Odin in the Hall of the Volsungs by Emil Doepler; Odin stabs the sword Gram into Bramstock, setting in motion the tragedy of the Volsung Saga

I believe in Odin.

Like, for real.

I just had to get that off my chest. To be honest, that’s pretty difficult for me to say out loud, (write out loud?) and I find myself regularly avoiding that very statement (or anything similar, such as “I believe in Thor” or “I believe in Freyja”) when I talk to other people about my Pagan faith. At the very least I couch it in some sort of weak wording, such as, “Well, there are powerful spiritual entities” or “humans can’t understand the nature of god; religion is all about how we interpret something incomprehensible.” ANYthing to make it sound like I don’t believe in some actual, literal truth behind the myths we studied in English class. Because, well, to my rational 21st Century American ear that sounds crazy.

I suspect a lot of Pagans feel this way with me. We live in a very reason based era, and for the most part I do think this is a good thing. At least, I think it’s a good thing as far as government and society is concerned; faith is not something a state can dictate to its citizenry, and laws based on personal belief instead of common ethical principles have no place in a just society. I take issue with reason, however, when people use it to tell me what I’m supposed to believe in my personal life (or risk being considered crazy). Much of society makes exceptions, of course, for the beliefs that are widespread and have deep roots in American culture. You’re not crazy if you believe in one god (or God). Or in a man born of a virgin mother, who grew up to perform miracles like curing the blind by laying of hands, and who got out of his grave three days after dying to stay planetside for another month with his friends and impart additional wisdom before rising into the sky to join his Heavenly Father.

(But polytheism? Eek! Crazy talk.)

Not that the stories of Jesus or Noah or Revelations, from a strictly clinical perspective, are any more or less rational than a god of the harvest or goddess of the hearth, but monotheistic (or trinitarian monotheistic) beliefs are more widespread in our culture and we don’t study them in school under the term “mythology.” Naturally, then, they don’t carry the same feeling of “You believe what? Oooooookay…..” that less mainstream beliefs typically do. I often encounter the idea that sane people either believe what they grew up believing or lose their faith (because the former is understandable and the latter rational). Transferring to a minority faith with more gods, however, is just more reasons why you lost your rational mind.

I disagree.

Vishnu, a high god in Hinduism, at Kumartuli Park by Jonoikobangali

Hinduism, the worlds’ third largest religion (unless you count non-religion as a religion at which point Hinduism is fourth), is polytheistic. An Indian praying to Lakshmi in the morning and Ganesha in the evening hasn’t lost her mind. A Native American on a reservation praying to the Sky Father and seeking wisdom from Coyote hasn’t lost his mind. An Aboriginal Australian meeting Bunjil in the Dreaming hasn’t lost his mind, either. Except for a few small tribes in the Middle East, people around the world were polytheist for most of human history. In the grand scheme of humanity, polytheism is far more mainstream. It’s just not mainstream right now.

I’m not saying that being mainstream for most of history makes us “right” any more than I’m saying monotheism’s current popularity makes it “right.” What I am saying is that faith is not a popularity contest. It’s not more sane to believe one thing simply because it’s more common. Numbers do not make one “right” as far as faith is concerned.

Humanity has a heritage thousands of years old in which sky fathers and earth mothers, the harvest and the rain, the sun and the moon, poetry and science have divinity. And for some of us, that plentiful concept of divinity speaks in powerful voices that move us to try and build better lives for ourselves and those around us.

I believe in Odin. And Thor. And Forseti and Freyja and Braggi and Frigg and Freyr. And there’s nothing crazy about the joy that gives me or the power I find in my relationships with them. Are they myths? Yes. Are they real? Oh yes. I truly and literally believe they are.

I don’t think that after saying these things online it’s going to be any easier for me to speak my faith as a true polytheist out loud in person. The words still feel strange moving across my tongue. I still feel like, despite the faith I have inside, the externalization of it in words sounds false and will bring me censure – maybe even make others look down on Pagans as “crazy” for their bizarre beliefs. But I don’t think it should. Polytheists should speak our beliefs with our heads high and our voices strong, because we come from an ancient history of communion with something bigger than ourselves that is worthy of pride and worthy of faith.

Do you ever have trouble speaking about the specifics of your faith with other people?

+ Sculptures from the Temple of Zeus at Olympia