A PSA I posted to Reddit: “Deity work” is not dangerous!

You, yes you, all the way in the back:

“Deity work” is not dangerous.

This is an insidious lie that damages communities, and actively harms people.

Gods, and having relationships with them, are not any more dangerous than interacting with any other human being. It is no more dangerous than getting behind the wheel of your car. It is no more dangerous than showing up to work. It is no more dangerous than cooking dinner.

That is, there is a risk. But it is not what you seem to think it is: it is dangerous if you lack basic respect for that – or in this case, Whom – you are interacting with.

You know who claims gods are dangerous? People who are selfish assholes. People who want to convince you they have special abilities or training that you don’t. People who want power and attention. People who wrongly, stupidly, pigheadedly think that divinity has limitations and the best thing to do is stake a claim on it like some miner in the Yukon gold rush.

Piss off enough human beings and people will start avoiding you or demand holding you accountable. Drive like a dick without the barest shred of law-abiding decency and you might get into a lot of accidents. Mouth off your boss and throw your coworkers under the bus enough times and you might get fired. Cook without caring that meat needs to reach a certain internal temperature and you might get E. coli.

On the surface, these things might start looking particularly dangerous.

…That is, of course, if you have a tendency to blame everyone and everything else for the mistakes you make. Which I’m sure 99% of you don’t do.

But the 1% who do completely avoid taking responsibility for running roughshod over others, gods and mortals alike, the 1% who doesn’t ever do any meaningful introspection at all, are also some of the loudest voices online. This is because being loud and gatekeeping makes people feel important. They don’t actually care about the integrity of the thing they’re talking about – all they care about is sounding authoritative and getting your attention.

Ignore them.

Gods are only dangerous if you treat them like shit.*

I repeat: gods are only dangerous if you treat them like shit.

And avoiding this is a very easy thing to do.

First off, stop calling it “deity work”. As magnanimous as they are, you don’t “work with” gods, you work for them. This is not an equal relationship: you are expendable, the god is not. So call the spade a spade: it’s prayer, worship, propitiation, appeasement, adoration, service, devotion, ritual, mysticism, love, honor. If you have a problem with these terms, do the introspection and self-work to get acclimated to using them, and by extension, get used to the nature of your mortal relationship to divinity itself. Christianity does not hold the patent on these actions, they were invented long before monotheism came onto the scene.

How to conduct worship in a respectful way:

  • You don’t need a personal invitation to approach a god. You don’t need a message, a sign, an omen, a dream. Their doors are always open. And contrary to the impression you’ve gotten from social media, the vast majority of worshipers make the first move.
  • Don’t expect the god to come swooping into your life to make grand entrances or dramatic changes. Gods aren’t wish-granters, they aren’t our celebrity BFFs. They already do tremendous things for you that you likely take for granted: they’re the air you breathe, the warmth of the sun, the refreshment of water.
  • Do at least some basic research about the god and their original culture first. Hours and hours of homework isn’t necessary upfront, but put a little bit of time in to get to know them.
  • Do not talk to them like they’re your friend from school. They aren’t. Use their names, address them respectfully. Pretend you’re speaking to a world leader about a subject or issue important to you. (In many ways you are.)
  • If you don’t have time, energy, or know-how to conduct ritual, don’t! You’re allowed to just pray and express gratitude.
  • Be honest, and have integrity. There’s no need to be a mindless doormat, or to hide yourself. If you’re asking for help, be honest about your shortcomings or limitations. You can ask for strength and wisdom in overcoming them. If you’re asking for material favors, be willing to offer a material gift in return as a thank you. Pay it forward. Don’t just take without giving back, your mother raised you better than that.
  • Be a good host. If you invite the gods into your home, try to tidy up. Make the place smell nice. Lay out offerings that the gods are known to have liked. (It’s like asking a guest if they want anything to drink or to snack on, or offering them a clean, uncluttered place to sit.)
  • Your personal wealth doesn’t matter: you don’t need expensive, elaborate shrines and iconography. The poorest people on the planet can be some of the most gracious, generous hosts, giving a share of whatever it is that they have to give, even if it’s just time, attention, and the sweat of their brow.
  • Know that gods are mostly everywhere, most of the time, whether you are doing ritual for them or not. That’s why they’re gods. Don’t be two-faced and expect to get away with it.
  • Celebrate them! They are literally the backbone of beauty and existence on this planet, they make the sun rise in the morning, the stars shine at night, they move the tides, they put food on your table, they are the forces of justice and love and memory themselves. They touch everything good in your life. Isn’t that amazing?

“But how do I know if I’m contacting the right entity?”

The funny thing about divinity is that you really don’t need to worry about this. If you call 911 because you need an ambulance, and a vehicle shows up that looks like an ambulance, sirens blaring, and its staffed with EMTs ready to help you, the last thing that should be on your mind is “But how do I know if this is really the ambulance I called?” Help has arrived. You don’t demand to see everyone’s credentials, the vehicles license and registration. You rightfully accept it, because any other possibility is just absurd.

The nature of divinity works the same way.

If you call on a god, the god hears you. Or, alternatively, the powers under the influence and jurisdiction of the god hear you. Either way, you can’t lose because your prayers and rituals are being directed to the right place anyways. Lesser spirits don’t generally stand a chance against the presence of the gods; the divine order is all-encompassing.

If it wasn’t, it wouldn’t be divine, now would it?

Gods are sacred by their very nature.

Now, things get a little complicated if you’re asking for stuff. Basically, gods don’t owe you anything more than what they are already giving you. (Which, let’s be honest with ourselves, is a fuck of a lot. Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth.) That doesn’t mean they don’t “want” to give you extra goodies. But giving you extra goodies is not really part of the job description, and sometimes what you want actually goes against what they’re all about, or would have some catastrophic butterfly effect that your mortal brain can’t even begin to imagine. So aligning yourself to them and their nature is a much better way to get the gifts you’re looking for than asking them to align themselves to you. The latter is what we call hubris. It’s a bad thing.

Let’s review.

  1. The loudest voices in online community are usually full of crap. They benefit from you not thinking for yourself.
  2. Gods deserve respect. Period. They are not vending machines of power and friendship.
  3. Stop worrying about bait-n-switch. Literally a non-issue for the average worshiper.
  4. Don’t start shit, won’t be shit.
  5. Fuck around and find out.

The Fine Print

Some gods are more omniscient, omnipresent, amicable, or generous by human standards than others, consult your local mythology for more details. In rare cases, gods and major spirits are confirmed to respond to ritualized “harassment”, check with their tradition-keepers for a full list of procedures and side effects. Not all gods grant material boons, while others deal primarily in such; exceptions apply. Practice safe handling procedures to avoid cross-contamination of disorder, disarray, blasphemy, miasma, hubris, and archetypalism. Local restrictions apply. Void where polytheism is prohibited.

22 thoughts on “A PSA I posted to Reddit: “Deity work” is not dangerous!

Add yours

  1. Reblogged this on Gangleri's Grove and commented:

    Excellent, absolutely excellent article. Here’s the take away: “gods are only dangerous if you treat them like shit.” So don’t do that. The Holy Powers are not people. They are above us in the cosmic hierarchy. If that is difficult or “triggering” to you, that’s a problem for you to explore with your spiritual elders. it’s not something inherently wrong with the Gods Themselves. This is a brilliant, brilliant article that underscores the need for elders, tradition keepers, respect, reverence, and common friggin’ sense.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Gods, you have no idea. I really, really wish it didn’t. But gen Z kids are drinking some weird-ass koolaid on pagan social media, and this is one of the more prevalent ideas making the rounds in recent years.

      Liked by 4 people

      1. This really makes me feel pain because I am wondering where all of us who are older went wrong in communicating out accurate and useful information — or even in establishing intergenerational communication/transmission at all. I feel for both the people who go a bit woo (e.g., the ones who literally believe in the worldbuilding from Percy Jackson novels) and for the ones who are afraid of praying; both extremes are unhealthy, and it’s hard to know how to compassionately empower people to move towards a more holistic and healthy mental frame.

        Liked by 3 people

        1. I don’t think olders went wrong so much as the insta mentality of many now. That is why they are all game on chaos magic & bits of ceremonial without any basis to be practicing that. The stuff I see on reddit makes me cringe over what people are doing & it is all for personal power. Then it blows up & they are all hysterical & freaking out & projected the wrong on other people or beings instead of taking personal responsibility. They love listening to the cads that spoon feed them what they want to hear instead if trying to do the work or put any effort into anything or even caring past the immediate gratification without looking at the consequences. Maybe that is it, they never were taught or learned cause & effect on a personal level with themselves

          Liked by 1 person

          1. I grew up Neopagan and all of the escapist bypassing stuff that I did as a teen (not for personal power, but unhealthy byproducts of being bullied and wanting to feel safe/accepted) is thankfully nowhere online, and the Gods were always my bedrock even though the worst of the woo. I think what I’m getting at more is that as a kid who grew up Neopagan, ritual protocols and respect were something I picked up from my mom and the other adults around me, and I was taught to care about things like ethics and sacrality. I’m at a loss thinking of ways to duplicate (or even approximate) that acculturation experience.

            Liked by 2 people

        2. This is a good line of inquiry, and a few things come to mind immediately:

          The knowledge gained by previous generations of pagan polytheists are not immediately accessible to young pagans. Most of us still write on blogs, and when we left the blogging world, or “graduated”, we published books. Young pagans never ask for book recommendations, and none of them are interested in the blogging world. To that end…
          “The medium is the message”, maybe? Knowledge gained and shared through social media is saturated with the values and addiction-making algorithms of social media. This means that everything will be touched by the impulse to gain likes, views, shares. Lack of audience is existential death.
          Basically what KatsCauldron is saying. When I first came to paganism as a disgruntled 12 year old, I didn’t really care about gods or worship. I wanted power and mystique. I wanted to weaponize my disenfranchisement from the system and protect myself energetically. Thankfully, in the early 00’s, “patron” gods and goddesses were ubiquitous in the literature and resources, so I picked some as a matter of course. But I was also already extremely sensitive to the more-than-human world, as well as an animist by brain wiring rather than choice, so the rest fell into place. I realized being in relationship WAS the power I was looking for, and the rest was tourism. I learned my lessons pretty quickly, but I don’t think it’s that easy for others. It wasn’t for the other people I was practicing with back then, who lapsed into vague agnosticism and materialism after a few years. If you’re a marginalized person looking for confidence and power, achieving it can be something of a jarring, and ultimately addictive experience. And when the gods realize they need to cut you off, it can get ugly.

          I think we need to go where the kids are, unfortunately. I am definitely not interested in touching Witch Tok with a ten foot pole, but if that’s where these ideas are being born… we need to meet them where they are.

          Liked by 5 people

          1. I was afraid “meet them where they are” would be the answer. (Truth isn’t always pleasant, I guess …) I think that modern social media platforms are awful psychological weapons despite the good things that sometimes happen there. Yet I guess the benefit of books is something that people would have to be encouraged to think about on an actual social media platform.

            But I started praying to Bast in 4th grade after asking a Sunday School teacher about the killings of firstborn in Egypt and why that was a moral decision when parents were likely devastated by the loss of their innocent children, and when a year later my family noped Christianity, I was like “well thank Gods that’s over and we’re in something sensible now.” That may be a mindset divide.

            Liked by 1 person

          2. The mindset divide thing is one of the places where I wish I had quantitative data about the spectrum of decisions that go into deciding to pursue some kind of paganism, as that’s an easy way to get into others’ heads enough to be effective at bridging worldview challenges.

            Like

  2. “I realized being in relationship WAS the power I was looking for….” Ye gods, that’s the thing I’m finally realizing after all these years! Devotional relationship is itself a source of power.

    I do sometimes say I work with gods, but I mean that collegially, not instrumentally. It would indeed be more accurate to say that I work for (some of) them (but not all).

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Thank you so much for this. I almost gave up on paganism initially because folks said I was “harassing” the gods by worshipping Them, since I didn’t receive constant communication from Them, and I should therefore leave Them alone. I actually temporarily stopped worshipping one goddess as a result… Funny timing with this, because John Beckett just today posted something along similar lines to this. Must’ve needed to be said!

    Liked by 4 people

  4. Honestly, I agree with the post both here and in its original Reddit form.
    The Gods, to me, are beyond us in power and understanding. They are transcendent and kinda have to be. I think “work with” is used by many who struggle to notice or address Christian baggage and I think too many strive for esoteric or magical praxis without establishing a good foundation to begin with.
    To my mind, it doesn’t make sense if the Gods are our equals. If the Gods are our equals, you can do what They can and They’re no more worthy of prayers or venerations than any living human is.
    I do think we’re insignificant and largely irrelevant to the Gods which is why I disagree with the understanding of “We need Them because They’re Gods and They are or They create or They manipulate existence around us and They need our worship.” I don’t think They need anything from us, I think the Gods are so beyond us that They would be just fine whether humans are here or not. I do think prayers and offerings start a dialogue and now and then Gods may choose to interact and respond. But I think this also explains why not everything is responded to, to paraphrase a Quaker Friend: “Sometimes the Gods don’t want to come out and play”.
    Having been in a server where it was very neopagan/Wicca-influenced/dominant and with lots of minors there are a lot of things out there scaring people into cowering before the Gods, getting into magical and esoteric things without a decent foundation, and not addressing or ignoring Christian baggage. I mean that server had fifteen year olds scaring each other into seeing shadow people everywhere and convincing them they were all in need of a banishment spell.
    I do think most usage of “work with” instead of “worship” is simply because people feel “worship” has connotations of an organised religion they dislike and left already but that’s what it is.” I, being me, am not going to tell someone their understanding of the divine, magic, paganism etc is wrong just because it doesn’t align with my beliefs and opinions so I wouldn’t write something as this post but I do agree with its main points.
    So I wouldn’t stop anything anyone is doing or believes, I might point out an alternative belief for them to consider but I wouldn’t stop them or tell them they’re wrong providing nobody is being hurt. I think that’s where the author of this post is coming from, it’s frustration at an understanding that people pushing these ideas are potentially hurting people so I can empathise there but I’m not sure. I think everybody’s understanding of paganism leads them to surround themselves with similar pagans so we view that as representative of all pagans so whenever we see a significant number of a differing view or belief we feel paganism is being attacked, invaded or misrepresented. That’s what I felt on that server and that’s what I think is what the author felt in writing this. I mean, my understanding and belief of the Gods and divinity is that they are beyond us, beyond space-time as we perceive it. So, we’re blips on their radar as they existed prior to us and shall exist post-us.
    I suppose this is where being accustomed to conversations on wights and reconstructionism in Heathen circles comes in: A forgotten or lost God is just as valid as e.g. a Zeus or a Þorr, just as powerful, just as significant and just as present even if we are unaware of them or ignoring them. It’s like the animist side of things, I think just because the lamppost has a spirit doesn’t mean it wants you to say hi every time you pass in the street, it probably doesn’t care and will be there after you’re dead and gone.
    I think the Neil Gaiman – American Gods idea of “Gods die when forgotten” is an interesting one and I can see why some might believe in it in their paganism, but for me it’s an interesting idea but it just doesn’t click for me.
    This isn’t to say I’m an omnist and think every God ever is just as real and just as valid and all religions are correct and hurrah. If that works for you, cool. But to me, there are Gods I believe in and Gods I don’t and Gods I believe are there but don’t worship and Gods I believe are there and do worship.
    I think that’s where understanding of a thing comes in. A God of, e.g. craftsmanship is a God of creation, so it doesn’t matter who or what is creating, that God is in the creation and/or guiding the creation. A sovereign Goddess of the land to me, would be Goddess of that region no matter who is there or not there and what the environment does or doesn’t look like.
    There was a conversation on creation stories where someone made the point of: Perhaps we focus on the wrong part. The question isn’t “What was in the void before existence?” the question might be “Is there significance in the order things were created in? Does that teach us what should be important in our lives?”.
    It comes up all the time: how literally do we take these myths? I don’t believe the Gods look like humans but I believe they can choose to. I don’t believe the Gods are subject to gender or sex but I believe we can use those to try to grasp an understanding of them.
    I mean the best example I have is the one I’ve used before of: To me, Skaði is the Goddess of hunting, mountains, skiing, snow, but also She is hunting, mountains, skiing and snow. She brings snow and She is snow and She causes snow. I don’t think She waits to be asked for snow, nor do I think she pays attention to what the weather forecast says. I think She does as She wishes in Her own time and we experience it. But also, I don’t expect everyone to believe in Skaði and would be unnerved if they did. It’s just my understanding of a Goddess.
    But I agree completely that ultimately the Gods are beyond us and at some point we have to accept “We’ll never know and that’s fine”

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: