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