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Polytheism. A BELIEF IN MANY DEITIES. Polytheism is…. …the belief in many deities A deity is a supernatural being of significant power “Polytheism” is from the Greek: poly = many theo = deities. Many scholars believe that polytheism evolved from animistic beliefs.

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Polytheism is

Polytheism is…

…the belief in many deities

  • A deity is a supernatural being of significant power

  • “Polytheism” is from the Greek:

    • poly = many

    • theo = deities


  • Many scholars believe that polytheism evolved from animistic beliefs

  • Animism was the belief in many spiritual forces, some friendly and some hostile

  • Over time, these spirits were seen to have more complicated and individual personalities


  • These deities, or “gods,” have individual skills, needs, desires, and histories


  • They often have humanlike personalities, but with additional powers or abilities

  • It was easy for humans to understand these personalities


  • The deities would argue, fight, have children, play games– all the things that humans do

  • Complex mythologies evolved as humans imagined the deities interacting with each other


  • These myths and legends could be used to explain natural phenomena such as the seasons or the creation of the world

Polytheistic religions

Polytheistic Religions

  • Many ancient societies had polytheistic religions:

    • Classical Greece and Rome

    • Ancient Egypt

    • Vikings

    • Aztecs

    • Ancient India (Hinduism)



  • Hinduism is a modern religion founded thousands of years ago in India

  • It is still practiced today, and is a form of polytheism

Percentages of Hindus today by country



1. Most Hindus believe that there is one divine power called Brahman

2. Brahman is then divided into numerous deities

Hinduism compared to other religions

Hinduism compared to other religions…

Doesn’t have a single founder, date (est. 3500 B.C.E.)

Vedas is the holy book (“Book of Knowledge”)

Doesn’t have a concept of a prophet

DOES have a trinity of deities

Hindu deities

Hindu Deities

Brahma: God as Creator of World, supreme deity

  • Is represented in the form of other gods…

  • Part of Hindu Trinity

Hindu deities1

Hindu Deities

Vishnu: God as preserver of the world, protector of creation

*part of Hindu Trinity

Hindu deities2

Hindu Deities

Shiva: God as Destroyer

-responsible for change (ex: death)

*part of Hindu Trinity

Hindu deities3

Hindu Deities

Ganesha: The Remover of Obstacles, God of Intelligence

-son of Shiva and his wife

Hindu deities4

Hindu Deities

Indra: God of War and Weather, ruler of the heavens and other gods

Hindu practices beliefs

Hindu Practices/Beliefs

Different sects (groups) within Hinduism worship different deities through:

  • Prayer

  • Karma

  • Nirvana

  • Reincarnation

  • meditation

  • Building shrines

  • Sacrifices

  • Pilgrimages

    (holy journeys)

Video questions

Video Questions

  • What event do Hindus prepare for in September?

  • According to the myth, how did Ganesh acquire the head of an elephant?

  • How does the boy in the video explain how worshipping many gods is the same thing as worshipping one God?

    4.  What do Hindus believe will occur after death?

    5. What does the immersion the clay idol of Ganesh in the sea represent?

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