I have a serious problem with the notion that the religious beliefs and practices of Native Americans are open for incorporation into non-Indian religions. Since many Native Americans have expressed dismay at this idea, I interpret their religions as closed to outsiders. Like other Polytheist religions, the beliefs of Native Americans are rooted in their community and are based on their particular culture.
Furthermore, what people think what Native Americans believe comes from the writings of outsiders. The few Native Americans who had books written such as Nicholas Black Elk of the Lakota were both Roman Catholic and Traditionalists. Black Elk, himself, said that he wanted to preserve the traditional rituals of his people by placing them into a Roman Catholic context. He presented the concept of the “Great Spirit” as singular and masculine, which is Christian. More traditional beliefs have the pairings of male and female Gods.
In general, Polytheism suffers from being interpreted by people steeped in the modern intellectual tradition of the West. Polytheistic religions like the Native Americans are not proto-Monotheistic or simply animistic. Like Native American religions, Roman Polytheism is a social religion with the individual as a member of the community. There is a religious aspect in every communal ritual and a communal aspect in every religious ritual.
As a Roman Polytheist, I look to my own religious traditions and beliefs. Roman Polytheism covers from the time of the Kings to the fall of the Empire (about 700 years). The usual practice is to select a period for deeper worship. Since I prefer Republican Rome, I do not regard Julius Caesar or the Emperors to be Gods. My Polytheism is a rich and fulfilling religion.
What I can learn from Native Americans and their religious practices is their piety. In Roman Polytheist, the Pax Deorum (Peace of the Gods) is maintain through pietas (piety).This is the devotion of the individual to their Gods, family, and community. Black Elk demonstrated this by doing what he could to preserve his people’s rituals. The Potlach Feast of the Chinook reaffirms their sacred relationship with their Gods, Nature Spirits, and community. Meanwhile, the Mi’kmaq leave offerings when they take something from nature. All this reaffirms the sacred web of reciprocity. Since my own community is far-flung, I can find ways to do my rituals to be a part of this web.
Adkins, Lesley and Roy Adkins, “Dictionary of Roman Religion.” New York: Oxford University Press. 1996.
Krasskova, Galina, “Devotional Polytheism.” Sanngetall Press. 2014.
“Honoring the Ancestors.” Sanngetall Press. 2014.
Native American Spirituality, Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance. Web. http://www.religioustolerance.org/nataspir.htm.
Native Languages of the Americas: Native Cultures. Web. 2015. http://www.native-languages.org/home.htm
North American Religions, Overview of World’s Religions. Web. http://www.philtar.ac.uk/encyclopedia/nam/index.htmlhttp://www.philtar.ac.uk/encyclopedia/nam/index.html.
Paper, Jordan, “The Deities Are Many.” Albany NY: State University of New York Press. 2005.
Scheid, John, “An Introduction to Roman Religion,” Janet Lloyd, trans. Bloomington ID: Indiana University Press. 2003.
Thomas, Kirk, “Sacred Gifts.” Tucson AZ: ADF Publishing. 2015.
Triarius, L. Vitellius, “Religio Romana Handbook.” Self-published: Charleston (SC). 2014.