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.