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Do hard polytheists believe that all of their gods are eternal?

Quintessence

Consults with Trees
Staff member
Premium Member
Given that many of the polytheistic pantheons explicitly detail creation stories of the deities as well as their demise, that would suggest no. They are not all-powerful.

But one must also ask where existence begins and ends. Time is not fashioned in quite so linear a manner in many polytheistic faiths. Time instead is circular. The Olympians overthrew the Titans, but it was a beginning of a new cycle that in some respects can be interpreted as eternal.
 

IsmailaGodHasHeard

Well-Known Member
Given that many of the polytheistic pantheons explicitly detail creation stories of the deities as well as their demise, that would suggest no. They are not all-powerful.

But one must also ask where existence begins and ends. Time is not fashioned in quite so linear a manner in many polytheistic faiths. Time instead is circular. The Olympians overthrew the Titans, but it was a beginning of a new cycle that in some respects can be interpreted as eternal.

Oh, okay. I never looked at it like that.
 

Sylvan

Unrepentant goofer duster
I wrote this in another thread you started but I guess I am more of a polytheist, or something like that. Anyone want to define me in terms of this terminology? I do think there is some kind of "unified intelligence" at work but the idea that we could communicate with it without mediation, or that it has something we could perceive as "motivation" seems unlikely to me. What do you mean by "hard" polytheist? Am I a "soft" one?

In my opinion the "god that created the universe" is a god we will never know or perceive (until we pass the body perhaps), and will one day be best described by physicists. There are literally existing independently intelligent gods and spirits which "partake" of or are "part and parcel" to various natural or perhaps even primordial cosmic phenomena, but their appearance to us is through an epiphenomena of the "noosphere", and their true nature and number is indeterminate. Many, such as a certain popular Semetic storm/mountain god, like to pretend they created the universe and sometimes claim they are the only "real" god. It makes for a good story and their usefulness to the tribes they coexisted with depended on the wonder of children and proofs of their power to men. Often in the form of military victories. This was a useful fiction for a time. Now, I would argue, it is more parasitic. But that's neither here nor there.

So to answer your question in my opinion their nature and number are indeterminate. I work with 3-7 usually, sometimes more in aggregate.
They are certainly not the only gods nor did they create the universe or claim to. Although apparently some of their ancestors are in a lineage which partook of the memory of such events.
I would be happy to elaborate on what I mean by "work with" and my theory about gods having children and "age" upon request.
 
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Sir Doom

Cooler than most of you
I'm not sure what a hard polytheist is, but personally I just assume that gods would have a soul something like ours that never really stops being. I would assume its some incredibly better version than ours as well. Please note the assumption part of both of those statements.
 

Saint Frankenstein

From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free!
Premium Member
I personally believe that all gods had their beginning, as all things within the universe did. But that they are immortal. At least now they're immortal.
 

EyeofOdin

Active Member
Polytheism refers to many different spiritual systems, and most of these spiritual systems changed in different times. I'm sure that in the Proto-Germanic pantheon, not only was Tyr (called Teiwaz) the Allfather, but the gods might have been immortal, but in later times, closer and closer to Christianization in fact, there comes the idea of Ragnarok and the death of the gods.

We also see that in Polytheism, the line between immortality and mortality and the line between spirit and god is very blurred. After someone's death in various polytheistic traditions, he or she would be honored as an immortal ancestral spirit or sometimes as a minor deity. Myths everywhere in Europe talk about how the gods are immortal. In Greece the gods have to drink ambrosia to live forever, and among the Germanic tribes they must eat apples from Idun.

It really is a matter of perspective.
 

Aupmanyav

Be your own guru
Or do they believe that most of their gods have a beginning?
A few Hindu Gods and Goddesses were born, but mostly they are eternals. We have the birth stories of Ganesha, Kartikeya (the two sons of Shiva), Hanuman, Parvati (She was daughter of Himalaya, the king of Mountains), Lakshmi (born out of churning of the sea) and Brahma. But Shiva, Vishnu, Adi Shakti (all Goddesses are supposed to be her forms) are eternal. Avataras (mainly Vishnu), are forms of the Eternal Gods who fulfill all properties of being humans. After completion of their mission (removal of evil) they return to their original form.
 

GoodbyeDave

Well-Known Member
A lot of the myths about the gods are symbolic, a few are just stories. But it mostly depends on the tradition and the individual believer. So in the Madhva interpretation of Hinduism, all spiritual entities are eternal, but Vishnu is self-dependent while the divine and human souls are dependent on him for their being. A similar view was held by the Greeks in later antiquity.
 

EyeofOdin

Active Member
Or do they believe that most of their gods have a beginning?

Depends on the culture and depends on the hard polytheist. Romano-Hellenic based polytheisms regard their deities as "immortals" which implies existence, at least as long as time exists, while Germanic based polytheisms have myths and lore about gods dying, including the death of Baldr and Ragnarok.

When someone asks the question in a spiritual context "are gods eternal" that also asks "do gods die in Paganism". To answer this the definition of "death" needs to be clear.

Gods are spiritual entities, and our bodies can die with our soul (also being a spiritual entity) living on in another form of existence, usually by going into some realm of death or being reincarnated. So when the soul reaches the Underworld (being Hades, Helheim, Aaru etc.) or goes into the intermediary stage between interactive existences in the cycle of reincarnation, we can call that from a religious perspective "death". With the incarnational hypothesis, the intermediary stage is often likened to sleep and winter, just a quiet, dark part of the cycle to reenergize the self.

So the real question is "Do deities a) go into the underworld without the capability of leaving? or b) go into a very intense hibernation?"

Being a Heathen, I'll address my own culture first.

Essentially in the Baldr myth (if not familiar please read for yourself. It's a very long fable) what happened in Baldr's death was he simply was stuck in Helheim. Apparently once there, if Hella (goddess of the Underworld) agrees, one can walk out and be considered "alive" again.

This seems also the case in the story of Orpheus and Eurydice, from Hellenic Lore. Hades, after being emotionally swayed, agrees that she can leave, implying once having been parted from the underworld you're alive again.

In this sense, I suppose that gods can die. In the sense that they cease to exist? It's possible, but I have a hard time believing that. Although I'm a huge skeptic and I try to stay out of assuming beliefs outside of what's possible for myself, as an adherent of my religion and devotee of my gods, to be known.

Also, from Heathenry, in the story of Ragnarok, it's said that after all the chaos and death has subsided, there will be a man and woman seeking refuge in the world tree, and the sons of Odin Vidar and Vali will meet the sons of Thor Magni and Modi, and The Sun will have her daughter who will be brighter and better, and Baldr will arrive to Asgard from Helheim.

These cultures are beautiful, the gods are inspiring and their nature is thought provoking, but the truth behind their nature or mortality, I don't think we'll ever know. It doesn't really matter anyway and I don't think it's worth the trouble to try and find out.
 

lovesong

:D
Premium Member
The gods are immortal but not eternal. The gods had to have come after the earth formed, after life evolved. How they came about I don't know, but I do know they don't predate the earth.
 

Maponos

Welcome to the Opera
All gods have their beginnings. Some are primordial in that they existed before the world was formed as it is today, others were born afterwards.

In some mythologies, the gods are immortal, so they cannot die. In others, they live eternally but can be killed (and/or reborn or become chthonic deities).
 
Given that many of the polytheistic pantheons explicitly detail creation stories of the deities as well as their demise, that would suggest no. They are not all-powerful.

But one must also ask where existence begins and ends. Time is not fashioned in quite so linear a manner in many polytheistic faiths. Time instead is circular. The Olympians overthrew the Titans, but it was a beginning of a new cycle that in some respects can be interpreted as eternal.
Very good sir or madam,
The fact that a God is not eternal is just like believing in a glorified atheism. Which believes everything has beginnings and ends. Yahweh is consistently said to have no end or beginning it makes sense in the fact that us humans have been around for at least 6000 years. Then there are spiritual entities such as angels who do not age. We can create things as people and these things do not age. So its understandable and easy to explain the same thing happens with God. Starts with God and ends with God.
 
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