Heirogamia: Clarifying My Personal Position, and An Apology

It’s not a popular thing to say in Devotional Polytheist circles, but I’m going to say it anyway: deities can’t “claim” mortals.

They can, at best, make it known to the mortal and the people around that mortal, that they are interested in having a relationship. That obligates the mortal in question to exactly nothing. It is an open door, and it is our choice whether or not to walk through that door.

They can make passionate entreaties, but they cannot actually make you walk through that door. You can’t force a person to love you. You can’t force a heart to feel loyalty and devotion.

In my article about Nonnus and Apuleius, I found myself hemming and hawing, wondering to what degree the ancient view of godspousery applied to me in my present circumstances.

I came to the following conclusion: it does not. I am not an ancient Greek, I do not live in ancient Greek culture, and really, I’m completely uninterested in reconstructing ancient Greek society in the modern day. The culture was oppressive and misogynistic.

I found the idea only temporarily appealing for exactly one reason: I didn’t want to take responsibility for my feelings.

After reading this article by Sable Aradia, the issue became very clear, and the implications of my antics were reflected back at me.

No one, in our Pagan community, really wants to own up to being a god spouse. I’ll be blunt: people are cruel and frequently misinformed, or else jump to unwarranted conclusions. The number of people poised to try to tear others down is staggering. The more visibility you have, the worse it gets.

No matter what words I use to express it, identifying myself as someone with an intense, passionate and romantic connection with a deity is going to piss some people off.

I didn’t want to deal with it. I still don’t want to deal with it. But I need to take responsibility.

I never meant to say that people could be married against their will. I never use the words “claimed” or “marked,” with respect to deities. There are people who do, and that’s fine. I personally find that verbiage triggering. Yet, I can totally see how my article could be read that way, and I am horrified.

Hermes forced me into absolutely nothing. He never would. Because he is a fucking adult.

When I said that my relationship with Hermes might be understood as a god spouse relationship, I did not mean that I was his wife, and I had no choice about it. I mean that I’ve been in a domestic and romantic relationship with him for years. I meant that I, like many other people, discounted the possibility of identifying as a spouse because I feared being seen as arrogant, or dealing with people who would think I was claiming some kind of superiority which I was absolutely not claiming.

I was vaguely, and somewhat ambiguously tempted to take the decision out of my own hands, because, at some point, denying that you have a certain relationship with a deity isn’t fair to them. If I had a girlfriend, I wouldn’t hide her in a closet and pretend that the relationship was platonic. That would be shitty. All the more so, I shouldn’t do that to a deity whom I love.

I really wanted to just not engage with people who thought that such a claim meant that I was a godslave, an oracle, an uber-priestess, or whatever else. It doesn’t mean any of that. There is nothing in any ancient tradition that I’m aware of that equates divine marriage with any such thing.

It was easier to sort of blame tradition. It was easier to say “it could be seen this way, based on my study.” It was a coward’s way out. It made my gods look like assholes. I am deeply ashamed of what I have wrought.

I’m sorry for being a coward. I am sorry for not taking responsibility. More than anything, I’m sorry for hiding my relationship with Hermes in a closet. I have done that for too long and in too many ways, and he deserves better. Has he asked? Yes, he has asked. So many times that I have lost count. I’ve never been opposed, but I’ve never been certain. At last, I must openly and honestly answer, “yes.”

He is my husband, I am his wife. It means that, and it means only that. I am claiming no authority, only love. I am claiming no position. I am not “claimed” or “owned” or “marked.” I’m in love, and that is more powerful than any coercion, mark, claim, contract or threat. It is, at last, even more powerful than my fear of derision.

I am not claiming to be the best or the only mortal he cares for. I know him well enough to know that if any one of you knocked on his door for a booty call, he’d answer it. I am only claiming that I have this relationship. It doesn’t need to affect you, it doesn’t need to influence the way you see him.

That is all.

31 comments

  1. ladyimbrium

    I think I love you for this. I’m only a little bit internet-sarcastic when I say that. A very little bit. Mostly serious. I fail at words right now. I give this all of my support and wonder when I’ll be able to dragon the fuck up.

  2. owanderer

    Accountability is tough and I admire your courage in committing to it. If I may make an unsolicited suggestion, you could perhaps contact the author of the piece and let her know you have revised your position. She might be willing to include a link to your clarification at the end of the article.

    • Thenea

      Having written this post has sort of given me a fluttering stomach ache. I’m not sure if I have the spoons to send a link to Sable, but she will get the ping-back.

    • Sable Aradia

      Hi Owanderer! I’d like to apologize, especially to Thenea, because I’ve been slow about it (busy this week) but you’ll find the update at the bottom of my post. Thanks for the suggestion!

      • Sable Aradia

        I should probably let you know, however, that I don’t get notifications of pingbacks. The interface at the Patheos Pagan site works differently from that of personal WordPress blogs. At WordPress I get a nifty little star or speech bubble in the corner of the screen that lets me know I have comments or likes or reblogs. Comments are handled by Disqus on Patheos and I don’t see pingbacks at all. Just FYI if somebody writes about something I’ve written and wonders why I don’t comment.

      • Thenea

        Oh, really good to know. I put up a few guest articles on Patheos, years ago, and totally got ping backs. But they’ve since changed the system, I guess.

    • Thenea

      Yyyyeeeah.

      Thanks. 🙂

      Right now, I get the sense that he’s eagerly checking out what the reaction of people reading is, but when he gets done with that, I imagine there will be much rejoicing. Or at least relief.

  3. aediculaantinoi

    I don’t think you need to apologize–thought-pieces don’t always work, we move on, and fair enough. You’re doing awesome things here, in any case, and it was an interesting line of thought to pursue.

    In any case, though, I was thinking very much along the lines you’ve outlined here in the last few days as well. I read a comment the other day from someone I know who said “My Gods make me ___.” I thought how very strange that was. I do a fair bit for Antinous, I think most people can agree (!?!). I am made to (in the sense of forced, coerced, strongly suggested, etc.) do that fair bit by him in the exact amount of “not at all.” Every bit of devotion I give him in whatever form is my own choice to give him. My own sense of ethics and obligation to him is my own, and my own desires to do more for him, and to do what I am able to for him, arise from me, not from “feeling like I have to” (at least in a *guilty* way–I feel as though I should because of what he has done for me, but again, that’s my own impetus and responsibility for it, not his), and certainly not from being forced to, etc. And the same is true of any and every other Deity and Divine Being with whom I deal on a regular or occasional basis.

    There may be reasons why this works for me in this particular fashion, which may not apply to other people. If that is the case and they’re different, that’s fine; but there is very little virtue in fulfilling an obligation that is a necessity upon pain of punishment or coercion. People applaud philanthropists, not everyday citizens who pay their taxes…and our Deities require no tithes, to my knowledge.

    • Thenea

      Thanks.

      That is a good perspective on posts. I really am just trying to explore ideas, and my ideas are fully mutable.

      I do think that at least in some cases, people say that they are forced or “made to” because intense feelings are scary. Much easier to imagine that they are coming from anywhere but your guts. That’s what I caught myself doing.

      I have a lot to say about serving deities out of love, rather than fear, but I think I’ve said enough for one day. It’s not something I can tackle, right now, without breathing fire.

  4. Silence

    For what it’s worth, my take-away from that particular post was that the relationships we share with the High Ones can look surprisingly different from their perspective. I think this is a valid and potentially helpful point to make; it reminds me that I can’t always assume that I know everything there is to know about any relationship I’m part of. There is always another party whose thoughts and feelings I have to consider.

    Though I have a different opinion on whether or not deities can claim people, your willingness to own up to your feelings in an honest and forthright manner is very admirable. I’m sure I’ve myself avoided looking at the choices I make in a thoroughly honest way because there’s sometimes a convenient blind of my obligation to the Powers to hide behind (in fact, I’m rather doing that now with regards to a new undertaking). Calling out this behavior in one’s self is, I think, part of learning how to separate truths from non-truths.

    • Thenea

      That part, that deities might have their own cultural perspective that is non-identical to ours, and that human opinions are not the only valid ones, I do still very much agree with.

      It’s fair to have different opinions. The Jews have a saying, “For every two of us, there are three opinions.” I think differing perspectives should be celebrated.

      And thank you. I am striving for clarity. We all are. It’s hard. Sometimes, arguing helps. 😉

  5. caseyhamilton2015

    Admitting when one is in the wrong always is teh suck. However, one of the first things I learned when first encountering BDSM is that the best doms always apologize when they are wrong. Being an ethical human being is a tough row to hoe, and not one that I think anyone ever gets perfectly right. Forgive yourself, and try to let it go. Hugs.

  6. Raibeart Dall

    Despite having slightly differing views on wherever or not a deity can “claim” someone, I adored reading this post, and would drink to it with some White Lightning.

  7. Laine DeLaney

    “I really wanted to just not engage with people who thought that such a claim meant that I was a godslave, an oracle, an uber-priestess, or whatever else. It doesn’t mean any of that. There is nothing in any ancient tradition that I’m aware of that equates divine marriage with any such thing.”

    Thank you for that. I’m glad that before all this started for me someone had made that clear in a conversation, and I’m glad more people are clarifying that. This and the other post really hit me over the heart. They came at a time shortly after I came back from a journey saying, “I CAN’T BE A GODSPOUSE. I can’t be one of those people.” and then realized that that was insulting a lot of people that I admire and respect. I sat down and deconstructed all of the reasons that the idea bothered me socially. A lot of them match the things you talk about here.

    The idea of being “claimed” at a point in my life where I’m just re-discovering my own autonomy from an oppressive, toxic, and in some ways abusive relationship that subsumed my identity was one of the biggest ones. The idea of not having a choice (which really seemed to be what He was conveying at first) was terrifying and upsetting – but I was corrected on it by a power that I trust. The idea of having to come out to other people about it, that even people who were open-minded might reject me, was too familiar from other “coming out” times I’ve had in my life (and I’d been bragging that my closet was empty, clean, and open-air for months; I should know better).

    So thank you for the posts and for the discussion that they’ve spawned! It’s been helpful to someone new to this kind of get over their panic and fear to have this kind of frank discussion going on.

  8. caseyhamilton2015

    I just had me a thinky thought: what if, in this whole notion of “claimed” and “claiming”, we reverse the polarity, so to speak. What if, instead of we “belong” somehow to Them, we see it as They “belong” to us. Just a hmm.

    • Thenea

      I think it is a matter of “fitting together”
      that is perceived as a calling, due to the Puritan influence in our culture.

      I often like to say that my personality has a “Hermes-shaped hole.” — That is, I’m lopsided, in terms of what I’m good at, and in many ways, I’m more well-rounded for working with him.

      Another person might look at it and say, “Oh, my life sucked because Hermes was calling me, and punishing me for not answering.”

      I think, instead, “Oh, yeah, I always kinda sucked at these certain things. Good thing Hermes is here.”

      But it is two ways of describing an identical phenomenon.

    • aediculaantinoi

      Unfortunately, I’ve met more than one person who thought certain Deities that at times have been relatively obscure belonged to them and them alone, and no one else could or should have relationships with them. Not surprisingly, perhaps, one such individual’s cultus to said Deity has become so much more both a cult of personality of that one supposed devotee, and likewise a cultus to a personal daimon that is the creation of that individual rather than what the Deity actually is.

      Needless to say, things turn bad when people think Deities are their territories into Whom to stick flags.

  9. aoibheall52

    Many hugs to you for your courage in talking about this. I have to admit that the first time I heard the term and discovered what it meant I had the ‘that’s delusional ‘ reaction which is so common. But I admired the person saying it and so I had to reconsider my initial thoughts. Your argument as to why a marriage would come about makes perfect sense and you owe no one an apology or explanation. If someone has a problem with this it’s THEIR problem, not yours. Maybe it’s just easier for us to believe that the gods love generically rather than individually because we’re afraid of being rejected. Anyway, kudos to you and congrats to both of you!

    • Thenea

      Thanks. Honestly, I don’t think deities reject people unless a relationship between that mortal and deity would be harmful to the mortal or the deity. Hermes, certainly, would never reject a human, unless they were like, a genocidal maniac or something.

      It’s a very popular notion that humans are too small for deities to see us or care. I think that idea is an import from monotheism, which, ironically, has a very rich tradition of spousal mysticism. While my relationship is certainly personal and specific, he’s honestly like this with bunches people. I very frequently see him on the astral with his various human paramours of various genders. So, he is generally very specific in his affection for us. He’s got a lot of bandwidth, and no one goes unseen.

      I, too, thought the notion of godspousery was a little odd. Like, why would you do that? What does it mean? So, out of sheer curiosity, I started reading god spouse blogs to try to understand what it was before I passed any kind of judgment.

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