Essentially what? (3)

Sometimes, when I’m asked about my beliefs, I reply with two basic concepts: freedom and pietas. I’ve come to see them as my “articles of faith”, for it sums up in two words quintessential ideas behind my religious practice and hence of how I see the Gods and Their relationship humans.

Freedom stands for the belief that I am free to choose which gods to worship while They are free to reject my offerings and refuse me what I ask of Them. It is what allows us to freely attach ourselves to any deity we wish, either because They appeal to us or through a formal vow; likewise, it is also what allows the Gods to freely contact those of us that draw Their attention. Freedom, however, is not without limits and is counterbalanced by duty.

Pietas is the scrupulous fulfilment of one’s obligations towards the Gods, family, friends, and the community/ies you’re part of. If you promised something to a deity in exchange for help and what you wished for came true, it is assumed that the Gods played Their part and you are therefore under the obligation to play yours. By being part of a family, you have duties towards your relatives, both living and those who passed onto the Other Side, and that’s also true for those with whom you have bonds of friendship and community. In some instances, these obligations are obviously not chosen, but imposed on you by the very nature of your relationships: generally speaking, one does not chose his/her family, but is born or raised into it, inheriting duties towards living and dead relatives and even towards family gods. Communal life would have had a similar nature in the past, but given today’s context of diverse societies and secular States, religiously it’s best applied to polytheistic groups and organizations.

Freedom is also not without its opposites, which are superstitio and some forms of magic. The former is born out of the belief that the Gods are out to get you, causing an excessive fear of Them and a submissive behaviour that destroys human freedom. The latter are magical formulas and practices aimed at stealing from or forcing the Gods into a given course of action, which breaks with Their freedom. And while it is true that humans and deities are not equals, I find a balanced religious practice to be nonetheless based on mutual respect with reciprocal rights and duties. It is in this sense of a relationship built on negotiation and agreements that I believe the Gods to be essentially benevolent.

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4 thoughts on “Essentially what? (3)

  1. I have a question: How do you see being called by Deity to a position, i.e. priest, seer, etc. and freedom’s role in answering or refusing the call? Can I still be practicing pietas while refusing to answer the call to priesthood, seercraft, etc.? Is freedom relinquished, in your view, upon becoming a God/Goddess’s priest, seer, etc.?

    Do you see pietas has limits?

    Do you think the magic you described above works? Do you have another view on this?

    I’m not asking these questions with the intent to denigrate or use the magic described above, but I am curious about how others see things like this.

    • Very good questions, Sarenth!

      Pietas refers basically to the set of obligations you inherit from your relations and those you impose on yourself through vows. So unless you made an oath of service or there’s some sort of inescapable family tradition in priesthood, I see no reason why you should feel forced into a position of priest, seer, or other. The Gods may of course insist and it’s a bit like someone trying to hire you for a job you’re not really sure about: there’s insistence, haggling, and negotiations that may or may not lead to a mutually satisfactory deal. So if the Gods insist, don’t be afraid to draw your line, present your conditions, and haggle with Them.

      And if you do enter in a position of service, remember that you give away as much freedom as you vow to, so be careful with the wording of your oath. Actually, my word of advice to those considering doing it would be to include an “exit article” in their vow, much like work contracts have a rescinding clause. I know it’s not as imposing as a deal for life, but it’s honest and honesty is a superb foundation for mutual respect.

      As for the described type of magic, it may work or it may just be a matter of the principle of it being offensive. Honestly, I think some forms of magic can at least bugger the Gods and make Them feel like smacking someone in the face.

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