Polytheist vs. [Neo]Pagan

I think of myself as both Polytheist and Pagan. Polytheist is a FAR better and more descriptive term, but sadly, I’ve found many people in real life who don’t know what it means. Which says something about the state of our educational system in general (a whole ‘nother discussion). The worst thing is when atheists try to take over and mock devotion within Paganism, to the point where I, like many others, am almost at the point of giving up the word. Which really pisses me off that I’m put in that position in the first place. But it’s mostly because I don’t want there to be any confusion; I’m a Polytheist because I believe that the Gods exist, physically, really, outside-of-me, and They are more than archetypes. I’m tired of people assuming that I’m Pagan because I saw The Craft (did I just date myself? lol) and I just want cool awesome magik power.

Gangleri's Grove

Last week an academic friend and colleague, who is soon to be teaching a class on Pagans and Christians in the Roman Empire, asked me a rather complicated question. My friend L. plans to include a brief survey of contemporary Pagan and Polytheistic religions as part of the course, to show that these traditions did not completely disappear but continue to have import and impact in the modern day. As prep for the course, L. asked me, “What is the difference between Pagan (or Neo-pagan) and Polytheist?” I had previously mentioned that use of these terms is somewhat political and charged in our communities.(1) Here is what I told my colleague.

“Oh, it’s such a mess. 

The two words, in my opinion, should be synonymous but in today’s communities, they’re not. Polytheist means someone who believes in and venerates the Gods as individual, Holy beings. The logical and necessary corollary…

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