October 20, 2015

Oh, Tumblr

I've started following more pagan/polytheist/witchy types on Tumblr. This may eventually turn out to be a bad idea, but for now it's interesting.

There are a couple of themes I keep seeing in questions from people who are new to paganism/polytheism and witchcraft, respectively, and both of them puzzle me every time.

The first one tends to be something like "Am I allowed to worship gods I don't have a close relationship with?" Variations include "Am I allowed to worship a lot of different gods?", "How can I form a close relationship with this god because I feel like I ought to have one?", "Am I allowed to worship this particular god even though I am not part of the major groups they're the patron of?"* All of it seems to boil down to "How do I polytheism?" Which is fine. Nobody is born knowing how to worship. But it seems to me to essentially not quite understand what polytheism means on a practical level.

Polytheism means believing in the existence of many gods. Lots of 'em, all over the place. And you can worship them. You get to worship them.

It worries me a bit that people are... afraid of this. That they feel like they need to ask permission of people to worship. (If a god doesn't want you worshiping them, rest assured they'll let you know.)

The other question tends to be something along the lines of "What are the different kinds of witchcraft?" or "Am I allowed to call myself a green witch?" or "Is there such a thing as a $DESCRIPTOR witch?"

These questions all seem to think that there exists some list of Kinds Of Witchcraft, which is The Authority, and that they have to conform to the standards of this Authority in order to be witches.

But, of course, witchcraft is a term for a wide variety of magical practices, typically low or practical magics, not ritual high magics. People pick adjectives to stick on the front of their witchcraft, but all it is is a descriptor. If you do witchcraft, you are a witch, and you can describe your witchcraft however you like.

In both cases, what worries me is that people seem to think there is some Authority or some One True Way that they must follow. It's simply not true, and it's a dangerous idea. If you want to join a tradition with a One True Way or an authority, then go talk to them, but there's no such thing for polytheism or witchcraft in general.

*Edited to add a note: Someone mentioned to me that this question might be a concern about cultural appropriation, which is of course something to avoid. But I was thinking specifically of questions from people who were already starting to practice Hellenic religion, and wanted to know if they were allowed to worship Hera even though they weren't married, or Apollo even though they weren't artists or doctors. This is not a matter of cultural appropriation. Hellenic religion in general encouraged everyone to worship, pray, make offerings, etc, to whomever you like. People were supposed to pay extra attention to the patrons of their occupation, age, gender, or other things, but weren't constrained from following anyone at all. Certain cultic groups might only admit you to their services or rites or mysteries if you were part of their group -- a guild of potters who held special rituals in honor of Athena, say, that only allowed potters in -- but nobody would try to stop you otherwise.