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Polytheism is belief in, or worship of, multiple gods or divinities. The word comes from the Greek words poly+theoi, literally "many Gods." Ancient religion was polytheistic, holding to a pantheon of traditional deities. The belief in many Gods does not necessarily preclude, but it sometimes includes, the belief in an all-powerful all-knowing supreme being, as the ruler and parent (often king and father) of Gods and mankind.


In Polytheistic belief, Gods are conceived as complex personages of greater or lesser status, with individual skills, needs, desires and stories. The Gods are not always omnipotent or omniscient; rather, they are often portrayed as similar to humans in their personality traits, but with additional individual powers, abilities, knowledge or perceptions.


Hinduism – Smartha: The system prevalent in Hinduism is defined by the Smartha philosophy; this theory allows for the veneration of numberless deities, but on the understanding that all of them are but manifestation of a single divine power. Though Hinduism as it is now practised is essentially soft polytheistic/ pantheistic/ monistic /inclusive monotheistic, it is considered likely that this system evolved from the merging of two ancient polytheistic traditions, the Proto-Indo-European religion, and Dravidian religion.


Buddhism: different countries in which Buddhism had flourished may have polytheistic features, but generally they are mixed from part of that country's folk religion. For example, in Japan, Buddhist religious practice was mixed by some of the people in folk religion with Shinto, which worships kami, or nature spirits. Thus, there may be elements of worship of gods in some forms of Buddhism. Mainstream Buddhism has devas, which are not gods and are subject to the same laws of karma as humans.


Pagan polytheism may vary from one tradition to another and from one individual to another. Some Pagans are fiercely polytheistic, others have a fairly fluid approach where they believe it is all a matter of perspective. Some may follow a Neoplatonist model, where everything in the universe emanated from a single source (but is distinct and separate now). Others may believe that deities have always been individual entities. Pagan polytheists also tend to honour nature spirits, which are called wights in Heathenry, genii loci in Religio Romana and elementals, nature spirits and spirits of place in Wicca.


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