Really, What I Need To Say

I really, really, really do not want to be blogging about astral experiences, especially not my own. I need to get a story off my chest. I hope I only have to do this once.

Polytheist Clergy fucked me. Listening to their advice, and following their lead, fucked me. It fucked up my relationship with Dionysos. It fucked up my relationship with Ariadne. It fucked up my relationship with Artemis. It nearly fucked up my relationship with Hermes, too.

[Edit: I am not suggesting that all Polytheist clergy are this way. However, the people about whom I am speaking are part of a subset of Polytheist clergy, large enough to be problematic in the wider community]

No one meant badly. These aren’t bad people. They were just people who had a fucked up way of dealing with deities, and divine relationships are infectious. Their relationship with deity was a disease, and I caught it.

From October to March of a particular year, I was doing a thing with Dionysos. I was young, I was seeking, and I set up an altar to him in my bedroom which I tended every night. One day, in early March, a holy symbol of mine broke, and I knew, in my bones, that whatever I had been doing was over.

Winter, in Greece, is the gentle season. It is mild and rainy, as it is throughout the mediterra. It is the season for growing grapes. Summer is harsh, hot and deadly. I have heard it said, more recently, that Summer is a piss poor time to work with the wine god unless you are his clergy person.

My instincts were not wrong. March was a good time to give my relationship with Dionysos a break. In an alternate universe, the following conversation occurred:

Thenea: I’m not working with Dionysos anymore.

Clergy
: Oh, because Summer is coming?

Thenea
: No, it just does’t feel right anymore. I think maybe I need to just go back to what I was doing before.

Clergy: Oh, well, try not to be too hasty. It might just feel wrong because of the season. You’re a very nature-oriented person, and I notice that the seasons whisper in your ears. Maybe you’ll feel differently about it come Autumn.

Thenea
: Oh, that makes sense. Ok, I’ll give it a break. And then I’ll look him up in the Autumn. You don’t think he’ll be mad?

Clergy
: Don’t be absurd. Dionysos is a god of freedom. If there is one thing you can be perfectly certain about, it is that he will always respect your choices, as long as you are being true to yourself.

In that alternate universe, I have some fairly balanced relationship with the god, where I work with him in the Winter, and Apollon in the Summer, and everyone is happy. In this universe, here is (in brief) how that conversation went:

Thenea: I’m not working with Dionysos anymore.

Clergy
: You can’t say no to a god. He has chosen you, and if you reject him, he will curse you, and me, and your family, and everyone around you, and a part of your soul will die.

Thenea
: … You know what. Fuck you, fuck Dionysos, and fuck your tyrannical deities. If you deities need to threaten people to keep their following, they don’t deserve to have a following.

At the back of my head, however, I wondered if I was wrong. I was, though not quite in the way that the clergy-person in question thought. I was wrong to cut a deity I actually wanted to work with, who I shared values with, out of my life because of what boiled down to personal gnosis. I should have applied logic and reason, rather than going with my gut. That’s who I am. That’s how I work. Using logic is how I am true to myself.

The clergy person was understandably shocked that I didn’t play into the drama they had set up, where they, as a clergy person, got to tell me that I had no choice about worshipping their gods, and I lamented how I had been “chosen” and “claimed” and wailed lots about my metaphysical knackers. In their mind, that was the appropriate response to being told, through a clergy person, that a deity had claimed you.

There is something to that. Polytheist culture and theology in the United States is uniquely anti-choice. I don’t know if it is the influence of Evangelical Christianity or what it is. Divine relationships play out in certain patterns, and clergy gain approval from other clergy for playing out those patterns. Being “claimed” (chosen by a deity, human’s opinion irrelevant) is a part of the clergying process in Polytheism. The clergy person did not expect, not in their wildest dreams, that telling me that their deity had taken away my choices would elicit such anger. I think they rather thought that I’d feel flattered.

Let me be blunt. All deities manifest in a variety of ways. In no tradition is this more blatantly obvious than in the Greek tradition. They manifest in ways that are congruent with the values and beliefs of the time and place. If deities are apparently forcing themselves on humans in various ways, it is because that is what the local culture believes about deities.

Having been told, flatly, to go fuck themselves, the clergy person carried tales about me to all of their friends who would listen. They, in turn, kept hammering on the you are destroying yourself spiritually point.

My doubts and their gossip coagulated into a Not-Dionysos, a tyrannical god, a selfish god, a self-absorbed fellow who had no concerns in the world other than gratifying his own base desires.

Eventually, I destroyed this manifestation, and re-purposed the stuffings. For a while, however, I believed that it was the god. So much passion, so much anger and fear had been poured into it that it radiated power like a god. I let it torment me, because I believed that I didn’t have the power to fight back. I let it hurt me because I doubted that I had the right to choose my own religion.

When I saw how easy that Not-Dionysos was to dismantle, I also realized how pointless my suffering had been, how utterly unnecessary. My tormenter was neither a deity, nor even truly sentient. And now it is dead.

My relationship with the actual god never fully recovered, not because the god is angry with me, but because, every time I see him, I have flashbacks of something that looked like him, doing horrific things to me. I suffer from PTSD because I made the mistake of turning to Polytheist clergy for help and advice. I would have been happier and healthier today if I had instead turned to an atheist for help.

Being chosen, or marked, or “claimed” by a deity shouldn’t really be the prime requisite for becoming clergy. If deities think that this is the only way their clergy will be taken seriously, then of course that is what they will do. Wouldn’t it be so much better, so much healthier, for people to choose their deity, and for connections to be built organically through devotion, rather than being forced? Would it not be so much better for the deity if the prime requisite was having an in-depth understanding and enduring respect for what a deity stands for?

Our culture doesn’t support that. Say to someone, “I want to be a priestess of (fill in deity)” and they’ll just roll their eyes at you. Tell them you are having a spiritual crisis because the deity has claimed you, people start to sit up and take notice. All of a sudden, they feel important because they need to swoop in and save you. And of course, no one is going to tell a deity that they can’t have their way. Our response, culturally, to people’s experiences is manufacturing a problem that does not need to exist. 

As the rest of Pagan culture is slowly moving toward a realization that bodily autonomy is important, that consent is required for intimacy, that consent must be enthusiastic, and that people who do not respect these ideas are basically troglodytes, Polytheism remains in a place where, theologically, forced intimacy is treated as sacred. You guys, that is messed up. And that was all. I hope that having said this, I can move forward to talk about other things.

139 comments

      • Pleope Septara Cyantornus

        Some hard polytheists are rather unfaithful to the historical record which if good for them it works for them but never feel compelled to accept anything you find ethically iffy and there is much respect to be had for being more recon than eclectic. I have respect for both. There is a radical feminist scholar named Mary Daly who wrote something on Dionysus in a metaphysics book she wrote. Its negative and uses him as a archetype of certain aspects of patriarchy but depending on where you are now and regardless of how you feel about her views she is certainly interesting and a good writer.

      • Thenea

        I don’t believe that abusive beings have spiritual wisdom. Things without spiritual wisdom, in my mind, aren’t gods. As I said in my post, I was able to personally tear the stuffings out of the harmful manifestation. Dionysos, himself, is a god of freedom, and the actions taken by the Not-Dionysos are completely inconsistent with what the deity stands for.

      • Pleope Septara Cyantornus

        Perhaps there is a problem of self projection with the UPG though I would argue when myths are unknown like for Gaulish gods for instance, it has value. Actually I think it does anyways but I also respect polytheists who look more to the historical record than their UPG. Both have value but don’t do anything that hurts you and compromises the relationship you have with the Gods you worship.

      • Thenea

        I think that healthy UPGs are actually a really important aspect of religion. I have learned so much about being a better person because I talk to Hermes. He has comforted me when I was miserable, and calmed me during times when I was afraid. I have drawn strength from experiencing him in that way. I was wise, however, not to discuss that relationship with anyone until my connection to him was very strong, and until I had exhaustively vetted my gnosis and checked it repeatedly against primary source texts.

  1. moonfire2012

    I’m really sorry you had this experience. Power trips and manipulation are universal problems no matter what the religion, or even the subject. Loki, also, like Dionysos, expects you to be true to yourself. I had a similar experience in the beginning of my relationship with Loki only over questioning channels and favorites playing. I was led to believe that Loki wanted others instead of me, or only thought of me as a friend and not a lover. I was led to believe they were smarter, sexier, more beautiful, and well loved than I and it almost killed my relationship with Him because I was so pissed off all the time, thinking I was unwanted. Then experience started to unravel, contradicting their claims. I learned to listen to Him and the Others instead of His followers. I still have issues to sort out, but I’ve learned to sniff out the followers who don’t have my best interests in mind, usually because they’re stuck on themselves. Anytime someone claims to be the voice of a God or Goddess, my red flags go up.

    • Thenea

      That really sucks that people said those things to you. 😦

      It takes a thousand forms, but power tripping in religion is always harmful. And you are totally right, that was clergy being on a power trip. Making the gods difficult and dangerous in the minds of followers inflates the need for specialized clergy.

      • moonfire2012

        I’m so glad you are healing your relationship with Dionysos, like I’m healing mine with Loki. I know others who have suffered at the misleading words of “channels” and those who claim to speak for the gods. It all becomes either a cult-like control mechanism, or a bunch of women thronging around a “horse” to compete for the god’s affections to see who He or She wants most. It’s sickening. I know people who have committed suicide because they thought they couldn’t live up to the God’s demands according to one of His or Her followers, or been rejected because they didn’t measure up. There are too many amateurs out there donning the Deity hat and fooling people who desperately want to hear who can’t otherwise what the God has to say, and they hang on every word. This is how cults get started, like Waco or Heaven’s Gate. I can think of someone who I won’t name who is so militant in her following of the Norse Gods who gets demanding about venerating Them and your ancestors. If you don’t leave this offering, or do that prayer, or take that peyote or whatever to go through ordeal, then you will be punished. I know not everyone can hear the Powers, and these people know this. That’s what makes me so angry. They take advantage because it puts them in the position of power. You’d think the Gods would not want some puny mortal going over Their heads or putting words in Their mouths that aren’t there. Once, when I challenged a woman who said she horsed Loki, questioning some things she claimed He said, she said “I don’t question what He says.” Lady, you made that up and you know it! She just didn’t want to admit it. Still, she has all these women listening to her “horsings” and believing everything she says. And Loki shakes His head.

      • Thenea

        All of the things you just said? That is my primary reason for wanting to facilitate physical manifestation of deities in ritual.

      • moonfire2012

        This is why I am so glad that I have gotten physical manifestations of Loki, and had it confirmed that it was He and not somebody else. It dosen’t happen often, and it tends to happen in short bursts between long absences. But He has moved, rattled, and knocked on things in front of me in the same room. He has touched me. Sometimes it feels like a physical touch, sometimes electricity. One of the most dramatic things He did was rattle my knitting needles in a cannister not two feet from me – twice in a row. He has followed me out in public and knocked things over, sometimes in front of other people. Like the oven timer a couple years ago at work that couldn’t have fallen off any other way. It smashed and my boss joked “stop getting so mad!” like Carrie, lol. Other manifestations have been taking over a website I’m looking at and making a song come on that was not random glitch, that fit the situation. I’ve had things moved on His altar. I have done many rituals, like an opening ritual with His name in runes in a circle, to welcome Him. But I have a feeling that He would have manifested without it. Ritual is just an enhancer that makes it stronger.

      • Thenea

        Yes, I have had similar experiences with Hermes, but never in front of other people. I don’t think ritual is so important for private practice in this respect. I think it comes more into play when you are looking for a group of people to have the same experience.

  2. We Bring The Fire

    Reblogged this on We Bring The Fire and commented:
    You can always, ALWAYS, say no to a deity. No matter how much they say they’ve claimed you you have a choice and you don’t have to put up with deity abuse even if they claim it’s a spiritual test or for your own good. You not a cockroach who has to now down to a deity because they’re a god and you’re lower then dirt.
    You also don’t have to put up with other people’s crap no matter what position or role they carry.

  3. owanderer

    THIS. Any time Odin asked of me a Big Life Decision, ranging from Ownership to how to serve Him, He always asks me. A god, notorious for snapping people up, chose to honour my agency. Gods can do that! Gods are people and are glad to respect human autonomy!
    One of the reasons He invited me to His side was because He knew I’d yell at Him if He did something fucked up. Deities want us to talk back, you know? Like that post you wrote about arguing with deities. I’ve realized that deities are super interested in arguments with their devotees.

    • Thenea

      See, and this is really, really important. Choosing to enter an ownership relationship with a deity is not dysfunctional. People enter power exchange dynamics all the time, and there is nothing unhealthy about BDSM, as long as the power exchange is consensual.

      Not respecting a human’s right to choose is indicative of exactly one thing: cowardice. Since Odin is not a flaming coward, and has like, I dunno, self esteem or something, one would very much expect him to live and let live, in terms of people serving him, or choosing not to.

      • owanderer

        Hm. Cowardice. I had never thought to apply that word to refusing to respect another’s agency. Now there are thoughts percolating in my brain.
        The idea that one is forced into being God-owned is so terrifying to me. I don’t want people to believe they are obligated to do things because a deity is forcing them. Ownership is a bond of love, not oppression.
        Yes, whenever I refuse Odin something, He usually just shrugs. He has never gotten upset when I refuse Him anything. He only gets upset when I, usually in fear or ignorance, deny His agency or power. And even then, He’s not all “ggrrr raaa imma smite u!” He’s interested in calm conversations of accountability as much as any other rationally thinking being I have met.

      • Thenea

        “He’s interested in calm conversations of accountability as much as any other rationally thinking being I have met.” Almost like he’s a god of wisdom, or something, huh? 😉

        I mean, a being doesn’t give up an eyeball for wisdom, and then run around flailing and grasping at people like a terrified baby.

        And yeah. Cowardice. A being who is secure in their own value knows that some people are going to appreciate what they’re about, and others not. If you know you are good enough, you don’t need to force people to serve you. You know that decent people will come along. You expect to have your pick.

        Only when you think that you might otherwise have absolutely nothing are you motivated to try to force people. If you think you aren’t good enough, you don’t trust that the right people will choose you. You might be alone. Forcing people isn’t ideal, but it’s better than being alone.

      • owanderer

        Hahaha yes, yes He is. ^^ I guess I just resent that He’s gained this bad rep for being an abusive asshole. (Which could be somewhat true but I think people misjudge how much of their shit is what they bring on themselves OR how the gods can only control so much.)

        Have you ever read N.K. Jeminsin’s A Hundred Thousand Kingdoms? POC author, I think almost all POC cast, lots of gods, demi-gods, and humans being godbothered. There are great musings on human agency, loneliness, madness, and how people and gods can both fuck shit up when they’re not careful.

      • Thenea

        I don’t blame you for feeling resentful about that. By saying that Odin is an abusive asshole, they are basically accusing your deity of having poor social problem solving skills, being insecure, and being unable to manage his own emotions. I’d say that’s pretty damned insulting.

        Like… Odin. The future-seeing guy. Mr “I grok cause and effect” who has seen thousands upon thousands of examples of leadership, teaching, parenting, and management? They are basically implying that, despite the fact that he has seen abusive parenting produce broken people, abusive management produce really shitty productivity, abusive teaching lead to incompetent students… Like… I dunno. I ran out of words for this.

        Maybe I could see it, if we were down to six Asatru and he was going bonkers from loneliness, but we’re not. He’s got his pick. I blame this squarely on human communication and social issues.

        The book you mentioned sounds interesting. I’ll look that up!

      • owanderer

        Gosh, you just articulated most of my feelings on this issue. XD
        I get the feeling that you look at deity from a place of empathy and, as you’ve mentioned, logic which is reassuring because I’m used to people being ridiculously hardcore about Odin. Human squabbles obscure His voice a lot, even within my own practice.

        If you end up reading it, please let me know!

      • moonfire2012

        The few times I’ve interacted with Odin(He introduced me to Loki in 2000), He’s never been an abusive asshole. He is very wise, intelligent, funny in a wry way. But He does have an air of authority and power where it’s understood He could knock you on your ass in a second. I have great respect and admiration for Him, although a cautious admiration. Those He is more intimate with I’m sure see other sides of Him, but I can’t believe He is this “rah-rah-I-am-Hulk-Hogan-fear-me” type.

      • Thenea

        Wisdom’s power is like that of a butterfly who knows which way to flap her wings to stir up a monsoon half a world away. If one is wise, brute force will seldom be their tactic.

      • moonfire2012

        For a minute there I thought you were going to add “Odin floats like a butterfly, and stings like a bee.” ::ducks::

  4. aoibheall52

    I love you, Thenea! This ‘ownership’ crap is one of the reasons I steer clear of the deities. Hearing people say ‘So and So commands me to do this even though I don’t want to’ is enough to make me run like a gazelle from said deity. Seeing them give up their autonomy infuriates me – and then I have to calm down and remember that it’s their choice and not my business. I work with one goddess in a teacher/student and coworker status, and there’s none of that ownership bilge. If you don’t consent what good is your devotion? You said that in an earlier post and it’s completely true. I hope you’re able to repair your relationship with Dionysos and it all works out.

    • Thenea

      I wish I could like this comment a hundred times. Thank you. Yes. I can’t respect “deities” who abrogate the will of mortals.

      Things are getting better with Dionysos, but it’s slow. Like working on a phobia is slow. I have hope.

  5. Pleope Septara Cyantornus

    “Do you think the sparkles I have in the sun and the demons and world fabric I see are negative thing or is this all too vague/personal for you to judge?” Oh wow I am stupid, meant to post this on a different blog lol.

    “If it is hurting you, I believe there are ways you can change that. If it is helping you, keep it. If it makes you a kinder, more compassionate person, if it gives you strength, build on it. At the end of the day, “happy, healthy and functional” are way more important than being “legit” in some abstract way, wouldn’t you say?” Yes I agree and I’m a hard polytheist who respects UPG. I don’t want anyone to be turned off worshiping the gods. I don’t want you or any devotee to suffer.

  6. aoibheall52

    Lol – looks like your post hit a nerve, didn’t it? Every thing worth having is work. There’s a small group of us working on bringing magick back, and reuniting the Realms, laying the foundation for physical manifesting. Looking forward to seeing it happen. That will put to rest a lot of this nonsense.

    • Thenea

      Apparently, it did!

      Restoring humanity’s faith in the gods, I have always believed, is the pre-requisite for re-uniting the realms. It was human fear of the divine, I believe, which pushed them apart.

      • aoibheall52

        Was it fear of the deities or was it realizing that we could find the answers we were looking for without their help? We could still find out things and the gods were unable or unwilling to withhold knowledge. We didn’t need their hints or for them to show the way. They became irrelevant. Even gods who dealt with science became unnecessary in our eyes. Their inspiration was still given but it wasn’t acknowledged. Fear works as well as affection for most people, and when the gods chose to step back instead of re – engaging they were declared dead or gone, or uninterested. It was a tactical failure. It will take a massive shift both mentally and physically for the Realms to come together again. The gods will have to take part in it.

  7. Aine

    “Say to someone, “I want to be a priestess of (fill in deity)” and they’ll just roll their eyes at you. Tell them you are having a spiritual crisis because the deity has claimed you, people start to sit up and take notice.”

    This has been true for me. Me talking about creating healthier relations with my gods, moving from toxicity to right relationship? Didn’t meet with a lot of attention from a lot of people I considered mentors or similar status. Me freaking out because I felt the gods were pressuring me into an unsafe situation? Oh, I just HAD to do what the gods asked and suddenly I had a bunch of attention.

    :/

    I love this post…but not for good reasons. I love it because it strikes at a lot of problems I see. And while I encourage people to build their own relationships with their gods as fits them, we’ve gone far beyond that in the polytheist communities into insisting that toxic relationships be the norm. So, thank you for this post. (Even if this post made me sad cause…it’s fucked up what happened, and what continues to happen to people.)

    • Thenea

      To be completely honest, I was sort of afraid to post it.

      I think that Polytheists who are interested in the nuts and bolts of Devotion (read: enthusiastic consent), Reciprocity (read: a spiritual path that benefits both the gods and the humans) and Hospitality (Read: when the deity shows up, they can’t just trash the fucking house like Penelope’s suitors) should really develop a label for themselves, to distinguish themselves from Polytheists who view deity-human relationships as not-so-consensual, or toxic relationships as being OK, if they are deity-led. I think it would give those of us who diverge from that, philosophically, a way to distance ourselves and be at peace with this other, very different way of thinking about gods that will just never, ever make sense to us.

      • Aine

        “I think it would give those of us who diverge from that, philosophically, a way to distance ourselves and be at peace with this other, very different way of thinking about gods that will just never, ever make sense to us.”

        I think this is a great idea. I don’t want to give up the polytheist label entirely (though it’s been very tempting sometimes), partially cause polytheism should mean many gods, not toxicity and abusive community dynamics! But we definitely need more words.

      • Thenea

        I was thinking a modifier. Like “Humanist Polytheism” because humanity isn’t irrelevant … but that sort of implies atheism, which isn’t what I mean. Or “Gnostic Polytheism” — because it’s about developing healthy gnosis which supports healthy spirituality.

      • aoibheall52

        Aine’s right – it’s a GREAT idea. I hate to be lumped in with the Might makes Right group. I see where they’re coming from, having been fed that Jehovah stuff growing up, but isn’t one reason we’ve left it because we expect more from our deities? The myths don’t help much when you refuse to believe that gods are intelligent enough to learn from the past and adapt to the present. Stories of gods forcing mortals to do things (not to mention the countless abductions/rapes) tend to linger and become the basis of how they expect the gods to be. We need new myths – ones that show the gods as they are now, not millenia ago. Stories that show how they are relevant today. Right now they have to depend on us to present them to the world; that will change but in the meantime it’s up to us. Up to the writers and priests/priestesses among us, rather.

      • Julian Morrison

        Risk aware consensual polytheism? Nah, it doesn’t make a cute acronym. 😛

      • Julian Morrison

        BTW: a trouble with “Gnostic” is that it’s (1) attached to a historical belief system, that doesn’t much resemble “consent first”, and (2) it’s in active use. There are people out there who identify as Gnostics. They would not be amused.

        My non-joking suggestion in fact would be to use the phrasing I just did above: consent-first polytheism. It says what it means.

      • Thenea

        Gnostic is an adjective. In the case of the other group, it modifies “Christianity.” So… fair point, but not totally unsold on it.

        Consent-First Polytheism is to the point.

  8. Casey Hamilton

    Since it was basically Ariadne who took me by the hand and led me directly to this blog, I do somewhat feel semi-qualified to say that Dionysus (who I won’t call much more than Dio on a personal level, because, reasons, and yeah, He’s cool with that) feels very, very sad about all of this, and your naming it PTSD brings it home to me, personally, on a bone-deep level. As a friend of Hermes, you know how important words and names can be. Good luck with your healing.

    • Thenea

      :: nods :: Thanks. I am working with mental health professionals, in addition to doing spiritual work, to help address it.

      Hermes has been instrumental in helping me to feel OK with deities again. Xanax is good, too. I’m leaning on Ariadne to help me get back to Dionysos. I don’t think I can call myself fully recovered until I can be in his presence without tweaking out.

      I never want anyone to have to go through what I went through. Ever. If I can create tools so that this sort of thing can be avoided, I will.

      • Casey Hamilton

        “Wisdom’s power is like that of a butterfly who knows which way to flap her wings to stir up a monsoon half a world away. If one is wise, brute force will seldom be their tactic.”

        The synchronicity involved in these particular word choices is off the chart. And yes 🙂

      • Thenea

        Now you are making me curious.

        I am paraphrasing something Ariadne said during a channeling session that I chose to keep private, wherein she likened herself to said butterfly, and with reference to creatures who pretend to be deities and used their strength as a hammer against the weak, “I am coming for you.”

      • Casey Hamilton

        “Now you are making me curious.

        I am paraphrasing something Ariadne said during a channeling session that I chose to keep private, wherein she likened herself to said butterfly … ”

        Ummmm, I’d feel better about sharing it with you privately. If you’re very curious, drop me some e-mail (since you haz the address), and I promise to answer it either this evening or tomorrow sometime.

        Moon in Virgo, Sun in Capricorn — I got “I’m reserved” written alllll over my chart 🙂

  9. Columbine

    Thenea, I really appreciate this post. My relationship with Apollon was not, in the beginning, anything that could be called consensual. I accepted being claimed, with all the negative baggage that usually comes with it, in part because of the prevailing view in Polytheist America that “you can’t say no”. It’s utter bullshit. You most certainly can say no, and you can defend yourself by any means necessary. Finding my own agency in the relationship is happening now, after a long and rocky road. There were times when I rebelled against Him and His desire for absolute obedience, and was punished. That ended when Zeus had had enough. I know you’re not too big on getting assistance from Higher Ups, but in my case, nothing short of that was going to cut it. I agree that the Gods respond according to the prevailing attitudes of the cultures They are working through. I know from my own experiences that Apollon has or has had a tendency to possessively claim people and expect them to jump through hoops. Now that we’ve established a practice of actively listening to one another, although His claim to me is solid, and I am His and will be for as long as I exist, He has come to appreciate and respect my agency. I think that so long as we continue to emphasize how our culture differs (and why it’s better this way) from what They knew in the ancient past, They will continue to grow and evolve along side us.

    • Thenea

      Thanks.

      I agree that Apollon can be a tough nut to crack. I remember having a conversation that went like this:

      Apollon: You will be mine, now.

      Me: With which weapon were you planning to murder me?

      Apollon: ???

      Me: Well, you can see the future. And so, even before you approached me, you knew that the answer would be no. You knew that you tend not to accept no for an answer. You knew that you respond to snarky discourse by punishing people until they relent. You know that I do not relent, so you also knew that you would have to punish me until I died. So, god of honesty, why not just dispense with the pre-text and murder me?

      … and, I shit you not, he *smiled at me* and said, “Ok then. Claim retracted.”

      • Columbine

        He does all of those things that you mentioned, but also is quite reasonable, if you can match Him. He respects those who know themselves and aren’t intimidated by His relentlessness. It can be hard to deal with.

      • Thenea

        Yes. Extremely logical and very reasonable. We get on famously, largely because I think clearly, and quickly, and we share a common goal of uncovering truth.

      • aoibheall52

        Added Apollon to list of avoiding. It’s funny but when I was just starting out as a pagan He was one whose attention I tried to get. Of course nothing happened – of what use would a child be to Him? Never knew what a bullet I dodged!

      • Thenea

        I have seen him have remarkably gentle and healthy relationships with people. It’s not Apollon. It’s his manifestation in certain communities.

        I feel certain that this is a part of the problem that we need to solve — to find ways to ensure that we get the heart of the deity, what they value, and not the twisted parodies of themselves that they become owing to dysfunctional communal expectations.

      • aoibheall52

        That’s the problem, isn’t it? If the gods reflect each societies mores and expectations then how will we ever get the hear? Our sucky patriarchal society expects one thing while we are trying to get past that to value all of us equally. If the gods reflect the status quo then we will struggle to attract followers who are looking for something entirely different. The gods themselves have to lead the way, with the mortal leadership interceding and explaining. Claiming and enforcing that claim drives people away so they must jettison that ploy and evolve to value cooperation over ownership.

      • Thenea

        One answer to this is drawing the lines constituting “our society” a little differently.

        I have observed a profound difference, for example, in how YHVH manifests for Orthodox Jews, Conservative Jews, Reform Jews, Liberal Protestants and Evangelical Christians. This is important to pay attention to: it is the same deity. Yet, to the Evangelicals, He is the angry Divine Patriarch, to liberal denominations, a benevolent but relatively uninvolved deity, and to the religious Jews, an equal partner to the Tribe. The tribe, indeed, can over-rule… Them, I guess, since Jews do not view their deity as having a fixed gender.

        All of these groups are Americans, following the same deity, but because of how they draw the lines of their identity, and the theology associated with that, the deity behaves differently with each of those groups.

        I don’t pretend to know *why* it works that way, but it does. Observably so.

        If we draw lines around ourselves, as a denomination of Polytheists, and simply put a foot down, and say, “We don’t consider anything that behaves in this way to be a deity” Then deities will probably stop acting that way toward our group. We’ll need to have in hand theological and ritual tools to address incidents where deities are experienced in that way by members of our society, because it will happen. We don’t live in a vacuum. But just acknowledging that we have theological opinions, and that these are distinct may be a huge step in the right direction.

      • aoibheall52

        That ‘probably’ is what gives me pause when it comes to enabling the gods to physically manifest. What will we be dealing with here? At present we as a group have few tools to persuade the gods to respect our autonomy. At any time any one of them can get a wild hair and act like it’s still the Bronze Age. It’s not in their best interests to do so, but these things happen and there will be those who encourage it/submit to it. So how will we Gnostic Polytheists be able to not just set boundaries but enforce them when the other Polytheists don’t? Have you asked Hermes or Ariadne?

      • aoibheall52

        That’s the problem, isn’t it? If the gods reflect each societies mores and expectations then how will we ever get the heart? Our sucky patriarchal society expects one thing while we are trying to get past that to value all of us equally. If the gods reflect the status quo then we will struggle to attract followers who are looking for something entirely different. The gods themselves have to lead the way, with the mortal leadership interceding and explaining. Claiming and enforcing that claim drives people away so they must jettison that ploy and evolve to value cooperation over ownership.

      • Julian Morrison

        Does YHVH actually behave that way, Thenea? You’re taking these groups’ assertions as accurate. But I’d say that a lot of them probably cause YHVH to facepalm more than anything else. Example: an objective look at the trajectory of the gay marriage movement doesn’t show a whole lot of smiting going on.

      • Thenea

        What I was really shocked to learn, during an extended stay in FL with people who regularly attended an Evangelical church, is exactly how gnosis-driven certain communities of Evangelicals can be. We heard from clergy and lay clergy about how Jesus hated certain restaurants, or certain people. Chassidic Jews, who have very similar theological beliefs to other Orthodox Jews, are also known for their Rebbes, who gave great psychic powers. Their experiences likewise confirm their own theological beliefs.

        Is the deity face-palming?

        I often wonder if Apollon is face-palming when we gnostically experience his lower manifestations as angry and rape-y. Indeed, pretty sure he is.

  10. Julian Morrison

    It’s hard to talk about this because it throws me into old emotions from an overbearing childhood that I don’t want to drag back up… but basically, hands off, gods. Some of us humans bite.

    And yeah, they might be picking up the culture. But if you accept they have agency, they are still responsible for it.

    • Thenea

      I’m torn.

      I view the universe as having checks and balances. A Hebrew perspective which I rather like is that the nature of the metaphysical universe is partly decided by Deity, and partly decided by community. The natural universe belongs utterly to the creator, but the way religion and mythology works… what is the saying? “It is not in Heaven.”

      I see our interactions with deities as building a bridge. We provide the stones on our side, they provide the stones on their side. We each need to take equal responsibility.

      Once they cross over onto our side, they are a bit at our mercy, in some respects. Likewise, when we enter their domain, the rules are primarily set by them.

  11. Lea

    Reblogged this on Spiral Charmed Life and commented:
    This is wonderfully well said. I always find myself torn between the world of those who are randomly grabbing traits to throw under the banner of a Deity and those who criticize anyone who thinks anything even remotely different about a Deity than they do. So, unless I am didn’t asked or someone is sitting something dangerous, I mostly keep my mouth shut. But this bit is important. You can say no! I was claimed by a God and a Goddess – adopted, as it were, as Their own. (No, they are not a couple; the familial relationship I have with each is independent I’d the other.) But, it was a “We will always watch over you”, no commitment needed kind of claiming. It was entirely my choice, honor, and pleasure to return a promise to Them.

    So if a person tells you that you have no choice in a relationship with a Deity, suspect everything that person says. Even Christians poach free will.

  12. aoibheall52

    If a deity is unhappy or embarrassed by what a certain manifestation is doing, isn’t it up to him to rein it in? If he’s being misrepresented it’s in his best interest to counter that. If a shard of Loki is out there forcing itself on the unwilling shouldn’t Loki be hunting it down and making sure it does no more damage? Ditto every other god? That’s not a job for mortals. Face palm be damned – act!

    • Thenea

      So, yes. If it is a manifestation external to a person, if it answers to the deity’s name and uses the deity’s face, the deity is responsible for it.

      But when it’s not a manifestation, when it is, instead, a facet of a human being, then they have no right whatever to try to control it. A deity does not have the right to go ratcheting about in my head without my permission. Therein, I think, may be the rub. If I create a servitor or a telematic image that looks like a deity, it is still a part of me, an extension of my will. I could absolutely send a thoughtform to go impersonate a deity. I know of traditions wherein doing that is a part of the inner workings of initiation. One of them even pointedly disguises Judeo-Christian angels as ancient gods. What rights do deities have in this regard? Are they clearly defined, or are deities uselessly bickering over what to do about the problem, coming to no solid or useful conclusions?

      Because you are right. There is zero benefit to an entity that wants relationships with humans in fucking up those relationships and making himself look like a gigantic unwashed asshole. The same being who gets offended by a human calling him names can’t turn around and say he doesn’t care what humans think. Those two realities are not logically consistent with one another. Beings that don’t need humans do not need clergy. Beings who don’t care about healthy interactions with humans don’t interact with humans.

      Are the Monists, after all, correct? Perhaps there are no true gods, only illusions thereof, fitted onto forces of the universe that we are trying to interact with. Maybe what we call “the gods” is just an interface. Are they simply a mirror of our own dysfunction?

      There are a lot of unanswered questions here, and I think that, while exoteric religion, without gnosis, is a matter of faith, gnostic practice is about, well, actually knowing. We need to do some science on the matter.

      • aoibheall52

        Off the top of my head I’d say that if it’s impersonating a deity and causing harm that the deity in question needs to step in and deal with it. It is trashing the deity’s reputation and making a mess it will have to clean up later. It shouldn’t go barging in without permission – creates yet another problem – but asking another god to act as go – between would keep the person from further trauma. As for are the gods just bickering over it instead of acting – hey, you have access to a few; why not ask them for their take on it?

      • Thenea

        Ares doesn’t have this problem. Ariadne says, “this is why I never talk to humans” (You do so talk to humans, you ridiculous Pooka). Hermes just gave me an exhausted sigh, the silently mouthed the words “full time job.”

      • aoibheall52

        I’m surprised that Ares isn’t up to his neck in it seeing all the conflict we’ve got going, but I’ll take his word for it.

      • Thenea

        Ares isn’t frequently called, nor is he often interacted with. He’s not super prestigious to be working with, like Dionysos or Apollon, and I think that has a lot to do with why he’s literally never ever seen claiming mortals against their will. As for global conflicts, he is a god of veterans and soldiers. He’s not a god of politics. Ares is war…. though not the type we wage today. Thanatos is death, but he doesn’t cause disease or car accidents. Ares isn’t the political conflict. He is not the dropping of bombs. He is the soldier out in the field, facing death. He is the military commander, willing to kill to keep his comrades alive. Ares is the experience of war, the experience of every soldier. He doesn’t take sides. He views guns and drones as weapons for cowards. He’s a god of courage, valor, and unwavering commitment to duty.

      • aoibheall52

        I can see that. Although I was never sent to an active combat zone -most of us never see combat – those who do really need a god like that. We’re finally getting the right to have pagan clergy and places to worship, at least in some services.

    • Thenea

      Then again, Hermes does this. I have actually directly had the experience of talking to what I thought was Hermes, and then hearing a swift thump, as though the thing had been hit on the back of the head, and then Hermes, a brighter Hermes, slid into view and was like, “Yeah. Sorry.”

      Or sometimes I feel him glance back at me, shout, “Not me!” and yoink the manifestation out of view.

      Maybe only some gods are trustworthy. Maybe the first step is cobbling together a pantheon, however small, of gods that we can trust.

      • Thenea

        Deities I unquestioningly trust… Hermes, Ares, Ariadne…. erm. Uh… *hmph* Nope, that’s the end of the list.

        Hermes suggests that one thing we might consider doing, as a soft shot across the bow, is to add a small part of ritual wherein we end with a libation to the gods that respect boundaries.

        “There are deities who are smart enough to understand that love and adoration are earned by being effective decent. And the rest have growling stomachs.”

      • aoibheall52

        Now, that’s not a bad idea at all. Please tell Hermes ‘thank you’ for me. Soft shots that get their attention would work best for us. Lol – your list is mighty short! Not sure I even trust the goddess I am mentored by 100% although she has been patient and not smacked me even when I had a tantrum (she called it a tantrum – I thought I was justified). You work with more than those three, don’t you?

      • Thenea

        I will most certainly tell Hermes thank you for you.

        I absolutely work with more deities than that. I work with all the Olympians, actually, and Hekate.

      • aoibheall52

        How often do we interact with others to the extent that we get to know them that well. How often do we work so intensively together that someone’s true nature is revealed. In the civilian world, not often. Nor do most mortals have that kind of impact on us. I only trust one person to have my back out of everyone I know and he’s proven himself. So it says nothing wrong with you that you have only a few who have earned that level of trust.

      • aoibheall52

        And that’s a pretty good idea too – do you think they would mind us doing that, if it means they are mixed in with other deities from other pantheons? Have to make sure they all get along together. I trust Nammu enough to ask her in. I grumble and bitch but she’s never been anything but fair and honest with me. So far we have four! Hey, I’m in!

      • Thenea

        She’s a goddess of freedom, primarily, and shares some several domains with Dionysos. She’s a goddess of dancing, and ecstasy, of olives (and olive oil). In her older, Minoan facet, she’s the goddess of the sacral knot, meaning that she’s also a goddess of mystical wisdom, and of fertility. In her more modern aspect, she is a comforter of women who miscarry and (I infer) of women who suffer with infertility.

      • Thenea

        I dunno how they would feel about that. Hermes is extremely sentimental, and tremendously emotionally attached to his family. Ariadne… is ambivalent about her pantheon. Ares is immensely loyal to Hera and Aphrodite.

  13. Pingback: Manifestations: Accountability and Consent | Queen of the Waiting Ones
    • aoibheall52

      Not saying they would have to divorce themselves from those they love or be disloyal – consider it a foray into a possibly better mortal/god relationship. Like Odin sending Loki in to assess a strange but useful area. They work together for common goals from what I’m told – this is something that may well help them all.

  14. Beth

    I love this so, so much, especially the conversations about Odin in the comments. I’ve had people come to me saying that Odin did this or that abusive thing to them, and have heard a number of people claim that He forced them to serve Him. My reaction is always, “Why?” It’s as easy to hang your own internal baggage and unresolved issues on a deity as it to to do it to another person (which is also quite common); the difference is that a human has at least some chance of fighting the misconception, whereas when it’s Odin (for example) the not-Odin takes on a life of its own and can terrorize someone for years. It’s very sad, really, because in a lot of cases the person has never even *met* Odin–which is pretty obvious from their conception of Him. Yes, He can be forceful and demanding. But a wise king (which He is) knows that good leadership does not lie in forcing others to serve you, but in inspiring them to *want* to do so. No one was ever inspired to want to serve through being terrorized.

    • Thenea

      Thank you for weighing in. I honestly thought I didn’t like Odin, largely because of how he was described by the people I know who worked with them. Then I actually met him. And I was like, “… this is not who I was led to believe you were by your clergy”

      Elsewhere in the thread, we are discussing exactly what responsibilities and rights deities might have with respect to manifestations that borrow their face and image, but represent them badly.

      As long as people believe that the gods are … I really just want to use the word “stupid.” That’s the only word I can think of to describe a deity who thinks that they can build a healthy following by forcing people into service against their will — as long as people are willing to see that way, there will be manifestations like that.

      I think deities should have the right to dismantle those manifestations. They might also have the responsibility to do so, but I think it’s a problem that needs to be tackled from both sides.

      Your deity deals with this a ton. What do you (pl) have to say on the issue?

      • Beth

        I would definitely agree that They have the right and the responsibility to dismantle them whenever possible, and I’ve actually had a few experienced wherein Odin has dismantled an Odin sockpuppet of my own making. It’s so easy to create these; all you need is fear of how a deity might react to something you’re said or done–or not said or done–coupled with the underlying worry most people, have, at some level, that we’re not really worthy of these relationships anyway. When you mix that up with the lore handed down to us (much of which was written by Christians who were hostile to our gods–Saxo comes to mind) you have all the ingredients for a fine sockpuppet/negative egregore. Odin has gleefully destroyed these a few times in our relationship, and I think He most likely does so without hesitation when it’s an external manifestation–something created by years or generations of basic misunderstanding, for example. But if it’s a manifestation someone has created in their own psyche, and is specific to that person, it gets trickier. Years ago when I was newly married to Him I encountered a woman online who was very bitter about her own relationship with Him; it was pretty much a classic case of her dragging out every possible negative perception of Odin and backing that up with her own experiences. The Odin she described bore no resemblance at all to the one I knew–nor the one others in that discussion group knew; yet, she clearly was not lying, and had clearly experienced someone or something who had been treating her in the ways she described. (I’ve run across this same phenomenon more recently, with some of the newer spirit workers online, as well.) I began to suspect at that point that something alone the lines of this level of disconnect was happening. And as far as I know, nothing could ever be done about it, in her case. People she knew locally were spirit workers who actually horsed Odin, so she had direct access to Him and He had the opportunity to try to destroy the construct she had created–but it seemed that, because it was actually part of her and not of Him, He was unable to make much headway with it. I’m not sure what the answer is. I suspect the solution to this is one the gods are still debating amongst Themselves (and likely have been since ancient times.) I think you’re right, the problem has to be tackled from both sides. If it’s an internal construct and we aren’t willing to participate, Them barging in and trying to do it anyway would be akin to mental/psychological rape–and in Odin’s case He would likely conclude that enough damage had already been done, and it’s best to leave this person be now. Which is sad, because they’ll continue hating Him. Sadder still, for me, is the fact that He’s used to this by this point. Something in Him seems to trigger it, much more so than happens with some other deities.

      • moonfire2012

        I”m half asleep reading this and caught myself reading “sockpuppets” as “suckpuppets” which actually, is pretty accurate.

      • Thenea

        I have noticed a direct correlation between how famous/powerful/prestigious a deity is, and how many toxic thought forms of them exist. I mean like… how many people run around complaining about Ares or Hephaestos? But Dionysos? Apollon? The deities you need to work with to be taken seriously as a Oracle? Plenty.

        Part of it is that people have a desire to blaspheme against gods. The bigger the god, the more tempting to portray them negatively. Which is dumb, because we experience deities in whatever way we think and speak about them, or in the way that clergy thinks and speaks about them to us.

        Not only because of the reasons you mentioned (triggering people and causing more damage), but also because, really, Odin (and other deities) has more things to do than spend every minute of every day hunting down rogue thought forms, clergy need to add “dismantling evil sock puppets” to their list of services offered.

        I know it seems counter-intuitive to respond to a what appears to be a deity being foolishly cruel by disemboweling them, but really, if the thing is making the deity look like a bag of unwashed assholes, it’s probably a safe bet that you’re dealing with a Not-God. And by the time people are reporting incidents of abuse, it has gone way beyond just being a figment of the imagination. Not-Gods can be destroyed, and doing so actually helps the deity. We needn’t be concerned that we’ll actually hurt a deity. As long as it is done with the deity’s sanctity in mind, and with the aim of serving them, I honestly think that such things might even be appreciated.

        Certain substances, such as citrus, tobacco and coffee, are really conducive to breaking up thought forms. I see that you make magic oils…

      • Ian Phanes

        Actually, this gets back to the issue of consent. If a human has chosen to open themselves to a deity sockpuppet, no one–including the deity being impersonated–has the right to override the consent of the human.
        Though I did see an interesting encounter when a person was horsing a sockpuppet in a group circle and got literally dropped to his knees. Aforementioned horsing was over for that ritual. 🙂
        I suspect part of the reason that the deity in question was able to act effectively in this setting was because there were a couple of experienced ritualists present who had reason to know that something wasn’t kosher. Possibly also because the experienced ritualists involved come from a more old-school approach to Modern Pagan Witchcraft, which has been heavily influenced by the Western Esoteric Tradition. In that worldview, while the gods are real and powerful, humans are their partners in the Work.

  15. aoibheall52

    I was thinking that in cases like the one you spoke of, enlisting the assistance of a deity not seen as threatening to act through would give Odin (or any other god) access to the construct to destroy it. There would still be healing to be done, of course, and the main problem – the aspect of Odin being horsed – would have to be dealt with so it didn’t continue. As for why Odin has to deal with it so much – that’s above my pay grade. Maybe Ariadne can explain.

  16. EmberVoices

    > Clergy: You can’t say no to a god. He has chosen you, and if you reject him, he will curse you, and me, and your family, and everyone around you, and a part of your soul will die.

    That’s really fucked up. Now I wish I’d kept in better contact with you after PantheaCon… er, well, assuming you’re talking about *this* year…

    I gotta say, there’s a lot in this post that is problematic on both sides of your argument, but it’s obvious you’re in a lot of pain around this, and while it hits some of my buttons, I don’t want to make your safer space about my buttons.

    If you want to talk about this – if I’m someone you should be talking about this with – you know my email.

    –Ember–

    • Thenea

      This incident was from my early twenties, and I’ve been trying to deal with my recovery without the help of clergy for eight years. The few times I’ve reached out to people have been staggeringly unhelpful.

      When I hear people say things like, “never run from anything immortal,” my stomach twists itself into knots, because this incident is at the back of my head. When people talk about humans being taken against their will, it triggers memories I’d rather not relive. I’m distinctly uncomfortable with the narratives where deities “mark” people that have not chosen to work with them, or who have chosen not to. Deities forcing humans to serve is a bug, not a feature, in my mind.

      I know that people believe that human will is irrelevant, and that religion is not a choice. I would never choose to consult those people on spiritual matters. Based on the response I’ve seen to this account, I’m far from alone.

      • EmberVoices

        I’m sorry, these replies never showed up in my email or in the control window, so I didn’t know they were here.

        I have always parsed “Never run from anything immortal” as meaning “Walk, with confidence, however feigned if necessary.” not “You can’t run, you can’t hide.”

        I think it’s important that we explore the middle ground between us having no control at all and expecting to have control over that which is not within our control. I’m glad you have started a dialogue around this, but I’m still sorting out what all I have to say about it.

        And yes, I also am uncomfortable when people talk about the bad experiences they have had with the gods, because of the memories it triggers of my own difficulties in the past – which is exactly what I was mindfully not getting into here, out of respect for your space.

        -E-

      • aoibheall52

        Sounds like a new event at the Olympics – the 100 yard Walk With Feigned Confidence. I do believe I can enter that event! I’m sorry you – and so many others – had to endure such a horrible experience. The bigger the Consent movement becomes, the better for all of us, mortals AND deities.

    • Thenea

      That said, I don’t think that every instance of a deity pushing a mortal to do something is problematic. The reason that I even made this post is because Ariadne had been jumping up and down on me for months, pushing every button I have surrounding this issue, and started to face the fact that I wasn’t dealing with it. I’m grateful she did. But I chose to work with her, and there is a world of difference between a deity you chose bringing uncomfortable things to your attention, and a deity you didn’t choose harassing you because the answer is no.

      • Ian Phanes

        To put this in perspective, substitute one word:
        “There is a world of difference between a [dude] you chose bringing uncomfortable things to your attention, and a [dude] you didn’t choose harassing you because the answer is no.”

      • EmberVoices

        Right. And honestly, I think a lot of the language we have around these experiences are actually grounded in failure to differentiate between these two concepts. I think at least some of that comes out of the very rape culture that consent culture is intended to combat, in that the shame around certain choices, and the valorization of selflessly accepting our circumstances combine to create a culture where it’s more acceptable to say we were forced than to admit that the choosing was mutual.

        -E-

      • EmberVoices

        And some of that comes out of the way we treat people who have made a mistake that has caused a problem in their life.

        We act as though people are only worthy of help out of their problems if the problem is in no way their own fault, thus putting an obligation on all people to be either wholly in control, or entirely lacking in control, in order to qualify as Victim or Never Needing Help, with not anywhere near enough nuance in-between.

        This is the flip side of victim blaming even working in the first place. The whole way Victim Blaming works is that we accept that if a person is in any way to blame for their circumstances, they aren’t truly a victim of any of the parts that were not within their control and thus do not deserve assistance.

        It’s not okay.

        -E-

      • Thenea

        Yes. This is an extremely important thing to talk about.

        I mean, firstly, people continue to make mistakes until they become experts.

        Secondly… Do we not treat people for broken legs because they broke the leg skiing? Do we not treat someone for a heart attack because they “probably had a bad diet?” No. Doctors have a job to do. That job is healing people, whether they are injured through no fault of their own, or whether they wind up as an “honorable mention” in the Darwin Awards.

        I feel like a similar ethic needs to be taken up by the spiritual healers of our community, or those people capable of putting things aright when relationships with deities go horribly wrong.

        Or do they? I mean, they are volunteers. They have day jobs and life problems and limited spoons. They can’t help everyone. They don’t get paid money, so without the elevator pitch for why one particular case or another might be worth their time, what would ever compel them to bother?

        Paying clergy is a good idea. It levels the playing field.

        “Did you do this to yourself?”
        “Maybe. Can you fix it if I pay you $100?”

        The answer is going to be “probably.”

      • EmberVoices

        Even with pay, the level of specialization involved doesn’t guarantee everyone can be helped – but then, it’s not necessarily that common a problem in the larger human population, I suppose…

        A significant quantity of the people I help both in person and long distance are being some form of god-hounded and need help with it. Not necessarily help making it go away, but help understanding how to stablize the situation and their relationship. The vast majority *don’t* want it to go away, they just want it under *control*.

        But there’s always those one or two out of ten asking for help who are being hounded by a deity whose attention they are really, really uncomfortable having.

        My go-to method has, because of my Umbanda training, mostly, been to sort out who they are closer to than the god that’s hounding them, and negotiate for that god to intervene on their behalf.

        It works pretty well, actually, but it’s *work*. And it’s work I am almost never paid for.

        -E-

      • Thenea

        Building an economy wherein that specialization could become in some way lucrative might actually create a situation that would encourage people to develop that specialization.

        One time, I went to a psychic, and I said to my husband afterwards: “I just needed someone to talk to about basic, practical, non-pathological problems. Like thinking through my career, and my responsibility to my communities. She charges half what a counsellor does, and the appointment takes half as long.”

        The only real power I have in this matter, however, is to set an example by

        1. Not being too proud to admit when I can’t solve problems myself.

        2. Paying people when they help me.

      • EmberVoices

        Helping the “open heads” get their godsmack situations under control is actually a significant aspect of my calling, but I have been hesitant to ask for payment on something that is so incredibly subjective in its value. I am learning to charge for my time and effort, but I am *terrified* of being accused of fraud. Which is a whole other can of worms.

        The more I did into this, reading your posts and the various replies, unpacking what I think, the more I realize why it’s so overwhelming. It’s much, much more central to my spiritual life than I’d realized!

        -E-

      • aoibheall52

        The worth of what you do is incalculable. People do need to realize that it takes time and effort to get to the point where you can actually help them, and at least try to give you something back. Being overwhelmed with relief should only temporarily make you forget mundane things like gratitude. Were I in the position of needing help for something like that I’d think I could never adequately repay you but I’d certainly try.

      • EmberVoices

        Please understand that everyone I have helped has expressed a desire to give something back. Most have not had any kind of income – being godsmacked tends to mess with the ability to hold down a normal job, for one thing. Some have sent me gifts. Others have just made a standing offer to help me in return if I ever think of something that they could do. Nobody is ungrateful. But I don’t have established rates, either.

        It’s something I’m working on. I’ve established rates for when I’m doing specific divination, crafting, or private ritual work on someone’s behalf, but for now I don’t see how to differentiate email and chat conversation towards this end from email and chat conversation towards other ends, in terms of charging someone for that time or effort. For long-distance students, the bulk of assistance is necessarily in that form.

  17. Pingback: [Monday] Idea of the Week | of the Other People
  18. aediculaantinoi

    As I said over at Molly Khan’s blog on Patheos, this trend does disturb me as well, and always has.

    Everything I’ve done devotionally has been of my own accord, and I *must* be free to associate with whichever Deities come along, and always by my own choice, in my own time. All of my devotional activities lose their merit and purpose if they are forced. If this makes me less of a “real” polytheist than those who are CLAIMED and so forth, so be it, but go ahead and tell that to the Deities I work with and see what they think about it.

  19. aediculaantinoi

    I couldn’t reply directly to the thread above, but just wanted to add:

    “I have observed a profound difference, for example, in how YHVH manifests for Orthodox Jews, Conservative Jews, Reform Jews, Liberal Protestants and Evangelical Christians. This is important to pay attention to: it is the same deity. Yet, to the Evangelicals, He is the angry Divine Patriarch, to liberal denominations, a benevolent but relatively uninvolved deity, and to the religious Jews, an equal partner to the Tribe. The tribe, indeed, can over-rule… Them, I guess, since Jews do not view their deity as having a fixed gender.”

    With the utmost respect, I have to disagree, theologically, historically, and experientially, on the “sameness” of the deity in question here.

    The Jewish god is the product of monotheistic/henotheistic syncretism, post-Babylonian exile, and is made up of at least three, and as many as perhaps five, earlier deities or parts of deities: Yhwh, the tribal/war god; El, a heavenly father deity; at least one Ba’al who is a god of storms, and likely another who is a fertility god (most present in the Song of Songs, etc.), and possibly a few others.

    Each of these can still be encountered individually; they can also be encountered collectively, usually within Jewish communal rituals. Then there’s also the Graeco-Roman-Egyptian understanding of the Jewish god(s), Iao Sabaoth, who is also an independent deity related to but distinct from the Jewish god(s) as worshipped by Jews.

    Christians and Muslims are the only ones who are insistent that their *One God* is the same as the Jewish god(s); Jews have never held that they can be the same (outside of modern interfaith mostly-monotheist contexts) because Jesus is so essential to the Christian conception of their one god(s). I think the more recent Protestant deity egregores are also separate, but are clearly not any of the gods of earlier Christianities, nor the Jewish god(s). And Allah? Totally different again, and also various fundamentalist egregores masquerading as him exist, too.

    I think it’s important, not only as polytheists, but also as historically-aware people (and, in my own case, someone with Jewish ancestry), to get these things right, and to not necessarily assume, nor grant legitimacy to, the theological systems of monotheists when their theologies are so clearly myopic. The deities concerned, in any case, exist, but we as polytheists are under no obligation to buy the theologies of the religions that are concerned about those deities.

    • EmberVoices

      I have to agree with PSVL on this one. I have encountered several clearly different and I believe to some degree separate Jesuses, and I think there’s at least one major path, if not a whole separate entity for each major denomination *at least*. Gods know the Jesus I grew up with in the Episcopal church is very different from the one I encountered at a different church entirely…

      It doesn’t seem like a stretch, even just given the wide range of Heathen experiences with Odin, who is known to collect so many names and aspects.

      -E-

    • Thenea

      So, I have the following perspective:

      History accepted for what it is, when people tell us what they believe, we need to believe them. I certainly do not dispute the enormous influence that the Babylonian Exile had on a certain portion of the Jewish religion. Around 70-200 CE, the Hebrew people underwent a major religious and philosophical shift, and I am not comfortable calling anything before that point the same religion as is practiced today. The religion that existed before the Babylonian Exile essentially died out, except for in Ethiopia — until modern Jews forcibly converted them (RRGH!). Neither the Babylonian Talmud (the best source we have for what living in Babylon did to the thinking of the Jewish people), nor the Septuagint, nor the Samaritan version of the Torah (and trust me, the Samaritans give zero fucks about what Rabbinic Jews think), nor the traditions of the Ethiopian Jews going back 15 centuries (separated during the first temple era), provide any statement of theological belief that the Hebrew deity is more than one deity in and of that deity’s self. There is the evidence of iconography found in Israel, but I do not think that this invalidates the ethnographic evidence provided by the Samaritans and the Ethiopians. Rather, I interpret it this way: the Hebrew people shared their soil with Polytheistic Canaanites (in fact, the Talmud has laws about them), and there was frequent syncretism around the edges. Israeli people, even the temple priests, were sometimes dual trad. I don’t think that means that those two traditions were not distinct. If we want to go back earlier, to the construction of the myths upon which the Torah is based, then yeah. Obviously. This was clearly several groups of people trying to create a monotheistic religion out of the oral lore of a number of different traditions. No one is ever going to say that the Hebrew tradition did not come from Polytheistic roots. That is directly acknowledged in the Haggadah, The Midrash, and even the straight up text of the Torah. Well, a non-Jewish Monotheist might. Mostly, we just disagree about when that happened, and/or how it happened. Hashem is not literally as old as creation, any more than Athena literally hatched out of the head of Zeus. That’s just mythology, a language for expressing something about the deity’s nature.

      The thing about certain Christians is that they are *trying so hard* to worship the same deity as the Jews. Sometimes, that effort is so intense that it crosses lines of cultural appropriation. You have Pat Robertson telling people how to live based on “The Ol’ Testamunt,” as though they were Jews, and going back earlier, the doctrine of Supersessionism, where Christians literally believed that they were there to replace the Jews as the servants of the Jewish deity. They go to Passover Seders, and they try to sneak into Mikvahs. It’s just weird. It’s weird, it’s sometimes culturally appropriative, it’s even maybe kinda slightly racist. In my bones, I want to say no. I want to say that their places of worship would absolutely never be visited by the deity of the people they oppressed. You can’t just oppress and marginalize a people, kidnap their deity, and expect that deity to be like, “Heeeeeeey. Suuuuuuup.”

      But then, like, doesn’t the whole “angry god” thing start to make sense?

      And in the back of my head, I think of the Greek deities I work with. Why bother with reaching for authenticity or scholarship if, by virtue of my language, culture and era, the gods I worship will ever, ever actually be the deities referred to in the texts I’m reading. I think I can. I think that my take on them is going to be different, that I’ve got a different cultural filter over them, but that they are essentially the same deities.

      People experience other people in very distinct and different ways. The more famous they are, the more this is true. We can see this in the Pagan community with our famous figures. One individual may experience a figure as “really nice, passionate and knowledgable,” the other may remark that the person is “self absorbed and clearly still influenced by their (insert religion) upbringing.” When you go to that person, you might experience those things by turns. You can attribute each of these things to a cause, historically, based on who that person encountered in their early life, who influenced them, and the like. You can say that they got this or that mannerism from their sibling, but that doesn’t make them their sibling. You can say that they got this or that attitude from the Mosque they grew up in, but that doesn’t make them Muslim. I believe that Gods are no different. If you see shades of Ba’al Peor in Hashem, it’s probably because they were hanging out, and Hashem liked the cut of his jib, in certain ways. I like to think that Tammuz was a really good influence on the Hebrew deity. So, sometimes, in Hashem, you see shades of those other deities, just like you see shades of my mother, or sister, or ex-girlfriend or husband in me.

      Likewise, I’d take the position that Dionysos is neither Duwonuso nor Sabazios, but is certainly influenced by both.

      What is the Walt Whitman quote? “Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes.”

      When I make a study of my own mind, I realize that my personality has a certain gist. There are certain broad themes. In the back of my head, though, little dissenting thoughts flit around. I might feel malice toward one that I love. I might feel admiration toward a person I believe is evil. They’re just tiny impulses, the minority of me, and I keep them at bay. I’m trying not to be my mother, too, but some days, that minority impulse gets the better of me. And then there are the days when, very curiously, I act just like my ex-girlfriend.

      When I make a study of my gnosis, and try to fit together what seems true about the metaphysical world, it is this: gods are vast, they contain multitudes. Those minority impulses are people-sized in a deity’s soul. You could carry out whole conversation with them. And when you are encountering a deity, you’ll gravitate toward those parts of them that, for lack of a better word, fit together with your outlook on life.

      But all of this is conjecture. The only thing that we do know is that cultures have different beliefs, and that those cultures tend to experience the divine in a way that is consistent with their beliefs. Individual experiences exist as ascatter-plot, but the culture defines the range of possibility.

      • moonfire2012

        I always thought the cultural appropriation of American people over Jews was weird too. Like they’re trying to be something they’re not. Like one race trying to imitate another, things they weren’t born with. Even worse, trying to take over and mold the doctorines their way. When I used to go to church, I went to a lot of them and noticed they are all stage shows in one form or another.

      • aediculaantinoi

        You’ve pretty much said exactly what Edward Butler says in his “Polycentric Polytheism” article, which I agree with completely; it’s the basis for syncretism, in my mind, and that “hanging out with” thing that happens reflects those ideas in slightly different language. 😉

      • EmberVoices

        Well, I am not in any position to say that the very different spirits of Jesus I have encountered in different churches and rituals don’t ultimately connect back up to a singular central Jesus – that’s why I did express my experience in terms of aspects, paths, rather than wholly separate entities.

        However, I’m not really referring to what I’ve seen humans do in *their* relationships with Jesus, I’m talking about my own direct encounters with multiple Jesus spirits who have so little identity-flavor in common that the only thing connecting Them is the name and the cross, as far as I can tell.

        But that’s just me.

        When I approach the topic from a Religious Studies and Interfaith angle, I absolutely respect the beliefs of the people presenting – at least to the degree that the beliefs in question don’t involve oppressing someone else, anyway. But that’s not the same as my taking on their theology as my own, and when it comes to my personal experience of Jesus, there really does seem to be more than one of Him.

        -E-

    • Thenea

      Actually, I said some stuff that makes no sense. I need to take a break from theology for a week or so, but I’ll come back to this with a more cogent response, later.

  20. N. Morgan Davis

    “I suffer from PTSD because I made the mistake of turning to Polytheist clergy for help and advice.”

    Different story here, but same outcome from the same mistake. I hear you.

  21. Pingback: Choice and Chosen | Shadows on the Sea

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