Archetypal Polytheism 

Modern Pagans

October 29, 2015 / by Todd

The elements speak to us, the ancestors speak to us, all of nature speaks to us – if we will hear her. We plunge into a realm of paradox in which the outer world leads us to the inner world, and in which that inner world teaches us to be fully present to the outer world…

If Druidry exists in the spiritual, archetypal world, and if it exists as potential and ideal in this realm, then each generation must attempt to connect with and express this ideal, potential, or archetype as best it can. Rather than the sources of Druidry moving ever further from us as we move forward in time, the reverse is actually the case – as we move forward in time our increased knowledge of the world and the psyche can enable us to more adequately reflect and express the ideals and images of Druidry…

Philip Carr-Gomm, introduction to The Druid Source Book (John Matthews, ed.)

Much of the theoretical basis for a modern defense of polytheism comes from Jungian psychologists, who have long argued that the gods and goddesses of myth, legend, and fairy tale represent archetypes, real potencies and potentialities deep within the psyche, which, when allowed to flower, permit us to be more fully human.

Margot Adler, Drawing down the Moon: Witches, druids, goddess-worshippers and other pagans in  America today (1986 edition)

Many Neo-Pagans understand the gods as archetypes, but they misunderstand the nature of archetypes, confusing them with mere symbols. When we see the gods as mere symbols, it is easy to treat them as things, objects to be manipulated at will. And we start to believe that we can create the gods. This is problematic, not only from both a devotional polytheistic perspective, but also from a Jungian perspective. A Jungian would say that, even though the gods arise from within us, we cannot create them, any more than we create our dreams. Rather, they are something which happens to us. Nor can we manipulate them at will; rather it is they who manipulate us. To view archetypes as mere symbols is to fundamentally misunderstand the nature of archetypes. For the last four years I have been advocating the “regodding the archetypes“, restoring the sense of numinosity, of mysterious otherness, to the archetypes…

John Halstead, “On Gods and Stained-Glass Windows: A Response to Morpheus Ravenna,” at

…I think that our human concepts, our more abstract theories, emotions and perceptions…have all been anthropomorphized, along with archetypes of humanity, natural phenomena and features of our natural world–they have all been explained or imagined in human terms at some point way back in our history.  When they are imagined in human shaped terms, and talked about, and stories told about them, and other people begin to think about them, and explain them and talk about them in the same ways, and their stories grow as energy is fed into them, and Stuff gathers round them…they become a little more real in this people world than they had been before.  So more people begin to think about them, and talk about them, and feed them, and this, I believe, is how you grow a God.  Eventually.

Lora O’Brien, A Practical Guide to Irish Spirituality

I don’t believe anyone believes in a one-eyed man who is riding about on a horse with eight feet.  We see the stories as poetic metaphors and a manifestation of the forces of nature and human psychology.

Hilmar Örn Hilmarsson, Allsherjargoði of the Icelandic Ásatrúarfélagið, interview with Reuters (2015)


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