I am good friends someone who identifies as a Indigenous Hawaiian Polytheist (and she has restarted her podcast! Lamyka’s Podcast is awesome and you should check it out!) and we often get into cultural appropriation discussions, usually over Pele. I thought I “got” Pele… well sort of when I moved to Hawaii, but I don’t think I totally understood how the western idea of a “goddess” was totally wrong related to Her until I went to a talk by a Pele practitioner. All this is to say I think that it is a long and complex process to really get to know any specific deity, and I think their history and cultural context is very important.
I’ve mentioned before that I am taking the OBOD bard grade right now. In this grade there frequent mention of deities from the UK region and Ireland. My original thinking was that since I am culturally Western European and when you round I’m about half Irish that this set of Gods and Goddess would be familiar because of their influence within my home culture. I could not have been more wrong. They feel just as different and out of context as Greek, or Hawaiian, or Hindu deities. It is possible that if I was physically in the region it would be different. This is just my personal experience but, because I am taking this grade I am examining a lot about my belief system and path. I have always joked that I believe in the Force, but I think at this point I am pretty strongly an animist and about as far as I go is local land spirits tied to specific places. I am finding this process fascinating and I am enjoying it even if I am going slow.
So… of Gods and Goddesses
They may not be part of my path but I know they are very important to a great many people. I think they should be treated with respect, and examined within their context. Occasionally I get interested in a God or Goddess which I think is totally fine, but I also think it is important to remember that there are living breathing religions with long histories association with most pantheons. So let us all be respectful of each others cultures and cultural history.
I am also a believer in the idea that when it comes to local spirits, it is good to learn how they are used to being communicated with and worshiped or worked with. I have tried hard to weave local traditions into my own tradition in a respectful way. I have what I call my “home” traditions, the ones that I have grown used to and developed over the many years I have been doing this, but I try to modify them when I am in new places. If you have been following me a while you have noticed that I tend to move every 3-4 years. I am learning how to be new to a location. Sometimes it can be really hard to find the information I want about the indigenous traditions of a land. Right now that means looking into Malay traditions. This region though is a wash in different religions. I am finding the most fascinating mixture the brand of Buddhism practiced in Thailand. At a first blush it seems to be very interwoven with older local beliefs. Alaska I found really difficult because the area I was living in was very sparsely populated pre-gold rush, and Hawaii was so rich in cultural history I soaked it up. Now I have a new challenge, there are layers of history before the British in Singapore, if you know where to look. But eve early Singapore history can be hard to find under the fancy new Singapore that has risen since WWII.
First order we are all human, but what an amazing array of cultures we have ended up with!