Musings on Polytheism

January 13, 2010 at 4:40 am (Uncategorized) (, , , , )

Today in my “Human Image” class at the community college I attend, our professor gave a lecture on polytheism in ancient civilizations. She approached this subject with an almost apologetic, mocking tone. To me, it seemed she was afraid of offending the monotheists in the class (and I highly doubt that anyone in the class is a polytheist) by speaking such “Blasphemy.” I’m not dissing her as a professor. She is s friendly, intelligent woman who is passionate about what she teaches. I just got the impression that she had, on many occasions, been accosted or disrespected by students for even mentioning such ridiculous and ancient ideology.

So, then I got to thinking about polytheism. I’ve always been interested in Greek Mythology (I’m taking another class about Mythology in Literature this quarter.) It just seems like anything goes in these stories. I’m not professing to be an expert on theism of any nature, or mythology, but something just appeals to me in a religion that creates stories about their main god coming to earth as a bull to seduce the ladies. Zeus was quite the playboy, apparently.

I suppose what I like about these gods is the fact that they had human attributes and were thought  to visit Earth and interact with their “subjects” in a fairly routine manner. Back in those days, you always had to be on your toes, because you never knew which god would fall in love with you, and what form he would take to seduce you. Letting your gods experience human emotions such as love, anger, jealousy, regret…..these are all things that make him/her seem more attainable to you. Instead, what we have with our current god is an untouchable force who resides another dimension. He is absent in most human affairs, silently judging, but making special guest appearances to grant a touchdown for a football team (from what I’ve heard, god is responsible for most winning touchdowns. Jesus also pitches in sometimes, when the stakes are very high.)

Another thing that appeals to me about polytheism is that the gods did not provide the moral or ethic blueprint for human kind. They had one rule “Don’t piss us off, and we won’t send a massive flood/earthquake/etc your way.” These gods knew that humans should have the common sense to not act like barbarians. They didn’t need to send down some list of rules that regulated how people should act, think, and feel.

I wonder though, if those trying to please these ancient gods were more cohesive as a people because of their mutual desire to keep the higher beings happy. It seems now most people are “into” religion for the salvation of their own personal soul, not for fear of widespread natural disasters and starvation.

Do you think the world will one day revert back to polytheism?

Also, this is my first post on the ColonelGirdle blog.  I am new to blogging and would appreciate constructive feedback. 🙂 I am still new to the writing for others to read, so I may not yet make my ideas as clear as I’d like.

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2 Comments

  1. ReverendHothoneywater said,

    I have noticed that the Old Testament version of the Almighty Jehovah sometimes shows a tendency toward human foibles: He defends His honor by entering a cosmic bet against Satan, using Job & Job’s family as playing pieces; He haggles with Abraham over how many righteous men must be found in the city of Sodom in order for it to be spared destruction; He loses patience with mankind, decides to drown most earthly life and start-over from near-scratch. Jehovah displays all those emotions you list: love, anger, jealousy, regret. I attribute this to Judaism’s closeness to the ancient polytheism from which it sprang. By the time of the New Testament, God has been revamped into a distant, benevolent presence without discernible personality. Instead, the earthly God-Man, Jesus, now has the personality.

  2. Gorm_Sionnach said,

    Well I happen to be a polytheist, a Gaelic Reconstructionist polytheist as a matter of fact. (I stumbled upon your blog via a Google news alert). I am less familiar with the Hellenic sources and understanding of the mythic narratives of that culture, but there are Hellenistic polytheists who do worship the Hellenic deities, they would likely be able to provide a more nuanced understanding of their tales. Try searching “Hellenisimos” if you’re interested.

    As it happens the major pantheons (i.e. the Olympians, the Aesir, etc.) while being the most apparent (and well known) aspects of the ancient polytheism’s, are just that, one aspect. In the Celtic purview there was a tendency to have more “national” deities (i.e. in Irish mythology the gods, Lugh, Brigid, An Dagda) would have been fairly well known across clan or provincial boarders, however most would have local deities (perhaps a river, a specific tree) or deity who lived within such features (which touches on animism as well), deities associated with a specific trade or an ancestral deity of a particular family. Of course the more exciting narratives were the ones which were eventually recorded, but there was (and is) more to polytheism than just said “national” deities (though to be fair, they do usually form the focus).

    Other than that, a decent entry for a first time blog.

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