The Invisible Third

dedicated to my boyfriend “His Boy”, because he asked for it, and then waited and waited…

You tend to end up dating the kind of people you hang out with. Spirit workers and other spooky-woo types tend to hang together, because we live odd sorts of lives and it’s nice when you don’t have to explain all the weird jewelry and what a geas is and how come you wear a wedding ring but I haven’t met your spouse. It’s convenient to find yourself in situations and telling someone they need to ground and re-shield and they can just do it, rather than need you to launch into an hour-long lesson on what that means and how to do it.

It’s like any other profession – it’s comforting to know that your experiences, frustrations, and jargon are understood by others. And although not all engineers date other engineers, you tend to find that left-brained people tend to drift towards other left-brainers, and vice versa. I’m not saying this happens every single time, but it’s not uncommon.

With that said, it’s no surprise that I have found myself in a V relationship – that is, where two people are dating the same person, but those two people aren’t dating each other. But that’s not the unsurprising part – it’s that the other branch of the V is an Invisible Person. Yes, my boyfriend has a sexual and romantic relationship with his God, and that relationship, as you might expect, is his primary commitment.

Now, to those who haven’t been around people in these sorts of relationships – God spouses, consorts, whores, etc – you might be thinking that it doesn’t affect my relationship with His Boy all that much. I mean, for most people raised in a mainstream religion, what you do with God happens either when you’re all alone, or when you’re surrounded by others who believe the same thing. That’s not how this stuff works at all.

This Invisible Person, whom we affectionately call Mr. Mister, is as “real” to us as any other person. Mr. Mister has wants, needs, desires, boundaries, and faults. He makes demands on His Boy’s time and life, and sometimes those demands rub up against things I may want or need from His Boy. Like any other poly situation, you’d think the answer would be to negotiate and communicate. And sometimes that works, and sometimes that can be more problematic.

In our situation, it happens that I have fairly accurate signal clarity. I don’t say that as a boast; it’s something I’ve been told by countless clients and colleagues over the years. His Boy strains to hear the very smallest whisper from Mr. Mister, and even then his faith is at a point where he second guesses himself a lot. So there’s a lot of talking between Mr. Mister and me, and me relating messages from His Boy when appropriate, and some of His Boy talking to Mr. Mister, but not a lot of Mr. Mister talking directly to His Boy.

It took some negotiation on my part to create strong boundaries around this – Mr. Mister started “showing up” uninvited, either by just being energetically present in the room, or sending me messages to pass on, or in one case, taking over my body with no warning. I had to make it clear to him that I honor he is a part of this relationship, but that there needs to be a strong foundation between His Boy and I that exists separate from Mr. Mister’s influence. Mostly, I asked that he attempt communication with His Boy directly first, and then if that fails, to come to me and I’ll pass the message along. If he wants to be present while we’re spending time together, I just want a little warning so I can prepare, and that it has to be proportionate to the amount of time I get to spend with His Boy without Mr. Mister.

One last little tidbit about our specific situation: this is the first human relationship His Boy has ventured into since making his oaths to Mr. Mister. Everything has a “let’s try this and see if it works” atmosphere to it, and we’re both trying to fail on the side of being too cautious, rather than too lax. It seems sometimes I forget a rule or push a boundary, but overall I’m very aware of what I am free to do with him, and what belongs only to Mr. Mister. It can be tricky sometimes, because a slip of the tongue or a errant touch has put me in Mr. Mister’s sights, and that’s not really somewhere I want to be.

The first step we both took when we decided we wanted to experiment with this relationship is that His Boy spoke to Mr. Mister about it. Well, that’s not entirely true; he sorta agreed to be my boyfriend before asking Mr. Mister if he was allowed to have human relationships. His Boy is still new to this whole God-consort thing, and hadn’t yet fully explored what was now off limits because of his new relationship. When we realized we had forgotten this fairly important step, His Boy did what he could to apologize and then ask. I was in fear for a while there; we weren’t assured that Mr. Mister was going to say yes. Not only had they not discussed human relationships and what was allowed, but His Boy had gone ahead and agreed to the relationship without permission. It’s an odd feeling, knowing that an Invisible Person holds the power to tell your potential partner that sorry, this relationship that you’ve just screwed up all your courage to ask for isn’t in the cards. There was some nail chewing and mental pacing while His Boy communed with Mr. Mister about it.

Then it was my turn. I sought out a diviner, so my signal clarity would not be influenced by what I so desperately wanted. I asked if this was okay with Mr. Mister, what I should be wary of, what belonged to Him vs. what was available to me. It was made abundantly clear to me (and to His Boy through different channels) is that marriage is out of the question, unless there’s a silly legal need (like health insurance) or some other earthly need for it, but no romantic oaths of living together forever. This works well for me, since I am pretty much done with the concept of marriage anyway. It was also made clear that although both His Boy and I find power exchange attractive, we could not enter into any sort of permanent power exchange relationship. And for me specifically, I could not either collar him or be collared by him. Basically, the message was that we could do nothing that might confuse His Boy about who is on the top of the hierarchy of his relationship structure.

I was also told that there were some skills I possessed that Mr. Mister was very interested in, either me teaching His Boy or providing for him. I balked – I have a strong personal rule that I don’t date “jobs”. I did it once, and learned the excruciating way that I can NOT keep my feelings locked in a box, even if I know going in that the relationship is a spiritual setup, rather than a romantic or recreational one. And usually, when the Gods are interested in me for spiritual “dating”, part of the “job” is to force them to come to terms with their issues around relationships, and that always ends in a terrible horrible break up, and most of the time also includes the “client” spreading horrible rumors about me because they can’t deal with how many buttons I was forced to push. I hate it, a lot, so I have asked Him Who Owns my Head (Loki) not to send me more jobs like that. So when Mr. Mister seemed interested in “employing” me as a tool in his relationship with His Boy, I was more than hesitant.

However, I spent about a month communing with Mr. Mister about exactly what he wanted from me, and what He was going to do in exchange. As He is not someone I have taken oaths to or am sworn to work for, there’s absolutely no reason for me to bend my neck and just do what He asks without something tangible in exchange. I also made it clear that “getting to have a relationship” was not enough of a poker chip – it was a big one, no mistake – but for the amount of things he wanted from me, it wasn’t enough on it’s own.

It was made clear at the end of the month that He and I had come to an agreement. I would serve as a sounding board for His Boy while he strengthened his own signal clarity, and when the time is right, I will assist in “fixing” his connection with Mr. Mister so His Boy can hear Him more reliably. I would encourage His Boy to do things in public that Mr. Mister wanted him to do, and remind him when it was appropriate. There was a sexual technique that Mr. Mister wanted me to introduce His Boy to (well, His Boy knew what it was, but he had no experience with it), and since it meant taking a cherry of His Boy’s, I was pretty okay with that. Finally, He was very clear with me that I was to keep a vigilant eye on His Boy’s mental health, and if he slipped into being more symptomatic, went off his meds, or made some other change that would affect his life negatively, I was to put on my Madness Shaman hat and get His Boy back on track. I’m not so pleased about this, as a recent relationship of mine came to an end because no matter how much I tried to assist my partner with their mental health issues, they ignored me and continued to make bad choices until I had no choice but to leave.

Overall, however, it wasn’t too much to ask for, and most of it was something that I thought fell under the category of “being a good boyfriend” anyway. He and I ended the negotiation by me making it clear that if He wanted something else, He had to have a tangible benefit for me in His hand. As Mr. Mister is very “negotiation” oriented, He could appreciate this.

(Not the first time I was happy that Loki taught me not to fear Gods, but to stand up to them and talk to them with moxie, for sure.)

Now His Boy and I have been together for a little longer than six months, and it seems to be working out. Mr. Mister has made less surprise visits, although sometimes He drops little messages in my mind – like recently we were at a party and He told me to give His Boy a good time – and I think His Boy has gotten an unexpected side effect of all of this. He has been much more diligent in setting up and working with Mr. Mister’s altar, sitting in reflection more often, and in general keeping Mr. Mister closer to his heart and head and an active part of his life.

I do believe that at this time in my life, who I date or have relationships with is not really in my hands anymore. I do have some choice, and can say no, but ever since I surrendered the reigns of my life over to Loki, every relationship I’ve had has had some spiritual meaning, lesson, or exchange that has been important in my progression. However much I am angry at the STBX (soon to be ex) at how things ended up, I recognize that without his relationship I would be in a radically different place than I am now. And in some way, maybe that’s an example that His Boy needs in his own life, how to engage in romantic and sexual relationships while balancing that he has a job to do, an Invisible Person who takes precedence, and it’s not something he can hide in order to get laid.

Both His Boy (whose blog can be found at Rock of Eye) and I are hungry to hear from others who have Invisible People in their relationship life. How do you deal with communication, negotiation, boundaries, and other typical relationship issues? Have you figured out interesting ways to acknowledge Their presence in your life and in your relationship? Are you just starting out and want to talk to others who share the same experience? We’re both hoping to hear from people with an entire spectrum of experience, from those who are just figuring this all out, to those who have done it, and maybe even those who did it for a while and then went back to being monogamous to their Invisible partner. If you don’t feel comfortable posting publicly, you can contact me at awesome.del@gmail do

What is “Spirit Work”?

In the theme of writing Spirit Work 101 essays, I figured I should probably back the truck up a bit and do my level best to explain what spirit work is, exactly.

The issue I face is that people use the term in a variety of ways, and there really isn’t a good definition out there that sums up the vast experiences, relationships, and devotional work that one might define as such. The first time I heard it applied to the kind of spiritual stuff I had been doing was by Raven Kaldera, a controversial person in his own right. The term sometimes gets sullied or maligned by his association with it – as though if you define your spiritual vocational work as “spirit work”, somehow you are in lockstep with him on his beliefs and practices. This is not the case.

Again, as always, I want to clarify that I am only going on my own experiences and discussions with others who call themselves spirit workers or who use the term spirit work to define their devotional practices. I invite those with alternate points of view or experiences to leave comments so as to expose readers to an array of ideas on the subject.

In the vaguest of ways, spirit work is a kind of spiritual practice that deals mainly with interactions between humankind and the world of spirits and Gods. It is different from other kinds of devotional work in that there is some form of communication between spirit workers and the spirits/Gods they work with or for. Usually, it also incorporates actions and practices that Spirits/Gods ask the spirit worker to do – as mundane as “carry this brick for two blocks and then put it down again” (an actual example), or as metaphysical as “spend nine days in a trance state exploring a specific place on the astral realm” (another actual example).

It does seem to require the ability to have, at least, one-way communication between the Holy Ones and the practitioner. One must be able to discern what the spirits may want, or want us to do. For more information about hearing the Gods and other spirits, I point you towards a different post of mine that addresses that subject. It is possible to do spirit work without this, but it usually requires having someone else in your life who has this ability, so they can help you figure out what the Gods want you to do. It is not uncommon for spirit workers to go through periods of feeling blocked, or having bad signal clarity, or in some other way find their “Godphone” or “Godradio” broken in some fashion. I’ve been there from time to time, and it didn’t stop me from being a spirit worker or doing the work of my Gods – it just made me rely harder on my own faith and the work that had been outlined in the past. I have another post on the way that addresses this subject in more depth.

The way that spirit work manifests in a person’s spiritual practices varies, depending on several factors. Usually, a person is chosen to do this sort of work based on the skills and talents they already possess – a spirit might choose a seamstress to create sacred costumes, or choose an artist to create devotional works of art for a spirit’s followers/devotees. It also happens that sometimes a God or spirit will embue a person with the ability to do the work they require; many people gifted with oracular or possessory abilities tell tales of being “rewired” so they can do these things reliably and with more ease.

Spouses or consorts of Gods sometimes consider their relationship a form of spirit work, since it usually comes with some sort of public devotional work. Some find themselves writing publicly about their spouse (books, blogs, essays, etc), while others become priests and help others who have a devotional relationship with their Consort. Some relay messages to those who cannot hear the voice of Gods, and others do social justice or other charity work in the name of their Deity. However, some Godspouses/consorts keep their relationship private, and this may play into whether or not they identify as a spirit worker.

At the core of the defintion is work. Although praying, writing, keeping shrines/altars, and other spiritual pursuits can be a part of a spirit worker’s life, the filter between “devotee” and “spirit worker” is when you take on tasks specifically at the request of the Holy Ones. It may be hard to discern whether you erected that altar to Kali Ma because you felt a deep connection with Her and Her mysteries/mythology, or because She herself asked you to. I know that when I began, I knew I had crossed over from devotional work to spirit work when the things the Gods asked me to do were things I would not have done of my own choosing, or things that changed my every day life and routine.

Some spirit workers work solely with the spirits, which can muddy the definition I gave above. These people find themselves in deep communication with the Holy Ones, and even though their work may not be in the public eye, it may still be defined as spirit work. I usually link this to those who work as a bridge because sometimes their private work benefits others in an indirect way. For example, a spirit may ask you to erect an altar in the middle of the woods, far off the beaten path. The person does it in solitude, not telling anyone about the altar or its location. However, two years later, that spirit leads another person to the altar, to give them some assurance that what they’re feeling and hearing isn’t madness.

Others find themselves working primarily with people, but for a spiritual cause. Like I mentioned earlier, sometimes the spirits ask their devotees to work in social justice or other charitable places in order to help the spirit’s “people”. A devotee of Baphomet, for example, might volunteer at a homeless shelter or soup kitchen because Baphomet has a warm heart for “the forgotten”. Dishing out stew may not look all spooky-foo, but the fact that Baphomet requested the person do it makes it so.

One of the struggles of some spirit workers is that Gods ask different things of different devotees. This can create everything from jealousy to downright derision. There are those who state that the Odin they know would never ask someone to do Ordeal Work in His name, while there are others who do exactly that. Once again, Gods are bigger than our brainmeats can comprehend, and the reason They take vastly different kinds of “workers” is because They are in need of a wide array of services offered in their name. Personally, when I “came out” as a child of Loki, many of his spouses derided me for not being chosen for that sort of relationship, and I felt discouraged and jealous. However, as time as gone on and I have gone deeper into the work that He and the Others I work for, I know securely that it is the right place for me to be, and to be anything else would distract me from my Purpose.

Now, for me, the differentiation between a “shaman” (essay forthcoming, co-authored by Wintersong Tashlin) and a “spirit worker” is that “shamans” have undergone some form of traumatic transformation in which they surrender their wyrd, or destiny, to the control of the Gods. In exchange for this surrender, the Gods bring the person back from their traumatic experience a radically different person, now focused on making the Work their primary focus. So although there may be full-time spirit workers, unless they’ve physically died, gone completely insane, or in some other way lost touch with our consensual reality, and as their solution accepted a Spirit’s dominion over the rest of their days, they’re not a “shaman”. Some people confuse the taking of clients as being a difference between spirit workers and shamans, but that’s not the distinction for me or those I know who identify as either shamans and spirit workers. Now, like me, there are some that identify as both; there are others who shy away from the word “shaman” because it has a complicated history (I promise, essay soon!) and so they use the less contentious “spirit worker”.

In a similar way, the word “priest”, in my lexicon, is someone who leads others in the worship of a Deity or Deities. If someone identifies themselves as a “priestess of Aphrodite”, then I expect them to be working directly with other seekers and devotees of Aphrodite in creating and participating in worship and work for that Deity. One need not be a spirit worker to be a priest, but one may be both a priest and a spirit worker. Have I lost you yet?

The word “devotee” is what I use for someone who has taken to worshipping a particular Spirit or Deity. They may have cultivated a feeling of close relationship, with or without the ability to discern the voice of that Spirit for themselves. They may have a shrine or altar to said Deity, do good works in their name, and witness to others about their particular Spirit. However, usually the word undertaken by a devotee is of their own volition, or a product of researching what devotees of a certain Deity did when the culture of that Deity was more alive/active, instead of being at the direct behest of that Deity. It could be that a devotee was told via a third party as to how to go about doing said devotional work, but unless the devotee is offering that sort of counsel/communication to others, I would not call them a spirit worker, per se.

But then, I am not one to go around investigating people’s claims to whatever word they feel defines their Work. I may ask questions if I am planning on doing work for them or with them, but in the end, I believe that if you take on the label of “spirit worker”, at the very least you should be able to speak to, and understand in some way, the Holy Ones. You should also be doing some form of actual Work on their behalf, in whatever way that particular spirit or God asks of you. You may work for one specific Deity, or a pantheon, or for any inhabitant of the Other Words, as your personal practice and relationships develop.

I hope I’ve given you some insight into how I define “spirit work”, and what a “spirit worker” does. Again, I encourage those who disagree, or who define these terms in another way, to add their conversation to the comments. Please be respectful and engage in polite discourse; I know this can be a touchy subject for some.