Developing Polytheist Myths

I love audiobooks, particularly The Great Courses series. They get my gears turning, and sometimes provide inspiration and fodder for ideas I explore here. In listening to Great Mythologies of the World, Chapter 2, I ran across an excellent statement that got me thinking on the role of myths in modern polytheism:

We tend to think of myths as springing fully formed into specific cultures, and most of us think of the ancient Greek myths, as well, Greek. But the Greeks drew heavily from their predecessors and neighbors just as later cultures, especially the Romans, would draw from them. Because of this it is best to think of mythologies as living entities, always on the move, shapeshifting as they pass from culture to culture.

This last sentence is especially important in the context of modern polytheism. It is not enough that we have good translations of our sources for the religions we are reviving. We need new myths to carry us, and those who come after us, forward. We can build on what is there, and I firmly believe we should. The Greeks certainly did not wrap up writing myths after Homer, Hesiod, or Orpheus wrote. There is no reason for us to, either.

What I am proposing is both incredibly powerful and dangerous. Powerful, because we are making deep ties with our Gods, Ancestors, and spirits, and likely tying these myths right into where we live as every ancient polytheist culture and tribe did. It is also incredibly dangerous because it can lead people and communities straight into territory where power playing, delusions, lies, and aggrandizement can wrench myth-making from its holy roots.

I firmly believe that consciously engaging in and acknowledging the making of myths is part and parcel of the future of polytheist religions. We know from following various Holy Powers and Their stories through history that sometimes They accrue stories through a wide variety of ways. Sometimes it is because They tell a poet to write down their stories. Other times a writer collects Their stories into a book. Other times They gain Their stories through absorbing or syncretizing with other Gods, Goddesses, Ancestors, and spirits, and/or each Others’ stories. Any time someone says “I had x encounter with y God and this is what happened” they are engaging in living myth-making. We should not shy away from any of these. We need to actively embrace all of these ways of engaging with, and developing our myths with our Gods, Ancestors, and spirits.

How do we embrace it? We engage in direct experience of the Holy Powers. We write down ours and others’ experiences. We embrace new experiences of our Gods, Ancestors, and spirits that are rooted in our communities, what lore we can trust, and engage the informed discernment available to us in our communities. We meet our Holy Powers where we are, and we go on pilgrimages when we are called. We involve our Holy Powers in our everyday lives, and acknowledge and thank and note when They come through for us, in ordinary and extraordinary ways. To do this, we need to develop better language across the board for doing that. To do this, we need to develop good discernment based in our communities, and not leave that responsibility up to academics unconnected to our communities. We need to be proactive in working to develop standards within our communities for what is accepted and what is rejected to become part of the mythologies.

I use the word gnosis to describe personal experience of the Gods, Ancestors, or spirits. I do not tend to use the term UPG or Unverified Personal Gnosis that frequents reconstructionist circles because the term is often used dismissively or insultingly, and I have never seen its opposite, VPG or Verified Personal Gnosis, used in online conversation. There is plenty of writing on what UPG is and virtually nothing on what is VPG. PCPG, or Peer Corroborated Personal Gnosis is a term I sometimes use to get it across to folks that many people, usually in separate communities, had similar experiences with a given Holy Power. A simple example of this is offering strawberries to Freya. It is something a lot of people have offered to Her well before seeing it written down, and it still surprises some folks who do run into their gnosis written down in books today. A year or two ago, either at MI Paganfest or ConVocation, I ran into a person who had no knowledge this was a generally-accepted understanding of Freya, and was shocked that people around her were nodding their heads and saying “Sounds right.”

My dear friend and Brother Jim Stovall uses a phrase that I hope is on the mind and lips of everyone interested in developing the mythology and our relationships with the Holy Powers: spiritual accounting. He laid out the idea of spiritual accounting in an episode of the Jaguar and the Owl. Jim likens spiritual accounting to a three-legged stool, with the first leg being what stories and myths are already present, and what source writings, archaeology, linguistics, mythology, anthropology, and other sciences has to tell us. The second leg is divination. The third leg is experience accounting. He has gone so far as to set up an Excel spreadsheet of experiences he has had with given Gods, Goddesses, Ancestors, and spirits for how reliable They are, what was asked, and what resulted. His discernment accounts for the understanding that spirits do lie, and we may misinterpret the meaning of a message, or it may be more or less deep than we understand it to be.

If we are to have spiritual accounting for our living mythology, then our first leg needs to first be grounded in what we do know. We need to understand what it is the lore, archaeology, and other academic fields we have available to us have to say, and what the limits of those fields are. We also need a solid foundation in our religion(s) and tradition(s) as they exist. With a basis in what has come before and is now, we can be discerning about what becomes part of the corpus of the myths we carry into the future.

The second leg, divination, requires expertise in the work. It requires the willingness to understand we may not have understood or reified our experiences accurately. A given experience may have just been for us. A given experience may need context we do not have yet, or inspiration for a poet, or another experience to tie it into the mythologies we have before us. Divination requires us to consider that what is most important is that we seek the answer and report what we find without flinching, whether it confirms or denies the entry of experiences into the corpus of myths.

The third leg, experience accounting, is to be honest, truthful, and unflinching in our assessment of our signal clarity with the Holy Powers. It is to be clear in what our understanding was at the time a message was received, how it was understood, and how it was accounted for. It is to engage in active discernment with the Holy Powers we worship, and realize that sometimes information is given to us not because it may be completely truthful, but useful. It is not as if our Gods, Goddesses, Ancestors, or vaettir are not given to subterfuge, lying, misleading, or misdirection. These are part of powerful mythologies, such as the Rescue of Idunna or Thor’s battle of riddles and wits with Alsvin. The point of experience accounting is to see where pitfalls in our communications lie, to see where the Holy Powers may not be honest or forthright with us, and to understand that what we experience and/or receive may give us many windows to understand what does become part of the corpus of myths.

When I use a term like corpus of myths, the image of a great weathered book might sping to mind. That belies the understanding that, until relatively recently in time, most understood their myths orally. It is not my intent that only the written word becomes part of a corpus of myths. Some parts of myths and the practices that come from them should never be written down, such as a myth involved in a secret initiation. Some parts may be useful to write down, as with the previous example, so that those who qualify for an initiation have to know the right phrase, deeper meaning of a piece of mythology, and/or have taken in a key lesson from a myth before approaching to be initiated. Some parts of myths should be as accessible as possible, such as Creation Stories, stories of the Gods, Ancestors, heroes, spirits, etc. that give insight into Them, lessons for us, and/or how we are to relate to Them.

Developing myths, even ones that seem to clash with each other or with the previous sources, may be seen in terms of how mythologies have unfolded in living polytheist cultures. There are many Creation Stories out there, and having more than one Creator God or Goddess has never fazed me. I have space for Odin and Ptah among the Creator Gods. I have space for the four Creation Stories of Kemet and the Creation Story detailed in the Völuspá. I also recognize in the same blow that I am dealing with stories delivered through a variety of hands. Rather than seeing many Creation Stories as wrong, or only one right and the rest mistaken, I see each Story expressing its truth, its understanding, its worldview of the Gods, Ancestors, and spirits.

None of the stories as academia has handed them to us have anything to do with the construction of our religions. We have had to do that ourselves. Academics not of our communities are first and foremost concerned with academia and what each story tells us, has to say, and informs us of, what each story may hint at, and where the limits are in relation to their field of study. What differs us significantly here is that we seek to understand cosmogeny and cosmology so we may understand and live well within the worldview given to us by the cosmogeny and cosmology. Through understanding that worldview well we seek to live in right relationship our Holy Powers.

Developing myths is a process of developing theology. Myths provides the basis to understanding what our Gods are, what They do, Their place in the cosmos, our relationships to and with Them, and what offerings may be accepted by Them. Myths tell us who are Ancestors are, who and what we relate to as Ancestors, what our place as mortal Beings are in the cosmos, what offerings the Ancestors may accept, and what our relationships with Them should look like. Myths shows to us who the spirits are, what our relationships with Them are, Their varied places in the cosmos, what our relationships are, and what offerings They may accept. Again, mythology is not just the Creation Stories.

Myths are found as much in small things as great. The small myths may detail what offerings a God likes, and perhaps why. Stories written down, stories passed down, folklore, and personal experiences all may be part of mythology. A myth may be entirely wrapped up with a locale, such as Dionysus Laphystius with Mount Laphystus in Bœotia. Likewise, a part of mythology may relate to a Holy Power in respect to functions the God has dominion over or functions with/in, such as Lenœus, a name of Dionysus relating to His dominion over and function with the wine press.

For those identifying Athena as a Goddess of a war college like West Point or Athena as being a Goddess of libraries, this too is part of developing a God’s mythology. Where we find our Holy Powers and why, building up not only correspondences but understandings as to why a given Holy Power may look at a place as holy or one They have affinity for, places our understanding of our Holy Powers not only in the past, but in the immediate, the now. Looking for our Gods, Ancestors, and spirits in our modern landscapes is resacralizing our world, providing points of contact between ourselves and the Holy Powers. It also provides us unique opportunities to connect with Them in was our Ancestors may not have.

Shining Lakes Grove, an ADF grove, shows this work in practice quite clearly in their worship of Ana, the name they were given by the Goddess that is the Huron River in Ann Arbor, MI. Per their work within An Bruane they developed links with the Gods particular to their Grove and within the land they work and worship on. Were I to begin work with Ana, I would likely refer to their work and ask them questions on how to develop a good relationship with Her. After all, they have been doing this work well over twenty years. Likewise, they have developed a unique relationship with the land spirits and the Native American Gods that have called this land home.

In my recent post, Twice-Born, PSVL said:

Excellent work here! I love the series of Goddesses in the middle…that really adds a lot to this myth.

It was never my intention to add anything to the myth. I was inspired by the God to write a poem for Him telling His story. Yet, here I was adding to His myths. Every poem can build up the layers of meaning and understanding around a Holy Power, put new light to the old stories, and bring new stories into being. Writing mythology, whether through prose or poetry, is an act of co-creation with the Holy Powers. Far better for us to enter into this powerful and sacred relationship with care and clarity than to deny the connection this work forges between us and the Holy Powers.

Whether in brief or at length, each story written, each story told, each poem written, each poem spoken, each song sung, each one made for Them all build up our relationships with the Holy Powers. To be sure, not every bit of writing, poetry, or song is meant to build up myths, but all potentially may. We cannot leave our corpus of myths to the past or that is all we will engage with or understand.

Let us teach the myths that are the foundations of our religions and our communities in those conscious and sacred ways. Let us work to develop our myths with the Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir in sacred ways, with care and devotion. Let us work to teach all of our myths consciously and thoughtfully, in sacred ways that honor the Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir, that bring us, individually and communally, into sacred and good relationships with Them.

18 thoughts on “Developing Polytheist Myths

  1. Thanks for articulating what’s been clear in my mind for some years. When I wrote my devotional to Poseidon I was a bit surprised to have hymns emerged that honored his chthonic aspect: it was only later that I discovered in research the ancient temple of Poseidon Tainarios. New understandings can reveal truths lost to time, or help us understand our gods in a modern context. Ossifying myth is the biggest downfall of writing it down; we tend to see written words as unchanging.

    Regarding myth and mysteries, I disagree that some myths should not be written down. Rather, I submit that an identifying characteristic of mystery is that it CANNOT be put into words. If it can be written but isn’t, it’s just a secret. Mysteries don’t need oaths to protect them; their nature is sufficient.

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    • You are most welcome. I find it powerful and uplifting when my experiences match that of lore, especially when I have had an experience like yours and it was found to coincide.

      I worry about ossification of myth, as I see it a lot in my own communities.

      In regards to some things not being written down, since I am writing very, very widely on the subject I always leave the possibility that a God, Goddess, Ancestors, or vaettr may not want something written down.

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  2. I’ve had similar thoughts for a few years: that we need to start making myths again. Without that, our religions will always merely be re-active instead of living, breathing relationships that are pro-active.

    As a devotee of a tropical storm god whom I now worship very far afield from his place of origin, my gnosis is shifting tectonically in response, and new patterns of jurisdiction and affinity are emerging. As a devotee of a pair of god twins who worked with me for several years under the guise of another, historically established duo because I would not have known how to understand them otherwise, I need to give serious consideration to the task of writing their myths down if I want their cultus to spread beyond me. It may be one of the highest offerings I could give them. But doing these things would also prove that gods are not static entities, doomed to repeat themselves like broken records until the end of time. The gods adapt, evolve, and change almost as readily as we do – our traditions and our myth-making need reflect this.

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  3. Not surprisingly, entirely agreed on all you’ve said here…

    Edward Butler and I have spoken a few times about another nature of myth and mythic narrative: it can in itself be theophanic, which is to say it can reveal the nature and/or character of a Deity rather than having simply explanatory power. In other words, a given myth doesn’t just say why (e.g.) Zeus is associated with this particular mountain, or how a particular cult practice emerged, or why some aspects of the natural world reflect the Deity, but instead the story itself is a revelation (I know many people in our religious communities are allergic to that term in a spiritual context, but here we are!) of the Deity. It’s a subtle difference, and one that gets very tricky to discuss, because for some people that can then easily lead to an even more ossified sense of myth, and–perhaps even worse–scripture and even potential literalism and bibliolatry in the way that such has occurred in certain other religions (sometimes in a more benign form…I’d say evangelical fundamentalist biblical literalism is far more pernicious and horrific in its implications than the Sikhs regarding the Shri Guru Adi Granth Sahib as a living entity and continuous guru, or Jewish people burying old Torah scrolls and dancing with them on Simchat Torah, etc.); however, that need not be the case. If we understand that there is a separation between any given myth, or even mytheme, and a text as an instantiation of such, then there’d be less problem…

    Something else that I’ve never heard discussed in a practical religious context, but which a limited number of academics do acknowledge, is the difference between myth and mythology–the latter is not simply the formalized study or collection of myths, but instead reflects a stage of a culture which indicates that the myth is no longer a living part of the culture which informs everyday understanding. For how many modern polytheists is the reality that we have mythology (as reflected in sources like Snorri, e.g.) rather than living myth? It’s an interesting question, and also an uncomfortable one…

    But what do I know? I’ve only been responsible for rendering more myths of Antinous into an accessible form than was ever certainly extant in the entire stretch of His ancient cultus, by a factor of at least ten if not more. 😉

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    • I think that revelatory experiences, and discussion of them is *sorely* lacking in polytheist and Pagan circles. Without these discussions we’re running smack into experiences without ways to contextualize or even begin to discuss things without, oftentimes, a lot of watering down of the experience. Instead of saying “I experience” the wording becomes wishy-washy “I think I experienced” or “I may have experienced” and then from there proceeds yet more wish-washy explanation. It’s rather like writing an article. You really should not try to put it through editing while writing the article or telling a story; you may dilute the message terribly.

      Odin-of-Michigan may have unique attributes that are specific to here, whether in terms of His cultus, its unfolding, how we relate to Him, how the Wild Hunt may show itself here, etc. Literalism and bibliotary exist in Heathenry because a good chunk of the religious communities are not alright with, or trained, to understand, process, or integrate gnosis experiences with the Holy Powers. At times the lore is not only the arbiter of true experience, it is the *only* one, with divination and other forms of spiritual accounting left by the wayside.

      I think what is also missing from many of these discussions is that what resources are available to us polytheists are, generally speaking, *not* religious resources when it comes to the lore and similar sources. The Eddas are not primary sources, and their use was in preserving the styles of writing that Sturluson wanted to preserve, with undoubtable influences from Christianity and Classical mythology.

      Much of the reason I went back and changed every instance of mythology into myth was to reflect the living relationship we hold with our Sacred Stories. That these are living things. That every time the Creation Story, the Creation Myth is told, it lives again in a different way. Likewise any of the tales of our Gods. The lived experiences of our Gods. At some point the poet(s), skald(s), bard(s) spoke the cosmogeny and cosmology into awareness from the Gods’, Ancestors, and vaettir’ lips, images, sensory information, and coalesced it into an understanding that was passed on, told again and again, added and taken from, and understood to be sacred. Certainly I think we need to be doing more of this in a right and sacred way.


  4. A very interesting and complex subject we have here. I must say that you rightly preface it by acknowledging the idea of new myths as both powerful and dangerous. Let me briefly offer my view both as a polytheist and a traditionalist, in hopes it may contribute to this discussion.

    I think it would first and foremost be necessary to distinguish decisively between divine myths and human/heroic myths. Myths that recount a Deity’s new actions, functions, etc. or directly relate to the nature of a Deity should (in my opinion) be best avoided. The modern world as it stands is full of troublesome shifts and turns (some are not mistaken to call it also polluted to degree) that myth making about the Gods would only weaken the core and the original myths. One exception to this is mythical reconstruction, as for example with the Celtic tradition, where many myths are lacking; this task would be best left to a council of well-informed and well represented preisthood who can serve the Gods in question properly. In general, preserving and worshipping the Gods is what we need, and if there’s a desire to engage further, new hymns and festivals are safer and better than myths. Now, this precaution would not be needed with human/heroic myths, where the brave and renowned deeds of great ancestors among men and women would be remembered. Two important points in my opinion should be mentioned here: 1) these myths should not be the work of a particular individual (otherwise it becomes history) but rather the collective product of a community 2) the myth should be at first oral and unwritten for an extended period of time (perhaps at least a few generations, otherwise it becomes history again) in which case it would organically develop and then, if worthy, both Gods and men will allow it to survive and pass into myth. These two points are meant to protect the elevated status that a myth ought to have, rather than expose them to human ambition. Thus much I have to say for the time being.

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    • “Myths that recount a Deity’s new actions, function, etc. or directly relate to the nature of a Deity should (in my opinion) be avoided.”

      I could not disagree with this more. If our Gods are to live with us in the here and now, rather than only in a reified form from what myths antiquity has left to us, there is a need to understand our experiences of the Gods are grounded when and where we are. I do not live in Iceland; Odin as I experience Him in Michigan may be recognizably Odin, but there may well be regional variations of practice and understanding that develop in due course of merely living here that I develop of Him over time. Not to mention how He may tie into the living landscape of the Great Lakes state, and how local Gods, Goddesses, Ancestors, Heroes, and vaettir may affect, intertwine, or otherwise be involved in the unfolding of local cultus.

      To relegate authenticity of myths to the past is to leave myths and myth-making there and deprive future generations of collective wisdom, not only of those in the communities who are spiritual specialists, but those who may be ardent devotees but carry no communal rank. That can potentially gut a *lot* of gnosis, a lot of experience, and potentially cuts the Gods Themselves out of experiential relationships with Their devotees in new setting, allowing for new modes of expression for Them with their people.

      As we have few priests, let alone those who can serve in the capacity of myth-making, I would say it is far better to encourage communities to develop methods of discernment that are agreed upon within those communities. Some communities only have devotees of certain Gods and Goddesses, and without these people writing of their experiences, any notion of these Gods may have disappeared or have been relegated generations down the line.

      As I have made pains to point out, I am not saying that carte blanch every experience, every communication, every story a God, Goddess, Ancestors, or vaettr makes known to a human should be incorporated into the corpus of myth; I would not have written extensively on it otherwise. It would be *ideal* for spiritual specialists (not necessarily priests, as some priests in some polytheist religions are only are there to do certain ritual functions and have no expanded roles) to meet, agree on criteria for discernment/acceptance, and so on, but until there is a groundswell within the varied communities to such a task, it will likely be individuals within umbrellas of communities experiencing with the Holy Powers and building up understanding of Them from there. Far better we have *something* in place than nothing for this.

      Myths are never *not* exposed to human ambition, and to posit that oral mythology is resistant to human intervention seems terribly idealistic. Even in a fully remembered retelling, whether due to inflection, tone, body language, and so on, there will be parts of myths a storyteller will emphasize in the telling, perhaps nuanced and different every single time they tell it so no unfolding story is told exactly the same as another. A lived religion can encompass both the written and spoken word, as certainly many ancient polytheist cultures did.

      Why should these myths *not* be the work of a particular individual? After all, we have Orpheus (and those who wrote under His Name) to thank for a wealth of myths and a unique understanding of the Gods he wrote about. We have only a few sources for the Icelandic, Germanic, and other sources for Heathen religions. My point being is not whether you are right or wrong but I take issue with your reasoning, as cultus grew for many Gods out of one or a few individuals’ experience of a given God and then grew into a city or regional cultus. To my mind, the process you describe here actively intrudes in the development of communal and/or regional cultus. The example I gave above with Shining Lakes Grove shows clearly how a group may organically bring themselves into relationship with a God in a given area and give it due cultus, developing a unique myth and connection with that God.


      • I can tell you feel strongly about this matter, and I would encourage you to think further about your arguments, which I will address below:

        a) If there’s “a need to experience the Gods here and now” wouldn’t hymns and festivals (and I’ll music) best fulfil such a desire? The divine myths that I objected to forming recount a God’s actions. Who are we to say what the Gods do in particular communities? That’s a rather human centered approach than a divine centered one.

        b) To continue the point above, you give an interesting example about Odin in Michigan. I’m sorry to say that Michigan’s local/regional cultus as well as its natural landscape have nothing to do with Odin, but everything to do with the indigenous Gods that were once there, until they were supplanted by colonialism. I wouldn’t implicate Zeus into where I live in America in order to feel better about myself while knowing that doing so is in effect replacing and not acknowledging a God that was native here. Again, we should have a divine centered approach. Where the Gods were born and where they have always lived, that is there divine home and mythical landscape. Bringing my Zeus and your Odin arbitrarily into the local cultus of America literally makes them patrons of colonialism. The same coule be said of all intrusions on indigenous land (tribal or modern) but we all know the case is especially severe with the native Americans. What kind of myth making will be used to justify Zeus or Odin intervening in non-indigenous land? The forgotten native Gods who have been torn away long for justice and for a return, and they don’t need foreign companionship or replacements to achieve that.

        c) Concerning the authority of communities to make myths, I’m not very sure if we should use that term where lore is much more applicable. From what is known about ancient Greeks and their myths, myths are very old (150+ years) and the only way for communities to develop them (however the means) is after such a long period.

        d) I never said that oral mythology is totally resistant to human ambition (your word “intervention” I wouldn’t use). My point was oral mythology was far more resistant because it necessitates collective participation and transmission, unlike writing.

        e) For the reasons in (d), I would repeat the same point about individuals making myths. Orpheus is a mysterious character, but it’s possible we think of him as an individual only because he came as a stranger to a new part of Greece (he was Thracian) leaving behind his native tradition. Nevertheless, it was his followers who wrote about him, and I blame them (if he were indeed the historical character he seems to be) for elevating him to myth so suddenly. But regardless of my traditional opinion, the point remains that he didn’t make myths about himself but they collectively did of him.

        f) The few extant sources on the Germanic myths do not suggest that those ancient myths originally developed also out of a few individual sources. They were rather a collective tradition that had the misfortune (and good fortune) to be transmitted by a few surviving works.


  5. I think if our gods didn’t make their presence known outside the lands they originated, we wouldn’t feel called to worship them. The worship of gods spread to different places, it doesn’t necessarily have to mean conquest or colonialism as Christianity & Islam often does. To step back from the European examples, what about my Hindu neighbors? They’ve come from even further away and have a big temple here in Minnesota, more than one in fact. Hindus are pretty adaptable to the modern world, creating new stories and discovering new gods, similar things have happened with Shinto. It’s still understood in these traditions that such things are new, and not accepted by all, but neither has one central authority to decide what is “canon” as it were. There are compromises that some of us make to be diplomatic with indigenous people and spirits, for example many Gaelic polytheists don’t pour alcohol on the land in North America, as is traditional, after communicating with Native elders who found it to be spiritually/culturally disrespectful. Instead it’s often poured into the fire, or other offerings are made.

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    • Caelesti- It is my personal and traditional opinion that the Gods call us most strongly through our ancestors and blood, urging us to return to their ways. I understand and acknowledge that not everyone will hold such a view, and that temples will be built accordingly to accommodate communities living abroad. The indigenous people are forced to accept it anyway whether they like it or not because the laws in force are colonial… But on the other hand, what I must greatly object to (once again) is the idea that non-native Gods can simply acquire a local cultus in a land foreign to them, most especially in the New World where colonialism had occurred. And to establish myths for such a purpose within the New World is in effect not only a justification of continued colonialism, but (what is worse) an inevitable implication of those Gods in the faults of colonialism. I know that the Hindu communities have their temples here and there, but I haven’t heard of any of them establishing a local cultus or accompanying myths to go along with their communal beliefs. If this is really being done, it must be a very uncommon thing and certainly a wrong one that should invite correction rather than imitation. But please do refer me to an example, if there is indeed evidence of this practice.


      • There is a Hanuman Mandir (temple) in Taos, New Mexico that has a local flavor to it…There’s also the Tsubaki Grand Shrine of America, in the jinja tradition of Shinto, that likewise has some local adaptations that make it no longer exactly like the Tsubaki Okami Yashiro in Nara, Japan from which it was founded. I’m sure there are other polytheist traditions from elsewhere that are continuous and have never been interrupted by monotheistic hegemony that are now being done in the U.S. with certain aspects of them adapted to the local ecosystem, at least on a spiritual level if not in various other ways.

        Indeed, in Ancient Greece and Rome, the Deities found cultus all over Europe outside of “traditional” Hellenic and Roman territories, in their literal colonies as well as through diffusion to other places, syncretized forms, and so forth. There is no reason this cannot continue in the same way now as it did in the past, with Deities gaining local epithets appropriate to the communities that venerate Them.

        People take their Deities with them when they go elsewhere, and it’s always been that way. Honoring Deities from other pantheons when in the U.S. is far better than showing up at the local indigenous people’s councils and saying, “Okay, who are your Gods and how can we worship them?” since so much has already been taken from them by White people, including spiritually. While some of them would be open to sharing their spiritual traditions with outsiders, I’ve also never heard any objections by any indigenous people to those of European (or other) ancestries worshipping their own Deities in the Americas, especially if it is done in a way that does not harm the indigenous people or their own cultures. (And, for the record, I’m in contact with several Native American individuals on at least a weekly basis where I live, and religion is a frequent topic of discussion!)

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      • Thank you for the response. I won’t prolong what I have to say here because most of my thoughts have been expressed already. First, I believe there is an important distinction between a local flavor or adaptation and a local cultus and local myth. The latter runs far deeper than the former and I’ve discussed why it is wrong, in my view towards natives (whereas simple worshipping is not). I doubt that the two temples you describe have a local cultus and local myths…Religious innovation of that kind is mostly a Western thing, unfortunately first begun by the Greeks. And speaking of the Greeks, yes, they established colonies far from homes and took their Gods along. But those sites they came to were mostly uninhabited and its people were somewhat similar in culture and had knowledge of the Greeks through trade. Those early days were formative and experimental and therefore we shouldn’t in that regard compare them with today, nor should we compare their coastal colonization with today’s total colonization/genocide…As for Romans and their syncretism (the same goes for Hellenistic Greeks), we should distinguish between syncretism arising from accidental or inevitable cohabitation (as with the Indo-Europeans coming into Greece or India) and syncretism arising from immediate and arbitrary imperialism. In the latter case, the foreign Gods (just like the foreign invaders) are unwelcome because they assert domination and take away from the indigenous people’s culture and pantheons. Syncretism here thus becomes a colonial means, hence an excuse and pretext for perpetuating domination. I don’t need to explain the example of the Gauls and Celts because their unfortunate story of Roman colonialism/genocide/syncretism is well known. It’s actually very similar to that of the natives in America.


      • While I appreciate some of the distinctions you’re making and think they are important to understand, I am not sure if your ultimate argument results in a case of special pleading…

        But ultimately, it sounds to me like what you’re suggesting is essentially that there is no appropriate way that anyone in the U.S. who is not an indigenous person can worship Deities in the U.S., because only indigenous cultures’ Deities would be appropriate to worship here (and doing that by non-indigenous people is often flawed and appropriative…but also extremely difficult given that even above the reluctance of indigenous people to share their ways with outsiders, so many of their traditions have been utterly lost due to forced assimilation that there isn’t always much left to share at this point), whereas anything else is oppressive, colonialist/imperialist, and promotes the genocide of indigenous people and ways. What, then, are we who are polytheists left to do and left with in such a situation?

        If what I have outlined above is correct and accurate in your view, then so be it; but, then anyone with your same views would be ill-advised to express disdain for “newer” Deities and myths that come about in such a situation, either, which I hear all too often from some corners. (And by that, I don’t mean people worshipping comic book superheroes or characters from Star Wars–though perhaps there is a continuum involved in which those are at one extreme–but other divine beings like the Tetrad++ Who have arisen in relation to things that are happening now, and will happen in the future.)

        No matter the case, I’d argue it isn’t up to us, nor up to whatever our own ideas on these matters might be, it’s up to the Deities involved, and if They provide inspiration strongly enough to people–wherever they might be–to innovate in myth and cultic practice, then it will happen. Indeed, it already has happened. If one doesn’t wish to acknowledge that, then it is up to that person to not do so if they please…however, that sort of attitude is precisely why the polytheist community is so fractious and finds it difficult to coalesce and organize on a larger level to provide any viable alternatives to hegemonic monotheism on the one hand and insistent atheist-materialist-“rationalism” on the other.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Aediculaantinoi- One more response to clear up my position, which is again misunderstood.

        a) Although I think it is far preferable for all polytheists to go back to the indigenous lands of their ancestors (wherever those may be) and worship there, I understand not everyone will do so. I never said it was wrong for people to worship abroad, but I still maintain that it is wrong to develop local cultus and local myth abroad for the reasons already explained.

        b) In answer to your question “what are we polytheists left to do in such a situation?”, I think going back to indigenous lands is perfectly feasible, i.e. in our case Europe. If there’s a will, there’s a way, my friend. Have you ever heard of this website which advocates for the same?
        Again, most people won’t do it because they are uncomfortable, uncertain, etc. and I acknowledge the difficulty. Such people should be very careful with committing any appropriation or aggression, direct or indirect, towards the natives, some of whom are far kinder & accepting than they should be considering the continuing (it isn’t quite over) genocide against them.

        c) I don’t mean to mock you, but please beware of statements which attempt to remove responsibility by relying on the Gods, because they can become an excuse. As in, “it’s up to the Deities involved, and if They provide inspiration strongly enough to people–wherever they might be–to innovate in myth and cultic practice, then it will happen.” One could substitute almost ANYTHING for “innovate in myth and cultic practice” and the sentence would still stand as seemingly correct…The larger question here is really “what do the Gods desire?” and also “which Gods?”. The reason I’m against local cultus and local myth in non-indigenous areas is because I know very well that the forgotten native Gods DO NOT desire that, simply because it diminishes and overshadows their rightful claims. They may not even desire foreign Gods at all (at least until they are elevated again–I think so personally) but circumstances are obviously against them.

        d) Please do not suggest in any way that my thinking or views are hampering polytheist communities. First of all, the only real polytheist communities are those on the ground (which are very very few) and not online. I have been among the few who have been calling for a transition from online to the ground. I have also written about pluralism and the right of every community to determine its own distinct way (whereas there will always be factions online). But in disagreeing with you about this topic, I am merely contributing my own (educated) opinion and not forcing you or anyone to believe it.


      • I would prefer not to prolong this discussion needlessly, or to stir up any animosity…I think we have very different views on these matters, and very different experiences, and very different educated opinions on the matter (I happen to have a Ph.D. in a directly-related field to one part of my polytheist practice, obtained in the land where the traditions originated, which is not my own native land, where I lived for five years). I think you have some good points, and even if I don’t agree with all of them, they’re not in my view “wrong” so much as “different from my own” and “not applicable to my situation or those of my co-religionists” in certain circumstances, even if you would suggest they might be. (But how this is different than any other field of human endeavor and viewpoint in which individual opinions on matters may vary is not a topic which can be addressed usefully at present!)

        And, I definitely agree: I’m sick of online stuff, which is why I’ve retreated from much of it, and am trying to work toward on-ground in-person PHYSICAL things like temples at the moment and in the foreseeable future.

        I will only further comment on one of your points: you’ve said that using “if the Deities will it” as an argument abdicates responsibility on our own parts, and can be used to justify practically anything, and thus it is suspect in its use when suggesting perhaps the Deities are behind some of the innovations which are occurring elsewhere outside Their areas of origination. Okay, fair enough, I don’t happen to think so but you do…but, then you’ve used that exact same argument to suggest that the Deities are against such things and do not desire such innovations to take place. I’m just wondering how that is at all different from what I just argued, and if your own assertions on that are not prone to the same critique you’ve offered of mine? If you are aware of that, then fair enough–two diviners divine and get different answers from the same Deities, and so saying one or the other is “true” is a bit useless and definitely arbitrary in such situations, and it did happen in the ancient world and still happens now. Anyway…!?!

        Liked by 2 people

    • The advantage that Hindus have is their numbers. They are buying up old churches all over the country. I’ve visited several individually and with groups and they remind me of what I think Asatru temples would be like if our ancientsweren’t wiped out. Of course they evolve their own corpus of myths.


  6. An example of verified gnosis is that Thor likes coffee. I’ve heard many mention it. it was know before I arrived around 1990. While some people object that there is no mention in the ancient lore I have never, not even once, read any modern heathen report that they offered coffee to Thor and he rejected it. I don’t know how much verification is needed, but Thor liking coffee and Freya liking strawberries are now widely verified.

    I’ll also give an example of a related unverified personal gnosis. Early on I wondered if it was the caffeine that Thor likes in coffee so I offered him Mountain Dew. I definitely felt he rejected that offering. I don’t know of anyone else who has tried it so there’s no verification. I don’t know how useful it would be to have a list of what Thor doesn’t like, but I figure that at least I learned that Thor’s taste for coffee was not specific to the caffeine.

    Something cool abut modern myth. I was taught Greek, Roman and Norse myths in school as a foundation of western culture but not as comparative religion. About the time I graduated myths were dropped from the curriculum. Humans abhor a myth vacuum so two years later a movie supplied a modern myth. Star Wars, the Jedi Order and the Force. So many of the lessons overlap but this modern myth is atheistic rather than theistic.


  7. I’m completely with you on this. Creating new myths for the gods grounded in the old myths is the core of my work as an awenydd in the Brythonic tradition. I think the old myths are important but, especially when they’ve been penned by Christians they need a certain amount of dismantling and reading between the lines and re-envisioning. In relation to your stool analogy by relating to the texts, divining, and also through the visions the gods and spirits gift us. I think the latter is so important because over the years, like this world and the people in it, the Otherworld and the gods have changed too. We need myths that address the challenges of our times and can guide us through them to building a better world.

    Liked by 1 person

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