Hearing the Gods

Since “God Sex” has been a hugely popular post here on Sex, Gods, and Rock Stars, I thought I might start blogging about other aspects of spirit work that I am frequently asked about. It falls in line with a serious desire of mine – to leave behind some of the wisdom I’ve gained through my own processess – so I’ll dive into another subject that many people wonder aloud about.

As my mom puts it, I hear the voice of God(s).

However, it’s usually not as cut and dry as those words make it seem. Rarely do I actually hear words that come from an obviously external source. It does happen, but when it does, They’re usually pretty succinct. I may get a word or three, even more rarely a sentence, that I hear with my actual ears as though someone else in the room has said them. A recent experience was when I heard laughter, so loud and so obvious that I walked around the house looking for the source before I realized (quite rightly) that it was Loki, laughing at something I had just read.

For the record, my mom hears the voice of God as well, and for her it is also only rarely in the experience of an external sound.

I think this is what trips up a lot of people; when a spirit worker or other spiritual person says, “Odin told me such and so”, there’s an internal assumption that the communication was an external voice stating things plainly so that the listener immediately understood. As most spirit workers will attest, this is usually not the case.

So if that’s true, then how do we interpret the voice of Gods?

I can only speak from my personal experience, and the experiences of those I have discussed this topic with. I invite those who have different experiences to add them to the comments, so that people who come to this page looking for information can get a wide range of points of view.

Primarily, when Gods communicate to me, I get a strong sense of intution. I’ll be walking through a store, say, and all of a sudden I find myself making a beeline for the yo-yos for no apparent reason. I usually stand there, dazed for a moment, trying to figure out what the heck is happening. Because I’ve had this happen before, I know to take a moment and breathe, and then relax my senses so I can better attune to that intuitive sense. I’ll start taking various yo-yos off of the shelf, maybe asking aloud (or more often, under my breath) “Is this what you want?” “Would the yellow one be more appropriate?”

You might think I’m joking, but this actually happened to me when I was off buying gifts to leave in Jon’s grave. People had been invited to leave offerings for him, and I had gone out with friends to figure out what we wanted to get. To this day, I have no idea if Jon had a thing for yo-yos, but nevertheless, he got a bright yellow one for his use in the afterlife. (I can’t wait for archeologists hundreds of years from now to dig up Cauldron Farm and find a bright yellow yo-yo, buried beneath a tombstone. Let ’em wonder!)

Sometimes it’s even subtler than that. I’ll be having a random conversation with someone and all of a sudden I’ll get this internal “ding” that makes me sit up and pay attention. It’s not like the person I’m talking to is suddenly passing along a message, per se, as much as it’s just that the Gods have taken this coincidence to make an impression. It won’t be until later on that I’ll figure out that the conversation had an extra layer to it – that Someone was trying to make a point by setting off that internal alarm – but my brain will definitely feel stuck on the situation until I’ve gleaned whatever it is I’m meant to understand.

This is how I came to understand myself as a spirit worker. I had met Raven Kaldera because he came to a workshop of mine on sacred body modification, and we felt drawn to each other. We had many conversations over the next few days, and at one point he was pontificating on the nature of “spirit work” – a phrase I had never heard before – and something in my heart told me to stop and pay attention, because This Was Important. It wasn’t until many months later, when he sent me an invitation to a gathering of spirit workers, that it all fell into place for me. When I tell that story now, sometimes I tell the Raven version, but sometimes I’ll shorthand it to “Loki told me I was a spirit worker, and I had to meet with others who were doing similar work to learn what that meant.”

Dreams are also an important vehicle for divine communication. Granted, I, too, have those wacky dreams where you’re back in high school, naked, except you’re 35, and they just figured out that you failed to meet a qualification to get your diploma, so you have to sit through a class that makes no sense to you and take some sort of test to prove that you’re actually a graduate. Oh, is that just me? But other times, I will have either very direct vision of a Deity speaking directly to me, or taking me on some sort of symbolic journey, or showing me something I need to know.

I admit, these don’t happen to me as often as they happen to other people I know. Sleep is a weird thing for me; I suffer from chronic insomnia followed by periods of sleeping 18 hours a day, and I tend to take medicines that facilitate sleeping; those usually end up messing with your dreams.

Another way I communicate with Gods is through visions. I do have a pretty strict meditation regimen – I meditate for at least an hour a day, often more than once. It takes me that long because I let my brain prattle on for the first fifteen minutes or so, and then it runs out of things to say and I can get into a deeper trance state. Often, again, it’s not an external voice I hear, but more like what my mother calls an illumination; I will come out of the session just knowing something as sure as I know my own name, something I didn’t know or understand before. I might get visual images that lead me to this revelation, or go through a series of emotions that lead me to an insight. Again, I might speak or write about these experiences with the words, “The Lady told me I need to focus on more death work”, which makes it sound like a conversation, when in fact it was more of a moment of discovery.

Like many spiritual people, I also rely on divination. I try not to read for myself, since I’m incredibly biased towards the outcome I’m hoping for, but sometimes the randomization of the tools I use (runes, cards, and google – don’t knock googlemancy, it works really well) help show me a trend that I might not have noticed otherwise. If I feel like my life is falling apart, and I draw the Tower, I might take that as confirmation that yes, in fact, what I feel is accurate. If I am still unsure, I may ask someone else to do a short reading for me – I frequently ask for yes/no divinations, or will assign codes to my options, “Should I choose the blue, the red, or the orange?” – in order to gain a little clarity. I do this especially when I’ve experienced some of the other forms of communication but I’m still wary of getting the message wrong.

I frequently encourage people to look for signs and omens. As part of my magical training, I spent two weeks assuming every single thing I saw, heard, or experienced was a communication from Someone. If nothing else, it definitely taught me to pay attention to things like repeating patterns (seeing the same kind of animal everywhere you go, or hearing the same song on the radio every time you get in the car),significant numbers (knowing an important date, and then seeing those numbers come up in other formats), or odd occurrances (doors shutting behind you, a book falling off a shelf for no reason, a single Tarot card falling from the deck when you pull it out). I tend to ask the Gods for signs and omens in a series of 3 or 9, so I don’t just go around assigning spiritual signficance to every single thing that happens – that way lies madness and self-centeredness – but I can then notice when something keeps happening over and over again.

I’d be amiss if I left out “Hearing something from a God during a possession”, but that seems pretty straightforward, and not everyone has access to someone skilled in possessory work, but it’s here for those who experience it.

I mentioned hearing the same song repeatedly earlier, and media is another way the Gods have learned to communicate. I remember clearly when Loki was trying to tell me about something he wanted me to stop eating, but he didn’t know the right word for it. I just knew, intutivitely, that He was working on getting me on a diet that would make me a better spiritual channel, because of yet another form of communication I’ll get to in a moment, and then a commercial came on the television where children were dressed up as various fruits and vegetables. The end of the commercial was a child wearing a grey, lumpy suit proclaiming, “I’m high fructose corn syrup.” It was like bells and whistles went off in my head – like if you hear a song with your name in it – and I knew that there was no more HFCS for me. (I still struggle with that one, but I’m doing much better than I was.)

When the Gods want me to do a certain thing, I’ll find that when I do it of my own accord, I get tangible rewards that outweigh the action itself. With the diet thing, I found that certain foods just started tasting strange, or off, or spoiled, or started affecting me in ways I did not enjoy. For example, I used to be a pretty bad caffeine junkie – I’d happily down a four-shot espresso twice a day and not blink, and I was one of those people who could have coffee and then go right to bed – and then one day at a camping event, Rave made me coffee to drink during a class I was teaching, and I felt so bad I needed to stop and take a benzodiazapine in order to get myself under control. I later repeated the experiment to see if that was the case, and yup – once again, I felt horrible and couldn’t wait for the stuff to leave my system. I love coffee, and I find that I can rarely have a cup of decaf without much effect, but for the most part it’s now completely off-limits.

This sort of communication happens in other ways. I have a gaes (a spiritual thing I have to do) where if someone looks me in the eyes and asks me for money earnestly, I have to give it to them. Now, don’t think this means you can just walk up to me and say, “Give me money” and I’ll fork it over. The best way I’ve come to understand it is if there’s any legitimacy behind the request – the person is homeless, hungry, or has a real need of some sort – I have to fork it over. This makes walking through cities potentially difficult. I learned my lesson about carrying around large bills when a homeless man asked me for a dollar, and all I had was a hundred dollar bill. I took it out, and touched him on the shoulder, looking deep into his eyes, and said, “Use this wisely. I won’t tell you not to buy drugs or alcohol, but the least I can do it tell you to make it last, to at least apply this to something that will keep you safe.” Luckily, I don’t have to do this if I don’t have any cash in my pocket, or if someone asks me for something I just can’t give – if I need the $20 to get home by bus, I don’t have to fork it over – but if it’s just mad money, even the people who beg on the highways can get to me from time to time.

How do I know about this? When I do it, I feel peaceful, and good things happen to me. A friend will unexpectedly send me a gift, or I’ll find myself knee deep in divination-for-pay work. If I’m on my way to a class, it will go well and be well attended. However, if I ignore the request, or try to rules-lawyer my way around it (“They didn’t look me in the eyes” or “I don’t think they really need it”), I find the opposite to also be true. I’ll lose my wallet, or money will go missing, or I’ll have an unexpected expense that I have to scrimp in order to meet. Experience over time has made it clear to me that it’s in my better interest to do what I’m supposed to.

Could this be a case of only noticing the outcome when it fits the pattern? Maybe. I won’t say that if I tell you elephants are magic signs that you will win the lottery, that you won’t start noticing elephantine signs everywhere. It’s how the human brain works – you tell it to look for a pattern, and it will do its damndest to find it. However, I have found that there is a marked difference between looking for a pattern, and having a pattern appear. It would be a different story if you’d already seen four different elephant things today, and then I mention the significance. That could be something important.

And no one is always right. Let me say that again, because it’s really effing important. Sometimes we think we’ve received a divine message, and we’re wrong. If someone tells you that they have 100% accurate signal clarity, they’re either lying or they aren’t actually doing it right. Every spirit worker I trust can tell you stories when they made decisions based on what they thought was direct from the Universe, only to find out it was the sock puppets living in their head.

That’s the other part of all of this – sock puppets. There are a lot of people who desperately want to believe that they are channeling divine inspiration, and they can fool themselves into believing that the inner voices we all experience – that craving for ice cream, or that feeling of satisfaction when you finish a project, for instance – may have some greater meaning. I don’t make life-altering decisions – you know, like declaring myself married to a God, for example – without checking my thoughts with someone who has absolutely no idea what I’m talking about.

Another personal example: At one point, I was absolutely convinced that my medical struggles were somehow a punishment from Loki for not doing something he had asked me to do. I beat myself up for months, because the thing I thought I was supposed to do was just outside of my skill set, and no amount of trying led to any success. Finally, I reached out to a group of spirit workers and just asked, “Am I really being punished?” All of them came back with a resounding “No.” And as time has bourne out, my chronic illness is a spiritual thing, but has absolutely nothing to do with the thing Loki wanted me to do . (I still haven’t done it, but I explained to him that I just can’t make a quilt on my own, and I have yet to find the right person to hire to do it for me.)

I consider myself a fairly experienced spirit-worker, and yet I still got a message wrong. It happens. Especially when the message feels personal – we all desperately want to be special snowflakes, and so it’s very easy to convince ourselves of something we want (or secretly think) to be true, even if it isn’t. It doesn’t help if you turn to someone inclined to agree with you – like asking another Odin’s wife if Odin is proposing to you – which is why I find it absolutely necessary to keep the company (or at least have the contact information for) people whose practice is radically different than your own. When it comes to my Norse stuff, I have Egyptian spirit workers I can ask for advice; when it comes to death shaman stuff, I have Lokean nuns to converse with, and when it comes to ordeal stuff, I have spirit worker friends who don’t work in that paradigm. I admit, I’m kind of lucky in that I’ve collected such a menagerie, but I’ve also been known to ask a stranger from the internet, based on a blog post or a facebook status, to check my signal clarity on something.

When all is said and done, all these communcations become UPG, which stands for Unverified Personal Gnosis. This, in and of itself, is a controversial subject among Pagans. Some believe that it is proof of the immenence of Deity, whereas others want proof in either historical documents or “the lore” before they’ll lend credence to something you claim the Gods told you. My own personal practice is highly steeped in UPG, which makes me a very controversial person in the greater Pagan community – and I am frequently attacked for my practices and beliefs. However, there is a feeling I get in my heart and head when I receive and understand a message from the Gods that no human can take away from me, and therefore I’m at peace with those who feel the need to call me a pervert, freak, charlatan, or nithing. In the same way I know eating HFCS makes me ill, and refusing to fork over a dollar to the guy on the highway leads to misfortune, I know with full surety that when I die, I will have regretted nothing I did in my spiritual life.

Again, if you experience communication from Deity in a different way, or have personal experiences to share, please feel free to do so in the comments. I do not claim that this is exhaustive (I can think of a few other examples, but this is already five pages long.)

I also encourage people who have questions about their own experiences to contact me – if the comments feel too public, you can email me at awesome.del at gmail.com and I will do my best to answer.

Also, if there is another topic you’d like me to tackle, I’m open to suggestion. I’m thinking the next thing I will write about is how to talk to the Gods, especially if you don’t have a way to know that they’ve heard you.

I’m An Ordeal Master, And I’m Not Afraid To Say So

I am an ordeal master.

What this means is that I have been recognized by my community as someone who is skilled and talented at creating and facilitating rituals that challenge a person’s boundaries and fears in order to bring about spiritual breakthrough.

It means that I have performed rituals like this for many people, most or all of which have thanked me profusely and have had permanent, marked, beneficial change in their life due to the ceremonies I have facilitated for them.

It means I have studied various forms of challenging the human being. This does include BDSM, but that is not the only or even the most important tool in my box. People can have their boundaries pushed in a variety of manners. As I have said so many times I cannot count, my own most powerful ordeal contained nothing but myself, a thunderstorm, and a rubber duck. No leather pants, no physical assault, no whips and chains. I have created ordeals for people that sang with the simplicity of the human mind, and some that were so gear-heavy that it took longer than a year to get all the necessary tools together.

Sometimes, but only very rarely, do my ordeals involve sex. I would say of all the ordeals I have facilitated, two or three had sexual components, and none of them had any sort of sexual component that involved my genitals or any sort of pleasure on my part. I do not find ordeal sexually stimulating, and I do not perform ordeal to fulfill some personal fetish.

It is true that, in addition to being an ordeal master, I am a practitioner and educator in the world of BDSM. And yes, BDSM sometimes involves activities that are purely for my own pleasure. And some of the techniques and tools that I own and use in ordeal are also used in my own personal BDSM practices. But to say that I cannot use a tool for two very separate and disparate uses is to say that I can only use duct tape on actual ducts.

When I am asked to create an ordeal, I look at all the skills I have gathered in my almost 40 years on the planet. Some people come to me specifically for some skills I am known for being gifted with – I have a theater background, so I have an ability for the dramatic, for costumes, for creating a mood. I have a body modification background, so many people seek me out for ordeal because they’re interested in hook pulls or suspension, as well as many other skillsets from that arena as part of their ritual. I have a keen understanding of psychology, and sometimes I employ that as part of the ritual at the person’s request. I can be physically intimidating (at 5’10” and 400lbs), and that can be useful for pushing boundaries. I am genderfluid, able to present as either woman or man or something in between, and that definitely pushes buttons in people who struggle with their own gender issues. There are many facets of my life that I employ and integrate into the rituals I create.

Here’s the part that you’re probably skipping over: it’s all by request. I do not seek people out for ordeals. I do not advertise myself as an “ordeal master” – you’ll never find a classified ad on Craigslist or even in a Pagan magazine horking my talents in this arena. I do not troll the Internet looking for opportunities to mention my calling, in hopes that more people will become clients. Sometimes, if it seems appropriate, I have offered my services to someone who seems to be looking for an experience similar to what I create, or I mention my abilities when someone is openly seeking someone to facilitate an ordeal

I also happily refer people who ask me for ordeals I am not qualified to perform. For instance, I can’t tie a knot to save my life. (I can barely tie my shoes.) So if someone envisions an ordeal of being encased in rope and suspended from a tree, I know several other workers-of-ordeal whom I can recommend. If a client feels that they need a cisgendered male facilitator for whatever reason, I know plenty of those I can refer them to. Maybe they live far from me, and cannot afford the travel (and I can’t either). I put a lot of effort into keeping a “rolodex” of sorts, so I can hopefully help match them up with the right person. I have absolutely no ego tied up in how many ordeals I do a year, or how many clients I’ve worked with, or how showy and dramatically interesting my rituals are. All I care about is that the person who seeks out this sort of experience gets the experience they need. That, and nothing more.

This also means that sometimes I turn people down. I do not perform ordeals for people who have to keep their work a secret from every single person in their life. I need to know they have someone in their life who can provide emotional and physical aftercare, especially if they live far from me and I am incapable of doing so. I do not take on requests I feel are too dangerous, or life threatening, or illegal. And I have had such requests. Sometimes I turn people down for personal reasons – that I can’t interact with them cleanly due to interpersonal relationships, or because I don’t get that inner connection with them, or because they need something physical from me that I do not provide.

I do mention my work in places where I talk about myself in general. It is a part of my life, as much as my roles as devotee to my Gods, child to my parents, spirit worker for Those I Serve, lover to my romantic partners, owner to my slave, and any other role I have. I never called myself an ordeal master until people I had worked with in this capacity called me such. It is a title that has been bestowed upon me, not one that I invented or claimed for myself.

I have taken an Oath of Ordeal Mastery, in 2009, in which I begged the Universe and all the Gods that should I make a move, a decision, a word, anything that would cause unintentional harm to anyone, let my hand/mouth/words by stayed. I pray for quite some time before I begin crafting an ordeal for a client, and I am in communication with them throughout the process to make sure that they continue to consent to, and collude with, whatever I feel will work. If there are parts that are kept secret for dramatic or spiritual reasons, I make sure to gain consent by sending a list of actions that “may” take place, putting the secret one in the list, and making sure to gain consent that way.

I do not make money doing this work at all. Sometimes I am reimbursed for materials, sometimes I am not. Sometimes I am reimbursed for my time, but that’s the exception rather than the rule. I see this as sacred Work, and therefore money is not a barrier to entry. I would not call this a “career”, or even a vocation. It is a calling, yes, but not one that I expect will support me in my old age. In fact, doing this work ends up costing me hundreds to thousands of dollars a year, in training, disposable tools, phone calls, education, travel, time, hiring other professionals to help, etc. Let me be clear about this again: I almost always lose money on ordeals, rather than make money. Those who think I am out there scamming my way into people’s pants and rolling in the dollar bills it creates is lost in a masturbatory fantasy.

But it’s not my words that count. I encourage those reading this, who have benefited from, witnessed, helped facilitate, or in some other way worked with me in my role as ordeal master, to speak out. And yes, this means my critics too. I feel very strongly that this, like other sacred titles, is one that is given by the communities you serve. So let their voices tell you what I have done, what I do, and whether or not the title is an appropriate one.