A History of Polytheism

Many Gods, Many Peoples

Although polytheist and animist beliefs have been the primary mode of relating to the world and its inhabitants for thousands of years, the Western world is only now seeing a resurgence of these ancient and indigenous forms.  Destruction of ancestral traditions, displacements of peoples, Monotheism and Imperialism have all contributed to this, as well as what many have called the “Disenchantment” of the world.

But not all traditions were lost, nor were these beliefs every truly subjugated.  Indigenous peoples in Africa and the Americas never fully succumbed, and in other lands, the belief and reverence of gods, spirits, and ancestors have continued unabated.  Sanatana Dharma (“Hinduism”) remains the dominant religion in India–the second most populous country in the world, while Shinto continues to be the dominant practice in Japan.

In “the West,” revived interest in ancestral practices and the influence of the Occult and “Pagan” movements in Europe during the 1700’s and further have led many of us to reconnect to those ancient ways and discover, to our delight, the gods never went away.

While academics and theologians are finally beginning to take notice of polytheistic practice, we haven’t waited for their attention.  Reconstructionist- Druid-, Heathen-, and many Witch-traditions–among others–have been worshiping the gods-thought-lost, and sometimes discovering new ones.

Meanwhile, African Diasporic Traditions and Indigenous Animist groups have helped the “Disenchanted West” reconnect to their own lost threads, moving beyond the consumeristic approach of appropriating others’ beliefs in order to fill a modern void.

Many Gods West is meant to be a celebration of all these traditions, those newly-reconstructed and those continuously-practiced.  There are many gods in the world, and many peoples worshiping them.