Category Archives: Many Gods West

Bargaining (or not) with The Gods

There were a lot of good statements that came out of the conversations at Many Gods West. This blog post is a continuation of writing prompts I developed while there, earlier this year. But this particular one came from a random thought that hit my mind during a large discussion panel and was prompted because of a statement made on the other side of the room.

Working with the Gods can sometimes place us in the position of being problem solvers. How can this come into conflict with our own personal limits, and does this limit our relationship with the Gods?

I wind up in this sometimes awkward position quite a bit. My personality is really that of a troubleshooter. I am always ready to solve a problem, and more than willing to make things happen without any of the typical tools. When I was in the military, I was prized for my ways of solving issues with unconventional (and sometimes illegal) means. My philosophy was that if it worked long enough for a real and correct solution to be implemented along side it – and then switched from the makeshift solution – then everything would be fine. I worked in Command and Control Communications, and my job was to keep the communications systems working so that information could flow…I just took it upon myself to add the statement of “by any means possible” to the end of it.

My concept of work responsibility has not changed much. I am still available to make solutions happen, utilizing whatever tools I have at hand. And to be completely frank, I tend to do the same within my own Spiritual work as well. No candles for a ritual? I’ll make due with flashlights instead (yes, I have done this). The wording for a particular part of the ritual is tricky and I stumble over it too easily. I’ll improvise or change some of the tricky wording. If the wording cannot be changed – I’ll spell it phonetically on an index card. To me, there’s always a solution available. It might not be ideal, but it works for that moment.

I also like to believe that my ability to problem solve is attractive to Crow, and is one of the reasons that our relationship works the way it does. And sometimes, I have been put in a position to problem solve, and found that the solution was not really palatable to a limit that I had. This has (three different times now) placed me in a somewhat difficult spot of choosing between a methodology that I was comfortable with, and one that would be appropriate. Essentially, I wound up in a spot where I could either say “no” to Crow or grit my teeth and step into a solution that might not be ideal for my own personal comfort level.

For me, it’s a tug of war between my own personal sovereignty, and my devotion to Crow. I want control over who I am, to be able to decide how far I am willing to go with this, that or the other. On the other hand, I am a Priest of Crow. Much like when I worked in a command post, my desire is to do the best that I can….even at all possible means. Which brings me to a clashing point of defining where my limits are, and performing my tasks as a Priest to Crow, where the two may collide.

Now, one can always say “no” to the Gods at any time. You run the risk of the God or Goddess taking no further interest in you. Or, the exact opposite. Where They become MORE interested in you and continually make Their request(s) to you despite your refusals. And one can always just say “yes” to a God or Goddess without perusing the details of what is being asked of you. But, without reading through the “fine” details of what is being asked, you may find yourself placed into a position where you just cannot do what is being asked.

For me, I have learned (the hard way) that is easier to stop (let me think about that), and look at what is being asked, as well as how it is to be done or any other relevant details. Check all that against your own personal limits – your sovereignty, if you prefer. And if you cannot do what is asked, state so. Give reasons why. Ask if there can be alterations to what is being asked. Try to bargain your way through to terms or methodologies that are better suited for you. But be prepared to also be told that there is no “deal” to be had. It’s either what is being asked, or not at all. And then you will need to really check your desire to do Their will against what you feel you are able to do (comfortably or not).

Will bargaining or saying no limit your relationship with your God or Goddess? That is definitely possible. So I would caution you to bargain or deny carefully. Weigh your options. Weigh the potential consequences. And choose your next steps gently…..

 

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Comparisons Are Inevitable and Difficult to Overcome

One of the more difficult questions that came out of the discussions at Many Gods West was actually not a direct statement made anywhere in the discussions, at least not where I can recall. And to be honest, I was caught on this particular thought for a long while, just a few years back.

What happens when you compare where you are in your polytheistic practice with others that you know? Is it fair to do so??

Admittedly, this is a difficult topic, and difficult to put in terms that are not so personal to me. In fact, I don’t really know a better way to bracket this entire topic, other than to utilize myself as an example. So, yes – this particular blog entry is about me and my own experiences, along with a lot of thinking that I had to eventually get beyond in order to be more of what I have become.

Comparisons are inevitable. Particularly when you get too wound up in the idea of advancing towards being a better [x]. I hold three academic degrees:  a Bachelors of Science in Computer Sciences; a Masters of Information Systems Management; and a Masters of Business Administration. Any professional conference I have attended, conversations with strangers have always started with something close to:  “So, what are your degrees?” Almost akin to the “how big is your penis” conversations that men supposedly hold amongst one another on drunken nights. (I can vouch on my behalf that I have never had one of these conversations before) It’s a quick comparison of how this person may or may not match up to your intelligence level – like a degree seems to be some measure of intelligence. ::eye-roll:: But regardless the comparison is there. We do it in the Pagan community as well…

How many years have you been a Pagan? What degree do you hold in your tradition? What’s your lineage? Who initiated you? All questions I have heard asked of me or others within the Pagan communities that are out there. But it’s the internal measures that caught me. Where I found myself comparing my abilities and experiences as a Pagan against others that I knew.

I found myself comparing my experiences in everything. With the Gods, with Spirits of Place, with Spirits of Ancestors, how far I had managed to get in my Bardic studies in OBOD, whether my experiences with the Gods were as deep as this person….EVERYTHING. And I wound up being a complete wreck as a person, and what I felt was an even worse example of a Pagan. There were nights that I sat on my knees in my living room, silently crying because I felt I was a failure as a Pagan because I didn’t measure up to where I felt another person was on their Path.

This was not a very comfortable moment on my Path. I had found Coyote a short while before. I had just been led to Crow, and I was questioning a lot of what and how I was – as well as a lot that was being asked of me. I was pointed towards one person as an example of what to do, and how to be. And I was completely unsure I would ever be his equal in anything. In fact, I still doubt that I will be his equal in a lot of things. But whether he believes it or not, he has been a mentor of sorts to me – if just from a distance. I was provided this individual as an example. Not a cutout. Not a pattern to follow precisely. Not an image to become a carbon copy of. An example. Particularly, an example of how to be a Priest. I only hope I have become what Crow has intended me to be at this point on this Path – and that I continue to grow towards what He intends me to be in the future.

What happened was that I let my own internal fears get in the way. I started looking at who this person was, how he approached topics, how he handled his own calling to his Gods – and I tried to hold myself up to that precise level. I needed to learn to do ritual the same way. I needed to reach the levels that he has climbed to. I had to do things in [x] time because he had. And that small voice came to the back of my mind, one night on the living room floor.

Be you. I need you as my Priest. Not a copy of him. Aspire to those attributes, but mold those to who you are.

When I responded with the doubtful voice that I wasn’t sure that I could, I was told:

You can. There is no doubt of that.

After a long period of pulling myself back together, finally believing in my own ability to travel this Path on my time, ensuring that I learned what I needed through all my lessons – I started to remember key points of what I saw in this individual. He followed the rules, learned the knowledge, and then scored it appropriately so that it became his. His. I didn’t really need to compare myself to him. I needed to emulate some of his perspectives in order to start down certain parts of the Paths laid before me. But in the end, I needed to place my own feet into the appropriate places for my travels. Walking this Path is not about emulating someone. Rather, it is about walking down a well-worn Path where many others have come before us, and many others will come after….and making the experience of the travel my own. It wasn’t about being “as good as”…it was about being “right and appropriate” for me.

At Many Gods West, one panel was a massive discussion that wound all around the room. And for a few moments, I felt as intimidated in that room as I did on the floor of my living room on those mostly sleepless nights. Many of the people there described very personal experiences that they had had with their Gods with beautiful, evocative descriptions of some of their experiences. And it was really tough sledding for me. I began to question whether I had a “tight” relationship with Crow. I started to slip back into my own doubts of how “good” I was compared to the rest of these people. And after a few minutes, I suddenly realized that I had spoken. I had said something.

And after a few minutes, I suddenly realized that I had spoken. I had said something. And for the life of me, I couldn’t remember exactly what I had said. Listening to the follow-on statements, I understood I had mentioned something about my relationship with Crow….how I managed to create a bargaining system between us over some of the tasks that had been set before me. Tasks I was uncomfortable with. And that what I had said was sparking a thread with others at the table that was delving deeper into all of our relationships with our Gods and Goddesses and Spirits. There was that small voice at the back of my head:

See stupid? There was never any doubt.

Building Relationships With Our Gods in a Ten-Second Society

Ok…the title is a bit misleading. But it is derived from a conversation point in a panel from Many Gods West 2017 this year. And it does bend back to something I have heard quite a bit from people trying to work their way into a relationship with a God, Goddess, Spirit of Place, Spirit of Ancestor, etc etc. The typical question boils down to a similar cry from many of them…

How do I get a [insert God or Spirit of choice here] to work with me or talk to me? How do I connect with Them??

That’s not an easy question to answer, and at times, I have felt a bit awkward trying to provide an answer that might make sense or at least be bit coherent. Creating a relationship with one or more of the Gods (I am going to use this as a generic catch-all from this point on out – so please don’t get hung on terminology) is not a simple thing. In my opinion, it takes time; it takes effort; it takes personal sacrifice; it takes patience; it takes determination; it takes research; and it takes love. And to some degree, I would urge a little touch of caution in trying to create a relationship or connection. You never know precisely what you are going to wind up with – even after all the research and effort.

If you have read the blog, you know that I am a Priest of Crow. I am dedicated to Crow, and it took a long time for me to get to this point. Prior to Crow, there was Coyote. Coyote spent about two years putting me through a few tasks, all designed to force me to not take myself so seriously. Eventually, Coyote led me to Crow. From the beginning, my relationship with Crow has been a very slow, deliberate build between the two of us. First, we learned how to communicate between the two of us. Then, we worked on building trust for us both – a process that continues to this day. That was back in 2005-2006….I am unsure of the exact date. It took even longer before I decided to become a Priest for Crow. And there’s a long conversation about my aversion to the title of “Priest” that figures into all of that as well. But the point here is that it’s a long, complicated process. Coyote and Crow didn’t just appear in my Life and an immediate bond between us was formed. I am sure that others may have a different experience with their own Gods and the relationships that they have. But that is just not my case.

Currently, our modern-day society is fast-paced. News, information, and other things are available at near instant speeds to any individual. Through the magic of the internet, combined with the delivery platform of a digital phone, tablet, and/or computer – everything happens quickly. We can pay for our coffee and other food items from our phones, while en-route to the location we are purchasing those items from. The expectation is that our items will be ready for pickup when we get there, and we can skip the long lines to just waltz in and waltz right back out. Need information on something? Just type a descriptive word or phrase into our devices, and the information arrives at our fingertips at break-neck speed.

If all that can happen, why can I not create a relationship with one of the Gods through a simple five-minute meditation? I have already spent five minutes doing this, that should be enough, right? Well, my experience has been that it is just not that simple. In fact, in a manner of speaking, it is a lot like dating. Sure, the flirtation feels great – there is a promise of something more, but you need to come back, again and again, to continue to build on that interest. But building a relationship is about more than just making out and the hope of an eventual tryst for the night. There’s trust, bonding, building on so many other aspects of mutual interest, exploring differences and the avenues that this may open up. The same holds true for a relationship with the Gods. Spending time getting to know about your potential relationship partner will require some research. Reading Their myths, reading what other bloggers and writers may have to say, and even visiting sites that may be sacred to

The same holds true for a relationship with the Gods. Spending time getting to know about your potential relationship partner will require some research. Reading Their myths; reading what other bloggers and writers may have to say; even visiting sites that may be sacred to Them; invoking Them in your daily rituals and offerings; and even performing rituals that are sacred to Them. All of this requires research, study, gathering required materials, and practice, practice, practice. And even when it is all said and done – you might not even get a second glance. Much like trying to court favor with that attractive individual that you would like to have a relationship with; you can find all your effort was for naught. Because the Gods, just as we human beings do, have the choice of saying “no way.”

Fret not, you can still go through the same processes of devotion, adoration, and just essentially praising the Gods as you see fit. The only difference is that you may not receive reciprocation in your efforts. Sort of the same way that I adore Lzzy Hale, but she likely has no clue that I am alive.  😉

Probably the most key thing, in my opinion, is not whether you manage to create the relationship between you and your specific choice among the Gods. If you’re a hard polytheist – believing that all the Gods, Goddesses, and Spirits are distinct, unique beings – the fact that you believe is what makes your relationship with the Gods a beautiful thing. And this even goes for the monotheists that are out there. You may not have the direct-line that you were so wanting, but you do have belief. Whatever that is anchored upon is important, and a wonderful thing. No one should be able to wrestle that away from you. And who knows?? It just might be the start of something beautiful and special between you and the Gods. And it might even be a God, Goddess or Spirit you never considered.

Relationships with the Gods are Unique…and Complicated

I attended Many Gods West 2017 a very short while back. Most of that came from pushing by Crow, as well as my own desire to try a Pagan-oriented conference that was geared around a specific area of topical interest, rather than the massive general interest that a much larger conference such as Pantheacon generates. I came away from MGW with nearly two dozen writing prompts, much of which came as questions that came to mind during various presentations.

For me, each one of the prompts that I gathered are direct confrontations to how I am practicing my own polytheism with my triad of Deities:  Coyote, Crow and Flidais. Each of these Three present differing approaches to daily Life for me, and at the same time – together They are a part of my connection to all that is around me. My relationship with each of Them is unique, and singular. I say prayers to Them, as well as other Gods and Goddesses that I have no specific ties to, seeking guidance in what is becoming a more troubled and difficult world.

In what turned out to be a more physical presentation than I thought, “Embodied Practice and Devotion” had all of us in guided focus over feeling aspects of our own physical bodies. Controlled breathing, singular awareness of parts of the body, general awareness concerning various specified inputs and perspectives – none of which was terribly new to me. However, toward the end of the presentation, discussion was opened to the participants and part of that turned towards the idea of devotional surrender, a concept I have never really entertained prior to that moment.

From my notebook:

  • Devotional surrender versus Personal Sovereignty

    • Should we surrender completely to our Gods?

    • Should we bargain limitations with our Gods?

      • Does this limit who They are in our lives?

      • By not pushing our boundaries, are we limiting who we are as individuals?

A lot of this was difficult to work directly with at that particular moment. However, now back at home – in territory that is far more familiar to me, where I can let down my emotional shields that I carry publicly as an introvert – I am now starting with this particular writing point to start looking at my direct relationship with my little Triad.

So, probably the best place to start is to try and define these concepts, starting with devotional surrender and personal sovereignty. To be particular honest, I am not at all interested in the common definitions of the two terms, but rather in how these definitions work out for me. This means that you – the person who has decided to click on this blog post and read it – may define these terms radically different than I do. Frankly, that’s great. What it means is that you will probably come to far different conclusions than I do. And that’s great too. I am not looking for a fight or argument over the difference in our definitions or in our approaches. I don’t mind a discussion over all of that, because it helps me to see some of the cloudier areas in all of this. But I am not interested in a “my way or the highway” approach to discussing differences either. And with that out of the way, let’s dive into how I approach these two points.

The easier of the two, for me, is personal sovereignty. What this boils down to is that I am in control of things where I am concerned. My approaches to the Gods are mine. What Crow, Coyote or Flidais may ask of me, I have the ability to say “no” or “that’s a line too far for me.” The same goes for anything that is asked of me or told to me by any individual. I am in control of me – to the best of my ability. Yeah, its a simplistic definition, but it works for me in terms of this blog post.

Devotional surrender, on the other hand, is a bit more problematic for me. Mostly because I have never entertained this concept before. As I understood the concept from the panel, this can go from terms of following the commands and wishes of one’s Gods without question and follow all the way through something akin to being possessed physically by one’s Gods. For me, that’s an exceptionally wide area, but all of that does seem to fit into the entire concept. Plus, as I ponder over this, I feel that I may already work within some aspects of this already.

During a different panel, I related my bond to Crow. I am a Priest of Crow. Crow has already provided various tasks for me. But as I noted during the panel, I am free to question, and I am free to say “no”. If I am drawing the limitations on what is asked of me by Crow, am I limiting my relationship with Him? I do believe John Beckett once noted in a blog post of his own, that while we can say “no” to the Gods – that may be a moment where They choose to take far less interest in us as individuals. Certainly a risk that comes with that.

Prior to Crow, I worked exclusively with Coyote. Coyote was fond of giving my tasks to complete where I wound up looking like a fool when I finished each one. I knew I was working with a Trickster, so I tried to be patient through it all. After about nineteen or twenty of these tasks designed to make me look foolish, I went into a meditation looking for a confrontation. Frankly, I was pissed off at being made a fool. During my interaction, I asked why I was being made a fool. “You make yourself the fool,” was the response. If I am being made the fool, then why in the Nine Hells would you want to work with me? After the laughter subsided, Coyote noted that I was the fool for not asking questions. “I actually wanted to see if you possessed a spine” was the final response.

With Crow, I utilized some of this in my interactions with Him. Like Coyote, questioning was implied, but on a far shorter leash. I have had a few interactions where I have made the statement that I will have to think about whether I would do as asked. “Let me think about that” usually receives a terse reply of “do not take too long.” So, I do bargain with Crow. And sometimes I do try to bargain a limitation. But I have never entertained the idea that I might be limiting my relationship with Crow by doing so. Perhaps, by setting my own boundaries of what I can or am willing to do, I am changing the relationship that I have with Crow. But perhaps not too much.

I do see the Gods as beings that are far beyond my own personal comprehension. But I also see my relationship with the Gods to be somewhat similar to relationships that I have with other human beings. There are people that I would literally do anything for. Some of them know this, some of them don’t. There are others where I am willing to things for, but only up to a certain point. My relationship with them is not nearly as strong. My relationship with Crow is stronger than the one I have with Coyote. There are far more things I would do in service to Crow than I would in service to Coyote. That’s because the relationships are different. And my relationship with Flidais is far weaker than with the other Two. Our relationship is just barely over two years in age. In many ways, we are start in the flirtation stage.

I do not think that I have really changed too much of my opinion on whether boundaries, limitations or bargaining lessen a relationship with my Gods. Perhaps, if I had a more demanding God or Goddess, it would be a bit of a hinderance or even a point where my relationship with one of Them may cease. As for devotional surrender, I believe it really depends on which end of that spectrum may be in play, as to whether I would agree that it was a good idea or not. Allowing personal possession has an uncomfortable feeling to it, and crosses a lot of line with me in my own concept of personal sovereignty. Regardless, I still believe that my relationship with the Gods and Goddesses, particularly my Three, is a unique to me – and there may come a time when I will have to explore this aspect of devotional surrender to an ultimate extreme at some other time. Because relationships are unique…and complicated.

Some Thoughts on Many Gods West 2017

So, this has been the second day of Many Gods West 2017 – the third day I have been here. The Red Lion hotel here in Olympia is rather nice and comfortable. Anyone thinking of coming to a future one – its quite a beautiful location. And if you are worried about available food outside of the hotel – everything is close by with a short 5-8 minute drive away. But all of that is just the incidentals, eh??

I am not sure what I expected when I got here. I had heard things could be a little politically charged. From all of that, I had gleaned that perhaps there could be confrontational moments. But I also know that real experience is a far better judge of what happens than just hearsay. Were there politics?  Sure. Some. Nothing significant though. Sort of the same political discussions that happen at work. But no one seemed to get their feelings hurt when a different opinion was expressed. Many of the folks listened carefully to what was said, and then added on to the point being made with a logical perspective. There was no disrespecting of anyone’s perspective. I would say that everyone was respectful of differences, and for me – the conversations were absolutely delightful! I wish I could have informative, respectful conversations like this all day, every day.

Each of the panels I made were very well done. Lots of good points made, and a lot of give and take with the audience as well. These are the kinds of panels I adore. I have several pages of notes – and lots of blog topics to write on going into the future. And yes, most of those will be on personal, devotional, polytheistic practice. Some of the topics opened my eyes to some of the work I have been doing with Crow, and one panel opened my eyes to how the relationship I have developed with Crow will change over time. As our mutual trust of one another develops and matures, so will the nature of our relationship with one another and our understand of one another. That particular panel provided me with well over a dozen perspectives and concepts to blog on, including that one. So I am super excited to start exploring how to advance my relationship with Crow – both from an intellectual perspective, as well as a physical devotional one.

So, if you have been looking to this small Pagan conference in the Pacific North West and have not decided on it yet – my personal opinion is that you should come here. You should go to the panels. You should sit in the hallways and talk to others about….well, anything. Now let’s remember – I’m an introvert trying to come out of my shell. I ran back to my room several times over the last two days…just to restock who I am. I did this numerous times at Pantheacon this year and last year.

Tomorrow morning, I will make one panel in the morning and begin my trek back to SeaTac International airport – a 90-minute drive (depending on the traffic). But as I drive north, I will be remembering this convention fondly. Crow pushed me towards this with the notion that I needed to go. And from what I have heard from the panel presenters and from the conversations I have had with others….I understand why I needed to be here. But regardless of that, I’m sincerely glad I was able to go, because I see a way forward that I never realized was there before.

I can’t say that you will find a revelation within any of the panels at Many Gods West, but if you are a polytheist – you will certainly find a lot of people to talk with who have shared similar experiences to your own. And for me, that was just half the fun!!