On Godspousery and the Irrelevancy of outside validation of any kind whatsoever

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.

Advertisements

12 thoughts on “On Godspousery and the Irrelevancy of outside validation of any kind whatsoever

  1. My own spirit work centers on a non-human and even non-physical community (the spirits of extinct birds), so I run into a lot of the “you have to serve a human tribe or you’re not a FOR REALZ spirit worker” attitudes. Even the people who aren’t outright douchecanoes about it like that are still usually quietly uncomfortable with the idea of someone serving spirits only, especially non-human spirits. My theory is that it rocks the boat of their cozy human-centric view of the cosmos, and they don’t enjoy the sensation of feeling less important than they’re used to. I’ve run into the same difficulty even when trying to get a group of people to agree on a charity to support: some want to support animal related charities while others insist that we can’t care for animals until all human problems are solved first. (Because of course human problems are the most important, and have no relation at all to animal problems…) On top of that, the spirits of extinct animals, particularly ones that went extinct due to human actions, don’t necessarily have a sunshine and lollipops view of human beings to begin with.

    I actually struggled myself for awhile with the concept, because I thought that I was “supposed to” find a human “tribe” to serve, and I just couldn’t picture myself doing that. I was sort of trying to mold myself into a clergy role that others started grooming me for at a rather young age (I was part of a UU church in my teens, before I went hard-polytheist). When I got into this whole spirit work thing, I wanted to make sure that I was Doing It Right (TM) and following all the rules. I wanted to be the “best of the best of the best, SIR!”

    I think that disruption of the human-centric view is also part of the reason that people just assume that writing publicly about all the spirit work you do is the only way for it to be real and validated. There’s an assumption that you sort of have to submit your work to the court of public opinion at some point. Very little of my spirit work has ever even been discussed with others let alone committed to print, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist or isn’t worthy. Like you, I am very thankful for the people who share their stories, and I enjoy learning about journeys that are wildly different from my own. There are parts of my own journey that I have shared or plan to share in the future, and parts that I don’t see myself ever sharing. I get that for some spirit workers (or similar folks who identify with different job titles), making the story public is part of their marching orders. I just think there’s a tendency to assume that because some spirit workers have those orders, that must be a “rule” for all spirit workers, and I can’t imagine I’m the only spirit worker who ever worries about Doing It Wrong (TM).

    That really ties in to the other part of your post, about the tenacity of the cultural traditions surrounding the Gods. Most modern Pagans/Polytheists/What-Have-You are painfully aware of the young age of our religious movements. Whatever ancient roots they might have, they’re not continuous traditions. We compare that to the Abrahamic religions who have kept their traditions, holy texts, etc around for thousands of years, and who judge the validity of those traditions on their age, and there’s a knee-jerk reaction to try to prove that everything is as old as possible. So people get really uncomfortable with the idea of the Gods in a modern context, or in a cultural context that makes sense to us here and now, because that’s “just not how it’s done”. We’re afraid of not looking legitimate in the eyes of outsiders. Unfortunately 1) we won’t look like a legitimate religious option to outsiders until and unless we have a well-organized, well-funded “head” umbrella organization of some kind and 2) most of Paganism/Polytheism’s worst enemies come from within, tearing apart our own.

    I could go on and on, but this comment is already so long and I don’t want to flood you with text! Anyway, great post as always, thank you!

    • Thank you for your comment, and especially for sharing a fascinating glimpse into your own path. While I can understand why many feel that if you are not serving the (or a) human community, then what you’re doing has no validity for *them*, I have a hard time understanding why it matters to them. That is, I don’t expect others to see me as a healer or a sometimes psychopomp when I never step into those roles for incarnate humans (and rarely for the dis-incarnate humans). However, I don’t understand the dismissing of what people are called to do simply because it does not serve the human community . . . and this from those who often try to put others down for being human-centric in their paganism, as if they are also not, if differently. But this comes back, to me, to being spirit lead, to following where our gods and spirits and guides take us. I will never be one to join a community to the point where humans get to decree what my path looks like.

  2. Reblogged this on Loki's Bruid and commented:
    This post elicits the thinky thoughts, and I will write them out in their own post. For now, Jo’s words speak for themselves:
    “o 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.”

  3. Word.

    10000000 likes.

    I can’t believe how incredibly timely this is in my life. Thanks so much for being you and sharing this. 🙂

    Great blessings to you and yours.

  4. ROTFLOL
    ” I married a god. He did not smite me. Again: all the validation I need”
    ❤ ❤ May be the best thing I've read on the subject of all. ❤ ❤

    I've been thinking a lot about that post of Thenea's you reference, and I haven't quite been able to form a coherent stance on it. I do not consider myself a god-spouse, but looking at the referenced hellenic material… yea, well. I'm not so sure the gods have the same hang-ups about sex that mortals have.

    You said, "Very little of my spirit work has ever even been discussed with others let alone committed to print, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist or isn’t worthy."

    THIS – so much this. I had a couple comments made my way recently that someone thought my style of worship was "cute," and all I could think was "Bite me." Just because my work is done in the way that feels best to me (vs. a nebulous you/them) doesn't mean that it's not done. Just because I'm not screaming it from my front porch does not make my experiences any less real, and just because my god is much more subtle than some others (people keep laughing at me over that one), does not mean that I do not hear him. RAWR! As much as I live a very public life, I'm really a very private person, and no one needs to be all up in my business about how I do or do not interact with my gods, and how I have done so for years.

    Once again you've provided a voice that I can relate too, and I appreciate what you do choose to share the parts of your story that you do.

    This made me want to stand up and cheer.

    • I found her article to be interesting . . . and incredibly uncomfortable, in that I don’t hold the view that sex with gods or spirits makes us wedded to them unless there is the intent there on both/all parties to be married. Like, it’s an interesting idea that maybe works good in stories, but in actual experiences, I’d want nothing at all to do with a Power who tricked me in that manner. Except, maybe the stories are more “you cannot have this experience without it changing you forever,” and that I can understand and . . . I’m uncomfortable, always, at taking the myths and stories *only* literally. Not that I’m saying she was doing that, mind. I’ve enjoyed immensely the amount of introspection her article encouraged me to do, either way.

      Re: cute. Oh, that would infuriate me. How condescending and dismissive. That makes me angry on your behalf. Grr.

      Thank you for your kind words and sharing a bit of yourself here. And for cheering. Cheering is always welcome 😉

  5. I don’t claim to “get it” when it comes to devotional work. I also don’t think it’s my place to down-play someone else’s work no matter how it looks to me, and I’ll be one of the ones to say “Step off, jack-wagon!” if I see someone denigrating someone in my extended community, particularly if it’s an outsider.

    You know what? For the most part, devotional work ain’t my game *AND THAT IS OKAY.* Infinite possibilities in infinite forms, and all of them are right for someone. Not all of them are right for everyone.

    As a Buddhist (one of the paths that I claim), one of the major components is individual experience and effort. That, to me, is where the rubber meets the road. Is what you’re doing working for you? Yes? Then you’re doing it right, in my book, and to hell with anybody trying to tell you you’re doing it wrong.

    • I don’t claim to “get it” when it comes to devotional work. I also don’t think it’s my place to down-play someone else’s work no matter how it looks to me, and I’ll be one of the ones to say “Step off, jack-wagon!” if I see someone denigrating someone in my extended community, particularly if it’s an outsider.

      I wish we could all be that way. Though, I will say, that much of what I see, that I pay attention to and wish I did not see as much, comes from within. Those who are not on a devotional path, their opinions are interesting and I enjoy seeing other points of view, but their (some of their) dismissing of the devotional path as valid or worthy does not rank nearly as high on my give-a-shit meter as other devotional centered people who get on their “You Are Doing it Wrong because it doesn’t look like how I say it should look/doesn’t look how mine looks” kick.

      As I read more about Hinduism, I find that I really, really wish the extant polytheistic (or polytheistic-friendly) traditions were influencing American polytheism as much as, if not more than, Protestant Christianity has been.

  6. Pingback: Syncretism ahoy | Loki's Bruid

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s