Probably one of the larger debates in the Pagan and Heathen communities is the debate of Hard vs Soft polytheism. Really, no one can settle it, or has been able to, because we all come from different backgrounds and perspectives on it. I’ve touched on this subject somewhat in the past, but here I’m dedicating a full post to it, since it will relate to some posts I’m planning on putting up later.
To clarify, this is about (and for) those who actually believe the Gods and Goddesses are physical, real beings. This post will have little to do with those Pagans out there that consider the Divine beings to be Archetypes in the mind, but not actually existent in an individual since as people do.
Soft Polytheism, as a rule, believes that there is a God and a Goddess, discrete individuals in and of themselves. However, it doesn’t regard individual gods and goddesses as having discrete identities, but rather sees them as Aspects of the greater God or Goddess. So for instance, Hera and Frigga are both merely aspects of the Goddess, as would be Freyja, Aphrodite, or Brigid. To explain what an aspect is can sometimes be a little bit tricky, some say it is a “Face” of the Goddess or God. I suppose a modern way to look at it is that the various named deities we have could be viewed as metaphysical “Usernames” of said God or Goddess.
Hard Polytheism works the other way. Every God, Goddess, spirit, etc, is a discrete individual person (well, except such spirits that work as hivemind type thing), much like people are are. Ares is Ares, Thor is Thor, Freyja is Freyja, etc. They are not aspects, faces, or “usernames” of a Great God or Goddess.
I, personally, am a Hard Polytheist. Mostly because I believe strongly in individualism and as I am no more an aspect of Blogger or of Man, then to me it seems somewhat insulting to say that Thor is an Aspect of Storm God or God. Storm God maybe one of Thor’s professions, but just as a person isn’t solely their job or their gender, neither is a deity.
This, to me, is really where Soft Polytheism tends to hit a bit of wall or snag. In my experience, we Pagans, or on an even larger scale believers of any faith, tend to mimic in life how we view our gods. So, in personal observation, I tend to find that Soft Polytheists believe that a man or woman must embrace all “aspects” of what it means to be man or woman (or transgender as the case may be) in order to have a proper balanced life. A man has to be warrior, scholar, pacifist, provider, wise man, youth, etc, all the time in a “balanced” amount.
Yeah, that’s pretty much damn impossible. It’s a pretty idea, and all that, but if you are a jack of all trades, well, you’re a master of none. And sometimes you need a master of a trade.
My own experience as a hard polytheist goes for a “broad spectrum” type of “balance.” People can “specialize” in areas where they have a natural affinity. Thus if someone like farming, let them be a farmer, don’t insist they have to know everything about say banking investments, hotel management, or what have you.
Of course, there’s a bit of a “safety” if you will in Hard Polytheism. See, you say that all Gods are aspects of God, and all Goddesses are aspects of Goddess, well then why aren’t God and Goddess just aspects of a Single Deity. Congrats, your right back to Monotheism, which is owned by the Abrahamic religions. By holding to the ideas of Hard Polytheism, it is impossible for that argument to take hold.
I don’t mean to rag on Soft Polytheists here, just to put forth why I hold with Hard Polytheism. However, I have no belief that simply writing this will solve the debate, it’s gonna keep going. And in coming posts, we’re gonna see where this debate in the Pagan community is going to have a very great effect on all of us who consider ourselves Pagans.