Personal pantheon in a multicultural world (2)

How does the previously presented analogy translate into the topic at hand and helps making sense of one’s culturally diverse personal pantheon?

Community forms the basic and most influential pattern of your beliefs and practices. What is your religious calendar? Is it Roman, Greek, Egyptian? If there’s not enough information on the pre-Christian time reckoning of a particular culture and you use the modern Gregorian calendar as a framework, what is the cultural origin of most or all of your feast days? When do you celebrate New Year or your ancestors? What’s the source of your ritual structure and rules? Where do you draw your fundamental beliefs and practices from (or at least the majority of them)? Answer these questions and you’ll be face to face with the “laws” that run your religious life, and hence with your community. Apollodorosh, for instance, is a Hellenist who may worship gods from other pantheons according to their native traditions, so long as they are “in accordance with Hellenic ethics and Nomos Arkhaios”. So he has clearly identified his “laws” and, as a consequence, his community, allowing him to sustain an identity in the midst of culturally diverse deities. As for me, despite being a devotee of a Norse god and paying my respects to an Egyptian divinity, my core beliefs and practices remain Roman: it’s from Ancient Rome that I draw my ideas on belief, ritual, and morality, the Gods’ essential benevolence, and my religious calendar, with the celebration of the calends, nones, and ides, as well as Saturnalia and the good ancestors’ feast of Parentalia.

Partnership is the very close and personal relationship you have with one deity or a limited number of Them. In polytheistic communities, They will often be mentioned as patrons, and that relationship may be informal or it may have been given a formal link as an oath of service or loyalty. A marriage with a deity, so to speak, and, just like in modern civil societies one may marry someone from a different culture or country, so to in a polytheistic universe some may come to form a bond with a deity outside their community. In my case, despite being religiously Roman, my greatest devotion is towards the Norse Frey, even if we never “married” (may happen in the future, though).

Finally, there’s friendship and it can happen with deities from virtually any culture just like today you may have friends from different parts of the world, with different languages, habits, and practices. It doesn’t change your identity, it doesn’t change theirs, and chances are there will be reciprocal gestures of cultural awareness, with both sides showing respect towards the native culture of each. Which brings us to one final question: how to worship the different gods from different cultural backgrounds?

As a fan of (open) orthopraxy, I do it according to the native traditions of each god: if Roman, I use the structure of Roman religious ceremonies, if Norse, Norse one, and for Khnum I’ve been reading on Kemetic ritual gestures. Given that it’s a reconstruction of pre-Christian practices, on which the information may not be abundant or useful for modern days, sometimes there’s a necessary degree of adaptation and educated creativity. But the orthopraxic principle remains: deities are worshiped according to Their native traditions. For Frey, I’m planning a portable shrine which will basically be a miniature Norse house, I use fire and water to open more formal ceremonies after the rules of hospitality as presented in the poem Hávamál, and the offerings are either poured or left out in the open. Offerings to Roman gods are burned, buried, or thrown into Their realms according to traditional ritual rules. And Khnum is honoured by a prostration known as henu and given food that I must later eat, as is the Kemetic custom.

This fits into the analogy, too. For if you marry someone from a different country, you’ll welcome elements from the native culture of your partner and your house will to some extent be a multicultural home. If you socialize with a friend from the other side of the world, you may come to witness and be a part of his or her native traditions, just as he or she will be of yours. There’s a degree of reciprocity which is also true for the Gods and was not unknown in the ancient world: the north-Mediterranean cults of Isis were Egyptian in many ways, but they were also Roman and Greek versions of Kemetic practices. Orthopraxy is not a fossilized thing: there’s a degree of flexibility and room for negotiation, just like modern couples where each partner is from a different culture “negotiate” the native elements in their common life.

In the end, multicultural personal pantheons shouldn’t come as a surprise. In a world that has become a global village or a global version of the ancient Mediterranean, religious life easily follows the same patterns as civil life. And the latter can help us making sense of the former.

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5 thoughts on “Personal pantheon in a multicultural world (2)

  1. Hello,

    Followed a link from a friend of a friend here. I very much like your idea of a model for finding one’s place as a reconstructionist among shifting pantheons – a subject near and dear to my heart, as well.

    I’ve added your blog to my links section, hope you don’t mind!

  2. Pingback: Reconstructionism, Polytheism, and Mysticism… « Aedicula Antinoi: A Small Shrine of Antinous

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