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

Friday, April 10, 2009

The Grass on Both Sides Is Greener

Many times I have tried to remind myself of how I felt before the gods came into my life. These past few years seem lit up and thrown into sharp relief by the fire of my red-haired Interloper, by the absolute knowledge that gods do exist, and by the vivid experiences to which They have led me. By contrast, the years I spent before Their arrival in my life seem two-dimensional and flat now, in the proverbial 20/20 vision of hindsight. I sometimes wish it were otherwise, however. By that, I mean that I don't ever want to forget what life was like before the spirits chose and claimed me.

I know perfectly well that there are those -- the majority of people, really -- who will never experience the gods in the way I have, nor see the world in the way I do. It's not that I believe that mine is the only valid spiritual experience, or the best one, but it seems to be one that other people who haven't had the opportunity crave very much. Yet talking about how my life has changed since I was first touched by the gods makes me really uncomfortable. Not because I am afraid of being disbelieved or mocked, but because I know that no matter how much they long for it, some of the people who ask me about it won't ever get to know for themselves how it really is. That makes me sad.

No, being god-touched isn't all good. I can say that until I'm blue in the face, but people seldom want to believe it. "Yes, yes," they say, nodding as my words go in one ear and exit the other, "but isn't the rest worth it?" Yes, the rest is worth it. It comes at a very high price, as others have noted on this blog. I won't rehash what they have already said -- if you've been following The Gods' Mouths for any length of time you've probably already got the idea that being a spirit-touched human being isn't always shits and giggles. But neither is it torturous at all times or without any real rewards. I could never consider the depth of my love for my gods, or the love They have shown me, and then turn around and say to someone, "Yeah, this job really sucks." Sometimes it does, but not always. Not even most of the time, although others may differ there.

However, I've realized that it's futile to convince those who haven't experienced this sort of thing for themselves of how hard it is to serve the gods directly, or on the other hand, to truly convey how awesome it is as well. It's terrible and wonderful, full of pain and joy. But, just as someone who hasn't raised a child can't really understand all of the complicated feelings a parent might have, a person who has not undergone the highs and lows of being god-touched to this degree can't really understand the experience of those who have. When I say "understand," I mean with the heart, not with the head. I'm not trying to be an elitist here, or judgmental. That's just how it is.

Saying this to people, though, leaves me feeling rotten and ungracious. Part of my job is to counsel people, to listen to them and help them find solutions to their problems, spiritual or mundane. When someone says longingly that they wish they could have what I have -- direct communication with the gods and a job given to me by Them -- the first thing I want to say is, "No, you don't." But then I think about how I viewed the universe before They came to me. I think about how much Their influence has improved me, how hard They have had me work to overcome my flaws and see myself as a good and worthy person. And I can't honestly tell these people that no, they wouldn't want my job. Doing so makes me think of how I felt many years ago when attached friends would complain about their partners and assure me that life as part of a couple wasn't all romance, companionship and weekends of hot sex. I couldn't hear what they said because all I saw was that they had something I wanted and did not have.

On the other hand, although I would not give this life up now for anything, nor could I go back to having a "normal" life undisturbed by deities and spirits popping into my awareness, and sometimes my bedroom, at all hours, it does get wearying. I have watched longingly as groups of happy, unaware people went about their daily lives, talking about things like ordinary jobs, dating, hobbies, what they're going to wear and where they're going to live -- all things that are under a number of constraints in my own life. I have sometimes wished that I could have the freedom to up and leave to roam the world whenever I want instead of being tied to a vocation, my oaths, my life as a servant of higher powers. I have labored under the delusion that life is simpler for those not in my position; it isn't, really. Nobody's problems will just go away at the wave of a magic wand, even if you're really a magician. In truth, life, whether the gods interfere in it or not, is just as hard, crazy, difficult, uproarious, wonderful and full of the potential for real magic for everybody. If that wasn't true, there'd be no point in it.

So I really don't know what to say to people who want desperately to experience the kinds of things I have, and are seeking assurance that someday it will happen to them, too. I don't feel qualified to tell someone else yea or nay, nor do I know what They might have in mind for somebody. The odds are against most people; folks like me are few and far between, really, even given that there are a number of different permutations of being god-touched, from those who are out-and-out slaves to those who are given a single task to do and told to run with it however they choose. But most people will never end up like me and my colleagues here on this blog. And I don't know whether to feel bad for them or to feel relieved on their behalf.

I suppose all I can say to someone who asks me whether or not I believe they are destined to be a divinely-chosen shaman, spirit-worker, seer, healer or whatever, is that the matter is between them and the gods. After all, I'm a hard polytheist, and I believe that They are perfectly capable of enacting Their wishes without us second-guessing Them either way. I can tell someone how difficult it is to be owned by the gods, and also how wonderful it is to know what my life's purpose is and will be. I can talk about the things I've had to sacrifice and the things They have given me in return. But I can't ever really convey what the experience feels like, and the depths and heights to which we are made to sink and rise. Maybe that's for the best.

The best gifts of all are the ones that come upon us unawares, yet of which we know as soon as we see them that we would die to obtain and keep them. That's as close as I can come to describing my experience as a god-owned priest, and it'll have to be enough. In the meantime, I guess it's my duty to remember what it was like before my eyes and ears were opened and have compassion for those who haven't yet found themselves where I am, or whose path lies in a different direction altogether...and to remember that even when you are god-touched, there are no guarantees.


  1. As someone who works in a very 'normal' work environment (that I love). I have definitely felt this tension. Part of me really wants to share this thing that is the most important part of my life, but without having experienced it, how the hell would anyone understand? I am sometimes envious of my co-workers, especially those that have partners. I would not trade Odin for anything, but I do miss little things like dates and making food together with someone then sitting in front of the TV.

    It reminds me of an interview I saw with a porn star. When asked what she fantasized about, she said the most mundane things that normal people do daily. All the while people glamorized what she did for a living.

  2. This is a really good article, Elizabeth. I know this issue has come up for me many times. Neither side really knows what it's like. I think we need to respect that and part of our job is, often, learning how to build the necessary bridges between those equally valid realities. Really good article..lots of food for thought.

  3. Thanks for writing this. I often feel that my life would have been so much easier if I had not fallen in love with a god, but at the same time I wouldn't give him up for the world. There's an image of romance and even hubris surrounding all of this, but honestly I wouldn't wish it on anyone. If it happens, it happens. If not then that's fine, too.