Work and Worship – Take 2

From Nettle:

Worshipping and Working for: what do you mean?

Every morning I always offer my last good gulp of tea to Gaia. When we lived in another city and had a garbage disposal that was dedicated to Hecate as was our compost pile. First thing up, one of us check Hestia’s lamp, fills it if needed, and light it for the day. These are my (our) acts of worship.

Coyvere says ‘we all serve a deity whether we know it or not’.

Working for a deity, to use an old gaming term, is being a Champion of a god, someone who goes out and does things for a Deity. You know, slay the monster eating the villagers, save the holy people, etc. This should not be confused with proselytizing, being a missionary, teaching, ‘saving someone’, or spreading the gospel. These are all acts of spreading a religion, they are not acts of service to a deity. All the deities I work for do not demand that I go out and spread their word as gospel. They only ask that I spread my word as my truth so others may someday find their own path.

Worship is defined as:

-the act of showing respect and love for a god, especially by praying with other people who believe in the same god: the act of worshipping a god.

– excessive admiration of someone (or deity)

An older Greek definition of the word is:

– I go down on my knees to, do obeisance to, worship.

– Further breaking down the word ‘proskuneo’: to do reverence to, gods, ‘towards’, and kyneo, to kiss.

This is not worship for me. One of my biases, or one of my blind spots, is that I have always held a distaste or distrust of authority figures, more so if one is a leader in an organized religion. I often question what makes someone more holy or more capable of speaking to the gods than myself. After all, am I not already connected to my Higher Self, my Atman (to use a yoga term)?

– the spiritual life principle of the universe, especially when regarded as inherent in the real self of the individual.

– a person’s soul.

There is some benefit to being part of a religion that offers a standard set of rituals, a path to follow and books to show you the way. There is a downside to worship – to be a worshipper you need only focus on your faith. Most worship services play to faith – to just believing in what you are told, not to question and not to use yourself to grow but that you need a middleman to connect or speak to god.  Now, I’m not downplaying faith – faith is a powerful resource, but faith lets you ride upon itself. With faith you can believe everything happens for a reason, that god has planned out your life and is playing you like a piece on a giant game board. Faith lets you know you have a destiny. And for some of us there is a comfort in thinking that you are just a pawn on a game board. Others balk at the idea of being a puppet on a god/goddess’s strings, every act being controlled by the thread of their destiny. These people are the ones who see the danger to blind worship. How it never lets your god/goddess change or evolve and it is fact that everything must grow. Everything to include you, your gods themselves need to be free to evolve, grow, and change .

Faith, trust, belief, and worship all get jumbled together in a mixed-up word soup, all meaning something different to each person yet they have been hijacked by the Judeo-Christian religions to mean blind, unquestioning acceptance. It is accepted as part of our culture that should someone do something wrong no matter how small they will be punished. Tell a lie to your parents = suffer in a pit of lava for eternity. Kill everyone in a small village = suffer in a pit of lava for eternity.  This is where faith, trust, belief, and worship become muddled when we start on a pagan or magickal path.

Let’s first look at this myth – you must suffer in order to achieve.

You must suffer in order to achieve, we must suffer to find salvation, we must suffer to have someone love us, and we must suffer to have our deities love us. This is all part of the Puritan myth prevalent in our culture. This is not true.

The gods do not want us to suffer.

They want us to find our true self and to evolve towards this true self. I was reading the Bhagavad Gita as part of my yoga training and I was so confused at first when I read the story. Why would Krishna encourage Arjuna to kill the family that raised him? That would be one of the greatest evils of all times. Krishna does point out that his family had been doing some pretty crappy things and were planning to kill him, but then Krishna goes on to explain that there is no true death for the soul, that we are/will be reincarnated. That we must work to find connection with our higher self (atman), the soul seed within all of us that resides with deity, lifetime after lifetime. Each of us has a specific higher self, a healer, teacher, trickster, or in Arjuna’s case, a warrior. To deny this soul seed its true self is what keeps us being reborn lifetime after lifetime. It was more distasteful for Krishna to have Arjuna ignore his warrior true self than to do what was necessary and kill the family that had raised him. Krishna saw Arjuna’s act as one to rest the balance to the lands. Arjuna whose atman was that of a warrior/ruler was the best man for the job and in the process would stay true to his atman.

Okay, so that might not be the best example. Try this one:

If I forget oil for Hestia’s lamp for a few days, weeks, or months, she isn’t going to punish me, she won’t stop talking to me or offering her blessing or guidance for our house. She might nudge (can’t really call it a nag) as a reminder to pick up oil when I have the money for it, but she will not punish me. If I forgot to give Gaia the last sip of my cup of tea she will not make earthquakes shake my house, nor will she make the land my family resides upon barren and inhospitable. I don’t have a garbage disposal or compost pile at my new home, and Hekate hasn’t turned me into a pig nor has she stopped talking to me or answering my questions.

Because I have found my version of worshipping these goddesses and in doing so I have been working with and for them to find a better connection with my soul seed, atman, and higher self, whatever it is you wish to call your connection to the Divine.

This is how I see worship – it is a confusing mix of belief, trust, and of faith in this relationship that I have with the deities. When I started writing this post I thought there was a distinct line between worshipping a deity and working for a deity. After the discussion and writing of this post I am coming to realize that there is no difference – that line has disappeared for me.

Am I still going to struggle with the idea of faith, belief, and trust in a deity? Yes. But I know that I have the freedom, removing the fear of punishment, that I’m doing the best I can in this lifetime to learn from my gods/goddesses. I think it’s harder to learn to have faith, trust, and belief in myself. Perhaps that is the key.

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Worship versus Coworker

Hope says:

You may have noticed that I don’t ‘worship’ any deity. I believe that they exist, since I have personal proof of it, but I don’t pray to anyone in particular. On occasion a reflexive few words will wing their way into the other spheres/planes – we all do that – but by and large I consciously try not to pray. I don’t want Someone to get the wrong idea.

And I seem to have a different view of things from my compatriots. Not a bad thing, really. Nammu wanted my input so there must be some validity to it. If not in this subject, in others.

I differentiate between ‘faith’ and ‘worship’. You can have faith without worship, even though it’s more common connected. I have faith that the Powers exist. I don’t believe that they actually care about humans, per se. They are playing a Great Game, with rules we don’t know, for goals we don’t know, using us (and others) as pieces on the board.  They might have favorites – I know they often claim to – but really, how much attachment can you have to a game piece?

Which leads us to receiving teaching from the Powers. Is a teacher/student relationship inherently unequal? In some ways, but if the teacher didn’t think the student was capable of learning, of ascending to the teacher’s level in knowledge, why would they bother teaching?  To make you a more effective game piece?

I like Coyvere’s explanation of how he views this, and it’s one that Nammu agrees with. She wants me to understand/believe that I am her child, and that she cares about/for me. And that the family/clan simile is valid. Does this make Tiamat my aunt or my cousin? The important thing to know is this – WE may view our relationship as a family/clan but do the deities/Powers view it the same way? Would Tiamat acknowledge me as a cousin/niece? It does no good if the idea is all on one side.

Sometime during the day I will light a stick of incense to Nammu and Loki, or perhaps a candle to Hermes, Nammu, and Loki. These are the deities I have invited into my home, and as a hostess I have certain responsibilities towards guests. I will also occasionally make an offering of food or beer or wine or coffee to them, inviting them to join us in a meal or a drink. I talk to them as I would talk to any guest in my home. I don’t worship them although I’m not above trying bribery to get something I want! I tell Nammu that I’m ready to learn what she wants to teach me, and I will ask for lessons, make demands, and generally joke around. Nic says I view them as equals, and I guess I do. I know that they don’t consider me so. As Coyvere says, a very young sibling attempting to sit in on an adult conversation. But I will work with them to accomplish something, or work with someone they designate. And I can refuse to work with them as well.

You can’t worship beings when you see yourself intrinsically their equal, or having the ability to become their equal. You can have faith in their existence, belief in their Power, and work both with and for them, but you can’t worship them.

 

Coyote Notes

Wow! Youse guys are covering a lot of territory. I man not sure even where to begin, so here are my random thoughts and ideas you have inspired.

First, no one is arguing that religion and relationship with deity is the same, and that is a good thing. Using religion as a guide for relationship with deity is like buying your wardrobe off the rack at a one-size-fits-all store. The clothes will probably work, but they will seldom be functional or comfortable for most people. When they are wrong, they are very wrong and will start to chafe quite quickly. On the other hand, cold folks sometimes are so relieved to find clothing that they will cling to any rag for the comfort it brings.

On the difference between belief and worship, I think if you read the previous posts and replace ‘worship’ with ‘trust’ you will get a clearer discussion. I both believe and have faith that the gods exist, but some I trust and some I do not. The more I understand who a deity is and how it functions, the more I trust  it. Because I understand it’s function, I can know and trust it to act in particular ways in particular situations. I trust Hecate, but I do not go to her for healing. She is a great healer with vast knowledge, but I appreciate a bit of compassion with my healing. Healing is not her primary mission. I would go to Hecate if I wanted to understand the components of a spell that was harming me and analyze precisely how it functioned. In my own limited understanding of her, I know Hecate primarily as a goddess of magick and a great teacher. I trust her to be as I understand her – she is not all things to all people, a misperception of the gods that grows from the Judeo-Christian perception of Yahweh as a universal intelligence. The whole point of being pantheistic is understanding that some things are different from others. When you go to war, call a warrior. When you need to heal, call a healer. When you need to understand how someone did something weird magickally and you want to break it down into its components, analyze it, and develop a counter to destroy it and then adapt those techniques for your own use, call Hecate.

Relationships with deity are very complex, and they are as subject to our perceptions, ideas, and emotions as any relationship with any human being – and perhaps more so. Our relationships are guided (and limited) by our perceptions of the universe as filtered through both our intellectual and emotional selves. The relationship with deity is also deeply affected by our understanding of what deity is – an area of knowledge shrouded in myth, mystery, and misunderstanding. Think about what your relationship with an older brother might be like if your brother was 20 years older than you and was a Navy Seal. When you are five years old, your brother is a distant god. His infrequent visits home are punctuated with stories filled with blood and glory, and gifts from foreign lands. As you enter high school, your brother is a senior officer in the Navy with vast powers and experience – you have a more clear image of what he does and hope to follow in his footsteps, but he is still so far ahead of you that you perceive the difference between yourself and him to be vast.

At age 25 you have enlisted and gone through a lot of training. You now have a real, experiential understanding of your brother’s path and are gaining your own experience and adventures, while your brother has retired from the military and now teaches at a private company. When you hit age 45, you and your brother have bridged the gap. You share the same pains and experiences. He is still your senior, but he is helping you through the pain he has already experienced and passed through. He is no longer your god, but your supportive and beloved teacher. He will use his own connections to aid you in finding a place as your retire from the military, perhaps even working as a junior employee under him directly.

Now imagine that your older brother is 5000 years older than you. That is how I see the gods, and that is what shapes my relationship with them. Some of them do things I have little interest in. I respect them for their knowledge and power, but I understand that I will not follow their path. I love Raphael and trust him to heal me, but I will never be a healer like he is. It is not what I am. A deity whose path I have followed for many years is Hades. My instant bond upon meeting him started vast changes in my life. First he forced me intellectually to confront my Judeo-Christian ideas of the underworld and it’s functioning, and emotionally to confront the idea that the thing that I loved and that loved me the most in the universe ruled over death. And that was Step One… Since then, my big brother has put me through the wringer, but having passed through it, I can see how every act and each situation taught me valuable things and forced me to grow. As I grew in my primary path, I also met other older siblings and cousins. Some of them I have become close to and learned to trust. They are teachers and friends. Others have been prickly and hard to approach, but I have learned to approach them with love and respect, and they help when I bring them knowledge of events that fit in their particular sphere.

So, in terms of defining how relationships with deity work, how can we do that? If you were part of a huge clan with fifty siblings and hundreds of cousins, could you define your relationship with each of them in a single paragraph? How would you describe your relationship with the grandfather of a different clan? People write books about that stuff, and a lot of those fall short. All you can really define is how you approach relationships , and the only question you can really answer is how well that works for you. I approach deity as elder family members, with love and respect, but ultimately with the idea that we are all part of the same family and that someday I will be an elder following in their footsteps. How does that work for me? I drink beer with Hades. I swap recipes with Hecate. I trade jokes with Coyote. My family guides and supports me. We do not have a relationship based on power or authority. Power and authority are constructs that take the place of trust, love, and understanding.

Hierarchy is a construct in the same way. I do not obey Hades because he is above me or because he is more powerful than I am. I do as he asks because he knows more than I do and I trust that he has my best interests at heart. I am not on Hecate’s path, although I respect and love her as a teacher, so if she asked me to perform a task, I would trust that it was something important that required someone with my skills in that particular place at that particular time. In the same way, when I ask my gods to teach me, generally I have reached the right level of knowledge and understanding to ask the right questions. If they do not answer me, it is because I am asking the wrong questions or have skipped an essential step required for me to understand the answer. Often they will give me an answer that I only comprehend about 10% of, and then I have to spend weeks or months working on understanding the rest of it. Those are the really GOOD questions!

So this sort of circles back to the beginning – worship versus right relationship. Since I am in a loving relationship with deity that I see as family, worshipping them as distant powers is almost incomprehensible to me. The idea of their punishing me is equally bizarre – if I fail at a task they have given me, my failure is a greater punishment than some random affliction of discomfort or pain. What point would that possibly serve?

 

More Wyrd Wonderings

From: Hope

I’ve heard many stories of the gods appearing to us in various guises so that we can recognize them. Right now, with the Marvel stories/movies, a lot of people have reported that Loki and Thor use the actors to make recognizing them easy. It makes sense to do that. We are a visual species.  I’ve heard of even old relationships wherein the gods have decided to change their appearances to resemble someone else, throwing the mortals for a loop and making them uncomfortable also.

Odin is also connected with the Wild Hunt. I wonder if there’s a connection with Herne/Cernunnos/Odin? All aspects of one god or all separate gods?

How did you meet Him? What is your connection? Why did you choose Him? If someone is interested in getting to know him, how would you recommend they do so?

From Glory:

I think they are similar energies, but definitely NOT the say deity. I always get frustrated when I see Herne is Cernunnos, or Herne/Cernunnos images when I do a search. It just frustrates me. Yes, they are similar, but that doesn’t mean they are the same. Even with Odin, perhaps different sides of the same die. “Okay, Odin, you take 1-2, Herne, you take 3-4, and Cernunnos, you take 5-6. Ready? Roll!” (yes, that was a joking conversation partially in my head that I felt compelled to share. LOL).

I actually met Herne when I was doing a Deity Focus for my First Degree at my online school. With each lesson we were asked to complete a Deity Focus, a bit of homework meant to have us ‘go out and meet’ different deities to see who they are, what they are about, how to work with them. But most importantly, to see how you connect with them, if you’re compatible or not. Sometimes they would have answers and connect, other times nothing but radio silence, which is an answer in and of itself. We’re not meant to work with all deities. We won’t have as strong a connection with some as we do with others. Some are more visceral, some are tenuous. Much like people in our lives, there are connections for a season or reason.

Herne turned out to be a very strong connection. I initially met him during work on my first lesson with the online school I attend. We were asked to research a Deity we were called to, and he had been mentioned offhand in the lesson material so I started researching him more. There really isn’t much about him out there. Later in my studies we were asked to complete the Deity Focus and I again revisited the connection that had started months before with that initial lesson. I had attended our online Mabon Ritual and he was the God called for that particular Sabbat. It was a reminder that he was still there and a feeling of coming home. A reminder that even though I’m not always actively seeking him, he has chosen me and that he was always there, even when I didn’t reach out. He claims me as his. I am his Priestess. He is a guide on my own Wild Hunt, the search to find myself, where I belong, and my purpose in this life. Seeking my Shadows and working through them to be stronger and more whole. I don’t know that I would say I so much chose him, as I found him and he kept popping up in reading. So I listened and stuck with him. And things have grown from there.

I think to truly work with Herne one has to realize that he is one you have to actually work with to learn about. He isn’t widely honored or worshipped. And he is, sadly, misidentified as Cernunnos as often as not. I think the best way to get to know him is outside, under the trees, in the dark of night. Sit against a tree and just be open to meeting and talking to him. If you can’t be outside under the trees, then meditation in such a setting is the next best thing. He loves his Hunt. He is tasked with taking down the worst of society, incorporating them into his Hunt, and seeking to find justice for their misdeeds. He is very much one who will force you to look at your deeper self, face your dark side, and work on it or be consumed. I have often referred to working with Herne as my own sort of Wild Hunt. A search for who I am. A search for what lies beneath. It’s a bit of a wild ride, and not for the faint of heart. He may just find you, more than you can seek him out. Either way, don’t force it. You can’t tame the wind , and you definitely cannot tame the Lord of the Wild Hunt!

From: Nettle

I love the die analogy there, Glory – totally makes sense to me!

While I do think deities fall into archetypes – healer, hearth, warrior, etc – and there may be a higher intelligence beyond our understanding now that links them somehow, each god energy does have it’s own unique flavor.

From: Glory

I figured it was a good one us AD&D nerds could enjoy. And it made more sense than ‘two sides of the same coin’ because Hope asked about three different deities.

I agree. Even when they have similar domains, Diana is still Diana and not wholly Artemis, nor is Artemis, Diana. They share the same domains in different pantheons so were different to those peoples. Though maybe that’s different, maybe they are the same, since their stories overlap so completely at times. But I think they have a different air to them. The ‘flavor’ or tenor/feel has been different for each deity I have worked with or had speak to/through me. It’s hard to describe, since it’s so innate and ingrained into my fabric. If that makes any sense.

From: Hope

I think the reason the Roman/Greek gods have so much overlap is because the Romans took their gods from the Greeks – blatantly. Throwing a different name onto the same stories doesn’t make a new set of deities. Cultural appropriation!

From: Glory

Sadly, I think the same, but didn’t want to be cheeky and point it out. Lol.

From: Nettle

Thus even laying a path for the Roman Catholic church to steal deities and make them saints. Be cheeky, my dear!

From: Glory

Ooh! Fair point well made, m’dear. Fair point well made. I hadn’t even thought of it that way. Silly Romans always stealing stuff to make it their own!

Glory on Herne

What do you do when a Deity comes to you in one form, but looks nothing like the visage ancient and modern societies alike have given him? In my case, I go with the flow.

This happened to me years ago when I began my Path to seek out my Patron Deities. In doing research one name kept popping up and resonating with me – Herne the Hunter. An image began to form in my mind’s eye of a strong, well muscled, tall, very dark skinned man. With eyes and skin the color of night and long braided hair. The description of him largely resembled the way I picture the character Doyle from the Merry Gentry novels by Laurell K. Hamilton. (Yes, I do have a rather vivid mental landscape, and a very diverse reading library that brings characters to life!). But I digress. You see, the imagery I described is nothing like the horned woodsman from a quaint English village, now is it? Nope, not in the least. So my logical brain railed against the vision I was seeing as belonging to the name I was hearing. How could these two images be the same person? I know that, yes, Doyle did help to lead the Wild Hunt in the Merry books. But that was the only connection. Or, was it?

You see, sometimes Deity comes to us in an image we can see and connect with. And sometimes Deity adapts and changes their visage as time goes on. Think of it as growing and evolving. If you were an immortal entity would you not try on new styles and faces now and then to see what it was like? Change it up! New hair color or style, new clothes, and sure, why not even a new skin tone to blend in better with the night you call home?

Herne does lead one leg of the Wild Hunt, after all. [I’m informed that one or the other (Odin, Cernunnos, Herne) starts it and then passes it off to the next. UPG. Well, it makes sense.]  Doesn’t it make sense that sometimes the horns traditional imagery portray him with would get in the way and catch on something as he hunts down those doing wrong and evil? Wouldn’t it make sense that blending in with the night and then stepping from the shadows to take your prey would be all the scarier, deadlier, and even more effective? I think so. And I think that is why he comes to me as a vision of the darkest night. Because that is how I see the cold, dark hand of Justice – swift and efficient.

Of course, I speak of Herne as a full blown Deity, not a ghost mentioned in prose and a singular local myth. That is because that is how he comes to me. But just who is Herne, you ask? Herne is ‘first’ popularly mentioned in ‘The Merry Wives of Windsor’ by William Shakespeare. He is first and foremost a spirit or ghost of Windsor Forest. He aggrieved the king by hunting a stag in the King’s Forest. He then either hung himself or was hung for his crimes, depending on the myth you read. Upon his death, however it came about, he came back as an avenging spirit to hunt wrongdoers. Herne uses the horns of the stag that lead to his death to give him a horned visage as he leads the Wild Hunt. This may be how he first really gained his form and notoriety, but his fame took off from there. The tree Herne is rumored to have hung from has been tended and replanted when it falls for whatever reason by the royal family from that point forward. Herne gained his momentum from there and that part of the legend took off. But I often wonder who he was, and why he is so closely tied to Cernunnos.

Perhaps Herne the man was a child of Cernunnos, either in practice or blood. Much as Hercules and Perseus were the sons of Zeus, it makes sense that the Celtic Deities would have dalliances with mortal women ( Cu Chulainn is one such demigod of Celtic origin). Herne was born to live his life in service to his father and in the end, whether he was rightly or wrongly accused and convicted of killing the King’s stag, he ultimately is hanged for that crime. His life ends, either by suicide or the king’s justice. Having been sired by or claimed by Cernunnos as one of his own, Herne’s spirit knows the horns of the felled stag will give him a new life and carry him forward to gather the souls of others in the Wild Hunt, and the visage takes shape.

Mind you, in the instance above, there are two different theories that lead to the same fate. The first theory being that Herne was a Priest or Adept of Cernunnos and gained the knowledge through his study and worship. The second possibility being that Herne was a demigod son of Cernunnos and had the inherent knowledge and ability gifted to him by his immortal father. Dos this mean that either is true? No. It is just as likely that it is a folk tale, started by the Great Bard himself, and has given rise to an aspect of Cernunnos in a small area of England. My inner self says there is a grain of the truth in my musings, though. Herne came from somewhere to inspire the Bard. He has a real and traceable holding on a region in England where even the monarchy continues to honor him. So the musing of his origins and the deeper meaning to his story is a natural progression, are they not?

How does this go back to my original statement of ‘What do you do when a Deity comes to you in one form, but looks nothing like the visage ancient and modern societies alike have given him?’ As I said at the start, I go with the flow. I have come to accept that the visage I have of Herne, although not traditional, is just as real tome as is the visage others have. He comes to me in that visage because that is what I see in him and what I need to see in order to accept the role he has for me. It also leads me on a journey of discovery – of both him and myself. Thinking of what his real origins and story are. And thinking of how it may parallel my own journey. This is, after all, a path of discovery and learning. We learn about ourselves as we learn about the Deities who call us. This path we are called to is a journey with the destination as fluid and changing as the winds that blowus along the landscapes we travel. Go with the flow. You never know where they will lead. You just may come up with a kernel of truth and insight you never expected. Like the possible origins of your Patron God!