Topics in Polytheism: Race/Ethnicity

July 19, 2018 at 8:03 am 2 comments

Topics in Polytheism #7 Race/Ethnicity

First view: Neither ethnicity nor “race” are important in polytheism, because religion is a matter of spirit and practice and toleration

Second view: “Race” is not so much a social construct as a reality, and therefore necessary in polytheism. Ethnicity is less important and reliable, because it can change or overlap.

Balanced view: “Race” is a rather useless word, but ethnicity is an indispensable concept in polytheism that needs to be redefined* in today’s troubled, modernized and global world.

To begin with not all forms of polytheism are based around a specific culture or ethnic group.  There are newer polytheist religions like the Otherfaith and the Fellowship of the Phoenix which have their own pantheons.

One can also be a polytheist within many different religions and philosophies that include different theologies such as: Wicca, Thelema, Discordianism, Unitarian Universalism, ADF Druidry, Revival Druidry, Core Shamanism, the women’s spirituality/Goddess movement and theistic Satanism/Luciferianism. In addition to of course, un-interrupted polytheisms-  indigenous Asian, African, North & South American religions/spiritual traditions. The so-called “polytheist movement” or “polytheist community” doesn’t always reflect this, making it seem as though all polytheists in the “Western” cultural sphere are reconstructionists, revivalists or traditionalists of some type. We need to be careful to say what we really mean when we say polytheist, who are we including or excluding? I find conversations with polytheists from other culturally focused traditions very illuminating, but I also enjoy conversations with polytheistic Wiccans, Druids, Thelemites etc. Of course many of us have multiple affiliations and spiritual/cultural identities. That’s one of the great things about polytheism, after all! 

For those of us drawn to culturally based religions I would tend between the first view and the third view. Rather than ethnic ancestry however, I would define it more by cultural upbringing since many of us are far removed from the cultures of our ethnic ancestors, if indeed we even know who they are. Certain people (typically some folkish Heathens) are prone to claim Heathenry or Asatru as pan-European and the label “Celtic” is often defined so loosely that anything vaguely resembling nature spirituality regardless of cultural or historic origin gets lumped in. I know many people who have made a serious effort to connect with traditions that they have ancestral connections to, or believe they have connections to with not much success, while instead stumbling across a connection to cultural tradition that they are not related to. Some of these people were later able to more easily connect with their roots after exploring another, non-ancestral tradition either temporarily or in addition to their ancestral tradition. Many people also honor their own ancestors within their adopted tradition- indeed it is often a requirement of their tradition!

The ancestry doesn’t matter at all stance goes too far. I’ve seen some polytheists become so concerned about racism and nationalism that they discouraged even mentioning or honoring ancestors as part of their practice. In particular I recall a Heathen group in Austria that had that policy– they didn’t honor ancestors in their rituals. That is going way too far. Veneration of ancestors and the dead is key component of any traditional cultural polytheism, and I also think it’s important in other forms of polytheism, simply because we’re all human, we don’t live a long time, and remembering our past and where we come from either by familial or adoptive descent or other kinds of lineage is key part in knowing who we are. In fact, I believe that instinct is the most basic ingredient of religious reverence, we can see it in our Neanderthal cousins, as well as intelligent species such as elephants. Another Pagan, NeoWayland has a unique take that some might find more approachable. Here’s another post I’ve written about different types of ancestors.

 

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Entry filed under: Ancestors/Heroes, Race/Ethnicity, Topics in Polytheism. Tags: , , , , , , , , , .

Which “Modernity” Do We Mean? “Breaking Tradition” is Redundant

2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. gregorystackpole  |  July 23, 2018 at 12:32 pm

    This is a great set of questions. You know that I am an Orthodox Christian, but I am not stupidly unaware of the things that make some form of paganism attractive; I would say that there is definitely an attachment to a place, a long-standing dwelling, that makes the gods appear, if one were to talk about this with sensitivity. Now, I have my qualms with paganism, but its charm (and danger, in part) lies in roots and soil and what they reveal.

    Reply
  • 2. caelesti  |  July 23, 2018 at 11:24 pm

    Honestly, in my experience Orthodox Christians, Catholics and observant Jews often understand the more culturally rooted types of paganism more than very eclectic individualist consumerist style pagans. (These nice people over here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z78_rAg4Ldg ) It’s tricky to talk about though, because those are some of the similarities that Protestants have traditionally attacked Catholics for: images, saints, Mary, pilgrimages, rosaries “superstitious” customs, lots of stuff that was watered down during the Counter Reformation. It seems that less of that was stripped away from Orthodoxy, but I’m much less familiar with Orthodox traditions. Heck, I get Catholic stuff wrong too.

    Reply

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