Spend time in various Pagan chatrooms and you will probably hear someone talking about or asking about the relationship a “good” pagan should have with their Gods. It’s a normal question and one that should be addressed by someone.
Now, far be it from me to say that this humble article will answer this question once and for all, but I hope to be able to address most of this question and thereby give you, the reader, tools to be able to find the answers for you.
For that is the secret of this kind of relationship with a God or Goddess, finding the answer for yourself. Your relationship with your gods are not going to be the same as my relationship with my Gods, and how I interact with Them will be different from how you interact with Them for yourself. But hopefully common ground can be found.
So when talking about relationships first one needs to consider “what kind” of relationship you want. This first step is important because it’s going to set the tone for the rest of the relationship you have with this deity. Think about all the human interaction relationships you have. Teacher/Student, Boss/Employee, Parent/child, Siblings, Friend/Friend, Husband/Wife, Co-workers, Master/Slave and many more. Each of these relationships has a different dynamic, and in some cases are SO strange that they are their own class of interactions.
I have personally lived through every one of these relationships with my Gods, and I learned from each as well.
Oh don’t look at me that way, I have a VERY personal and comfortable relationship with my deities, and it’s based on interacting with them on these levels. But let me explain something to you that should be obvious but sometimes isn’t.
You have to learn and get to know the gods you wish to worship to have ANY kind of relationship with them. That’s the very basic thing you have to have. Yes, it is nice to open Bullfinch’s or Mythology and pull up a list that tells you what this deity is and isn’t for, but that only gives you the bare basics of what kind of person your God is.
See, most practitioners of BTW find that in order to know the mysteries of a deity; you actually have to STUDY that deity. Not just read one correspondence chart of attributes about that deity, but actually look into the background and mythology of the god in question. That’s a good start. It’s like doing a background check on a prospective employee. Doing this will help you get a good “feel” for who is out there and what they tend to be like.
For instance, many people can tell you that Dionysus is the God of Wine in Greek Mythology, after all, that much appears Edith Hamilton’s Mythology. But can they tell you what colors are sacred to him, what his favorite animal is? Does he own a cat or a dog? Why is he associated with wine? Is he a fun or violent drunk? Does he have an enemy among the other Gods? Is he married? What stories are told about him? Since he is the god of wine, can his priests perform rituals while drunk? Does worshiping him require you to become a vintner?
All these questions and a WHOLE lot more are answered in His mythology. Those rumors and items are as important as his name, for they define who the God is and what they feel and believe. Without knowing them, you can’t make a good judgment as to if this deity is going to be right for you or if you can learn from them. Because that’s important too.
Your needs are just as important in this process as the deity themselves. If vain and silly people, like Cheerleaders, turn you off then you probably shouldn’t worship Venus. If you feel that practical jokes are something everyone needs in their life, then Loki may be more appealing to you than someone like Odin who hates those kinds of jokes.
Once again, you need to be honest in your needs from a deity, since they are going to be part of your life for the rest of yours and probably after. This is why the American Indian Medicine Men didn’t pick a Spirit to work with; they allowed those Spirits to manifest as they decided to and to reveal themselves to the Medicine Man. They would meditate on what they felt; who they were, and they would seek their Spirit. This is what would have been called a “Spirit Quest” or “Vision Quest” to discover themselves and their Spirits.
Once you know what you feel you need from a Deity, and it is by NO MEANS guaranteed that you will get what you feel you need, you look at Gods that are compatible with your needs. You investigate them. You can start with a basic primer on mythology in this step since you are only getting an overview of Them. You move to more in depth investigation of those gods that interest you. Sometimes this will lead you in very different directions. Go with those side paths as you may find that they give you much more information than just straight study alone will.
Talk to others. There is no shame in asking for help and for resources to use. Because you don’t know a specific deity’s name is does not mean that they are not right for you. So ask around. Heck, it may be that you are a masochist and that Loviator would be a better match for you than Hel is anyhow.
Once you find your deity, this next step is critical. Talk to them. Invite them into your home and into your life. Associate with them. Give them offerings of their favorite foods; share your day with them. And LISTEN to them. There are many times when they will speak to you, but you have to stop talking long enough to hear them speaking.
And now we come to “what kind of relationship do you want to have with Them?” Keep in mind that while the relationship can change, it’s going to “color” everything you do and say and are with that specific Deity for a long time to come. One can become friends with the parent, but it’s still going to have baggage from when it was parent/child, even though now it’s friends.
An example of this is my relationship with my deities. Rhiannon of the Birds is my Goddess and Herne the Hunter is my God. They have been in these positions since I started on this Wiccan/Pagan path, and are still in those positions today. When I started, I asked Rhiannon to be my Mother and Herne to be my Father and we worked from there.
I didn’t know much, I had a lot of exploration of myself to do, but we came through it.
These days the relationship is more a “working partners” relationship in which neither of us is greater than the other, but all of us work together to accomplish our goals. But there is still that tone of voice Rhiannon sometimes drops into that snaps me back into “little boy” mode, and brother does it feel weird to be in that position again. And She is still the Lady I run to when I hurt for comfort.
There are some special cases that need to be looked at for a bit. One of those is the “mentor” deity.
Here you have been practicing a while and you are comfortable with the Gods you chose, and they are comfortable with you. Suddenly there is this other deity that is pounding on your skull to get inside and start doing and being for you. They are being VERY insistent and won’t take “no” for an answer. All is lost, right?
Um, not quite. See, this deity who is showing up now is there for a specific purpose, namely to teach you a lesson or fifty. It is a specific, limited time mentoring in THIS aspect of the multiverse. They have not taken over, they have not supplanted your normal deities nor have they tapped you for a random reason. Most likely what has happened is that They were approached by YOUR deity to teach you what you need to know. And it’s good that they do so, since not every deity is competent in all aspects of life and magick and so on, so sometimes they “tag out” like this and let another take over your education.
It’s hard when this happens since normally it happens in the background and you are presented with a fait accompli, and you had NO choice in the matter. And the longer you progress spirituality the more things like this are going to happen. Rhiannon may be aces when it comes to love, birds, horses, the Bright World, but I don’t think she would be that comfortable trying to teach me about the nature of the Sea or War. That’s for someone like Mannanan mac Llyr and The Morrighan to teach.
Another aspect that I’m going to discuss is “Deity as Goad”. Those of you who have lived through this are laughing; those of you who haven’t are confused.
A goad is a stick, quite simply. It is used to get any herd animals moving. A Shepard’s crook is an example of a goad. It is used to hit the slowest animal with to get them to move along.
Sometimes deities pick you because of some potential they see in you. They will focus on that and shamelessly use you to further their ends while at the same time making sure that you don’t remain stagnant and that you continue to grow. If you want a REALLY good visual on what this is like, watch the training sequences from “The Empire Strikes Back”. Now, put yourself in Luke’s place, and the deity in the place of Yoda. Yoda basically irritates Luke to improve and learn, mostly because he’s poking him with a stick to get him moving. The Gods do this too.
I don’t have a clue why. But there are times when the “Deity Grapevine” gets a new tidbit, and that tidbit is you. Your name gets kicked about, and you will have deities coming out of the woodwork and testing you for some reason. Then I guess they do a thing of “odd-man” or draw straws or something, because they all go away and you are left with an IRRITATING deity who keeps poking you to move, when all you want to do is lie where life kicked you. Give it up, do what they want. Trust me; in the long run, you’ll do it anyhow.
Oh, and that reminds me: Teaching. “Spirit is going to teach you the lesson you need to learn. How many times that lesson is presented is entirely up to you.” My wife had a teacher once who came into class, put his books down and looked around. He said “Congratulations, everyone in this class is going to make an A.” The whole class started cheering. He waited until the ruckus died down. “How many times you have to take a test to get that A is up to you. Welcome to Behavioral Psychology 101.”
I sometimes wonder if the people who state things like this were looking over the Gods’ shoulders when they were reading the training manual. This is exactly how They operate. If you don’t get the lesson the first time, they will keep patiently presenting it until you finally DO get it and move on past it. Sometimes in the presentation of these lessons, they escalate them to drive the point home.
I had a sit down with a psychic in Georgia named Bob Plumber. He wound up becoming a good friend of mine. He presented me with that “Spirit is going to teach you…” line in one reading he did for me. Indicators had been pointing to me needing to get a new job and leave Domino’s for some time, and I ignored them.
My car broke. Not just broke, the fan belt shredded on me JUST at the tail end of a delivery cycle. Been driving all day and no problem, 10 minutes to go on my way back IN from a delivery, rubber pieces flying everywhere. Warning 1, ignored. Got it fixed and kept going. A month goes by and I just replaced my brake pads. Rain in the air, slick streets. Coming back from Long John Silver’s with lunch for everyone, going down hill. The car in front of me slams on her brakes. I slam on mine. The brakes grab, the tires didn’t. I slide into the back end of her Cadillac Seville (less than two years old) with my 1976 Toyota Celica four speed. Totaled my car. The fan was pushed back into the radiator, and the engine moved back a good 6 inches to rest against the firewall. Better than $300 in damages to her car. Warning 2. I listened. I really didn’t want to die in an auto accident to get Warning 3.
Another relationship that I need to talk about is the “tapped by the Gods”. This usually grows out of the previous relationship. In this one, you wind up doing all these weird things for no damned reason you can see. You get up and wind up standing in a park, full metaphysical regalia, waiting for something to happen. Hours go by and nothing happens. You pack up and go home.
This is commonplace. It’s part of the job description and all you can do is get used to it. This is a case of “The Gods know more than I do, and my presence here changed something.” You just had a major role to play, but it was in a game being waged on other worlds that you have no clue about. Perhaps your presence shored up a hole in reality that prevented something from crossing. Perhaps, like a chessboard, your presence took away a line of attack for someone else. Perhaps it was a matter of exercising control over you for a bit. No way of knowing and no way of telling. Just bow, say “Yes, my Lord” and move on.
See, the Gods know more than you do. It may look like they are bumbling idiots in some cases if you read the myths, but they ultimately know MUCH more than you do if only because they have access to more information. After all, the Akashic record is RIGHT THERE. Because of that they know that there is the potential for something to happen, but not that it will. Sending you to that park could simply be a preparatory move on the Gods’ part to avert something that might happen. It could also be a stopgap measure. But trust that they know why you moved there and that there actually IS a purpose.
See, now it becomes about trust. How much do you trust your Deity to not screw you over? Despite the reputations some Gods have, they don’t run around and indiscriminately screw their devotee’s lives over. That’s not done. After all, if I (as a god) kept terrorizing and frightening my worshipers, kept them fearful of me and my actions, I wouldn’t have very many worshipers, now would I? Okay, I’ll grant you Christianity has done pretty well, but that’s only ONE religion. Okay, Judaism too. And I’ll grant you Islam…. (whispered to offstage…) Damn… that many? No mistake? Count it again. Really. Half. Okay then.
Ummm, bad example. I guess half the world’s population does make for a substantial chunk. (shudder) My (teeth gritting snapping) bad….
Anyhow, all kidding aside, I don’t know if that’s reflective upon the religion or the need for humanity to have an abusive deity to blame everything on. “The Devil made me do it because God said he was to make me do it so it’s GOD’s fault that I spent everything on the horses at the track and not on rent because Gawd sent the music “Fugue to Tinhorns” to my car radio JUST as I was passing the bookie…” It’s sad really.
But that is another aspect that can occur. Normally it take s several years to develop the relationship to this point where they are actively using you as a pawn or knight in their games. Sorry, being a Knight is about as high as you may expect to be, and in the Game of the Gods, I’d only rate Merlin at about a Bishop or so. Certainly not higher.
Also remember, the Gods like to be noticed. I recently had an experience that was very enlightening in many ways. I was reading a book by a friend of mine that described the Northern Traditions in such a way that someone who had no idea about any of it could grasp. In this book was a large chapter dealing with the Gods of the Northern Traditions. And a substantial amount of material was dedicated to discussing them as people. Although I am not a follower of those traditions, there is some overlap in the Seax-Wica way that I do practice, as well as my own Druidism practice. Plus there was once a time when I was VERY interested in the Norse deities and studied them extensively. I, quite frankly, judged how good a book of mythology was on whether or not they had a section on the Norse deities.
While I was reading that book, the deities mentioned in there showed up in my house. I read about them, and suddenly I would feel a PRESENCE as that deity showed up and basically read over my shoulder, agreeing or disagreeing with what was written. I was not entirely in ignorance of these personages, but it was a humbling experience and one that I will never forget.
Something else to remember is that you can’t take the myths at face value. There are stories that give a bad spin on some deities for various reasons, and generally they tend to paint the same god with the “evil, vindictive prick” brush. What you are seeing is ancient spin doctoring. The storytellers had an agenda they wanted to perpetuate through their stories, so they would tell these stories with an emphasis on various aspects they wanted to perpetuate. They would minimize and marginalize those aspects of the stories that would disprove or vindicate the deities in question. So we have the person with a political agenda telling us the rumor or story about the gods that he wants you to hear.
What’s the best lie in the world? Tell just a little bit of the truth, and shut up. Let the audience draw their inferences from what they have heard, not from what you said.
Centuries later this story gets written down and it looks like these Gods are either idiots or vindictive assholes. Well, considering the agenda of those who wrote the stories down, it’s not surprising.
So the myths are in error as well, but you can still get a basis or a starting point for your study of a deity. Basically you start with the deity, read the myths. Most times there is no reason to change the deity’s favorite color, or their companion animal’s name and so on. The moral of the story is what is in trouble, and why the deity did something. So take it with a grain of salt, as you would any rumor on someone you cared about.
One thing that consistently gets forgotten by everyone, including VERY experienced practitioners (myself included) is that the Gods are simply evolved people. They have good days, bad days, PMS, They yell when they smash Their thumb with a hammer, and so on. They have human wants and needs. They have transcended many of those needs it’s true, but there are still times when They need validation and love. There have been times when I have had to defend my deities to other gods because they needed my help.
Also as part of that, don’t think that you can deny your deity and get away with it. I once read a story at the head of an article in Dragon Magazine (Advanced Dungeons and Dragons) about a man who had a shield and it had a portrait of his deity on the face of it. He meets an ogre and the ogre challenges him to a fight since he’s devoted to the “smiling one”. The warrior claims he found the shield (since he didn’t want to fight the ogre by himself). The ogre lets him pass on that basis, but when the man checks the shield face again, the portrait is gone. Which means that his deity removed his support from that man, and all his blessings with it.
Just as we would be offended and upset should our child deny that we were their parent, or our friend deny us to another, so too the Gods get upset if we do that to Them. They need our love and support. Just as we need Them to sustain us and teach us, they need us to love and care for Them or they disappear back into myths in the past.
From a personal insight, I think that would be a crime.
When I was Mormon, everything was about Heavenly Father. Everything that I got was because He Willed it, and everything I had blow up on me was because I was acting in contravention of His Will. Nothing happened that He didn’t have a hand in. When I got appendicitis and nearly died, it was because He wanted me home, my mission on Earth was done. But when the doctors saved my life (literally, the appendix exploded in the jar less than 2 minutes after they got it out) it was because Heavenly Father heard the prayers of my mother and His priests and so allowed me to remain alive.
But looking around the world, colors were washed out. There wasn’t any contrast; all of it had the same blandness about it that I interpreted to be how it was.
Then I met Herne and Rhiannon. For a while they were very standoffish. I didn’t know who they were; They didn’t know me. But I spent time with Them, I learned from Them, I spoke with Them, I interacted with Them and life occurred.
I looked around and saw colors in the petals of flowers I had never seen before. I could hear the song of the grass as it whispered to the snake and told it what was happening. I got to watch the miracle of a chick hatching in a wren’s nest from the perspective of the tree holding them. I learned sacred secrets about the world and I stopped worrying about the ultra long-term and the long-term, and focused instead on the immediate.
I learned that no, life on this planet is not random or chance, that life was planned and it had no choice to manifest, as it has countless other times. It’s what we do from here that is important.
I have Loved Rhiannon as the God to her Goddess. I have Loved her as Son to Mother. I have Loved her as a friend and as a student. I had so many parts of me awakened that I can’t count them. I never had that occurrence under a deity who demanded my worship. For me, meeting Rhiannon and Herne were the beginnings of my real journey, and it’s one that I have been traveling now for almost half my life. It’s a journey I don’t expect to complete this lifetime. And that’s okay.
So when you talk in your websites and journals and books of shadows about your relationship with the Gods, be honest with yourself and understand that a relationship goes both ways. If you had a friend who you gave and gave and gave and gave and gave to without ever getting anything back, do you think you would stay around them for a while? Probably not. But if you had a friend, even if they didn’t have a body, who you enjoyed spending time with to the exclusion of all others, do you think that would be worth it?
Do you think you could put up with the things asked of you in exchange for someone who you truly love being by your side all the time? I know I could.
Finally just a few more points. If you go through this entire process, and you discover that the deity you hoped isn’t the deity for you? Talk to Them about it. They may have been thinking about it as well and may have someone else more suited to you in mind. Don’t hide this from your Gods. They will know when you are full of it and They will know when to quit.
Despite everything others tell you, the Gods really do have your best interests at heart. Where it gets messed up is when they start having to deal with people.