I belong to a savage God. i don't think anyone Who has had any in depth experiences with Odin would argue with me on that count. Even those who merely know HIs nature from reading the lore, often know enough to understand that He is ruthless and capable of great savagery in His causes. I don't think anyone would question that.
This morning, Sannion posted an article about Dionysos as savage God, the impossibility of fully knowing a God, and the inadvisability of trying to fit Them into narrow mental boxes:
When I read this, I was struck that anyone would question whether or not Dionysos could be savage or militarily adept. I'm not a Dionysian, but I am training as a Classicist and while, as Sannion notes, one ought not depend on single sources, for me reading "the Bakchai" in the original Greek was the alpha and the omega for things Dionysian. If i ever questioned whether or not Dionysos had the potential to terrify, to dominate, to bring the scent of tremendous (justified, i might add too) violence, this play -- a mystery play if ever there was one---put those questions to rest.
One passage stands out for me particularly, a section of the opening wherein Dionysos says that first He is going to come to Thebes (where a mad and impious king, Pentheus, rules and where those who honor Dionysos are persecuted) and show the people there that He is indeed a God, but then He adds:
ἢν δὲ Θηβαίων πόλις ὀργῇ σὺν ὅπλοις ἐξ ὄρους βάκχας ἄγειν ζητῇ, ξυνάψω μαινάσι στρατηλατῶν.
(but if the city of Thebes should, in anger, seek to drive my Bacchae out of the mountains by force of arms, I shall rise up against them, a general at the head of my army--literally "being a general with His army of maenads"). Eur. "Bakchai" lines 50-52.
Later in the play, we see Dionysos take a swift, cunning, and bloody (very bloody) vengeance on Pentheus. I look at this, as someone belonging to Odin, and three things stand out:
1. The God in this play refers to Himself as a general. Euripides was the product of His culture, a culture in which Dionysos was venerated. He didn't pull this attribute out of thin air. I don't know, maybe it's simply that belonging to Odin as I do, I know the scent and smell of savagery when it shows its face in Divine guise. I can smell a God drenched in blood and wine and recognize what that scent means. But I digress...
2. No God Who has the power to bring that much bloodshed, lacks comprehension of the arts of war. I'm going out on a limb here, but the level of violence, the associations in other sources with Maenads being given the strength to drive back soldiers in battle (it happens in "The Bakchai" too, where their ivy wrapped wands turn to spears), where they are blessed with frenzied passion and violence…these things are kin to that which is found in battle. Do moderns dismiss His battle-face because His army is one of women? that would be stupid, people, really, really stupid. READ "The Bakchai" again and pay attention to what some of those enchanted women can do. Also, I think we need to be very careful not to project our modern ethical sensibilities onto the Powers. Just as They cannot and will not be bound by our limited and narrow preconceptions, so too They may not choose to be bound by the narrowness of our ethics, particularly our knee jerk unexamined ethics. Gods like this are Gods that carry within Themselves the fullness of every possible hunger and passion, not just those with which we moderns are comfortable. It is not for us to dictate which ought to be given expression.
3. most importantly, I believe we can tell much about the nature of a God by the gifts that God bestows on His or Her devotees. Look at the Maenads and tell me Dionysos isn't a God of violence. Just look. Go. read a book, read a classical source and think about it.
I note this, because I occasionally do see the same type of thing coming up with Odin. A couple of years ago I was castigated by a fellow spirit worker for calling Odin the God of the ordeal (because you know, hanging oneself in a tree, plucking out an eye, getting strung up between who raging fires, gender-play, and all the other things Odin habitually does couldn't possibly be ordeal, it couldn't possibly have meaning). I was accused of calling Him a sadist and psychopath, I suspect because the idea of ordeal was deeply triggering to the person in question.
Then of course, there was the fact that He wasn't coming to this person in that guise. Newsflash folks: just because a Deity doesn't behave in a specific way with you, does not mean that He or She treats all supplicants and devotees the same way. They are *individuals* as are we. There are no cookie-cutter templates here. More to the point though, i think that in acknowledging Odin as a ruthless, vicious, savage God, a God of the ordeal, a God who would embrace sadism without a second thought if it brought Him closer to what He wanted, if it furthered His agenda was a terrifying thought for spiritworker X. It should be. It doesn't fill the heart with warm fuzzies. Why? Because if Odin is showing those parts of His nature to me, if He is demanding ordeal of me, when at one point our (mine and spiritworker X's) experiences of the Old Man were very similar, then what's to stop Him from suddenly turning around to her and showing that face as well? What's to stop Him from suddenly demanding that which she was afraid to give (the answer, by the way, is not a damned thing except Odin Himself)?
Our gods can't BE that. They can't be cruel. They can't be mean. They can't be harsh, or brutal or savage. They can't demand things of us. They can't violate consent. Those things frighten us, they terrify us and they should because oh indeed the Gods can be all of those things and more. It's easy to ignore …until you have living examples of spirit workers who embody this truism walking around right in front of your eyes, "flaunting" it in ways that can't be easily hidden or dismissed.
In "the Bakchai," Dionysos is a dread and savage God. He is not so, however, without provocation and justification. There are reasons for the extremity of His anger. He does not unleash Himself until Pentheus has been given multiple opportunities to adjust himself and his attitudes. It is only when the women who belong to Dionysos are threatened, and His mother's name impugned, that He goes on the warpath. For me, upon first reading, the whole play was a charge against impiety.
Likewise, i would say that Odin is not a cruel and savage God without reason. When He chooses to show those sides of Himself --and make no mistake, they do exist--there are reasons. Those reasons may be His alone to know but they are there. There is nothing arbitrary about it.
still, it's frightening. It drives home how little control we have over the experience of the Gods when we actually engage. Liberation and freedom seem to always be frightening--why so few people seek them out, i suspect. Falling into Gods like Odin, and like Dionysos too I would posit (though I am hesitant to speak for one owned by Him) carries with it the potential for finding those elements of the Gods' nature in ourselves, for becoming in however small or large a way, transformed by Them, by the contact, transformed into becoming a bit more like Them in outlook…i've seen it happen with spiritworkers. It happened with me. And then it's possible to see in our Gods aspects of Being that terrify us to our core, that make us question everything we've been taught to view as 'good,' to drive home that in the Presence of the Holy there is no safety here.
What it should also bring home is the need to question the paradigms with which we've been raised. Rather than wailing and thrashing and calling on the power of lore to compel you, instead of denying that these dangerous elements exist in our Gods, maybe we should instead ask why they exist and what that means for us as devotees. Maybe we should ask how we can better and more productively embody everything our Gods bring to the devotional table, not just those aspects that comfort us, or with which we are content. Maybe we should stop trying to define our Gods and what They can do, and how They can be and instead throw ourselves into honoring Them. Maybe we should gnaw on the fear and the terror They bring and let it eat us up. Maybe we should remember that these Beings are *Gods*.
I'll tell you something too: i'm glad Odin has those sides to His nature. It means there is nothing in me that I need fear to acknowledge in His presence. There is no part of me that is too intense, too harsh, too awkward, too violent, too passionate, too…anything that I need feel shame over it in His presence. It frees me to stand in a place of tremendous openness, tremendous vulnerability, tremendous liberation. I am grateful that my God has these dark and bloody complexities about His nature. In the microcosm of my heart, I do too. It is yet another thing we share and in the end, that doesn't terrify so much at all. It brings spice. Edit: Sannion has written a follow up post here: http://thehouseofvines.com/2013/03/11/the-inability-to-accept-savage-and-wrathful-gods/ that is pure brilliance.
Never grow a wishbone, daughter, where your backbone ought to be.
I have noticed an alarming trend in certain devotional communities and certainly amongst up and coming spirit-workers of late. Oh I suspect it's probably been an issue for awhile, but from my perspective it's now reaching such a critical mass that I and other spirit-workers are slowly being pushed to address it. I've watched this become more and more of an issue over the past few years and I just shake my head in utter incomprehension. What is this issue? It's the overwhelming need I see in so many spirit workers coming into the work now for external (and ongoing) validation. It's the constant attention seeking. It's the endless quest for a pat on the head.
Firstly, go and read this article by Sannion: http://thehouseofvines.com/2013/02/11/you-do-not-need-external-validation/. He lays it out for the reader. There is no way one can constantly give a god damn about external validation and still live a life of anything approaching integrity, and that goes a thousand times more for spiritual work. Go. Read his article. I"ll wait.
Have you read it? Good, let's continue. While that article about sums it up I'm going to add my two cents too, because I've been really concerned about this of late. Spiritual work is hard. it's the hardest thing that a person will ever commit to doing. It's ongoing too from the moment we're born, the only choice we have is how well we choose to step up and actively, consciously, willingly engage. Doing that takes courage. It takes sacrifice; and sometimes it takes some very hard, frighteningly hard choices. I have had to do things, say things, stand up and buck the herd for Odin, for my Gods, in order to remain in right service to Them that terrified me at the time. Hell, it happened quite recently with a task that I was set by Odin. But you know what? I'm still here. The world didn't end. The work went on and so did I. Even when I've had to pick myself up after making an error, the world didn't cease to be. So I know how agonizing some of what the Gods ask can be and how terrifying.
What I don't know is what it's like to be A) bereft of a sense of Their presence, B) head-blind, and C) lacking warrior medicine/orientation. I fully admit, when I slip into the headspace of a priest instead of a cranky spirit-worker, that having a constant sense of Them makes it easier to know if I'm on the right track. Likewise being strongly psi-gifted. Having a shit-ton of warrior medicine makes me able to stand my ground, hold a line, and maintain my duty regardless of how I might feel about it. Those things have really served me well. But, they're also why ten years ago, for a solid year, Odin blocked me from any sense whatsoever of His presence. That was the most horrific year of my life. It wasn't until i was over and I was given to know why it was necessary (even the constant validation of presence is validation and we need to be sure and committed to our path, to walk in way that nourishes our faith rather than dependent on *any* external "you did good, honey" pat on the head. Otherwise, it's not devotion, it's sycophancy; and you know what? The Gods don't want sycophants). Every so often I think though, about what it was like to do the work (because while He may have blinded me to His presence, the work and personal spiritual challenges didn't stop-- in fact, they increased) without that sense of completion deep in my heart. I thought about the grief, the constant aching hunger for some type of connection --anything, the barest wisp--the guilt (what did i do wrong?), and the confusion. This was all with me still being able to sense other Deities, and still being able to divine (so long as I didn't ask anything about my own situation). I am not completely blind to the fear and the sense of desolation that is so often a part of finding one's footing in this work. No one starts out with a fully open set of gifts and talents. We earn them. We develop them. Sometimes we suffer for them. That's part of the work too.
Even for the best spirit workers and devotees out there, there will be fallow periods. There are times where one is just not feeling as deeply connected. There are times, where the Gods and spirits seem very far away. There are times where you have no sense of internal 'course correction' when the question arises "am I doing this right?" Christian mystics referred to this as the 'dark night of the soul' and mystical tradition considers it an essential part of any authentic spiritual crafting (a word i like ever so much better than 'seeking', because this is our life's masterwork, whether one is a spirit worker, a mystic or just a regular joe trying to get by). Having period of disconnection, having a fallow time does not mean you did anything wrong. It is a normal part of the spiritual cycle. I've often found that it means you've done quite a bit right and your spirit is in the process of integrating all the changes, epiphanies, and effects contact with (hell, even plain old seeking) the sacred brings.
How can you ever find your way, or center yourself fully in the road of devotion if you're endlessly willing to change your path on the whim of a random person's say so? How an there ever be integrity in what you do if you're constantly worried about how others are going to respond? I come from a tradition that puts great stock in elders and having elders as maintainers of the lineage, guardians of the tradition. This is well and good and, I believe, necessary. Certainly none of us is evolving and working in a vacuum. We're interconnected whether we want to be or not. We can draw great nourishment from one another --one of the reasons I like talking to colleagues and friends, and other spirit workers and devotees. There are times where it is right and proper, in moments of spiritual crisis, to go to one's elders to get oneself sorted out. That is a far different cry from posting on tumblr after every meditation "I got this when I prayed. Is it right? Does Loki like me? am i doing this right? huh? huh? huh? huh? " just stop it. For fuck sake, stop. Are you doing this out of love of the Gods and a desire to serve or are you doing this because you want to be part of what you think is some cool club?" Just. Stop. Spirituality makes a really bad hobby.
Furthermore, if your Gods and ancestors are satisfied with your work, then my opinion "don't mean a thing." If they're not satisfied, then I can be telling you you're doing everything fine and that also doesn't mean anything. In fact, I"d be wrong and I"d be responsible on a wyrd level for potentially causing spiritual harm. If you can't figure out if your Gods and ancestors are satisfied, then maybe consult a diviner but do so to find out what you must do and do so asking also how you can learn to communicate with Them better. You don't have to be highly psi-gifted to do this work. The work will teach you how to do it and the results will, in time, be apparent. You will gain a sense of whether or not you are in right relationship with your Powers. You'll gain a sense of when you need a 'course correct.' You'll also learn when it's time to consult an elder or diviner. Part of this means developing a backbone.
I began this article with a quote by Clemetine Paddleford. It's something that I actually learned at my adopted mother's knee. She used to keep a copy of this saying--written in her extraordinary calligraphy, which I might add, was her every day handwriting---hanging in her home. She would refer to it often, and it proved inspiring. She lived it's message too every day of her life. Anyone wanting to do this work well, should take note. There's a reason that the first precept at the oracle of Delphi was 'know thyself.' There's no getting around this requirement. Know yourself and who the Gods and ancestors want you to be. Know who you want to be…not who your friends, parents, neighbors, or boyfriend might want you to be. For Gods' sake, give over the need to have everyone like you. Spiritual work isn't a social event. When those of us doing this work come together as colleagues, it's to share knowledge, exchange ideas, to enjoy the company of others who walk similar roads, who have been taken up by Gods and spirits and in so many ineffable (and some quite obvious) ways been rendered "other" in the sad and disjointed world in which we live, a world many of us have been tasked with transforming. We're not coming together to be told we're doing it right.
Recently I was reading a book on women in business. It was mildly interesting but what struck me was a comment the author made about those just entering the workforce (Gen-Y? i can never keep them straight). She commented that this generation has been used to getting a lot of attention from adults, and they don't really grasp necessary hierarchies or the need for hard, solitary work so well so they can make faux pas in interviewing situations that take them right out of the running. Putting all the interview advice aside as irrelevant here, I was struck by the generational comment because I do think that's a large part of what we're dealing with in the community. I see this predominantly with younger spirit workers and devotees…those just reaching adulthood, or in their early to mid twenties. I"m not saying us older folk can't have the same type of nonsense going on, but I've mostly seen it with twenty-somethings. I believe that at least a large part of this is a generational thing. A lot of attention from adults means a lot of constant feedback and external validation. Add that to a generation that went through a school system that tended to give kids a prize just for showing up (forget about excellence), and who have been raised so coddled and medicated as to have the emotional resiliency of soap bubbles and you have a generation ripe for disaster. There's a learning curve, and for y'all, it can be a big one. Good. Challenges met make success all the sweeter. Learning to forego external validation and attention is a good first offering and challenge, one that will put you in good stead throughout the rest of your spiritual life…i.e. your life.
I also think the fact that most of us are converts to polytheism is coming into play. There's a certain psychology of conversion: one converts and then, in a need to distance him or herself from the birth faith, tries to be "more Pagan than other Pagans". While i'm not seeing that so much here (though I do see a pathetic amount of attempted one-upmanship) what can also happen is a really desperate need to make sure one is doing it 'right.' Monotheism teaches one to look for validation in a book or from a priest, or in gospel or orthodoxy…all external sources. So we default to what is known. Then part of me, a very cynical part, thinks that sometimes the person constantly seeking attention and validation really just wants to foist responsibility for his or her own spiritual life off on someone else. After all, if you don't have to make any choices, if you don't have to live with occasionally making the wrong choices and then having to go back and make it right (or live with the consequences) then it's not so bad after all, is it? Problem is, it doesn't work that way and trying to dump your spiritual shit on random spirit workers really pisses us off. I'll go to the wall for someone working as hard as he or she can to get right with the Gods and ancestors. No matter how hard that person struggles or screws up, I'll go to the wall for him or her. Many spirit workers I know feel the same. Working hard and still dropping a few balls is a far cry from abrogating all responsibility for one's spiritual life into one big "just tell me i'm doing good."
We must be bold in loving our Gods. Sufi mystic Rumi once wrote that 'love comes with a knife, not some shy question.' That is devotion. That is what falling headfirst into the sacred brings and when it does, it changes everything. First though, there must be courage and a willingness to throw oneself headlong into that abyss. Don't worry, the Gods and ancestors will catch you; and if they don't, it's not such a bad way to go after all.
Just for Gods sake, don't post about it on tumblr.
Saturday is weird. It's the one day wherein the name that's come down to us pulls not from Heathen traditions but from Rome. Saturday really means Saturn's Day and obviously Saturn was not a Norse Deity! To the Norse tribes, as far as I've been able to tell, Saturday was a day for cleaning. Specifically, it was a day to do your laundry and take a bath. This amuses me. It didn't amuse Viking age Christians though. Complaints have come down to us from Viking Age English chronicles of Christians whining that the Vikings got all the ladies---because they bathed once a week, combed their hair, and washed their clothes. Heaven forfend!
Rest assured, I bathe everyday not just on Saturday. LOL. Instead, I use Saturday partly to clean my altars and shrines. When you have a lot of them it's painfully easy to let them go a bit too long between cleanings. I make it a point to clean at least five or six of them each Saturday and then I just rotate out Saturday by Saturday until they're all clean. Then the cycle starts again.
I also use Saturday as a day specifically to honor Loki and Sigyn. Long ago when I started following this weekly cycle of offerings, I decided that since Saturday was a 'free' day insofar as offerings went, I was free to ascribe it to any Deity I wanted. It made sense to me, since I love Them dearly, to add Loki and Sigyn to my weekly rotation. Besides, the grace notes of domesticity are something that I very strongly associate with Sigyn. She knows how to maintain a space, how to keep it so clean that nothing negative or malignant can find any purchase at all. On a spiritual level, being clean in one's motivations and free of miasma are essential qualities.
So on Saturdays, I pour out offerings to Sigyn and Her Husband. I maintain several shrines to Them both in my home: the first is downstairs in my foyer, just as one enters my home and this is where I leave offerings to Them. This a shared shrine: both Loki and Sigyn have Their space there and there's a framed image of Them plus Their sons Narvi and Vali hanging right above -- an icon created by artist Grace Palmer that hung over my adopted mom's altar for several years. I leave glasses of wine, whiskey, and often milk and bread for Sigyn. If i have any chocolate or candy in the House, I'll usually give some of that as well. I put out offerings to these two Deities quite frequently, not just on Saturdays because I have an ongoing devotional practice to both of Them, but even so I make it a special point to put offerings out on Saturdays too, regardless of what I have given Them the rest of the week.
i like that there is a day worked into the Norse week devoted to cleansing. Of course we want to be clean physically but it's also fundamental on an energetic and spiritual level. it's important. It sets the stage for doing authentic work with integrity. That's no small thing.
Goddess of the Staying Power.
Goddess of small things
that in the end aren't so small.
Help me to love You
rightly and well.
Help me to be clean
in my work.
Husband of Sigyn.
Let me never lose sight
of the joy that can be found
in the intricacies
Hail Loki, Hail Sigyn.
My Lithuanian ancestors honored fire. They revered it, sacrificed to it, crafted rituals both of breathtaking beauty and enduring practicality around it. For generations upon generations the women in my paternal line served fire, maintaining its integrity in their homes, celebrating its holy power in community rites. They knew it was alive. They knew it was holy. They were its clergy.
I don't have much connection with the Gods of my father's line. I have been called elsewhere, to other Gods. I don't practice any of the rituals of Romuva, for all that I am half Lithuanian. I have been given other ceremonies. I do, however, reverence fire. It speaks to me. It spoke for me. I am nourished by its voice. Over the past few years as I've learned more and more about my ancestors' connections to this Elemental Power, I've slowly started taking upon myself the obligations and service of those ancestral fire-tenders, those priestesses whose people were the last in Europe to bend their necks to the yoke of Christianity and some of the first to shake it off.
I am a fire-worker, a fire-priest. Those words sound strange in my mouth when I speak them aloud, yet strangely satisfying like the savor of fine whiskey on the palate or (and oh, i wish you could see me smiling) the warmth of a well-made hearth fire on a cold, stormy, winter's night. Fire calls to me and I have answered and I feel in the marrow of my bones, the core of my being, that my ancestors rejoice.
So I share this with you, as we approach Samhain, as I'm sitting here (when I should be doing Greek translation homework) wondering if Hurricane Sandy will cause schools to be closed on Monday, and thinking about my dead and how tremendously happy I am, and tremendously grateful to have been taught how to consciously nourish my connection to them. It is amazing the places they can lead one, and the mysteries and wisdoms they can share. Nothing is ever truly lost. I remind myself of that as I contemplate this process of restoration in which so many of us are engaged. Our ancestors are such an important piece of that restoration. They're more important than any lore. They're more important than any ritual. They are the caretakers of the very practices we're seeking to restore. They lived them, they faced down worse things than slander and back biting, worse things than being tired or having too much work, and you know what else, they know things. Sometimes, if we are very diligent, if we come to them consistently and well, they'll share some of what they know and oh, the results are joyous.
So I praise the blessings of fire. I pour out offerings. I tend it with food and drink, and a happy heart…this is a mystery restored, a blessing given. Fire is magnanimous. It is right to greet it with celebration. It is right to lay offerings at its crimson crackling feet. It's a dance my ancestors knew well and I am happy to learn--with whatever fumbling grace I may possess--those self-same steps anew.
Hail to the ancestors: my own, and to those of my readers. May we learn, dear Gods may we always learn and may we find joy in the connection and the process. Hail to our dead, and hail to fire.
Well, y'all knew this was coming. Since i dedicated the month of July to daily devotions for Loki, it's only right and fitting that I give November to the God I love above all others: Odin.
So, for the month of November, I'll be running an 'Odin project.' Just like with the Loki Project, I encourage folks to send me prayers, poems, articles, etc. to post (I will properly credit everything) and I'll be doing my absolute best to post something for the Old Man every day, starting Nov. 1.
This will be a particular satisfying and fitting lead up to Yule and the Days (and Nights) when the Hunt is especially said to ride at His command. May Odin be hailed, now and always, and may we rejoice in His presence during the season most especially His.
Throughout this Pagan Blog Project, I’ve consciously avoided writing about specific Deities. When I wrote my L is for Loki article though (http://krasskova.weebly.com/1/post/2012/06/pagan-blog-project-l-is-for-loki.html) I knew almost immediately that I had to write about Odin as well. I have belonged to Odin for close to twenty years but somehow, at times I find it tremendously difficult to actually write about Him. Putting together a collection of devotional poetry is easy; writing a simple blog article about the God that has redefined and reordered my life, not so much. Still, I’m going to try because I feel that I owe Him and perhaps myself too, the attempt.
People often ask me how I knew that I was claimed by Odin. I’m always puzzled by that question. I never, ever know how to adequately answer it. The truthful answer (a description of the direct experience) would frighten and the equally truthful but less personal answer (“trust me, you know”) would seem overly facile and perhaps even condescending. But how exactly does one explain what it is like to swallow a whirlwind or take beneath one’s skin the icy burn of a glacier’s fire? I’ve found that when I do take the time to explain in detail, not only does it often frighten the listener, but experiences that to me are the most sublime ecstasy and joy seem to the listener a horror. Some things cannot be explained; they must be experienced in order to be fully comprehended.
This is actually the core mystery of initiation. It is the nature of ‘mystery’ itself. It cannot be understood through reading. It cannot be understood through study. It cannot be understood through words alone, no matter how eloquent the speaker. It can only be understood through direct experience, through crossing the threshold of engagement itself. Sometimes that experience can be searing. Sometimes it can be ecstatic. One doesn’t come back (or through) such experiences the same person and sometimes one doesn’t come back at all. That is the core of an initiatory experience and it highlights –when it is a legitimate initiation—the mutual dance in which the dangerous and the sacred are always engaged. Initiation is a complete and utter transformation of the self, -- an opening up, a taking apart, a restoration--through direct encounter with the Holy. It is that which rips away one’s devotional innocence, ravages the spirit, impregnating it with both an all-consuming ecstasy and a hunger for more (and the dubious ‘wisdom’ of the GOP notwithstanding, *sarcasm* we don’t necessarily have ways of shutting its effects down). The doorway to initiation is a precipice, one which can never be crossed twice, or become uncrossed, undone, un-experienced, un-remembered.
I see Odin very much as a God of initiation. He certainly is a God of extremes. There’s no middle ground with Him. He is a God Who very much seeks always to ‘suck the marrow’ out of every possible experience, every possible devotee. It is all or nothing for those who are His. Being His, at least from my experience, is sometimes very much like an unending series of preparing for initiation, undergoing initiation, and surviving, remade and wrapped in the whirlwind of ecstasy that such experiences often bring. He is initiation. I believe that this may hold true for all Gods to a degree, but with Odin, it is something essential to His nature.
He delights in taking one’s innocence. He delights in bringing wisdom and always there is a hunger for more, deeper, more intense, more authentic experience. Whether I’m talking about Odin here, or those who belong to Him…well, I’m not quite sure. We eventually become a reflection of Him to a certain degree, as much as any mortal may reflect the immensity of a God. He fills and remakes those He owns, faceting their natures until – when He wishes it—He may pour through the channels He has made within their minds, hearts, and spirits raging out upon Midgard. We are doorways for Him, meat suits that He may wear or work through whenever He wishes. It is the initiation of His [ongoing] presence that makes us so.
He is madness and rage, exaltation and ecstasy, joy and terror and everything in between. Most of all, He is hunger, raw, un-sated, never ending hunger. As He learned civilization, He learned to discipline the expression of this hunger, but it is always there, at His core, metallic, dangerous, burning. Being His is like throwing yourself into that maw of ravening hunger, falling into the Gap, having one’s nerve endings taken up by fire, being strung between two worlds, being devoured. It is agonyecstasyterrorjoydeathendingrestorationcompletenesslosspassiondestructionlaughterorgasmexaltation and a thousand, thousand other things….words do not possess the ability to begin describing the experience of Him -- ironic, given that He is a God so skilled in language. It seems almost cliché to say that while all Gods are dangerous, Odin is danger. Some of us like that though and it is true. Some of us crave it, crave Him like a drug. That’s the danger of being His as well: He becomes an addiction. I think He likes that though, binding His people to Him through our very hungers, our need – a need that He birthed in us. It has a certain poetry, a certain balance.
When I write about Odin, particularly my devotional poetry, (I actually, to my amusement, initially misspelled that as ‘pietry’), I have a tendency to use rather brutal imagery. He is brutal, in what He takes and what He gives. Initiation can be brutal too. It is beautiful but it can be brutal. There is sacrifice inherent in the experience, not only of initiation itself but in readying oneself for such an encounter too. To enter into the process of initiation –however long or short a time it might last---is to open oneself up, to be opened up, and to lay oneself down/raise oneself up in a state of complete vulnerability. That may be horrifying to those who have not undergone such encounters, and pure ecstasy to those who have. Either way it’s terrifying. Perhaps initiations just teach one to ride that terror a little bit more effectively. Terror is inevitable.
Odin is terror. He is that. He doesn’t often show that side of Himself to me (though it’s there, under the more appealing facades He sometimes chooses to wear), but I saw it once. He came to me once when I was alone in the woods, came to me a corpse walking, came to me as Yggr, reeking of death, reeking of terror. I was unable to do anything else, no matter how much I longed to go to Him, than fall to my knees with my face covered. When I returned to the living, I was infused with that terror too. I stank of death and none would come near for a very long time. That was my initiation as His valkyrie. That was my last chance to flee. That is His mystery as well, a thing to be savored, perhaps even sought out over the hurdles of terror that rise in the way. When I sought out the place where He had come, the next day, in the light, all the trees there had been felled in a circle, as though by a great storm. He, however, had been the only storm that had passed that place in the night.
With some initiations the question of whether or not one is ‘ready’ becomes irrelevant. We do not control the process. We do not choose the time and place of our initiations. We can go through all the rituals we want, but only the Gods and ancestors can determine the true time of initiatory rending. Nor can initiation be demanded. A friend and colleague told me once that this was the lesson that Dionysus gave him: initiation cannot be approached with a sense of entitlement. It is not for us to say when we are ready, that a thing should be given. I did not seek Odin out. He came for me. What I had done, and what everyone can do, is prepare for the possibility of initiation: we all have it in our capacity to ready ourselves, our minds, hearts, and spirits through devotion, through mindful cultivation of respect, piety, proper behavior to the Gods, our ancestors, each other. Through consistently seeking out the expression of devotion, of patterning the heart and mind in the habit of receptivity to the Gods (through ritual, through prayer, through offerings, through contemplation, study, and right action) we can prepare so that when the whirlwind comes, we can be transformed, we can ride its heavings, instead of being swept away.
This summer, in my Greek class, I read Euripides’ “The Bacchae.” To someone who is owned by a God like Odin, and who also respects Dionysus (He is a main character in the play), this play is the most terrifying piece of literature that I have ever read. It’s about the mysteries of Dionysus, and an impious man who sought to interfere in things for which he had not been initiated, who sought to profane the mysteries of the God, and to attack His initiates. It reinforced lessons that my time with Odin had already taught me: it is an impiety – and a senseless danger---to muck about with Mystery when one has not been initiated. It is dangerous and great harm can come from such a thing. To comprehend Mystery, one must be initiated and that is a thing that comes from the hands of one’s Gods alone. All we can do is prepare ourselves.
I have a colleague who is a devotee of Dionysus and he and I have often discussed the similarities between our respective Gods. So I’ll leave you with his words for though I do not belong to Dionysus, as Odin’s, I completely concur: yes, THIS:
"I must proclaim that the gods and spirits are real, that they cannot be reduced to this vague concept of the universal divine. That we feel them and talk to them and sometimes they take hold of us and drive us insane. That the greatest gifts of the gods often come about as a result of that madness. That our gods are earthy and sensual and wild and dangerous. That we dance and feast and shout and bleed and cry and fuck and get intoxicated for them, and that this is right and necessary and the essence of true worship as we Dionysians understand it. That we must pursue liberation and wholeness with everything in our power, no matter what sacrifices it requires, what painful things must be endured or how the pursuit deforms and damages us along the way. And if that scares people and makes them uncomfortable, so be it." --Sannion
There is nothing more that I can say.
Really, folks, this one is a no-brainer. While I wasn’t actually planning on writing about Loki for this week’s Pagan Blog Project post, it seems over the last few days that I’ve been having nothing but moving discussions with various Lokeans on the nature of His worship. He strikes His people so profoundly, evokes such tremendous love, such a hunger and a joy in honoring Him--how could I not write about Him today when the opportunity presents? Every time I talk about Him, I am reminded of how good He has been to me and how very much I love Him. It is a joyous thing to love one’s Gods. Every atom of one’s being comes to crave the experience of that numinous Presence and nothing is ever the same again and, that’s how it should be.
Inevitably, within the greater Heathen community, the question arises of “why Loki?” I’ll admit I am often stumped by this question. Why Loki? Why Odin? Why any Deity? The question of why one is called or chooses to devote him or herself to a particular Deity or set of Deities is, I suspect, something that our ancestors would have classed under the category of a religious ‘mystery.’ It is a thing that must be experienced firsthand to be comprehended and until the experience has occurred words alone are simply not enough to bring about any understanding of the experience. Moreover, I find it a rather silly if not completely idiotic question (inevitably, it’s usually asked in my community preparatory to a theological attack or challenge). Why *not* Loki should be the question, in my opinion.
For those who may not know Who Loki is, I’d like to give a little background. With the release of the movies “Thor” and “The Avengers,” (as pleasant a visual diversion as they may be), I find myself growing more and more concerned that newcomers to the community may not necessarily always be clear on the difference between the fictional characters drawn (and lightly, I might add) from elements of Norse cosmology, and the actual ancestral Gods and Goddesses of the Northern Pantheon. What I find particularly disturbing is the preponderance of religious iconography—paintings, drawings, other artwork—some by new devotees of the Norse Gods, that more and more are starting to reflect elements of Marvel’s characters in their imagery, especially for Loki. Some of this may simply be the popularity of the actor who portrays him in the film, whom even I will admit is attractive, but I think more of this blending, stems from the tremendous hunger people have for images of their Gods, for images that reflect the many and varied ways that the Gods come to us, for images that reflect those Beings that we hold most dearly to be adored (yeah, I know. This is a case where I wish English used its participles the way Latin does. Allow me, just this once, to butcher and twist the English language into Latin participial formation here).(2) We’re hungry for an aesthetic that reflects our spiritual reality.
This isn’t too surprising given that our world, especially in America is staunchly monotheistic. Even where it is secular, in this country, that secularism is colored by Protestant Christianity, and of late, more and more Christianities of an evangelical shade. Is it any wonder our eyes crave a reminder of the sacred when that sacred is excluded from our daily world? We latch on to anything we can find; and perhaps it has always been this way: religious iconography reflecting pop culture influences and moreover cultural needs. Still, it is a point of some concern for me.
At any rate, because of this recent (and growing) blending of iconography I want to take a moment to talk about Who Loki is within our cosmology.(3) I’m not going to go into too much detail, mind you, as I have a rather thorough chapter on Loki in my most recent book, parts of which may be found online and would prefer not to repeat myself overmuch.(4) Still, suffice it to say, that Loki is A) the most controversial Deity within contemporary Heathenry; B) often viewed as a quintessential “Trickster” Deity; and C) deeply loved by a growing number of Heathens and Pagans.(5) Whether or not one honors Loki is the point of denominational dispute within the tradition. All of this is utterly inconsequential to those who know (in whatever infinitesimal way a human may know a God) and deeply love, this God.
So Who is Loki Laufeyson? (Laufey, by the way, is Loki’s Mother). Well, in the surviving lore, contaminated and problematic as it might be, He has many heiti, or by-names.(6) Contemporary devotees have added to this list. Amongst those I was able to collect, both from the surviving lore, folklore, and His devotees, we have the following: (7)
Benchmate of Odin
Blood Brother to Odin
Breaker of Worlds
Bringer of Gifts
Brother of Byleistr
Brother to Helblindi
Burden of Sigyn’s Arms
Cargo of Sigyn’s arms
Companion of Odin
Deep-minded retaining God of Plunder
Father of Hel
Father of Monsters
Father of Narvi and Vali
Father of the Sea-Thread
Father of Strife
God of a Thousand Masks
Harmer of Sif’s Hair
He Who lays out the life-nets of the Gods
Hot Stuff (needless to say, this is a modern appellation. LOL)
the hound of the roaring sea of corpses of the ale-Gefn
Husband of Sigyn
Loður (some people consider Loður and Loki to be the same God, though this is not a common view nor a commonly accepted one)
Loyal Friend of Hoenir
The Man with the Tattered Smile
Mother of Sleipnir
Mother of Witches
The Raven-God’s Friend
Son of Farbauti
(with Odin and Hoenir): the stratagem-sparing defenders of the gods
Thief of Brisingamen
Thief of Giants
Thief of Idunna’s Apples
Thought-trier of Hoenir
Tree (aka ‘man’) of deceits
The Unquiet Thought
Visitor and Chest-trapping of Geirrödr
Each of these precious by-names taps into a particular facet of Loki’s nature. Each name contains within itself a powerful mystery related to this God (and that holds true for the heiti of every Deity—and They all have Their heiti). Contemplation of a God’s individual names is one very powerful way to draw closer in devotional care to that Deity. Certainly Loki is immediately present in my heart, mind, and before my being when I call into the hard and secret fastness of my heart, one of His sacred names. “Sin-Sly” my being whispers and He is there; and He is there as Loki Sin-Sly, sweetly cunning and deft at calling forth all of one’s hidden desires; skilled at slipping free of any trap, oh so talented at finding the loopholes in the lives we so desperately lead. I call Him as Husband of Sigyn and if He chooses to come and show that side of Himself it is tender, loving, passionately devoted to His family, willing to do just about anything –even allow Himself to look the fool—just to make Sigyn smile.(8) If I call upon Him as Breaker of Worlds, He comes mad and anguished, raging, and very, very dangerous (and I will pay a price for the calling). It is all Loki, but I have found that often, with the Gods, They will come through the doorways of mind and heart and spirit via the portals we provide and heiti are such portals. It is all Loki though, and in the end, through contemplation of His heiti the devotee has the opportunity to come to greater understanding of the manifold and ever quixotic nature of this particular God. Through such contemplation, it is very hard not to fall in love with this God, and with the joy of honoring Him.
Of all the Gods save perhaps Odin (and I have to admit, this is a very, very close thing with me), it is Loki that has pulled me into the broadest shifting expanse of emotion: His and mine. This God holds such tremendous joy, and loves so passionately those whom He claims as His own. He is as coldly calculating as Odin, and as ancient. He has suffered anguish enough to tear the worlds apart, and His rage is a thing one truly ought not to waken. He is the Father of Fenrir after all, and His Wolf-son did not inherit all of His dangerous fury from His Mother. Loki’s story within the sacred cycle of myths is one of amusement and wit, but also tragedy, horrific tragedy, and tremendous suffering. Many of the gifts the Gods hold most dear came through His hands: Gungnir, Skidbladnir, even Mjolnir.(9) He is the friend and traveling companion of Thor, and (though scholars debate this given lack of etymological evidence) some contemporary devotees are certain that Loki and Loður are the same, making Him one of the three primal creator Gods Who slew Their ancestor Ymir to form the worlds. This would make Loki the God who blessed the first humans with warmth, with fire in the blood, passion, and the gift of our sensorium. (10) He is a wild Jotun, a shapeshifter, skilled in bitter, biting wordplay, yet He is a tender father and husband. More than any other God that I have encountered, Loki likes to involve Himself in Midgard. I have even known Him to extend a certain amount of attention and protection over those belonging to other Gods, even other pantheons in instances where the individual had no other support.
Georges Dumezil in his book “Loki” refers to Him as the ‘unquiet thought.”(11) That is the essence, in many respects (or part of it anyway) of Loki’s “medicine.” That is what He brings to the proverbial party; and that’s good. We need our paradigms shaken up now and again. Or torn up, shat on, and crushed underfoot. Loki does that. The one sure thing in maintaining a devotional practice to Loki is that He demands absolutely honesty with yourself and with Him. He will not allow His devotees to get by with what is comfortable, unchallenging, untrue. He takes the ancient Delphic maxim “Know thyself,” to extreme lengths, though necessary ones. He is one of those Gods mind-blowingly adept at ferreting out and cutting through our bullshit, even when we’re not aware of being mired in spiritual, emotional, and intellectual crap ourselves. He brings an often frightening clarity. He makes one unquiet: unquiet in our assumptions, in our blindnesses, our prejudices, our preconceptions. He challenges it all. One thing Loki does not abide is stagnation.
I believe this is the true wisdom behind Loki’s behavior after Baldr’s death. Once the shining God was compelled to make His journey on the Hel-road, His Mother Frigga, journeyed throughout the nine worlds. So focused was She on freeing Her son from the Underworld, that She received a promise from Hel: if every single living thing wept for lack of Baldr, then Baldr would be permitted to return to the living realm. Everything did weep, save for one ancient, withered old crone, who instructed Frigga to allow Hel to keep what She has. Because this crone did not weep, Baldr was not freed. Most sources agree that crone was Loki.
With praise and honor to Frigga, I shall continue my tale. Popular Heathen opinion falls heavily in Frigga’s favor. A mother’s grief is a powerful thing after all and death is often frightening. Plus, with Loki involved, many Heathens lose their ability for rational thought and automatically assume the worst, casting Him as the villain. My opinion, however, falls with Loki and I’ll tell you why.
Firstly, in going into the Underworld, Baldr was holding that space for those of us who will of necessity follow Him. Like the Egyptian Osiris, He walked the death-road ahead of us, and so Who better to greet us upon our arrival and sooth our fears and journey-worries. He is a God Who knows---unlike His kin—precisely the journey each human soul must take. This is a powerful, sacred role. But more to the point, death is not something we can subvert or undo. It isn’t something we should subvert or undo (something I very much wish modern medicine would try to comprehend). Dying is as natural as the first breath a baby draws upon being born. We are all traveling toward our death from the moment we escape our mothers’ wombs and there is something very unnatural—though fully comprehensible—in a mother’s seeking to subvert that natural order. The worlds cannot function if even (or perhaps most especially) the Gods are allowed to subvert the debt and flow of wyrd.
Show me one who has not suffered a loss of some kind, even amongst the Gods. Show me someone who has never known grief. It is the way of things, as painful as it might be: a mother cannot call her children back from the dead. Frigga too holds a powerful role here: She is a Goddess (along, ironically, with Sigyn) Who I think best understands what it is like to lose a child and the suffering that accompanies that, and therefore, through having opened Herself to one of the most painful experiences of humanity, has become One to Whom parents may turn for sustenance in the face of similar loss. I think we owe Her a tremendous debt for this, Her sacrifice.
I also believe, however, that in shapeshifting into the old crone, who denied Frigga’s wish, who denied tears, Loki was pointing out that sanctity of death, a good death, necessary death. The Goddess of the Underworld is also His daughter and I personally suspect that there was an element of reinforcing that Hella too is entitled to Her portion. All the worlds pay a teind to Hela.(12) There are tales amongst spiritworkers of sacrifices willingly given amongst the Alfar and Svartalfar and other Divine races of beings to Hela in honor of this cycle. We ourselves die and are reborn. This is the way of things. It is the necessity of things. Were nothing to ever die, our world would be a horror. Even the Aesir are not exempt from that. Baldr was Their teind to Hel.(13) Why would any God or Goddess do this? Well, we are Their descendants and ancestor work functions both ways.
Now, can Loki be cruel? Absolutely. All Gods can be cruel—at least from the paucity of our human, flesh-bound perspective. I have served Odin and Loki for over twenty years and of the two I have found Odin the harsher Taskmaster. Is Loki dangerous? Forgive my bluntness, but: Fuck yeah. Every God is dangerous. It is foolishness and hubris to think otherwise. It takes tremendous devotional courage to say – and truly mean--- “I love You kind, and I love You cruel.”(14) It takes tremendous courage to embrace the vulnerability inherent in opening to the experience of a God –Beings any One of Whose presence is like gnawing fire or eating a whirlwind, Whose attention will forever, utterly and irreparably change your world. Devotional work is not “safe.” The space that Loki holds is not safe either. I have found in His mythic cycle, that Loki embodies a very particular type of courage, and models it for others, even paying the price for doing so. He speaks what must be spoken and does what must be done even at great harm to Himself. We, who are awake and rooted in our indigenous ways are called to precisely that kind of courage. That is my interpretation of His tales.
How should one best honor Loki? I would say with integrity, humility, and an open heart—just as I would suggest one approach any Deity. Most of all though, have the courage to make up your own mind about Him based on your own thoughts, contemplation, and experiences. Only a coward lets others define the nature of his devotional life.
We praise the best-born Son of Jotunheim,
Sigyn’s Secret Sweetness.
We praise this God who gnaws on courage,
spitting forth truth though some may call Him Father of Lies.
We praise the Flame-haired Sky-Treader,
with His brilliant mind and cunning tongue,
and that wit – most wondrous of weapons.
We praise His tenderness, and His kindness,
He who turned female to bear Svadilfari’s son.
We praise His passion, His love, His commitment.
Most of all we praise Him, Loki, for Himself alone.
May You be hailed in all Your magnificence, with all of our joy,
on this day and each day forward, Loki Laufeyson.
- I’ve already covered the “why Loki” question in some depth here: http://krasskova.weebly.com/1/post/2012/05/j-is-for-jotnar.html)
- That is not to say that Loki wouldn’t or couldn’t present Himself any damned way He wishes, including coming to a devotee in a way that mirrors the Marvel character. I think the Gods are wonderful opportunists and will use whatever mental and emotional windows we give Them. Still,...this trend on the human end of things troubles me.
- Not just blending. Try doing a google search for Loki. The first few pages are almost *all* Tom Hiddleston as Loki from The Avengers. It’s rather difficult now to find images of the God Loki without knowing for Whom you’re searching. A newcomer to the religion, who may have had his or her interest piqued *by the movie* may not know where or how to do that search.
- Essays in Modern Heathenry, available here: http://www.asphodelpress.com/specialty.html. Excerpts of the Loki article may be found here: http://krasskova.weebly.com/1/post/2010/05/new-article-on-loki-at-oak-and-holly.html.
- There are those who would argue the ‘trickster’ attribution, often (at least within Heathen circles) I believe because of the worry that this would allow Him too much legitimacy within the Pantheon. Regarding reasons why Loki is controversial: He’s Jotun, He gender-bends, by one account He contributed to Baldr’s death, and supposedly (according to lore) leads the forces of the Jotnar and the dead against the Aesir and Vanir at Ragnarok.
- Much of the surviving lore was either written centuries after conversion by Christians or was written in the twilight of pre-Christian Heathenry.
- A big thank you to everyone who emailed me their favorite kennings.
- A huge thank you to DM who mentioned in a fb group for Loki that He said He’d “make an idiot out of Himself just to see Her [Sigyn] smile.” My adopted mother, a fervent devotee of Loki and Sigyn had a similar UPG, as have I, as have several others who honor Them both.
- Odin’s spear, Frey’s ship, Thor’s hammer respectively.
- The sensorium is comprised of sight, smell, sound, taste, touch.
- The scholar in me says I should go hunt up the reference, but the very tired human being says I’m too tired to re-translate the book tonight. Lol. Unfortunately, the book has not been translated into English. While I can read French, I’m slow at it. Truthfully speaking, however, the only useful thing that I was able to cull from this particular text, was that one appellation: Loki as the “Unquiet Thought.”
- A teind is a debt, sacrifice, portion given in rightful payment, a toll. Some of you might be familiar with this term from the Ballad of Tam Lin.
- To be a willing teind, as I personally believe Baldr was, carries with it tremendous honor.
- These words come from a devotional prayer written by Fuensanta Arismendi.
Some recommended sources for learning more about Loki:
Norse Myths by Kevin Crossley-Holland (a good, basic overview of the major Norse cosmological stories).
Norse Gods and Giants (republished as “D’aulaire’s Book of Norse Myths”) by Edgar and Ingri d’Aulaire (for the illustrations. It’s also a delightful children’s book).
Jotunbok by Raven Kaldera
Trickster, My Beloved by Elizabeth Vongvisith
Sigyn, Our Lady of the Staying Power by Galina Krasskova
Feeding the Flame by Galina Krasskova
“The Problem of Loki” by Jan de Vries
“Loki” by Georges Dumezil (in French).
Cawley, Frank Stanton, (1939). The Figure of Loki in Germanic Mythology. Retrieved October 2006 from http://links.jstor.org/sici?sici=0017-8160%28193910%2932%3A4%3C309%3ATFOLIG%3E2.0.CO%3B2-L About the image: the picture of an illustration by A. Rackham for Wagner's Ring cycle. It depicts Loki and the Rhine Maidens.
is an excellent article by my colleague Dver and I encourage folks to take a look at it. She brings up many salient points about being a Godspouse, things that need to be clearly said.
I don't write often about this, no more than I would share intimate details of a human marital relationship (and in my service to the Gods I am required to share so much about my work. it's nice to have one part of my life at least fairly private) but I’ve been a spouse of Odin since 1998. That relationship, however, was preceded by more than a decade of brutal internal work, breaking down, and developing the type of devotional life and relationships that best taught me how to be useful to my Gods. Only then, and after a "courtship" did Odin claim me as wife. That was hardly the end of our relationship either, but the beginning of something that was far deeper, far more intense, and that came with far greater responsibilities and far greater personal challenges.
It concerns me when I look at the Pagan and Heathen demographic and see this type of relationship (being a Godspouse) becoming a 'fad'. It worries me. I see people claiming it (when the God may or may not reciprocate), using it to give themselves position and authority (that they have not earned), expecting that it will absolve them from any work spiritual or otherwise (ROFLM I WISH; it actually increases it), and looking at it as the pinnacle of their devotional world (it's a grace, a blessing, but things usually don't begin there and should *never* end there). I’ve also seen people use it or attempt to use it to avoid getting themselves together as functional human beings. I’ve seen people claim godspousery without any idea of the ways in which this relationship can and will impact every single aspect of one’s life-irrevocably (My being wed to Odin impacts where I live, the field in which I work, and most of all whether or not I may have a human partner in my life, not to mention the impact it has on the way my emotional life is structured. None of these are small things). I have seen people devoted to the same God as I eaten up with envy and jealousy because they were not godspouses. In some cases, they could have been, but for one reason or other were unable to accept the radical and terrifying vulnerability that comes (as a colleague of mine once put it) when a God holds your soul in His teeth. Others, so envious of this particular type of relationship neglected or tarnished their own spiritual obligations and gifts. They may have amazing, much needed, and magnificent gifts given them by their Gods yet all that lays neglected because they are not this one thing. No one can be everything. No one can do another’s spiritual work or walk another’s wyrd. We have our own portion to shoulder and upon which we may feast.
There's no cachet on being a Godspouse. It does not make us better or more "holy" or more important in any way. It is one manifestation of the types of devotional relationships that one may have with one’s Gods. I don’t (nor do I know any Godspouse who does) put those relationships in a hierarchy (and those that know me know I’m all about hierarchy, so this is saying something!). They are all—every possible type of relationship with the Gods—things to be nourished. My colleague John Drury pointed out to me recently that given the fact that talking to the Gods is a radical act in our post-Protestant Reformation, post scientific revolution, post modern world, it’s all too easy to fetishize what being a Godspouse means. I think that some are attracted to this out of prurient interest (what DO they do at night?) and others because it is unusual. Still others are attracted because they are so hungry on some level for authentic spiritual engagement. Mother Teresa said, in one of her visits to the US that the United States was one of the most impoverished lands she knew (and I’m paraphrasing here), that so many people here were starving for spiritual connection. I think that’s true and I also think that some people think that spiritual connection means automatically stepping into something like being a godspouse. They’re not taught by anything in our culture that no, spiritual connection means starting small, starting with the daily devotion, starting with reordering of one’s life and one’s priorities to include and validate the hunger for connection. It starts with prayer and offerings, with meditation and study. It starts with deciding that this is going to be part of one’s life. It doesn’t start with a wedding to a God. Others, experiencing the numinous presence for the first time are carried away with the heart-opening that often follows…a far more understandable occurrence. It can be painfully easy to fall in love with a God, after all.
Moreover our world is so terribly damaged, so terribly out of balance. It’s going to take everyone shouldering their portion, working with their own graces and gifts to put it right. Being a godspouse is a grace, yes. But it’s not a solution, or rather not the only solution to the problems of our world today. It’s one part of a tapestry, one thread. I’m not going to go on and on about this. Dver has written much better on the subject than I. I shall however, offer this final bit of advice, the best I know to give to someone asking about all of this and what type of relationship they might one day have with their Gods: nourish the relationship you have now, but be open to what it can become: ALL that it can become. Don’t settle, ever, for some preconceived notion of what it should be that includes the idea of being a godspouse.
I have recently been inspired by this website: http://thehouseofvines.wordpress.com/2010/07/23/io-dionysos/
. Sannion is a noted Hellenistai who has contributed to (if not outright spear-headed) many of the wonderful devotionals coming out of Neos Alexandria. In this post (which is worth the read, as is the entire blog, imo) he says that he's going to spend the entire month of August writing something for his Patron God every day, be it a prayer, poem, article, essay, hymn, etc.
What a fantastic idea!
Having done something similar on a weekly basis a couple of years ago with Odin I can say without a doubt that it turns the mind to the Gods and keeps it there on an ongoing basis in a way that casual devotion does not. It's as such a thing allows the Gods to seep into our cracks, to secret Themselves into our unconscious, into the crevices of mind and heart like nothing else. It's gentle too, which isn't always the case with devotional work! All in all, there is something very special about committing to this type of devotional offering.
I am going to commit to doing this with Odin and I challenge each of you to consider doing the same for one of the Gods and Goddesses, or maybe even the ancesetors that you honor. At the very least, you will be giving yourself a chance to deepen your understanding of the Deity in question. At best, you will have strengthened your connection to that Deity enormously. Give it a shot, folks. It can't hurt.