On being a godspouse and serving others

In poking my head out of my hole today and venturing around to find things to read with morning tea, I came across this post. All in all, I approach these sorts of posts carefully. I live in a bubble that is largely my own making, and is largely something I rather like having. I’m more social online than off, but generally speaking I like to poke at things that I like to poke at, I like to chew over topics privately, or mostly. I’m very much a act local think global person, so I’m not out to change the world or even my little corner of it in any big dramatic way. I strive to embody the “be the change you want to see in the world,” and part of that change is moving forward rather than getting stuck rehashing out the same old arguments time and time again. So, specifically with regards to Loki and the stigma attached to Him: Loki is welcomed in our household. He is asked to abide by the rules that all of our home, but we give Odin the trust to make sure that He does so, and that when He does not do so, it is something Odin has deemed acceptable. Pretty out there, really, but such is life given unto the trust of our gods. I keep my nose out of other folks’ lives with their gods, and I don’t know that I see the point in trying to police what people say or don’t say publicly about the gods. There will always be someone who says or does something you don’t agree with, who does or says something that has you groaning and wishing to distance yourself from them. Christians have to deal with that. Muslims do as well. The “big” world religions are not exempt from that; how can we expect that the myriad pagan religions will be? So, on the one hand, I definitely see the point of talking about what one is doing as opposed to what others might be doing, but I don’t know that I understand the point of, “they are doing this, and it’s wrong because of these things.” Yeah, what devote X is doing might be embarrassing to you, but who says you get to live life not being embarrassed ever? I’m a head covering pagan — pretty mild, really, but I know that the idea of pagans wearing religious head coverings or pursuing a modest lifestyle is, at the least, embarrassing to other pagans out there.

What really got my attention, and made me uncomfortable (and thus my need to poke at it — WHY did it make me uncomfortable?) was the author’s ideas on ideal godspouses, or more to the point, the idea of what an ideal godspouse ought to be doing. Because, it’s a role, right? We have a function to fulfill, otherwise why would we wed our gods? Immediately I had to acknowledge that such a concept dances too close to the ‘the gods are only interested is leaders!’ idea, which I find abhorrant, though that’s more a peripheral connection. I struggle, a lot, with the prevalent idea that we need to be doing something, that we need to be serving the greater good/the whole/the community. I’ll admit here, as I have before and will again: I live a selfish life. I do not live a life that my society nor my loved ones would have dictated to me or wanted for/from me. I moved away from where I grew up. I left a long-term relationship that was borderline unhealthy to devote my life to my gods. Beth and I have a partnership that is unconventional, but works for us. I am clear across the country from most of my loved ones. My immediate family mostly does not consist of humans, or even incarnate beings. But, even then, my devoting my life to my gods does not look exactly like you might expect. I have no grand works in place. No grand projects to get Poseidon’s name out there so the whole world can see how awesome He is. I’m not trying to build a modern day place of worship for Him. I haven’t even written the devotional book, beyond the book of short stories for Him, that I keep wanting to want to write, and in lieu of writing I started this blog. I study, but I don’t study all the time. I don’t sit and utter prayers constantly — our house does not act like a monastery all of the time. I do not serve Poseidon here on earth as priestess in any sort of community-building way.

The idea that godspouses ideally ought to be serving the community — whichever community they are a part of — makes me uncomfortable for myself because it introduces the idea that I might be doing this all wrong, and it makes me uncomfortable in general because it assumes that we know anything at all about anyone’s path beyond what they wish to share with us. Basically, because it assumes more than I’m willing to assume about others.

For myself? I’m reminded again that community can mean so many things. I’m reminded that the majority of my community isn’t human. I’m reminded that when I try to shove my path onto a path of my own making, rather than following Poseidon’s lead, I become miserable. “Why don’t You want these other shiny different obvious things from me?” And He reminds me again: Compassion. Awareness. Healing. First myself, and then the world, by bringing my own process out into the world.

30 thoughts on “On being a godspouse and serving others

  1. Hey Naiadis, this is Mikki (the author of the article). I just wanted to let you know that my intention wasn’t to make you doubt your connection to your god and what you’re doing. If you read that section again in my article, you’ll see that I put TWO models that I think give being a god-spouse meaning. In the Norse model, it was to serve a community. In the Maraj Lwa model, it was in order for the human spouse to receive needed help and healing from their Lwa partner in some way that only he or she can give in order to make the human a balanced person. It sounds as if that is what your relationship is doing for you, so (though you hardly need MY stamp of approval for your practice to be meaningful) it sounds to me like your path is completely legit.

    • Hi Mikki, thanks for commenting. In all honesty, the one particular model that I mentioned that made me uncomfortable is the one I mentioned *because* it made me uncomfortable. I did not mean it in any sort of challenging way (“How dare you assume this is the only way?”) but rather as a jumping off point for my own thought process, because that’s exactly what it was to me: a jumping off point for my own thought process. What about it made me uncomfortable? Why? Is it my own issue, or something I’m perceiving from outside of myself, or a mixture of the two, or something else entirely? What does it matter, in the end? It’s likely — extremely likely — that your Norse model was a Norse model struck too close to the ‘the gods are only interested in leaders’ idea in my head because in my experience, the folks who have said that have been heathen and have been talking about Odin, of whom I’m also a devotee, and that may have (probably, er, certainly) made the Norse model uncomfortable just by being close to that idea, in my head. So if it had been reversed, and the Maraj Lwa had been about serving community instead, my discomfort might not have been as . . . well, as much.

      If my post came across as though I was reading a challenge in your post, it wasn’t my intent at all, and if so than I apologize. I actually found your article to be useful, thought-provoking read. I figured I’d just come here to figure out what was making me uncomfortable, and why, etc.

  2. *nod* The author made some good points, but I do agree that if you looked at criticism and critique of godspouses (not just Loki’s) on the internet, you’d get the impression that the ideal spouse works tirelessly for his or her Beloved, particularly in the service of His/Her people.

    This doesn’t really take into account for many of us, the relationship is far more important than Work, and that learning to cherish yourself, your family (blood, chosen, or both) and growing and enjoying your mortal, embodied experience can be the Great Work and lesson that you’re supposed to be learning from a Divine Partnership.

    That branch of criticism also doesn’t take into account people whose Work is more spirit-driven or people who serve their local land spirits and so really have no need to write all about it online, and might only pass on their knowledge after years of working with someone else one-on-one. I know a local friend who has this sort of path, but I’ll never be able to write about zir other than generally because zir’s spouse has a job in a Christian-run company and if they realized that they are a pagan couple, the spouse would lose zir job.

    The only slight issue I take with that post, and I don’t think that the author’s intent was to belittle sexuality in religion, but some could read it that way, is the trope of “interested in sex = not serious about spirituality.” In poking at my own issues with why “stop talking about sex” bothers me, even though I don’t talk much about my sex life or orientation, etc, I think the problematic issue isn’t really sex itself, it’s about focus and reverence. Sex can be part of someone’s pathwork, but overall development is rarely one-sided or singularly focused. That really is the problem, not just the act of talking about it. I know some people would say that talking about it makes one look crazy, but…whatever. Bridal mysticism is well-documented in so many different cultures that while it’s not common, it’s not uncommon either, so…meh? Bridal mysticism, particularly of the very “womanly” variety can be mocked because of its “mundaneness,” and that’s a way of keeping separation. If being human is mundane and unsacred, then humans don’t have to work to effect change in themselves and others. And on some level, some people would rather stay powerless than accept that they could do more. And I feel like I’m traipsing toward writing a blog on your blog, LOL.

  3. That part of that article irritated me even more than most of the rest of it. It seems as though the blog author hasn’t done enough reading to understand that when some people try to force their relationships into a Work or Service-oriented type model, it harms the relationship, because it is not good for the mortal or what the deity wants. I also think it is extremely silly to take the one single example from our lore that we have, and only one modern godspouse example, and decide that this Work/Service model, therefore, should apply to -everyone- wed to a Norse deity. (I’ve read an account from a former spouse of Freyr, for example, who said that the relationship was supposed to be about the relationship, and not about Work/Service.)

    • I don’t know — I mean, I do know that yes, I agree: trying to let anyone else other than those involved in the relationship define what the relationship ought to be is a sure-fire way to disaster. At least, that’s been my experience. I know I grabbed hold of that model presented, because it’s the one that caused discomfort for me to even think about, but I do respect that it was one of two models presented, and I don’t know that the author was saying, this is the ONLY way it can be. Of course that leads me right back to: why do we need to have non-godspouses commenting on it in any sort of a way that hints close to telling us how it should be? Or even other godspouses? Which goes right back to these Loki-wives who folks are deciding aren’t serious enough or authentic or whatever — how is it our business? Yes, people annoy me, but can’t that be about the people annoying me and not touch upon their spiritual lives which are no business of mine? Can’t I just deal with being annoyed in some civil, compassionate way, like, I don’t know, not making them a part of my day to day life?

      • The author says pretty clearly that they believe that ideally, all godspouses would perform some sort of -community- related function as part of their connection with the deity.

        But anyway. Yes, I agree with everything you said here. I have no idea where anyone gets the notion it’s okay to declare how an “ideal” relationship of any kind between a mortal and spirit should be. That seems to lead people into going the wrong way for -human- approval.

        • Ah yes I see I forgot that this morning. Mea culpa. Easy for me to as I do see myself serving my community as a godpouse and I suspect that most of us do – just as I suspect that community is a wide and varied concept. The author means other humans where as I do not.

          • *nod* I dislike the conflation of “mystic” with “clergy,” or the notion buried in the author’s post that if you have -this- type of mystical relationship, you -should- also be clergy, to a human community. It’s like – different skillsets, right? I also wonder if that kind of association, of “spouse” with “service to others” contributes to people thinking being a consort/spouse to a deity is somehow better or superior or at some kind of “higher level” than feeling yourself a child or servant or niece to a deity, which helps no one whatsoever (and on top of that, I’ve seen plenty of people recently discussing how laity, especially headblind laity, seem to not be valued compared to clergy or the more mystically-oriented people).

            • The conflation of the two is not new, and is apparently also not going away, alas. it seems, in my experience thus far, more prevalent in heathenry than, say, in Hellenic paganism, and I suspect that’s because of the historic precedent for priests as temple keepers rather than of communities.

              I don’t understand the whole laity/mystically oriented people dichotemy, though I know it’s not a new one, either. In my mind, laity is such a specifically Christian concept; it doesn’t translate into paganism at all for me. I understand ‘headblind’, but I tend to think of those folks being more academically oriented rather than mystically oriented, and not really ‘laity’, if that makes any sense? (it may not; i’m tired. it makes sense in my brain right now, but who knows about how it’s translating!)

              At some level, the whole relationship terminology breaks down. I call myself a wife of Poseidon’s, because those are the vows I’ve given Him; I call myself Odin’s daughter, again, because those are the vows I’ve given Him, and since neither of them struck me down, and I fully believe that, as real beings, they both could have, I believe they accepted them. But, eventually, the terminology stops being necessary, and it really becomes about being close to these gods, in trusting them, in opening my very soul to them. This does not make me better or worse than anyone else, it only makes me me. Do I think it’s better to follow your calling and to walk your path willingly than to deny it or fight against it? Hell yes! But I don’t think I’m better than Thom Laity Heathen or Jane Mysticky-mystic wookona, and I really, really wish such ideas were not getting in the way of useful dialogue.

  4. Thank you for this response. You’ve put things much more eloquently and well-reasoned than I could have. I have to admit though, my main issue is with the author’s attempt to draw the line between “good Lokeans” and “bad Lokeans” (himself being, of course, safely on the side of the “good Lokeans”). The Godspouse criticism is something that I just expect to happen by now, so that I mostly ignored it in the first place.

    But I think you address it very well.

    • You’re welcome. I feel like it was a bumbly article (mine) because poking through emotions generally feels bumbly to me. But thats’ what I want to be doing — sharing the bumbly parts of this path, because there’s this idea that once you hit a certain point it’s all easy or something. And maybe that’s true, but I haven’t hit it yet, and i’ve been doing this a minute.

      • I really appreciate that you share these kinds of things. I’ve found it extremely valuable, reading this kind of post from the few people I’ve found who have been at this a while and are writing about it publicly. As someone new to ALL of this, it helps that I can see that bumbling through things is just part of the deal, regardless of how long you’ve been doing it, not a sign I’m messing up and Everything Is Ruined Forever.

        • Aw, shucks. Thank you. This is actually exactly why I do — and I realize I’m repeating myself now. I’m sure there are people out there who do have it all together. I don’t. And I’m okay with that. And I’m okay with sharing it, because I’ve had enough people tell me that seeing my writing about not having it together has helped them. It’s messy and it’s bumbling — how can it not be? We’re forging this as we go, and even if other godspouses have come before us — because at this point that’s starting to be true — we are still the first ones to forge our way, right?

          Every single time I’ve looked at what others are doing, in a way that was more than just looking because I was curious, in a way that started to influence in a negative way my own path, my own relationships, it’s been awful. Path-halting, heart-breakingly awful. And I return to my foundations, regularly, because of it. And it’s always humbling, and frequently humiliating that I keep losing sight of it, but such is life, and what’s a little bit of humiliation between friends?

  5. Reading the article sort of triggered my embarrassment squick: the kind where you facepalm and think “OMG they didn’t really do that, did they?” But I think a lot of the argument really boils down to:

    a) Adolescents online are being adolescents;

    b) They make Us look bad.

    I have never posted online about ecstatic experiences with Powers and sex toys, because I’ve never (well….hardly ever…) had an experience like that, and if I did, I wouldn’t be posting about it. But I’m 46, and I didn’t grow up sharing my life on social media. Teenagers are going to leave adults facepalming, just as teenagers facepalm at adults, and have ever since Gaia asked Chronos and Rhea, “Are you really going out dressed like that?!” (I kid, I kid…maybe. I wasn’t there.)

    • This is what I keep coming back to with this. We aren’t the first to be embarrassed by the younger generations, we won’t be the last, and it’s not the end of the world. It’s not going to stop, we aren’t going to fix it, and it’s no big deal.🙂

      • OMGS THIS. So much, this. “You durn kids whippersnappers blah blah blah” stuff annoys me. It’s not gonna make young people turn to any “elder” – and i have mixed feelings about people my own age calling themselves elders – I raised a human to near-adulthood and I don’t call myself an elder; I’m middle aged, LOL. But seriously, I think it just alienates the younger generation from seeking advice from the more experienced. When my stepmother passed away recently, I came to the realization that the only experienced practitioners that I trusted weren’t exactly called to ministering to others, and the ones who claimed that they were, none of them were particularly friendly or made me feel as if there was enough rapport there for me to want to approach them. And I don’t think that people who aren’t suited to ministering/counseling should be shoehorned into an ill-fitting position, but on the flipside no one seems to want to hear “hey the children/new people you’re spitting on might just be your Work,” and thus people are making themselves less effective.

        Probably some sort of training standards and developmental touchstones would be helpful for those who are called toward ministry, but right now they don’t exist, so people are doing the best they can, I guess.

      • I would also far, FAR, much prefer to see J. Random Lokispouse have a crush and post Tom-as-Loki pics all over Tumblr, rather than find said JRL lighting the neighbor’s cat on fire and saying “Loki made me do it.” You know? At the very worst, they’re having fun and harming nobody.

  6. Pingback: The Work of a Godspouse | Wytch of the North

  7. I read the article too and had my moments of uncomfortableness. Partly because I have been guilty of oversharing in the past but, as was pointed out in the comments above, adolescents are gonna be adolescents and I don’t think any of us were allowed to skip the awkward growing phases and go straight to being a balanced grown-up capable of communicating a mature and measured way. Yes I’m embarrassed by by co-religionists from time to time and that is probably part of the reason why I’ve dropped out from common dialogues. However, it is right to point out that this being embarrassed is not limited to Heathens or to Pagans. It’s just that, as a minority religious tradition, I think we are more sensitive to how dominant groups perceive us.

    I don’t have any specific bones to pick with the author and the argument was well-stated. It is unfortunate that there is this phantom of Other Lokeans in the mind of many Heathens. I’ve encountered this a lot. The idea of the wacky, inappropriate, nerdy, uninhibited, pushy, adolescent Lokean often strongly colors Heathens’ expectations of the Actual Lokean (the one standing in front of them). While I have no doubt that Heathen Heathensson did in fact have an unpleasant experience with a Lokean at some point in the past, it is also the threat or fear of an imagined Lokean that really ends up driving the interaction that Heathens have with Lokeans. Or, as people would tell me, “Oh, I don’t mean YOU. You’re just fine. You’re normal. I mean those other Lokeans.” Oh really? You mean the ones in your head? That guy you met at a blot 20 years ago? The one your cousin’s friend said he knew? The ones you’ve read about online and think that you know because you found their blog?

    I’m not trying to say that the article’s author is necessarily guilty of this but I think that the Phantom Lokean is strongly present in between the lines. Heathens are embarrassed by Lokeans they *think* they know, that they *assume* they understand – by phantoms of distant strangers. And that fallacy works against everyone – the person imaging those phantoms, the Lokeans in their immediate religious community, and the community itself.

    • I am so glad to see you’re thoughts on this. I don’t know that oversharing in the past is a bad thing. I do know that we’re all guilty of it, and I know that (at least for me) it was based in enthusiasm, and really, what’s so wrong about discovering that you are not only loveable but loved?

      I find this concept of Phantom Lokeans to be a useful one.

      horrible, late response here. You have me thinking deeply, deeply enough that I might bother you with an email in the future, if it ever gets into something as tangible as words. . . .I’m in a place, and there are things.

  8. As far as the work of a godspouse goes…I think it might be the same as the work of a mortal spouse. Marriage can help you get where you’re going by providing financial stability, etc. but that’s not the only reason people chose to get married. It’s not even the primary reason a lot of people get married. What is the purpose of a mortal marriage? I don’t really know. It does seem to be important to an awful lot of people, though. Emotional fulfillment, being in love with someone and wanting to center your emotional life on them, wanting to love and support them and be loved in supported and return – is this not work enough?

    Which isn’t to say that spirit- or god-marriage serves no sociological purpose whatsoever. In some communities in certain time periods, some portions of the devadasi tradition in India helped provide a means of supporting unmarried women, single mothers, and women who had children outside of marriage. There were problems with how this support played out (there always is) but the Maraj Lwa isn’t the only model of spirit/god-marriage that can be looked to for clues as to the greater social role of god-spouses.

  9. Pingback: Art and community musings | Loki's Bruid

  10. I read this post and the next one. I don’t have much of anything useful to say except I had no idea that when work is spelt as Work some folks see that as meaning Work out in the community specifically. I tend to use Work as spiritual work (as opposed to paycheck work) which is mostly Me Work, and Inner Work, and Shadow Work, and Healing Work. Yeah, I can and do Work in my community, but the bilk of my Work is just for me. So I find it intriguing to find it used differently and specifically in a way I hadn’t known before. I guess I just don’t understand why Godpsouse relationship work isn’t considered Work?

    (Maybe it’s a heathen thing to use Work only to mean in the community?)

    • I use Work similarly as you, and that’s generally how I read it — it *can* me community based (and human-community based) but in my head at least, it doesn’t *have* to. It may indeed be a heathen-influenced nuance. I know that I don’t consider the marriage “Work” simply because when I do, I get stuck in the cycle of “not enough.” Not good enough, not frequent enough, not enough of my time/energy/everything. I suspect that speaks more to the fucked up work ethic that I’m trying to train myself out of, rather than anything else. . . .

      • Probably yes, on the work ethic thing. One of the most damaging lies dumped onto this culture by the Puritans (or at least that is the group that receives the blame) is the Godsawful Protestant work ethic.

        It’s like self-flagellation, only less useful. An unattainable piece of insanity. Ohhhh … look there. I feel strongly about this.😉

        • Yeah, I hear you. I’ve worked (hahahaha, see that?) very hard to root out my “oh, I’m sick/injured: MUST PROVE MY WORTH BY WORKING HARDER” tendencies, instilled upon me by said Protestant work ethic blargh.

          • That’s a hard one to rid, the sick/injured must work anyway runs-in-the-back-of-the-head tape. I remember being so happy when a popular phrase popped up that was, “Work smart, not hard.” Until I found out that the purpose was not to work smart to have time to follow your bliss. Oooohhh nnnooooo. It was work smart so you have MORE TIME FOR MORE WORK. WTF. So close to a way to live and then they blew it.

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