There’s been an uptick in my network of colleagues; people who range from being mildly worried to furiously angry when they ask “How do I get a Godphone/hear the Gods better/develop Sight/become a God’s spouse?”
I feel for them. I know what it’s like to sit in the darkened silence, praying, knowing that a single word, touch, or even omen-like coincidence would be all the assurance I needed in the world. Yes, I am saying that even though I do experience messages from the Gods and have a reciprocal relationship with some of my patrons, there are also times when I sit in the darkened silence as well.
It makes you feel like it’s all in vain; maintaining the altars, studying the Lore, keeping up with your spiritual practice, and sometimes merely calling yourself a devotee of a specific God or even just a Pagan. Many of us set out on these tasks with the hope that someday, any day, we too might have the assurance we read about on so many blogs and websites and books, having our faith validated in some way. We long for it deep in our souls. In fact, in some ways, it’s what attracted us to polytheism to begin with – that there is the possibility of actual divine intervention and gnosis, in ways that our limited senses can experience.
It seems terribly unfair. You can’t throw a stone in Tumblr-land without landing on some person’s account of having a cute date night with Loki, or sharing a life changing message they’ve had from Persephone, or reading about someone’s prayers being answered in a tangible way. And yet, there you are, just wanting a small taste, a drop of wine on the lips, to be assured that all this time you’re spending in devotional work means something, is being received and found acceptable. Sometimes it even manifests as downright fear that Ur Doin It Rong, and perhaps the silence is either that you aren’t using the right tools/practices, or that you’re being rejected.
You’ve heard it a million times from a million different spirit workers and shamans, but it still doesn’t help you – “It is a minority of people who experience any sort of direct gnosis (communication or knowledge of Gods); although there seems to be a lot of people on the Internet who claim to have godphones or personal visitations, it really is not the experience of the majority of polytheists.” So you’re in the majority, but that doesn’t comfort you in times of trouble, of loneliness, of despair. It just feels like that much more unfair; that more people feel like you do rather than have the ability to grasp at something that says “This is all real.”
I’ve spoken to many colleagues about this recently, and the part I think most people don’t see, the part that really scares them to contemplate, is that most people who have these abilities gave up something vitally important in their lives in order to receive them. This is bigger and broader than “you can’t be a shaman unless you’ve had a shamanic crisis” – it applies to most Godspouses and consorts, spirit workers, and even some priests and devotees of Gods. Galina Krasskova was a gifted dancer in her youth; dancing was her entire world. Her back suffered irreparable damage in order to set her on Odin’s path. Wintersong and Fireheart Tashlin desperately want to live in an urban center, but their Gods have made that impossible for them. Alex Bettencourt touched a string enchanted to put him on his spiritual path, and was immediately fired from his job and spent over two years unemployed, living in poverty and only by the grace of others, because his God wanted him to study spiritual things full time. I had to move away and give up everyone who mattered to me in order to be where I am, and now I am no longer allowed to have a spouse, which hurts me deep inside. Everywhere I look in my community of God-touched folk, I see the remnants of dreams and desires, lying in tatters.
Frequently, when devotees of Gods come to me asking me if or when they’ll be able to learn how to hear the Gods, or become a vessel for possession, or some other spiritual skill, they think I am being mean or harsh when I tell them they’ll have to give up something they love in order to obtain it. I have had clients refuse their Deity’s requests to alter their hairstyle, wear different clothing, or abstain from certain substances (illegal drugs, caffeine, sugar, meat, etc); and yet the rail and complain about how unfair it is that they weren’t merely born with these abilities intact. Now, I would be dishonest if I did not disclose that I feel some people are born with certain neurological and biochemical anomalies that predispose them to these abilities; it has been noticed more than a few times that those who are able to carry Deity in possession have a much higher rate of neurological disorders than the mainstream (and if they weren’t born with them, they develop them quickly as they progress in possessory activity).
But I can’t help but wish I could show them how much dancing meant to Galina, or how lonely Elizabeth gets her in tiny room on a rural farm far away from her friends and family, and so on. I wish I could convey to them the enormous weight of sacrifices, one after the other, I’ve been asked to make on my journey towards gnosis. Because at the minimum, being given these abilities comes with the imperative that you share them far and wide, and that may sound glamorous and socially advantageous, but you’re failing to see that the imperative goes further than just the sorts of people who are used to random strangers on the Internet telling them that there are Real Gods and they have Real Messages for them. I frequently have to pass on messages to Christians, Atheists and Anti-Theists, Jews and Muslims, people who think I am absolutely nutters to believe that Gods talk into my head and tell me to do and say certain things to them. And yet, I have to. I can’t just decide that, in this or that circumstance, it may get me a punch to the face or cause me to break the law (I’ve been arrested, but not charged or convicted, of “Corrupting the mores of a minor” for talking to a 16 year old about Paganism, which started with me passing on a God message.) You are probably only seeing and experiencing situations where these abilities seem fun, as well as bringing that sort of comfort in personally knowing that the Gods do exist, They do care about you and what you do, and that you have some Purpose in Their greater schemes and intentions for humanity on the planet. You likely miss when I am subject to a hate crime due to my gender expression (something Loki asked me to change and maintain), or when someone is hospitalized due to degeneration of their CNS from running too much God energy through their system (which the doctors don’t exactly have a diagnosis for, so they just scratch their heads and try all sorts of medical remedies, most of which have little to no effect.)
And if that isn’t enough, I’ve also seen the aftermath of people giving up things that they dearly wanted or needed, in hopes that the Gods would accept their sacrifice, only to face more silence. It’s not everyone’s job or purpose to serve humanity as a spirit worker; the Gods need architects and retail people and trash collectors and fast food employees, too, and sometimes that’s the even harder path. To accept that what you’re doing right now in your life, absent of any tangible omens or messages, is exactly what the Gods want you to be doing, and that it isn’t going to change in the foreseeable future. I frequently refer people to the writings of St. Theresa of the Little Flowers on this subject, as her title comes from her ardent philosophy that all of us have the same significance to God as a single wildflower in a field of blooms; no more special or different than the flowers that surround it, with no more purpose than to be the best, brightest flower that you can, and by doing that alone you’re fulfilling God’s will.
That’s the part where you will find the most sanity and love, truly. Just going about your daily life as though every action, mundane as it may seem, is a direct and blessed offering to the Gods you love and serve. Driving within the speed limit, or paying your taxes, or helping a friend move, or being there for someone in need; these things that we see as the most logistical and mundane activities can sometimes be the most important, because in the end it’s not how we feel about them that matters, but how They feel about them.