I was recently reading Weavers, Scribes, and Kings by Amanda Podany (she even played in the Bangles!), and was struck by this passage on page 58:
“Suppose a priestess had arrived in Uruk, having traveled from Northern Mesopotamia, or Iran, or even Anatolia or Egypt. Even then she would not have doubted the power of Inana. Back at home, this goddess probably had a different name, or she might not even been worshiped at all, but this didn’t make Inana a false god in the mind of the visiting priestess. No gods were false; all were members of a single community of gods that extended to all lands. They could not be separated from the world they controlled, and the products of the world all existed primarily to satisfy their needs.”
That is precisely how Gloranthans view things. There is one great community of gods, broken into clusters or groups, but still all part of one community.
Gloranthans recognise a multitude of gods under many names. Some gods are particularly friendly towards one group or another, and are linked through kinship or other associations with each other. Other gods are rivals, creating rival clusters or gods – this reflects how most Gloranthan societies function (or maybe it is the cause of that.
The word pantheon literally means “all gods”, and we tend to misuse the word to apply to one culture’s group of gods. But if you ask someone in Boldhome about the Sun, she’d likely say that the Sun is Yelm, who quarrelled with Orlanth (our tribal patron and the storm god) and was killed – that’s why we have night. Orlanth went on the Lightbringers Quest and returned Yelm from the Underworld – that’s why the Sun rises at Dawn. But our interlocutor’s deity is Ernalda, the goddess of harvest and birth, and she respects both deities (although Orlanth is the patron of Boldhome).
People can and do worship all the deities that are useful to worship – but can only wield the magic of that deity they have a deep connection with through initiation. That is a much deeper and more intimate connection than merely lay worship, and few people bother with being initiated to more than one deity.
Note that this isn’t henotheism. You have a special connection with A deity, but that deity is not a supreme god. Not even Orlanth or Yelm makes such claims.
And here is the problem – we have such difficulty getting away from the idea that individual cultures make gods rather than the reverse that we have trouble with the idea even in a fantasy setting. Drop your postmodern scepticism and just run with the idea that there is a vast community of gods. Some might be known by many names but none doubt their existence.