Like last year, I’m going to write a few posts on Many Gods West because I don’t think I can squeeze everything into one blog post. So I’m going to break the weekend into a three parts again: “Past, Present, Future” (this post), “Programming“, and “Overall Experience“.
I took this idea from John Beckett at Patheos, who just recently wrote “Many Gods West: Showing Up.” If you have a chance, I definitely do recommend reading Beckett’s article because the conclusion is something I happen to agree with.
Last year, Many Gods West was breathtaking in all the best possible ways. I saw people who were some sort of authority figures in the wider polytheist and pagan community. I got to experience what it was like to be around people who agreed that there are many gods and that those gods are real. To be around people and worship and practice in such a way that I could identify with. It was such a change from the pagan festivals I went to, because for once I felt like I belonged religiously. It was an incredible feeling. And I talked and talked about Many Gods West 2015 until they announced Many Gods West 2016, wherein I began to talk about what may happen at Many Gods West 2016 instead.
But MGW 2016 had a duller effect on me. I think partly because I was expecting to fit in religiously, and I once again did fit in. I think partly because I had befriended on Facebook these huge polytheist names in the community, so they didn’t feel like giants anymore.
This isn’t to say that MGW 2016 was not a success. On the contrary, it made me realize how much an event like this could connect me to people throughout the year. Thanks to MGW 2015, my Facebook is filled with polytheists from all over the place who are validating my religious perspective constantly. We disagree on some things — don’t get me wrong — but the baseline that there are many gods is constant. We may practice and interact with those many gods (and spirits!) differently, but that baseline is there.
Many Gods West 2017, therefore, is something that I hope can happen again. And a Many Gods Midwest. And a Many Gods East. And so forth. Because these gatherings are so important to building connections and building community.
There is a lot of good that comes from the online polytheist communities. I’m very much a part of that, so don’t take what I’m about to say the wrong way: We need in person community badly. And not pagan spaces — which I keep hearing people call this conference and while maybe they aren’t wrong, it is first and foremost a polytheist space. When I go to Heartland Pagan Festival, it’s first and foremost a pagan space, which means sometimes polytheists show up and sometimes they don’t. But with a polytheist space, I am sure on that baseline. Polytheist spaces need to exist with the baseline that there are multiple gods.
Why bother with that baseline? Why does it matter? Because that baseline then creates shared experiences. And that shared experience helps me feel less alone and more validated.