I don’t “look” like a priest. I wear no emblems except my ring. You’re more likely to meet me over drinks than prayers.
And I don’t bring it up. Religion talk should happen naturally, from a shared interest.
So when people see my calling card they look twice. “Are you really a priest?” And the other question:
What Kind of Priest Are You?
I’ve already mentioned I’m not Christian, so they’re curious. This question choked me up for a long time. How to even begin to explain to an invariably Christian-or-ex-Christian stranger? And how without invoking the specter of Neopaganism, which is not what I do?
Polytheism has no central creed: it’s tough to sum up.
This led to a lot of humming and hawing for the first 1,200 miles. But I did eventually learn how to talk about these questions. Here’s how I answer.
What religion are you?
I’m a polytheist.
Polytheism is a group of religions. There’s no central authority over all of them.
But we have certain things in common. Most of these traditions believe nature is sacred, or even that nature is the most sacred thing. And most are tied to a specific culture.
For example, I’m trained as a priest of the old Irish gods, the gods who were worshiped in Ireland before Christianity was brought there.
That part in italics? I find that important. Saying you follow the gods of nature invites a common Christian rebuttal: what about the god who created Nature?
To a Celtic polytheist that doesn’t compute. The natural world was not created. The highest gods are its soul, not its maker; they too will pass away into nothing when the whole universe ends. The universe simply is; if that’s hard to understand, it’s no worse than the Christian paradox of who-or-what created God.
In every cosmology, something has to be uncreated. It can’t be turtles all the way down.
What would you add to this definition? What would you change?