Dropping the moral criterion

How can it be a god if it’s not perfect? How can it be worshipped if it’s not good? These are questions that I’m occasionally confronted with and not just by Christians. They also come out of the mouth (or fingers) of atheists and, every now and then, even pagans and polytheists, in what is a good example of how the current religious speech, at least in the western world, is dominated by Abrahamic assumptions, even if you’re not a Jew, Christian, Muslim or religious at all.

1. One’s criteria…
At the root of those questions – and the astonishment that may accompany them – is the prevalence of a concept of divinity that’s based on a moral criterion, as, for instance, in the idea that “God is good”. Or just or merciful or perfect. If it has flaws, it’s not a god. If it has no sense of justice, if it lets bad things happen to people who don’t deserve them, if it lacks compassion or possesses a moral imperfection, then it’s not a god. Thus, if the devil steals, lies, seduces, hurts or destroys, those are symptoms of its non-divinity. He’s the anti-god and therefore the opposite of perfection and justice. And if there was a god, “this” – insert whatever tragedy you can think of – would never happen.

It wasn’t always like this and one can find a more unpleasant notion of the divine in the Old Testament. For instance, the death of Uzzah after he touched the Ark of the Covenant, in Samuel II 6:6-7, is ruthless and takes into consideration no good intentions whatsoever. But the moral criterion isn’t new as well and you can see it in places like chapter 7 of the Correctione Rusticorum, where Saint Martin of Dume denies that Jupiter, Mars or Mercury are gods based not just on a belief in a divine monopoly, but also from their behaviour: adultery, lies, theft, magic, instigation of discord, all of that is unbecoming of a deity and signs that something isn’t a god.

The moral criterion came to prevail and is presently a recurring part of Christian thought. It’s in speeches, sermons, manuals, everyday conversations. And because the European continent has a thousand or more years of Abrahamic predominance, that conception is the default perspective based on which most people discuss religion, whatever it may be or regardless of whether or not you have one.

2. …are not the criteria of others
It wasn’t like that in ancient Europe, where the divine was commonly defined as being numinous, wondrous or extraordinary, as having the power to awe, inspire, terrify, create or destroy, no matter if it was beneficial or damaging, pleasant or unpleasant. Gods in everything, as Thales of Miletus is believed to have said and Virgil wrote later on, regardless if it’s good or bad things.

To put it in practical terms, consider the case of Aphrodite. It’s true that ancient Greece wasn’t all misogynist, if nothing else because it’s hard to speak of uniformity in a territory that was divided into multiple city-States, which had traditions and cultural nuances of their own, and even more so in a polytheistic context, which by recognizing multiple gods also accepts multiple patterns, even if in a limited fashion. But it was still a place and time where there was a strong cultural current that saw female sexuality with some discomfort, if not fear.

There’s a trace of that in Euripides’ Bacchae, lines 217-25, where Pentheus accuses the women who honour Dionysus of leaving their homes and wander through the mountains, submitting to lasciviousness in isolated places. He also accuses them of placing the cult of Aphrodite ahead of that of Bacchus, using the latter as a pretext for lust. And the foreigner who introduces the Dionysian practices, who’s the god Himself and Pentheus accuses of moral corruption, is described as having “in his wine-coloured eyes the charms of Aphrodite”.

It is thus unsurprising that the great warrior goddess of the Greeks is Athena. After all, She had no mother who gave birth to Her, as said in lines 735-6 of the Eumenides, and, because She came out of the head of Zeus, She lends Herself to interpretations like coming from the elevated place of male reason instead of the lowers parts of female sexuality. And as if that wasn’t enough, She is staunchly chaste, which makes Her safe to have among men, since there’s no lust in Her. Simply put, She’s a masculinized goddess and therefore accepted in the bellic world. Aphrodite, on the other hand, as stated in Book 5 of the Iliad, is clearly out of Her depth in actual physical combat, in as much as, after being injured by Diomedes, She’s told to stick to Her realm, which is not that of war.

Artemis offers another symptom of a similar aversion to female sexuality. As goddess of the hunt, an activity that requires one to run through woods and fields, you’d expect Her to be seen as having minimalistic clothing that allows for a greater freedom of movement. Running and jumping in a long skirt isn’t easy. But that same minimalism results in a greater exposure of the body, which is not very modest, and so it is convenient that Artemis, like Athena, is staunchly chaste. In as much as, in some versions of the myth of Actaeon, he’s killed just for seeing the goddess naked. Which makes Her yet another safe female deity, because She makes no use of Her sexuality and can therefore run and wander through the mountains without fears of, in Pentheus’ words, giving way to lasciviousness in isolated places.

This serves to show that there was a clear misogynist line in ancient Greek culture, even if it wasn’t unanimous or uniform. But despite that, despite that discomfort or distrust of female sexuality and the “evils” it could bring, the Greeks nonetheless recognized Aphrodite as a goddess. She could be “dangerous”, at the very least potentially immoral, but still a deity, either because lust exerts an overwhelming power over humans and thus has extraordinary or numinous qualities, or because female sexuality has a reproductive use, preferably within the bounds of marriage, which is where the Iliad places Aphrodite.

3. Not every cult is an invitation
This open manner of seeing the divine is odd to many of us. We’re not used to consider deities without making judgements, without wondering if it’s good, beneficial or just and therefore a god or not. The Judeo-Christian principles are the common reference and thus people tend to project them on any religion, past or present, as if they were natural, obvious or universal traits. They’re not. The moral reasoning would have made no sense for many in ancient Europe, so much so that not every cult aimed at divine presence or closeness. Sometimes, the purpose was to obtain a safe distance – with respect, yes, but a distance nonetheless – which is not surprising, if you think about it.

If an entity is acknowledged as a god or goddess even if it has a damaging, terrifying or destructive nature, then not every religious gesture will aim at having said deity among us. “Let God enter you life”, Christians would say. Which at least to some polytheists makes sense only up to a point, because there are gods you may want to keep as far away as respectfully possible, even if you worship them. Gods of the Underworld, for instance, are often synonymous with terror, disease and death, though that doesn’t make Them less divine. It just means that the cult that is owed and given to Them serves less to attract Them and more to keep Them satisfied, though at a safe distance in order to avoid the presence of that which They bring. It’s not by chance that the cult of the dead could be wrapped up in taboos.

This, too, is odd to many of us. After all, how many people use or hang amulets against evil-eyes, misfortune or demons, without ever considering at the same time the option of offering something to that which is seen as bad in other to keep it at bay? Or how many people reject that possibility because, according to the Judeo-Christian principles, only god deserves to be honoured and god is that which is good, just, pure or perfect?

4. The past and the present
Unsurprisingly, even among those who try to revive ancient European polytheisms there are people who make use of the moral criterion, even if they’re not entirely aware of it. The refusal to honour Loki is a good example, since it’s often based on the argument that He’s a traitor or a liar, as described in a mythology preserved in late sources where the Norse trickster is already shaped in the image of the Christian devil. It’s interesting to note that people often neglect the resemblances with the Greek Hermes or the African-American Eshu, who are acknowledged as deities despite their mercurial personalities. Or that a god doesn’t have to be good, morally perfect or just in order to be a god. Or that a cult can also serve to keep at bay – the deity or its effects – and not to invite it to be present. To say that His moral conduct disqualifies Loki from the divine category is something that may owe more to Christian theology and less to the religious ideas of pre-Christian Europe.

The same may perhaps be said of those who honour infernal gods in domestic shrines, side by side with celestial deities. There’s certainly in that an element of poor knowledge of ancient practices, but somewhere in the middle there may also be a product of the moral criterion. Because if a god is that which is just or good, as is commonly believed in the present religious discourse, then Dis Pater and Jupiter are on a similar level, since they’re both gods, and can therefore be worshipped side by side. There is a degree of comfort in a morally-based theology, because it can assume divine goodness and purity as certain and universal.

5. Amoral is different from irrational
At this point, I must emphasize two things, starting with the fact that polytheism is a diverse religious category, even more so if one takes into account that several of its religions have no orthodoxy and therefore no uniform beliefs. What I said has thus a relative reach and it’s important to note that. But besides that, by defending an amoral concept of deity, I’m not saying that the gods are irrational beings who act randomly or sadistically. I don’t hold the idea that they are out to get you, waiting to find flaws they can punish, but instead believe there is reason in them. There are purposes and goals… though not necessarily our own. And that is where another part of the problem resides.

As I see it, we’re not the centre of things and the world or universe do not exist for our benefit. We’re the cumulative product of multiple causes and the cosmos, like the Earth, has multiple gods, not all of them friendly towards civilization. Some are indifferent to it, others oppose it and some deities are not particularly preoccupied with us or our needs, individual or collective. Many, if not most, see things in a wider fashion than we do, for which reason some are willing to harm individuals for the sake of a greater good or long term. Think of gods like Volcanus, who presides over the subterranean heat and thus the tectonic dynamics that sustain life, but which work on a chronological horizon of thousands or millions of years, much more than any human generation, and can be destructive of individuals lives. The needs and worries of Volcanus are not ours – and keep in mind that I distinguish Him from Hephaestus, who to me comes across as a god of the fire of the forge, civilized and tempered, not that of the inner Earth, which is primordial and violent.

As such, speaking from my own view as a Roman polytheist, if a deity is harmful, if it presents itself as violent and immoral, it’s not because it’s irrational: it just means that it follows rules and an agenda different from ours. One may certainly try to negotiate, obtain a truce, time, benefits or limited help, but ultimately its goals may not be our own. A god of disease isn’t evil, it simply presides over something unpleasant or tragic, but which is a natural part of a world that does not exist for our benefit. A god of chaos too isn’t evil, but participates in a universe that’s in constant change and thus has a chaotic component. None of this disqualifies them as gods. It simply means that they’re different deities with which one must deal accordingly and without denying them the divine status.

I’m aware, of course, that these examples are based on a modern understanding of the cosmos, in contrast to the science of the ancient world, which saw things like the sun or the stars as being eternal or was unaware of the microscopic world behind diseases. But it’s one thing to let knowledge shape theology, offering fresh content to the general outline and religious practices of the past, which did see destructive and harmful powers as gods nonetheless. It’s quite another to distort that under the influence of ideas that are alien to a given religious system and are acquired or accepted as valid out of inertia.

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Of such things is the world made

Though not necessarily a universal trait – because polytheism is a diverse category and what’s true for one part may not be for another – it is at least frequent among polytheists to see life as something that has a religious dimension in all of its aspects. Which may seem totalitarian and that would indeed be the case if not for the fundamental principle of plurality, present in the idea of poly- or “many”, implying that a person’s religiosity may not be another’s and without condemnation deriving from difference.

On that note of an everyday dimension, since today is my birthday, I planned a ceremony in Roman rite to sacrifice small slices of my anniversary cake to my ancestors, house genii and Mercury. It’s a gesture of sharing with deceased family members, which recalls the meal with living relatives, and the acknowledgement of a special bound with some deities, in the same manner as one highlights ties of friendship in a birthday. And in that same context, following a brief conversation with a friend, I decided to add this text to my tributes to Mercury, focusing on His less popular side and draw from it ideas on His identity and the type of blessings or punishments He offers.

Notice, however, that what I’m about to say is my perspective – that of a Portuguese man who associates the son of Maia with the Lares Viales, integrating Him in an Iberian context, and is a bit of a Buddhist, philosophically. The experiences and conclusions of other devotees of the Fleet-Footed may therefore be different from mine and there’s nothing wrong about that.

1. Got to move, got to fly
A few days ago, Aldrin asked me how do I feel when people say Mercury is not to be trusted because He’s a lying trickster. And my answer was that I laugh it off when I don’t try to explain that He’s a liminal and therefore fluid god, including when it comes to morality. Because one of the things that characterizes a trickster is being at ease in the ambiguous space that exists between the notions of right and wrong, moving freely from one side to the other. It’s not by chance that the son of Maia is a messenger, diplomat, interpreter, traveller – in short, a deity who crosses boundaries and bridges the two sides of a border.

But fluidity is movement, it’s constant change, which is uncomfortable for us. Human beings tend to prefer the comfort of certainty and predictability, which is hard to get when limits are no longer clear-cut. And as if that’s not enough, we’re equally and naturally averse to change, which we normally try to prevent, even when it’s inevitable. And it’s almost always inevitable. Health, beauty, a dream job or home, the perfect afternoon or dinner, the ideal marriage or the irreplaceable company of a partner – all of that is precious and worth striving for, but fleeting and subject to change, whether we like it or not. Refusing to accept that is like being a traveller who wants to perpetually stay under the shade of a tree, unworried and comfortable, rather than keep walking. Which goes against Mercury’s nature, who’s a god of movement and at best allows for pauses along the road. Actually, more than that, He offers and enriches them with blessings of success, luck, pleasure, happiness and prosperity. But sooner or later, you’re meant to get back on the road and resume the journey. Life is made of constant change and movement, however much we’d like things to last forever, and the son of Maia embodies that reality. It’s His world.

2. Perhaps a saint is not what they need
If despite being unpleasant change can nonetheless come to be accepted, the same cannot be said of theft, which is never pleasant for its victims. And it is true that Mercury is a god of lies and thieves, which doesn’t make Him more popular, though here too one must understand the root of that link. Because what makes the son of Maia a god of not just burglars, but also traders and profit, is the aforementioned nature of the trickster. He’s fluid, always on the move and thus hard to catch, is armed with a honeyed tongue and has the skills of a joker, making Him a constant bag of surprises. Illusion, the gift of rhetoric, swift moves, sharp eyes, inventive qualities, agility and ability – all of that comes naturally for a trickster. It characterizes a god who moves in the shadows or is at home in the ambiguity that exists between worlds, genders, right and wrong and can assume various roles or perform the function of diplomat, interpreter, spy or messenger. He’s versatile and adaptable, because He has that ability to integrate, camouflage, improvise, invent.

Of course, those are also the basic tools of thievery, which requires the use of cunning and skill, of going about unnoticed or swiftly. But I wouldn’t say that Mercury is a trickster because He’s a god of thieves. Quite the opposite! He’s a deity of thieves precisely because He is a trickster! That is to say, He has vital qualities for any burglar and may grant them, but not always and never exclusively, because the god is not the activity, in as much as you can outwit a thief if you make a better use of the mercurial tool set. The gifts are there, but their practical application… that’s another story.

As such, if theft and lies are a product of Mercury’s world, it is also true that what stands beneath them can be used for multiple goals and without compromising basic honesty. Be smart, be ingenious, be on the look out and get moving. If there are those who do it to hurt and steal, you can also use it to help and succeed. Far from being a monopoly of burglars, resourcefulness is often a necessity of life and many of those who made the world a better place were not saints.

3. Always move fast, you never know what’s catching you up
So far, I’ve been talking about Mercury’s identity as I see it and the blessings He offers, but I’m yet to say a word or two about the less pleasant part that are divine curses or punishments. And those can take different forms, the most obvious being becoming a victim of the mercurial arts in a brutal and systematic fashion or being deprived of them, turning a person into a naïve creature that never convinces and is always convinced or fooled.

Naturally, there are numerous nuances to this and no, I’m not saying that every robbery or swindle is a punishment from Mercury. For one, because divine plurality prevents one from attributing everything to a single god and also because there’s always the human element. Furthermore, wandering about without a destination, lost and in constant flux, may also be a mercurial experience and not necessarily as a punishment. The world is also made of such complexities.

There is, however, another form of divine curse that isn’t always considered, but which can be drawn from the title of this section: always move fast, you never know what’s catching you up. The sentence, by the way, is a quote from Terry Pratchett’s Going Postal, as are all the subtitles and title of this post, and it can express the aforementioned idea of being smart, ingenious, sharp and get moving. But taken to the extreme it is also synonymous with paranoia and that is sometimes the way divine punishment works: not through a removal of blessings, but by giving them in a hyperbolic state, as if on steroids, putting one in a downward spiral into madness or disaster. In this case, by turning the advice of being on the look out and get moving into a constant fear of your surroundings until you’re completely isolated. This too is part of the world of the son of Maia, who, like other gods, is not without less pleasant aspects.

4. You know your walks
What then is this path of Mercury that I’m describing? In short, it’s the awareness that life is a constant journey. You may pause, have moments of rest and enjoyment, success and acquisition of desired things, but they’re subject to change and you’re meant to move on, to keep travelling. Accept that and cherish it. And be smart, be on the look out, be sharp and ingenious, though that doesn’t mean you won’t trip. Because that too is a part of life and Mercury sometimes likes to throw a curved ball. He’s also a god of games.

Post that won’t get me any friends

A picture with just eight words is worth a thousand of them. In this case one that nails a common feeling on this side of the Atlantic, following the US presidential election and as captured by someone’s camera on a European street:

americankids

Hopefully, French and Germans will show a greater maturity in their elections next year – or at least their electoral system will be enough of a safety valve. And the reason why I’m sharing this here, in a blog that’s not about politics, is because this week’s events have added to the feeling of alienation, of being unable to see myself in what’s said and done by an important part of US polytheists, as voiced here and elsewhere on multiple occasions since early January. Fair to say that 2016 has been a year of fracture. Which is why, in all honesty, I’m very happy about my decision to set up a blog in Portuguese, aimed first and foremost to the specifics of a Portuguese context, so as to mentally – and emotionally! – distance myself more effectively from the polarization of US society and focus instead on the idiosyncrasies of mine. I actually made up my mind about it two months ago and I won’t open the new blog until January 4th – not a randomly chosen date – but given the victory of Trumpism, I needed to get it out of my chest. There’s something of a “fuck it, I’m out of here” feeling to it (pardon my French), so there you have it. One more push in the drifting away of the stone raft. I’ll keep this site active – English does reach a bigger audience than Portuguese – but it won’t be the sole focus of my blogging attention. I really, really need a change of air.

The brainstorm of divine origins

For those of you who are unaware of it, I’m not a fan of immediate equations of gods. That is to say, that I’m not into the simplistic argument that similar iconography or overlap in functions is enough to conclude that two or more deities are the same. I know it was a common thing in the ancient world and a lot of modern polytheists do it, but I tend to dig deeper and look into various specifics – etymology, cult history, nature or functions – instead of jumping to the conclusions based on a very broad and – dare I say? – shallow stroke. Why? Mostly because I like to know the gods I worship as best as I can and preferably based on more than just a “feels right” kind of argument. And also because, whenever History is concerned, I prefer to put things under a critical eye as opposed to merely accepting what is given to me by ancient sources or appearances. In this case, whether a god is originally native or imported and hence distinct or identical to another. It may not provide for a decisive conclusion – and the further back you go in History, the less certainties you have – but it does award a more solid basis on which to build my beliefs.

Case by case
In the past, this has led me to conclude that Hephaestus is different from Volcanus, for while they are both fire gods, the former is that of the forge – and hence civilized fire – whereas the latter is that of the wild and inner earth, which translates into a much more primal and violent force. Just because several deities are tied to the flames, it doesn’t mean that they’re the same. Otherwise, you might have to conclude that Hephaestus and Hestia are identical, despite the gender difference, because they both deal with fire. It’s the nature of the flame that matters. On the opposite end of the topic, I’ve come to conclude that Hermes and Mercury are the same, since the latter was not a part of the earliest Roman pantheon – as suggested by the lack of a flamen – and the location of His temple outside the pomerium, while not an infallible proof, nonetheless also hints at an originally foreign cult. The Greek colonies of southern Italy may well be the point from where Hermes entered Roman religion. And between equation and distinction, I’m unsure about Jupiter, for while His name is an etymological match to that of Zeus, both Latin and Greek are Indo-European languages, so if you’re going to name a sky god, chances are that you’ll use something that’s linguistically identical to what’s being employed in another tongue of the same group. Simply put, it could be a mere case of different gods being identified by means of common words.

General notions
Of course, there’s nothing wrong with believing differently, because 1) these are not orthodox or exclusivist religions and 2) it ends up being a bit indifferent. After all, if they’re the same, that just means you’ve been worshipping the same deity all along, whereas if they’re not, then you’ve been honouring the ones you name according to a chosen ritual praxis. And again, yes, simplistic and sometimes even contradictory equation was a very common thing in the ancient world. But when I look at pre-Christian authors claiming that the Egyptians worshipped Aphrodite (meaning Hathor) or that the Germans honoured Mercury (i.e. Wodan), I remind myself of what happened when Vasco da Gama reached India, in 1498, and the Portuguese mistook Hindu deities for Catholic saints. True, they found it odd that they had multiple arms, big teeth and weird heads, but that wasn’t an immediate disqualifier, in as much as Vasco da Gama is said to have prayed to a Hindu goddess thinking it was the Virgin Mary. Or at least that’s the account of Lopes de Castanheda, published in 1551, in his History of the Discovery and Conquest of India by the Portuguese (Book I, chapter 16). And the reason for the confusion is that, in the minds of Gama and his men, there were only three religions at the time: Judaism, Islam and Christianity. They were not particularly aware of any other. They may have heard about tribal African religions, though it’s unclear how they saw them exactly, but in any case, when confronted with the large stone buildings of Hinduism, with its many colours and statues, the only point of reference they had in living memory was Catholicism, since neither Jews nor Muslims worship images. And thus, the obvious conclusion was that the Indians were Christians.

This is how I often – though not always – look at classical equations: a simplistic reasoning born out of the fact that people had a limited knowledge of other religions and naturally assumed a sameness that filled in the blanks; or alternatively, an implicit statement of self-importance, in that you see yourself as superior or at the centre of things and so of course other people do the same as you. Much like modern, often ill-informed individuals may assume that what’s true for their country is true elsewhere in the world, because all they know is basically what they deal with daily or they see themselves as important enough for their specifics to be universal. And in the particular case of the ancient Romans, it was also an issue of the grass being more educated on the Greek side of the fence, so they claimed that it too was Roman.

Again, this doesn’t mean that there’s no merit in equation. It’s a valid theological perspective, one that I share in some instances, and, as said, this is not a matter of orthodoxy. But I cannot take it at face value, accept it simply because that’s what ancient authors did, no more than I can conclude that two or more gods are the same just because they share functions or looks. If human life is similar, of course you’re going to find different deities attached to similar spheres of influence. And iconography, like names and legendary elements, can move around and get tied to multiple things and entities that are nonetheless separate. Look at how the Japanese wind god Fujin is depicted with a bag or cloak similar to that of the Greek Boreas, not because they’re necessarily the same, but because the artistic convention was slowly carried over from Greece to Japan by way of conquest and trade. Consider also how the depiction of the Virgin Mary partially derives from that of pre-Christian goddesses like Isis, not because they’re the same entity, but because the iconography of the latter was used to depict the former. Or in a weirder, yet enlightening example, how peasants from 13th-century France transferred the name and martyr status of a human saint – Guinefort – to a greyhound they worshipped. They’re not the same character – one is a man, the other a dog – but the former’s name and title was used for a canine cult (Schmitt 2009: 91-105). And in a clearer case of imported elements being attached to a native figure, the words in hoc signo vinces, which were said to have appeared to Constantine before the battle of the Milvian bridge, in 312, are also part of a much later legend pertaining to the first Portuguese king and his victory at Ourique in 1139 (Pereira 1993: 436). Check Camões’ The Lusíadas III: 45 for an allusion to it. In short, parts of things can move and get attached to other, independent things. It’s a bit like clothing fashion, in that it too gets passed around between people, communities and cultures. But just because two or more individuals wear the same outfit, that doesn’t mean they’re the same person or of the same country.

A complex case
My most recent dive into the brainstorm that are such matters concerns Minerva. I’ve been going back and forth with it, sometimes leaning towards distinction, others towards equation with Athena, and a few days ago I revisited the matter and went a bit deeper, down a rabbit hole of sorts, you might say, and came out with a more solid conviction on the identity of a goddess to whom I perform a monthly sacrifice on the 19th day.

I started with the simplest and most common belief, that They are the same deity given the similarity of roles and an identical iconography. She was known among the Etruscans as Menrva and what little is known of their religion suggests a strong Hellenic influence that could have included the plain appropriation (*gasp*) of Athena, whose name would have been replaced with a native one. After all, as in Greek myth, Menrva is the daughter of the sky god, from whose head She was born, pairs up with the hero Hercles (i.e. Herakles) and is depicted in much the same way as Athena, with an aegis, spear, helmet and shield. This would seem to suggest that They’re the same, but take a closer look and you’ll start spotting differences. Namely, that Menrva was seen as a wielder of lightening, appears to have had a connection with divination and perhaps also with children, though it is unclear to what extent. Maybe just as an educator, but it could also be something else, enough for some to question whether She was seen as virginal as Athena (Grummond 2006: 72-5). So They’re not exactly the same goddess. The crucial question is whether the differences came before or after the Hellenization of Etruscan religion.

If one opts for the latter, then the distinctions are simply a form of regionalization, i.e. the product of Athena’s integration into the Etruscan context. Old gods in new places are often reinterpreted, with roles being dropped, stressed or added according to the needs, customs or experiences of the host culture, which may not be common to those of others, and so the differences may be no more than Athena’s Etruscan flavour. Yet they could also be traces of an older Menrva, one that pre-dates much of the Hellenic influence and is therefore a separate deity, but on which layers of imported Greek elements were superimposed, attached to Her like a new outfit, leaving only a few distinctive features as remnants of a previous self.

This is where linguistics becomes of particular importance, because Menrva is a name of Indo-European stock. It comes from the Italic meneswo (intelligent, understanding), which is rooted in men- or “thought” (Cor de Vaan 2008: 380-1). This is unlike what happens in the case of Tinia, whose name may come from the Etruscan tin (day), or Turms, whose etymology is unknown (Grummond 2006: 53 and 122). But here’s the thing: the Etruscan language was not Indo-European and thus the name of the goddess, which is attested as early as the 6th century BCE, was imported from elsewhere. Where exactly is unclear, but the Latin, Faliscan and Umbrian areas of central Italy have been put forward as possibilities (Cor de Vaan 2008: 381). Which is curious, because the traditional or standard interpretation is that the Romans acquired Minerva from the Etruscans. But if etymology is anything to go by, the truth is perhaps the other way around. And there may be a circumstantial indication of that in the fact that Menrva seems to be absent from the Piacenza liver, which was found in what used to be northern Etruria, but there was a temple to Her at Veii, which was closer to Rome (Simmon 2006: 59.1). So we have a goddess whose name is an import and whose cult may not have been present in a uniform fashion. Thus, if the theonym has a southern origin and, perhaps, She was more popular in the Etruscan south, then maybe that’s where one needs to look in order to find Her origins: south! And in ancient Italy, the further you went in that direction, the closer you were from the Greek settlements of Magna Graecia, some of which were founded in the 8th century BCE.

So what to make of it?
Now, as said, the further back you go in History, the less certainties you get and that’s exactly the case here: I’m trying to make sense of fragments of information on the origins of a particular goddess, knowing that in the end I’ll only have a theory and not a certainty. But having said that, where do I stand?

I’m leaning strongly towards believing that Menrva/Minerva is the same as Athena, though not as a direct Etruscan appropriation of a Greek goddess – or at least not at first – but an indirect one via non-Greek communities in central Italy. That is to say, people like the Latins, Falisci or Umbri picked up the cult of Athena from their contacts with Magna Graecia, changed Her name along the way and then the Etruscans, thanks to their proximity to central Italians, themselves took Her in already renamed as Menerwa. Hence Her Indo-European name in a non-Indo-European culture and the apparent possibility that She was more popular in southern as opposed to northern Etruria. And this could also explain the differences between Minerva and Athena, in that the former would be a bit like a translation of a translation – twice interpreted and hence somewhat distinct from the original.

Since the transmission would have taken place sometime between the 8th and 6th centuries BCE, it is fair to ask why then was Minerva absent from the traces of the older pantheon of ancient Rome? Specifically, why is there no flamen Minervalis? Perhaps because in the early period She was not popular enough for it. After all, just because the knowledge or even worship of a goddess gets passed around between people and communities, it doesn’t mean that it automatically becomes a State cult. That may have come later and in a reverse movement to how it started, i.e. from north to south, from Etruria to Latium and Rome.

Again, not a certainty, but it is a more solid basis than just feeling right that Minerva and Athena are the same. Because when things involve historical processes of some sort – like the origins and expansion of a cult – this is how I tend look at it. Through enquiry and critical thinking, not a mere acceptance of accounts or looks. Which come to think of it, is a very minerval thing to do, to make use of your ability to reason and construct ideas.

Works cited
COR DE VAAN, Michiel Arnoud. 2008. Etymological Dictionary of Latin and the Other Italic Languages. Leiden, Boston: Brill.

GRUMMOND, Nancy Thompson de. 2006. Etruscan myth, sacred History, and legend. Philadelphia: University of Philadelphia, Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology.

SIMON, Erika. 2006. “Gods in Harmony: the Etruscan pantheon”, in The religion of the Etruscans, eds. Nancy Thompson de Grummon and Erika Simon. Austin: University of Texas Press, pp. 45-65.

PEREIRA, Paulo. 1993. “A conjuntura artística e as mudanças de gosto”, in História de Portugal, volume III, dir. José Mattoso. Lisboa: Círculo de Leitores, pp. 423-467.

SCHMITT, Jean-Claude. 2009. The holy greyhound, trans. Martin Thom. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Saramago was right and Dorne is real

My newest piece on Polytheist.com is on and it’s based on comments, posts and articles I’ve been reading here and there for some time now in websites, social media and the blogosphere. One of those instances was recently on Facebook, where polytheists called for Muslim migrants to be barred, Europe’s indigenous population and culture to be protected and even suggested that Islam and Christianity should be somehow erased. I’ve seen these and other opinions being voiced by more than one polytheist on a number of occasions, so having reached my limit, I’ve come to consciously move away from what are essentially small Trumps, adding to the already growing distance due to the fact that the way I see my religion, myself and relate to the world around me is obviously different from how others do it.

The article can be found here. What follows in the rest of this post is a Portuguese version of it, produced after a Brazilian reader asked for a translation.

***
A sentir-me como um homem do Dorne
Deixem-me começar por clarificar que este não é um texto sobre a Guerra de Tronos ou a Canção de Gelo e Fogo, embora o trabalho de George Martin forneça uma metáfora cujo sentido tornar-se-á claro a certo ponto. Por isso, se não gostas da série ou dos livros e estavas a sentir-se desapontado pelo facto de este sítio poder acolher um texto sobre Westeros, relaxa e respira fundo. Isto também não é um artigo escrito por várias pessoas, mas por um indivíduo que fala por ele mesmo e do seu ponto de vista, que é naturalmente moldado pelo local de onde ele é. Isto devia ser óbvio, mas dado o actual estado de coisas na comunidade politeísta em geral e o nível de discurso que se atingiu, talvez seja boa ideia referi-lo. Este texto é sobre o modo como eu me estou a afastar de uma parte (significativa?) dessa mesma comunidade, porque deixei de me identificar com ela. É algo que tem vindo a ganhar forma há já algum tempo, tornou-se óbvio em Janeiro e tem-se realçado desde então. Isto não quer dizer que eu estou a deixar o politeísmo: para uma vez mais clarificar, eu sou livre e firmemente um politeísta romano e não tenho qualquer intenção de mudar isso. Mas a forma como eu vivo a minha religião, vejo-me a mim e ao mundo e interajo com ele é obviamente diferente da forma como outros o fazem (ou dizem fazer). E não necessariamente no bom sentido! Em alguns casos, não é o tipo de diferença que se deva reconhecer, respeitar e abraçar, mas antes questionar e afastar, quanto mais não seja por uma questão de sanidade mental.

Por vezes, o passado é apenas o passado
Como historiador, eu estou obviamente interessado no passado e estudo-o num esforço de traçar e compreender a sua dinâmica, padrões e ecos. Como um politeísta romano, esse interesse geral é levado a outro nível, dado que, mais do que ler sobre ele, eu tento reavivar algum do passado. Não ao género de uma feira medieval ou tentativa de reverter a História, mas num esforço de fazer desses elementos passados uma parte viva do mundo moderno. Eu vou repetir para ter a certeza que todos leram: uma parte viva do mundo moderno. Este é um ponto ao qual eu voltarei várias vezes ao longo deste artigo e está, julgo, na raiz do meu distanciamento crescente de um número cada vez maior de politeístas e de mais do que uma forma.

Para começar, é o que me separa dos que querem ir além de um reavivar da antiga religião romana e desejam em vez disso uma recriação mais ampla da vida social e cívica da Roma antiga, incluindo a roupa, culinária, língua, atitudes morais e instituições políticas de então. O que não é reavivar uma religião para a tornar uma parte viva do mundo moderno, mas separá-la dele, encerrando o politeísmo romano numa concha fossilizada onde ele permanece largamente imune à passagem do tempo. Muito disto parte do facto de as pessoas terem uma predileção profunda e genuína por uma cultura ou civilização em particular, de tal modo que tentam trazê-la de volta de alguma forma. Eu percebo isso. Como historiador, eu tenho uma espécie de veia monárquica, porque eu passo tanto tempo a ler sobre reis, rainhas e príncipes, as suas vidas e cortes, que uma pequena parte de mim deseja secretamente que esses dias fossem correntes, de modo a que eu pudesse testemunha-los em vez de apenas ler sobre eles por via dos relatos de documentos com séculos de idade. Mas depois a realidade entra em cena e depressa eu lembro-me a mim mesmo que há uma diferença entre fantasiar sobre o passado e as verdadeiras necessidade e desafios de governo. E quando se trata de reavivar uma religião antiga, é preciso perceber que uma coisa é trazer de volta uma forma de politeísmo e outra bem diferente é ter um fetiche pela cultura ou período histórico que lhe deu origem.

Claro que há mais do que isso: algumas pessoas estão incertas sobre como reavivar uma religião que foi praticada abertamente pela última vez há mais de um milénio, quando o mundo era muito diferente do de hoje, e essa insegurança pode levá-las a procurar refúgio na certeza histórica. Para elas, o passado é o caminho a seguir – em quase tudo! – por medo de falhar no esforço de trazer de volta uma religião antiga de forma genuína. É, em essência, a imagem espelhada daqueles que optam pelo caminho oposto, onde tudo o que soa certo é correto porque estamos nos dias de hoje e não de ontem – uma posição também ela produto de insegurança, embora nalguns casos haja também um elemento de inconformismo. Na realidade, se o objetivo é dar nova vida a algo antigo, em vez de apenas encená-lo ou criar algo inteiramente novo, ambos os caminhos estão errados. E sim, estar errado é algo real. A formula correta encontra-se algures no meio, num misto equilibrado de tradição e modernidade que permita preservar um elo fundamental com o passado e ao mesmo tempo interligar com o presente, reavivando-se assim uma religião antiga como uma parte viva do mundo moderno.

Esta é uma linha divisória. Separa-me do que querem viver no presente com pouco ou nenhum respeito pelo passado para lá do seus motivos egoístas e prazenteiros e os que fazem o exato oposto, os que querem viver no passado com pouco interesse no presente. E depois há um terceiro grupo, mais tenebroso e potencialmente perigoso, que é o daqueles que, mais do que terem pouco interesse, desprezam o presente! São as pessoas para quem o mundo é corrupto, seguiu o caminho errado ou está a atacar-nos e que por isso mesmo é preciso salvá-lo, lutar contra ele ou resgatá-lo da podridão em que ele se encontra. E a forma como eles propõem fazê-lo é levando-nos de volta a um passado romantizado, até um tempo onde as mulheres não eram putas, os homens não eram maricas, as culturas não estavam misturadas, o cristianismo e o islão não existiam, todos eram politeístas e as pessoas organizavam-se em tribos em vez de Estados ou governos modernos. É basicamente a mesma viagem no tempo que a daqueles que querem uma recriação mais ampla do mundo antigo, só que neste caso é (também) motivada por uma profunda desconfiança ou mesmo nojo com o mundo moderno. Se ao menos pudéssemos voltar atrás no tempo, as coisas seriam melhores – dirão eles.

Já lá vamos à face feia disso, mas por agora digo apenas que eu não me reconheço nessa visão de um presente decadente ou de um passado romantizado. É verdade que o mundo moderno tem muito problemas – como qualquer época – mas também possui as ferramentas para resolvê-los e é bastante melhor em vários aspetos. Claro que eu estou a escrever como um europeu ocidental, mas conforme disse no início deste artigo, eu estou a falar por mim e do meu ponto de vista, que é naturalmente moldado pelo local de onde eu sou. E aqui, eu posso olhar para o passado e dizer, com toda a honestidade, que as coisas estão melhores: a escravatura foi proibida, a pena de morte abolida, a iliteracia está em mínimos históricos, as mulheres têm um papel muito maior na sociedade do que no passado, há uma maior liberdade de religião, expressão, movimento e participação política do que em qualquer outro período anterior (incluindo a Antiguidade Clássica), a esperança média de vida é maior, é-se livre de amar outro homem ou mulher e casar com ele/a, a sustentabilidade ambiental é um vetor político cada vez mais importante e, apesar das pressões a que está sujeito, ainda há um Estado de Providência que fornece uma rede de segurança mínima. Não é perfeito – longe disso! – mas é melhor e tem ferramentas com que melhorar.

Por isso, ao contrário de outros politeístas, eu não sou motivado por um desejo de voltar atrás do tempo. Não me sinto desfasado do mundo ocidental moderno, mesmo que ele tenha problemas em aceitar a ideia de se ser politeísta. É apenas natural que assim seja depois de séculos de domínio monoteísta, o qual, na prática, fez do culto de muitos deuses uma novidade no ocidente, mesmo que historicamente não o seja. Mas enquanto alguns propõem resolver isso levando-nos de volta, de algum modo, para uma sociedade pré-moderna onde o monoteísmo não existia, eu escolho fazê-lo abraçando e usando as liberdades de religião, expressão e associação que a modernidade me dá. Opto por falar e praticar livremente de modo a mudar perceções e encontrar um novo lugar para o politeísmo no mundo ocidental, como cidadão de um país moderno em vez de rejeitá-lo, isolando-me do meu contexto social ou recriando uma tribo pré-cristã. Porque eu não vejo a minha nacionalidade portuguesa como estando em oposição ao politeísmo romano, bem pelo contrário: o território do meu país foi em tempos governado por Roma, os seus deuses adorados aqui e eu sou nativo de uma língua e cultura latinas modernas. E se, como disse, o meu objetivo é reavivar uma religião antiga para que ela seja uma parte viva do mundo moderno, eu não tenho interesse em fingir ser um cidadão de um de Estado ou comunidade anacronicamente recriada. Em vez disso, eu cruzo a minha religião com a minha nacionalidade moderna e não vejo nisso qualquer contradição.

Tornar-se nativo
Uma consequência desse cruzamento é que eu não olho para o cristianismo ou o islão como entidades externas ou estranhas. A sério! Talvez seja por o meu ponto de vista ser o de um historiador e na volta eu conhecer estas coisas melhor do que alguns – incluindo vários dos meus compatriotas – mas eu não posso honestamente dizer que essas duas religiões são estrangeiras. Elas não são novas aqui e não foram introduzidas numa identidade portuguesa pré-existente, mas chegaram a esta parte da Europa há mais um milénio: as primeiras comunidades cristãs organizadas no que é hoje território português datam de c. 180, muito antes da fundação do meu país, o que aconteceu apenas em 1143 ou não antes de c. 1096, quando uma terra de Portugal unificada foi criada a partir dos antigos condados do Porto (ou Portucale) e Coimbra. E quando isso aconteceu, o Islão já estava na península Ibérica há cerca de quatro séculos, desde 711, e ia deixando a sua marca nas línguas, terras e costumes da região.

Talvez se possa dizer que esta é uma parte curiosa do mundo. Não é única, mas curiosa, na medida em que é produto de uma mistura de etnias e culturas. Muito antes de nascer a ideia de se ser português, esta parte da Europa foi povoada por pré-celtas indo-europeus, celtas, fenícios, talvez alguns gregos, muitos romanos, germanos, árabes e berberes do norte de África. Todos eles vieram, fizeram deste local a sua casa – alguns de forma violenta, outra nem tanto – e eventualmente tornaram-se nativos. O que quer dizer que as suas línguas, costumes e tradições também se tornaram nativas. Claro que nem todas sobreviveram até aos nossos dias ou não deixaram vestígios igualmente vincados, porque para algumas já passou demasiado tempo, enquanto outras tiveram um maior impacto ou controlaram este território de um modo mais firme. Mas todos esses povos vieram a chamar “lar” a este local, motivo pelo qual as religiões que eles praticavam podem de algum modo reclamar uma ligação a esta terra. E isso inclui o cristianismo e o islão, que tornaram-se nativos tal como os politeísmos celta e romano. Todos eles vieram de outros locais antes de se fixarem aqui e darem a seu contributo.

Assim sendo e ao contrário da Irlanda, Noruega ou Islândia, o meu país não tem uma identidade pagã bem ou sequer basicamente definida. Ao contrário dessas nações, Portugal é uma construção política e cultural posterior em vários séculos à chegada do cristianismo e islão, fazendo dele um produto parcial dessas duas religiões e por isso mesmo não inteiramente separável delas. Quer isso dizer que eu devo rejeitar ou desmantelar a minha identidade portuguesa e substitui-la por uma pré-cristã – lusitano, túrdulo, romano ou suevo – de modo a poder ser um politeísta genuíno? A resposta já foi dada: não, porque eu estou interessado em reavivar uma religião antiga para ser uma parte viva do mundo moderno, não de uma recriação ou romantização de tempos idos. Como eu disse noutro texto, não se pode alterar o passado, apenas construir sobre ele. E além disso, aceitar o cristianismo ou islão como elementos do património do meu país não quer dizer que eles devam ter privilégios ou comandar a vida pública, que eu subscreva as suas doutrinas, que eu não tente mudar hábitos mentais monoteístas (como equivaler religião a uma fé padronizada) ou que o discurso público não deva ser religiosamente mais diverso. Quer apenas e só dizer que eu reconheço o cristianismo e o islão como parte da História do meu país, independentemente de concordar ou não com as suas crenças, e não os vejo como inimigos ou invasores estrangeiros. Tal como de resto eu também aceito que muitos dos meus antepassados foram cristãos, alguns muçulmanos, sem com isso rejeitá-los ou sentir qualquer obrigação de ter as mesmas crenças que eles. E eu estou verdadeiramente confortável com isso e com o facto de ser de um país que tem um conjunto rico de camadas culturais unidas por uma História, língua, símbolos e práticas comuns. Não foi construído de forma pacífica – eu sei que não foi! – mas isso não quer dizer que não possa ser atualmente vivido em paz. Reavivar uma religião antiga não é o mesmo que reavivar ódios, erros e atitudes antigas. Por vezes, o passado deve ser mesmo só isso: passado!

Claro que isto põe-me em oposição a politeístas que têm outra visão do assunto. Eles falam do cristianismo e islão como fés estrangeiras, invasivas e opressivas, recordando insistentemente o que aconteceu há mil anos ou mais, sugerindo – ou defendendo de forma aberta – que essas duas religiões deviam ser eliminadas e os seus locais de culto destruídos para serem substituídos por templos mais antigos e originais. Até certo ponto, essas posições são compreensíveis: em alguns locais, a cristianização é um processo mais recente, enquanto que aqui ela teve lugar há mais de 1500 anos, algo que pode fazer a diferença entre feridas antigas e por isso curadas e outras abertas, ainda por fechar; em países como a Grécia, a Igreja Ortodoxa ainda tem uma mentalidade medieval e age de forma correspondente, algo que não acontece normalmente nesta ponta da Europa; e conforme disse, locais como a Noruega ou a Islândia têm uma identidade pré-cristã, o que não é o caso aqui. Para mais, embora eu entenda a ligação com as noções de invasão, opressão e assimilação forçada – porque todas essas coisas já foram feitas em nome do cristianismo e islão – não é algo que eu veja como sendo um traço exclusivo delas, mas algo que é comum a civilizações e culturas que invadem outras, independentemente da religião. E eu não estou a falar em termos hipotéticos, mas com base em factos da minha terra natal: os romanos pré-cristãos tiveram um impacto semelhante na Ibéria antiga, eliminando comunidades nativas, forçando outras a abandonarem as suas casas tradicionais e a mudarem-se para cidades novas, substituindo as suas línguas pelo latim e assimilando a sua religião, em alguns casos substituindo cultos pré-existentes – ou apropriando-se deles! Há um motivo pelo qual subsistem apenas traços limitados de cultura celta no ocidente ibérico e em particular no norte montanhoso: foi o que sobreviveu à ação dos romanos pré-cristãos.

É trágico que assim seja? Sem dúvida! Mas o que é que podemos fazer quanto isso? A sério, o que é que podemos fazer? Não estamos a falar de algo que aconteceu na última década ou século, mas entre 218 a.C. e 19, há mais de dois mil anos atrás. Vamos compensar os descendentes dessas comunidades pré-romanas? Então mais vale compensar o país inteiro, porque qualquer pessoa cuja família esteja em Portugal há pelo menos algumas gerações tem fortes probabilidades de ter alguns antepassados celtas. E também romanos e germanos e árabes e norte-africanos. Após tanto tempo, as coisas estão de tal forma misturadas que enquanto as pessoas, anacronicamente, veem como um herói nacional um chefe nativo que lutou contra Roma no segundo século antes de Cristo, elas também celebram o seu passado romano (e árabe). Porque o tempo fundiu antigos inimigos e diferentes comunidades, transformando-as num todo nacional, pelo que se o meu objetivo é reavivar uma religião antiga para fazer dela uma parte viva do mundo moderno, eu faço-o com base na minha nacionalidade portuguesa e não uma encenação de uma província romana.

Alguns politeístas discordam e sugerem em vez disso o desmantelamento das identidades e países existentes de modo a regressar a um estado de coisas original, tribal. O que é uma ideia que requer o pressuposto de que o antigo é mais legítimo do que o que se seguiu, mesmo que o segundo já esteja a caminho de ter mil anos. Aliás, no que será talvez uma afirmação mais incisiva, alguns gostavam de poder parar o tempo, voltar atrás nele, e parecem acreditar que as coisas têm que existir num formato fixo ao qual se deve regressar quando a pureza original é conspurcada pela mudança. Mas volto a dizer que não se pode alterar o passado, apenas construir sobre ele. E quando o fazemos, aquilo que obtemos é sempre de algum modo diferente do que existia antes. Podemos aceitar isso e seguir em frente com as nossas vidas ou, em alternativa, podemos viver no passado e coçar a toda a hora as suas feridas, vomitando uma memória mal digerida e afogando-nos numa mentalidade de cerco belicista onde o mundo é nosso inimigo por não conseguirmos ver, quanto mais viver para lá de acontecimentos idos. O que, já agora, é uma mentalidade muito semelhante à dos ideólogos do Daesh. Tentar voltar atrás no tempo e apagar séculos de mudança em nome de um estado de coisas original ou puro é algo que nunca correu bem.

O quê europeu?
E eis que mergulhamos enfim numa mistura tóxica de rancor para com o monoteísmo e as ansiedades presentes, nomeadamente o terrorismo e as migrações, mistura essa que reforça ou dissemina paranoia, preconceito e ódio. Ao ponto de eu por vezes perguntar-me quando é que as pessoas vão começar a escrever que querem tornar o politeísmo grande outra vez. Um exemplo claro são as vozes (crescentes?) contra o acolhimento de refugiados ou os apelos para que a população e cultura indígenas da Europa sejam protegidas de migrantes muçulmanos. Houve uma altura, não há muito tempo atrás, em que esse tipo de retórica era a imagem de marcar de supremacistas brancos, mas agora, ao que parece, está a tornar-se numa faceta mais comum entre politeístas, com pequenos Trumps a aparecerem aqui e acolá. E em resultado disso, eu tenho que perguntar a mim mesmo onde é que eu quero estar.

Para começar, porque eu tenho a certeza que quem contrapõe uma ideia de Europa indígena a migrantes vindos do Médio Oriente está, muito simplesmente, a demonstrar a sua ignorância, seja ela santa ou intencional. Caso contrário, essas pessoas saberiam que há pelo menos três mil anos que há deslocações de grupos humanos das costas sul e oriental do Mediterrâneo para a Europa. Basta pensar nos fenícios, que das suas cidades no que é hoje o Líbano e a Síria viajaram e fixaram-se no sul europeu por volta de 1100 a.C.. Ou nos cartagineses, que governaram o sul da península Ibérica durante cerca de três séculos. Ou na já mencionada invasão do mesmo território por árabes e berberes do norte de África, os quais fixaram-se e misturaram-se com a população pré-existente. E que eu saiba, a Ibéria ainda é parte da Europa. Claro que há quem responda que não é racista, que isto é uma questão de cultura e não de raça, e eu não vou duvidar dessas pessoas. Mas mesmo nesse caso, continua a ser ignorância.

Eu digo isto na qualidade de alguém que nasceu, cresceu e vive numa nação europeia que tem cerca de nove séculos, possui as fronteiras terrestres mais antigas do continente – desde 1297, altura em que a sua língua vernácula tornou-se oficial – e cuja família vive no ocidente ibérico há pelo menos quatrocentos anos. Tanto quanto eu saiba, eu sou um habitante nativo de uma antiga nação europeia, mas a cultura igualmente nativa do meu país deve muito à civilização islâmica que governou esta região durante séculos. O seu impacto pode ser encontrado na língua, arte, culinária, agricultura, povoações e topónimos portugueses. Por exemplo, o bairro histórico de Alfama, que tem alguns dos edifícios mais antigos de Lisboa, deve o seu nome ao árabe al-hamma (a fonte quente, nascente), tal como o do Algarve, onde os norte-europeus gostam de passar as suas férias, provém de al-Gharb ou “o ocidente”, porque era parte da província mais ocidental do califado omíada. O próprio nome da capital do país tem influência árabe, derivando de al-Ushbuna, que mais tarde tornou-se Lyxbona. Arroz e amêndoas são apenas dois dos produtos cujo cultivo tornou-se comum – ou mesmo tradicional – na península Ibérica graças à civilização islâmica. A arte de fazer e pintar azulejos, os quais decoram muitos dos edifícios históricos e casas modernas de Portugal, deve a sua popularidade a muçulmanos que disseminaram a prática, de tal modo que a palavra “azulejo” tem origem no árabe azuleij. O mesmo é verdade para “açorda”, de ath-thorda, que basicamente é uma sopa de pão tradicional que tem origem pelo menos parcial no período islâmico. Aliás, há mais de mil palavras de origem árabe na língua portuguesa: javali (jabali), alface (al-khas), almofada (al-mukhadda), azeite (az-zait), para dar apenas alguns exemplos. Se bem que o mais emblemático de todos será por ventura “oxalá”, que tem origem no árabe insha’Allah ou “Deus queira”. Motivo pelo qual um amigo meu em tempos disse-me que os portugueses, até certo ponto, são latinos arabizados – na aparência, costumes e língua. E, no entanto, é suposto eu acreditar que é preciso “salvar” a cultura e população indígenas da Europa de migrantes muçulmanos vindos do mundo árabe?

A sério, o que é que as pessoas querem dizer com isso? Estarão a falar de uma cultura e população nativa europeia que elas imaginam existir ou uma da qual elas têm conhecimento de facto? Se é a segunda, será do norte ou sul do continente, escandinava ou ibérica? Porque é que eu tenho a sensação que algumas das pessoas que mais falam sobre proteger a “Europa indígena” – algumas das quais nem sequer são europeias – são também aquelas que sabem menos sobre o assunto?

Atenção, isto não quer dizer que um movimento de pessoas tão grande não seja problemático. Muitos dos recém-chegados têm opiniões conservadores sobre as mulheres, sexualidade e religião, não conhecem as línguas dos seus países de acolhimento e, nessas condições, nenhum Estado sozinho consegue receber centenas de milhares de indivíduos de uma só vez. Vai ser preciso tempo, recursos, uma distribuição equilibrada de migrantes e vai ser precisa muita aprendizagem. E se não se é racista e as objeções são apenas sobre cultura, então há que lembrar que ela não é genética, mas sim aprendida, adquirida, pelo que se os europeus ocidentais conseguiram aprender e evoluir rumo ao atual estado de coisas tolerante que alguns dizem querer defender, então não há motivo pelo qual os migrantes não possam fazer o mesmo. Nós nem sempre fomos aquilo que somos hoje. O que não ajuda é ser preconceituoso, entrar em paranoia por causa de um vídeo ou texto na internet ou julgar um grupo inteiro de pessoas com base nas ações violentas de alguns. O que seria um pouco como dizer que todos os politeístas nórdicos deviam ser presos ou expulsos depois de uma notícia sobre supremacistas brancos que adoram Odin ou cometem violência racial em nome dele. Não tão boa ideia assim ser julgado pelas ações dos outros, pois não?

Por esta altura, é provável que alguns dos meus leitores estejam a pensar que o islão, ao contrário do Asatru, tem escrituras sagradas e que elas levam os muçulmanos a cometer atos violentos. O que não deixa de ser verdade, mas só até certo ponto. Sim, o Corão tem passagens agressivas e há várias que são usadas pelo Daesh para justificar as suas ações, mas também tem trechos de outra natureza, como o verso 2:256, que diz que não pode haver compulsão na religião. Eu sei que parece uma contradição tendo em conta a realidade no terreno, do terrorismo às punições por apostasia no mundo muçulmano, mas as escrituras sagradas são assim mesmo: complexas, contraditórias e a sua interpretação ou implementação é, em larga medida, uma questão de escolha seletiva por diferentes motivos. Veja-se como o Levítico é em boa parte ignorado por muitos cristãos, pelo exato motivo de que algum do seu conteúdo tornou-se socialmente inaceitável. Ou como alguns usam o mandamento “Não matarás” para justificar a sua oposição à pena de morte, enquanto outros optam por ignorá-lo. Ou até como alguns cristãos rejeitam Levítico 18:22 e 20:13, que versam sobre sexo homossexual, e preferem em vez disso focar-se por inteiro nas partes mais compassivas da Biblia.

Isto é algo que ainda está por fazer em muito do mundo muçulmano. Ainda está por fazer uma leitura seletiva e positiva do Corão, dando destaque a versos como o 2:256, reinterpretando outros e declarando alguns como nulos no mundo moderno. Alguns muçulmanos já o fazem – e há uma longa tradição disso, mesmo que minoritária – mas para outros lhe seguirem o exemplo, várias coisas têm que acontecer e uma delas é não julgar a parte como o tudo. O que equivale a dizer que se nós denegrimos uma religião no seu conjunto, sem olharmos para as suas nuances e complexidades, então estaremos a eliminar o espaço que ela tem para se reformar e evoluir, porque estaremos a transformar as coisas num jogo de soma-zero em que ou há um islão violento ou não há islão nenhum. E daí, esse talvez seja o objetivo exato de algumas pessoas, incluindo vários politeístas, porque desse modo ele podem odiar abertamente algo que gostariam de pura e simplesmente eliminar. Voltar atrás no tempo é para eles uma espécie de sonho molhado.

A jangada de pedra
Onde é que isto tudo me deixa? Bem, para usar o trabalho de George Martin, faz-me sentir como alguém do Dorne, o mais a sul dos sete reinos de Westeros. É um local diferente do resto do domínio do trono de ferro, não só por causa do clima, mas também pela cultura, na medida em que os habitantes do Dorne são em parte o resultado de uma migração massiva que não afetou o resto de Westeros. O que faz deles um povo misto e como tal peculiar, senão mesmo chocante, aos olhos do resto dos sete reinos. E isto não é uma metáfora acidental, porque o Dorne é para o mundo da Canção de Gelo e Fogo aquilo que a Ibéria islâmica era para a Europa medieval.

A ideia de que é precisar impedir a entrada de refugiados árabes de forma a preservar a cultura e população indígenas da Europa é algo que só pode ser dito por um preconceituoso ignorante ou por alguém que não está a par da História. Por exemplo, se se está fora da Europa e olha-se para ela com uma perspetiva escandinava – algo que não é inédito entre politeístas nórdicos dos Estados Unidos da América – então não é espantoso que se assuma para todo o continente aquilo que é válido para as nações nórdicas. Na realidade, na península Ibérica, indígena e nativo são em parte sinónimo de árabe e mouro. É verdade que alguns dos meus compatriotas recusam-se a reconhecê-lo – nós também temos os nossos preconceituosos – mas como historiador, é algo de que eu estou bem ciente. E alguém que diz ter uma opinião séria devia pelo menos fazer um pouco de pesquisa, embora não apenas sobre a Europa: não estou certo se todos os politeístas que vilipendiam o islão sabem que devemos a estudiosos muçulmanos a sobrevivência de clássicos como os de Aristóteles, que foram copiados e preservados em árabe sob a proteção do califado abássida. O que, no mínimo, permite questionar a noção de que o islão é uma religião inerentemente má com a qual não pode haver compromisso ou cultura.

Mas para além da ignorância, alguma da qual não é intencional e por isso mesmo é compreensível, dado que ninguém nasce ensinado, também há o discurso do ódio, a paranoia e um ressentimento profundo para com o mundo moderno ou o monoteísmo. E isso é algo mais complexo, que para mais está longe de ser inofensivo quando se lhe junta a pressão causada pelos acontecimentos dos nossos dias. Porque quando nós nos definimos como alguém que está contra, em guerra ou ressentido com alguma coisa, então não vamos ter a clareza mental necessária para enfrentarmos desafios violentos. Em vez disso, respondemos com ataques brutos, apelamos a uma espécie de guerra santa, dizemos estar cercados por todos aqueles de quem discordamos e julgamos grupos inteiros com base nas ações de alguns, autojustificando assim os nossos preconceitos, incapacidade de integração, falta de vontade para aprender e quaisquer rancores que tenhamos a respeito do passado ou do mundo moderno.

Um bom exemplo disso mesmo é a forma como alguns politeístas defendem a discriminação ativa dos monoteístas. Ou pior, sugerem – nalguns casos dizem abertamente – que o islão e cristianismo deviam ser erradicado por causa do que eles fizeram, estão a fazer ou porque são religiões más. O que em essência é pintar uma imagem complexa com um pincel grosso e odioso – muito à maneira de Donald Trump – e equivale ao mesmo tipo de dizimação cultural que essas mesmas pessoas dizem ser contra. Tal como o Daesh está a eliminar comunidades, edifícios e monumentos históricos que não coincidem com a sua visão limitada das coisas, alguns politeístas parecem querer a sua própria versão de uma limpeza, eliminando grupos que eles odeiam ou substituindo igrejas e mesquitas antigas por novos templos – na Índia, Grécia e Roma – não por elas terem sido livremente abandonadas, vendidas ou trocadas, mas porque esses locais devem ser templos por direito. Claro que alguns politeístas esclarecem que não advogam a violência física e eu acredito neles. A sério que acredito! Mas no final, não há diferença prática entre eliminar algo pela força ou lentamente por meio de um plano. No final de contas, dizimou-se porque se quis. E ninguém é melhor, mais civilizado ou moralmente superior só por ser politeísta. Se se acredita que sim, então não se é diferente de um monoteísta que condena atrocidades e critica a discriminação, mas depois faz ou propõe fazer essas mesmas coisas com a desculpa de que é em nome de uma religião boa, uma causa justa ou ideologia verdadeira. E quando isso acontece, tornamo-nos na coisa contra a qual dizemos estar a lutar, porque, de algum modo, assumimos ser inerentemente bons, acima de culpa ou imunes ao erro só por termos crenças diferentes.

Eu estou a dizer isto na qualidade de nativo de um país da Europa ocidental cuja História e identidade não podem ser desligadas do cristianismo e islão, motivo pelo qual eu não vejo essas duas religiões como inimigas. Tal como, de resto, eu não tenho rancores para com elas nem acredito que devam ser eliminadas para que o politeísmo possa prosperar. Mas a isso deve-se também o facto de o fundamentalismo religioso em Portugal ser um fenómeno marginal e a Igreja Católica daqui ser cada vez mais moderna, menos apegada a atitudes medievais. Até o imã da mesquita de Lisboa já disse em público que os muçulmanos que não se sentem confortáveis numa sociedade liberal devem mudar-se para outro sítio, pelo que a minha forma de ver as coisas é naturalmente moldada por isso e embora eu reconheça que possa não ser assim noutros sítios. Que a mundividência de outras pessoas possa ser outra, precisamente por elas terem histórias e quotidianos diferentes e enfrentarem situações que não estão presentes neste canto do mundo. Reconheço isso. Mas eu não posso viver a vida de outra pessoa, tal como não posso pedir a outros que vivam a minha. Eu não posso interagir no meu quotidiano comportando-me e olhando para as coisas de um modo que, em larga medida ou na sua totalidade, não tem qualquer ligação com a realidade social que me rodeia. Fazê-lo seria como ter uma existência esquizofrénica ou viver num mundo de sonhos. E portanto, a bem da sanidade mental ou porque eu não estar associado a preconceituosos paranoicos que parecem estar a surgir no movimento politeísta, eu não posso ficar indiferente ou ser outra pessoa que não eu mesmo.

Num livro chamado A Jangada de Pedra, José Saramago conta a história de como a península Ibérica separa-se lenta e fisicamente do resto do continente europeu. Claro que é um romance de ficção e a metáfora é em larga medida política e económica, mas também tem um aspecto cultural e eu estou a descobrir nela um lado religioso. Porque quanto mais eu discordo da retórica anti-moderna, anti-monoteísta e xenófoba de alguns – bem à imagem e semelhança de Donald Trump – mais eu me apercebo e valorizo a minha herança cultural ibérica. Por outras palavras, eu estou a tornar-me cada vez mais nativo, redescobrindo e abraçando de bom grado o ponto de vista do meu país em vez de assumir o de outros por via da internet e agindo de uma forma que está desligada do meu contexto social. E ao fazê-lo, ao tornar-me mais nativo, eu identifico-me ainda menos com as opiniões de outros politeístas de outras partes da Europa ou do mundo. De certo modo, está a ser um processo exponencial e portanto eu deixo-me ir, afastando-me de partes da comunidades politeísta em geral, enraizado numa jangada de pedra ibérica.

Adjusting my fasti

The inevitable entry of Quangeio into my religious life and the question of when to commemorate Him annually took me back to my festive calendar. There’s a balance I try to keep in it, avoiding celebrations in consecutive or close days as much as possible so as to make my practice easier to manage and harmonize with modern life. I’m not a priest, let alone a full-time paid priest, meaning my daily routine is made up of things other than religion and I have to make room for all of them. Plus, ideally, Roman ritual often calls for a fire, which in turn requires firewood. While in the past this would have been unproblematic, since it was an essential part of any household, today’s housing has turned firewood into an extra, something that has to be collected for very specific purposes, with the added difficulty that forested areas may not be next door in modern cities. An urban park is often the closest thing, but the amount and quality of the twigs it can yield may be limited. And while at the moment I live in a small city and have a large pine forest a short distance away, that may not be the case in years to come. So taking all of this into consideration, I decided to make several adjustments to my religious calendar so as to make things more practical with regard to both time and resources. In total, there were eleven changes, which resulted in the following festive calendar:

Fasti

Moving festivals
In four instances, I moved annual feasts so as to overlap them with either the Nones or Ides of a given month. Since I ritually burn offerings on those occasions anyway, I reasoned that instead of duplicating ceremonies and ritual fires, it would be best to simply change the date of some celebrations by a few days. Thus, rather than marking Vestalia on June 9th, I pushed it to the Ides on June 13th and made a similar change to Apollo’s yearly sacrifice, moving it from July 13th to the 15th, Hercules’ from August 4th to the 5th and my commemoration of emperor Julian the Faithful from November 3rd to the 5th. In the first two cases, there’s actually a symbolic gain, since the Ides are the middle and hence a sort of focus or pinnacle of a month. So it is not without meaning that Vesta, goddess of the fireplace, should be celebrated on the focal point of June and Apollo on the summit of the seventh month. Emperor Julian’s day is a bit of an approximation, since he was made Caesar on 3 November 355 and became the sole Augustus on 6 November 361, so the Nones are somewhere in the middle.

However, whereas in all of these cases the ritual used is always Roman, and hence annual and monthly offerings may be burned during the same ceremony in a structured manner, the same cannot be said of instances where different rites are employed. That’s the case of the Dominalia and Tonitralia, dedicated to Freya and Thor and which up until now I’ve been marking on May 1st and November 13th, respectively. Since They’re Norse deities, I use the ritus aprinus, which means that I have to light up two ritual fires in the same day for consecutive ceremonies. Sometimes that may be possible, but others there may be time constrains. As such, in those two cases, I decided to separate yearly and monthly sacrifices, thus moving the Dominalia to May 25th and the Tonitralia to November 9th. These dates are still somewhat experimental, as they may be changed in the event of signs that manifest divine disapproval.

I also moved the date of the Arentalia, dedicated to the Iberian gods Arentius and Arentia. I honour Them in Roman rite, so the issue there is not one of ritual duplication, but rather of some dispersal. See, the Calends call for offerings to Janus, Juno and the Family Lares, which are then disposed of in a structured manner, ideally in a ritual fire. To do that in an annual ceremony honouring Arentius and Arentia may be somewhat counterproductive when you’re trying to connect with Them, so assuming that less recipients allows for a greater focus, I moved the Arentalia to September 5th. Here too there’s an element of added symbolism, for I assign the Nones to my Family Lares alone and since I see Them as my ancestors and my family has been in the Iberian Peninsula for at least 400 years, it is not without a happy meaning that the Nones of September are the date of my annual commemoration of an Iberian divine pair.

Njord’s festivity was also moved, though not by a need to manage raw materials. His celebration is normally done without a ritual fire, consisting of a sand boat on a beach on which offerings are placed and consecrated with sea water. For the past few years, I’ve been doing that on July 3rd, but I’m presently considering a new feast to Mercury on the 4th (more on that in a later post), so in order to avoid two events in consecutive days, I moved the Niordalia to July 9th, which is in line with the numerical symbolism of Norse mythology. I’m less concerned with proximity in the case of Anubis’ annual commemoration, which I’ve been marking on February 7th, but decided to move to the 11th. It’s closer to Parentalia, which is appropriate, and since my offerings to Him are not burned and can be done at home, it’s less time and wood-consuming.

Additions
Finally, I added two new annual celebrations. One is Laralia, which is dedicated to the Lares Alcobacenses or the gods of my homeland. Since they’re partially identical to my ancestors, I figured that a good time to honour Them would be after Caristia, which is a family feast. It does mean that I’ll have to perform ceremonies on consecutive days, something I try to avoid, but I’m willing to go the extra mile in this case, since there’s an additional symbolism on February 23rd: it’s in line with Silvanus’ annual celebration on October 23rd, which is important, given that I’ve come to place Him as a leading deity among the Lares Alcobacenses.

And last, but certainly not least, I picked August 24th for Quangeio’s yearly festival. The reasons are multiple: it’s practical, since it’s an empty part of my religious calendar; it’s symbolic, given that it’s during or shortly after the dog days (their exact date varies); it’s mercurial, since it’s a multiple of four and I feel tempted to explore the idea of Quangeio as an Iberian companion of Mercury, much like Rosmerta in Gaul or something along similar lines of Hanuman and Rama; and there’s a bit of a hunch to it, too.

Some things don’t change
There are still instances where different sacrifices take place in consecutive days, but there’s no avoiding them without a symbolic loss. For instance, Vialia and Mercury’s birthday are just before the Nones of January and April, respectively, but if they were to take place on the 5th instead of the 4th day of those months, they’d lose their numerical significance. Ulleralia is another example, being just before the Ides of December, but it’s dedicated to the Norse god Ullr, who’s linked to winter and, in a way, circles (the ring, the shield, even the stretched bow). And the 12th day of the 12th month is a sort of chronological full circle on a wintery eve, which makes it an appropriate date. Then there’s Apotropalia and Agonalia, which are separated by just one day, but I hesitate about moving the latter to the Ides of January, given that I find it somewhat significant that there’s an equal amount of days between two sacrifices to Janus at the start of the year and during the Parentalia, which lasts from the 13th to the 21st of February. This is not to say that Janus has an infernal aspect, but there may be something to the number that’s connected to beginnings or transitions.

Maybe you should reconsider

Not everyone is the same and some things aren’t made for everyone. This should be a no-brainer, but it normally proves to be too complicated for people who insist on one of several things: 1) that they have a solution that fits all, no matter what; 2) that everything would be fine if everyone was like them or fell in line; and 3) that they want to be something, even if it’s not really their thing. Christian fundamentalists are a good example of the first type of people and those who insist on being polytheists even though they don’t believe in gods are a case of the third group. As for the second type… bear with me as I attempt to put some thoughts together.

A few weeks ago, Fareed Zakaria interviewed Jonathan Weiler, a political scientist at the University of North Carolina. He asked him about the root of the support for Donald Trump in the current US political cycle, which Jonathan Weiler placed not on social-economic hardships, as is so often argued, but on differences in the personality of the voters. Simply put, some people are drawn to authoritarian figures because, and I quote, “they believe very strongly in a need for social order as traditionally defined and (…) feel very fearful and resentful towards groups and social norms that challenge that traditional order”. This is an issue related to upbringing and, because of those personal traits, some people prefer “leaders who speak in clear, simple, direct terms about imposing order in the world around them”. They have “a strong need for order”, “want to ensure that people who are not like them are sort of put in their place and want clear, simple solutions for complicated problems”. You can watch the video here, which includes a brief look at survey results on parenting and personality types.

While the interview was about the whys of Trump supporters, its content can be applied to other groups of people, such as polytheists who are on either end of the ideological spectrum. Because often, they’re the ones who are uncomfortable with diversity, mixture, nuance and social modernity. They tend to see difference, change and grey areas as chaos and anarchy, an unnecessary complication of what should be straightforward, preferring instead well defined groups and categories where people can be organized in a simple manner, with everyone and everything in their proper place. On one end of the spectrum are the radical leftists who are unable to separate religion from politics, even if just thematically, and see anyone who is not as “progressive” as no more than fascists or minions of the new right. For them, there’s little or no room for nuance, middle ground or large differences of opinion, but only a simplistic view of us versus them, a zero-sum game where a brave new order stands against a capitalist chaos that can be found across the dividing line. They long for uniformity, a time and place where everyone can think and do as they do, because that’s how it should be. On the opposite end of the spectrum are the more folkish polytheists, who have a deep suspicion or outright disdain, if not disgust, for ethnic or cultural mixture and also for the modern values of equality and inclusion. They long for traditional order, sometimes (or often?) to the point of wanting to go back in time, to an ancient society where people weren’t pacifist sissies, equal rights campaigners, sluts or perverts and everyone knew their proper place. For them, anything that resembles ideological, sexual or racial ambiguity is an invitation to chaos. I’ve come across both types of people, one of them quite recently in an online discussion on orthodoxy, the lack of which a certain person equated with anarchy.

Here’s the thing, though: because its basic definition implies the religious regard for many gods, polytheism is inherently diverse. There are differences within the category – since that’s what polytheism is, a category and not a single religion – but if you let divine plurality run its course, instead of trying to curb it through politics, monism or henotheism, you’ll find that it will naturally generate an outrageously diverse theological dynamic. And it can be summed up thus: different gods have different agendas and hence equally different goals and sets of values. You think sexual promiscuity is wrong? Vesta, Minerva and Hera may no doubt agree with you, but the same can’t be said of Aphrodite, Pan or Apollo. There’s value in war and physical violence? Ares or Odin are likely to wholeheartedly agree, but don’t be so sure with Pax, Concordia or even Freyr, who has a bellic side, but not as a primary function. Ma’at, Heimdall or Terminus might say that you should always be honest and stay within accepted boundaries, but you’ll hear a different story coming from Hermes or Loki. This is how it goes in a polytheistic system. There are many voices, many worldviews, many directions, precisely because there are many gods. The only common thread you can take from all of it is the need for co-existence, for some form of unity in diversity, not uniformity. This is not so in monotheism, where there’s only one divine player in the game and hence what he says is law. There are no opposite voices, no counter-opinions, no competition, just a let it be written above and a let it be done bellow. Which is fundamentally different from the ocean of plurality that can be found in polytheistic religions. As I said before, diversity has theological consequences.

Perhaps it’s not by chance that Odinism and Odinist are popular labels among folkish bigots in Heathenry. It is, after all, a choice of terms that expresses a focus in a supreme god, almost like a heathen Jehovah, and hence a figure of authority in a “confusingly” diverse pantheon. In other words, it simplifies the complexity and hence perceived chaos of divine plurality, as if a more general name that better reflects a polytheistic religion would imply the existence of multiple sources of authority and hence anarchy. And thus it matches the taste for traditional order that Odinists often have with regard to other areas of life, like race and gender.

These polytheists are our equivalent of the Trump supporters. They may not vote for the man nor have the exact same ideas as he does, but their thought process and motivations are very much the same. It’s a similar dynamic, an equal fondness or desire for simple, straightforward order where differences can create a mess and should therefore be quickly sanitized. To be clear, I’m not saying that there are no limits: words carry meaning and they should be used accordingly, so for instance, if you don’t believe in gods or in more than one god, then you really shouldn’t be calling yourself a polytheist. Clarify your ideas first and then pick the corresponding label, not the other way around. But there are different types of limits or rather a spectrum, where on one end you have a narrowness that allows only for what’s fully identical and on the other you have wide limits that permit unity in a large diversity. A good example is the issue around orthodoxy and orthopraxy, for whereas some like me accept as fellow Roman polytheists people whose exact practices, beliefs and choice of philosophy are different from mine, so long as they retain a basic orthopraxy, others desire an orthodoxy that narrows down that diversity and sends people off in different directions depending on what they believe in. Because while I’m perfectly comfortable with seeing coreligionists in people who don’t share all of my beliefs, but just a basic set of practices and mutual respect, others see in that a form of chaos.

So listen up, radical/folkish kids: you should probably reconsider whether polytheism is really your thing. There’s nothing wrong in being different, mind you, and you know it, since many of you regularly tell others that they should be elsewhere. It’s just while you do it because people don’t fit a very particular square, I’m okay with sharing my religious label and space with people who fit in different shapes and colours within a basic framework. But that framework has limits, even if wide ones, and they include the very diversity that’s inherent to polytheism. Simply put, if you’re uncomfortable with plurality, if you think a lack of orthodoxy amounts to chaos and anarchy and if you’re unease about different gods having different agendas and values, then perhaps you’re better off in monotheism, where only one voice gets to call the shots and that can make things a lot simpler, orderly and authoritarian, thus better reflecting your preferences. And if your answer is that you have a right to practice the religion of your ancestors, then go deeper on why you’re a polytheist: does it have anything to do with a love for diversity or is it born out of a disgust for ethnic and cultural mixture, leading you to prefer a native religion that feels less prone to what you perceive as chaos? Because if it’s the latter, then 1) you probably have the wrong motivation, as wrong as the leftist radicals who are unable to distinguish their religion from their politics, and 2) you may be in for a surprise when you realize that native isn’t an exclusivist category nor the same as closed, pure and uniform. Like I said, not everyone is the same and some things aren’t made for everyone. And if you prefer uniformity or simplistic order, you may be better off in a less diverse system.