Several years ago, right around the time I dedicated myself to Freya, I had a variety of ongoing discussions with a friend about the nature of the Gods and what a modern polytheist theology could look like. A friend of mine, Thenea Pantera, a Hellenic polytheist among other things, summed the approach that she felt was needed in creating this theology in a post on her blog entitled “Avoiding Reactionary Theology”:
In my opinion, Theology answers questions. The first step, I think, is actually to figure out what questions we hear ourselves and other Polytheists asking. Some will be broad, some will be narrow. From there, we should look at who else answered the questions that we are now asking, and determine the method by which they arrived at those answers.
In my mind, the key thing is to ask the question, not necessarily to find definitive answers. Theology shouldn’t be a fixed thing, locked in stone; like the people whose needs it addresses, it needs to grow and change in order to remain relevant. Here are some of the questions I need Heathen theology to answer. Some of these questions have been percolating for a while, some of them are new. As a hard Devotional Polytheist as well as a Heathen, my questions may be different than yours; but then again, there may be some overlap as well.
How do the gods from all of the different pantheons–ancient and less ancient, European and Native American and Hindu and all of the others–get along? It stands to reason that they would come into conflict with others at some point. How is that handled?
What about syncretic deities? Do they have some kind of deific multiple-personality disorder, or are they entirely separate beings from the deities who had been merged together?
Do a person’s beliefs actually affect where that person ends up after death? (This is where being a Heathen comes in handy; our understanding of what most Christians would call “the soul” was actually an extremely complex concept that was divided up into upwards of nine parts. These parts may end up in different places.)
I’ve experienced deity in many ways. Freya, for example, has presented Herself as to me at times as both small and mundane but then at other times as being so large that I could barely connect with Her or see where She ended. Which one is the “real” Her? Can we ever understand or experience the true extent of deity?
Have new Gods been created over time? How?
Why do the Gods need us?
And finally, as a new priestess, the one that was most pressing to my mind at that time: why should we modern humans bother worshiping ancient deities at all? Are people’s lives consistently made better off from having worked closely with any polytheistic deity, or is it all just self-aggrandizement?
Looking back on this list, I see that I’ve found answers for some of them that work for me. However, other questions have arisen in their place. Also, I find that I am focusing less on just the Gods and more on how my ancestor veneration and my connection to the landspirits fit into everything; the scope of my theology is widening, becoming more general and less caught up in specific details.
Truly successful theology will only show itself by standing the test of time. Unfortunately, I won’t know for sure if I personally have added anything of value to the theological conversation until after I’ve passed on. I admit I’d like to have some kind of legacy to be remembered by. A very Heathen perspective, no?
Cattle die and kinsmen die,
thyself too soon must die,
but one thing never, I ween, will die;
fair fame of one who has earned.
(Havamal, verse 75)
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