimate esoteric truth behind all religions, implying that all Gods and Goddesses are essentialy the same. Ofthen this 'same' has a name. The problem with this assumption is that it is being taken as standing above religion or transcending it. The logical consequence of this is that those individual religions that are transcended by this 'truth' are then necessarily below it and unenlightened. Their adherents are therefore living in delusions, not knowing the 'mystery' that their Gods and Goddesses are parts of some Great God and Great Goddess of someone else. Often someone they never even seen in their entire life. This might seem as an example of blasphemy if there was such a thing within Wicca, but in my opinion this way of seeing it needs to be given some thought.

First off all because many of these people are pagans as well, and therefore our potential friends and allies. How would I feel if someone told me that my Gods are just aspects of his God and that it's just my lack of spiritual insight that prevents me to see the obvious truth? Nothing special, I know. I would simply not be interested in his proselytising and eventually walk away. All of us who share this opinion do this mistake from time to time and to me it is the biggest weakness of it - the assumption that this is somehow more true than other interpretations.

I myself have no problem with this paradigm and there is a large part of me that finds it to be essential for my spiritual way. What I think is one of its best aspectcs is the inspiration towards spiritual goals, the potential to interact with a bigger whole through this and then a certain paralel or link to the animistic paradigm. Animism is a belief that everything has a soul. If all Gods and Goddesses are just one spiritual being transcending all then everything else is this spiritual being too. When we follow this logic further, there is no difference between the Gods and a heap of fresh dung. Or a river. A giant rock, a tree, a flower, the landscape around us. The Moon above it. Or Diana the Moon Goddess, The Great Mother. All this is essentialy a circle for me, in which monotheism and animism are close relatives. It may sound bizzare, I know.

Then on the other hand there is a polyteistic paradigm (wich is shared mostly by reconstructionist and related groups). From its point of view the Gods are separate individuals. Not only is Thor and Odin different from each other and they both have separate identity, but also the Norse Thor and Slavic Perun have separate entity, even though they share quite a few attributes. What I like about this paradigm is that the myths seem to come alive and that it makes the relationship to the divine much more personal and intimate. I am convinced that there is a part of a human being (at least mine) for which it is essential to percieve the divine as having human form, which is something one can easily relate to. In the same time it is polyteistic paradigm that is invaluable when one wants to put his/her spirituality into a context of certain culture. Suddenly all the myths, runes symbols come together and create a unique atmosphere.

The problem with this paradigm however is that it does not have much open space for inclusion of other faces and forms of the individual Gods and for certain questions related to our existence in this universe. The Gods seem to be separated from this world, since they live (in case of Thor and Odin) in their Asgard, not making the question of what is Midgard and how it relates to me easier in any way. Polyteistic paradigm seems to have a tendency to be definite, leaving the question of the essence of human beings and life itself no only un-answered, but even un-asked.

The proponents of polyteistic world view also seem to be very defensive about who and what the Gods are. Ideas such as the Gods being part of our nature and psyche freak them out completely. I have seen many articles and opinions dismissing anything just slightly different from a literal interpretation of mythology. This defensiveness might not be unprovoked, hence the assumption that certain deities transcend other deities, etc. But I see it as one of the biggest weaknesses of contemporary polyteism. I could go even that far that conserving the Gods and making them unchangeable strips them of their divine nature and makes them jump off the train of time and developement of a human race - essentially leaving them in the hands of the past again.

What is my position in all this? I am a practicing Wiccan and a polyteist. I am convinced this is perfectly possible. Why? Because the Book of Shadows does not really tell us what to believe in. Neither have it ever done any Wiccan I have ever met. In Wicca we are encouraged to develop our own understanding of divinity. And so I did. I would whole-heartedly encourage any other to do the same. Because trying to understand the Gods is a fascinating journey. Sometimes they seem individual indeed and sometimes some of them seem to be so big that they encircle the entire universe. There is much to explore in this life.

Yet in the same time I am of the believe that the Gods are the ultimate divine principle. So I acknowledge an existence of such thing as the Greater Divinity, however you want to call it. But I refuse to label it within myself in any way other than The Gods. Because all of them have an equal right to represent this ultimate divine principle, since they all posess its very essence. Therefore to me the believe that the Gods and Goddesses are made of a primal divine spark equals the one that they are separate entities. This necesarily creates many other questions for me and makes me change how my spiritual practice looks like over time.

It sure is a dynamic thing for me, similar to day and night, winter and summer. The Great Mother is the Mother Goddess of the cosmos, yet in the same time she is one of other Goddesses which I see important in my life and in my understanding of the divine and the universe. Could all the Goddesses be daughters of just one Great Mother? I think so. Could this Great Mother be represented by any of them? I think so. Does this mean that the Goddesses are not independent beings? I think it doesn't. At least I can't see how.

I don't actually believe this question even has an answer that would be independent on it s context. Therefore I don't think my view is better then any other and I am aware of its certain logical inconsistency. I definitely not think I will ever come to a definite answer and I don't even want it. Becasue the very best one is the spiritual life itself and I am more than happy with it. What is easy to comprehend by mind is often far from reality and the essence of a given thing. When it comes to politics, sicence, daily life, driving a car, I am fine with comprehensive schemes. When it comes to the Gods, I prefer life in its complexity.

So. The simple answer to the original question would be: In my case, pretty good. And how do you see the Gods?

1 comment:

  1. Well, I feel polyteistic gods as a very personified emanations of something, what we can call Gaia, JHVH, Nature, Universe ... whatever you want. These emanations but also has, thanks to the worshipers, very specific personality, so they can be very different. Thats it what you mentioned in comparison Thor and Perun. Yes, they has similar basem but according the plase where they were worshipped, they change their "face".
    The same case is Odin and continental Wotan. Same god, different name, different look.
    We can worship nature, but of course much better for us is worhsip Odin and Frig for example.