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Author Topic: How do you view "aspects"?  (Read 3838 times)

wadjet

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How do you view "aspects"?
« on: June 01, 2013, 04:46:50 pm »
This is not so much a specific question I have, more a discussion topic.

So, the concept of gods having different "aspects" seems to be taken for granted in paganism/polytheism. It's a seriously complex topic, both historically and in personal understanding.

Most of my personal practice falls under the concepts of "ancestor veneration" and "animism", working with local land spirits or household deities and such. I don't call attention from the "big" gods very much, partly because they blow my mind. My brain really wants to put things into tidy categories, so I struggle with how some people's interpretation of "aspects" conflicts with very hard polytheism.

A historical example: as time progressed Roman philosophy eschewed individualism in deities, and "absorbed" smaller local deities into larger universal ones, especially as the empire expanded.

One aspect concept: many gods change their "appearance" to reflect different parts of their personality or goals. A number of gods can appear young or old, for example, or Hekate's triplicity. Some folks call this an "aspect".

But, then sometimes Hekate is viewed as an "aspect" of Diana. Using the above description, this would mean that Hekate and all her functions are a face of Diana, rather than an individual.

And then - what of similar gods from other cultures? Where do you "split" their identities? It seems obvious that Thor and Zeus are different people. But what of Thor and Perkunas? Like the Roman's concept, are they simply locational translations of larger gods? Or are they individuals who cover similar duties for a different group of people?

I'm under the impression that Kemetics (for example) have no problem with gods being both individual and plural and mixes of each other; I believe the quote is "the gods are individual except when they're not". But I am asking more about cross-cultural PIE gods, and how they fit into this concept.

Basically, my problem is not whether the gods are or are not individuals: my problem is with the definition of the word "aspect", and how it gets thrown around a lot.

(Also, I didn't really explain my position, because I wanted to just post the question.)

missgraceless

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Re: How do you view "aspects"?
« Reply #1 on: June 01, 2013, 09:32:40 pm »
Quote from: wadjet;110488
So, the concept of gods having different "aspects" seems to be taken for granted in paganism/polytheism. It's a seriously complex topic, both historically and in personal understanding....

...I believe the quote is "the gods are individual except when they're not"...

 
(I will be using aspect and facet interchangeably here)

That quote actually makes sense to me. The way I see it, every god/dess out there is, like you said, a different face of a different deity. Except to me, each deity is a different facet of the brilliant diamond of the Divine. (I seriously just made that up.) Yes, there are more major god/desses like Zeus/Jupiter and Hera/Juno. But there are also the lesser deities that are equally important in the overall construction. Is Hecate an aspect of Diana? No. They're each their own... people... goddess... thing.

Sure, you can have a diamond with only 2 or 3 sides (bunching the lesser deities into major), but it won't shine as beautifully. (The average number of facets on a regular diamond is about 63. Obviously there are thousands, if not millions of gods and goddesses across the world.)

That's just my take on the whole "aspect" thing.
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ecotopian

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Re: How do you view "aspects"?
« Reply #2 on: June 02, 2013, 12:03:38 am »
Quote from: wadjet;110488
One aspect concept: many gods change their "appearance" to reflect different parts of their personality or goals. A number of gods can appear young or old, for example, or Hekate's triplicity. Some folks call this an "aspect".

But, then sometimes Hekate is viewed as an "aspect" of Diana.

 
The gods would disguise themselves when they were dealing with mortals so that the mortals didn't know who they were.  An example, Hera appeared to Semele, Dioynsos' mother, as an old woman.  She told Semele to ask Zeus to appear to her in his divine form, knowing it would kill her.  This is aspect, to me, is trickery.  Tricking us mortals into believing they're something they're not.

Apollo is seen as a sun god.  He didn't start out that way.  Somewhere along the way, he picked that up, to a point.  Helios still drove his chariot across the sky, but Apollo was seen as the sun god.

I am wondering, instead of aspects,  do you mean natures of the gods?  I follow three gods, Dionysos, Artemis, and Demeter.  Dioynsos is my frenzied god.  I feel him when I dance and let go of all worry.  Artemis guides me through the wild places.  I live in rural Oregon.  Some of my closest neighbors are elk.  Demeter is my mother.  She helps me with my children.  These are their natures.  This is what draws me to them and it completes me.

Materialist

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Re: How do you view "aspects"?
« Reply #3 on: June 02, 2013, 03:46:56 pm »
Quote from: wadjet;110488
This is not so much a specific question I have, more a discussion topic.


Pretty intense stuff, there. First I would have to say that hard polytheism goes too far in my opinion, in saying that different names for a lightning god=two different gods, for example. Lightning's lightning; same god, different languages.

Frankly, I don't understand this aspect stuff well either. I recall a Romano-British shrine to Mars-Silvanus. Mars was originally a vegetation god before he got sucked into the war gig. Sounds like this community was specifying that their version of Mars was the god of a local forest.

I guess it would depend, when clarifying aspects, what they're being used for. Using your own example-Triple Hekate would be an underworld goddess, while Diana-Hekate would be some sort of woodland being. So they would be different goddesses, because they're worshiped for different reasons.

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Re: How do you view "aspects"?
« Reply #4 on: June 02, 2013, 05:52:49 pm »
Quote from: wadjet;110488

my problem is with the definition of the word "aspect", and how it gets thrown around a lot.



It seems to me there are at least 3 distinct phenomena under discussion here:

1. Cross-cultural comparison: Taking gods from different pantheons, often with similar roles or characteristics, and claiming there is an underlying "basic god" from which they both derive; like two people looking at an ear of yellow grain, and one calls it corn, while the other calls it maize. If one accepts this idea, than Zeus and Odin, say, can be said to be "aspects" of the same god, or aspects of each other.

2. Manifestations: A single deity taking on distinct identities. The most familiar example to us Westerners would be the Christian concept of a triune god--father, son, holy spirit. In this sense, Jesus would be an "aspect" of the Christian God. They operate as individual entities (Christ appeals to his dad all the time) but are in fact ultimately one and the same. Tons of this occurs in Eastern religions as well.

3. Personality: Many gods have several functions, and they may act and appear differently depending on what role they're fulfilling at the moment. For example, many Hindu gods have a fearsome "aspect", taking on a monstrous appearance, when they're fighting demons. This begins to sound like #2 above, but I think the difference lies in the fact that it's always a single identity; fearsome Siva won't ever be found in a discussion with friendly Siva, the way Christ appeals to his God.

(When I use the term aspect in reference to my own gods, it's almost always in sense 2.)

Maybe that's why the term "aspect" is so troublesome?
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Ma'atemhat

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Re: How do you view "aspects"?
« Reply #5 on: July 07, 2013, 06:40:21 pm »
Quote from: wadjet;110488
I'm under the impression that Kemetics (for example) have no problem with gods being both individual and plural and mixes of each other; I believe the quote is "the gods are individual except when they're not". But I am asking more about cross-cultural PIE gods, and how they fit into this concept.


That quote comes from Kemetic Orthodoxy, which is a monist religion. I think the word "aspect" fits well in that religion because of this. There are other Kemetics who are monists as well, and there are also other Kemetics who are polytheists.

I am one of the Kemetics in the polytheist camp. I do believe that it's possible for other gods to sort of "join up," but to me, that doesn't make them any less individual on their own. I mean, gods are gods. They can do all kinds of crazy mind-bendy things.  :)

Quote from: wadjet;110488
Basically, my problem is not whether the gods are or are not individuals: my problem is with the definition of the word "aspect", and how it gets thrown around a lot.


Overall, I do think that the word "aspect" does get thrown around a lot. Sometimes I think it results in an oversimplified view of the divine, or a misinterpretation of a specific god. They are all unique, not just in a polytheistic sense of the word, but in a cultural and mythological sense of the word as well. It as not always so easy to say that "X god is an aspect of Y god," because, in my opinion, doing so ignores that cultural and mythological significance.

And I hope it's not too off topic to address this, but....
Quote from: Materialist;110547
Pretty intense stuff, there. First I would have to say that hard polytheism goes too far in my opinion, in saying that different names for a lightning god=two different gods, for example.


I have to say that this is a very unfair thing to say. A "hard" polytheist might say that a monist's idea of "all gods are just facets of one/eachother" goes, as you say, "too far." But this isn't really a matter of extremes. There's nothing extreme or bad about having those points of view. It's just a matter of people who have different beliefs, because those beliefs fit that individual. And that's perfectly fine.
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Re: How do you view "aspects"?
« Reply #6 on: July 08, 2013, 01:30:20 pm »
Quote from: Altair;110557
It seems to me there are at least 3 distinct phenomena under discussion here:

1. Cross-cultural comparison: Taking gods from different pantheons, often with similar roles or characteristics, and claiming there is an underlying "basic god" from which they both derive; like two people looking at an ear of yellow grain, and one calls it corn, while the other calls it maize. If one accepts this idea, than Zeus and Odin, say, can be said to be "aspects" of the same god, or aspects of each other.

2. Manifestations: A single deity taking on distinct identities. The most familiar example to us Westerners would be the Christian concept of a triune god--father, son, holy spirit. In this sense, Jesus would be an "aspect" of the Christian God. They operate as individual entities (Christ appeals to his dad all the time) but are in fact ultimately one and the same. Tons of this occurs in Eastern religions as well.

3. Personality: Many gods have several functions, and they may act and appear differently depending on what role they're fulfilling at the moment. For example, many Hindu gods have a fearsome "aspect", taking on a monstrous appearance, when they're fighting demons. This begins to sound like #2 above, but I think the difference lies in the fact that it's always a single identity; fearsome Siva won't ever be found in a discussion with friendly Siva, the way Christ appeals to his God.

(When I use the term aspect in reference to my own gods, it's almost always in sense 2.)

Maybe that's why the term "aspect" is so troublesome?

 
I've seen these usages of aspect as well, and I have some problems (especially with the first one)

To me, saying that all deities who are considered to be lightning gods are the same god, just different cultural interpretations is missing the mark.  It is like saying that three women, who all have children, are the same person because they are all mothers.  While it is definitely true that they are all mothers, they also definitely aren't all the same person.

I think that some of this comes from the tendency, especially in mass published books, to have spells or workings towards a goal (like healing), where the ritual details working with a particular deity...but also gives other deities that can be used for the same purpose.  Sometimes, I think this is a good thing, as it enables people who prefer to work within a particular pantheon (or who don't like to work with a particular pantheon) to find an appropriate deity as substitution....but I also think that sometimes it leaves the ritual a bit off (especially if the correspondences were really tuned to the original deity, and when substituting in you don't adjust those correspondences).  Being similar, working with the same energies, isn't the same as being the same being.

Having "three in one" types of deities (there are quite a few, Hecate and Odin come directly to my mind) kind of sets it up for viewing all deities as one, especially in cases like Odin, Vili and Ve, where they are often called the same being, but then interact with each other....in the same sentence.  Then you have the more general multiplicities like the maiden/mother/crone or oak king & holly king.  Which gets further muddled when people want to attribute every deity into these types of categories.  Then all deities who are viewed as maiden deities start being thought of somewhat interchangeably, no matter how different their realms of influence are.

Personally, I think that while many deities (especially from different pantheons) can work in similar fields, they aren't the same deity.  I also think that deities aren't simple archetypes.  To me, they are people, and they are complex and multifaceted on their own.  This means that sometimes they will react differently based on situation or even mood...much like I would (I am a pretty different person sitting down to dinner with my parents versus hanging out online with gaming buddies).
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Re: How do you view "aspects"?
« Reply #7 on: July 08, 2013, 01:51:59 pm »
Quote from: Kylara;114962
To me, saying that all deities who are considered to be lightning gods are the same god, just different cultural interpretations is missing the mark.  It is like saying that three women, who all have children, are the same person because they are all mothers.  While it is definitely true that they are all mothers, they also definitely aren't all the same person.

 
I've been thinking about this a lot lately, because some of my personal stuff has been pondering Set (Egyptian) and Perkunas (Lithuanian).  I mean.  Two storm gods.

But where Set is often cast as a rebel or a dangerous force to be reconciled to the forces of order, and is as often the target of smiting as the smiter, Perkunas is something of a deputy head of pantheon, and definitely as a smiter of the enemy; where Set is a god of barrenness and the desert, Perkunas has the rain that nourishes the croplands in his baliwick.

Not sensically the same entity.
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BardicBird

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Re: How do you view "aspects"?
« Reply #8 on: July 17, 2013, 09:53:28 pm »
Quote from: wadjet;110488
This is not so much a specific question I have, more a discussion topic.

So, the concept of gods having different "aspects" seems to be taken for granted in paganism/polytheism. It's a seriously complex topic, both historically and in personal understanding.

Most of my personal practice falls under the concepts of "ancestor veneration" and "animism", working with local land spirits or household deities and such. I don't call attention from the "big" gods very much, partly because they blow my mind. My brain really wants to put things into tidy categories, so I struggle with how some people's interpretation of "aspects" conflicts with very hard polytheism.

 
Weirdly (as it seems for others responding to be something rattling in their heads as well, a rough stone trying to be rasped smooth in the mind tumble) I've been struggling with this a lot lately. Not... so much in my own belief, but in dealing with how it is often portrayed in books. I think that since the monotheistic approach rapidly ate it's way through a huge amount of the planet in a short time, at least in the West and the Middle East for the last thousand (I'd actually go to 2 for that, but roundabouts seems best here) years - be it the belief in the Christian god (we'll ignore his own trinity issue. This likely isn't the place to get into THAT mudfight) or in Allah, it's how most of us were raised. How our brains are trained. This is this, that is that. Everything is one, don't argue because if you argue... you open things up to maybe the new thrust not being... ah... right. Which gets messy. Fast. So, we're often predispositioned to view things in that light. We wrap 'small' gods into saint's festivals in the Catholic Church and try to treat them as just stories, heroes and role models. Ditto I've found with some of my Muslim friends. So not only do we start out of the box now trying to streamline, to find the basic cord to grab and ignore the 'extraneous bits' and just keep moving - so do authors and publishing companies. It's just ~easier~ to break it all down into tiny baby steps and homogenize it all. If you were raised in the Christian tradition - think back to those little cardboard bound books that you had. Stories culled out of the bible, in their most basic - but appetizing - forms. YES! Talk about the excitement with young David in the Lion's Den! NO, let's not get into the whole Bathsheba complications. Too young of a mind, things need to be clearly this or that, good or evil. And a lot of the books discussing the gods seem to go the same way. Break them all down to their component parts to start... and if you chose to look further for more, you can go where you feel pulled.

And weirdly, that often ~does~ work for a lot of people walking away from the 'new' 'old' religions and looking for more. The basic ~intent~ the need behind the prayer, the spell, the meditation can be enough. It can be seen as the Sunday worshipers who do their best to keep a moral code and belief system - and the folks who are there Sunday, Sunday Night, Youth night, Movie Night, Bible Study, etc and are working on making their belief something more tangible. More manifest. It's the congregation member that DOES care and the divinity student. Both are valued. Both are equal but different. Some people can leave all the extra bits at the door while holding the core and there are those who have to carry the building with them. Personally? And this is my addled brain only, not writ of any kind, I tend to look at that as just opening yourself up (hopefully having taken precautions to not be rude, not be opening yourself up for spirits of a negative sort to use that energy) to the... well. Whichever journeyman/jobbing deity/force/ancestor who might be moved to help or happens to hear and decides to reach out towards that energy/intent. In that type of energy (and again, just to be clear, my birdbrain here) - you've called a directory and asked to talk to someone who, say... likes cats to help with a pet in the hospital and the service clicks you through, but you don't know the name that is being called or their number. Just that this is what the directory sent you on to. I think there are a lot of forms of energy in the world, and some are just energy/thought/a push in the wind towards an intent, some are more clearly self formed and have names and needs, and some... are the bigger hitters. Reaching towards a complete and formed deity energy... is more like skipping directory assistance and instead going into your phone's contacts list and calling someone specific. You need this person, this person only, and you understand it might be 4 in the morning and they are not gonna be thrilled to get the call, but it's them you need.

Personally, I tend to view the all is one, one is all as a pattern I can't work within. I - will never be able to grasp anything more then the most basic and totally only book based explanations of say, Zen Buddhism. Calm acceptance of, well frankly ~anything~ just doesn't fit. I'm a fighter. I know that most likely I will have an end in this particular life - but I ~also~ admit I'll fight that and still haven't by any chance accepted it as the 'only' option. (And I also admit that's nuts, but doesn't matter.) I will go swinging, likely with a black eye and bloody knuckles. Which might be slightly embarrassing at 85... It's just how I'm wired. That doesn't make it wrong, doesn't make someone who can/does live within that framework less than me. Honestly, it is more likely a fault in character on MY end. I see personality too clearly. I see... thumbprints of the Gods left in the sand.

I believe there is overlap. We live in a drastically different world then we did 3,000 years ago. We've populated and spread and mixed and joined and where you would once only expect a warrior bound to Ares to make an offering in Thrake whereas a Viking would call on Tyr - because that's who they knew. That's who was tied in to the people, the land, the blood of that place, it's different now. You can walk down a street in Morocco and see a tall broad shouldered blond with blue eyes pass you. You can fine a man with blood running straight from Nigeria wandering in a grocery in Iceland. And as we've moved and spread and joined - our Gods followed us. No longer tied to the rocks of one place, we became... their new holy places. Some lost followers to the the Gods of their new homes, some gained. Some faded and became once again just... purpose driven energy. A push, a thought. It's odd, I've read a lot (and will read more. I'll likely die in either a book or a yarn slide then a fight) on this and really, in spite of all the scholarly books, all the guides - the best book that I can take on and grow with comes from a fantasy author. The amazing Terry Pratchett wrote a book called Small Gods, about a single lone believer and the turtle who had once been a mighty God, now wasted away. It's view on how Gods can change and wax & wane just... fits. In my head anyway.

I also believe that just as there are 'small' gods (energies, intentions, and even up to demi-god type status), and what you might call the "Big" Gods (the ones who's worshipers either held on, or reached back to) but I also believe that there is some overriding Force that got the ball rolling. We don't tap into It, but It's there. Calmly moving the universe... somewhere. Cares about the whole, but the individual, except a very rare few, and just blinks in Their eye. Valued, but... otherwise cared for.

And when it comes to splitting deities into this God or that God I feel that if you are mucking up folks who don't get along or would view the overlap/name swap as an issue - you'll find out quickly. And if you are forcing out just a universal help beacon and it's more a general "Oh Crap, Someone toss a lifejacket" instead of trying to build a relationship with that God/Aspect, I think that, for the most part, your intent can play a bit part of it. If you are insulting/whiny/etc - it's an issue. If it's a heartfelt reach - if it can be handled by a general jobbing deity, no harm no fowl. It it's an absolute personal will trying to force a lazyman's way of handing thing?

You'll get spanked.

Here's hoping this made sense. It's hot as Tartarus here at the moment, and should know better then to try and be clear headed when the house feels like it's melting into the foundation.
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Materialist

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Re: How do you view "aspects"?
« Reply #9 on: July 18, 2013, 02:52:11 pm »
Quote from: BardicBird;115993
Weirdly I've been struggling with this a lot lately....


Whenever I try to post something that long, it's lost to the ethers of cyberspace. You're not some kind of incarnate deity, are you? Lord of the Keyboard?

I wonder if monotheism is, in part, responsible for the existence of hard polytheism. That, in reconstructing pagan religions, trying to remove all the Christian corruptions of what paganism was, neo-pagans tended towards the extremes of polytheism to try to be as unchristian as possible. Just an idle thought of mine.

Materialist

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Re: How do you view "aspects"?
« Reply #10 on: July 18, 2013, 03:14:12 pm »
Quote from: Kylara;114962
I've seen these usages of aspect as well, and I have some problems (especially with the first one).

 
And so, the age old debate between hard and soft polytheism does rise once again.

Your three mothers explanation doesn't work on soft polytheists for this reason: lightning is not a person, it is an impersonal natural process of weather patterns. The conditions that cause lightning are the same for the whole planet. In another thread, someone tried to convince me that there were multiple sun gods, but, once again, we're talking about an impersonal ball of plasma.

You might like to blame mass market magic books for the weakening of polytheism, but this ignores the fact that soft polytheism has always existed. In the Rg Veda, distinctions between gods can cease to exist at any moment. One of the main doctrines of tantra yoga (the real stuff, not the dime a dozen sex guides) is that the gods are archetypes/aspects of the ultimate reality.

Both schools of theology are equally right, so, saying soft polytheism "misses the mark" is wrong. There is no one true way.

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Re: How do you view "aspects"?
« Reply #11 on: July 18, 2013, 09:47:45 pm »
Quote from: Materialist;116078
Whenever I try to post something that long, it's lost to the ethers of cyberspace. You're not some kind of incarnate deity, are you? Lord of the Keyboard?

 
No darlin, no Lord of the Keyboard, just long experience. I started working as a paid typist at about 11 (which makes all my typos all the more insanity causing. But mix being a feather brain with having broken much... okay, no. Most really. But having crushed both hands more than a few times each - featherheaded AND a klutz, believe me, no incarnate of anything here with THAT combo! - tends to sadly mean more and more typos the further into my day I try to type) first as the person who formatted all the quizzes, typed out all the tests, and graded pretty much everything from worksheets through to essays for my dad (good cash for me and it was for the best of everyone that my dad didn't try to grade those highschool tests. He would have either suffered a massive aneurism or gone on a rampage. More rampages.), then typist for my mom - she wrote for the local paper - and as I got older I made a lot of my spare coin picking up typing, editing, and in some instances ghost writing (but only on paid work - no school papers) in school. So lots and lots of practice.

THAT and if I am having a truly tough day with migraines or the like - I have gotten into the habit of typing things off the web ~first~ and just cutting and pasting it into where I need it. Far less risk of the internet grubblies and ghasties to grok it on me. (And if I REALLY need to get nasty - I'll hand my computer over to my Tech God spouse with the statement "I'm off to make some cookies. Please make it give me back my work!" - and without fail, before the first batch is cool, he will have beaten my system, and in some cases it seems, the internet itself into submission.)
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Re: How do you view "aspects"?
« Reply #12 on: July 19, 2013, 06:12:17 pm »
Quote from: wadjet;110488
This is not so much a specific question I have, more a discussion topic.

 
I personally believe that all deities are aspects of singular androgynous deity who revealed itself as many so that we might understand it better.
https://inthespiritofconversation.wordpress.com/
I started a blog. Feel free to peruse. It's still in it's early stages and I have to write more, so do bare with me if it's all a little basic so far.

Ma'atemhat

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Re: How do you view "aspects"?
« Reply #13 on: August 06, 2013, 02:20:18 pm »
Quote from: Materialist;116081
And so, the age old debate between hard and soft polytheism does rise once again.

 
This might be getting a little off topic, but the phrases "soft polytheism" and "hard polytheism" amuse me. What people have taken to describing as "soft polytheism" falls under the definition of monism. What people have taken to describing as "hard polytheism" falls under the definition of polytheism. So really, there are no "soft polytheists" and "hard polytheists." There are monists and polytheists.
Exploring spirituality somewhere between the Emerald Isle and the Black Land: http://emeraldandblack.blogspot.com/

Sage

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Re: How do you view "aspects"?
« Reply #14 on: August 06, 2013, 02:27:02 pm »
Quote from: Ma'atemhat;118111
This might be getting a little off topic, but the phrases "soft polytheism" and "hard polytheism" amuse me. What people have taken to describing as "soft polytheism" falls under the definition of monism. What people have taken to describing as "hard polytheism" falls under the definition of polytheism. So really, there are no "soft polytheists" and "hard polytheists." There are monists and polytheists.

 
I believe there's more to the "soft" and "hard" categories than what you're describing and that there are, in fact, differences between some soft polytheism and some monism. (Ultimately it's up to the individuals how they expressively define their beliefs.) For example, just because a soft polytheist believes that some deities share an identity with each other (for example, that Jupiter and Zeus and Odin and Taranis are the same dude) doesn't mean they would necessarily believe that all deities come from the same source and are indivisible at their core.

TL;DR it's important to let people define themselves and define their own beliefs and not define it for them.
Maker, though the darkness comes upon me,
I shall embrace the light. I shall weather the storm.
I shall endure.
What you have created, no one can tear asunder.

-Canticle of Trials 1:10

Sage and Starshine (my spiritual blog): last updated 2/25.
Friday Otherfaith Blogging: last updated 2/27
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