Sun gods and pious polytheism

Yesterday I went with my ex-husband and his wife to the Episcopal church where he is presently the organist. They have a Christmas morning service in which the sermon is replaced by a carol-sing (a thing which ought to happen more often, if you ask me). The church is a fairly typical Episcopal parish of the Mid-Atlantic/Northeast: Contemporary language in liturgy, progressive theology and politics, a decent balance between good ritual and social outreach. I enjoyed singing the familiar carols, even though my voice is woefully rusty and I stumble over the changes made to texts for the sake of current theology (“pleased as man with man to dwell”, please, not “pleased as man with us to dwell”).

PSVL said to me a while back, before I had made the decision to go polytheist, or realized I already was, that Jesus and Antinous have been friends for a long time. Lately, after more than six months away from any Christian liturgy or devotion, I have been looking at my relationships to Jesus and to the Anglican tradition and coming to see that while I have respect but no devotion for Jesus, I have an aesthetic love for the tradition and genuine devotion to my ancestors within it–a lineage of saints, poets, preachers, musicians, and mystics mostly congregated within the British isles. And so I put an icon of the Virgin and Child on my shrine, went to church with my family, said the prayers, sang the hymns, and received Communion, with a clear conscience.

One thing I did not do, however, was to recite the Creed. That is where I draw the line. From a Christian perspective, I do not believe the propositions of the Nicene Creed, and I will no longer recite it and commit myself to it. On the other hand, from a polytheist perspective, it doesn’t matter what I believe. I was in the sanctuary of a god, one whom I used to worship exclusively, and therefore I did the things one does in the presence of that god, as I was taught to do as a child, and without offending the customs of that congregation. Then, like a good Episcopalian, I went to brunch after the service, to which I was treated as a Christmas gift.

This evening my shrine is alight with candles, fragrant with incense, and laden with offerings of drink and sweets. The icons of Mother and Child and of Julian of Norwich remain enshrined; the former will probably stay out for the twelve days, while Julian is always with me. I feel at peace and a little bit hungry. I wish a joyous celebration of the feasts of midwinter to all.

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4 thoughts on “Sun gods and pious polytheism

  1. Yes, I get this very much…

    I cannot and will not recite the Christian Credo, other than to quote and discuss it in a religion class. Even though belief isn’t as much a priority in polytheistic contexts, still, saying this sort of invalidates the existence of other deities, other interpretations, other truths, etc.

    Participating in sacraments, on the other hand, is a practical matter, and one that requires initiation (no matter how paltry or lax some of those initiatory preparations and rituals are in Christian contexts), and thus is something that is very much open to folks as post-Christian polytheists, in my view. I personally look for a certain sign at a certain point that is the go-ahead or the wave-off regarding my participation in the sacrament: sometimes it comes, sometimes it doesn’t.

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  2. I’ve come to the conclusions that a) no one actually *believes* the traditional creeds any longer, b) very few Christians have ever understood them “correctly” because they were composed by an intellectual elite borrowing and bending the language of pagan philosophy, and c) as a post-Christian polytheist (I like the sound of that!) I enjoy the privilege of worshipping whomever I damn well please. And of spelling “worship” with two p’s when inflected, because if it was good enough for the Prayer Book, it’s good enough for me.

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  3. Agreed with creeds- I’m curious to try out going to a mosque service and a shul, and just not saying the “Only One God” statements made in those settings as well. (I think that’s less of a thing in Judaism- they place more of an emphasis on “This is our tribal God” rather than worrying about denying any others.
    I don’t feel right taking communion either, though I suppose that can be viewed differently depending on your theological framework. At Catholic/Episcopal/Lutheran settings, you can instead cross your arms across your chest and bow to receive a blessing, so that’s what I do instead. Extra blessings, from Whoever, are always a good thing!

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