Negotiating With the Gods

After Sunday’s post on what to do When You Hear The Call of The Morrigan, Star Bustamonte (who did much of the organizational work with Mystic South) asked an important question:

What do you do when a Deity comes calling that you do not want to serve? While I have never shirked doing whatever work has been laid before me, I really do not wish to serve the Morrigan. And yet, she has been somewhat relentless in her efforts to convince me to serve her. I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts on this.

This is a more common question than you might think – I hear it fairly often. For all the people who are craving more information about the Great Queen and are eager to join her service, I probably hear more reluctance about serving her than anyone else. I get that. She’s intense, demanding, and she never explains why she wants something done. She just wants it – now. And then there’s that whole death and battle thing – stuff we don’t like to think about.

But it’s not just the Morrigan. It’s Odin, it’s Loki… I’ve even come across people who didn’t want to serve Cernunnos. It’s not my place to judge. Many Gods, many people, many relationships.

So what do you do if a God calls you and don’t want to serve? There are multiple answers to this question – ultimate you have to figure out which one works for you.

07 Aruba 221

You can say no

We all have sovereignty, even before the Gods. Now, there was a long Facebook discussion earlier in the week, where some polytheists I respect insist I’m misusing “sovereignty” and this meaning would better be described as “autonomy.” I’m still not sure I’m wrong, but I’m going over the material again and I’ll have more to say about this in the future. Whatever word you use, we have the inherent right to make our own decisions and to choose our own course in life.

The Gods are not bound to respect our choices, as even a casual reading of the stories of our ancestors shows. But generally they do, either out of respect or because it’s easier for them to find someone who will say yes than to compel a reluctant devotee. If you really don’t want to serve, you can say no, and maybe that will take care of it.

Maybe.

You can negotiate the terms of your service

Sometimes a deity will come to you with a specific request. More often – most often when the Morrigan is the deity in question – the request / demand is for open ended service: to be a priest, or a devotee, or a messenger, or a Druid. But there’s nothing to stop you from narrowing the terms of your service.

“I will do this but not that” … “I will make these offerings but not those” … “I will commit to you for a year but after that we renegotiate” and so on. Honestly, unless you already have an established informal relationship and you’ve built up a relationship, I recommend negotiating terms. Do not assume their goals line up with your goals.

I’ve generally been successful in negotiating terms of service, but again, not always.

You can fall back on prior commitments

While we have sovereignty (or autonomy, if you prefer), we are not the equals of the Gods. We do not have their age, experience, wisdom, or virtue. Or most relevantly to this, their power. If you fight a God and they care about winning, you will lose. It helps to have powerful allies.

I’ve told several Norse deities no, for a variety of reasons that aren’t particularly important in this post. In one case I was backed up by those to whom I am oathed who said “this one is ours and we’re keeping him plenty busy”. I think there was a “for now” at the end of that sentence, but I’ll worry about that when/if I have to.

On the other hand, the Morrigan is known to engage in horse trading with Odin, so this doesn’t always work.

You can call in outside counsel

The Anomalous Thracian suggested something I overlooked: call in a priest of the deity in question to do divination and to negotiate for you.

If a God is calling you and you want to say no, odds are good you don’t know them well. And let’s face it – communication with deities isn’t as straightforward as picking up the phone or sending an e-mail. Miscommunication is easy. A priest or other person acquainted with that God is much more likely to be able to ascertain their requests / demands at a more specific level. They are also more likely to be able to communicate your concerns in a clear manner.

I’ve done this on several occasions with good results… though not always the results I wanted.

It may be in your best interests to say yes

If a deity wants you badly enough to be persistent, it may be in your best interests to say yes. Not just because they can make your life miserable if you don’t (although that’s always a possibility), but because they may want or need you for something important, something that deep down you want to be a part of, even if it scares you. The Morrigan is many things, but I have never found her to be petty – if she wants you, there’s a good reason. She scares me at times, but I have always found her to be honorable, and I’ve always been glad I was able to contribute to the work to which she called me.

You may not have a choice

It’s not often that a deity ignores a person’s requests and claims them forcefully. But it happens. It happens often enough that I was asked to write the last post Am I Hearing a God or Am I Going Crazy? If that’s you, forget this post and go back to that one.

Why does this happen? I don’t know – I’ll leave the ethical and metaphysical reasons to the philosophers and theologians. There are always specific reasons: something needs to be done and a specific person is the best (or possibly the only) one to do it. That person will be needed for something down the road and preparations have to start now. Or maybe they’re just caught up in the Otherworldly version of the military draft.

So, if a deity calls you and you don’t want to serve, you have several options. Start working through them and see if you can come to an arrangement that works for you.

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