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By Witchipedia, Magical Religions and Spiritual Paths

What is Polytheism: Soft & Hard

Updated on:

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Written by: Dawn Black (Witchipedia)

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Reviewed by: Tina Caro

Polytheism is any religious doctrine that embraces the idea of more than one God.

This term has been further subdivided by the Pagan community with the terms Hard Polytheism which indicates the belief that all Gods are separate individuals and Soft Polytheism which indicates the belief that all Gods are different aspects or personalities of one, or of a few, or, in some cases, of the practitioner his or herself.

Some forms of polytheism include monolatry and henotheism and soft polytheistic views are often found in forms of pantheism and panenthiesm.

KEY TAKEAWAYS

Soft polytheism allows for a more flexible interpretation of deities, viewing them as archetypal symbols rather than distinct beings, providing practitioners with a broader range of spiritual expression.

Hard polytheism, on the other hand, adheres to the belief in individual, distinct gods and goddesses, each with their own unique attributes, personalities, and histories, fostering deep personal connections with these divine entities.

Polytheism often draws inspiration from various mythologies, such as Greek, Norse, or Egyptian, offering a rich tapestry of deities to explore and work with in magical practices.

Practitioners of polytheism often engage in rituals, offerings, and devotional acts to honor and seek the favor of their chosen deities, creating a profound sense of reciprocity and communion with the divine.

Soft Polytheistic

Soft polytheistic views are found in many forms of Wicca, in the religions of the New Kingdom of Ancient Egypt and its modern counterparts, the Smartha tradition within Hinduism and the Trinity of some forms of Christianity.

It is widespread among new aged religions and is summed up by a quote from Dion Fortune’s The Sea Priestess: "All Gods are one God, All Goddess are One Goddess and there is one Initiator.".

This attitude has been given the name Pantheism by some, though many would disagree with that definition.

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The Sea Priestess
  • Fortune, Dion (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)

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Hard Polytheistic

Hard polytheistic views are seen in classical myth and in the philosophy of Euhemerism. Many Reconstructionist Pagans hold to the hard polytheistic view and some monotheists and hard polytheists may see the soft polytheistic view as somewhat insulting to the individual Gods.

There is some variation on both themes with many believing that while all Gods are separate individuals, they are known by different names in different places.

That is, not all Gods are one God, but some Gods are one God and some other Gods are another God, etc.

This position seems to be very widespread and was expounded upon by Ian Corrigan in a 2015 blog post entitled Squishy Polytheism https://www.patheos.com/blogs/intothemound/2015/09/152.html

About Morningbird (Witchipedia's Founder)

I am a homesteading hearth witch who grew up along the shores of the Hudson River and has lived among the Great Lakes for the past 20 years. Together with my musical husband and youngest child, I steward a one-acre mini homestead with herb, vegetable and flower gardens, chickens, ducks, geese and rabbits, and areas reserved for native plants and wildlife. 

I have three children; two are grown, and I have been practicing magick alone and with family and friends for over 30 years.

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