"Live your questions now, and perhaps even without knowing it, you will live along some distant day into your answers. "
-Rainer Maria Rilke

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Claimed by the Gods

When someone gets claimed by the Gods to be in Their service, it can be a troubling thing. We live in a host culture that is essentially post-religious, and the dominant paradigm does not allow for experiences such as talking and other activities with the Gods, and having Them intervene/interfere directly in one's life. Even if one is a Pagan polytheist, often sharing with one's "coreligionists" can provoke reactions from skepticism to harassment and shunning. It is seen as a sign of mental illness, or at the very least self-delusion and wanting to be "speshul". We don't have many analogs in Western civilization for this. Studying Siberian, Asian, and African spirit-workers can make sense, but their belief systems and worldviews are still quite different from ours, and so their brands of shamanism are not always comparable.

However, it does seem we do have an analog, albeit a fictional one.

I am about to show what a real geek I am, but lately I've been watching old episodes of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, and it started to occur to me that Captain Benjamin Sisko is, for better or worse, a spirit-worker.

Sisko starts off taking over Deep Space Nine after the death of his wife. He goes to Bajor to meet the alien race he'll be working with most closely, and their Kai calls him "emissary". Sisko then discovers the "Celestial Temple", the wormhole where the Bajoran "Prophets" live, and they take an active interest in him. For the first couple of years Sisko refers to the Prophets as "wormhole aliens" and adamantly does not want to be their emissary. However, they talk with him and intervene in his life enough times that he begins to believe in them, and accepts his role as their emissary. This is much to the dismay of the new Kai, Winn Adami, who feels cheated because the Prophets have never talked to her, and you see antagonism between Kai Winn and Sisko because Sisko, a non-Bajoran, has been touched by the Prophets, and the religious leaders of Bajor have not. Sisko does things like take artifacts to study and understand the will of the Prophets better, rather than leaving them in the hands of Bajoran people who have dedicated their entire lives to the study of their religion, which causes controversy. Periodically there are individual Bajorans who seem to receive favor from the Prophets, such as the devout Kira Nerys, but only Sisko is their emissary. Working for the Prophets causes Sisko to make unpopular decisions and frequently have his judgment and sanity questioned by his crew and those close to him, and in the end Sisko sacrifices his own life for them.

While, again, Deep Space Nine is fiction, it is clear that Sisko is the archetypal spirit-worker. He goes from doubt to acceptance, working for the Prophets even when others question him or resent his status, because he can do nothing else. He gives himself for them, and while it is for the greater good, it is still his life at the expense of the greater good.

I used to be OK with talking about things like journeying or visionary experiences, and stopped after friends of mine complained they tried to do these things and couldn't and they wanted what I have. I have become a lot more reticent because people really don't know what they are asking for. My ability to journey through the Otherworlds or receive messages from the Gods is not something I do as a game or for laughs. I do this as part of my Work. The average devotee of the Gods can do votary practices and get an "all is right with the world" feeling and indeed, there is nothing wrong with this. When you are claimed by the Gods to do Their work, your life is no longer your own. There are different degrees of ownership, but all of us get re-wired with the compulsion for service. Other people get the option to believe or don't, to do a ritual or don't. The life of a spirit-worker is so completely inundated with Divine presence that we don't get that option of disbelief or just deciding to do our own thing. That doesn't mean we don't have any autonomy, and most of us will get some leeway if only to make sure we are still functional and thus able to serve Them. But you don't get what I get without the deconstruction and rebirth/re-wiring that comes with it. Frankly, you don't want it, and you're better off without it. If everyone was just like me, the world would cease to function. Because we are the walking dead, everything takes a back seat to this Work.

So the question remains why this happens to us. I think the Gods are invested in this place, and though They are not dependent on our worship to exist, They do draw energy and power from our offerings and devotion. I mentioned the average devotee of the Gods, who may be "headblind" or may only get a little "ping" once in awhile, but otherwise has a feeling of rightness and is getting something out of their religion. One of the reasons why spirit-workers exist is to serve the general populace of worshippers, to intervene and mediate between Gods and man. Another reason is to minister directly to the Gods, and manifest Their presence in this world. Many of us find ourselves being called Gates or Doors or Bridges by our Deities, and this is not just an epithet to be cute, it is a label of what we are to Them, in our Work. I myself am a Light-Bringer. This does not mean that every single person I come across gets the full 1000-watt Frey energy, but it does mean that even in perfectly mundane situations I try to align myself energetically to be the force of calm and good, to still strife and comfort those around me. This is easier said than done, as someone who was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, but several spirit-workers have noticed "mods" in my energy field which assist with this process and Frey Himself has said it is just as much for my own benefit as for others.

It is not popular or comfortable to think of our Gods as Beings who love Their people and their home so much that They would take a handful of people and break them apart for the greater good, yet that is exactly what is happening. Too many people give lip service to the Gods without knowing the beauty and terror of Their presence, even people who claim to be hard polytheists and claim to truly believe in the Gods as individuals. It is perhaps better that most people do not experience the deep and overwhelming holiness of the Divine, but that is ultimately what They are. They create, and They destroy.

I leave you with a verse from the Anglo-Saxon Rune Poem, which says it better than I can. One of the old words for "temple" was ealh, and in the Anglo-Saxon Rune Poem, the verse usually thought to be one about an elk is very particular about describing the energy within an ealh, or temple:

The Eolh-sedge is mostly to be found in a marsh;
it grows in the water and makes a ghastly wound,
covering with blood every warrior who touches it.

The presence of the Gods wounds us so we can be healed, and heal others. That is all.


  1. It is not popular or comfortable to think of our Gods as Beings who love Their people and their home so much that They would take a handful of people and break them apart for the greater good, yet that is exactly what is happening.

    Beautifully put. I often think that spiritworkers and shamans in the midst of that breaking process forget that they are immensely loved and cherished by Their Gods. The harm, the pain, the sacrifices, the struggle isn't something foisted off on us for the pleasure of any Being. It is necessary for a greater good. And the Gods number our every tear.

  2. Thank you, Galina.

    And you touched upon it exactly - even as we are broken, we are loved in our brokenness. The Gods often have funny ways of showing Their love, and some come across as colder or "tougher" than others. But our struggle, and the need of the people, is never lost on Them, and nothing is wasted.


  3. I never thought about Sisko like an spirit-worker, but you're very right with this, I see it very clear now(I have to rewatch DS9 :P).

    I have found some people that see the God/Goddesses like friends or some type of "older brother". They don't have respect for Them, and they say that the God/Goddesses don't need this respect, that they honor Them like friends on the same status.... I can't tell them how wrong they are because they are close-minded to every vision that isn't their own.
    Of course, they don't understand spirit-work or any kind of magic, so I don't spend my time trying to explain my own experiences to them because it's a total waste of time.

  4. I really enjoyed your article and the way that you've used modern mythology (the StarTrek pantheon if you will) to give context to what we as spirit workers do. I think that there is a strong tendency, especially but not exclusively among re-constructionists to ignore the accomplishments and surroundings of the world we live in today.

    There is one point though that I had some problem with. You wrote:

    "all of us get re-wired with the compulsion for service"

    I'm not sure that this is true. I think that some of us come to this work already wired for service, most of us get re-wired more or less, and some people do the work out of fear (RBK for instance has talked about doing the work because his Boss will kick his ass otherwise) or self interest.

    Just my thoughts.

  5. Hi Winter,

    The way that I intended it in the article (and probably didn't come off too clear, lol), "Compulsion for service" allows for things like "I do the Work because I'm afraid of what will happen if I don't" because then you are really being compelled into doing it. I do think that doing the Work out of fear is more of a minority thing but it is enough to be of note and something that wannabe shamans/spirit-workers should keep in mind. The Gods love, but the Gods have funny ways of showing it. Heh...

    And I totally agree about recons (which would be my religious tradition) missing the boat about the modern day.