Paganism and Polyamory

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Last year, when the HBO series “Big Love” (a show about a polygamous family from a Mormon splinter-group) premiered, I thought it would be best if the modern Pagan community had an open and frank discussion about polyamory. At the time I felt that the show would start a cascade of coverage concerning polygamy, and reporters would soon equate the fundamentalist notions of male-dominated (often abusive) polygamous marriages with the more open concepts of polyamory often found in progressive communities. I felt then (and now) that we needed to be ready to confront these issues when the press came calling, especially as modern Paganism (which contains a large number of actively polyamorous individuals) continues to grow and gain mainstream attention.

“Some Pagans may be tempted to write off, or at least closet, our poly folks, in order to continue to obtain the incremental mainstream acceptance we have gained. We musn’t give in to this urge. If anything, our national and regional groups need to be ready with accurate, compassionate language that accepts polyamory as one acceptable choice among many choices open to those who worship in a Pagan faith. We must stand our ground and differentiate how a Pagan approach to a multiple-partner relationship is radically different from the more paternalistic strains found amongst some Mormons and other religious fundamentalists. There are times to go back into the “broom closet”, and of course we want to pick our battles wisely. But I think that the stakes will soon become too high to not speak truth to power on this issue.”

Now a new article in has made explicit the ties between the polyamory movement and modern Paganism.

“As for who practices poly, Robyn Trask of Loving More, a polyamorist association and magazine, offers me a survey her magazine did in 2002 of 1,000 poly practitioners (who, given their lifestyle, could conceivably be speaking for another 4,000). The survey found the following: 40 percent of the poly population have graduate degrees or higher (as opposed to 8 percent of the general population). Most were raised Christian (87 percent) but identified as pagan (30 percent). One-fifth had never married; one-fifth had been divorced. And only 49 percent were sexually involved with someone they described as a love interest.”

So the largest identifiable religious affiliation within polyamorous communities is Pagan (though we don’t comprise a majority of polyamous people). After briefly mentioning religion, the article moves to focusing on the ins and outs of polyamory, in an open and sympathetic manner. The underlying message is “we are normal, like you”.

“We always start off acknowledging that we know this is weird, we know this is unusual … but when you come and see our family it’s not that different from yours. We have chores, we have a mortgage, we cook dinner. We try to get our daughter to bed and sometimes she doesn’t go to bed when we want her to … Really, our day-to-day lives are pretty unremarkable.”

This new story reinforces the points I made a year ago, while the giant wave of publicity never came from the “Big Love” show (now starting its second season), this is an issue that will continue to gain steam as time goes by. Eventually polyamory will reach a “tipping point” and garner widespread national attention. Are our leaders and organizations ready for questions regarding polyamory? Eventually hostile questions will come, and they will cite this article, and we shouldn’t be found wanting for a clear, empathetic, and inclusive answer.