In the first volume of the Temple of the Twelve series, Novice of Colors, our protagonist Caroline decides to take a reprieve from temple life and takes up residence in a cabin for a bit (think of it as a retreat). During her retreat, she meets a young man named Jonathan, they play lots of games and pull pranks on each other (she pours ice down his shirt and hides his shoes, among other things).
Finally, after weeks of asking, Jonathan consents to allow Caroline to paint his portrait (painting is her special gift, you see) but when Caroline starts to paint, she doesn’t paint Jonathan, her friend, she paints Lord Orange, one of the twelve deities she has dedicated herself to serving.
And she’s all like “Oh, shit, I poured ice down a god’s shirt!” except she doesn’t say it like that because this is a family-friendly book and the characters don’t swear.
Anyways, Orange’s lesson for Caroline is that she needs to learn to treat him not like Lord-Orange-the-God-Before-Whom-All-Tremble and more like Lord-Orange-Who-is-a-Friend. She has a lot of trouble with this at first, because she has been taught that you, you know, respect deities, you don’t *gasp* play with them! The Catholicism of my youth was like this. Church is SERIOUS BUSINESS, Mass is a solemn occasion where we reenact the sacrifice Jesus made on Calvary (for your sins, you dirty sinner) and thou shalt not have any fun, ever. The one time I thought that going to church was “cool” was when we had rock music at Mass, that was awesome–and then it was never done again, because it was determined that rock music was not reverent enough, I suppose. We were told that “God has a sense of humour” but we weren’t allowed to express it in the context of a religious ritual. Humour is one of those “profane” things. Then again, so is sex, and you are not allowed to do that unless it’s in the context of a heterosexual marriage. If you aren’t heterosexual, you “have a heavy cross to bear” and must be
forever alone celibate, never to experience love and affection from another person, ever.
Anyways, what was I saying before I went off on a tangent about homophobic BS? Oh yes, fun. It wasn’t until I discovered modern Pagan religions that I really opened up to this idea that play can be perfectly normal part of ritual. In Goddess traditions (like Z. Budapest’s) this isn’t only allowed, it’s encouraged. Call me a heretic, if you like, but I don’t believe every deity is all about THIS IS SERIOUS BUSINESS I DEMAND DUE REVERENCE all the time. I don’t think they’re readying the smiting finger every time you crack a joke during ritual, and, I don’t know, I’m not a deity, but it seems like gods know how many centuries of nothing but reverence would just be….boring. Sure, the fancy titles and the elaborate rituals would be great, but after centuries and centuries of the exact same thing? I’d personally be nudging my people to do something a little different. Then again, I would make a terrible goddess, so I’m glad it’s not my job.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I definitely get a sense that some pantheons appreciate things to be a little more….formal….most of the time, and I do think there are times when you need to take off the silly hat and be a bit more serious, but other times, I think that even deities like to let their hair down and, you know, chill out. Some people might have relationships with deities that are way more formal than others, and you know what? The beauty of polytheism is that everyone can relate to the same deity in different ways and everyone is right.
Again, I’m not saying that you should feel free to ogle a person’s posterior while they’re being possessed (because that would be rude, and kind of creepy, and probably stupid) or that you should turn every ritual into a miniature comedy festival (no, seriously, don’t do this) but am I saying that I don’t think faith is necessarily the opposite of fun.