As a devotional polytheist, I am often hearing lamentations from this quarter about engaging with the gods as archetypes, defined in Jungian psychology as aspects of the human psyche which correlate with different human roles, affiliations, and inclinations. Non-polytheist/non-theist/soft-polytheist pagans often engage this way, and base their various faiths (or lack thereof) on these ideas. It is fair to note that paganisms are plural, being many religions with distinct worldviews, and so they don’t all derive from the same point of origin, or aim towards the same conclusions. Devotional and cultural polytheisms seek to engage with worldviews derived from the era of the ancient polytheists, whereas non-polytheist/soft polytheists seek to engage with worldviews derived from 19th and 20th century occultism and psychology. Since paganisms are non-dogmatic, there aren’t any right or wrong ways to engage with the gods as pagans of various traditions, so such differences need not be in opposition to, or conflict with each other. Each can stand as various points of engagement within various worldviews.
As a devotional polytheist though, I find it both helpful to engage with Brìde through the original Greek concept of archetypes, and entirely appropriate, given that the original meaning derives from a polytheistic culture and worldview. This original definition, prior to Jung’s reworking of it, does not seem to get much air in the current conversation, however. I think it is worth exploring, given its origins.
In the original Greek, ‘archetype’ means, prototype, or original model. I engage with Brìde as the hearth fire that offers hospitality, and so seek to offer hospitality myself to those who engage with me, as a hospitality of my person and heart, to be present with and engage fully with those I come into contact with, in person or online. I engage with Brìde as the ephemeral fire of imbas, or inspiration, and so offer up what inspires me so that it may possibly in turn inspire others. I engage with Brìde as the fire in the center of the earth which supports and nourishes all life, and so seek to support life myself wherever and whenever I am able. I engage with Brìde as the light of the sun which shines on all life without discrimination or judgement, and so strive to myself offer such compassionate giving. As these fires take care of others, I work to take care of others in my life, as fire warms us, cooks our food, and welcomes us to sit together in conviviality. I in turn seek to offer emotional and spiritual sustenance to my fellows, and create opportunities for us to gather and share together.
I look to Brìde as an archetype, or prototype I might pattern myself after, and in turn, become more like Her, more full of Her Light and less full of myself, and more able to kindle and tend Her Light in the world as grounded through my words and actions. All of this takes arduous presence, focus, and practice though, which is why we need a full lifetime to completely manifest ourselves through such archetypes (if not more than one lifetime!).
In aligning myself with the spirit of Brìde, and the Bridine spirituality Her spirit and essence suggests, I help myself become more like She whom I revere. I view this as a key component of flametending and practicing a distinctly Bridine spirituality as a devotional polytheist.