More Thoughts Theological — This Time on Aversion to the Sacred

I’ve been pondering this topic for a long time. It’s important, but a difficult thing about which to write, partly because to write about it well, I need to touch on personal things that frankly, I don’t very much want to share here on my blog. Situations have been coming up with clients, with some of the troubleshooting that I do, however, that have brought this to the forefront of my attention and since addressing this falls under ‘preventative measures,’ I don’t think I can avoid it any longer. I’m going to start with a brief story.

When my adopted mother died, I went through a really really bad period with Odin. I still did all my work, but in my heart whenever I would approach Him or He me, all I could think was ‘you killed my mother, you son of a bitch.’ and I wanted nothing to do with Him. I could not bring myself to go to Him for a very long time. Now, He didn’t kill my mother. Death is a natural part of living, a sacred thing every bit as much as birth, but I don’t think we’re always particularly logical in the face of grief. One would think being a spirit worker or vitki that I’d be more accepting of death, having some inkling of what comes after, but …it really doesn’t help, especially when it’s one’s mother.

There was nothing wrong in feeling as I did, and Odin gave me ample space to process and heal but I held onto those feelings. I pushed them to the side and worked around them and kept pushing Him away doing all manner of other devotional work and one day I turned around and realized that there was a huge calcified blockage where my connection to my God should have been; and I was horrified. I did divination on my own and with another diviner to see what I could do –because while grieving is natural, I had a choice about what I did with that grief and what I did to restore myself and my devotional connections and I”d made a poor one–and I did all the things suggested. I started seeing a grief therapist for a time to work through the intense pain of having lost a beloved mother. I did all the right things, a little late, but I did them and…while things got more or less back to normal, there was still a part of me, not a large part but something solidly, doggedly *there*, that wanted nothing to do with the Old Man. I suddenly found myself nurturing a deep aversion to something, Something holy.

I kept up my work, kept doing all the things that were helping me, started rather (in retrospect) ragged devotion to Him again and really didn’t think anything more about it. I figured I’d get over it or learn to live with it. The Work was more important. Then a man walked into my house for divination and brought a friend who turned out to be possessed by something very foul. Then I had a God come so strongly around me that my bones vibrated with the power of the Holy. Then I saw very clearly how allowing even a tiny little chip of aversion to the Holy could provide a foothold for something foul, for miasma, for pollution, for things and creatures that are diametrically opposed to the order that our Gods have created. I saw I had another choice and I begged Odin as fervently as I have ever begged and prayed for anything to take that last little bit of aversion away from me…and He did. It was a grace. I felt Him again as clean and whole and terrifyingly raw as when He’d first claimed me, and I am so grateful, so incredibly grateful.

I thought about that for a long time and really looked at how damaging holding onto that aversion could have been. that’s where the unraveling of one’s spiritual life, cleanliness, and goodness begins. I thought about how quickly it spiraled with me, how easy it was to turn a blind eye to it, and how fast it quickly became entrenched. I was lucky: I work with enough diviners that I had help. I have a clean, strong ancestor practice and had their help. I kept up a ton of devotional practice with other Gods, and even brokenly with Odin so I was open to accepting the gift of Their grace. But what about people who aren’t in that situation? Who don’t have those blessings? I thought about what the first and last symptoms of the pollution had been and knew I had to eventually write about it and it’s taken me a very, very long time to do so.

The first and last symptom was a subtle aversion to the Holy. Oh for me, it wasn’t everything or even most things, I just didn’t want anything to do on a personal level with Odin. It was, however, enough. I realized that when we have in any part of our being a deep aversion to the sacred, it’s a warning sign. It needs to be dealt with as soon as possible. I know that if I had recognized or acknowledged and dealt directly with my own right away, I’d have spared myself (and more importantly my Gods) so much pain. I’ve learned after all of this to see that aversion in someone as a major clarion call, a major warning sign. If we are in right relationship with our Gods, we won’t have any aversion to the Holy. That’s what it really comes down to and if we do, there’s a problem.

When I’m training apprentices and students, one of the assignments I always give them, and fairly early on, is to read C.S. Lewis’ “Till We Have Faces.” My friend Alexei Kondratiev once described it as one of the three great Pagan novels of the 20th century for all that Lewis was a Christian. It is a retelling of the story of Eros and Psyche with one addition: Psyche has a sister named Orual and Orual detests the sacred. She fights and rails against it, out of hurt and jealousy and it calcifies her until the very end when her epiphanies come. She is given in stark contrast to Psyche (named Istra in the book), who goes to her God with an open, passionate heart. One reading of the book looks at Orual and Istra as the same person, at different points in their devotional life.

My students recently were discussing the book and Orual is not popular. Several said that she is the embodiment of modern pollution and attitudes but several of them admitted that they see Orual in themselves sometimes (I think we all do, we all have those points of deep resistance, or times when we’ve been jealous of someone else’s spiritual lives, gifts, work, or times when we’ve curled up from hurt and let it become angry and bitter. We’re all works in progress). We were talking about how one deals with those times and one of my apprentices, T., owned by Freya, said potently: ” If the Orual in me pervades, if I am stuck, I go to Freyja’s altar and offer Orual to her. I give Her my service and I surrender Orual to her, and tell Her that She will guide me, Orual or no Orual. Then it passes.” Later, when I asked if I could quote her here, she said, “If I am struggling, it impedes my path that She wants me to walk. I need to know when to ask for help or I will truly be lost.” And it occurred to me that this is what it comes down to: we need to know when to ask for help and more importantly, we need to not be too proud to actually ask.

This is part of the contract we have with our Gods, and it requires a certain humility to acknowledge that we cannot always do it on our own, that we cannot right ourselves all the time, that sometimes we need to ask for Their help trusting that it will come. May we not be too proud to ask. May we have the humility to listen. Keep us clean, oh my Gods, keep us clean.

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Posted on July 5, 2017, in theology, Uncategorized and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. It occurs to me, this us descriptive of how I feel when people say that they don’t like or have an aversion to a particular deity rather than they do not have a relationship with a particular deity. It is like a festering spiritual wound. And as one who did for years in my youth to Aphrodite who turned out to be a goddess of my familial line as Turan..it was like being cursed until I remedied it. To me it is definitely akin to a sickness

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  2. I had my challenges with Odin because I had my issues with men, but as I cleaned the house of my own heart, i could feel Him drawing closer and closer until I had to ask Him to remove the last of my miasma, and the relief and joy and love have been well worth it.

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  3. Thanks for sharing this very powerful story!

    I have a question for you – as someone who suffers from anxiety and OCD – as the latter, especially, is something that is often a nasty and invisible struggle – I sometimes go through periods where I too avoid my gods – not because I don’t want to connect with Them – on the contrary I do very much – but rather, my shame at my mental state during my worse OCD flare ups makes me feel horrible and unworthy of Their presence. 😦

    Is that a kind of aversion to potentially cause problems in your opinion? 😦

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  4. Hey Ly, I can’t relate to your struggle with OCD but I do know what it is like to feel deeply unworthy of your gods. This is a struggle I have every day, I regularly don’t come out on top and yes it absolutely causes problems. They are still worth the fight, those moments of contact, those times of adoration and reverence for the gods in spite of how we feel about ourselves…those are worth it, the Gods are worth it. Good luck.

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  5. Especially since the beginning of this year I have suffered from severe depression that has resulted in Acedia. It is terrible, with a feeling of loneliness (especially for me as the gods have always been present in my actions and life.)
    For myself a period of rest was required, but to maintaining that ‘rest’ is not good, I found myself falling into a hole where it was difficult to crawl back out of. I found redirecting my devotion, doing new things and establishing a relationship with other spirits and even epithets of my gods helped. It is now I’m returning to my old ways, yet reinvigorated with new experiences and knowledge.
    Ly I wish you the very best and hope for a speedy recovery.

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  6. To Wynndark and Dionysian artist, your replies are much appreciated πŸ™‚ Thanks for sharing your own experiences.

    I don’t feel that unworthy/shame feeling all the time, just the times I’m in a particularly bad state. If only OCD really was just the quirky hand-washing many people seem to think it is πŸ˜›

    Absolutely right that the Gods are worth the fight and in the moments it’s hardest to connect, those such thoughts do help get through it.

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  7. This piece is everything ! It’s so easy in these times, to give in to feelings of inadequacy when relating to our Gods, leaving us open to emotional turmoil and separation. The culture we are enveloped in gives us very few ways to work thru these periods in our lives, but allowing ourselves space and time to be open to what they offer us is healing on many levels.

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