As a polytheistic, I accept the existence of multiple divine beings. It doesn’t mean I worship all of them, but I acknowledge their existence or, at the very least, I don’t assume they don’t exist just because I don’t pray or present offerings to them. It’s called inclusive polytheism, which is in the exact opposite of the exclusivist monotheism that’s usually used to characterize religion as a whole. Although not part of my religious practices, I don’t deny the existence of Egyptian, Canaanite, Hindu, Chinese, Japanese, tribal African, or American deities. And yes, that includes the Abrahamic Yahweh.
This, of course, poses a problem: how do I reconcile different views on the universe? Every pantheon has its structure, family ties, functions and association with the natural and human worlds, and they come with a variety of realms, from the godly to the that of the dead. Do I believe the pantheon I’m closest to to be right in these things while the others are wrong? Is Hades the ruler of the underworld and not Osiris, Hell or Yama? Who’s King of the Gods? Jupiter, Zeus, Amon, or El? Was it Odin, Khnum, or Zeus who created the human race? By worshipping a set of gods, am I accepting their stories as true and those about other deities as false?
It should be noted that even among the ancient peoples that had the same pantheon, stories about the origin of the world and species were not universal. In Greece, there were different accounts of how things came to be and the same was true for Romans; an identical situation may have existed among other European pre-Christian cultures. Part of this is because their religions were to a large extent orthopraxic and not orthodox, meaning that the emphasis was on correct ritual practice and belief was left with the individuals and the groups they were part of. Ancient polytheists also made use of syncretism and monism to solve the problem, therefore considering different gods as basically different cultural takes on the same deities: the Egyptian Bastet was a form of Aphrodite, Zeus the Greek Jupiter, Lugh the Celtic Mercury and Tiu the Germanic Mars.
My own stance on it is to take the Gods as They come. I don’t assume Them to be different versions of each other unless I have good reasons to think so: I believe Minerva and Athena to be the same Goddess, but I’m not sure about Neptune and Poseidon; I’m inclined to consider Cybele and Nerthus as avatars of the same Earth Spirit, but that doesn’t mean I see Freyr and Zeus as family. Others may believe otherwise, but, as said, belief is personal and I don’t claim to know the ultimate truth or that others are wrong in their faith. How do I reconcile different cosmological views? Well, to be honest, I’m increasingly taking the notion of diversity that’s inherent to polytheism to a new stage: not only to I believe there are multiple divine beings with different perspectives and takes on things, I’m starting to think that there are multiple otherworlds. And this is actually a small step once you’ve been a heathen, given that Old Norse cosmology speaks of nine realms with different divine, human, semi-divine and other sorts of inhabitants. Why shouldn’t that hold for different pantheons and godly families or tribes also? The only world that needs to be shared is ours, which also explains how one thing – the sea, the weather, trading, war – may have more than one deity influencing it. It actually gives a whole new meaning to the notion of miðgarðr: Middle Earth, middle ground indeed!
So, for short, I don’t claim to know the ultimate truth, that only my gods are real, and that my religion is the only true faith. I actually worship Norse and Roman deities and may include divinities from other pantheons into my religious life in the future, each according to their own ritual traditions. And the diversity I believe to be true for divinity may also hold for the otherworlds.