There are plenty of labels I identify with religiously--polytheist, Pagan, Hellenist--and I have found that the labels I identify with are linked closer to the experiences of others than my own. I label myself in a way that is understandable for others; I know who and what I am, I have no need to label myself just for me. When I am in the company of people who will have most likely never heard anything about Hellenism or even Paganism, I stick to 'Hellenist'. At least that way, I can explain right away what I believe in. With other Pagans, I identify as 'Pagan, Hard Polytheist--subset: Hellenist'. With other Recons, I identify myself solely as 'Hellenist'. Heck, with my parents, I'm just 'Religious', that's hard enough for them to agree with.

Labels, in my opinion, have their value placed upon them by those outside of the label; as much as a group might feel they have claimed and formed the meaning of a label, in truth it will always be defined by those outside of it. This is why labels change, and why we sometimes need new ones; the group doesn't outgrow the label--neither the original meaning of the label, nor the believes of the group have changed, after all--but through misuse or adoption by other groups, the label has become undefined, has expanded to include a broader group of people, or has had its meaning mangled beyond the point of recognition by the group. At this point, all of the labels I use identify me just as well as they have in the past, but they have also become muddled and messy. 'Hellenist' still works, and it will always work because it's the name of my faith, but especially in regards to the label 'polytheist', I am not sure I readily identify with it anymore.

Polytheism is defined as 'the doctrine of or belief in more than one God or in many Gods', and herein lies the rub; it includes everything from duotheism (Wicca), to soft polytheism (Neo-Wicca, mostly), and my brand of polytheism; hard polytheism, where all Gods are seen as separate entities, worthy of respect if not worship. 'Polytheism' today comes with subsets of its own these days, and it can make identifying with the label a frustrating experience when you just want to say 'I believe in and worship multiple Gods'.

It seems I am not the only one who has been mulling this over--although I have to admit the instances of this subject coming up are few and far between; I mostly interact with Hellenists, and we understand each other just fine--because Star Foster recently posted a manifesto to this extend, hoping hard polytheists are willing to adopt a new label: 'Multideist', defined by seven characteristics (which are still being updated and defined, but the basics are set):

1. The gods are many, separate and distinct. Any attempt to reduce the multitude of divinities to a single source or being is not multideism, but monotheism.
2. While the ultimate reality of each and every individual deity is beyond the scope of any human being to discover and articulate, every deity is treated as an individual worthy of hospitality and respect.
3. Ecumenical efforts must include an attitude of respect towards the gods and the role of belief in religion. No community can be built on dismissive disrespect.
4. Practice stems from belief, and there should be harmony between these two foundations of religion.
5. The beliefs and practices of the ancients have value and purpose. While they may in some cases no longer be relevant or appropriate, their wisdom can still serve us well if we don’t look down our nose at them.
6. Religious culture and community is built on shared values, not political ideals, imposed shame, or superficial similarities.
7. Free will is tempered by fate, and these forces held in tension shape our lives. While we may not always be free to do exactly as we would wish, neither are we helpless pawns of the gods. There is no ultimate good or evil to negate our personal responsibility, but our religious convictions are also not borne of whims or a matter of style.
As a Hellenist, I find myself drawn to this new label easily, and from what I can see, many Recons are drawn towards it with me. As Star says:

"So here we have an opportunity. To redefine ourselves, to bring clarity to our dialogues, and to increase understanding. I consider this concept, this identity, and I see hope. I feel a sense of relief in it, a burden lifted. Is it it divisive? Absolutely. All labels are. Is it a complete sundering of ties with paganism and polytheism? Not necessarily, it simply brings greater clarity to the conversations with those communities."

I am going to try out the label, use it for myself and in conversations with others to see how it defines in the long run. It's good to cut ties with the problematic labels that plague us and start as fresh as possible where others will always be reminded of similar labels and fill in this one as well by those definitions. Still, for now, the label is blissfully defined and familiar. Would this label be one you feel like adopting? It doesn't even have to replace any other the others you use, but perhaps there are circles in your life within which an identification of 'multideist' brings more clarity than 'polytheist', or any of our other labels. I would like your thoughts.