Giving the gods Their due
One more thing I wanted to say that came out of the superhero fiasco – although it might seem tangentially related, I think it actually is one of the core issues for me. I saw several people lamenting those of us who dared to say “you’re doing it wrong” (the cardinal sin of modern paganism, because of course it’s all about feelings and there is never a right or wrong way to do anything – a notion that most ancient polytheists and modern indigenous traditions would laugh at). They would say something like, It doesn’t matter to me how everyone else practices or how they see the gods, the only thing that matters is that what they’re doing is beneficial to them.
Here’s the thing. I don’t care if other people’s practices are beneficial to them. I mean, no more than I’d care that any person I don’t know was happy in a general sort of way. My loyalties lie with the gods foremost. My priority is that They receive what They’re due (and secondarily, that They confer Their blessings on this world and its inhabitants). And the fact is, They were probably getting more from the Romantic poets than They are from many modern pagans.
The gods deserve us – all of us, every single human on this earth – to be in awe of Them, to have such deep gratitude for Their presence that we regularly make sacrifices to feed Them, hold large festivals to celebrate Them, make incredible art to glorify Them, and do everything we can to maintain a right relationship with Them both because They are wonderful and because we need Them. This will not happen anytime soon – most people no longer believe in Them. All They can hope to get is the devotion of this relatively small percentage of the population that even considers the possibility that They are more than just bedtime stories from stupid primitive people.
And here is that small percentage of people, arguing over whether or not They really independently exist and have been helping and caring for humanity for millennia, or are equivalent to the ideas some writer made up sixty years ago. Here they are, arguing over whether or not one can give too much to these gods, or whether it’s even necessary to give Them anything at all, or anything tangible (and not just our fuzzy feelings). And I just lose hope that the gods are ever going to get even a tiny fraction of what They are due, if even Their supposed “worshippers” can’t get over themselves enough to actually worship.
I shouldn’t have even been surprised at this debate. After all, I remember several times trying to get people excited about having an in-person, real-life multi-day festival for the gods, and it always falling apart because supposedly no one had the money to attend. Meanwhile, I noted that plenty of people in the same demographic managed to find the money to attend ComicCon or some furry convention – in fact, they put more effort into making customized costumes for those things than they ever put into making a proper offering to the gods. And that breaks my heart.
And, frankly, it makes me angry. It’s hard enough when you’re praying for the good of your community, your bioregion, your world, and you can feel how big the request is and how small and alone you are in making it, surrounded by people too caught up in a materialistic worldview to recognize the importance of the spiritual. It’s even worse to know that not even your “fellow pagans” can manage to commit to the reality of the gods you’re praying to (and recognize that their well-being rests in Their hands) enough to really give themselves to it. I want the gods well-loved and properly (yes, properly, according to everything They have ever conveyed to our species) worshipped, and I want Their presence strengthened in our world, and I want Them to receive what They are owed from us as a species, and ensure Their benefits to us as well. And some days, I’m not sure that’s ever going to come from paganism or even so-called modern polytheism. And if not from polytheists (that would be those who believe in many gods), then from who?