Polytheism is the worship of or belief in multiple deities, which are assembled into a pantheon of gods and goddesses, along with their own religions and rituals. In most religions which accept polytheism, the different gods and goddesses are representations of forces of nature or ancestral principles, can be viewed either as autonomous or as aspects or emanations of a creator deity or transcendental absolute principle, which manifests immanently in nature. Most of the polytheistic deities of ancient religions, with the notable exceptions of the Ancient Egyptian and Hindu deities, were conceived as having physical bodies. Polytheism is a type of theism. Within theism, it contrasts with monotheism, the belief in a singular God, in most cases transcendent. Polytheists do not always worship all the gods but they can be henotheists, specializing in the worship of one particular deity. Other polytheists can be kathenotheists. Polytheism was the typical form of religion during the Bronze Age and Iron Age up to the Axial Age and the development of Abrahamic religions, the latter of which enforced strict monotheism.

It is well documented in historical religions of Classical antiquity ancient Greek religion and ancient Roman religion, after the decline of Greco-Roman polytheism in tribal religions such as Germanic and Baltic paganism. Important polytheistic religions practiced today include Taoism, Hinduism, Japanese Shinto and various neopagan faiths; the term comes from the Greek πολύ poly and θεός theos and was first invented by the Jewish writer Philo of Alexandria to argue with the Greeks. When Christianity spread throughout Europe and the Mediterranean, non-Christians were just called Gentiles or pagans or by the pejorative term idolaters; the modern usage of the term is first revived in French through Jean Bodin in 1580, followed by Samuel Purchas's usage in English in 1614. A central, main division in modern polytheistic practices is between soft polytheism and hard polytheism."Hard" polytheism is the belief that gods are distinct, real divine beings, rather than psychological archetypes or personifications of natural forces.

Hard polytheists reject the idea that "all gods are one god." "Hard" polytheists do not consider the gods of all cultures as being real, a theological position formally known as integrational polytheism or omnism. For hard polytheists, gods are individual and not only different names for the same being; this is contrasted with "soft" polytheism, which holds that different gods may be aspects of only one god, that the pantheons of other cultures are representative of one single pantheon, psychological archetypes or personifications of natural forces. In this way, gods may be interchangeable for one another across cultures; the deities of polytheism are portrayed as complex personages of greater or lesser status, with individual skills, needs and histories. Polytheism cannot be cleanly separated from the animist beliefs prevalent in most folk religions; the gods of polytheism are in many cases the highest order of a continuum of supernatural beings or spirits, which may include ancestors, demons and others.

In some cases these spirits are divided into celestial or chthonic classes, belief in the existence of all these beings does not imply that all are worshipped. Types of deities found in polytheism may include Creator deity Culture hero Death deity Life-death-rebirth deity Love goddess Mother goddess Political deity Sky deity Solar deity Trickster deity Water deity Lunar deity Gods of music, science, farming or other endeavors. In the Classical era, Sallustius categorised mythology into five types: Theological Physical Psychological Material MixedThe theological are those myths which use no bodily form but contemplate the essence of the gods: e.g. Cronus swallowing his children. Since divinity is intellectual, all intellect returns into itself, this myth expresses in allegory the essence of divinity. Myths may be regarded physically; the psychological way is to regard the activities of the soul itself and or the soul's acts of thought. The material is to regard material objects to be gods, for example: to call the earth Gaia, ocean Okeanos, or heat Typhon.

Some well-known historical polytheistic pantheons include the Sumerian gods and the Egyptian gods, the classical-attested pantheon which includes the ancient Greek religion and Roman religion. Post-classical polytheistic religions include Norse Æsir and Vanir, the Yoruba Orisha, the Aztec gods, many others. Today, most historical polytheistic religions are referred to as "mythology", though the stories cultures tell about their gods should be distinguished from their worship or religious practice. For instance deities portrayed in conflict in mythology would still be worshipped sometimes in the same temple side by side, illustrating the distinction in the devotees mind between the myth and the reality. Scholars such as Jaan Puhvel, J. P. Mallory, Douglas Q. Adams have reconstructed aspects of the ancient Proto-Indo-European religion, from which the religions of the various Indo-European peoples derive, that this religion was an naturalist numenistic religion. An example of

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