There is a large movement in the polytheistic community to push people towards paying more attention to the gods. These people advocate giving more to the gods (and more and more and more) and pretty much being deity-centric in your religious practice, and to some extent- your life. I understand that a lot of these discussions about putting gods first is likely a heavy handed response to what is likely a heavy handed problem- people who completely have no regards for the gods. But I see nothing being gained in returning heavy hands with heavy hands. Heavy hands do nothing but leave bruises.
Because I dislike bruises, I would like to propose a differing view, in which I believe that sometimes, even though you are polytheistic and in a polytheistic religion- its not about the gods. Sure, you can make it about the gods, but sometimes, they are not the center of the universe (in the same sense that people aren’t always the center of the universe. Shocking.)
Allow me to clarify.
First of all, in Kemeticism, the point of the religion is living in ma’at (as I mentioned in this post here). Living is the first priority. You can’t make ma’at happen on a large scale if you’re not living and mixing and mingling with other people and the world around you. So you could argue, straight off the bat, that Kemeticism is at its core about being here and now in the physical realms and living your life and making ma’at happen around you.
And you will note, that entire statement doesn’t include a single mention of a deity.
But let’s examine this from a different angle. I can hear many of my hardcore polytheists responding with “But Devo! They put all of this time and money and effort into the cult centers and temples in antiquity! Surely the gods are the forefront and center of everything. This proves it!”
I would respond with- perhaps.
The temples and cults were more or less the treasury of the nation and the King. They stored the wealth of the country, which is why the cult centers of Amun got so large by the later periods of Egypt. However, despite the cult centers and temples being very large and wealthy, only a small percentage of people actually worked inside of those temple complexes. Even fewer ever made it to the inner sanctuaries and levels of the temple itself.
Out of all of the population of Egypt, only a very small percentage would have been wealthy or literate. And only a small percentage of that small percentage would have made it into the temples where gods were the focus. And let’s also add that those priests who “lived for the gods” also had long vacations from the temple- where they probably did very little that is god-centric.
So I repeat that its entirely possible that not everyone cared about the gods, or lived for the gods, or made everything they did about the gods. I think this to be particularly true if you were dirt poor. You were too busy keeping your fields going and hoping that you didn’t get sick and that you had enough to last the summer than anything else. Like many cultures, it’s entirely possible that the only time that the commoner really focused on the gods was during a festival, or if they really really needed to ask for assistance from a local hekau.
As with everything about the past, it is purely speculation- so instead of only speculating about the past, I’d like to bring it back to the present.
I mentioned above that the point of Kemeticism is to live in ma’at – and I think that’s very important to keep in mind. A lot of newly converted Kemetics will spend a lot of time focusing on their altars and shrines and buying statuary and incense and bowls and plates and all sorts of things for the gods. And while this is great for building a personal practice, I would like to posit that this isn’t the whole point to this Kemetic thing. The point is that mention of ma’at above. We have plenty of articles about offerings to gods and what to give them- but truthfully, the thing that fills the gods most is ma’at.
They live off of ma’at. They breath ma’at. They are ma’at.
So by giving and making and performing ma’at in this world (with or without the gods in mind), you are effectively feeding them. It could be as simple as being a good person, being nice to another fellow human, donating to a charity- anything like that that helps to bring things into balance helps the world, and in effect helps not only the gods, but yourself.
Yourself. That is a powerful thing.
There seems to be a stigma against helping yourself. “Religion isn’t a psychologist” or “Religion isn’t there to help you” “Religion is about the gods, not us”.
And yet- if every Pagan and polytheist you meet isn’t in balance, or isn’t healthy and happy- what good are we do these “all powerful” deities? And even more importantly, if we are miserable and unable to function well- what good are we to the world around us?
Because we can’t forget that we live here, on this planet, in this place. If the world around us goes to hell, what’s the point in honoring the gods? Simple- there is no point because there won’t be a here or an us to do any of the honoring.
I wrote a long time ago about Unconditional Love and how that means loving yourself. And I think that many modern polytheists are forgetting that “myself” is just as much a part of the equation as the gods are. Humans are not the center of the universe, but neither are the gods. The gods don’t have ultimate control over everything that happens in the world (or the cosmos). In the grand scheme of things, gods are but specs of dust- as are we. To entirely forget yourself so that you might have better focus on the gods is not only pointless but, in my opinion, destructive.
As it is said, you need balance in all things.
Are you balanced in whom you devote your time to?
How do you feel about putting the gods second from time to time? Do you make yourself a priority in your life or your religious practice? Should you?