Our aim is to encourage the expansion of Heathen thought into the domains of theology, philosophy, sociology, psychology and other discplines that have yet to be examined by Heathenry or any other form of European polytheism.
Thus say the editors of the Journal Of Contemporary Heathen Thought. I have said it before, I am no fond of describing heathenism as polytheistic, mine not for sure!
Webster describes polytheism as “belief in or worship of more than one god”. This is of course the literal interpretation. In a way, there is even little to object to this term, but a longer explanation is more so:
Polytheism was the typical form of religion during the Bronze Age and Iron Age, up to the Axis age and the gradual development of monotheism or pantheism, and ultimately atheism.
So says Wikipedia. This is the usual idea that polytheism, or the worship of more than one God is primitive, undeveloped and that evolution came to the more sensible monotheism, or “the doctrine or belief that there is but one God” (Webster again, the word “doctrine” is funny here do you not think?).
Are there more Gods? It is of course a way of explaining things. What are Gods would be a question that needs to be asked first. In the Northern European prechristian faith, the answer could be a simple as: Odin, Thor, Freyr, etc., but how Godly are all these Gods? They are mortal, like man, most of them die during Ragnarök as we all know from the Völuspa. Some Gods, eh? But Webster again, says that “a god” is
a being or object believed to have more than natural attributes and powers and to require human worship; specifically : one controlling a particular aspect or part of reality
“More than natural powers” and “require human worship”, that does not seem to have to imply that “being or object” to have to be immortal, not even divine! A superman or hero from a story could be a god. So I suppose Odin et al fit the definition, so there are indeed many Gods in the Northern pantheon. So the religion of old and the new version of it today is polytheistic? I am still not convinced.
Sure, there are more (poly) Gods (theos), but my main objection against the term is the idea that these (mortal!) Gods are the ‘most divine’, because that is not true in my humble opinion. Sure, Odin is the “allfather”, Tyr might have been the original “sky God”, but it is not they or any of them who is the Ultimate Source. For starters Odin, Vili and Vé (or Odin, Hoenir and Lodur, the three Gods who created the world) were the sons of a giant called Bur who on his turn stemmed from Ymir, the primordial giant from whose body “three” created the heavens and the earth. Ymir came forth from the reaction of fire and ice in the “yawning gap” called “Ginnungagap”.
So what is my point? As according to some Hindu texts everything including the Gods came from Brahma, in our own texts, everything including the Gods eventually came forth from Ginnungagap. So in the end, is it fair to talk about polytheism? On a certain level perhaps, but I prefer the idea of an Ultimate Divinity, a source from which everything came and to which everything will return (just like the breathing Brahma). There are “Gods”, sure, in a way, the in the end there is only One, so I do not consider myself polytheistic. A “monist” then?
a : a view that there is only one kind of ultimate substance
b : the view that reality is one unitary organic whole with no independent parts
1 : a doctrine that equates God with the forces and laws of the universe
2 : the worship of all gods of different creeds, cults, or peoples indifferently; also : toleration of worship of all gods (as at certain periods of the Roman empire)
(not with these explanations!)
A “panentheist” then?
a belief system which posits that God exists and interpenetrates every part of nature, and timelessly extends beyond as well. Panentheism is distinguished from pantheism, which holds that God is synonymous with the material universe
Man, I dislike all these cabins that none exactly fit (and for the better!)!