Or: I care fuck-all
Another one of Thenea’s articles is making the rounds, this one focusing on what the Hellenic and Roman sources have to say on godspouses. Like all of her articles, this one was a thorough, well-written, and extremely interesting piece, and it contained references I’d never seen before. I’m glad she wrote it, I’m glad it’s out there, I think people should read it. I want to make it clear before I go further that this is not a rebuttal to what she wrote. Rather, it’s a matter of her material providing a spring-board for my own thoughts.
I’m holding a decent amount of discomfort regarding my spiritual practice – no, that’s wrong. I’m holding a decent amount of discomfort regarding my relationship with Poseidon these days. Despite my best efforts to be open and adventurous, I’m cranky. Despite my best efforts to trust our past, and to remind myself of His constant steadfastness and proven worthiness of that trust, I am by turns resentful and reserved. Despite constant reassurances, I’m dreading that He’s going to take His name away. Despite everything I know about Him, I fear something is going to change in a manner I will not like, and despite my knowledge that I don’t care about His name, I care about Him, that I will follow wherever He takes me, I cling to this fear. I share this to explain where my head space has been at as I read, and then contemplated, this article. The material within provided more discomfort, and I sat with that for a bit, until all of this coalesced for me, oh, around three am, because when else would it?
Interestingly, the discomfort left when clarity of thought came – and this is why I read things I don’t 100% agree with, and this is why I think it’s important to read things that I don’t fully agree with, and it’s a huge portion of why I explore the pagan blogosphere at all. Realizing and/or remembering a few key things about myself and my relationship with Poseidon helped me bury that discomfort once and for all. What key things?
Hellenic history, culture, and the myths that surround Poseidon are incidental to my devotion to Him. It’s not as clear cut as that, of course – there are pieces that inform my understanding of Him, pieces that I believe are fundamental to Who or at least How He Is, but, for example, this idea of Zeus as King of the Gods is, in my understanding, nothing more than convention and tradition, and is, for the most part, irrelevant to my life. Does learning about and trying to understand Hellenic culture(s) and history help bring nuance to how I understand Poseidon’s history of interacting with humans? Yes, obviously. I’m certainly in the ‘more knowledge and context is always good’ camp.
I don’t believe that the gods ‘belong to’ or ‘come from’ a particular culture. This can be a complicated topic – the only god that could be argued to come from the over-culture (if you can call it that) of mainstream, secular America is, maybe, sort of, a bastardized view of Jesus. (Emphasis on the maybe, sort of), and I’m quite happy to disassociate as much as possible from the mainstream, secular, driven to the worship of Consumerism, over-culture of America. I will never be a part of the cultures our spiritual ancestors were a part of, and I do not have a connection to any part of the Old World and any of the gods that might come via that connection, beyond a tenuous connection to ancestors. My family is not one of those American families who has clear and active ties to ‘where they came from’. So we did not carry the culture of our locations of origin with us to this new place; we were the people happy to assimilate into this giant, messy, complicated soup that is America. So, I own the fact that my understanding will never be that of one connected to those histories. Also, I’m pedantic and also a tiny bit down on humanity anyway, and so I have a very clear human/not human distinction in my head. So, the gods can, have, do, and will shape our various cultures by interacting with us, and they can, have, do, and will take a vested interest in our various cultures, even to the point of having a proprietary interest – and in this way, they certainly can be a part of our culture – but at the same time? They are gods. They are not human. They are not bound into that culture in the way that we are, they are not “from” that culture. Poseidon is not Hellenic. He’s not Greek. And maybe this way of understanding Him is so clear to my mind because He is as much all about non-human mortal beings as He is about humans, and the animals we interact with and share our lives with are also not really of “our” culture – not when we look at them as beings in their own right and not merely extensions of our property. The animals that live in my region do not “come from” American or even Oregonian culture – they simply co-exist along side it.
I’m not a Hellenic polytheist anymore than I’m a Heathen polytheist. I’m a modern polytheist devoted to Poseidon and Odin, and while history is important to learn about, my devotional life with my gods is rooted in our relationships. Their pasts are as much a part of it as my past is – in that the past shapes us, and knowing about it is important (because knowledge is good) but the relationship drives the relationship.
Because of these things especially: I care fuck all for historical validation for having married Poseidon. It is interesting to learn about the stories of humans and gods interacting, but it’s also a bit irrelevant to my life. It makes me feel not so alone, maybe, but it also does not change the fact that the Powers can, do, and will interact with us now. When I married Poseidon, I’d already been His devotee for a number of years, and I cared fuck-all about other people being devoted to Him. (Though I could not for the life of me understand why more people were not.) My relationship with Poseidon had zero to do with anyone else at any other time or place, and everything to do with the fact that when I was at my most broken, my most desperate, my most helpless, He was there and He changed my life.
I also care fuck-all about doing any of this in a way to please anyone else. There is this idea that gets bandied about from time to time that if you are married to a god you have to be giving to ‘the community’. That being a godspouse should be about doing the Work. Over the years, there have been more people speaking up about how the relationship may be the Work, and that’s good enough. And you know what? It’s true. If you want to be involved in a marriage with a god or spirit and you are also called to community work (whatever that looks like to you), then great! Do it! Totally. But there is nothing at all that says that in order to be involved with the gods you have to be willing to serve a need in the human community. I’m going to say that again. You do not need have to give anything at all to the fucking human community(ies) in order for your relationship with your Powers to be valid, real, or worthy. It very well may be that your Powers in question push you, drag you, or encourage you that way. It may very well be that you want to become involved – and that’s great, that’s fine, we are social animals.
But we need not all be social animals to the same extent, and that’s okay, too. Me? This is about as social I get with people I don’t actually know in person. When others talk about gathering together in groups, I find myself often wanting to want to go, but when it comes down to it, I don’t. (Sort of. I do, but mostly to see specific people that being gathered in a group makes a bit easier to do in one fell swoop). What I do with Poseidon, what I do with Odin – the bits of my life that could be classified as “spirit work” – do not immediately or even primarily benefit the human world, and I care fuck-all about whether other humans find that valid, worthy, or acceptable.
My marriage to Poseidon was about the two of us. It became a way to create a bridge between families, but that was a natural out-growth, not so much the goal. I did not marry into a Hellenic community, and therefore the traditional Hellenic trappings of marriage did not apply. I did marry into a community of spirits and Powers, and their witnessing and acceptance of me as Poseidon’s wife mattered, but not to the point where the lack of it would have null-and-voided our marriage. I asked, He said yes, and then we got married.
I don’t want you to think that I took it all at face value without struggle or questioning or doubt. There was a good long while of horrendous doubt and fears, but it comes down to this: the marriage is between us. If I believe Poseidon is real (and I do) and powerful (check) and aware (yup), I have to believe that if I offended Him in any way with this, He’s capable of both letting me know and also taking care of it Himself. That is: He does not require humans to make sure He’s not being insulted, belittled, or otherwise disrespected.
How much you want to talk about your relationship with the Powers in your life is completely up to you. How much you want to share that with other people is also entirely up to you. How much acceptance you want to demand others in your community grant you is your call – though, realize that sometimes the most acceptance you’re going to get is people agreeing that how we think about our interactions with the gods in our lives is incredibly personal, intimate, and that how we express it may not be how they express or understand it. They may do no more than agree to disagree.
To recap: I care fuck all for historical validation. Poseidon’s continued presence, blessings, and affection are all the validation I need.
I care fuck-all for human acceptance. If you do not have an immediate impact upon my life, and if you are not one of the very few whose opinions of me matters, you can think whatever you want about and I could not care less. I married a god. He did not smite me. Again: all the validation I need, and all the permission I need.
I care fuck-all for tying myself to a historical culture I do not belong to. I’m not slamming those who do find use in immersing themselves as much as they can or want into a particular context (especially if they then talk about it where I can read it because I love reading other peoples stories — I’m a voyeur that way; not ashamed) but being devoted to Poseidon has never been about humanity or any of its cultures or histories for me.
I care fuck-all about letting others decide what I can or should talk about. I don’t talk as much as some about my marriage with Poseidon; there are things I’m not comfortable talking about. That said, I talk about what I want to talk about. Don’t like it? Don’t read it. I’m a polytheist, and I’m a pagan, and I may not be your type, and you may wish those like me would shut up and go away . . . which is exactly why I won’t. My relationship to my gods is not irrelevant: it is the foundation of who I am. It shapes me. Anything at all that I might bring to this table of community is shaped by these relationships – and one of them is a fucking marriage. It isn’t all I talk about, it may not even be mostly what I talk about, but whether I talk about it or not is entirely up to me.
To this I add a closing plea: do not be shamed into silence. Tell your stories. Raise your voice. I don’t care what it is you want to talk about, if there is that thing inside of you that burns to be written or spoken, that thing that just wants to be let out, that thing you fear others will mock you for or make fun of you or distance themselves from you if they knew or heard or saw – these are the things we need to talk about. These are the things that we need to share. These are the things that help us learn who is worthy of our time and commitment and love. People do not have to accept what we have to say – I don’t care if everyone in the world decided I was insane for calling Poseidon my Husband – but neither do they get to dismiss us because they don’t like what we have to say. And the only way we make sure our voices (and voices like ours) get heard is by not going away. Fuck ’em. Raise your voice.