Lady Sheherazahde Lachesis (sheherazahde) wrote in _wicca_,
Lady Sheherazahde Lachesis

Ret-Conning Your Beliefs

I ran into another "hard polytheist" arguing that the ancient Norse were hard polytheists. There are several problems with this argument.

First of all we don't know what "the ancient Norse" believed. We have precious little of their mythology much less their theology or philosophy. So no one can claim authoritatively what they believed exactly.

Secondly, this claim is based on the assumption that the ancient Norse were literalists. And nothing more. The Hindu sages, and the Greek and Roman philosophers have left us documents where they discuss less literal ideas about their deities. There is no reason to assume that the ancient Norse had a less robust diversity of philosophical or theological positions.

Thirdly, the ancient Norse were a people, not an authoritarian cult, or a school of philosophy. The chance of all of them holding the same beliefs is very slim. I firmly believe that atheists and fundamental literalists have existed along with the full spectrum of philosophical positions throughout history. People really don't just accept what they are told, as a general rule. Well some of them do. But some of them think about it and come up with their own ideas. (You really should read "The Cheese and the Worms" by Carlo Ginzburg. It says nothing about the ancient Norse. It is about the peculiar beliefs of a common millar in the 1500s. I feel it demonstrates how complicated religious belief is.)

Personally I have a problem with the absolute duality of the hard polytheist position. They tend to phrase things as either the gods exist as distinct persons, or they don't really exist. Personally I think it is more complicated than that. I believe that all of reality is the manifestation of the unitary divine. Which means I am "just a facet" of the divine. But I am quite obviously a real individual person as well, so I don't see the problem with gods being facets of the larger divine as well as individual persons. It's just not a problem for me.

If you want to talk about your beliefs that is fine with me. But don't go defining what I believe. That is my prerogative. And what does it really matter what is going on in my head while we are in ritual? The only thing that should concern other people is what I do, not what I think. My thoughts neither pick your pocket nor break your leg (to paraphrase Thomas Jefferson).
Tags: last lecture series

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