When the Gods Push Too Far…

Twisted Rope has posted a thoughtful article here. It’s an important topic and one I think should be discussed more often: is it possible for the Gods to go too far and what do you do if this happens to you? In tandem with Twisted Rope’s post going up, someone emailed me asking what I thought about it, since I belong to a God known for pushing His people very hard. I hadn’t intended to write a post about this, but then I started to feel pushed to do so. This is something that has been a constant for me for more than twenty years. It’s not something that we generally discuss openly in our communities (I don’t know why not. For me, I think I just take it as a matter of course, and being Odin’s I have a perspective on it that tends to make me come across as quite cold. Also, there are other reasons that I’ll discuss in the body of this post). There is such a thing as “spiritual trauma,” but that can be tremendously productive if it’s worked through. Even that, when there are good pastoral counseling texts available, and a corpus in numerous religions attesting to it, is largely ignored. Maybe it’s time for more voices to be heard on this topic, so here I am, writing a post I don’t want to write, when I’m sitting here with a headache, irritable and tired and wanting nothing more than a hot bath and bed. Note the irritable part, it will likely affect my tone.

I have found from the very beginning of my spiritual journey (i.e. the part of it that I was consciously participating in as a reasoning young adult onward instead of just following along with my family as we all are, at times, wont to do) that the Gods do indeed push us to be better. They push us toward becoming better, more fully engaged human beings, more fully ourselves. They push us toward authenticity. They push us to stop making excuses for ourselves and to live mindfully. They push us to own our shit and own our choices and consciously make choices: in our lives, in devotion, in who we are going to become. I think that’s a good thing. I also think it fucking sucks like nothing else at times. The Gods challenge us to grow. It hurts. Sometimes it’s agony. But, if we engage and push forward and listen amazing things can come of that. We are transformed. We become part of a process beyond anything that we could possibly have expected. It goes miles beyond self-actualization.

I started out, once I started making my spiritual choices for myself, with Sekhmet. She was the first Deity that I felt “come calling,” so to speak. I credit Her with my early breaking and yes, I think that is a crucial part of the process. I do not believe this work of spiritual growth can be done without being broken. I think we grow up in a culture and society so mired in its own shit that we drink its poison with our mother’s milk and we are raised to be automatons. Half the work of spiritual living is breaking down that mechanized conditioning. It’s the breaking that lets the Gods in. It’s the breaking that tills the soil preparing it for the seeds of devotion to flourish. It’s the breaking that is the hammering and tempering of the metal that in time may become the finest of blades. Nothing really gets done until you’ve been cracked open at least a bit. Moreover, that’s not a one time process. It’s something that occurs time and time again, over and over. We can work with this process, helping to forge ourselves, or we can fight it tooth and nail or try to turn a blind eye to it, burying our heads in the sand only to be forced to endure the mental disconnect and cognitive struggles that can follow.

When Sekhmet first came for me, She started that process by removing me from everything that both anchored me to my old life and behavior patterns, and kept me tethered. She broke my health first, because had She not, I never would have left a career that would have failed in time to nourish my soul. She took my life. I lost my job, my home, almost all of my friends, the group that had been training me in ritual work, and my sense of who I was as a human being—all the external things that defined me were stripped away and I was forced into a corner where I could give up, go crazy, die or step up, clear away the mental and emotional rubble and set about working with Her to hone myself into a person of character. I could start defining myself by Her rubric rather than my own. It fucking sucked. I have PTSD from that time in my life. There are things still that trigger nightmares and deep anxieties and I’m working through them, and each time I manage to untangle one of those vicious little psychological knots, I’m made stronger and more aware of my own humanity and that is good. I firmly believe that had there been any other way, a way to effect this process without the damage that the Gods would have taken it, but we as a people are very invested in our facades and don’t give them up easily, not even when they are sucking the life out of our very souls. So breaking it is and I thank Her for it.

Then I was taken up by Odin and things really got interesting. He made those early days with Sekhmet look like a delightful walk in the park. Twisted Rope said that it doesn’t seem that leaders in the Kemetic religion have gone through this process. I can’t speak for Kemetics, but I’ve been told that I’m a “big name pagan” and I’d be willing to bet that many have, but just don’t think to talk about it. I know that’s the case with many of my colleagues. These are not things that we share on the internet. They’re not things to which the casual reader is entitled to know. That I am choosing to talk about this at all now is more Odin hammering at my God damned head than my own wish to self-disclose. The ways in which we are broken and shaped by our Gods is some of the most painful, delicate, intimate, and personal work that one can ever undergo. It’s not generally for public consumption. This of course leaves a dearth of places to go to for models or advice or just the simple knowledge that ‘oh hey, someone else went through this too and they got through it better and stronger than before and here’s how.’ We need to be having these conversations.

Furthermore, I don’t think that the restoration of our traditions is possible without our having gone through this breaking process. A huge, huge part of that process is de-programming. It’s a process that brings liberation and that is necessary for clean, sustainable, authentic work to begin. I also think there’s an attrition rate (and here’s where you can tell I’m Odin’s) and I think there always will be. If there are not records from our polytheistic ancestors of this happening there may be many reasons for that lack. One big one is that there were established mystery cultus. Many of them. One of the things that mystery cultus do is facilitate and guide such a breaking. There was a framework both for understanding this process and for getting through it and for what happened if you didn’t. Those cultures also lacked the monotheistic conditioning that so infests ours. I do think this plays a part. (Though to be fair, I think there’s plenty of evidence for this type of breaking process if one looks hard enough. You’ll find it in allegory, in plays, in the tales told of devotees of the Gods and the consequences for their devotion). One of the things that most disturbed me in Twisted Rope’s narrative is the comment that people who are open about being broken by the Gods, broken and in a state of un-repair are shamed by the community. If this is true, SHAME ON THE FUCKING COMMUNITY. If a person is suffering in their spiritual lives it is the duty of a community to support them. That doesn’t mean coddling and cosseting. It may mean a good, swift kick in the ass at times, but it shouldn’t mean shaming and if I have ever been guilty of this (even if it was perceived by a client rather than my actual intent), than I am deeply sorry and I ask forgiveness for it. No one should be shamed or ostracized for struggling spiritually. If we can’t get that part of “community” right then we should all be deeply ashamed of our failure as human beings.

Before I get too far afield in a rant, I want to thank Twisted Rope for this very courageous post. I also want to take the questions raised one by one and do my best to answer them, from my own experience. I also want to say that not every God works this way. Some don’t do this. They may farm it out to another Deity, mind you, (Good cop/bad cop style) but They don’t do it Themselves; and even if one belongs to or venerates a God notorious for being particularly harsh in this regard (like Odin), it doesn’t mean that it will be part of one’s own spiritual process. We’re individuals and so are the Gods and each relationship has its own patterns. So I don’t’ want to scare anyone away from devotion with this. This type of thing is very individual. I remember during one of my more formal ordeals going through something that I barely got through and that seriously traumatized me at the time. The same thing would have been nothing to my adopted mom. She’d have curled up and gone to sleep happy as a clam. There is a certain subjectivity to this whole process. Don’t assume an inescapable, inflexible certainty from what I write here. Your relationship with your Gods and ancestors is your own.

That being said, I want to get on to Twisted Rope’s questions. (I’ve put the quoted questions in quotes).

What do you do when “you know, when you get tired of a god’s machinations and scheming, or the said god’s schemes push us to a point where we or our ethics can’t handle it.”

Again, that I’m an Odin’s person is showing. That, more than anything else, is going to color my answer here. I think it helps to acknowledge that hierarchy is a very natural thing (whether we want to admit that or not) and the Gods are far above us in the natural order of things. I find it generally misguided to put our ethics before our devotion. Stay with me here because I’m pretty sure I’ve just pissed off or triggered the hell out of half my readers. Stay with me even if you’re pissed. Our ethics are formed from our culture and our society and that is not a culture or society that generally encourages engaged devotion. At least in American culture, the underlying push is for a very evangelical Christianity. Instead of personal powerful devotion, what we get, if anything at all, is insane fundamentalism.

When I say “don’t put your ethics before your devotion to your Gods,” I don’t mean be a brainless son of a bitch and fly a plane into a building. I mean stop, just stop assuming that you have the whole picture, and that you yourself are in control of this relationship. You are not the top here. This is NOT a relationship of equals and it’s NOT a relationship with a human being. That the Gods may take human form, or that we may anthropomorphize them in our devotion and consciousness is a grace allowed us, but They are NOT human. Very few have ever been. Each Deity is a cosmic, sentient Power. Perhaps you are even dealing with One that formed us of its very essence, that knit connection into our very atoms, or One that ordered and organized worlds and planes and countless beings. While we may develop very informal relationships with our Gods, and may at times engage as though They’re our ‘best friends,’ (and I think to a point that’s fine and natural), in the end, particularly when They are pushing you through a process where you don’t want to go, it’s important to recognize that They’re not people. “Ethics,” such as we have, are a lovely excuse to avoid the internal work They set us. I will also say that I have found myself more thoughtful over my actions, over their impact, and more consciously ethical in my conduct as a result of engagement with my Gods. I’m not advocating amorality. I’m advocating that we stop idolizing ourselves and get out of our own ways and trust the Gods we venerate. Trust Them to be Themselves, mind you, but trust that there is a plan and process that will ultimately benefit us and that we don’t always get to know the whole picture. Sometimes it’s just not possible. Sometimes even if we were shown, we wouldn’t be able to comprehend, and that’s terrifying. I admit that this can be terrifying but at some point you have to trust the Gods you’re working with and if you don’t, then you’re just going to be spinning your wheels.

This is a difficult thing to really put into words because our culture values the human over the spiritual and when we don’t, when we see that rubric reversed it’s never healthy. We have suicide bombers, and nutcase Christians, and quiverfull families, and abuse after abuse in all the examples that are given us. We don’t have competent models for this. For me, my relationship with Odin is my relationship with Odin. That doesn’t mean that I want the whole world to venerate Odin, or conform itself to the behavioral code or morals or what have you that He may have nurtured in me. Each person is responsible for their own spiritual relationships. We can support each other and should, but that doesn’t mean we should be compelling others to behave as we do. That’s the piece we get wrong as a …world. But we never think when we’re challenged that perhaps our ethics are wrong, or incomplete, or misguided, or selfish, or naïve or a hundred other things. We assume because we are supposedly civilized westerners that we have a superior set of ethics. That assumption is ingrained in us. Putting it aside long enough to grow into a deeper awareness of the imbalance and pain of the world, and our obligation to do something about those things, is not something most of us are able to even consider. It is, however, at least insofar as I have experienced, utterly essential. What the breaking does, particularly when it challenges our ethics, is shatter the paradigm that we were taught to accept unquestioningly as right, and good, and normal. That the paradigm may be cruel, unhealthy, imbalanced, and at times inhumane never occurs to us.

And seriously, devotional relationships need to be based first and foremost in trust. There is a give and take there, even though it can never be by the very nature of the Beings/beings involved a relationship of equals. There is a reciprocity but I think for that to really be fruitful, we have to first accept that there’s a whole way of being and engaging with the world that we don’t see, that we haven’t even conceived of. We have to accept that what we call our ‘ethics’ may in fact be part and parcel of the very conditioning that keeps us bound. …at least if one wants to move past this particular mental knot. Do it or don’t, personally I don’t care. I’ve had my struggles with this one myself (and you can be damned sure I sought out competent diviners to confirm that my “signal clarity’ was accurate) and it’s a battle each person has to handle for hirself.

“What do you do when the gods push the line too far, push you too far, and you find your patience for it all dries up and disappears? Do you run away? Tell the god in question to pound sand? Do you suck it up and trudge forward?”

Do any and all of that but then come back and continue with your devotions. The Gods can take our anger and pain and rage and hurt and a thousand other things. But when it gets that bad, you can choose – and sometimes it’s a conscious, painful choice every single day—to maintain piety. Yes, I know that’s a bad word today and there are those who bitch, and whine, and moan about the “piety posse” and frankly, they can kiss off. Piety is precisely what we’re talking about. I hold to the Roman view of it: it’s the obligations we have to the Gods, ancestors, the community, our families, and ourselves. It’s how we maintain this network of relationships, how we nourish them and are nourished in turn. Early Christian writers shifted the meaning of this word to “love,” which while I do think ideally devotional relationships are grounded in love, was not part of the word’s original meaning. Piety is doing what you know to be correct with respect to all of the aforementioned relationships even when you don’t want to, don’t feel like it, or it hurts.

Moreover, instead of just trudging forward, consult a diviner, consult a priest, go on a retreat, take a break and do a different kind of devotion. Perhaps seek out another Deity. There’s nothing wrong with that. I have more than once told Odin ‘look, I’m doing my job and I love you but I need to spend some time with Deity X right now. I need a bit of a break. Please just give me a week, or a month.” I keep working on all the internal stuff that might be coming up; I maintain my obligations to Him with respect to work, but I focus my devotions on a different Deity. We’re polytheists. There are many and frankly I firmly believe this was part of the devotional architecture of the polytheistic world that we struggle with. We’re entrained by monotheism to avoid this type of multiple engagement or to feel mildly guilty about it when in reality I think this is part and parcel of the way healthy polytheism works.

“What happens when your relationship with a deity or set of deities becomes so broken that you’re not sure it’s ever going to fix? “

What would you do if it were a human relationship you wanted to maintain? You work at it. You commit to working at it. No one said devotion was easy – I wish more people would talk about how difficult it can sometimes be. All relationships take time and care and patience and I think that’s all the more so when one is engaged in devotion. It doesn’t happen overnight. This is a process, a development, and serious problems can arise. The best advice I can give is that you commit to working them out. Sometimes that means stepping back from the certainty that you won’t be able to fix it and making the conscious choice to stay the course. So much of devotion is about choice over and over again. It’s a daily, conscious choice. There are tools that we can use to help us with this, but in the end, regardless of how much support or how many devotional tools, or how supportive a community we have, it comes down to making an ongoing choice to do this. You don’t need to know how to untangle a damaged relationship but it also helps to acknowledge that this happens and it’s not a sign of spiritual failure. It’s a sign that you’re engaging and sometimes that means the soul’s detritus is going to be stirred up in an awful way. Sometimes the Gods will hurt us—not from cruelty but because we have our wants and human aspirations and we project them onto the Gods in ways that aren’t always fair to either party. It’s a learning process.

“And why hasn’t modern Kemeticism addressed this at all?”

To that I have to ask how well devotion is addressed at all in any of our polytheistic communities?

“And more importantly- should we?” – absolutely. I think this is crucial. People going through this need to know that they’re not bad or wrong or failures in their faith. They need to know that even if things seem painful and hopeless in a devotional relationship, that there are steps they can take and that it doesn’t mean it IS actually hopeless. We will never restore the structures that help guide one through this work if we avoid talking about it.

To further quote Twisted Rope: “You know, when the ripping apart of your life becomes excessive or fruitless, or when a god falls through on their end of the deal. Any physical relationship between two people has the potential to go south, or to sour. Can a relationship with a god do the same?”

As an Odin’s person, my personal belief is that it’s not for us to determine what is excessive. It’s the Gods’ prerogative to determine and act on that. I think it’s very, very easy –and Gods know I’ve been there more than once—to want to run, or to balk, or to feel that something is impossible and excessive because we cannot see to where it will ultimately lead. In the end, again, it comes down to choice. You choose devotion. You choose to stay the course even when it hurts like hell or you don’t.

“And if so, how do we address this in the future? What do we tell practitioners who have been essentially burned or broken by the gods?”

I don’t think there is any one, pat set of answers to give to a person in this condition. I think it’s part of the process and that we need to be supporting our people through this, with ritual, counseling, and communication. We need to have specialists to advise them, take those 2 am phone calls, diviners to negotiate with the Gods and spirits for them. We need to be a community for each other. One day maybe, hopefully, we’ll have restored mystery cultus that can help fill in the gaps here, and that can help us navigate this part of the process better.

I think part of the problem is that we have forgotten that the Gods are not always nice. We expect Them to be, and unconsciously even expect Them to cater to us (no blaming here. I think this is deeply ingrained in our societal expectations of religion). Our ancestors had a different wisdom, one that I think carried them through these painful times of breaking and disconnect far better. They understood that the Gods, and all that is holy comes with terror, challenge, and sacrifice. They understood that we are made better by engaging with Them, but that such engagement comes with a price too. They did not take it for granted that they would be unchanged by the contact. They did not assume that they would not be destroyed. I think sometimes that it is gravely unfair to tell new comers that it’s always a bed of roses when it isn’t. When we engage with the sacred it leaves a mark and sometimes those marks are scars. That engagement comes to redefine the topography of our souls and we in turn to define ourselves by its peaks and valleys. We all talk about “autonomy” and “safety” and so long as we cling to these things the process will always be worse than it needs to be. We cannot have both that which is holy and that which is safe. The two are, as our ancestors knew, mutually exclusive.

About ganglerisgrove

Galina Krasskova has been a Heathen priest since 1995. She holds a Masters in Religious Studies (2009), a Masters in Medieval Studies (2019), has done extensive graduate work in Classics including teaching Latin, Roman History, and Greek and Roman Literature for the better part of a decade, and is currently pursuing a PhD in Theology. She is the managing editor of Walking the Worlds journal and has written over thirty books on Heathenry and Polytheism including "A Modern Guide to Heathenry" and "He is Frenzy: Collected Writings about Odin." In addition to her religious work, she is an accomplished artist who has shown all over the world and she currently runs a prayer card project available at wyrdcuriosities.etsy.com.

Posted on April 20, 2015, in devotional work, Polytheism and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 15 Comments.

  1. “You choose devotion. You choose to stay the course even when it hurts like hell or you don’t.”

    Yes.

    I have definitely had to make the choice to part ways with a deity that mistreated me. I’m not suggesting that you should flame out of a relationship with a deity because ordinary, every day bad stuff happens to you. We blame a lot of things on the gods that are actually basic every day challenges that non-theists still have to deal with. I’m not even suggesting that we should give up on deities who act like stern personal trainers, and expose us to harsh conditions that toughen us up. However, when deities are making us physically or psychologically ill, or if they cross a line, like sexually assaulting us, that’s different.

    Just as we shouldn’t say to such people that they gave up their power, and that what they suffered was their fault, we also shouldn’t suggest that a person who was hurt by a deity in that sort of way should continue interacting with that deity. There are certain lines where, once the rubicon has been crossed, the relationship just isn’t salvageable. In this sense, I really do think each person has to decide for themselves what’s too much, and there should be no shame in throwing in the towel.

    Liked by 1 person

    • ganglerisgrove

      I agree: we blame a lot of things on the Gods that are basic every day challenges that anyone doing devotional work must deal with. I don’t agree however that we should throw in the towel if Deities are making us ill (that’s incredibly common. I think it has to do with how poisonous our world is, how imbalanced, how infested with the Filter….it clogs us up and makes it that much more difficult for us to engage with the sacred and to be in its Presence. We’re damaged before we even get started). As to sexual assault…this is where your priests and diviners *should* be coming to the fore for people. I’ve seen people respond to the mere *presence* of a Deity as though they were assaulted. (which is not blame. It points to a level of hurt in that person that needs compassion and healing). I think we project the pattern of humanity onto the Gods way too much. Was it sexual assault or an interaction so intense that this is the only way our minds have to process it? to conceive of it? If it was sexual assault, I’d first want to make sure that it was actually the Deity in question and not something wearing its face. If it was the Deity well, I’d still be hesitant to say throw in the towel (I said in the article, I’m Odin’s. It colors my opinions on a lot of things) though I agree: each person has to decide for him or herself what to do here. I would not shame a person for deciding to end a devotional relationship either way. I may not agree with their decision, but it’s their decision.

      Liked by 2 people

      • I think you’ve hit the nail on the head with your point about filter, and things wearing deities faces that aren’t deities. Often, our experiences of deities do tend to conform to the theological beliefs that we pick up from our communities. Imagination and passionate responses combine to create thought forms. Sometimes the deity inhabits them, but if they are too off-base, that doesn’t happen, and the thing can go around, gumming up the works.

        I’m interested by the observation that we don’t see mystics becoming ill from working with deities in every religion. In Judaism, mystics are common and fairly visible. They do not tend to be ill. Quite the reverse: Jewish mystics are often famous for operating on fewer hours of sleep per night and less food than their non-mystical counter-parts, and tend not to be ill as a result of this. Mystics being sick as a result of contact with the sacred is not the way it has to be.

        I’m actually reminded to something Diana Paxton said about this. She said, “we’ve got no established tradition indicating that mysticism has got to shorten our lives. Therefore, I choose to believe that it doesn’t. In fact, it lengthens them.” I think we, as a community, though not as individuals, can have some modicum of control over how mysticism influences us.

        I guess what really perplexes me is that a deity could make you ill, lonely, mentally unstable, impoverished and generally miserable… but you would still disagree with the decision to end such a relationship. Why? To me, if a person is happier and healthier following a different path or working with other gods, that seems like a very straightforward choice. This is, in fact, why some people become Pagans or Polytheists in the first place, right?

        Of course, if a person chooses to continue in that devotional relationship, others in the community should absolutely help them. I would hate to see us sending people away saying, “I can’t deal with your Isis issues. Why don’t you go convert to another religion?” or, “Yeah… just don’t work with them anymore.” For some people, that’s not an acceptable answer.

        Liked by 2 people

      • ganglerisgrove

        I don’t think it’s the Deity making one ill…i think we’re damaged, scarred, and imbalanced from the get go by virtue of our society and culture and that’s what’s causing it. When i take antibiotics for infection, I always get sicker. Then it all clears up. I think it’s something similar. and i didn’t say mystics get ill, i said it was part of the shaman’s experience. I have often wondered if the fact that we tend to be broken health wise was a necessary side effect (and therefore unimportant), or if it’s again, because we’re so badly patterned for this work from the get go because of our societal patterning. I don’t know. I do know many eventually heal themselves and come out stronger but it’s a slog. I think we’re dealing with a level of toxicity on all levels that our ancestors did not have to deal with, and possibly couldn’t even have conceived of. This is, to my mind important. I also want to reiterate that i did not say the Gods made us ill…illness or pain are sometimes inescapable byproducts of a process. I was a ballet dancer professionally until I was in my early twenties. To reach any level of skill and certainly any level of excellence pain happens. a lot. It’s unimportant because it’s a side effect. One doesn’t prioritize it. There are other, more important goals. That training has helped me a lot when things hurt spiritually. I don’t think the Gods necessarily make us sick. I think that often part of the breaking is a cleaning out of toxicity and THAT makes us sick.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Also, these points you made were particularly important:

        1. “I think we project the pattern of humanity onto the Gods way too much. Was it sexual assault or an interaction so intense that this is the only way our minds have to process it? to conceive of it?”

        I agree, we do, actually, project far too much in the way of human patterns onto the divine. Especially, we tend to project our power dynamics onto them, and our ideas about the way authority works. Often, people conceive of deities by imagining who they would be or what they would do if they had lots and lots of power. Sometimes, these imaginings are mistaken for actual actions on the part of deities.

        2. “If it was sexual assault, I’d first want to make sure that it was actually the Deity in question and not something wearing its face.”

        This, too. I often wonder if much of what we experience as negative effects of working with the divine doesn’t have its roots in that.

        If the gods are so powerful and important, then they don’t need to hurt us to get their jobs done. If they are small enough that they require our participation, then they wouldn’t want to hurt us. Perhaps what we experience as ‘harm’ in general, whether illness, misfortune or other perceived wrong-doing, is all some kind of dysfunction in how we are connecting to those deities, just as you suggested illness and the perception of sexual assault might be.

        If so, we might consider looking at the bad which befalls us and say to our deities, “I know you didn’t do this.”

        Liked by 1 person

      • ganglerisgrove

        I think sometimes pain is an inevitable part of the process. I don’t think the Gods hurt us intentionally as much as we might at times think, I think sometimes it’s just a by product. As I mentioned in my last response, one can choose to prioritize that or focus on the goal or anything else. Sometimes it’s just an inevitable by product.

        that being said, i’ve been in a ritual with others where Odin’s presence was tremendously intense. For me, it was like coming home. For a couple of other people, they were so freaked out they found the whole experience terrifying and unpleasant (it was a basic blot to Odin years and years ago in NH). They’d never been in His active presence before, nor had they felt a presence so strongly in their own devotions (which were minimal) before. Because it made them uncomfortable, they classified it as bad. It was automatic and unthinking. I think we all need to guard against that gut response. Just because something makes us uncomfortable or scares us does not mean it is bad. We all go to the Gods with our fractures and sometimes cleaning those fractures out, and filling them metaphorically with gold can be a painful process. I also think that in difficult situations, we need to be consulting competent clergy, spirit workers, and diviners….those who have deep devotional relationships themselves. This was the function of these people in the polytheistic past. Our religions were religions of diviners, certainly. We haven’t yet restored that, though we’re starting to do so. It’s a further complication. unfortunately, most people are doing this work blind. We need to remedy that and i hope that as our traditions evolve there will develop structures of encouragement and support, and guidance.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Beautifully said! I have for a couple of years now kept a picture depicting Loki in His “Mr. Breaker of Worlds” mode that is captioned “This will not be easy….this will not be gentle…this will BREAK you”. I tell those who ask me that it is NOT easy & The Gods can be ruthless in their directions, but if you listen to Them, They are usually not shy in letting you know why/whats up. After having been reduced to a blob of hammered weeping flesh a few times now, i can say i actually find these experiences (after pulling through them) to have richly enhanced my walk with the Holy Powers. Im not standing in line to sign up for more but i have to admit, the most brutal times have been because of my own stupid choices. The points raised here about piety, ongoing daily choices & devotions are so spot on they should ring in our ears when we read them. I am grateful these aspects of The Gods are being discussed in such an accessible forum, especially for “newbies”. I remember going to the library in the early 90s & pulling huge encyclopedias off the shelves almost frantically searching old dusty articles written about Gods to see what/who was in my life approaching me.

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  3. I really enjoyed this post…but figured I’d point out that the person you linked to is one of the people who tosses around ‘piety posse’ seriously as an insult. Again though, great post!

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    • ganglerisgrove

      Sannion pointed that out last night after I posted my piece. *shrugs* I never really paid them that much attention. Still, the original article to which I responded was a good one. it raised some good questions on a topic we don’t discuss enough.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I agree. (It’s kind of a shame that lines were ‘drawn’, because most pieces that focus on the ‘piety posse’ are pretty weak imo…especially ones two years on, but whatever.) I’m glad to see some useful answers to the questions posed.

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  4. A truly excellent post – thank you (and Whomever pushed you) for sharing with such candor.

    As someone who has undergone experiences with the Netjeru that caused a significant level of anguish for a long time, and who has had negative experiences with Kemeric temple politics, I am unsurprised by the original poster’s experience of community denial of divine relationship difficulties.

    I can say that I look back on those interactions with tranquillity now, and that a large part of the reason why is simply that I submitted myself to Their instructions, even though doing so was very painful. It was never a question in my mind as to whether They were right in Their judgments or if it was appropriate for Them to make decisions about my work and inform me of them without my being given the opportunity to appeal. The only questions were, how do I go on from here, how do I reconcile myself to this situation which is so far from my hopes and wants.

    That level of trust is all too easy to avoid in modern Western society where relationships are disposable and if you don’t like how one is working out, you give up and try again with some other person, some other group, in some other city.

    Gaining the benefits of a deep and profound connection with the divine come at the cost of choosing to set aside some of the benefits of independence. One must give to get.

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    • ganglerisgrove

      yes, yes and yes. Precisely: you submit to Their instructions and it takes a hell of a lot of courage to do that. That level of trust is easy to avoid in our society and I think that we need to be looking at ways that we can help ourselves and each other nurture and nourish precisely that. I think that part of the problem may be that we have so many people so incredibly wounded by their birth religions that their ability to trust the Gods is already impinged or damaged and that is incredibly sad. I don’t think it precludes developing the ability to trust again though, it will just take extra work.

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  5. ganglerisgrove

    Thenea, my apologies. apparently in my first comment I didn’t specify “shaman” instead of “mystic.’ i just reread it (for some reason wordpress won’t let me edit my comments tonight. grr). In my head i specified. LOL.

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  6. ganglerisgrove

    This was going to be a separate post, but wordpress is being really strange tonight and i can’t post. So here goes: The conversation has brought up a few more points that I’d really like to address, at least in brief. I don’t think we – any of us—go into this work prepared. This is a huge deficit. It’s this, more than any other factor that I personally believe makes the breaking process so damned difficult. There is absolutely nothing in our society and culture that prepares us for devotional work and quite a lot that makes it problematic. We’ve got the monotheistic current (largely Protestant dominated, and more and more evangelical) and the Humanist current and those of us who are struggling to find footing in devotional work are caught in between, high and dry as the saying goes. We come into this work conditioned to struggle.

    Our ancestors may have had their struggles spiritually but they were living in a polytheistic world, a world informed by the accepted existence of Gods and spirits and an awareness of the dangers of the sacred. Their entire world was not at war with the idea of polytheism, piety, and devotion. It was a necessary part of their world-view. I think this made the process easier for those who did seek out mystery cultus, or those who engaged in deep devotional work, and the mystics. …not easy mind you, but easier.

    Because of the disconnect in our society, I think we turn a blind or even dismissive eye to the very tools that could help us engage more fully (and less painfully) with the breaking process, the development process, and Gods. Part of the restoration of our traditions must include the restoration of these structures and overall worldview. That’s the hard part, the hardest part, more difficult even than restoring the structures of ritual and our theologies themselves. It’s an uphill battle all the way because in doing that part of this work, we’re not just fighting external belief systems, we’re fighting a battle in our very minds. It’s deprogramming and restoration of ourselves and that’s a damned hard thing. I don’t have any answers there, save that it’s an ongoing process for each of us. No matter how far we think we’ve come in this, there’s always so much farther to go. This was, by the way, a problem as early as the time of Julian the II (you know, the one Christians call the “Apostate”). In one of his writings (and I’m too lazy to go look it up now), he talks about this very thing, that no matter how devoted he is to his Gods, he knows that having been raised monotheist in a growing monotheist culture, he carried contamination in his very mind. So at least we’re in good company! It takes only a single generation to break a tradition. We saw that with the genocide and forced conversion/”education” of Native Americans in the US. It takes one generation of separation to create a ripple of untold destruction. This is our legacy and with what we have to contend.

    I think that many of these currents (and the damage they do) have created in many of us a deep resistance to the very tools that might help us the most. One of those is piety. As I said in my previous post, I take a very Latin (as in Roman) approach to this. First and foremost piety is an awareness that there is a protocol, a way to maintain right relationship – not just with the Gods, but with oneself, one’s family, one’s community, one’s city. It’s a way of approaching one’s interactions in the world that is grounded in character and personal duty. Why is piety so important? We aid ourselves by cultivation of those virtues and reap the reward for our personal diligence during the breaking, searing times. It’s that simple.

    I don’t think anything will make the spiritual process easy or painless but we can stop hobbling ourselves. Part of that, however, means undoing a lifetime of conditioning, inter-generational conditioning. If we don’t even respect the virtues and values that will turn our character and the very seat of our minds and souls into a place fitting for engagement with the Gods, how can we ever expect the process to be anything but agony? We are not being asked to sacrifice our autonomy so much as to apply it productively. This, I think, requires nothing more than a complete reordering of our priorities. It’s not just about restoring and reconstructing cultus, it’s about how we restore ourselves inside first, foremost, and perhaps most importantly of all.

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  7. Thank you for posting this.

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