Why Pagans Like Poly
Any pagan event seems to have a polyamorous contingent attending it. And polyamorous communities tend to hold pagan events. These are generalities, sure. But have you ever even heard of a Christian polyamorous community? (Polygamous Mormons don't count.) There are reasons for this.
Riane Eisler's The Chalice and the Blade never mentions polyamory nor is "marriage" even in the index, but it's an invisible subtext throughout the book. Using archeology and newer interpretations of its findings, Eisler describes an ancient cultural shift from what she calls peaceful "partnership" societies to militaristic "dominator" societies. This widespread culture change started in the area we now call the Middle East and has spread to most of the world during the past few thousand years.
Partnership societies were egalitarian, sharing power and possessions, most notably (in retrospect) between women and men. Familial descent was matrilineal. Goddesses were worshipped as the ultimate creators, though gods were worshipped too. Sacred rituals were performed in accordance with nature's cycles and to facilitate natural processes.
Life was seen as cyclical, like the seasons. The snake was the symbol of the goddess with its closeness to the earth and its ability to shed its skin and start a new life in the spring. Humans were aware of an interconnectedness between life and the living in all its forms.
The dominator model of life was brought by invasion, by the conquest of peaceful goddess-loving farmers by god-fearing warriors. These warrior people brought a culture of "might makes right." In all its societal practices, it replaced partnership with domination and egalitarianism with hierarchical structures. As warrior societies conquered agrarian societies, losers became slaves, and women and children became property. Once a people were conquered, secular and religious laws were written to maintain these institutions.
One theory of the underpinnings of the dominator model is that it came from primarily desert environments. The dominators were nomads, following game for most of their sustenance. They lived a scarcity-based existence. Fighting to survive was all they knew; it was the "air they breathed." Conquering the competition meant that they and theirs would continue. Partnering with non-clan members would just mean that they and their progeny could starve or thirst to death.
Perhaps it was inevitable. A people that believes that if they can dominate another, they should (for their very survival), will always continue to dominate until they die. Thus men are the de facto dominators of women, fighters (and their heirs) are the lords of farmers, and the technologically advanced are the owners of the resources of less-developed others.
This process of dominating most of the world took thousands of years. But we are now at the point when this perspective is the air we breathe, as fish swim in water. It is reinforced by everything we see and hear from our culture, and when we dare to suspect there's another way of being, ridicule is the first response we fear and—if we're questioning openly—it's the response we get. When we really see it, when we can't deny it, when we've moved beyond succumbing to ridicule, we have an epiphany. We are startled awake. This inevitably starts a process of (self-discovery and) cultural reassessment.
Sometimes the process is kicked off by a transformative event: a mystical experience, transcendent sex, or a psychedelic journey. Some people first encounter it in Women's Studies or Cultural Studies courses, or relentless messaging from a respected loved one. It happens differently for each person, of course, but there are some typical "Aha!" moments. Learning how an indigenous society does some daily thing elegantly is often a trigger.
For instance, the scene in Dances With Wolves when the protagonist comes across a plain full of slaughtered buffalo was such a moment for some moviegoers. The Indians used every bit of the buffalo they killed and left the herds intact, whereas the European conquerors left most of the animals dead and rotting. (The movie has a basic conquerer-dominator world view nonetheless, but so does Hollywood.) A culture that believes that might makes right, and that their creator gave them "dominion over all the earth and the plants and animals" would not be concerned about a few dead animals. But to see such a spectacle, even on film, horrifies us.
A sex-related Aha moment for many people is when they first hear about a man having sex without ejaculating. (On purpose!?) It usually takes a while before the whys and hows can even be discussed, but once these concepts are understood, another Aha occurs.