Sacred Dissobedience 

 

Deity: You seem to be in a good situation, with respect to your household. Which of your gods set you up?

Me: I… Actually you can’t credit my gods with this one. Every last one of them told me to stay away from him. I married him anyway. So that’s all me.

I got to thinking about where I’d be today if I had obeyed the gods on this issue.

I never would have finished college. I’d be living in a place isolated from any sort of suitable pagan community. I never would have learned Kabalah, or Ceremonial Magic. I would have been unable to bring those exegetical techniques to Hellenismos.

I would be struggling with poverty. I might not have access to suitable doctors to manage my health conditions. I would be in pain most of the time, and possibly not even know why.

A core tenet of Consent Culture is that each individual knows their own needs best. The gods may be wise with respect to the world, but they do not know me as I know myself. They don’t suffer what I suffer, they don’t live in my body, or drink my water or breathe my air.

It’s clear to me why they didn’t want me with my current mortal husband: he’s in the way of their aims. In order to spend my time or money on any spiritual undertaking, I need to negotiate with him. He’s an obstruction to them.

I must balance what he costs them with what a lack of him would cost me. When I made the decision to stay with him, I did, in point of fact, ask Hermes what he thought. Though every other deity said my disobedience was hubris, Hermes said, “No. If you think this is right, do it.”

Was he completely pleased? No. But he always defers to my sense of what is best for my situation. That is love: a commitment to do right by the beloved. And for this, I will honor him until I die with the highest of honors.

A core tenet of Rape Culture is that those with power have the right to inflict their will on others. If I was an adherent of rape culture, I would be very comfortable saying that what I need means nothing, and that the gods may do what they like with me, to my detriment or not, because they are gods and I am mortal. It would be no more complicated than that. I would accept that saying no to them invites a risk of violence against my person. If it is what men do to women who say no, I should certainly expect no less from my deities. I should be quieter. I should be less noticeable, if I don’t want this sort of treatment. I should make my offerings when they are due, and never when they are not. I should be no more and no less pure than anyone else around me so I don’t stand out. If pursued, I should demure, give unclear and indistinct answers to avoid their rage at being told no.

THIS. IS. RAPE. CULTURE.

And nothing about it is sacred to me.

Instead, I look out for myself. I take care of myself. Instead of living in poverty, I am financially stable. I have the best medical care money can afford. I live where Pantheacon happens. I have access to large spaces for classes and ritual. I have money to give other Pagans and Polytheists a hand up when they need it. I have vitality and energy, and most importantly of all, time, to do their work. Because the god who loves me committed to working with me, rather than establishing his dominance over me by working against me.

If I had obeyed them, I would have done them no service. Hermes knew enough to trust my sense of myself. But, then again, he has and –I believe– will always go to bat for me. And that investment he made in my personal sovereignty and my right to self determination has paid off for him and his entire pantheon a hundred fold.

The gods have profited because of his commitment to consent culture. They have profited because I disobeyed them.

Remember that the next time someone says, “We don’t have the right to say no.” We always have the right to say no to power. Sometimes, saying no to the gods and following through actually helps them in the long run. Sometimes, resisting the government benefits the entire country in the long run.

Disobedience is sacred.

37 comments

  1. aoibheall52

    I wish I could express myself a quarter as well as you. Very true , all of it. Far too many deities believe in and promote the rape culture you speak of. I’m fearful of getting close to any Power that presents as male because of a bad encounter. It’s not fair to the deities that don’t use it and who would work with me otherwise, and it cripples me, but I struggle to trust. You’re so lucky to have Hermes! And he’s lucky to have found you.

    • Thenea

      It’s a sticky pickle, for me.

      I know that gnosis isn’t 100% accurate, and that our cultural biases color how we hear things. I know that bad gnosis is contagious. I also have difficulty believing that a being who is thousands of years old literally has the social-emotional intelligence of a three year old.

      And I do have conversations with spirits who really appear to be confused about how relationships work.

      Them: “If they will not worship me, then they will feel my wrath!”

      Me: “When you hurt people, do you think it makes them like you, or not like you?”

      Them: “They do not need to like me! I am a master of these various forces! I am the owner of these mythological beasts! I have these by-names!”

      Me: “But what are you after? Are you looking for an ally, or an enemy?”

      Them: “… They have to do the thing I need them to do…”

      Me: “So you need their help?”

      Them: “Yes.”

      Me: “Do you think that if you hurt them, they will want to help you?”

      Them: “I… no.”

      Me: “So should you be nice to them, or mean to them?”

      Them: “STOP PATRONIZING ME, MORTAL! IF THEY WILL NOT HELP WILLINGLY, I SHALL FORCE THEM!”

      Me: “If you want friends, you can’t be mean to them. Friends will want to help you. Enemies will not want to help, even if you succeed in forcing them. It’s better to have friends than enemies, yes?”

      Them: “I cannot afford for them to say no!”

      Me: “I know, it’s scary facing rejection. But there are lots of people out there. 7 billion, to be accurate. It’s ok for relationships to not work out sometimes. If this person doesn’t want to be your friend, there are other people. But they definitely won’t want to be your friend if you are mean to them.”

      Them: *Huff* *Puff*

      Me: *Sings the Yo Dabba Dabba Song entitled ‘Don’t Bite Your Friends”*

      I mean, really? You expect me to believe that this is a several thousand year old deity? Even if it isn’t, it’s still worth my time to try to reason with them, since they are less likely to go on to hurt people after that. But no. That’s not an evolved soul of any kind. That’s a child playing a very deadly game of pretend on the astral. But so long as we are looking for beings who match this profile to venerate, we will find them.

      • aoibheall52

        It does seem very strange that an individual could live so long, observing others and interacting with them, and still think that overpowering them will win their willing and enthusiastic assistance. It might do so with some, granted. But if you want a willing partner who is going to use her initiative and intelligence in your favor, surely a little common sense would inform them that winning them over with gentleness is going to gain you so much more than brute force ever will. I’ve heard stories from other people about some of the Norse (naming no names) who tend to be very in-your-face and unwilling to accept refusal. I can imagine that there might be powers in each pantheon who aren’t subtle and are willing to insist. But as you point out, there’s billions of people out there, and surely there’s more than a few who would react positively when courted. I get that people like you are very rare. Most of us can’t hear the entities at all. Some of us only hear them on rare occasions, and then we dismiss it as a random thought formulated by our subconscious. I imagine that the deities, especially at this time, are desperate to get their word out, and will grasp at anyone who can hear them and help them accomplish that. But that doesn’t excuse such behavior, and it doesn’t help the deity in question if he gets a bad rep that causes would-be followers to run from him. I guess age doesn’t guarantee evolution.

      • Thenea

        Right. And I believe the Norse clergy who said this to me. And as a result, I will never attend a devotional for this pantheon, never facilitate communication between one of these deities and a mortal (other than Loki, whom Hermes has vouched for) and certainly never do any work for them. I recognize that there is spiritual work to do there that I just cannot do right now. Some day, in the future, when half the stories out of that pantheon aren’t about the deities hurting people, I might look into it. I’ll wait until the deities clean it up first.

      • aoibheall52

        One hopes that they will do so. It’s incomprehensible to me that anything that old should lack wisdom. Experience should count for something! Even observation should teach.

      • Thenea

        Which is why I find it impossible to believe that they are actually dealing with anything that’s actually that old.

      • aoibheall52

        In one of your recent posts something popped up and pretended to be Hebe, and Hermes took it away. Was he right there at the time, or did he notice it and show up to deal with it? We want so badly to believe that we’re easy to sucker into worship. I could be wrong, but I’ve always felt that a deity would be able to know when something is impersonating it. Maybe I assign them too much power, or foreknowledge, or something.

      • Thenea

        All I know is that since I have gotten close to and built trust with various gods in that pantheon, I have gotten better at spotting false gods, that they approach me less frequently, and that when they do show up, I seldom have to evict them myself, for what it is worth.

  2. mirron91

    That is a really good relationship in general. I don’t think any of the Gods I work with would be especially forceful on something like that, which is a good thing.

  3. Jamie Legaspi

    Oh hell yes.

    Thanks to my marriage to Dionysus, Zeus is acting supremely entitled to my attention and has pissed off much of the Greek pantheon because of it, including many of his children and Hera. I called him out on acting like the own low-rent “has sex with anything” cardboard-cutout version of himself when he’s supposed to be the dignified king of the gods and protector of guests/foreigners, but he kind of floored me when he pointed out that I WASN’T a foreigner (anymore)–I’m married to one of his sons. And since I get along with Dionysus so well, why on earth am I so scared of him?

    Hera and Dionysus promptly told him that RELATIONSHIPS DON’T WORK THAT WAY. Maybe Zeus is also the king of compartmentalizing? His children (as far as I’ve experienced) are FAR more modern than he is. Hera is also thankfully on my side, despite the whole “Zeus has a thing for a mortal” issue that’s usually a death-sentence in the myths.

    It’s probably because 1) I take my marriage to Dionysus seriously, and 2) said marriage has come about because I have a score of emotional issues, and his thing is mental illness. Hera’s already told me several times that if I let Zeus do anything because he pressured me into it or I just want to get rid of him, she won’t hold it against me.

    It seems Zeus is actively REFUSING to acknowledge that people won’t automatically fall all over him anymore just because he’s a really hot deity, not that he’s been stuck in an Ancient Greek bubble for millennia. (Forgetting that he clearly abused a lot of mortals and some of his children in his peak of worship. But shh, compartmentalizing.) For me this makes sense, because “old-fashioned relatives who refuse to budge on social issues” are really common.

    After Zeus’ most boneheaded stunt of trying to disguise himself as Dionysus because he thought I’d trust him better (as opposed to its actual result of “making me paranoid around BOTH OF THEM”), Dionysus told me earlier this week that if I can’t deal with his dad barging into my headspace and trying stuff with literally nobody’s permission, I can end the marriage if I have to since it’s clearly on the verge of a spiritual safety hazard and the only thing he’s socially allowed to do in terms of holding Zeus accountable is yell at him (while fast-balling the issue to my patron the Morrigan, who IS allowed to smack Zeus in the face). And I’m just thinking, “Why didn’t Zeus become a problem BEFORE I spent a year with you helping me sort out my issues?” especially after reading this line:

    “I must balance what he costs them with what a lack of him would cost me.”

    I am legit surprised at how badly I reacted to Dionysus offering to ending the marriage. Bro’s first main contact with me was “wandering drunk into my meditations and sometimes mooching off the other gods’ offerings,” but he’s surprisingly good at being a decent husband. Unlike his dad, unfortunately.

    • Thenea

      Thought: Maybe have a frank and open conversation with Hera about apotheosis. Zeus may be trying to follow the old template of the Divine Antagonist from Greek Mythos to help you attain their brand of immortality. There are other paths than “deity being a full-on douche to the mortal in question.”

      • Jamie Legaspi

        Thank god Zeus’ eyes can’t be hidden for too long whenever he shapeshifts. They’re like little sparks of lightning and that’s a VERY distinct energy–maybe his weather/sky aspects are why he scares me so much? I sometimes see hints of his godly form (or “a semblance of his godly form that doesn’t turn me insane or kill me”) and bro is FUCKING MADE OF STORM-CLOUDS AND LIGHTNING. Half the reason I freak out when he’s there is because his energy is just so BIG.

        I managed to talk to him over breakfast a few days back, and he is not, in fact, a total douchebag. He intended his actions to be friendly, and he doesn’t like that he’s constantly scaring me instead. Like, that thing I said about Zeus pretending to be Dionysus because “she’ll trust me better?” It wasn’t an excuse to trick me into doing shit. He literally wants me to trust him better, and he figured pretending to be my husband would speed things along.

        It seems he’s TRYING to show his protective/loving aspects, but his methods and personality are getting in the way. It really doesn’t help that I have a lot of dad issues (among the many things that Dionysus is helping me with).

        Then Zeus pointed out that “You love men! Your play is full of hot men! Why are you so scared of ME?” in reference to the giant-ass superhero play I’m writing. It’s about Asian-American gangsters who flip the stereotype and become superheroes, and one of the main characters is my Asian-American ancestor who’s been seriously damaged from the street life, while another character is me, helping him through his issues to acknowledge his badassery. A lot of manly-man spirits have been working with me on it, and they’re amused that such a ridiculously masculine play came out of me.

        There are definite signs of apotheosis, just not in the classical Greek sense. My spirit-brother is constantly saying that I turned him into a superhero, and by writing myself into the play, I made myself into a superhero. BOTH of us, not just him. My intent for writing it seems to be a BIG reason–I don’t just want to take down Asian-American stereotypes or have fun playing a superhero, I did it because the first damn thing I found out about my spirit-brother was that he jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge and I kept thinking, “Honey, no. You died but you can’t let go of all that baggage? I’m going to make you a superhero so you can stop hurting.”

        I was surprised-but-not-really when I found out that this is how myths get started. “Here, Hurting Spirit. I have food and songs, and I’m going to make up awesome stories so you feel better.”

        Maybe Zeus wants to help me bridge the gap between my spiritual self who’s extremely in touch with men, and my non-spirit self who’s constantly depressed/fearful because of toxic masculinity. I’d have to get to the point where I can talk to him without things devolving into a mess, but I’ll definitely ask Hera in the meantime.

      • Thenea

        If he can’t even have a rational conversation with his wife present, then I know what the problem is. And if you are willing to have your paradigm shattered and turned inside out a few times, I can probably guide you through fixing this.

      • Jamie Legaspi

        Yep, Hera went “HONEY, DO NOT DROP YOUR GUARD YET. He plays up the ‘I meant well and I’m so sorry’ thing so you’ll start thinking you’re wrong for being scared of someone who outsizes you in EVERY WAY POSSIBLE.”

        I pointed out that he might legitimately feel sorry about scaring me all the time, and she just went “Of course he feels bad, but that doesn’t mean he RESPECTS you now. Did he change how he acts, or is he trying to make YOU change?”

        It’s kind of scary how she and Dionysus can sniff out patterns with me every five seconds, so I have to remind myself that Zeus’ wife and son know him a LOT better than I do.

        By all means, help me out if you think you know this situation. It’s exhausting.

      • Thenea

        You’re stuck in a myth loop. I have been there. There are more metaphysics of the existence of deities than I want to get into in a comment’s thread, and what I’ve got to say is too controversial for a public thread.

        Magickfromscratch at gmail. Pop me a line.

  4. owanderer

    FFFFFFFFFFFFF THIS IS WHY I HAVE BEEN SO EFFIN SCARED OF MY DEITIES FOR FIVE YEARS. I’ve been convinced they followed the model of rape culture, but they don’t, not at all. I thought maybe these fears were a weird leftover from Christianity of God-punishing-humanity but it’s literally just rape culture messing up my practice AGAIN. UGH. Thank you for articulating this!!!

    For half a year now the deities of my heart have been super enthusiastic about contracts! I state my needs, they get clear boundaries, they understand what they’ll get from me, etc. We have important rules about how the relationship works and it’s awesome. Seriously these contracts are so great. It’s revolutionizing my practice. I’m not as anxious about messing up in my practice because we have clear definitions on what happens in the relationship.

    I’ve actually based the contracts off of BDSM contracts because they’re very concerned about consent, physical and mental safety, and the wellbeing of all parties. 🙂

    In sum: yay consent culture!

    • Thenea

      I swear, without the BDSM community, we would be so much further behind the 8 ball, in terms of Polytheist mysticism right now.

      I have my hands full with the Greek pantheon, but I honor those hale of body and spirit who are transforming Heathenry and blazing a path where others can follow, in a way that is affirming of human well being and consent culture.

  5. thetricksterwolfe

    This is why I am really glad that my first real interaction with deities was with Loki. He was very clear that He wanted a relationship based on consent not obedience. Being His devotee, especially after I oathed to Him, has really impacted how other deities interact with me and how I interact with them. I don’t really interact with the other Norse gods on a frequent basis, but when I have it hasn’t been in that demanding setting that a lot of people experience.

    I have even had other deities comment (or complain) about my commitment to a more contractual style of working with them. It is often in the form of a frustrated “Oh, you’re one of Loki’s alright” but then they usually go along with making a more contractual obligation because they know that they won’t get anywhere otherwise.

    I think the most trouble I have had with deities not understanding the concept of consent and contracts is from both ancient deities and the Christian god. My close friend, who also prefers the contractual style of working with deities, had a run in with what we think was a prehistoric deity. He could not even begin to wrap his head around a contractual relationship. He could only understand humans throwing themselves at his feet and completely obeying him. There were a lot of disturbing sexual overtones to what he was implying as well. Needless to say, we made sure to cut him off right quick, though he tried to worm his way back more than once.

    The Christian god was another situation where he just would not let go. I left the church at a young age, but was approached by the archangel Uriel when another friend got back into the church. For awhile everything was okay. Loki was a bit uncomfortable with it, but He seems to be suspicious of any new deity or spirit that starts hanging around. (Going back to consent though, Loki has always emphasized that who I work with is my choice and that as much as He cares about me, He cannot teach me everything and that I should expose myself to other ways of thinking.)

    As time went on though, Uriel and other angels would keep asking more and more and would try to drag me into situations that they had no right to do so. Heck, I wasn’t even devoted to the Christian god in any capacity. I called them out on it and they were pissed off. I ended it at that point and made it crystal clear that they were not allowed in my life anymore and if they tried anything, I was prepared to banish them.

    • Thenea

      I wonder how many of these experiences are caused by the messages we unconsciously process about power and authority in our culture and in the media — just ground into the fabric of our unconscious minds since the time we are able to understand language, and always coloring how we see power, and deities. And how much of it is just that consent culture is so new.

      I know enough to know that not everything a mystic sees on the astral that looks like a deity is actually a deity.

      I also strongly suspect that if we start banishing manifestations of deities that are rapey, we will start to see fewer incidents of people’s consent being violated. Whether it is because we are rejecting rape culture as being a part of spirituality, or simply communicating to deities that they can only have a relationship with us if they respect consent, or simply because the criteria of “must be virtuous, upright, and use power responsibly” just filters out the bottom feeders — doing this will make it better.

      Just be open to re-encountering these same deities with a much more powerful aura of divinity, and being told that it’s actually your first time meeting them. This happened to me a few times when I raised my standards.

  6. Sigrid

    I’m not sure how to make a succinct comment on this, except that it’s refreshing and helpful to read. I’m lacking the support of a Spouse or Relation that loves me or cares about how things affect me, so all the steps I take to dig out of Rape Culture behavior with Them feel like uphill battles fought alone. It’s nice to read an article that reminds me of the reasons I strive for sovereign recognition at all, because most of the time, I just feel hated and singular in that endeavor. Thank you for sharing your experiences.

    • Thenea

      You are anything but singular. There are plenty of Polytheists out there that see and recognize that this is a problem. Even if we aren’t quite sure what the solution is.

      • Sigrid

        It’s a breath of fresh air to find other people that recognize the problem, rather than the troubling, difficult mindset of sacrificing it all to a point of personal detriment. It’s been harder for me to find Deities that understand, which I think feels somehow lonelier and disappointing, as if Powers should know and act better, but choose to not make decent choices.

      • Thenea

        I hear that. As long as the community as a whole does not reject deities on these grounds, deities like that will be around. But if those of us who are looking for deities to be better and do better band together, then the beings that other people choose to worship are not our problem.

        I found good gods. I promise you that it’s possible.

      • Sigrid

        I hear that, too. So true. And I’m glad to meet others that feel the same. 🙂

        I hope it’s possible. Your experiences make it sound more promising than not — but I admit, most of the time now, it seems hopeless. I haven’t worked with a single one so far that didn’t come out of personal gain or under false pretenses for the benefit of someone else, then jumped ship on me.

        But perhaps at some point?

        *determined face*

  7. Pingback: Divine/Non-Corporeal Abuse | Ethical Chaos
  8. samrtalek

    Not that anyone asked, but…

    “A core tennant of Consent Culture…”
    “A core tennant of Rape Culture…”

    Maybe that was supposed to be “tenet” (“a principle, belief, or doctrine generally held to be true; especially : one held in common by members of an organization, movement, or profession” — Merriam-Webster)?
    The word is often confused with “tenant” (“a person who occupies land or property rented from a landlord” — dictionary.com).
    “Tennant” is not a word in English, though it is a reasonably common last name; most famous one being David
    Tennant, who played the 10th Doctor on the revived “Dr Who” teevee series.
    Hope this is of help; if not, feel free to delete, of course.
    Cheers

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