I have been enjoying Galina’s posts about Diaspora of polytheistic religions and the impact of the gods on social and civic lives of their indigenous cultures. I find myself agreeing with it, not because it assumes that there should be a sort of reconstruction of a bygone past, which I think is a pretty huge misinterpretation as Galina has often written opposed to concepts of rigid Reconstructionism. Rather what I have been taking away from her well thought out posts is that culture is highly influenced by religious spirituality. When she writes about a rejection (not wholesale rejection but critical examination before determining what is accepted and what is rejected) what I read is that there must be a recognition that the societies in which we live today are products of hundreds of years of Christian domination, even the Enlightenment rose from this environment (which had many benefits, but also consequences such as the beginning of a division of people from a fully ingrained spiritual life and interaction with the world at large). The way which our culture is shaped and how we view things therefore is firmly rooted from this environment, and in our attempt to keep our social and civic lives separate from our religious lives means that we are rejecting important features of the worship of our gods and how we interact with the gods and the presence of gods and spirits in the world around us (which she pointed as a disenchanting of ourselves rather than the disenchantment of the world that many pagans talk about and the need to “re-enchant” it). Part of this means that there needs to be a readjustment of our selves to our spiritual world and the values espoused by the gods in the cultures that they rose within. These are important part of the nature and cults of the gods and cannot be perfectly separated from them.
Among Hellenic polytheists there is, for instance, a very important role for xenia. Now this can be argued to be a social rather than religious concept if one where trying to separate it out…yet to separate xenia from the religious life means separating and ignoring a very important manifestation and cult of Zeus who himself is the keeper of xenia. By observing the laws of xenia is an important part of heeding what is considered correct social behavior enforced by the gods and as part of the dominion of Zeus (the betrayal of which is widely noted in the Iliad). If the gods were ever separable from the culture context of the lives of the people it is not apparent by any stretch given that the gods themselves have various positions in regards to the control of social behavior, the structure of the government, and formation of laws. That Themis and Gaia are both attributed as creator of laws, that Zeus and Apollon are gods of the city counsel (and Apollon is noted for civic reforms such as we find in the Oresteia, social contracts such as we find him as a protector of marriage, and his position as an oracular god in which he was addressed for any and all actions of the state…not to mention overall correct social behavior in which we see in the Delphic Maxims), meanwhile both Artemis and Athena have been addressed as being benevolent in advising politics. Likewise the Eumenides in Athens were given offerings yearly for the benevolence towards the polis as a whole. These are just a few examples of just how deeply embedded the gods were in the various Hellenic states on a social and civic levels.
That said, where the critical thinking comes in is that not *everything* was sanctioned by a god. People who talk about women’s rights and slavery and what not, as far as I have seen there is not a single deity that protected these social institutions wholesale. In fact you have deities that endorse the exact opposite, a liberation from these constructs. Therefore women could have certain freedoms under the service of particular deities. and slaves were freed under the authority of deities such as Apollon and Dionysos. As such there is nothing that suggest a necessity of living in a static social and civic system, but holding in common an important factor, that the gods are responsible and honored in such transformations. In the Oresteia for instance we find in the change of the justice system an honoring of Athena and Apollon in particular, and the Erinyes becoming the much honored Eumenides for accepting the transformation. This means that as modern polytheists it is important to recognize the role of the gods in these matters, and to give appropriate sacrifice and due when we are acknowledging social and civic changes. In this way it is a certain mindfulness, which is what I take away from Galina’s discussion on dealing with modernity that rejects divine influence on civic and social matters….but rather to take out and critically examine everything under the affluence of the gods in their civic and social domains and determine how our social and civic lives on an individual level are going to proceed from the auspices of the gods with all necessary sacrifices and adoration. It is a part of making the gods once again a part of of our every day lives and affairs in a meaningful way that fully embraces the scope of these deities and their impact on our lives rather than being relevant in only limited personal ways. It is a way of realigning ourselves with the gods to recognize their overall presence throughout the world and their actions in everything.
This is quite a beneficial for me as a polytheist because it determines a lot about how I raised my children and with what values that they have which is instructed by their relationship of the child and the oikos as a whole with the gods, and how we make decisions in our daily lives, as well as how we make decisions on a larger scale when it comes to the environment, our home cities, and our political involvement (I have stated before that voting is something given and protected by the gods and as such a gift is one that we should all be utilizing as part of our civic responsibility given to us by the gods). It becomes a matter of living with the gods and living lives that honor them. It is not a matter of whether or not is a devotional relationship with a given deity or deities, this is not about devotional polytheism….rather it is a simple matter of recognizing the gods in all we do and experience rather than compartmentalizing them as separate from all but certain parts of our lives. It is an awareness of certain responsibilities that we have by making the decision to give worship to the gods, as well as being able to fully recognize and value the gifts that they give us.