Chosen by the Gods

I recently read an article talking about why some people feel the Gods more than others. It’s a question a lot of us – including spirit workers—have asked too. I have one colleague with whom I regularly argue about just this thing. We can’t come to accord on whether or not it’s luck of the draw (i.e. one is born with the predisposition) or nurturing, training, and hard work (i.e. development, encouragement, and practice). I guess it comes down to the nature vs. nurture debate and probably the truth is somewhere in between.

The article in question wasn’t that nuanced, but it was going well until the author (and I’m purposely not naming the author or linking to the article because our community doesn’t seem to have the intellectual training to differentiate between attacking a person and picking apart and challenging ideas.) said that she objects to those who claim that they are chosen by a Deity. It makes her feel bad. She finds it hubristic. Why can’t they keep it to themselves, instead of being open about it? Let’s all meditate on the Wiccan Rede.

So let me get this straight. You are all but denying that the Gods have the agency to choose someone, because when that happens and the person doesn’t lie about it, or commit themselves to silence to salve your fragile ego, but gets on with doing whatever work they’ve been set, it makes you feel bad? Nice. *Sarcasm* Seems to me the problem isn’t the people claimed by Deities but the insecurity fostered by a number of factors including fragmented and fractured communities in those who aren’t.

What I read was a deep insecurity over the legitimacy of one’s own relationship with the Gods and it’s something that I’ve seen again and again and again in Heathenry as well, as those snapped up by the Gods became more vocal. I find that sad. All the energy spent worrying about this, or in some cases envying it, could be spent nourishing one’s own devotional relationships. I don’t think anyone claimed by the Gods, unless perhaps they are very young and immature, has ever claimed that it makes their devotional relationship better and more important. It makes it different.

As someone who has been claimed by Odin, and whose work involves talking and writing about that quite a bit let me tell you what it means when a God takes that avid an interest: it means a fuck-ton of hard work. It means your life is no longer your own. The devotional relationship with that particular Deity is no longer a private matter, but rather one of Boss to subordinate (to use the most neutral hierarchical terms I can think of right now). It’s amazing and heart wrenching, and ecstatic and powerful and it transforms one’s life generally for the better but it’s a very different thing from those devotional relationships one can have without the pressure of being actively in claimed service and actively rendered ‘other.’

Do I trust someone claimed by a Deity more than someone who isn’t? Yes. In general these people become your religious specialists and being one, I prefer to deal with my peers. But so what? To allow that to make one insecure about one’s own devotional work (and insecurity is always a choice one makes, not something done to one), is like refusing to learn to play the violin, even though you love it, because you’ll never be Itzhak Perlman. In the end all this will do is hold one back causing anger and pain. It’s not going to have any effect on what those God chosen are doing. We might find you mildly annoying but we’re going to keep on doing what we have been set to do while that person goes right on denying themselves the beauty and blessing of a full devotional life.

I actually don’t find it annoying, in case you were wondering. I find it very sad. I once overheard a Heathen man say, “I know Galina must be lying about Odin talking to her. I’m right here and He doesn’t talk to me.” I could have pointed out that perhaps the man wasn’t listening all that well, being Heathen. I could have asked him if he really knew what it was like when Odin came calling, if he * really * wanted that. I could have done any number of things but I didn’t. I didn’t let on that I had overheard because what I heard was a tremendous amount of sadness, pain, and a feeling of rejection at not being good enough for one’s God. One can almost understand the lashing out (except if you really give a shit about your Gods, then you might want to stop interfering with the work of those claimed by them…just a thought, but you know, I’m practical like that).

Also, I have noticed that an awful lot of people think that we all experience the Gods the same way and that’s not the case at all. (I find this holds true with ancestors too. I recently had a relative deny she’d ever had any experiences with her dead because she was convinced it could only happen via apparition. When I explained otherwise she was like “oh yeah, that happens all the time.”). I once had a colleague express envy over my experience, saying she was glad I had those experiences but wished she could connect to the Gods too. I pointed to her art and said “you do.” And when I said that, her whole demeanor changed and she opened up and talked about how it felt when that creative fire was pouring through her. I said: yes. Exactly. She may not have been experiencing the conscious Presence of a Deity, but a Deity was sure experiencing her.

The only thing that really annoyed me about the article that I read was the expectation that mystics and spirit workers –those claimed by the Gods—will keep silent about it. That will never happen and I feel very sorry for our traditions if it does. We will never damp ourselves down or demand that our GODS limit Themselves in what They ask of us to make others comfortable. I find it far more hubristic to deny the Gods Their due than to hold that space willingly and joyfully. If that seems like a kick in the teeth to those who don’t have that type of relationship, so be it.

I wonder if when people say things like “well you could at least be quiet about it,” they actually listen to themselves. (Let’s switch this around and imagine that being said to a trans person. Suddenly it’s not so benign is it?). I wonder if people follow through such emotionally laden statements like that to their ultimate conclusion: a community that silences those having the experiences that contain the potential to evolve the community.

Those claimed by Gods are quite often your spiritual specialists and we need those specialists: our spiritworkers, shamans, priests, mystics, theologians, philosophers desperately. Does the existence of surgeons render doctors obsolete? Or does the existence of doctors render massage therapists obsolete? It doesn’t work like that at all. I have had someone say to me, “your competence makes me feel small.” I never know what to respond to that (because I’m not suddenly going to embrace incompetence) save “that’s unfortunate for you. Why do you think that is?” Because really in the end, damning your God-claimed is like damning your best and brightest scholars to the mediocrity of a sub-standard education and then wondering why your luck is shit.

I think we need to be careful that we don’t project our insecurities and issues onto those doing the work of their Gods. No spiritworker on earth is responsible for some one else’s personal insecurities in that person’s own devotional life. You want your relationship to the Gods to be deeper and better, tend it and rejoice in what it is, instead of worrying about what someone else has.

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Posted on September 4, 2015, in Polytheism, theology and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 14 Comments.

  1. Knowing many people connected to that Gods as you are, I am rather happy not to be. 😉 I like smaller, narrower world. Any of us can pray. I think that should be enough.

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    • I’ll share something that I don’t usually complain about publicly: being snapped up by Odin and set to certain work as I am, I don’t feel i have enough time to pray. I don’t feel I have enough time to give my devotion…not as i would like…and sometimes that has been a thing that has hurt me deeply. There’s always the sense of so much work to be done, and so little time, precious time, and a deep awareness of not doing enough, fast enough, or well enough for Him, and an acute sense of how many projects are still waiting….my personal prayer life suffers sometimes because of it.

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      • you … you just put in to words something i had been struggling with. add in the complications of being disabled and i come away feeling like i am doing a rather poor job of devotion. and i know that it is something that is all me. because when the gods want you to change what and how you are doing something, they make it very clear.

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  2. My own observation is being a “specialist” and having a claimed relationship with one deity is wonderful and great…and yet you are all too aware of how different it is from your relationships with other deities. Being claimed by Apollon and having a very strong connection to Artemis from my youth doesn’t mean that there is that strong connection with all the gods I honor and worship….and with the numerous other gods I am working at the same freaking square as everyone else. Will be slink in the shadows like there is something to be ashamed of? No not at all, while I don’t write a lot about it, it is not a state secret either. Yet being verbal and having this relationship allows me to really articulate and reflect in ways that may not always occur to others and present new ways of looking at the worship and nature of Apollon to facilitate his worship. People who want us to shut up would be loosing valuable community resources if we did.

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    • “and with the numerous other gods I am working at the same freaking square as everyone else.”

      That’s a really great point, Lykeia.

      It also reminds me of something else I was thinking this morning as I was doing my prayer beads, when I recalled that until recently, I’d had one for Apollon, but then our relationship completely ceased when I stopped doing the oracles. Because it was only ever a working relationship – a close one at times, an important one, but there was nothing, let’s say “personal” about it. So when I put down that work (which I had to do, it was the right decision and the gods supported it), I was no longer a useful tool to Apollon, and that was that. So being chosen does not always indicate a special fondness from the gods, it can be quite impersonal. A lot of people who wish for it might think differently if they realized that.

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      • Bingo. I don’t think people get that at all.

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      • That is a very interesting observation Dver, and I think is something else to consider too. Being chosen varies a lot from person to person and deity to deity. When it is specifically Work related and that is the summation of the relationship that you were chosen for, it will definitely manifest differently….and I think the impersonal part would be unnerving for folks who are looking for that personal contact. But it isn’t necessarily given that is how such a relationship would manifest.

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  3. “I don’t think anyone claimed by the Gods, unless perhaps they are very young and immature, has ever claimed that it makes their devotional relationship better and more important.”

    And in fact, I think we have seen, it doesn’t necessarily even make it good. By which I mean, the person claimed still has to do their part – a much bigger part, in fact, than the average worshipper – and put in the work and make the commitment, and if they fail to live up to that call, their devotional relationship will in fact be *worse* than a well-maintained one by the uncalled person. Being claimed, as you said, just means more work. And even, as you commented, less time to do the daily practices, to pray, etc.

    All being claimed means is that some god sees us and considers us to be a useful tool for Their job. That’s the best I can say – I am a decent hammer to hit this particular nail. And then spend my life trying to be the best hammer possible. Sometimes I think half the reason we are a more useful tool than the next person is simply that we shut up and listen and recognize the gods when They appear, in whatever way that happens, and therefore They can wield us because They know we will hear Their instructions and carry them out. Someone too busy protesting that the gods don’t really get involved with humans isn’t exactly likely to be the most receptive to Their nudgings.

    As for keeping silent – of course I think it’s ridiculous to expect that we should not talk about it, if there’s a reason to talk about it, just because it might trigger someone else’s insecurities. However, I will point out to those people, it’s not as if everyone claimed by the gods, every mystic or spirit-worker or whatever, are all gabbing about it non-stop. The internet is not the whole of existence. I am sure – I have seen it – that there are plenty such people who are called, and answer, and do their work privately, and no one outside their circle (or maybe no one but the gods and spirits) knows about it. The ones you hear talking are the ones who either (1) feel that talking about it publicly is part of the Work, or (2) are hoping to find some fellowship with others in the same position, because it’s often hard.

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  4. someone (thank you A.E.) on fb put it this way: “it isn’t because someone else hears that I don’t.” I think that is beautiful, profound and so true. This isn’t something we should be approaching with a scarcity model. the gods have enough for all of us.

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  5. I gave this something of a (probably rambling) treatment over at Betwixt the Trees (https://betwixtthetrees.wordpress.com/2015/09/03/chosen-by-the-gods-a-response/), but I wanted to make a few points here, in brief.

    First, no, not everyone hears the Gods’ call. Nor *should* everyone. We should all be playing to our skills, not trying to do something that we’re not suited to.

    Second, yes, there are people who don’t hear the Call that are envious, and they’ll often try to tear down what they can’t or don’t have out of sheer jealousy. We should support each other in our various deeds and celebrating our various and different successes, all together.

    Third, yes, there are some who don’t hear The Call ™ that wish they did. We (the un-Called) look upon the Called as special in a way that we aren’t. Lots of people want to have something special about them that others look up to.

    Finally, and as Galina mentioned, just because you don’t hear the Call doesn’t mean that you are not being God-used. You just might not see it as such.

    I still have doubts about my usefulness to Mystery. But I have faith that things are as they are for a reason. And, as is said in some Buddhist circles, you never know what ripples you will cause in the Universe. Your use may just be to touch someone’s life in a certain way at a certain time, and you might never know the when it happens.

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  6. I’m really grateful that people speak about their experiences. Otherwise, how would I have known my experiences were valid or what to do about them? Not everyone has the self confidence to say ‘despite the fact that it seems to have happened to no-one else, I believe a Deity has specifically called to me’.

    Funnily enough, I wrote about this kind of thing a few days ago. It’s at https://ravensonlinemoot.wordpress.com/2015/09/02/competitive-spirituality/ if anyone would like to check it out.

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  7. Competitive spirituality is a good way of phrasing it. In Christianity, you got priests, ministers, AND organists, choir directors, readers, deacons, head laymen, and church goers to name a few. Sorry if I bring up St. Paul, but he did write about this in his letters of how people who have one task in the churches are no better or worse than someone else, and that everyone was needed.

    As for the Divine – there are many ways that the Gods call people or work with them. And of course, don’t forget the Nature Spirits and the Ancestors. Simply because someone has a hot line to a particular God doesn’t mean that they are somehow “finer, more worthy, better” etc. It could mean that you who do not have a hot line to a particular God may be ignoring the yelling right behind you of the Land Spirits.

    I had an odd experience. I enjoy researching and reading about the history of the American “Mafia.” During my research on Lucky Luciano, Marduk of the Babylonians decided to speak to me. The connection seemed a bit strange until I started reading Babylonian myths and the like. Anyway, one thing that I did notice was that Marduk’s voice was fainter than most Gods, because his worshipers are fewer and He is under siege in Iraq and Syria. The other Sumner Gods had even fainter voices, but like Dr. Seuss “Horton Hears a Who,” you can hear Them if you focus and you have ears like Horton the Elephant.

    My point is that some Gods are louder than others. Some of us have elephant ears, whilst others have mole noses. Some of us pay more attention to certain Gods, than to lesser Spirits or other Gods.

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  8. I find it actually quite humbling. I always felt a connection to the Norse and Celtic Deities the Egyptian Deities always confused me. Anubis came to me almost 30 years ago – at least in a form that I recognized – in hindsight I beleave He was with me from the beginning of this life but it has only been in the past couple of years that He became prominent. He gave me choice. I did not have to accept. If I did I was to take his mark by having His image tattooed permanently on my body. I still don’t know exactly what work He wants from me. I do the best I can. I feel like it might be hubis for me to deny that I am His more so than to proclaim it. I’m not a writer or a spirit worker. At least not now. Not sure I would be up to it but of course, I will do whatever work He sets before as well as I can.

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  1. Pingback: “Chosen by the Gods” A response | Betwixt the Trees

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