This post will be brief. I am thinking of the various ways that I have heard practitioners describe their relationships to God, Goddess, Gods, or sacred figures across trads. I notice that there are two basic axises… at least as far as I can tell.

One spectrum runs from Self to Distant Other, with Other somewhere in the middle. On one end of that spectrum, you have people who see deity as shaping their identity in some way. They want to emulate that deity, live up to their ideals, dress in their sacred symbols, etc. On the other end of the spectrum, you have practitioners who see deities as abstract forces of nature.

The other spectrum runs from Independence to Servitude, with Dependency of some kind in the middle. On the one end of the spectrum, you have witches who relate to deities like the postman, those who relate to deity as friend (or other similar relationship), and on the other end, you have Godslaves. Somewhere in the middle are those who see deity as teacher or parent.

I made up this graphic to show the relationship between these ways of relating to deity. The bias here, of course, is that I expect most people to be in the middle of the square and to relate to deity as Parent, Teacher, Guide or Protector. The corners represent various sorts of extreme, though well within the gamut of what you will see in any given tradition.

Deity_Relations_Square All of these are valid, and none is more valid than any other. You will notice that I do not order these in terms of intensity. Intensity can happen with any of these relationship types. Being a Godslave is not more intense or fulfilling than being a deity’s lover, or finding your deity within.

A person can have a strong and impossible to understand relationship with a force of nature that leaves them feeling baffled. That is pretty intense, too.

You can also relate to the same deity in multiple ways. A person might sometimes relate to their deity as spouse, or as master, depending on the interaction. You might both emulate your deity and see them as a friend or lover. Heck, Christians and Jews might have all of these relationships at once with their deity. I think though, that we tend to settle on one or another of these roles as a default or favorite.

As an aside, you might argue that Buddha is not a deity. For most variants of Buddhism, you would be correct. I have family members who are Cambodian and practice Buddhism, however, and do find that they say things like, “Thank Buddha.” While he may not have the status of a god, the relationship that *some* Buddhists have with him looks and smells remarkably similar to the relationship that a theist might have with a god. It happens to be these Buddhists that I have the most interactions with.