Wk 3- Mar. 16- Deity and the Divine- This will be the third week’s topic every month and an opportunity for you to share with everyone those who guide, inspire and inform you.
Optional: I would like to add another layer to this for this month. I was away at the Between the Worlds/Sacred Space joint conferences last week and a similar topic was presented to the featured speakers as a plenary topic for discussion. So, I offer this to you…
What is your relationship with the Divine? Is it Devotional? Collaborative? An agreement of reciprocity? How does this engagement flow into your mundane relationships? or Does it?
Is my relationship with my gods and spirits devotional? Collaborative? An agreement of reciprocity? The short answer is: yes.
I’ve written before about how it is the guidance of the rune Gebo which informs my mindset when it comes to my relationships — my relationships with my family, my gods, my spirits, my place within the worlds. For those who don’t know, Gebo is the Elder Futhark rune that means ‘gift’. Shaped like an X, the rune speaks to me of exchange. It’s the exchange between equals, the lateral exchange, the reciprocal exchange that, for example, Beth and I share — two people on equal ground, giving and taking. In this way the rune represents the societal give-and-take, the warp and weft that makes up the fabric of society. Then there’s the other direction, an exchange of energy from below to above, and from above to below. This speaks to me of the give and take between the mortal realm and the spiritual realms. This is me receiving what it is my spirits and my gods have to offer me, and me offering what I have to give to my spirits and my gods.
It may be an unromantic, cold, clinical understanding of how these relationships work, but I see nothing wrong with saying that the giving and the receiving of gifts forms an integral foundation to my relationships. I’m not altruistic. I do not give of myself simply to give of myself. I don’t always sit and ponder what I might get out of a situation. I don’t plot “if I do X for this person, in the future I might be able to call in favors.” To use an example from my real life: I’m a writer. I have a decent amount of writing under my belt, though I don’t have a ton of material out for public consumption when it comes to fiction. Just the same, I’ve been writing fiction seriously since I was in high school. Not prolifically maybe, but still, seriously. With a professional eye. I read a lot (a lot) and I read things like The Chicago Manual of Style for fun. I also have training in copy-editing, graphic arts, and printing. I don’t, as yet, do freelance editing for pay, and I don’t have a professional history as an editor, but I do sometimes edit manuscripts of friends and offer critiques — often more in depth than what some printing houses offer. Because it is for friends, because I’m not doing it professionally, and because I want to read the books anyway, I don’t charge for this . . . but I’ve also established some good relationships with authors whose writing I admire, and I’ve gotten “free” offers at cover work from some of them. It’s not really free, because I’ve done “free” work for them, as well — it’s reciprocal. I didn’t offer to read their material so that I could get anything out of it . . . but I also knew that this was a possibility. Maybe it is cold. Maybe it is cunning . . . but I don’t think this is a bad thing, necessarily, and it does not make my wanting to something for other people less genuine. (Because, damn it, I wanted to read those books NOW, not later when they’re published!) It’s not that different than networking, right? I mean, it basically is networking: you seek out contact with people in particular fields/with particular interests because they either have access to something you want access to, or they provide some service you want to get in on, or whatever it is. This is how family units work, even — no relationship (at least, no relationship in my world) is free of goals or agendas. There is something you want, or something they want, and the relationship is forged on that anvil of want and need.
My point here, and I hope that readers will understand, is that it’s possible to have genuine, loving, caring, kind relationships that are rooted in the give-and-take. Beth is arguably the most important human in my life. She’s my immediate family. We have built a home together, a life together, and she contributes more to my immediate foundation stability, emotionally, mentally, financially, than any other human. This does not mean that I don’t love her. It doesn’t mean that she has to continue to meet all these things in a particular order or to a set amount in order for the relationship to continue. But our relationship was built upon this give and take, without a doubt. We both needed someone who could support our goals in life, someone who could understand and share our vision for this semi-secluded, somewhat monastic lifestyle, someone who would not be threatened by coming second to Odin or Poseidon, and who would not need to have all our attention all of the time in order to feel secure, valued, and loved.
What does this have to do with my relationship with my gods? Well, let’s take Poseidon, for example. Is our relationship based on devotion? Maybe — but it’s not based on devotional activies so far you could spell them out in a recipe. It isn’t based on devotional acts so much as it’s based a devotional mindset. Is it collaborative? (Now I have a mental image of us with our heads bowed together, plotting some nefarious scheme!) Sort of? He has goals, and they’ve become mine, over time. Reciprocity certainly factors in . . . I don’t demand He give me things, but there are certain criteria that must be met if He wants certain other things, and I have no qualms asking for them. (It’s harder for me to believe that I could possibly give Him anything of as much value back, but He says I do, and it’s just plain old rude to insist I know better the value of my gift than He, the recipient, does).
When our relationship began, I wanted to be saved. I wanted to healed. I wanted to be loved. I was dying an emotional death — I was in the last throes of it — and my spirit wanted help.
Once, when I was much younger, I was walking home with my grandmother from a doctor’s appointment. She slipped and fell, and wound up fainting. I was seven or eight — pretty young — and I’d never seen anyone faint before. I was terrified. I didn’t know what to do, and we were far enough away from the house that I couldn’t run and get help. So, I ran into the middle of the street and started screaming and crying for help. (For weeks, I talked about how I saved my grammy’s life. I also scored a stuffed animal out of being the hero. Go me.) When I think of the night that I met Poseidon, I imagine my spirit doing the spiritual equivalent of seven-year-old hero Jo did. I didn’t know what to do, didn’t know where to go for help, and I imagine my spirit reaching out, screaming for help, for anyone who would listen and respond, to do something, anything . . . and I imagine Poseidon hearing my spirit’s pleas, and responding.
It’s hard to look at the relationship I have built with Poseidon and try to figure out exactly what it is based on, because it is such an all-encompassing part of my life. There isn’t a part of my life that He does not touch — and this is more or less true with Pops, as well. But what about Others? What about Hekate and Selene, what about Hera and Aphrodite? What about the local spirits I’m involved with?
In those cases, it depends. Hekate matters to Poseidon, and so my relationship with Her is both collaborative between He and I (“observe the dark of the moon for Her with Me,”) and reciprocal through Him (“You have given much to Him, because He tells me You have, so I praise You and give You these things because of His love for You.”) It’s not really my own personal devotion — its’ more this thing I do with my Beloved because it matters to Him. With Aphrodite, it’s more a devotion in the ‘wanting to offer continual thanks for these few HUGE things She did for me, years ago’ sense. I can never, ever repay that debt, but I’m not asking for continued gifts, and I’m not doing things with Her, so I can’t call it collaborative, either.
So, the answer to this question is, as I mentioned: yes.