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

Monday, April 20, 2009

Terms of Service

A little polemic about being a God-slave
by G. Krasskova

I am a godatheow, a godslave. Most of the spiritworkers and shamans that I know are also godslaves - outright owned by their Deities. It goes with the territory. Lately, I’ve been asked over and over what I mean when I say I am god-owned. To me and others in my position, that term is quite clear: I belong, like property to a Deity, in my case Odin. I have committed myself to this and I am content with this status quo. Yet at the same time, it is technically non-consensual, and if I ever decided I wanted to leave this relationship, I would not be permitted to do so. Within the bounds of this relationship I have a significant freedom, but I am not free in the way one unbound might be. My place is to serve. With my warrior/military mindset, this is fine. It’s not a problem for me overmuch and for that, I am grateful. I am also deeply in love with Odin and He has poured thousands of blessings into my hands, more than I can ever count. I can hardly complain. Of course, it has its challenges, it has its agonizing moments, and it certainly has its sacrifices but it also brings with it immense blessings. That being said, this sacrifice of personal agency inherent in being god-owned, the very non-consensuality of the process is extremely controversial, even amongst spiritworkers. It is an uncomfortable reality, most especially for Pagans and Heathens. More and more I’ve been hearing a number of disgruntled people complaining and arguing about the validity of such service, usually because of the mistaken belief that it casts their Deity of choice in an unfriendly, unpleasant light.

“Slave” is a loaded term and certainly I can understand why the use of such a word sets off alarms. For me, and for those like me however, in the poverty of our language, we have no other term that accurately defines the passionate service that we give to our God or Goddess. Ownership by any other term is still ownership afterall. I suppose that it is much easier for those coming out of a kink or BDSM community to find a measure of peace with the term, given that the protocols and parameters of service are given a measure of respect in that space. That is part of the problem, you know, with the term ‘god slave:” we don’t respect service. (Think about it. Think about how we treat service personnel in our mundane lives from the girl behind the drug store counter, to the waitress or waiter at lunch, to the maid who cleans your room. These people are anonymous, poorly paid, and often poorly treated. Would you want your son or daughter to grow up to work in a ‘service industry’? Probably not and I’d ask that you think about the reasons for that). Service can be a very beautiful thing, a sacred thing, a holy thing. It provides an opportunity to open ourselves as deeply as possible (an ongoing process if ever there was one) to the Gods that we love and adore. Yes, it is about the willing sacrifice of personal agency, but there is much joy found in that sacrifice.

Before going any farther, I’d like to take a moment to point out that there are a lot of ways that we can serve the Gods. Not everyone is going to become a god-slave. Not every one should become a godslave. One does not need to be a godslave to serve -- I want to make that abundantly clear – no more than one needs to be a priest, or healer, or ordeal worker to serve and be of use to their Gods. It is however the most common paradigm, and the most controversial one, and it begs exploration if only for the sake of those who find themselves being claimed and who have no clue how to cope with it. That should not be taken in any way to devalue other types of service. To say that every spirit worker must be a slave to their Gods is like saying every devotee must be a spirit worker. Such a thing simply isn’t true. What I have said in the past, and will say again here is that I believe the God or Goddess in question should define the terms of the relationship. It is up to the Deity to decide the nature of the relationship with Their chosen and what an individual Deity needs may vary greatly from one person to another. I would urge would-be spiritworkers to guard against assumptions and preconceptions. The Gods will show you and guide on into what They need you to know. Often what is forbidden to one of us will be required of another…even when the two in question are owned by the same Deity. One might say that there are absolutely no absolutes in this work.

That may be the hardest thing about Pagan Reconstruction to understand. We’ve been patterned by 2000 years of Christianity to have one view of God, who is unchanging forever and ever amen. The idea that our God could ask such radically different things from us is a little alien to our world-view (though ironically not alien to early Christianity). We’re learning as our faiths grow and learning can be difficult thing. This is, I believe, a very important point. I belong to Odin. Odin may have taken me as a godatheow. That doesn’t mean that He wants every single person who serves Him to be a god-slave. We really need to stop trying to fit everyone into the same bloody little box in this work. The Gods will let us know how They want us to serve. There is a wonderful quote by Rumi, that I am endlessly quoting: “Let the Beauty we love, be what we do. There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.” Godslavery is one of them.

One of the biggest issues that people seem to have with godslavery, over and above the apparent lack of agency, is that to many, it implies the Gods are cruel, capricious, even sociopathic. My own experience of Odin, even at the harshest point of ordeal has been anything but. Yes, He can be merciless. All the Gods can be (read the lore, if you doubt that). But He can also be passionately loving, and He is, most especially when He is asking His people to do that which is most painful. I would caution against casting human mores onto the Gods: They are rarely if ever cruel for cruelty’s sake. What we interpret as harshness may be anything but; it may be the deepest expression of loving kindness on the part of the Deity in question: I know my ordeals were; and I know other godatheow who would say the same.

In a forthcoming article about Ordeal work, I talk about the dynamic of submission, particularly the use of pain as a tool in this process. The ongoing argument against godatheow tends to be twinned with a great hostility toward ordeal work (even though not every godslave is an ordeal worker). In both cases, it is the loss of personal agency involved that creates the conflict. The submission to pain as an act of personal empowerment raises many questions not only about the nature of pain but also about the nature of personal agency. A clear distinction must be drawn between “pain as a cause of action,” and “pain as a kind of action.”(1) It is this latter manifestation of pain encompassed by Odin’s story. Here, pain is used not as an externally repressive measure, but as an expression of personal sovereignty.(2) Anthropologist Talal Asad notes that ‘when we say that someone is suffering, we commonly suppose that he or she is not an agent. To suffer…is, so we usually think, to be in a passive state – to be an object, not a subject.”(3) In Odin, however, the reader is presented with the image of a suffering body engaged in an act of power, or, as modern ordeal workers might phrase it: ‘hunting for power.”(4) In such a context, pain loses its emotional charge and becomes a consciously applied tool in a greater process of development. Pain becomes something more than a private experience, or an experience of utter loss of control. It becomes an act of power, one that sets the defining tone for an entire religious tradition. Of course, to those outside of this dynamic, accepting the fact that either godslavery or ordeal can be a holy act means completely re-examining everything we think we know about the Gods.

The Gods are real. They are not manifestations of one’s unconscious. They are not archetypes. They are not imaginary beings. They are real. They have personalities, likes, dislikes, will. Oh boy do They have will! What’s more, They aren’t always nice. Not only can They act in ways that might be interpreted as non-consensual, They often do. Many people, even (perhaps most especially godslaves) struggle terribly with this potential for non-consensuality. This may not be the way it works for everyone, but there are Deities (like Odin) who won’t hesitate a moment to force Their will on those who are lawful prey to Them. Can one back out? Sure. But the price is often much greater and much worse than one is willing to pay. It’s not a matter of “safe, sane, consensual,” or of “risk aware consensual kink,” though I have found that BDSM terminology can be very helpful from a psychological standpoint in coming to comprehend the type of relationship one might find oneself in with one’s Gods. The psychology of ownership can be .. .a surprise, at least at first.

At the same time, I think that the question of consensuality is a rather grey area, a keenly balanced knife’s edge upon which the spiritworker walks: I say I’m a godslave because I’m owned and to Him and Him alone do I place myself in thrall, but Odin gave me a chance to run away from it years ago. I chose not to take it. I cannot say He wasn’t fair: He did give me one chance. So how much of the bondage is my own personal agency and consent, and His will? I don’t know. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that so long as I’m not stupid enough to render myself useless to Him, that bond is now irreversible (on my end at least).

Happily, there is slowly starting to be more discussion about the various manifestations of the Deity/servant relationship. Silence Maestas put out a book called ‘Walking the Heartroad” by Asphodel Press that discusses at least half a dozen, if not more variations in the ways that Gods can interact with their servants. It may be that for some of us the godatheow pattern is the most common, but that doesn’t mean it’s the only one. Even within my own relationship with Odin, it’s not *just* that, we relate on a plethora of levels (though at the bottom, deepest level, it is Master/slave). For me, this is incredibly fulfilling. I am closer to Him than I ever thought possible precisely because I was able to accept being bound as His godatheow. I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’m well aware, however that for someone else, being bound in such a fashion might actually hinder and harm them in their spiritual Work. This is why I say: leave it in the hands of the Gods. They know us better than we know ourselves.

I think that prevailing idea that A) the Gods are all sweet and nice and B) that They’d never force us to do anything are two of the most damaging ideas within Paganism. They’re also ideas that I think our ancient forebears would find laughable and quite possibly dangerous and unlucky. There is nothing safe about this work. Nor is there anything safe about the sacred. I think our ancestors understood that far, far better than people do now. But we’re learning, slowly but surely, we’re learning.

Footnotes:

1. Talal, Asad, (2003). Formations of the Secular. California: Stanford University Press, p. 69.
2. Asad, p. 71.
3. Asad, p. 79.
4. Krasskova, currently unpublished article “Ordeal Work, Body Modification, and the Use of Pain in Modern Norse Paganism.” First presented October 4, 2008 at a religious studies conference at Ohio State University.

29 comments:

  1. This is probably the best explanation of god-slavery I've read that does not have the underlying assumption that every god-touched person is going to be a slave. Nice work!

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  2. Thank you. I've seen it coming up in several forums and figured it was time to address it outright.

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  3. Coming from BDSM, I understood the idea of slavery differently coming into my relationship with Odin. I know that slavery has it's rewards and is what my body and soul have been patterned for. This does not mean I'm a doormat in other aspects of my life -- far from it. I am a strong independent woman and a god-slave. I think that makes me more valuable to Odin. I am strong enough to know the value and the purpose of service. It is an honor to do what I do.

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  4. Precisely. I think that we need to expand our idea of what being a slave entails. Odin pointed this out to me recently: it does not mean being a doormat. There can be a tremendous amount of freedom in what we do for our Lord involved. You said it beautifully: we are strong and independent...and we are god-slaves.

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  5. I'm glad to see you addressing some of this. However, I'm afraid it doesn't feel like enough to counteract the overwhelming message of all the other posts, which tend to portray godslavery and ordeal work as the highest and best manifestations of serving the gods and of spirit-work, rather than just two relatively small aspects. Even in this post, you say "Most of the spiritworkers and shamans that I know are also godslaves." I suggest that perhaps you need to broaden your circle of acquaintances. Because I know *many* spiritworkers and shamans who would not classify themselves as such. Unfortunately, since your group is very "loud" on the internet, I fear that eventually spirit-work will come to equal godslavery in the minds of outsiders. Regardless of one's feelings about the latter, that equation simply isn't true.

    Now, I want to go on record as saying I have no problem with ordeals as spiritual events, of pain being used as devotion or offering or self-transcendence, etc. I have done some of this myself. But I can not think of any traditional culture in which it is a constant, primary expression of these things. "Ordeal path" as such seems like a very questionable thing to me. I think that is what some people are reacting to. An occasional ordeal, when truly necessary, makes sense and is certainly attested to historically - that does not, however, appear to be what is being described here.

    Now, I have no intention of getting into a prolonged argument about these things, nor speaking for anyone but myself. I just thought it might be helpful to articulate further what some issues might be with what you've written, and how it might appear to others. Especially since you seem to be assuming that the objections primarily come from those who are troubled by the very idea of ordeals or godslaves or gods that can be harsh, demanding, and even violent. I am not troubled by any of those things. I am however wary of them being the focus of an entire spiritual path, and of them being represented as common to all who pursue a certain type of spiritual path.

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  6. We're not saying that ordeal was the 'primary' or constant means of devotion. We're saying, based on research, that it crops up in many cultures and that it is, today, one of many types of devotion. No one that I know goes through constant unending cycles of ordeals. It just doesn't work that way. It does, however, change us. it makes us look at things differently. It makes us approach pain, conflict, fear very differently and in ways which i find beneficial as a whole.

    If godslavery comes to equal spiritwork, that says more about those who are willing to try to fit all spiritworkers into the same cognitive box than it does about either godslaves or spiritworkers and shamans in general. That attempt to cast us all in the same light is, i believe an attempt to make what we do safe, when it cannot and should not be. I am not worried about that. That is not the primary issue that I"m addressing here.

    As to what people are reacting to: what we do as ordeal masters is frightening and in untrained hands could be very dangerous. That we have the training is apparent to our community and those that come to us, that ordeal is meant to heal and does heal is also apparent to those that undergo it. These things may not be so apparent to those outside that dynamic. As to the Godslave aspect of it..the word is triggering, the idea is triggering for many people on many levels. I get that. Sex, control/lack of control, pain, dominance/ submission..these things are all vectors of oppression in our culture. how could ordeal path, sex path, godslavery NOT be triggering? but you know what? That's in part the purpose of these paths...at least i think so, based on what i've seen.

    What do i think are the highest and best manifestations of service to the Gods: whatever the Gods in question say it should be for the person doing the service. Period.

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  7. "We're not saying that ordeal was the 'primary' or constant means of devotion."

    Well you are, from what I've read, talking about an "Ordeal Path" (not just, "ordeals") as if that could be the primary method one uses to deal with the divine. You have an entire blog devoted to it. I of course don't know what you think in your own mind, I am just telling you what it comes across like to some other people.

    And I don't think it's entirely fair to put off the issue of outsiders' impression of "us" solely on the outsiders. They can only know what they read. Therefore, we are all responsible. You are responsible when you present an image of spiritwork that focuses primarily on godslavery and ordeal work (and say right in there that you pretty much only know of godslave spiritworkers). And, the rest of us are also responsible, to put out our different perspectives where people will find them.

    As to your third paragraph - I have to break it to you that some people have issues with what you do that are NOT dismissable as simply the result of "triggering" concepts like ordeal and pain and submission. That's an easy reaction to have, and in some cases it may even be true, but it's not that simple. I, for instance, embrace all these concepts quite a bit within my practice. I also feel they are very personal, private practices that should not be discussed in detail in public forums. I think this is part of what's causing the discomfort and even anger right now. You can choose to ignore that of course, but if you're going to address it at all (as you've done with this post), I just think you should really understand where people might be coming from, not ascribe to them motivations that may not be correct.

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  8. The ordeal path is one of eight different paths (including prayer/meditation, ritual work, and rhythmic things like drumming and dancing) that can achieve similar goals. Different things work for different people (ritual doesn't do much for me, for example. I respond best to Ascetic Path, which i recently wrote about in Pangaia, and ordeal). I don't believe one path should be privileged over another. That being said, ritual path isn't the one that's causing so much brouhaha in our various communities. And then of course, there's the question of why would i write about a path that I myself don't practice often? There are others on Godsmouths (E. Vongvisith) for instance who are adamantly NOT ordeal workers but who are just as competant as spirit workers. (Elizabeth, would you consider yourself a Godslave? i've never asked you?).

    Of course a blog (bloodfordivine) created by three or four ordeal masters is going to deal with that topic. that is its purpose. That doesn't mean that one couldn't or shouldn't also explore other options. There are plenty of places where one can write about ritual work, or prayer and not so many where one can write plainly about ordeal, specifically for ordeal workers. And where you may feel that these are private practices (and I don't disagree), one of the mandates that I have from Odin is to discuss them, publicly. I"m not overly thrilled with discussing very personal and private ordeals openly but, He has told me it must be done. So I do it. That is my job. If that irritates people then it's going to have to irritate people. I have been ordered to be very public.

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  9. Just to chime in, I have to add that of those I know who practice ordeal work, it is not the only path we walk. I consider myself to be also on the sex magic path and the path of meditation. I don't have constant ordeals - in fact, I do a lot more sex work and meditation. I have posted about all of these on my blog and my LJ. Ordeal just seems the most questioned, and if your vocation is being reviled elsewhere, you naturally feel compelled to defend yourself. My recent post on Blood for the Divine tried to do just that.

    I agree with Dver that the best approach is to follow our own paths that have been dictated to us by Deity. No one path is better than the other, and the fact that Galina mainly knows godslaves or ordeal folk might just be that they most easily understand and respect her work. I am a godslave and an ordeal worker who has close friends and colleagues in Traditional British Wicca, Santeria, and Heathenry. Approached with mutual respect, curiosity, and an open mind, these relationships have been invaluable to me, and I am wiser for them. Frankly, I think dialog and meetups across traditions need to happen more often.

    I can understand that for some, speaking or reading about certain practices seems like a violation of privacy. I don't think asking others to refrain from discussing that topic is fruitful or the right answer. As someone with roots in BDSM, I understand it in this light: there are certain things I find disturbing, and even if I did engage in them, would not publicly post about them on a blog or community site. But, if I don't want to read about someone's amazing enema scene, I just don't read it. I wouldn't tell them not to post about their own experiences, especially if they found them to be intensely meaningful.

    -Anya

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  10. My name is Fuensanta Plaza. I belong to Loki and Sigyn and I am as vanilla as they come. Ordeals make me feel queasy in the extreme. I do not like the word Godslave, because of its historical connotations of man enslaving man. I’m hopelessly heterosexual. And I would not dream of accusing anyone who considers themselves a godslave or drawn to sex or bdsm path or ordeal to have failed in their duty to their Gods. For one thing, any way you cut it, this is hubris of the most repulsive kind. For another, this is between the practitioner and his or her deity.

    It seems to me for all those who criticize and throw dirt at people of different opinions, that in this equation they have lost sight of their Deities. They seem to me to be expending more energy in pointing fingers than in bending their knees.

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  11. Anya,

    Regarding this quote:
    "But, if I don't want to read about someone's amazing enema scene, I just don't read it. I wouldn't tell them not to post about their own experiences, especially if they found them to be intensely meaningful."

    First of all, you have to remember that you share the gods you worship with others who worship them. Now, that doesn't mean you always have to agree or get along, but it's just something to keep in mind. When you post publicly, for instance, about a sexual encounter with God X, you cannot ignore the fact that other people who worship God X may read that (in fact, they are the most likely to be reading that probably - why would anyone else?). They may feel that it is obscene to speak of God X like that publicly, not because of the sexual acts themselves, but because this is *religion* not a BDSM scene. These are gods, and many people feel They should be treated with a certain reverence when speaking publicly, even if privately They might be experienced quite intimately and even carnally.

    Now, you can still say "just don't read about it" and in the end that's probably good advice. But it's not just a matter of people's delicate sensibilities being offended by graphic sexuality or something. People are seeing their cherished gods discussed in ways that feel very wrong to them. Surely you might understand why they would take offense and not want such things out there on the internet for everyone to read? It feels like a violation, not only of a loved one, but of a divine loved one. I'm not asking you to agree here (I'm guessing that would be fruitless), but just to try to see where they are coming from. I would love for this brewing antagonism to stop here, even though I fear it won't.

    Of course, you may post what you like to your own blog and no one can actually censor you. But I would ask, *why* are you feeling the need to post such intimate things publicly? This is not just for the benefit of your friends, or it wouldn't need to be a public post. This is something that any Joe could come across. I wonder what someone who doesn't know you and your relationship with your gods could possibly gain from such a detailed description of your every sexual or painful encounter. And I find it odd, personally, that there is no sense of "this is something sacred and not something to show to all" here.

    In ancient Greece, the Mysteries were said to be arrheton and aporrheton. Arrheton means "ineffable, cannot be expressed in words." Aporrheton means "not lawful to speak of" and in fact there were severe punishments for those who profaned the Mysteries. They believed that those most holy and personal experiences of the divine were not for public consumption, and were not for the eyes and ears of the uninitiated - not out of snobbery, but out of respect and awe. Perhaps I am just an old Greek at heart, but I find it sad that these concepts no longer seem to be in play in most pagan circles these days.

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  12. Dver, i understand that different traditions require different things and frankly, I wouldn't be posting about my experiences save for one thing: it's part of my job. I am required by Odin to be public about this. His wishes supercede my own comfort. It is precisely because they are mysteries and they are holy that we are required to speak of them. In a different time and place, in a different culture that might not be the case but here there is, i believe, the sense that the holiness needs to be reclaimed and for me at least (I can't speak for Anya), part of that has been a requirement that I speak/write publicly about these things.

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  13. I am most definitely not an ordeal worker, whatever may be said of my personal proclivities. Nor am I a shaman, and I would hesitate to even use the term "spirit-worker" at this point, as my focus is largely pastoral and monastic rather than on journeying or the use of magic. That has made my perspective somewhat different than that of the others who write regularly here, and is probably part of the reason Fire asked me to contribute to this blog.

    Dver said: "People are seeing their cherished gods discussed in ways that feel very wrong to them. Surely you might understand why they would take offense and not want such things out there on the internet for everyone to read? It feels like a violation, not only of a loved one, but of a divine loved one. I'm not asking you to agree here (I'm guessing that would be fruitless), but just to try to see where they are coming from."

    Actually, although few may believe it, I have a great deal of sympathy for this point of view. I'm dedicated to Loki as a priestess and consort. He is not the most popular deity of His pantheon, and for the past six years, since I became His, I have heard and read every kind of ridiculous, hostile, demeaning and annoying crap about the deity I adore and to Whom I owe the greatest blessings of my life. It has ceased to anger me as much, but it upset me for a long time.

    Whether or not these criticisms and hostility towards my Beloved are deserved is not the point; I'm not an apologist for Him, and even I will admit that there are aspects of Loki's personality that are best left alone if possible. But after a prolonged period of angst about the things people say about my god-husband and patron, I finally had to accept three things:

    a) Loki does not need me to defend Him or His reputation. He is a god. He will still be a god when we are all dead and gone. Nothing any human says, no matter how insulting or silly, can ever change that.
    b) To be injured by the things other people (rightly or wrongly) see in Loki and to take offense at them is for me to value their perspectives and opinions over my own, and to devalue everything He has done for me that contradicts the upsetting things I hear or read.
    c) Loki Himself chooses how He will interact with other people. I have no say in that. If I am jealous, freaked out or horrified by how He is to some folks (and I have been all three in the past, believe me) that is my problem to deal with, not the fault or responsibility of the other person whose interaction with Loki I find so dismaying. (I suppose I can always take it up with Loki Himself if I don't like it, but somehow I don't think that's going to work...)

    I'm not pointing fingers here at all. I have struggled with these issues for a long time. Despite having asserted in another online forum that I don't waste my time getting angry or upset at what I read about Loki, sometimes I still do. But that doesn't mean I think people shouldn't say what they will about the gods. Examining my own motives for getting upset has proven useful in determining whether an argument is worth my time -- although I don't put it out of the realm of possibility that some people's gods may ask them to speak out against differing points of view. Mine haven't, and so I'm not going to expend my energy in that respect. And I don't think this means that my devotion to Them is lacking. It's easier to make a fuss in the name of one's gods than it is to examine oneself with the same clarity with which They see us. Believe me, I know that all too well :P

    Dver also said: "And, the rest of us are also responsible to put out our different perspectives where people will find them."

    I agree. I want to see more of these kinds of blogs around, and more discussion of how people actually live their lives as Pagans...god-touched or not. It is, IMO, a tumultuous, confusing but also exciting time to be a member of a Pagan religion right now. I just hope that it doesn't end up with people declaring other people to be heretics, and holy wars happening left and right.

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  14. Also, Galina asked about whether I use the term "god-slave." I used to use it but I'm not so very sure anymore that it applies to me. I am Loki's consort and Hela's servant, but both of those relationships were entered into of my own free will. I obey my gods because They have given me work to do and because I owe Them my fealty and devotion. And moreover, I love Them and don't feel They have been mistreating me or have asked more of me than I can or should give, even when Their demands are difficult for me to comply with. So if I am a slave, at least I'm a willing and happy one.

    I'm starting to like the term "god-touched" when speaking in broad terms about folks who have contact with the gods, but whose actual "job descriptions" (if they have one) may be anything from mystic to seer to shaman to priest. It also doesn't define what level of intensity the relationship between the human and the god(s) might be. But that's a personal preference and I don't expect everyone else to adopt it on the spot.

    And the reason I'm bothering with "god-touched" at all is that the purpose of this blog is to write about experiences as god-touched people, and because, as I tried to make clear in my last article, having divine contact really does change a person, sometimes so much that it makes it hard to fulfill Their wishes, when it comes to interacting with others who have not shared that experience.

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  15. Elizabeth, thank you for your reasonable and thoughtful response. I agree with a lot of what you said. Of course, it is easier for me to have some distance from this issue, as for the most part these are not my gods (I do have a very limited relationship with Odin, but that's all). I'm not sure how I would feel or react if it was, say, Dionysos being discussed in this way. I have been personally attacked plenty of times in the online religious "community", but it is a bit easier to ignore that - harder when it comes to the gods we love. As I'm sure you know. These things are certain to stir up strong emotions.

    It is a tricky situation. Some people feel their gods have told them to speak about these experiences and ideas. Other people feel their gods (often the same gods) have told them to speak out against the first set of people. And so it goes. All I have to say is, if it turned out (and who of us can say for sure?) that indeed these same gods were telling both sets of people these conflicting things, then They really have a strange sense of humor. But we knew that already.

    What I am trying to take from all of this is to consider what *I* want to say about my own practice, and about spirit-work in general - i.e., what I have to contribute to the conversation. I'm still not sure how much I can write about - as I said, I'm an old Greek and I have a gut reaction to talking too openly about Mysteries. But I know there is a middle ground, and things that can be discussed more generally, and I will try to do more of that on my own site and blog, as I am able. I think the best thing that could come of all of this antagonism would be a greater diversity of voices out there.

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  16. Dver said: "All I have to say is, if it turned out (and who of us can say for sure?) that indeed these same gods were telling both sets of people these conflicting things, then They really have a strange sense of humor."

    I'm pretty sure that Loki does ;)

    Where is your site and blog, BTW? I'd be interested in reading it.

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  17. I have a few websites, actually, but the one I was referring to is my spirit-work site (still very much a work in progress, as I have so much to write), called A Forest Door: http://www.winterscapes.com/forestdoor/

    I don't have a regular, public blog, but rather a Livejournal. erl-queen.livejournal.com

    Btw, I read your Twilight and Fire blog regularly and really enjoy it.

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  18. Oh, I know who you are now. Winterscapes used to host Wayland Skallagrimsson's site, right? I'll check out your website, and I'm glad to hear you like the "nun blog."

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  19. I rather wonder if part of the reason that Odin is being so adamant that I speak and write about these things is that I also have strong teaching obligations? I don't know. I only know that I cannot keep silent without disobeying Him and that is not an option.

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  20. Thanks for your thoughtul response, Dver. It helps me understand the variety of ways my online presence is being perceived. To address your main question:

    Why make this public?

    You state, "I wonder what someone who doesn't know you and your relationship with your gods could possibly gain from such a detailed description of your every sexual or painful encounter."

    I feel that I was very lucky coming into this path to personally know others that had similar experiences - experiences that the majority population might find shameful or offensive. Sharing my experiences with them helped me overcome my very real fear that these encounters I was having were my own mind. I was extremely sensitive to the idea that I might be "perving up" my gods, and speaking to several other women who had had intimate relations with Odin helped confirmed that yes, this was Him, and yes, this was partially a sexual relationship. Sharing details with them allowed them to say "yes, He did exactly the same time to me." I found that peer-verification very reassuring and powerful.

    Because of this, I feel the need to make my experiences public. There may be others having similar experiences, either now or in the future, and I want to let them know that this is real and they have an understanding ear if they have nowhere else to turn. [These emails have already started arriving, by the way, and my blog is barely a few months old.] There is nothing worse in my mind than having a spiritual experience and then feeling like a freak or a deviant for what has just happened to you.

    You then comment: "They may feel that it is obscene to speak of God X like that publicly, not because of the sexual acts themselves, but because this is *religion* not a BDSM scene. These are gods, and many people feel They should be treated with a certain reverence when speaking publicly, even if privately They might be experienced quite intimately and even carnally."

    I can respect your practices in a Greek mystery tradition, just as I respect the fact that my Garderian friend does not share what happens in her rituals, private or group. I think this is a difference of tradition.

    As for the fact of shared gods, I think it has to be acknowledged that the gods ask different things of different people. What they ask of me is no better or worse than what they ask of a bard or a gardener. In any case, none of us can control or alter what we're getting. This IS my experience of Odin, and to question the validity of that is to deny that my God has this side to Him as well.

    I also feel compelled to speak about sex and pain publicly because I have an unshakable belief that these experiences are sacred. For many people, this is a radical idea. Posting publicly about sex and pain creates a sense of community between practitioners who otherwise might feel isolated and ostracized for what they do.

    It's interesting to me that speaking about sex and pain publicly seem at odds with having a reverential approach to the gods. Many people speak of their private meditations or non-sexual encounters in a public way and there's no sense of obscenity or blasphemy there.

    In my view, keeping sex work and ordeal work private is too close to keeping it in the closet - something that's dirty, that's not proper to speak of, that might not be comfortable.

    Yes, religion and BDSM are two different things. But they can overlap, and if you peruse the group listings on a community site like FetLife, you will see a growing number of groups about BDSM and spirituality. This is not surprising to me --a s someone who has researched the history of BDSM for a doctoral dissertation -- considering the religious roots of BDSM tools: the scourge, the whip, the flogger, the St. Andrew's Cross. These were once holy tools in a myriad of traditions, and reclaiming that needs to be done publicly.

    -Anya

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  21. To Elizabeth:

    Yes, Wayland is my ex, actually. I helped him in the initial stages of crafting Somafera, although it is now his thing (I don't participate in the community anymore, though I do still use some of the practices).

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  22. Anya:

    I do understand wanting to share what you experience so that others will know they are not alone. I do that myself, and have been grateful for others doing that. I guess for me it comes down to detail. It is one thing to say, for instance, "I have a sexual relationship with a god." It is another, IMO, to say "last night, God X and I had astral oral sex after 23 minutes of foreplay, and His cock was 7 inches and He likes to tickle my feet and He whispered the following into my ear..." Those details seem totally irrelevant to me, and very private, as they would be between human lovers as well.

    I'm not even trying to change your mind here - you may say, "well He told me to go into that much detail" in which case I really have no way of arguing that. Just wanted to clarify what the difference was, in my mind. I believe these things can be discussed in a beneficial way without going into personal details.

    "Many people speak of their private meditations or non-sexual encounters in a public way and there's no sense of obscenity or blasphemy there."

    Actually, for me there can be, definitely. I feel very similarly when I read some very in-depth, detailed and public account of what happened to someone on an astral journey or in a dream or vision (or when, upon just meeting someone in person for the very first time, they start telling me these things - which has happened on several occasions). It's one thing if I know them very well, but if it's out there for all to see... I feel very awkward seeing it. I wonder why I would ever need to know such details about this person's religious experiences. I wonder why they have no problem divulging sacred experiences in a totally mundane space to any who might see. I feel like they are challenging me to take what they say for granted, to validate their experiences, when I have no reason to do so, not knowing them. I feel this all the time, unfortunately.

    This may not be how others see it, but I did just want to clarify that for me, it's not about the sex or pain (other than that those things, to me, are particularly intimate and personal) but rather any sharing of too-much-personal-information.

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  23. Thanks again Dver. A few more replies:

    "I guess for me it comes down to detail. It is one thing to say, for instance, "I have a sexual relationship with a god." It is another, IMO, to say "last night, God X and I had astral oral sex after 23 minutes of foreplay, and His cock was 7 inches and He likes to tickle my feet and He whispered the following into my ear..." Those details seem totally irrelevant to me, and very private, as they would be between human lovers as well."

    I do understand that distinction. I think that line lies in a different place for everyone and it would be almost impossible to create a standard of what constitutes too much information. There are definitely things I do not share. I keep private journals of things that are just mine and Theirs.

    I think your example is more extreme than anything I've written. To be frank, I'm not calculating my husband's cock size when I experience Him. Regardless, I do think there is a way to write about sex, even in detail, in a reverential way. This isn't girly gossip or bragging - it is a sacred experience, and I don't share such things lightly. I don't share detail for the sake of detail. If He says or does something to me that I find beautiful or moving - and it happens to be during sex - I will share it.

    "I wonder why I would ever need to know such details about this person's religious experiences. I wonder why they have no problem divulging sacred experiences in a totally mundane space to any who might see."

    Again, you might not need to know, but someone else might. I don't see my blog as a mundane space - my office is a mundane space. I don't give loud speeches about what I did with Odin last night to my coworkers. I don't force this on people. The internet by design is a place for like-minded people to find each other. I can create a sacred space here that speaks to those who are curious or similarly inclined.

    "I feel like they are challenging me to take what they say for granted, to validate their experiences, when I have no reason to do so, not knowing them. I feel this all the time, unfortunately."

    Please understand, I am not looking for your validation. I have the validation of my gods - I don't need anything else. You have no reason to take anything I'm telling you as 'The Truth.' How can you believe what anyone says if you don't know them? I put my experiences out there to say that they exist. In my eyes, it widens the realm of possibility.

    To use a hypothetical example - being out as gay is not asking for your validation of me as a gay woman. It is not challenging your ability and right to also be a woman. It is not purposefully trying to make you uncomfortable. It's just my identity, I can't change it, and I won't hide that if it makes others uncomfortable. I have a right to exist. Maybe I want to write incredibly graphic lesbian pornography and put it online. Maybe it disgusts you and offends your experience of being a woman. I cannot control your response. I can only be myself, open and honest, and perhaps help others realize that what I am is yet also another way of being a woman. It doesn't mean their way is wrong or lesser than mine. It's just different, and I'd rather focus on building bridges of commonality.

    -Anya

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  24. Galina, thank you for mentioning "Walking the Heartroad". I'd never heard of it before and have since started reading it and have found it very insightful.

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  25. Ok, as the moderator/editor of this blog, I would like to step in and say this. This is a blog and record that is geared towards talking about very personal things, our religious and spiritual lives. Lives and practices that are often in conflict with the practices of others around us. I am in no way discouraging discussion, and I have been thrilled with the conversation that this post has sparked. That said, at no point, editing exceptions not included, will anyone on this blog be told not to speak of something because it is too personal, or uncomfortable to read about, or conflicts with someone else's dearly held beliefs, not even mine.

    It is important that both the readers and the contributors here at Gods' Mouths to remember that many aspects of our own spiritual lives are going to be out right blasphemy to some, and to others it may only be puzzling, but that there will always be discussion and dissent, and that is good, that is right, that is in part why we are here.

    If there are those who feel that their opinions or spiritual beliefs are not being adequately represented here on Gods' Mouths, please write an essay. Show us your unique point of view, become a guest contributor, and add to our ever changing dialog. That is why we are here, and I hope that we can continue to grow and encompass new voices and ideas.

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  26. Hi, Watcher,
    i'm glad you're finding it helpful. I found "Walking the Heartroad" a beautiful book. I particularly like how the author describes devotion as the 'art of religious love.'

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  27. Odin, please save me from your followers.

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  28. Only if you tell me your name. I can't be bothered to save anonymous cowards, yo.

    -- Odin All-Daddy, Pimpin' King of Asgard

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  29. Thank you all for your comments, but unless there is a point to this conversation I must ask us all to move on.

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