I spent some time today reading blogs. There are a lot of blogs I follow (I really need to set up a blogroll here, come to think of it), with focuses on different polytheistic and pagan faiths, different pantheons, different religious world views. I like to read. I like to know things. I like to hear what other people think about the things I think about.
Today I came out of my reading time wondering whether I’m both a polytheist and a pagan, or neither a polytheist nor a pagan! Well, no, not really. I’m pretty sure I’m both, maybe with a few more things in there as well (by my age I think I’m allowed to attach a few different adjectives to my name). I’m also pretty sure I don’t want to have to choose between the two (or the three or the four or however many Things I find that I am). The commonality is a pretty big one, one that transcends method and (to some extend) theology. The commonality is the gods.
Everyone has their own litmus test as to whether someone is a part of their community, whether they are “one of us.” Some folks are pretty loose about it: if you say you’re a pagan, you’re a pagan. Other folks are more particular, you have to see deity as one (or two) with many aspects, you have to believe in the gods as literal and discrete entities, you have to believe in the gods in some way at all, you have to be focused on deity (rather than community or nature), you have to be focused on nature and the earth herself, you have to build a community in which to serve the gods, you have to draw primarily on historical resources, you have to draw primarly on your own intuition, you have to follow the wheel of the year, you have to attempt to revive the rites of the ancients, you have to worship at the full moon (and/or the new moon), you cannot (or you must) share in offerings made to gods and spirits, you cannot (or you must) do magic, you cannot (or you must) be open to different (eclectic) approaches, you cannot (or you must) dialogue with deity in a particular way.
(Of course it might be different with a community of people you worship with; at the very least you all need to be on board with accepted ritual practice. Whether you all need to be theologically on the same page may or may not be necessary. My own feeling has always been that if people can behave themselves, I don’t really need to know what’s in their heads. Me, I don’t think the gods care a whole lot whether everyone in the room believes in them in the same way during a ritual, and it’s not something I can know for sure anyway, so it isn’t something I’m going to try to monitor. YMMV, particularly as regards your thoughts on luck and/or miasma. So I’m not saying it’s not a legitimate concern, just that it’s one that different people will deal with in different ways.)
But the broader community? People I talk to, or write to, or read the words of from a distance? People who are not a part of my personal hearth, who have never worshipped at my altar?
Not everyone I consider a co-religionist has precisely my own practice, or precisely my own theology. And not everyone I consider a like-minded soul is going to be a co-religionist. And not everyone I consider a part of my broader community (or communities) is going to be a like-minded soul (at least not in all ways and with regard to all things).