Devotion, Offerings, and a Response to Rhyd

So I have been following the issue with offerings (started by relative outsiders to Morrigan cultus commenting on whether or not it was appropriate to make certain offerings to Her) with growing dismay. I want so much for our communities to be more devotionally sophisticated than some of these debates allow us to appear. Perhaps though by the very act of discussing and debating these things, we’re forced to consider our own position, and that relative to our traditions and those are good things. So, I’m going to be wading in.

Markos, the Dionysian Artist has been talking about this here (and he gives all the relevant links) with Rhyd Wildermuth and others. Rhyd posted an article to which Markos responded and the conversation continued via facebook. I flat out questioned the relevancy of Rhyd’s argument, which seems to me to be little more than reducing our gods and Their cultus to meaninglessness to which he responded:

“On the contrary, rather than reducing anything to meaninglessness or getting out of something inconvenient, this is doing the really, really inconvenient work of worlding a god beyond just what we give them. Gods can’t be bought off with offerings anymore than humans can; what they want (as you well know) is what we really have to give them: the world. That’s how they become our meaning and we theirs, and how they become known to others through our actions.”

To which I will now share my response, because these are issues in which we should all have a vested stake.

“Ah I see your confusion. I should have realized this would be difficult for someone with a Marxist mindset to understand. It’s really quite simple: the purpose of offering to the gods is not to buy Them. It is not the equivalent of bribing a human being. The purpose is an expression of devotion that interweaves Them into the fabric of our world and that augments and develops a “language” if you will by which we may engage and that is a tremendous privilege.

What you are suggesting is no different at its core than something John Halstead might write. You are denying the Gods a material presence in our reality and privileging the human fear of meaning, of infinite relevance. You’re also privileging your own personal leftist dialectic over the parameters of devotion (parameters that the gods have clearly already laid down for us — sometimes the work is done for us, not often but sometimes), parameters that mark a clear and cosmic hierarchy in which our “place” is a limited one (yet one with infinite potential to evolve and grow). It’s a position that ignores that the gods do not need us to give Them relevance; instead maybe we should be looking to Them and the navigation of our relationship with Them, to define our own relevance.

As much as you rail against power structures in your writings, what I see here is no more than resistance to Their sovereignty.

The Gods already have the world Rhyd. As much as They are transcendent Powers, They are likewise deeply immanent and inscribed in every atom. They don’t need us to give the World to Them. Perhaps They need us to wake up and realize it is already Theirs and return to right relationship with it and Them but the world is not ours to give.

That is in part the paradox of devotion: There is nothing we can give Them that They do not already possess and yet perhaps we in some way are cleansed and ennobled spiritually by entering into the offertory cycle. It nourishes that right relationship. Not as alley Valkyrie assumed is it the culmination of ones relationship devotionally with the Gods. It is the beginning, the baseline, and act of vulnerability that positions us relative to the Gods as suppliants, those who acknowledge Their sovereignty as Gods with all that implies.

You also high handedly criticize those who would accord to the ways of our ancestors, who would restore rightful and pious practices like sacrifice. You not only do so with us but with all the many indigenous religions in the world that reverence rites of sacrifice ( the Afro-carribbean religions, Hinduism, etc.) and all because you have a knee jerk reaction to acknowledging with our offerings the capacity for devastation inherent in each of our Gods. For someone who criticizes oppression of the Other and condemns racism as you do in your work, I have to say that was very white of you.”

I encourage people to read all of the relevant articles and to familiarize yourselves with the parameters of this debate. The future of our traditions is something that should involve us all and in which, we should all have a vested interest. It’s important not only to know what’s happening but to understand where ideas may ultimately lead. To venerate the Gods has consequences in our lives, each and every day. That’s no small thing.

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Posted on February 19, 2016, in Polytheism, theology, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 10 Comments.

  1. It’s a position that ignores that the gods do not need us to give Them relevance; instead maybe we should be looking to Them and the navigation of our relationship with Them, to define our own relevance.

    Yes, this. Thank you. The gods are already here, they already have meaning, we weave meaning *FOR OUR OWN BENEFIT* but that’s a separate matter from what we give to Them.

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  2. The discussion has continued more on my personal facebook page, which is annoying – I wish we could keep these things on one platform. Anyway, I made the post public, but you have to have an account to see it.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. What is meant by “worldling”?
    As a Roman polytheist, I see the issue of offerings as a part of the Pax Deorum. Right relations between humans, Gods, and the community.

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    • Worlding is the concept that the Gods need to be brought into the world through devotional or other acts. It suggests that they do not manifest as readily or at all without such bridges existing.

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      • IMaybe I’ve just fallen into one of my gaps (a sensation of understanding the words and concepts, but not able to connect them to subject), but how is this concept of wording any different from the Western ceremonial magical practice of evocation? The definitions I’ve read here sound a lot like GD or Enochian rites, minus the bells and whistles. And that is not intended as a snipe at the CM practitioners, I just…don’t understand.

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  4. I wonder if there isn’t possibly a middle ground between the two views. I think there absolutely is an appropriate time and place to use weapons symbolically/ritually and as offerings. I keep a bullet as an altar object from the time my husband served in the military. But perhaps the relationship between warfare and sovereignty is also worth considering. For example, in a number of states, Public Law 280 would require a police officer (which is the context I see used often for someone who might offer a bullet to the Morrigan) to enforce state law on an Indian reservation. Many times, these Native Nations are fighting legal and political battles for their own sovereignty and the right to rule themselves. They typically didn’t ask for the state to police the reservations, the states are doing it poorly, and it causes huge disparities in responses to crime in addition to being a clear overreach into tribal self-governance by the state.

    When there are two sovereigns, one of whom has a far more legitimate claim to rule itself than the other, it seems like a good time to consider the context and meaning of offering a bullet. Natives and people of color are killed by police at a much higher rate than the rest of the population. So it would seem that the intent of the offering becomes crucial. Is the purpose to protect the individual, to appease the Goddess, or is it to enforce the territorial “sovereignty” of the overriding state, which is something the Native Nation is trying to remove by legitimate means? And this situation can be extrapolated to wars, etc. I think a kind reading of Asa West’s post would be to ask in a situation like this would be to ask, whose “side” would the Morrigan be on, if such a question could be answered. How would the appearance of the offering be “read” by a given individual based on their life experiences and histories, and if a ritual will be public, should that type of offering and its context and meaning be explained?

    I would offer that part of right relationship is right livelihood. That a police officer can offer a bullet to the Morrigan in a PL 280 state, even if working on an Indian Reservation if they work with the right intention and knowledge, to protect themselves and to honor their Goddess and not to uphold the questionable sovereignty of state but to protect and serve the people who make up the community and tribal interests, which is where sovereignty truly arises from. But this requires that they educate themselves about the history of the tribe and community, which is something that is often outside the requirements of their job and will take extra time and effort.

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  5. This kind of elides the distinction between the gods themselves and the religions that honor/worship them. It also seems to suggest that monotheism and monoculture “won” in a sense, by driving away the power of the gods and now its up to polytheists to make space for them again in the world. It sounds heroic, but it makes the gods dependent on their worshippers in a way that lessens what a god IS.

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  6. In Roman Polytheism, the Gods are a part of the home. They share in the food and in the activities of the people. They are already here, not some place else. So “worlding” is a foreign concept.

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  7. Selena are you referring to the process of ‘wording’? that’s a very good question. what i do know is that it has everything to do wish us and our comfort and ver little to do with how the Gods want to be venerated. I hadn’t thought of the comparison with CM…good call there.

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  8. Yes, I meant ‘worlding’. Fell victim to a hyper-sensitive auto-correct function and being so tired that my brain just filled in the missing letter. This is why I need access to caffeine before being allowed on the Internet. 😋

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