“Let us go, my Beloved, to greet the Bride
The Queen’s Whole Self shall we welcome”
— From L’kha Dodi, the Jewish Evening Sabbath service.
The term “god-spouse” always seems to carry with it a discussion.
“Can a person really be married to a deity?”
“Are they claiming equality to that divinity, and are they really any closer to them than the rest of us?”
“If someone claims to be a god spouse, I expect them to be exceptionally devoted.”
“I can’t imagine that the gods pick and choose favorites.”
While most of the discussion that non-god-spouses seem to have about the phenomenon focuses on the idea of legitimacy, I have an entirely different question to ask. What does it mean? Why have the gods chosen to do this?
Why am I even exploring this issue? My apologies to all the various and sundry god-spouses out there. You fascinate me. What I offer is an interested outsider’s perspective. I am not claiming to be any sort of authority on the issue, if one can even exist. Rather, as strange as it sounds, I think I see meaning in what you are doing, and what your gods are doing in their relationships with you. Bear with me.
Keeping it real
“Our gods are here with us. They are real. They call who they will, as they will, and they know what they’re after.” — From Naiadis (Emphasis mine).
How comfortable it would be if the gods were far-away abstractions with no emotions as humans understood them! They would be above pleasure or displeasure with our service, beyond the need for such physical comforts as food offerings and libations. Those things would have to be interpreted as useful for us and discardable, if they did not meet our needs.
If we have such a lofty, transcendent view of gods, then the whole god-spouse phenomenon is utterly baffling. It might be less so, if someone used a term like, “nun,” or, “celibate for the god(ess),” but so very often, the relationship is far more than personal religious devotion.
“I make Him food. He is welcome in pretty much all of the apartment (except my roommate’s room when I am not present). I am His Hearth-Keeper, His Key-keeper. But those names really at the end of they day just over-simplify that I am His “god”-spouse.” — Of Gods and Angels
What strikes me here is the sense of domesticity. This is actually something I can relate to. I can’t tell you how many times I have woken up to Hermes poking me and reminding me that I have somewhere to be, or when I am cooking, asking me, “So, what are we having dinner?”
The gods are not abstractions. These intimate, domestic relationships that the gods are having with humans may exist to illustrate just that. Not every person is cut out for non-stop, constant gnostic intimacy with a deity, but those whose spirituality fairs better without it can be reminded that the gods feel love, happiness, anger, concern, lust and sometimes even fear. Their hearts can be broken, just like ours. When they call someone, “husband,” or “wife,” or “spouse,” it can help us to understand that.
The fact that there can be more than one god-spouse for a given deity does not confuse the issue. Some humans are polyamorous, too, and have households with many people fulfilling the role of spouse.
Trouble Shooting Experts?
If I needed to talk to Hermes, but couldn’t do so on my own, I’d start by talking to someone who I knew was close to him. More than someone channeling the him for me, I’d want advice from someone who spent a lot of time with him, knew what he wanted, and knew how to deal with him.
It strikes me that the more intimate one person is with another, the more challenges their relationship will present. Think about the difference between being friends with someone, and being their room mate. Then, if you are married, consider the difference between rooming with someone and being married to them. Each level of intimacy brings two people, who, let us be clear, fundamentally at least like each other, closer to strife. I know a little bit about this because I’m at that age where I, and 90% of my friends are married, or have been married. Actually, I just got a wedding invitation in the mail, and it will soon be 92%.
One advantage of marriage is that, when you fall out of love with him or he falls out of love with you, it keeps you together until you fall in again. ~Judith Viorst
A spouse, a mortal spouse, isn’t just a special kind of friend that does the sex with you, possibly forever. They are people with whom you need to make joint decisions about stuff. They are the person in your house that makes everything twice as complicated as it was when you were single. If you are dating someone, they can hide their flaws from you, for a time. Once you are married, you basically live in their fart cloud. You get to know what sort of product they use on their athletes foot.
You will see what it looks like when they get lazy about communicating with you, because they expect you to read their mind. You will find it infuriating, as you meanwhile do the same damned thing to them. At the same time, you really *will* read their mind, but only at that exact moment when you lose your temper and are looking for the perfect sarcastic jab to express your contempt for the fact that they ate your last english muffin and went to work with your glasses in their book bag for the 10th time.
That is why marriage can only last if you both work on it. No sense of affection or passion is strong enough to overcome what intimacy does to a relationship. You need to wake up every morning, look at that person in your bed, and make the active choice to be in that relationship.
“A successful marriage requires falling in love many times, always with the same person.” —Mignon McLaughlin
Remaining married means being in a relationship that has broken, and been glued back together, and broken, and glued back together again. For a god-spouse, I can only conjecture that it means waking up and calling your deity, even if he or she stole your favorite nail polish or shoes the preceding day, and even if you accidentally lost your temper in response, or put your foot in your mouth, or gigantically bolloxed a ritual.
If you have an intimate, 24/7 sort of relationship with a deity, you are going to face struggles with greater frequency than someone who doesn’t. You will therefore be able to offer perspective on a wider variety of challenges with your particular deity.
Being married to a deity for years probably brings with it a certain, “been there, done that,” perspective. If a person has screwed up their relationship with a particular god or goddess, a god-spouse is more likely to have encountered and overcome that exact problem, just by virtue of probability and proximity.
Moreover, you’ll probably see your deity’s challenging aspects, whether its a passionate temper, a tendency to be taciturn, or a mild case of kleptomania. There will always be people who see the bad in a deity first. Someone who has learned to love the deity in spite of (or because of) being in full knowledge of those challenging aspects may be able to help others to see what is good in them also.
Now wouldn’t that be useful? I can see why a deity might want to have a few of those around.
It seems to me that a god-spouse doesn’t really need to do anything other than be with their deific husband or wife and tend to the complexities that an intimate relationship brings. Years of that sort of intimacy will give them a perspective that is useful, all on its own.
And It’s A Path, Not a Destination.
“I didn’t love my wife on that second date.
I didn’t love her when we got engaged.
I didn’t even love her when we got married.
Because love isn’t an emotion. That fire I felt, it was simply that: emotional fire. From the excitement of dating a woman I felt like I could marry. But it wasn’t love.
No, love isn’t an emotion or even a noun. It’s a verb. Better defined as giving. As putting someone else’s needs above your own.
From Disney movies, to my favorite shows like The Office, to practically every pop song released, love is constantly sold as an emotion we have before we’re married. An emotion that, once had, somehow magically stays within a marriage forever.
I can’t imagine a bigger lie.” — From Elad Nehorai on the Huffington Post.
As I think it through, there is one thing in the outsider view of god-spousery that no longer makes sense to me. It’s the idea that marrying a god or goddess indicates, or should indicate, some high level of spiritual achievement.
Intimacy is not something you can tie up in a bow and hand someone. It isn’t awarded. It is something that you and your spouse decide to pursue. You mark the decision to pursue it with a wedding, and thereby effectively seal all paths of escape. Marriage is helpful because it keeps you in that relationship even when things go sour. It is a commitment on the part of both members to work things through when they suck.
The achievement comes after years of being married to a deity, I suspect, when you’ve made and worked through countless mistakes and rough patches. The achievement is the knowledge that, no matter what shit hits the fan, despite the hurt feelings, the arguments, the times when your relationship feels like a micro-apocalypse, you can and will work through it. Your love will survive it. At least, that’s how it is for human marriages.
Getting married is just the first step. The path ahead is loving and forgiving. The achievement is having stuck it out. The particulars of the marriage contract or prenuptial agreements are there as tools, to help get you through it. No two marriages will work in just the same way, mortal, divine or otherwise. However, if one or both of the parties lacks appropriate commitment, if communication is not clear and consistent, or if either of the parties does not have the right tools on hand to deal with being in that relationship, it will dissolve. There’s no formula or magic bullet. You just need to figure it out based on who you are, and who your intended spouse is.
So, that is my outsider’s take. It may be heavily informed by my views of marriage and love, generally, and my own experiences being married to a mortal. If being married to a deity is even half as challenging and rewarding as mortal marriage, then I expect that much good and much wisdom will come of this god-spousing trend.
Good luck to you all.