"I don't believe what I do because I am a polytheist animist; I am a polytheist animist because of what I believe."This is paraphrasing Paul Mitchell speaking on Druidcast Episode 51, who made a similar statement in relation to druidry.
I came to the reconnectionist polytheist community rather late in life. My fundamental beliefs though have remained unaltered since I was 6 years of age^. I know this seems ridiculous given people learn and grow over their lifetime, but the core of my beliefs have not altered, rather I have expanded, and deepened my understanding of the universe and my place in it over the years. I never really understood the whole Catholic culture within which I was raised. I honestly thought Catholicism, indeed Christianity as a whole, was just an eloborate play put on for children. I felt the same way about Santa Claus.
I have always believed in the ability to manipulate reality, i.e. magic – a recent thread on a forum confirmed this wherein I noted one of the books that changed my life was a book of fairytales full of people who could wield this supernatural power. I never believed in just one god who created all (a.k.a. intelligent design), but I sort of understood an underlying energy force that permeated everything whether supposedly alive or inanimate, but I could not express this until I was much older. I always thought I was odd because of these thoughts. Bearing in mind I attended religious schools, everyone around me seemed deeply religious and so I felt an outsider by believing what I did. As I grew up and moved onto another religious school, I had conversations with my principal (Sister Marcella) about how the bible could be reconciled with scientific thought. Sister Marcella was very patient with me and gave me pause for thought, but I still felt like my beliefs were unacceptable to society as a whole. Even through the New Age movement, I didn't quite gel with what other people said was so.
Finding the pagan religions late in life didn't really change my beliefs. My first encounters were with neo-wicca groups and, though these groups held similar beliefs, we were never really a match. Cue chance encounter with a heathen and suddenly hard polytheism* comes into view. You would think I might have encountered or, at the very least, googled these religions and their names long beforehand, but the internet wasn't that big when I first found the pagan communities. As the world wide web expanded and Wikipedia came along, I began to understand how my thoughts, seeded as a child, and now maturing, were not unusual but were the subject of study; had modern-day followers and adherents; and had names.
These days there seems to be a reluctance to use labels, but, for me, why use a long-winded monologue to express what you believe, when you can reduce it to a few words. Finding a term for my beliefs came as a relief because I had grown up with people who identified with Catholic and Christian, just two short words that encapsulated all that they held dear, whereas I had none.
There are many words that can express a single part of me, but none that encapsulate the whole, no one word really could, when you think about it, e.g. I have more than one given name as well as my surname. So, if you want to know more about me, here are some labels which you can attach to me:
animal, animist, bibliophile, bitch, confidante, consumer, cousin, creator, dabbler, Darwinist, daughter, descendant, destroyer, diviner, drop-out, female, fool, foreigner, friend, grand-daughter, heathen, human, immigrant, interloper, introvert, listener, niece, observer, pagan, photographer, (wannabe) poet, polytheist, predator, reader, romantic, shrew, sister, student, subject, thinker, traveller, watcher, woman ...
I will continually add to this list over the coming weeks as I do some further exploration. Apply any of the above labels to me, if you will, I truly don't mind. They don't define me; well, not all of me, just one small part of who I am.
^ I'm sure you've heard this before and you're sick of it, probably don't even believe it, but do read on.
* I use the term hard to distinguish between those polytheists that believe all god/esses are one god/ess, and those who believe as I do that all are separate individuals/identities. In no way does the use of hard imply my beliefs are truer or superior to those of soft polytheists.