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Polytheist Laity

By P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

[Snip] Not unlike Catholicism, though, but perhaps even more especially so, there has been a lack of an acknowledgement of laity even as a reality, much less as a desirable category, in modern paganism particularly, and for the same reasons within modern polytheism–and this despite the latter often recognizing better that there is not only a need for laity, but also that laity already exists and needs to be accounted for. I suspect that this is a side-effect of something I’ve discussed on various other occasions previously, i.e. that because modern general paganism has been constituted as a countercultural response from an overculture that is Protestant and entertains the default notion of a “priesthood of all believers,” likewise paganism has taken that notion one step further, and made each person an individual priest in name as well as in actuality (according to its own definitions, at least), so that their experience of whatever-it-is-that-is-encountered-within-its-theological-understanding is “unmediated.” For a variety of reasons, I think this is a problematic concept.

No, there is nothing keeping the gods from interacting with whomever-they-might-choose, whether they are a layperson or clergy; and yet, one of the things that makes laypeople different from clergy on an almost constitutional level is that clergy have either specialized training or natural gifts (or, often, some combination of both) which make them…well…specialized. Not everyone has the ability to be a good oracular medium; not everyone has the intellectual interest or time to become a properly-informed exegete; and while any deity can reach out to any person, having some people who are particularly devoted to and connected with certain deities and are then in service to that deity by helping to connect other people (laity or not–and the latter is supremely important, I think, and yet gets written off quite easily even by people who generally agree on these other points I’ve already raised…on which more in a moment, too!) with them is more of a benefit than it is a “concentration of power” or an arrogation or appropriation of something that *should* be available to everyone.

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