Polemical topics for polytheists (part 13): What do the Gods desire most from us?

First view: The Gods mostly desire offerings, prayer, and devotion correctly and sincerely performed

Second view: The Gods mostly desire appreciation through intellectual reflection and spiritual understanding, whereas ritual and other formalities are less necessary in the modern world

Balanced view: The Gods desire all personal efforts to gain their favor (both intellectual or ritual), but mostly as *a means* to a *greater end*, i.e. their glory and restoration through the growth of communities that invoke their patronage, honor ancestral traditions and provide for many future generations to do the same.

 In a recent discussion that followed a post about the problems of an impious community, there was some debate concerning the necessity of a community and how to attain it. But a point arose then which wasn’t directly discussed, i.e. the most important desires and expectations that the Gods have of us. This is a very fundamental concern for polytheism and all the traditions under it not only because it relates to the Gods intimately, but also because our success or failure depends very much on it. Pleasing a God is always a blessing and the opposite may lead to disaster; as self-evident as this observation may be, it is important to reflect a little more on its implications regarding our way of life and our aspirations in their service. Our movement is quite hopeful, but it is more accurate to say that polytheism will probably rise now or never. In spite of competition from atheism, the conditions are absolutely ripe for a huge revival in most parts of the world that are actively escaping from monotheism. A further concern is there are two possibilities for polytheism rising: it may rise strong or it may rise crooked. The Gods will bless us in the first case, but may very well curse us in the second, if we abuse our opportunity and do not follow what they most desire. So, the question is, what do the Gods most desire? Some believe it is piety and devotion, whereas others choose a more intellectual and less ritual path. As shown throughout the series, neither side is entirely right or wrong, but they both are incomplete and invite adjustment or balance. In this case, the two sides shown above lack a greater purpose beyond the satisfaction of the self and a small group. That is to say, they begin well at the task of pleasing the Gods, but do not actively look forward and prepare for the kind of communal and expansive growth that would please the Gods *most* and secure our future power *most*. I am ashamed of this comparison but wouldn’t a chairman of a commercial business always seek to improve and expand the company’s reputation, employees, factories, partnerships, etc. and therefore reward those who contribute to that effort and *punish or remove* those who do otherwise? I couldn’t help but notice the similarity (I don’t say uniformity) of the competition between one business against another and that of polytheism against monotheism or atheism. Now, although it should really be unnecessary to prove how essential community is for our rebirth and the pleasure of the Gods (one need only look at what the monotheists and indeed Hindus do), I find it quite unfortunate and disheartening that many (and well-meaning people) are choosing solitary paths, as if there is no better choice or greater ambition. This resignation (I cannot call it by any other name) is not only insufficient for our true rebirth and successful competition, but also dangerous because it sometimes causes despair and thus reverses piety. I know several people on Facebook who have considered leaving polytheism precisely because they are alone (hence spiritually weak) and don’t have a real community on the ground to support them. When will all this end? To speak for myself, I will certainly not use my website except as a means towards a greater end, even (hypothetically) if it becomes the best website for polytheism with the most subscribers…Our movement may have been fueled by individualism, but it will never last with it alone; this realization must make us reconsider our current practices and prepare for greater (synonymous with holier) undertakings for the sake of our Gods and ancestors. The mere sight or knowledge of the communities of Hindus and even Wiccans (to mention nothing of monotheists) should make us polytheists far more active and hopeful than we now are in pursuing and expanding the collective interests of our movement and indeed the collective desires of our Gods.

8 thoughts on “Polemical topics for polytheists (part 13): What do the Gods desire most from us?

  1. lornasmithers

    I’d agree that the gods desire both prayers and devotion and also the sharing of intellectual research too. Both bring people to greater knowledge of them in different ways – experiential and academic/intellectual and these go hand-in-hand. I also think we need to work harder to build polytheist community both physical and virtual. Whilst I don’t think it will be possible to build a physical Brythonic polytheist community in my life time as we’re so spread out I certainly think there could be more ways of polytheists of different traditions coming together. The recent Heathen Womens United Conference in Preston proved this is possible.

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    1. Melas the Hellene Post author

      Welcome and thank you for your comment, Lorna. All personal efforts are important for community and where there are differences (as there is bound to be), we resort to pluralism, which I attempted to discuss in the previous part. Nevertheless, when you mention that “a physical Brythonic polytheist community in my lifetime” won’t be possible, I recall how often I had heard the same, and more importantly, why. I believe it is the current fragmentation and individualism that generally makes us think so. Whereas, if people gather together and are resolved to serve the Gods & preserve tradition, nothing can really stop them. Nor is giving up much comfort a condition for it, unlike what we might think. There are people who live in eco-villages because they are determined to escape from capitalism and the modern way of life…Well, to me it sounds far more difficult to go about & prepare than a community of polytheists! The Brythonic languages (beautiful but somewhat endangered) can perhaps become a driving force for a community of polytheists. There are already two such communities I know of in Roscommon, Ireland, where people are raised up in polytheism and with Gaelic as their first language. I have a similar vision in Greece, where such things are unheard of. In your part of Europe at least, revolutionary ideas can prosper better! The Celts will not die, and cannot die, but let us make them grow!

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  2. Euphonia from the River

    I agree community is something we need. Lots of people today live in cluttered, toxic, poorly made, claustrophobic homes and would do much better having a temple to go to to escape an impure and troubled home space. Think of all the people in this urbanizing world who live in cramped neglected apartments. I have a similar problem of rarely wanting to do ritual indoors because I feel it should be much better organized and cleansed both physically and spiritually and being chronically ill and fatigued I cannot clean it as intensively as I would like to do ritual.

    I mostly do offerings in nature, in parks. It’s best to go at night when people are usually not there being busybodies. Nature to me, is sacred and pure, inherently. Just bathing in a river or lake and praying can cleanse you. However, modern pollution with industrial chemicals and blue-green algae in our waterways messed with this and I don’t know how the problem should be addressed and dealt with. What did the druids do to make the groves a sacred space? What made it different from other natural places?

    I think there’s hope in those Pagan multi-use temples where anyone with an “alternative” or Pagan religion to use for rituals. There are a few already but most Pagan org are mystery New Age or Wiccan orgs. Unlike you dear Melas, I am not a primativist type and hope there will be temples we can go to like more popular religions have their place of worship in the community.

    For now I will leave you with this Gaulish poem:

    Beautiful the pages:

    “Beautiful the pages of your book, more beautiful those of my high headed oak.
    Bright the lights of your temple, brighter the silver moon among the trees.
    Good and full of the twelve heads of of the men of your company,
    Better being under the sky, in front of the pure sea of eternal waves.”

    Hail Dea Sirona! 🥚🐕🐍

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    1. Melas the Hellene Post author

      Thank you for your thoughts, Courtney. The beautiful poem adds much grace too! Slantia Dea Sirona! We do concur on the subject of the home being spiritually inferior to a temple for the reasons you describe. Not that the home doesn’t have a sacred space, but a temple will always be more sacred and more necessary for communal worship, without exceptions (the only I can think of is persecution, but that’s not a concern in America or Europe). The home is only the beginning and it cannot be the end. On the other hand, you do well to make offerings in the natural landscape (although you know my thoughts already about indigenous landscape) which are usually free from pollution, but it saddens me that pollution is encroaching there too. The Druids, I imagine, must have selected sacred groves according to ancestral tradition or lore, and surely kept them pure and undisturbed by non-sacred activity at all times. But who said I am against temples? We agree there too, in spite of being a traditionalist.

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  3. K

    It is easy to get discouraged when one has no reinforcement from others. Even the Christians need this constant reinforcement from each other. At least half of them don’t attend church for religion, they attend it as a social function. We don’t really offer any competition to that in most areas. We don’t even provide places for old women to gossip or have bake sales. Really, if we want full scale communities, not everyone in them is going to be a True Believer. Not everyone is going to agree on fine points of metaphysics, religion, or politics. Especially not among nascent communities forming right now that may gain some power in the future. Many would come just because others are there, or because it looks interesting. Or because they like the meals and socialization. Or for dating purposes. Not everyone will be equally pious, and it never was the case even in ancient times that everyone was. This is a reality about people in general that needs to be admitted. This is not to say that it should be all about those things, but that makes up the social factor that most people want.

    Galina values individual piety more than anything else. You want to see a polytheistic society that preserves your culture, and you seem to put that ahead of anything personal. As for myself, I would think that a flawed but stable(key qualifier) community would be better in the long term than a few pious individuals scattered about. Communities of people never satisfy overly high standards, but at least they are something that can be worked on. Long term revival and preservation needs communities.

    Much of what Galina says about communities that do exist is spot on, unfortunately. Political divides, thinly disguised Christianity, atheism, scandals, and all sorts of other problems plague the whole pagan scene. Her interfaith experience and academic background also add to that. She has seen how we get the short end of the stick when it comes to working with other religious groups. It is no wonder she is so weary of it all. I myself have little patience for people most of the time. Becoming a hermit would start to look like the best option when everything else is messed up and hope is dim.

    Me, I am not very social. I am not going to “leave” because I feel alone. Maybe I am a natural individualist. Other people’s approval or disapproval is something I have been indifferent to. I never needed constant socialization or reinforcement from other people. A lot of that stuff seems trivial to me. These people you are talking about that want to “leave polytheism” are not those I can really sympathize with. What exactly do they intend to switch over to? Is it something like changing one’s phone service? I say this in response. Have some resolve. What of the Hellenes that persisted into the Byzantine era? What about all the heathens that had to live through actual persecution? If feeling a bit alone is enough to break you, then an actual trial would be out of the question. Even many Christians have more guts than this. Think of the Catholics who operate in China.

    I know that I would have to compromise on some of my views and on my personal disposition if I were leading a community. If someone came to me with that sort of problem(feeling alone) it might be bad for me to just tell them that they are weak and need to man up, even if I want to say that. It would be tactless to tell them to get out. A more supportive approach would be needed with some people. Same with disagreements about religious matters.

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    1. Melas the Hellene Post author

      Thank you for your very wise comment, with which I agree entirely. You are too correct in mentioning that communities, merely by virtue of being a place of gathering, attract more attention and following, even if people aren’t at first interested in ritual. This is how society operates, and if the monotheists understand it, we must also. Therefore, I’ll certainly second your thought that a stable community is better than none at all, in spite of some impiety. I can sympathize both with Galina and yourself as far as individuality goes, and this perhaps results more from a natural tendency to introversion than otherwise. And here is what I hope I have conveyed by my thoughts above and in the discussion with Galina: I don’t at all deny that individuality can be useful for and within a community. Indeed, the best community leaders and priests are individualists *in knowledge* who also deal with and serve a community *in practice*, and hence contribute their share to the common good, i.e. collective interest. A mutual understanding and social exchange between individualists and collectivists must exist for polytheism to flourish and grow, but I maintain, this can only be done through cooperation within a community. So, don’t be a hermit my friend, but be a druid or a founder of a new community! I am sure you could excel in either or both.

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