Sorry, couldn’t help myself with that bad pun. As I was being interviewed by a local college student recently (more about that later) she asked me a question which led me to describe the difference between soft polytheism and hard polytheism. Later I realized I haven’t heard this topic being talked about recently and figured it would be a good subject to cover for the 101 students.
First, let us start with the dictionary.com definition of polytheism; the belief in or worship of more than one god. The majority of pagans do define themselves as polytheistic and can be further categorized in one of two camps, hard polytheists or soft polytheists. Hard Polytheism in Neo-Paganism is the belief that every God and Goddess ever named or ever known are their own God/Goddess. Venus is a separate person from Aphrodite even though they have similar traits. Such as you see in American Gods. Odin has his own life separate from other creation gods in other pantheons and so on.
Where is Soft Polytheism is the belief that every God and every Goddess are just faces of the one God and Goddess. Think the Many Face God of Game of Thrones. Soft Polytheism can become monotheism is when the believer sees these faces as belonging to one God, like with the Many Face God. A large majority of Neo-Pagans, however, do believe in the duality of there being a Goddess and a God who embodies all the other deities and traits of their gender.
Along with many other topics up for debate in Neo-Paganism Hard or Soft Polytheism is a very individual decision however it could be difficult to be in a Pantheon tradition such as a Norse or Roma tradition and be a soft polytheist. I personally can identify as both. I believe certain deities lived on earth, possibly as human and due to their deeds or fame ascended to deity. The purpose of life is to connect to deity or return to deity and their stories are that of such successes. They have returned but their essence was once separate and we can call upon them to assist us with earthly matters or understanding. I also can see where some Gods’ stories were traded throughout many cultures but their names changed with the cultures. Are you a hard polytheist or a soft polytheist?
Thanks and Blessed Be,
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