Association of Polytheist Traditions
Copyright © by Yvonne Aburrow 2005
I am a polytheist Wiccan. I am also an animist, that is, I believe that everything has spirit, and that spirit is interpermeable with matter. I first realised I am a Pagan around the age of 17. I had always talked to trees, felt a connection to nature and the land, and been interested in witches. The thing that clinched it for me was reading Puck of Pook's Hill by Rudyard Kipling. I joined Wicca aged 23, and was lucky enough to find a coven that was also interested in our connection to the land and local deities and spirits. My current coven also has a similar spirituality, and we work in a very egalitarian way.
But how can you be Wiccan and polytheist?
Simple, really. I practice Gardnerian Craft and I believe in many gods and goddesses - not as aspects of 'Deity' or of the masculine and feminine principles, but as individual deities. The focus of the Craft upon specific deities (Aradia and Cernunnos) I regard as being devotion to the patron deities of the Craft. I think the nature of the gods is beyond our perceptual capabilities - we can perceive one facet of their natures, but beyond that their magnitude is difficult for us to apprehend, because they live in more than the usual number of dimensions, and they perceive things differently to us. I believe that everything in the universe (humans and other animals, wights, gods etc.) is a manifestation of the universal energy - the Tao, the Wyrd, Dryghtyn, call it what you will. However we are all distinct identities (but not discrete entities) within the universal energy-field. We are localised vortices - places - in space. My energies can overlap with those of another person (deity, wight, animal etc.). I think that the numinous pervades the universe, and is more concentrated in some bits, giving rise to consciousness (both incarnate and discarnate entities, some of which are more powerful than others).
How does this influence your practice?
In the Wiccan circle I try to avoid references to 'the Goddess' or 'the God' unless it is clear that it means 'the patron deities of the Craft'. Our coven doesn't "summon, stir and call up" the quarters - we invite them to attend. When invoking deities, I regard them as individuals and not merely aspects. Also when the deity is invoked, we give them time to speak; we don't just recite some poetry and regard that as their utterance. This is very important to me. If they choose not to say anything, then that's fine.
There are various deities I have a relationship with, and these are honoured in our household shrine, either with a picture or a statue. Every so often I burn incense to honour them. In theory I would also pour libations to specific deities but have not yet felt the need to do so.
But what about other Wiccans' beliefs?
As the Craft is focused on practice and not belief, it is perfectly possible to have different beliefs within the same coven without it causing conflict. I don't believe in anything unless and until I have experienced it for myself, and then I come up with a 'working hypothesis' to explain it. This could easily be mistaken for a belief system, but there is a distinction. I believe that water consists of two hydrogen molecules and an oxygen molecule, because I have been given reliable scientific evidence to suggest that this is so. I have a working hypothesis that reincarnation happens, because certain subjective evidence suggests that this is the most likely explanation of flashback / spontaneous regression experiences. Therefore my working hypothesis to explain the experience of the numinous should be as close to experience as possible, not driven by dogma (or indeed spurious logic and inaccurate history). Also, I'm not the only Wiccan polytheist.
Most 'popular' books on Wicca annoy me intensely because they refer to 'the Goddess' and 'the God' and all other deities are subsumed under these labels. They also go on and on about magic and say almost nothing about spirituality or theology.
However, I have written an article on the subject of paganism and polytheism.
I highly recommend Puck of Pook's Hill by Rudyard Kipling. I also find the Larousse Encyclopedia of Mythology a constant source of fascination and enlightenment. Other than that, the best thing you can do if you want to be a polytheist Wiccan is to be receptive and wait for the gods to get in contact.