(Content Warning: more liberal use of adult language than usual & references to sexual contact with Deities, which I promise isn’t going be a recurring topic here. Also feeling a little raw right now, so this may not be as tactful as my norm…)
I’ve been thinking this morning, after reading something a friend wrote, that I really wish we could get over this whole expectation in the online Polytheist community that our Deity relationships “need” to be publicly defined in some way that other people can understand and categorize. I’m really tired of seeing sincere people being given shit over this. Or even if shit has not yet been given, you just know it’s in the pipeline.
Because make no mistake, that expectation exists, and it screws with people. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been asked what’s up with myself and my Patron deity, Odin. This may sound crazy to you, and I really hope it does, but the most common one I get: Are we fucking? Because if we aren’t, something must be wrong with me—Odin fucks everybody, you know—and I must not mean very much to Him, if He’s even “really” involved with me at all.
Of course, if we are fucking, then depending on your particular camp, I’m either 1) delusional, if not psychotic, 2) the next whore in line, already nearing my expiration date if not past; or 3) obviously dropping the ball on the “responsibilities” magically acquired by fucking Odin. (Don’t ask me what these responsibilities are supposed to be.)
So whether I actually think I’m fucking my Patron Deity or not, I can’t win, now can I? But if you just read that whole last paragraph, and not once did it ever occur to you that maybe it is wildly inappropriate to be asking people whether they’re fucking their Deities and, moreover, maybe it is absolutely insane to feel a sense of entitlement to that kind of information about other people, then you just might be a Polytheist on the internet! (I say this tongue-in-cheek, because I know we’re not all like that. I’m sure not.)
I wish that I could say I’m the only one this has ever happened to. I was aghast to come across a blog post once, some time ago now while still a new baby Polytheist, where someone (I can’t remember who right now to link you, unfortunately), was writing about people sending them inappropriate questions and personal anecdotes in a similar vein. I remember being shocked! You don’t get this shit when you’re Catholic, that’s for sure. 😉 (But I will say it was oddly comforting to remember that when it started happening to me, another reason I’m sharing this today…I hope those of you who also blog about your devotional lives are spared, but if you aren’t, you’re in good company.)
In any case, I am always up-front that I do not discuss the nature of my private relationships with my Gods, including Odin. Period, full stop. This has been my position from day one, before Whiskey and Incense even existed. I may share personal experiences sometimes, but I don’t intentionally make any claims regarding them or the Gods involved, and I trust Them to make any necessary claims when it comes to me, should They choose to do so. In fact, my usual answer to the ridiculously inappropriate queries about Him/us, after stating the first sentence, is:“…but feel free to ask Him yourself.” That’s right. Go ahead and ask Odin to render unto you (general “you”) a factual account of whether He is banging me, and why or why not. If it’s ok to interrogate me about it, then why not Him? He would be equally as relevant as I am, right? It takes two and all of that.
I was conversing with someone at one time who was like a dog with a bone on this subject. Finally I said something to the effect of, “I’m Odin’s ‘whatever.’ Whatever He wants, that’s what it is.” I doubt it was any more satisfactory than what I’d been saying (or not saying) up to that point, but I was, and still remain, absolutely flabbergasted that it’s so disturbing to some people that I’m not using recognizable labels, beyond the more generic “devotee” and “Patron.” Or that my refusal to do so somehow implies all kinds of things. I really don’t get it. Whose business is it, anyway, if I’m adamantly refusing to make it anyone else’s business? Doesn’t calling Odin my Patron say everything relevant when it comes to what I am willing to talk about?
To me, this whole thing is a real matter of principle. Sure, I could just say, “this label and that would apply, and that one over there wouldn’t, and we do this, but we don’t do that,” and satisfy the sordid curiosity and put an end to the questions. It’s not that there’s some deep, dark secret I don’t want anyone to know, or that I’m trying to tease people about it. It’s that I have a right to my privacy, and that right does not disappear because I like you, because we are devoted to the same Gods, or because I choose to share certain other things on a blog. I have a right to cherish the sacred in my own life without an audience, no matter what that looks like or who that makes uncomfortable. (And if it does make anyone reading this uncomfortable…think about why. It likely has nothing whatsoever to actually do with me or my life.)
In a digital age where misinformation travels faster than it can be corrected and “fake news” is a thing, it’s understandable that people seek and long for transparency, honesty, and spades being called spades, maybe now more than ever, if you’ll indulge a bit of my naïveté. At the same time, we must not forget that “mysteries” are called such for a reason. The more personal aspects of our relationships with our Deities are holy mysteries perpetually unfolding before us. We must be careful not to let the expectations we attach to the mundane strangle the sacred in our lives; both mundane and sacred can, should, and do coexist, waxing and waning together like the moon in her cycles. Not everything is meant for everyone, or meant for the same people all the time; choosing to keep some things private is not the same as being dishonest about them. Sometimes the moon is dark, and sometimes it’s full, and sometimes it’s something in between. It doesn’t make the moon a liar; he is always himself, light or dark. And we are always ourselves, however much we show or keep to ourselves at any given time.
That being said, of course it’s okay to share what one feels comfortable with sharing, but no one should ever feel pressured, badgered, or otherwise EXPECTED to define, explain, and dissect their own sacred mysteries for the comfort and convenience of third parties. No one should feel like they NEED to come up with a label or a name or anything else, or they don’t have a place at the table, a voice in the community, or whatever. There is room in devotional Polytheism for anyone who loves the Gods, whatever that love looks like, whatever name you want to put on that love—or if you choose not to name or define it at all.
As Polytheists, we can embrace both transparency and mystery. We can be plainly and simply ourselves, stripped of others’ expectations and others’ labels and others’s stories, and still be walking the path of devotion, which is just another word for the path of love. Love takes more forms than we can ever conceive. If there are more kinds of love in existence than we have words for, then in my mind, it just stands to reason that there are also insufficient words to describe or define the relationships rooted in these different loves…and that’s ok, too. In fact, if you ask me, it’s pretty fucking fantastic.
So let’s knock it off with these silly expectations around sticking other people and their Deity relationships into neatly labeled boxes. Devotion is not an easy way of life. Like love itself, it’s messy, hard, sometimes painful, and sometimes ecstastic beyond measure. We don’t really need to make it any harder on ourselves or on others than it already is.
I shouldn’t need to elaborate any more on the TMI questions part, right? Right. I think I’ve already said all I need to say about that, and I’m sure other people have said it better elsewhere before anyway. Just, for the record, I’m totally fine getting questions or emails about devotional Polytheism, or less-personal questions about my practice in particular. If I’m not comfortable answering something for whatever reason, I just won’t. I’m not trying to scare off people who sincerely have questions or want to be friends (I want to make friends, too!) But to me, those overly personal questions I mentioned are just symptomatic of a larger problem of fucked-up expectations when it comes to other people’s spiritual lives, and there’s simply no room in my life for catering to those expectations, now or ever.