Wow…Just…Wow: talk about missing the point

Someone emailed a colleague of mine out of the blue with the following question (he shared it largely out of shock at the utter obliviousness of it all):

-” What does the shaman who horses (1) deities get in return for all the sacrifice, hard work & suffering they had to endure to become a shaman in the first place?… Can the shaman expect to be a highly skilled & powerful sorcerer whose (sic) able to bring about change in his life & this world through sorcery, after horsing deities for years? Or is it dependent on the relationship that is forged with the deity?”

The question is offensive on many levels and oblivious on many others, so much so that I was left quite literally speechless when my friend emailed me. (I think I said something to the effect of ‘I don’t know quite what to say here but you do get the best questions. Damn!’).(2)

Even writing this, I’m still pretty boggled by the question. First of all, what do you get? You get a job. You get the honor and privilege of serving the Gods, a particular privilege that most people never even conceive of let alone experience.

But more to the point, it’s not about us. A shaman provides service to the Gods and to the community. It’s not self-serving. No one in their right mind would want this job and yet, it is an honor and a privilege to be taken up in this way.

I just am so boggled by the incorrect attitude displayed in the email, not just to the idea of a shaman’s work being for personal empowerment, but the idea that we can use relationships with the Gods for personal greed. It is so incredibly wrong. If you ever wanted a primer on how not to approach the Holy Powers, this is it.

There are many ways to approach the Gods but first and foremost there is a foundational commonality on those that are appropriate and that commonality is respect. These are Holy Powers. They are the Movers and Shapers of the Cosmos. We were created to exist in right relationship with Them. They do not exist to pander to the worst of our instincts and desires.

Part of regaining right relationship with the Powers involves understanding that everything is not about us. We are not the super-center of the cosmos. The universe does not exist to cater to our whims and to stroke our egos.

So to answer this fool’s question, you get to be of service. You get to go to your grave knowing you did your part to restore right relationship communally with the Gods. You get to experience specific Deities more closely than can ever be imagined. That is both a grace and a blessing. No, you cannot, as a result of horsing (or anything else we do) expect to be “a highly skilled & powerful sorcerer” capable of bending the world to his will (and if you want to study magic, that too is a lifetime’s commitment and takes sacrifice). This is not a D&D game. And everything, everything is always dependent on the relationships we forge with our Gods, and those relationships that we nurture? They’re the reward for the work.


1. To horse a Deity is to carry that Deity via possession. It’s terminology drawn from the Afro-Caribbean traditions. The Deity “rides” the devotee as one might ride a horse.

2. I asked my colleague’s permission to share the question for this post.


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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

Posted on March 16, 2017, in community, Education, Spirit Work, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 12 Comments.

  1. Richard Norris

    I’ve been wondering for a while now just how deeply compromised our view of polytheism becomes when it’s viewed as just another kind of occultism you use to get yourself ahead in life. My suspicions that there is an issue there seem confirmed by this. Polytheism must be about the Gods, with no hedging on the issue. Yes, there are esoteric aspects, but mainly those are there to facilitate closer relationships with Them, not to puff us up as some real life Doctor Strange. That’s not to say that those same practices can’t have a beneficial effect on the shaman or worker, but that effect ought to be seen as tertiary to the main work because then the relationship is open to all kinds of abuse. And the Gods and those that seek to worship Them in gratitude for their mere existence have seen enough abuse to last a LONG while.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. It’s like that person thinks being a shaman is like being a shop clerk in a large retail chain, with after a few years you get the chance to get promoted to shop manager, and then climb further up the corporate ladder or something.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. As a Polytheist who plays D&D fairly regularly, I can say that person’s ridiculous question isn’t even part of D&D logic.

    Liked by 4 people

  4. songofscotland

    The Gods are not a vending machine. You don’t input a quarter and expect to get chocolate. People are so absurd.


  5. I suspect the questioner is coming off the arse-end of other practice, e.g. Wicca, where it is about personal empowerment.
    In most circumstances of what we call “shamanism” the shaman is conscious of their mortality and no amount of self empowerment can deny the fact that we all are going to die.
    In our limited lives, playing host to a god is indeed a privilege, it is a great honour, one of the greatest, to be chosen…
    Yet, this is so difficult for people to understand. I’ve encountered so-called BNP’s who still don’t get it. FFS!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Wow! Your colleague sure did get the question! I couldn’t even begin to consider working with my Deities without a certain dose of humility! What do we receive in return? A chance to be of service, love – wild and unconditional, and the opportunity to pare ourselves down to our core, to be present and conscious to life in all its mysterious and most wondrous ways…


  7. Just to play “Devil’s advocate” the questioner probably comes from the school of thought that our relationship with the gods is one of mutual benefit and exchange.

    A constant cycle of gifting and receiving, sacrificing and gaining.

    Can only speak from my own experience but hosting a good I’ve seen gives more rewards then the just honor of service and so on. Usually, the honored host begins to gain some of their, not sure what the right word here is, rider-god(?)’s power just off the top of my head.


    • ganglerisgrove

      yeah but the purpose of the honoring isn’t that power. also…there was *a lot* of the email I didn’t share. lol


    • Agreed, but seems like there is more going on so kind of moot for the question at least.


    • ganglerisgrove

      also I think this is not an attitude of do ut des but rather one of utter self absorbed entitlement.


  8. I would hate to see how this person approaches the other relationships in their life. Do they constantly keep tally of all their friends do for them/haven’t done? Is simply having a close relationship with someone/something not enough?


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