Ten years ago, a god asked me to take a journey, and I agreed. A year ago, she reminded me of my promise, and I completely turned my life upside down to make it happen.
One could say that it was an act of devotion, an act of piety.
It was also a rare request on her part, which was one of many reasons why I took it so seriously.
In general, my gods don’t demand either devotion or piety in the traditional sense. If anything, they have made it clear over the years that such ideas are *not* what they desire. I recognize that my experience is in the minority, as most other polytheists I know are primarily focused on devotion. But I would never question if whether what they were doing was “right” or not because I have absolutely no first-hand knowledge of their relationships with their gods. I have no authority to judge nor dictate what I think a relationship between other people and their gods should look like or to declare what is and isn’t pious within the context of their relationship, and to assert such an authority would be to claim that I had a power that in reality is impossible to definitively possess.
And to try to claim such a power is not piety, it is hubris. Nobody has ANY right to judge or dictate what relationships between gods or humans should look like, even if they are devotees of the god in question.
Why, you ask? Because the gods don’t want the same things from all of us, and the idea that they would want that is absurd. What a god asks of you may not be the same as what a god asks of anyone else. If you truly believe and profess that the gods are real and autonomous beings with agency, you have absolutely no way of knowing what that god may be saying to anyone else any more than you would absolutely know what any other human said to that person unless you were in the same room.
If you think you not only have the right to judge the deity relationships and practices of others, but you claim that you are doing so in the name of the gods and that you know definitively what the gods do and do not want, you are caught up in your ego and you need to check that shit. You are exposing your desire for power over, as opposed to power that is rightfully developed and/or earned and granted.
There is nothing pious about making declarative statements without qualifiers about what the gods want from others. And there is nothing pious about using ones reputation in the community and the mechanisms of fear to shame others into agreeing with your viewpoints regarding deity. To do so is nothing but arrogance, and arrogance is the opposite of piety. Assuming that one knows what the gods want of others, and assuming that they have the right to scold and chastise and shame others who do not fit their view of piety is the epitome of hubris. There is nothing ‘pious’ about it; it is an attempt to control meaning and to claim power.
Anyone who would say that they are focused on and dedicated to piety and then in the next breath declare what the gods want of others is exposing a potential minefield of inner complexes and control issues while plainly demonstrating the degree to which their thinking is steeped in a mess of hypocrisy and contradiction. They can speak in authoritative tones about ‘miasma’ until they turn blue in the face, but they authority they are attempting to assert holds no legitimacy in the face of their own miasmic hubris.
And whether consciously wielded or not, such a position is potentially a grave abuse of power, especially when those who put forth such ideas identify as priests, clergy, or leaders. It is nothing less than an attempt to control both people as well as meaning.
Humility and piety go hand in hand. Those who are truly pious, those who truly do speak for and through deity, tend to be creatures of great humility and awe. Arrogance, hubris, and impiety also go hand in hand. Those who harshly police meaning and act as gatekeepers of definitions and/or experience are not acting piously.
Once again: to attempt to wield power and control meaning through arrogance and hubris is to be in service to the ego, not the gods.
Piety my ass.