Re-evaluating relationships with the Gods

I had a great conversation at PCon this year with a friend in the Hellenic community. (By “conversation”, I mean that she talked and I hacked away and occasionally inserted comments as a could. Damn strep throat, ruining most of my Con.)  Anyway, I came away from that conversation with a few ideas that I’ve been chewing on.

Much of the conversation centered around my under-employed status, and my continuing frustration with my primary Gods, who are ostensibly  deities of prosperity and abundance. Now, I know that my Gods love me. They tell me this, and people who can hear Them also tell me that they say this. So, Their love is not in doubt. And I have in fact received numerous (usually short-term or one-off) gifts of abundance throughout my life, many of which I can ascribe to Their influence. The reality of my current situation, however, is that They have apparently not come through in a big, sustaining way for me yet, and this insecurity has really been wearing down my belief in Then as well as in myself.

My friend brought up two main points relevant to this issue:

  1. If they Gods want to be known and loved, honored, and worshiped, a good way to do it is to give their devotees blessings, so that all in the physical world can see the good results of their dedication.

The AA program, being at heart a very spiritual program, has a similar concept. Their third step prayer sets this out clearly. (The third step, if you are unfamiliar with 2-step programs, is the step in which members turn their will and their life over to the care of a deity as they understand that deity–italics in the original text.) The prayer goes:

God, I offer myself to Thee To build with me & to do with me as Thou wilt. Relieve me of the bondage of self, that I may better do Thy will.  Take away my difficulties, that victory over them may bear witness to those I would help of Thy Power, Thy love & Thy way of life.
May I do Thy will always.

“Take away my difficulties, that victory over them may bear witness to those I would help of Thy Power, The love, and They way of life.” To me, this reads just like any prayer to any deity anywhere, particularly in pre-Christian times. Give me something, so that other people can see how wonderful You are, and will give You praise and honor. It seems simple, but if so, where are all of the wealthy (or at least financially secure) Pagans and Polytheists? I knew a few, but honestly, I can only point to about 20-30% of the pagans I know who have a safe, secure job that pays a decent rate. It doesn’t speak well for the strength of our deities, nor make us look good to the wider spiritual communities. Many of us also have physical or emotional disabilities of one kind or another as well, and, if so, having a God or Goddess or spirit to help us to overcome part or all of these disabilities would also be a great way for Them to show Their strength as well. (And yes, I know a number of people for whom the intervention of their Gods is what keeps them as safe and healthy as they are.)

Since I joined a 12-step program over 8 years ago, my perspective on this issue has shifted considerably. Now, when bad things happen, I don’t blame my Gods for hurting or punishing me (or otherwise not being on the ball). Now I try to see it as, “Bad things happen, and my Gods will help me get through it”. I know deities do intentionally send us challenging circumstances occasionally, but I don’t believe my deities are sadistic enough to send down all of the difficulties I’ve had to go through, particularly since many were results of my own decisions, not theirs. What the Gods want us to endure or go through is not always what actually happens in our lives.

But even so–what gives with my long underemployed/unemployed patch? My friend’s gentle suggestion–and Hekate’s not-at-all gentle rant earlier at Con–was to look to other deities who will get the job done for me. If my Gods are not getting the job done, turn to Someone who will. None of our deities are omnipotent; each has His, Her, or Their own area of strength and expertise–true. But it’s a painful realization none-the-less.

(And yes, lest someone goes on a rant about how people in 12-step programs or in certain religions just pray for their problems to be resolved instead of actually doing anything to help themselves, let me point out that in 12-step programs, the idea is to “Pray to your Higher Power, and do the footwork. Pray to your HP, and do the footwork.” Etc. And for Heathens, it’s common to hear “The Gods help those who help themselves.” Meaning that there’s a part that we humans do have power over, but there’s a part that we have to take it on faith and hope that the Gods will see us through.)

2. Another suggestion that was brought up (by my friend, not by Hekate) was to “follow the love”. See Who’s active in your life now. If you feel love, follow that love, and find out where it’s coming from–it may not be from who you think it is. Maybe some of the Gods or spirits that you thought were always there for you may be on a break; and new ones may have joined whom you’re ignoring, or whom or haven’t made their presence known yet. If you hang out with  polytheists from other trads, or do spiritual work in the public sphere, or really spent time digging into your ancestry, it’s quite possible that you’ve caught the eye of deities and spirits other than your usual ones. Find their love (or other influence), and follow it. See who’s sending it to you and why. Maybe there’s gifts, blessings, or challenges to be found that you did not see. We usually only see what we expect to see.

So, for me, that means to follow the love. Who’s giving me enough to help me get financial stability?

Anyone? Bueller?

Wish me luck.

Loki and Skadi’s relationship, from another angle

From River Devora, a Loki dedicant (as well as many other roles). Speaking of Skadi’s revenge on Asgard from the POV of Loki Himself:

“She, standing in her fiercest, most male expression of her woman power, dominating the men in the room using their own tools and tricks. So it would take a gender bending god with his junk tied to a gender bending goat to exemplify and underline this binary gendered dynamic tension, til the one extreme becomes the other and we all dissolve in a fit of orgasmic giggling. Of course her father’s eyes had to be cast into the heavens at that point to become stars, he’d already seen more than he needed to see, don’t you think?”

For the full, NSFW description, check out River’s article here.

Patheos: Food for Thought–Heathen Polytheist Theology

My newest post is up at Patheos. It brings up some of the questions that I’ve wrestled with in developing my own Heathen polytheist theology.

Happily Heathen: Food for Thought – Heathen Polytheist Theology

The Top Ten Times You Should Not Publish A Blog Post

The top ten times you should not publish a blog post, based in no small part on the various polytheist dramas this past year.

(In no particular order)

  1. When you have been drinking (or are otherwise high or inebriated). (Two words: drunk dialing.)
  2. When you are hungry. “Hangry”–it’s a real thing, even if you don’t officially have low blood sugar. The Snickers commercials might be right.
  3. When you are grieving, be it the loss of a person or pet; the loss of a position; or the loss of a long-held belief system. It leaves a void. Don’t attempt to fill it with a post.
  4. When you are angry.
  5. When you haven’t posted in a while and just need to get a post out already.
  6. When you’re feeling lonely and are just trying to get some attention.
  7. When you’re in the middle of a bad cold, or any other temporarily-befuddling illness. (There is a reason why when you are sick you are said to be “compromised”.)
  8. When you are sure that Your Point of View Is The One True Way, And All Must Be Shown the Error of Their Ways. (Suggestion: if you start talking to yourself in all capital italics, something is wrong.)
  9. When you are feeling wounded or attacked, or even just slighted.
  10. When you’re feeling restless, irritable, and discontent. Posting will not fix this feeling (though clearly it can certainly distract you from it for a while).

This is not to say that you shouldn’t write blog posts at these times. (If so, many posts would never get written.) I’m just saying it might be a good idea to stop and wait a bit before actually publishing them.

Why would it be a good idea to hold off from posting at these times? In my opinion, these are some of the most likely times that people will say inaccurate, inflammatory, or just straight out dumb things that they will have to make amends for later. Truly. The reality of blogging on the internet is that a person’s post can possibly be seen by hundreds, even thousands of people long before he, she, or they have had a chance to sober up, get some sleep, or put some food in their belly. Depending on where and how a person blogs, they could be leaving a permanent, public, and easily searchable post on the Internet–forever. At which point, they might realize that maybe they didn’t actually mean all of those horrible things that they wrote about…. or, at least, they could have proofread the post all a bit better before publishing it. (I’m just as guilty of doing this as the next blogger, admittedly.) Unfortunately, at that point it’s a bit too late to take it all back.

I love reading blogs. I love hearing a person’s experience of their world and their thoughts about society at large. However, that sense of being in the moment leaves bloggers with a somewhat unnecessary sense of urgency, as if whatever the topic is must be addressed RIGHT! NOW! Generally, that’s just not the case. The internet will still be there a few hours or few days later. We’ll just have had more time to reflect on things before we respond to them.

So, before you publish your next post, check your state of your mind and body first. Are you HALTed? (Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired?) Stressed or sick? Feeling attacked? If the answer is yes, click “Save”, and publish your post later. You’ll be glad you did.

Breathe, and say it with me: The internet will still be here tomorrow.

How did you learn to trust your Gods?

As I’ve mentioned previously, I’m a member of a 12 step program as well as a Heathen devotional polytheist. If you’re not familiar with 12 step programs, all 12 step programs follow AA’s 12 steps, with a change in wording in the first and twelfth steps. Otherwise, the program as written is identical across all groups.

My personal spirituality really matured quite a bit once I got into program. One of the main reasons for this is that the 12 steps is a spiritual program; the entire underlying concept is that a person’s best thinking and best efforts took them to rock bottom, so clearly something more than a person’s given resources is needed to get  out of it. While that “more” can include therapy, monetary support, support of family and friends, a rehab center, etc., the most important “more” is the guidance of and power from a non-corporeal figure of some kind (“Higher Power”). Being a Heathen devotional polytheist, that power for me are the Gods I’m devoted to.

Going through the steps really makes us think about the hows and whys of our relationships with our Higher Powers, Whoever They are. Here are a few of the prompts that I’ve come across in working my steps. I challenge you all to see what your answers to these questions are, as well. It can be good food for thought.

  • Do I trust my God(s)? If so, to what extent?
  • How was I able to come to trust my God(s)?
  • What keeps me from trusting my God(s)?
  • What role does the support of my family, friends, or spiritual community play in me coming to trust my God(s)?
  • How do I distinguish my God(s)’ will (or voice) from my own?
  • Do I continue to struggle with trusting my God(s); or is a decision that, once made, has stuck ever since?
  • Which aspects of my life do I trust my God(s) with?
  • When have I seen others trust their God(s)? How did that work out?
  • How has my understanding of my God(s) changed over time?
  • How has my relationship with my God(s) changed over time?
  • Do I trust Them more or less than I did previously? Why?