My Polytheism Redux

Now that I got some essential bits of political folderol out of the way, let me talk more about #mypolytheism. My polytheism is all wrapped up in death and the Dead. And in Monsters. Pretty dark stuff, I suppose, but somehow I get a good giggle out of it fairly often. And, in truth, I find that these topics buoy me up, lift me above and free, rather than dragging me down. They keep me energized and out of depression. Which I suppose sounds odd to someone who's never practiced deathwork. I feel strange claiming that term, although I suppose it fits. The strangeness comes in here: I always thought deathwork was work about the moment of passing from life into death, in all the many ways that phrase could be taken. And of the many things I have so far undertaken, this is something I have not done. I have not attended a death. I did not attend the death of the grandmother I hated; although I offered to, my family did not want me to come home. I did not attend the death of my "bonus grandmother", my good grandmother's housemate, who had been simply another grandparent all my life. I was not offered the option to go; only her blood relations were, and my grandmother, and I suppose that's fair. (I didn't make it to the funeral either, though, and that hurt. I held an effigy funeral in my backyard.) But deathwork is more than that, and I guess it's what I do. I study the Dead, both the spirits and the history. I venerate the Dead, my Ancestors and others. I study how dying is done in this country, and consider how I want to die in this culture, and am turning to finding ways to make death better in this country. I'm taking power from this. I immerse myself in the traditions of death so that I can write the funeral rituals of a tradition, and I have offered to go myself and perform the funeral rites for any initiate who dies. I hope and plan to train up others to be specialists in the deathwork of my tradition. I do deathwork. I also work with monsters. I work with figures from my Starry Bull Tradition, many of which are pretty monstrous, and which instruct that I should find the monstrous within me. But then there is my work for Hekate, in which I call on the Monsters of her retinue, those who follow her on her long ramblings. The Lampades, Underworld torch-bearing nymphs, who show themselves to me as nine. Empousa, the lamed, crippled, disabled, shape-changing Monster who pursues and never rests. Lamia, a shark Monster, not a snake one, who has had her eyes put out, who waits in the salt sea to devour men and terrify children. Mormo, she of the ten thousand beautiful faces, one of which may even be your own. The Gorgons, three or two or one alone, beautiful monsters with snakes and wings in their hair. They seem to expect that some day I will join them. I worship the darkest faces of Dionysos, and revel in them, even as I revel in his role as Lord of Joy. He's both the terrifying and bloody Bull, and the one who transforms my madness into ecstasy. I worship Hekate, who has frightened so many over the ages. She protects me and holds me close, gives me strength and empowers my choices. Neither of them is balanced or whole without all those aspects of themselves. I am not balanced without all the faces I wear, either. It's not so simple a matter as dark and light. There is strength and joy and comfort in the dark, and there is harm and terror in the light. Nothing is complete without all of it. Nothing is truly polar. It's not even a one-dimensional spectrum. Everything that is real exists in multiple dimensions, has depth and width and height. I find comfort and consolation and fortitude in what others think is dark and morbid. That's my polytheism....

My Polytheism

My polytheism is my own damn business. Your polytheism is your own damn business. #mypolytheism is a thing now, apparently. Polytheists speaking up about what polytheism means to them. That's cool. I went and read a bunch of the entries off this list. Some of them were really interesting. Some of them were really irritating. All of them were totally valid takes on polytheism. A common thread in several of the ones I read boiled down to this: Fuck Gatekeeping. That is, people don't get to say "This is Polytheism, but that is Not." Other than, y'know, the basic definition of believing that many gods are real. And I'm completely with that, and you can take all of that as read. Fuck Gatekeeping. I have no interest in defining polytheism. You identify as a polytheist, that's good enough for me. I don't necessarily want to hang out with you, but then I don't want to hang out with very many people. It's not personal. But here's what my polytheism is, rather than what it isn't. My polytheism is my practice and my belief. And where that overlaps with yours, that's exciting and let's talk about it, and where it's totally foreign, that can be really interesting, too, or on the other hand it might make me want to be elsewhere, but it doesn't really matter what I think, because your polytheism is yours. Don't let anybody take it away from you. And I'll do the same. My polytheism is dedication to my gods, but not necessarily putting them first all the time. Because they don't ask that of me. There have been times when they were essential to my life, even essential to my survival, but there have also been time when they were... not unimportant, but not immediately vital. Times when I didn't keep up a regular practice, but kept believing and loving them. My polytheism, right now and right here, is a daily practice, as much as I can keep it up, and not so much with the festivals and big rituals. I pray in the morning and I pray at night, or else I miss it and am sorry that I did. But right now, that's the core of my polytheism, my practice. My polytheism is worshiping a subset of the gods of ancient Hellas, because I can't manage to worship all of them, and neither can you, but I can worship the ones who matter most to me. My polytheism is my relationships with my gods, and fuck anybody who thinks I ought to have different ones. My polytheism says to help people, is the ways that are given to me to do. Some of them are just put casually in my way, and I try to help. Some of them I have to go find and work actively to do, and I try to help then, too. Because people have equal significance, even if they're not all significant to me, and they all deserve help as much as the people I care about do, even if I can't help them all. My polytheism plus your polytheism plus everybody else's polytheism adds up to not one big polytheism, but to a whole lot of different but overlapping polytheisms. This is what's wrong with the notion of one, singular Polytheist Movement, just as there's not one, singular LGBT Community. Instead, there's a set of polytheist movements, some of them with congruent or at least overlapping goals, but some of them very different. And that's ok, too. We should all follow our own polytheism, find our own fellow travelers, and build our own communities with them....