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

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

What The Norns Told Me

by Raven Kaldera

All spirit-workers are different, and we all have differing deals with the Gods and spirits that we work with. Some are god-slaves; some are contract workers or voluntary servants; some are indulged children or beloved spouses. Some are more than one of these things. What is expected of us will vary from divine/human relationship to relationship. Our jobs will be different, as will our rate of forced progress and our “wiggle room”, as it were. While there are some basic things that we will have in common with regard to our experiences, there is such a wide range of details that it makes little sense for us to compare ourselves with each other.

But there are a few basic truths, and sometimes we stumble over them. I asked my Owner, Hela, about the issue of our widely varying diversity, and how it seems that the Gods have such different expectations for people. Sometimes the same deity may have two people and give them entirely different sorts of attention. To a certain extent, of course, this can be put down to the fact that deities sometimes have different “faces” or “hats” or “aspects” or whatever you want to call them, and show different ones to different people. This can go even for casual contact – when I call up Aphrodite I get Aphrodite Urania, while my partner gets Aphrodite Porne. I get Loki the Magician; another friend gets the Breaker of Worlds, etc.

One of the cosmic “rules” that I’ve learned in the past is that when you call on a deity (who is not your owner) by a specific title/name/aspect, that’s the God/dess you get. Gods have rules too, not just ones that they agree to hold to, but ones that govern their nature and existence. If I call upon Odin as Grimnir, I’m not getting Jalkr. If I call Artemis as the Huntress, She Who Slays, I am not getting Artemis the midwife. This has been proven to be true again and again. While we do not control the Gods (there’s no rule that says they have to show up at all, for example), we can call upon those rules by which they exist, if we know what they are.

So I asked Hela specifically about the issue of human/divine relationships along the spectrum of patronage-to-ownership, and she waved her bony finger and pointed me in the direction of a Norn. For those not Norse-oriented, that’s one of the Fates, the Wyrd Sisters, the Ladies who weave the Web and thus have access to concepts deeper and broader than we meat-brained humans can sometimes comprehend. The Norn (I’m not sure which one it was) told me this about the nature of Deity.

First, She reminded me about the latter rule – the aspect that you call on is the aspect you get – and then elaborated how that worked in a more personal situation. Aspects were not only a list of qualities and jobs, like a horizontal foldout (and here her hands spread sideways, showing a set of images in a row). They were also vertical, if such a concept could be symbolized by two-dimensional space. There were aspects of Deity that were very humanlike (depending on the God/dess in question). They argued, they fought, they made mistakes, they were sometimes short-sighted and did not access the full truth of their divine abilities. (Although when they erred, they did that also on a grand scale.) They also loved, with personal fervor as opposed to impersonal distance; loved each other and sometimes mortals as well. This is not the sort of “love” we think of as in “God loves me”; it’s deeply personal and passionate interest in someone, not transpersonal “yes, I love your divine spark gently from afar”.

Then She told me that the nature of the interaction you get with a God/dess who chooses you is determined by whether you decide to serve/work with/love the aspect of them that is “more human” on that vertical axis, or “less human”. And, yes, the key word was Decide. There are a few things that God/desses cannot demand or force from even those spirit-workers who are thralls (and no, not all spirit-workers are god-slaves by any means). For example, accepting a proposal of marriage from a deity must be entirely voluntary on the part of the mortal. No one can be forced into being a god-spouse, even if they are enslaved in all other ways.

This also applies to the “vertical” aspect of deity that one ends up working with. “You chose,” She told me. “When?” I asked. I didn’t recall choosing any such thing. The image that came to me then – Norns like to communicate in images, unfortunately often confusing ones – was of a deity approaching a mortal that they were drawn to, and offering an image to the mortal’s unconscious. (Not the conscious mind, because that was not where the deep truth was found. The unconscious does not lie.) It could be like this, or it could be like this, said the divine Voice, and the mortal responded instinctively. Yes, this is what I want. And so it was. It was offered to you, and you chose, long ago, said the Norn.

She also showed me that there is a price for every choice. To serve a more human aspect is to bask in the ecstasy of direct emotional attention from a God. All god-spouses, by definition, chose this aspect, because it is this aspect that can love a mortal. It is also this aspect that can make mistakes with them, can overestimate or underestimate them, can lie to them (if it’s in that God/dess’s inherent nature to do so), and can be less than perfectly ethical with them. This aspect loves them passionately, and gives them personal attention, lays their own prejudices and pettinesses on them, and can be blinded to their long-term Wyrd (although even a deity in a personal relationship with you knows better what you should be doing than any mortal, including yourself; they are still Gods). To choose this is to choose the ecstasy and terror of yielding to the “imperfect” aspect of a deity. It is to love them and be loved by them in a way that those who don’t have such a relationship cannot even imagine. It is also to trust them even when you know that they are not acting from their highest selves … an act of radical spiritual trust.

On the other end of the continuum, there is the less human aspect of that deity. This is the part of them that is still “them”, still undifferentiated, but closest to being part of the less differentiated, “higher” aspect that becomes impersonal. It’s as if the Deity is acting from their highest self in this aspect, and the higher you go, the less “human” they are, and the less personal passion is given to you. As an example, the God/dess that I serve – Hela, the Norse death god/dess – could be described as having Her more human side as the daughter of Loki and Angrboda, the sister of Fenris and Jormundgand, the lady who has a history, and whose history has marked her with certain loves, hatreds, and prejudices. Her less human side would be the part of Her that is as impersonal as She can get while still being Hela and not Undifferentiated Death Goddess. That part is filtered by her role/nature as Death Goddess, but little else. It works from a place of much purer objectivity, and does not make the kind of mistakes that a more human aspect might, nor have their prejudices. Similarly, Aphrodite’s human aspect becomes jealous and offended and strikes down mortals for petty reasons; Aphrodite’s higher self dispenses love from a clean, ideal place. Zeus’s human aspect steps on his wife’s trust out of uncontrolled desire; Zeus’s less human aspect works from a place of perfectly honorable leadership.

The love that comes down from such an aspect is impersonal, transpersonal, seeing your “specialness” only in terms of how you can be made to evolve and be a useful part of a long-term Wyrd. This aspect doesn’t marry mortals. It also doesn’t make errors with them, or act towards them in a way that is ethically questionable. When dealing with a God’s highest self, you sacrifice personal love for perfect justice, as it were … and that will be expected of you as well. A deity with whom you have a personal, human-like relationship will put up with a lot more error from you. They will let you dick around and blow off your spiritual path for a much longer time, possibly your whole life … so long as you love them passionately, in the way that the Hindus refer to as “bhakti”. You are expected to be tolerant of their faults, and trust them anyway … and they will extend that tolerance to you. They will love you passionately no matter how much you continue to screw up, so long as you love them back with equal fervor. You can be petty, and they don’t care, because you are giving them the freedom to do the same. While they will endeavor to push you to evolve, it’s not the first priority of the relationship.

When serving the less human aspect of a deity, you can be sure that they will be seeing further and higher, and always doing what will be in the best interest of your own higher self (even when that hurts). You can trust in their unerring judgment with regard to your path. On the other hand, you will also be expected to behave from your own higher self, to be pushed hard and mercilessly, and for there to be swift. immediate, and unpleasant consequences when you act in unworthy ways. It’s the faster and more spiritually ascetic track, not the track of connection. You hold Them to Their highest standards (and, yes, this is something that the Norn made it clear that we are all allowed to do, even god-thralls) and in turn They hold you to the highest standards possible given your mortal nature. They will not lie or make mistakes with you, and neither will they love you or tell you that you’re special.

It’s something for people who are dissatisfied with the nature of the relationship with their God to think about. You have the power and right to change it, to move it up or down that axis … if you’re willing to pay the price.

Of course, I did ask if some spirit-workers deal with different aspects at different times. Yes, the Norn agreed – sometimes a divine Spouse can suddenly turn around and be an impersonal Boss for a week or month if it’s needed – but there is generally one aspect/relationship that was chosen first and which both parties revert to … because it’s generally the one that the mortal in question desires and needs the most. Usually there will be some discomfort when there is a temporary shift, and usually it’s only done because there is an overriding need having to do with the mortal’s well-being. (“If I don’t get Joe off drugs, he won’t be around to have this connection with me any more.”)

Then the Norn folded her cards and vanished, leaving me to walk through my spirit-worker friends in my mind, seeing their relationships with their patron deities with new eyes. I understood why I’d made the choice that I had made, even if I didn’t remember making it … and I understood that it was the right choice. I could even see the part of myself that I’d made that choice from, and it heartened me. In a way, it gave me comfort: there was something that had been within my power to choose, and I did it. I set the foundation for my relationship with my Goddess.

We all do. Isn’t that an amazing thing for a god-slave to say? And yet … I believe it’s true.


  1. I know we covered this when I was visiting once and I got it then, but this is an amazing and incredibly insightful piece of writing. Thank you, so much.

  2. What's really fun is when you serve two gods -- one in a "lower" aspect as a mortal spouse and lover, and the other in a "higher" and more transpersonal aspect as a more formal servant. Talk about conflicting agendas :P

  3. Odin pretty much runs teh gamut with me, depending on what He needs. You're right, E., navigating up and down that spectrum can be really interesting. lol

  4. This is really excellent. Thanks, Raven.


  5. Thank you so much for this. It made me think a lot about the relationship I have with my Master, and the place that it comes from. It's very warming and heartening to hear this, and I feel very strongly that I made the right decision.