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Author Topic: Deity-Human Relationships in Heathenry  (Read 9424 times)
Juniperberry
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« Topic Start: June 19, 2011, 01:28:43 pm »

Juniper states she didn't think this was "worthy" of a new topic, but I heartily think it IS worthy, so I have made it a new topic. The original topic of the "Best Part of Heathenry / Asatru," may be accessed by clicking the quote link of her response here.

~ Hyacinth Belle, SIG Moderator



I'm not sure if this is the right thread to post this in, but it didn't seem worthy of a new topic.

Lokabrenna posted a question about intimate relationships in religion (deity lovers, spouses, etc) and I know there's a subset of 'heathens' that practice spiritual sex with the gods. I've been thinking on it for awhile ( outside of the context of her original question) and then also mulling over the fact that people claim that some of the "spiritual" is lost in heathenry and that it can be dry and impersonal.  

I realized that I'm not really seeking out the spiritual and that might be one of the reasons why I remained with heathenry and enjoy it so much. I think there's a knee-jerk reaction in the pagan community to prove how spiritual your path can be and I realized it's ok to reply to those criticisms with the answer that you aren't going for the spiritual and enlightening.

Personally, I don't want a strong connection with the gods. I'm not actively avoiding it, it's just not on my list of priorities. And in heathenry this works well as - per my understanding- the gods aren't really interested in my personal salvation or enlightenment, either. I don't want to hear Odin, or have a meditation with Holda, or get a visit from Freyja. Not that I'm against it, it's just not on my radar. I simply want a framework for how I view the world. I want a belief that someone, somewhere, is out there in control as a higher power and I'm very comfortable recognizing the Aesir as that. I'm big on ancestor veneration moreso than deity worship and the gods seem to prefer it that way, anyways. I trust those I know who have passed on, I know them and I can hope that they look out for me and they are who I call to and feel in the beyond...and I know that the gods are there somewhere as well but they aren't the ones I hope to return to and I don't necessarily think we return to a godly abode anyways.

So, that's another thing I love about heathenry. I can be heathen and be satisifed with it even though I'm not a 'spiritual' person or someone that is looking for an intimate or close relationship with the gods. I can be an observer and participant in midgard by just being mundane.




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« Reply #1: June 19, 2011, 01:47:42 pm »


Just wanted to expand on this a bit more.

For instance, if I were doing something near water I would have my piece of silver ready for Ran because that's what you do and that's what I believe. But I wouldn't ever be the type to stand at the shore and go through any type of overtly spiritual ceremony where I would call on her essence and soak in the energy or then feel a thrill of her presence and an intimate and spiritual encounter.

Last Christmas Eve (maybe a day before?) my husband was finishing hanging up decorations and a grey bunny appeared in our yard. He brought it inside and put it in a kennel until we found the owners and I saw it as a sign that Holda had arrived and was making her inspections. So I laid out a plate of pastries and some coffee because that's what you do and you show your respect. But I didn't overthink it and I didn't do any theatrics or consider it spiritual, really. It just was.

I'm just not actively seeking a spiritual encounter or any experiences that remove me from the mundane or that heighten my sense of existence here.

Heh. Anyway, I'll quit rambling.  Grin

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« Reply #2: June 19, 2011, 09:07:03 pm »

Personally, I don't want a strong connection with the gods. I'm not actively avoiding it, it's just not on my list of priorities.

<snip>

So, that's another thing I love about heathenry. I can be heathen and be satisifed with it even though I'm not a 'spiritual' person or someone that is looking for an intimate or close relationship with the gods. I can be an observer and participant in midgard by just being mundane.
I totally get you on this! I never, as a Christian or a Pagan, had the experience of persistent or in-depth "communication" with the god(s). I thought there must be something off with me, not really something wrong with me, but just something off... I wasn't being "open" enough, I didn't "trust" myself enough, I wasn't doing it "right" or "trying" hard enough, etc. Communicating regularly with a god was something else I couldn't wrap my head around or couldn't quite fathom.

Eventually I decided that if a god hasn't reached out to me in a clear way that I understand, then I must be doin' alright in this world and can't stress about it. I still believe that, in a way. I decided the more I try to force something, the less I will succeed. I definitely still believe that.

In actuality, I feel the gods and Tao all around me. Sometimes something in particular will remind me of Thor or Sunna, etc. And then I take a moment to offer a little prayer to that god or do something special for them in the next few days. Not because I necessarily think whatever it was was a special message just for me by this particular god, but more like when a friend crosses your mind and you think "gee, I haven't talked to them in a while, I should pick up the phone to say hey and let them know I'm thinking of them." Sometimes it is a "message" in the sense that that friend is having something terrible going on in their life right now and you were just the person they needed to hear from. But usually it's nothing of the sort, and both of you are just happy to renew the relationship again and hear from each other.

My communication with the gods has nothing to do with me "trusting" or "trying." They are there; what happens happens. I am grateful and satisfied for what I receive from the gods, wights, ancestors, whoever. I feel spiritually fulfilled and perfectly happy not having a "close" relationship with the gods as some other Pagans do. And it took me a while to realize that that's perfectly ok. Heathenry does tend to approach relationships with the divine in a unique way, and it's something else that makes Heathenry a perfect fit for me.
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« Reply #3: June 19, 2011, 09:42:37 pm »

I totally get you on this! I never, as a Christian or a Pagan, had the experience of persistent or in-depth "communication" with the god(s). I thought there must be something off with me, not really something wrong with me, but just something off... I wasn't being "open" enough, I didn't "trust" myself enough, I wasn't doing it "right" or "trying" hard enough, etc. Communicating regularly with a god was something else I couldn't wrap my head around or couldn't quite fathom.

Eventually I decided that if a god hasn't reached out to me in a clear way that I understand, then I must be doin' alright in this world and can't stress about it. I still believe that, in a way. I decided the more I try to force something, the less I will succeed. I definitely still believe that.

If you don't mind a non-heathen coming in... Cheesy

My current theory (I'd say UPG but after reading it so many times by the people who actually do 'the Work', I'd say it's SPG) is that it's primarily being called to work with certain spirits or deities, and secondarily being the kind of person who can keep doing the Work day in and day out because it's required to do so to keep that connection going. People who are called to do this Work oftentimes can't, or even won't, live 'normal' lives in comparison to many pagans, and that's okay. Not everyone should be in the first place, because that kind of Work breaks a person, and not everyone can handle being broken in that way (especially to be put back together again). Dver of A Forest Door covers this kind of topic quite a bit from the context of a spiritworker (with heathen leanings: she works with a number of Germanic spirit-beings, including Holda, Perchta and Odin). I'd post a specific link, but she's made so many different points (and posts) on it, it might take me a while to list them all. Cheesy
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« Reply #4: June 19, 2011, 11:03:37 pm »

Personally, I don't want a strong connection with the gods. I'm not actively avoiding it, it's just not on my list of priorities.


I'm one of those who does have a closer relationship with the deities than my ancestors or the vaettir/wights.  I know maybe three of my ancestors that were alive when I was and I don't know much about the rest other than a few stories.  The ancestors are very nebulous to me--there are so many of them going back through time--it seems overwhelming.  I pray and honor them as a group, not as individuals. 

The vaettir I'm just getting to know so I can't really say much about that at the moment.  I ordered Kveldulf Gundarrson's book on the topic to help me with that.  I have offered milk to my housewight. 

With the gods though, they have stories, symbols, epithets, and relationships with other gods.  These are beings I can feel I know or at least have a glimpse of them  before I honor them--some more than others, anyway. 

For some people, they are happy to have a closer relationship to their ancestors or wights and others to deities.  I like that all of those relationships are possible for those seeking them. 

For Frigga, I clean my house and maintain my living space.  I light candles to her and give her offerings.  Frigga is a deity that was honored in the countries of much of my ancestry (so maybe my ancestors did honor her at some point) and I think that honoring her is a way to honor my ancestors. 
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« Reply #5: June 20, 2011, 05:14:41 am »


When I was still in my 'testing the water' stage, I honestly didn't expect close communication and frequent contact with gods. I have an altar (really, it is an altar rather than a shrine) set up around an statue for Woden, and while I pray most often to him I set up the altar for all the heathen Gods who touch my life in some way. The symbols for the altar seem to pop up in their own time. It's a focal point for praying, and delivering some offerings. Some go straight into the rivers.

I don't expect the Gods to congratulate me on doing well, or even point out where I'm going wrong - unless it really must be done. If I want to be strong, resolute and wise I'll be able to see myself going offtrack and correct it under my own steam. While I don't think they watch closely over me, I feel like the path I take should mimic their steps and ultimately be about not disappointing them rather than pleasing them. And that manifests in my self-esteem and self-image, because while I might be distant enough to escape the displeasure of the gods I can't shy away from my own disappointment.

I have the same approach to my ancestors. My altar for the ancestors has (at time of type) photographs of my great-auntie in adulthood and childhood (deceased), photos of my grandfather on his wedding day (deceased) and grandmother as a child with my great-aunt and on her wedding day (surviving), a single photo from the backyard of their old family house with my great-grandparents and a handful of their 13 children, with a vintage locket inherited from my great aunt, containing photos of my great-grandmother and great-grandfather. I only ever knew two of them, my great-aunt and grandmother, but the entire family contributed to my character so they are honoured as best I can. I took the easier option of focusing on my mother's side rather than my fathers's sides, but I honour all facets of my family no matter how complicated it gets in everyday life. They all made me. They lived hard lives through wars, in a tiny family house I see nearly every day, struggled through potentially fatal illnesses, worked hard and passed away before I could say thank you.

The spirits of the land, of the house etc. I should pay more honour to. I do, informally, pay a toll of a silver coin when I cross the bridge over the 'Dutch river' that separates our town from the greater town. Mostly, it's a show of appreciation that the Dutch river stops our stretch of the Ouse flooding not only our town but my grandmother's tiny terraced house a few minutes round the bend. I've been doing that for longer than I've been an aware heathen.

The love of the Gods brought me to this practice, but clearly they are a round 1/3 of my religious practice.
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« Reply #6: June 20, 2011, 11:02:03 am »

So, that's another thing I love about heathenry. I can be heathen and be satisifed with it even though I'm not a 'spiritual' person or someone that is looking for an intimate or close relationship with the gods.

Nice post! Totally get where you are coming from and your posts, and the following ones, all stuck a cord with me.

I think one of the distinguishing features of Heathenry, when compared to more widely practised religions, is that it is world-embracing instead of world-rejecting. The earth is not a fallen creation and life is not a suffering that we wish to transcend.

Our gods are all around us, our ancestors are behind us, and life is something to be embraced. We aim to show courage and fortitude in the hard times and to laugh loudly in the good times. For better or for worse, we want to savour the very act of living.

A good life is ultimately what Heathenry is about. The living of a good life is therefore a “spiritual act” for the heathen.

No heathen would spend 10 hours a day in mediation or prayer when they could be spend the time with family, friends, perusing a passion, working hard on their studies or business, or simply relaxing.

It’s not preparing for the next life or connection with the “other world” that matters, but living this life and connecting with this world.

Mark.
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« Reply #7: June 20, 2011, 05:53:01 pm »

No heathen would spend 10 hours a day in mediation or prayer when they could be spend the time with family, friends, perusing a passion, working hard on their studies or business, or simply relaxing.

Isn't "10 hours" being a bit dramatic? Wink So what if the person's passion IS working personally with the gods, is spirit-work? Interestingly enough, most of the spirit-workers I am acquainted with (who are.. er... heathen or heathenish [if that's the right word]) also work with the community by offering services, usually in the way of writing books, blogging publicly, making art work for sale, or acting as an oracle for their Gods. These people aren't completely divorced for community, but nor are they your average Joe or Jane Heathen.

Quote
It’s not preparing for the next life or connection with the “other world” that matters, but living this life and connecting with this world.

I'm not going to touch on the "preparing for the next life" bit (because I agree), but rather the connection with the other world bit. So if someone who does have mystical/spirit working tendencies and does do spirit-work and is also a heathen... they would not be considered a heathen? Is there no room in your (or anyone else's, whoever wants to chime in!) heathen world-view for these people? I'm not saying YOU have to do the work, not at all. There's a reason why there are so few of them, no matter the religion: it's simply not for everyone.

Just for the record, I am not trying to attack you or your beliefs or anything. I'm just genuinely curious to see HOW people view spirit-workers, from the outside perspective so to speak.
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« Reply #8: June 20, 2011, 06:09:18 pm »

I think one of the distinguishing features of Heathenry, when compared to more widely practised religions, is that it is world-embracing instead of world-rejecting. The earth is not a fallen creation and life is not a suffering that we wish to transcend.
... did you listen to the Reconstructionism Ravencast episode I linked recently? lol. They talk about this there.

I totally agree, and something else I LOVE about Heathenry. Smiley
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« Reply #9: June 20, 2011, 06:19:01 pm »

So if someone who does have mystical/spirit working tendencies and does do spirit-work and is also a heathen... they would not be considered a heathen? Is there no room in your (or anyone else's, whoever wants to chime in!) heathen world-view for these people? I'm not saying YOU have to do the work, not at all. There's a reason why there are so few of them, no matter the religion: it's simply not for everyone.

Just for the record, I am not trying to attack you or your beliefs or anything. I'm just genuinely curious to see HOW people view spirit-workers, from the outside perspective so to speak.
Whoa, I think you're getting waaaay ahead of yourself. Heathen culture DOES have a role for those who want to commune more directly with the gods and advance spiritually in a more mystic sense--I'd imagine all complete cultures or worldviews do. For the Norse, the practice of seidh fulfilled this necessary human role.

That shamanistic role, however, is highly specialized and only for a few who are called to do it and/or have particular talent. That is not how everyone interacts with the gods.
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"Silent and thoughtful a prince's son should be / and bold in fighting; / cheerful and merry every man should be / until he waits for death." ~ Havamal, stanza 15
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« Reply #10: June 20, 2011, 06:37:02 pm »

If you don't mind a non-heathen coming in... Cheesy
Not at all.

Quote
My current theory (I'd say UPG but after reading it so many times by the people who actually do 'the Work', I'd say it's SPG) is that it's primarily being called to work with certain spirits or deities, and secondarily being the kind of person who can keep doing the Work day in and day out because it's required to do so to keep that connection going.
Excuse me, but what if I'm NOT "called"? I feel what I consider to be "closer" to certain gods, like Odin, Sunna, and even Aphrodite. Have they "called" me? If they have, they've done a piss poor job of it because I didn't get the message. Have I "called" them? I believe I have tried a bit in the past, but it felt false to me no matter what and just wasn't something I could "put my whole heart into." I did it because that's what I thought I was supposed to do.

The "doing the Work day in and day out" smacks again of "not trying hard enough," something I wholeheartedly reject.

Quote
People who are called to do this Work oftentimes can't, or even won't, live 'normal' lives in comparison to many pagans, and that's okay. Not everyone should be in the first place, because that kind of Work breaks a person, and not everyone can handle being broken in that way (especially to be put back together again).
Again, this is about "being committed enough" or "trying hard." If this is what it means to have a relationship with deity, than NO, like, Juniperberry, that's not what I want.

I'm not going to go looking for a relationship, ANY relationship, where I expect to be broken or called on to destroy myself. If I somehow did get a message from a god that they wanted that, I would have to think looong and hard and probably try to bargain about it... what's in it for me? A gift for a gift. Odin sacrificed himself; Freyr sacrificed his hand. But they did it for a purpose, for the betterment of their communities. Would I make great sacrifices for my community? YES. Would I do it purely because they asked me to or because they thought it would help me spiritually? NO.

Don't confuse this with not wanting to commune with or have a relationship with the gods. I honor them with my actions of reading and teaching; I honor them with sacrifices of effort and time or material goods and food. They keep my world in rights, possibly step in in a time of great need, give me a sense of peace, etc.

Frankly, I don't expect my gods to be so darn interested in me. I don't "need" them like that. And they certainly don't need me. Does that mean we don't have a mutually beneficial relationship? Not at all. But that means we only get together on "special occasions." We don't drink coffee together in the morning.

Hopefully this makes a modicum of sense.
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"She who stands on tiptoe / doesn't stand firm. / She who rushes ahead / doesn't go far. / She who tries to shine / dims her own light. / She who defines herself / can't know who she really is. / She who has power over others / can't empower herself. / She who clings to her work / will create nothing that endures. / If you want to accord with the Tao, / just do your job, then let go." ~ Tao Te Ching, chp. 24

"Silent and thoughtful a prince's son should be / and bold in fighting; / cheerful and merry every man should be / until he waits for death." ~ Havamal, stanza 15
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« Reply #11: June 20, 2011, 06:55:35 pm »

Excuse me, but what if I'm NOT "called"? I feel what I consider to be "closer" to certain gods, like Odin, Sunna, and even Aphrodite. Have they "called" me? If they have, they've done a piss poor job of it because I didn't get the message. Have I "called" them? I believe I have tried a bit in the past, but it felt false to me no matter what and just wasn't something I could "put my whole heart into." I did it because that's what I thought I was supposed to do.

If you're not called to work directly with the gods and become a spirit-worker (or shaman, or whatever term you want to use, although obviously shaman is not a pan-cultural term), then you're not. That doesn't mean you can't work directly with the gods, that doesn't mean you can't have an intense relationship with them, and it doesn't mean if you're not called you're somehow less of a worshipper or what have you.

... As I'm reading this now, I'm realizing that perhaps my response was focused too much on the spirit-worker side of things, rather than close human-deity relationships as a whole. I was not meaning to say that everyone should aspire to do this (quite the opposite), or that if it doesn't happen for you, you're SOL. If you want me to still respond, I will, but I don't think it will accurately answer the questions being asked or the thread topic, because I was talking about a very specific role. :S I'm sorry.
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« Reply #12: June 20, 2011, 06:58:33 pm »

Whoa, I think you're getting waaaay ahead of yourself. Heathen culture DOES have a role for those who want to commune more directly with the gods and advance spiritually in a more mystic sense--I'd imagine all complete cultures or worldviews do. For the Norse, the practice of seidh fulfilled this necessary human role.

That shamanistic role, however, is highly specialized and only for a few who are called to do it and/or have particular talent. That is not how everyone interacts with the gods.

That's why I was asking (I'm vaguely familiar with seidh, so I wasn't sure.), because I was confused by Mark's statement of, "No heathen would spend 10 hours a day in mediation or prayer when they could be spend the time with family, friends, perusing a passion, working hard on their studies or business, or simply relaxing." There are obviously people who are spirit-workers/shamans/etc in heathenry who devote their lives to their Work. And I absolutely 100% agree with you that not everyone is suited or meant to do it. I was just confused by the "no heathen" bit.
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« Reply #13: June 20, 2011, 07:15:21 pm »

That doesn't mean you can't work directly with the gods, that doesn't mean you can't have an intense relationship with them, and it doesn't mean if you're not called you're somehow less of a worshipper or what have you.
What you mean by working directly with the gods? by having an intense relationship with them?

Honestly curious, just want to see what you're coming from.
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"She who stands on tiptoe / doesn't stand firm. / She who rushes ahead / doesn't go far. / She who tries to shine / dims her own light. / She who defines herself / can't know who she really is. / She who has power over others / can't empower herself. / She who clings to her work / will create nothing that endures. / If you want to accord with the Tao, / just do your job, then let go." ~ Tao Te Ching, chp. 24

"Silent and thoughtful a prince's son should be / and bold in fighting; / cheerful and merry every man should be / until he waits for death." ~ Havamal, stanza 15
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« Reply #14: June 20, 2011, 07:29:06 pm »

What you mean by working directly with the gods? by having an intense relationship with them?

Honestly curious, just want to see what you're coming from.

I suppose in the context of priesthood, where one could serve several gods. Or perhaps just one. Or just being a... devotee of them (what comes to mind first is those who get thwapped on TC) and yet doesn't do any sort of spirit-work or anything like that. Or just a regular (er, for lack of a better word) relationship with a God thats fulfilling enough for you and Them, which doesn't have to involve spirit-work.

Does that make sense?  Undecided
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