Devotional Practice With Trickster Gods

What is it like to work with a Trickster God?

I hear this a lot when people find out that I work with Coyote AND Crow, a pair of well-known Tricksters. Having worked with both for quite some time – let me say, it has been an ‘adventure’ at times. However, like anything that you spend time and work on, there has been a measure of reward to it as well. Some of the work can (and has been) trying, somewhat difficult, and not easily understood at the time. Other times, working with these two has seemed akin to trying to get seriousness out of a slapstick comedy routine.

Starting Off

I never really thought that someone with my genetic background – primarily Germanic with some traces of other European ethnic areas – would ever find a kinship with a pair of Gods native to this continent. I had a strong affinity towards hunter Gods and Goddesses, and even thought that the Nordic realm would be more appropriate for me. Try as I might, I soon found that there was no answer to my calls.

cropped-img_28671.jpgNow, my problem here was that I was equating the Gods to a racial or genetic disposition. It made sense in my mind. Genetics were Germanic; so the Gods would naturally be attached to that match up, right? Well, not really. The Gods call, whom They call. Genetics, DNA, heritage, has very little to do with it. At Pantheacon this year, Silence Maestas noted in her concurrent session “Beginning Devotional Practice” that devotional practice with a deity is the formation of a relationship between you (the devotee) and Them. In a manner of speaking, in the beginning, it is a lot like dating. You learn about one another, your likes, your dislikes, everything is new and shiny. The engagement is simple and easy.

The same held true with Coyote, who was first. Coyote would ask for this, that, these other things – and I was eager to please. I wanted to work with Him. Every task and request had me looking like a complete fool in the end. Moreover, with each result making me feel more and more foolish, my frustration level grew and grew, until I could not take it anymore and refused to move another step forward. I asked why Coyote would want me as a devotee if I were made to look like an idiot at every turn. The response was simple and to the point: “I wanted you to have a spine and to be able to establish your own level of self-respect.”

Silence pointed out in that same concurrent session that once that beginning connection is established, there is no place for complacency. Much like relationships with a sexual partner, relationships with the Gods requires constant work. This is a relationship of choice. You choose the level of commitment you are going to provide in your work, just as the God or Goddess will provide the level of commitment that They want to have with you. Try not to be disappointed when Their level of commitment is not the same as yours. You have Free Will to choose how deep your connection with Them will be. They have that same choice in the reverse direction as well.

Going Deeper

Nearly everyone seems to be under the impression that working with Trickster Gods is like being a part of PT Barnum and Bailey’s circus 24x7x365. Nothing could be further from the truth. Certainly, Trickster Gods have their moments of subterfuge, as well as comedic moments, but there are times of seriousness as well. As I pointed out, part of working with Coyote – as well as Crow – has required me to learn to draw lines and create boundaries. I have also been taught to pay attention to fine detail as well. A single phrase or word can mean the difference between one level of understanding and another. Take for instance, the following story. I have seen this as a meme on Facebook as well, but it illustrates the point quite a bit.

A man is sent to the store by his partner. “Pick up a dozen eggs,” she says, “And if they have half-gallons of milk, get six.” When the man returns from the store, he has six dozen eggs. “Where is the milk?” exclaims his wife, “Why did you bring back six dozen eggs?” “Because they had half-gallons of milk!” he retorted.

Most folks have heard the statement that words matter. The exact usage of a particular phrasing within magick and spell work can be critical to the success of what you are trying to do. Just as the correctness of a phrase can mean the difference between six dozen cartons of eggs or a single dozen carton of eggs and six half-gallon containers of milk. Working with a pair of Trickster Gods has really brought this point home for me. However, there is also the aspect of learning when to question a request from the Gods and when to just shut up and do what is being asked. This is where the creation of personal, ethical boundaries becomes important. For me, this is where going deeper in my relationship with my two Tricksters has started.

Within most aspects of the Christian faith, I have listened to pastors, preachers, and priests state that unquestioning faith and obedience to God’s Will is mandatory. Who mandates that Will? God or these go-betweens? Individuals pray directly to God, and seem likely to get answers directly from God. What makes these intercessors a better conduit to God than yourself? If you are building a relationship with God, what is the use of these intercessors, except to water-down the direct relationship that you have? By the way, is a relationship a one-way avenue or a two-way street? All of these are questions I had to ask myself when working with Coyote and Crow. I had to evaluate every aspect of the relationships I hold with both of Them, to determine the “true” aspect of what was taking place. For me, going deeper has been about looking at the inter-connected aspect between myself and each of Them – and determining the value of what that was in relation for me.

But There Is No One There

Sure, working with Gods can be ‘fun’ and ‘exciting’ – and I can see how someone can be keening for just such a thing in their life. After all, when you are single, and not dating – you can look at a couple and have so much desire to have a similar relationship in your life. All that holding hands, those simple little kisses that are so damn cute to watch, the implication of the hot, sweaty connection behind closed doors – yeah, there’s always the desire for that. However, there are other aspects that need to be taken into account. The constant time together, the bickering, the arguing, the constant balance of compromise versus personal need…there is a lot of hard work in all of that. All of which starts with that moment where things “click” – that attraction to one another. Sometimes, there is just not the interest that you want. What do you do next?

If I could relay the image of me shrugging in response, I would. Like any aspect of attraction in a relationship, sometimes the other party just is not that into you. Perhaps, the God or Goddess you are trying to attract just has not noticed. Keep trying. Remember, time can mean something different to the Gods than it does to us. What seems like an eternity of trying for us may just be scant moments to Them. I would propose that we cannot truly comprehend what time may mean for Them – our comprehension of the Gods can only go so far, in my opinion. Nevertheless, try more. Do devotional prayers to Them. Pour libations. Offer prayers. Offer your services, but only to a point that you are comfortable. Remember, draw your boundaries – even in the beginning – and hold fast to those. Moreover, do not be surprised if some other God or Goddess takes an interest in you instead.

For me, I have wanted to have a Goddess directly in my Life. Thus far, it has not happened. Fliodhais was a temporary flirtation. A few visits from Valkyrie had me thinking that the Morrighan had taken an interest in me. Moreover, there is a definite draw towards Brigid for me. Thus far, it has just been the Boys and me. To this point, that is enough. Though there is always the opportunity for more room. I am just not the kind of Pagan to rule that out. Because I always try to keep an open mind, which I find is a critical element to working with Trickster Gods.

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