The Toxic Narrative of “Being Chosen” by Gods and Bad Boys

Hello, beautiful creatures. I’d like to take a moment to talk about an aspect of theurgy and polytheistic praxis that doesn’t get as much attention as I think it deserves.

There’s a narrative, popular in some Pagan and polytheist circles, which depicts the relationship between gods and their devotees in a curious, largely unidirectional way. In this narrative, a god will choose a particular person to be their devotee, then proceed to pursue that person until they give in to the deity’s advances. The character of this pursuit varies in description, ranging from stalking to coercion to overt assault, but the relationship being described always seems less reminiscent of “deity and devotee” than of “abuser and victim,” or possibly “predator and prey.” The underlying driver of this narrative is that the devotee ultimately has no say in whether or not to be in relationship with the deity.

They don’t get to choose, you see. They’ve been chosen. Of all the possible devotees in the modern polytheist/Pagan/practitioner community, willing or otherwise, this god chose them.

Now, I’m not here to kink-shame anyone, nor to tell anyone that they’re doing religion or spirituality wrong1. However, once we’ve embarked on a narrative in which we’ve cast ourselves as powerless protagonists at the mercy of domineering, socially inept aggressors who control the relationship, I think it’s necessary to admit to ourselves that we’ve passed beyond the realm of “differences in practice” and entered into a pseudo-romantic fairytale, one which is both psychologically and spiritually toxic. This is the theological equivalent of a wearyingly common theme found in a whole host of romantic fictions, from Rebel Without a Cause to, gods help us all, Twilight: the “bad boy” trope.

Pictured: Simon, the god of hairdos... and possibly of moody, glittery teenage boy vampires. (Image via Pixabay.)
Pictured: Simon, the god of hairdos… and possibly of moody, glittery teenage boy vampires. (Image via Pixabay.)
I’m guessing that most readers are already familiar with this concept, purely by virtue of being awake and aware in the early 21st century. Just in case you aren’t, though, here’s the short version: some folks derive both personal validation and self-esteem from the fantasy—or, in some cases, the reality—of being romantically involved with someone who’s just bad news, relationship-wise. They’re emotionally stunted, they’re dangerous, they’re “troubled,” they’re emotionally absent, or they have some other personality issue which makes them fundamentally a poor choice for an emotionally intimate relationship. The kicker, though, is that it’s precisely this unsuitability which makes them such a desirable relationship partner. The risk of being harmed—emotionally, financially, even physically—makes the dalliance far more exciting and gratifying than being involved with someone safe and, well, boring. The thrill comes from the danger, but also from that feeling of being chosen. Remember, of all the people this moody, dangerous, emotionally distant partner could’ve chosen, they chose us. The “bad boy” doesn’t like anybody, but they like us… and that makes us feel wanted, desired, validated. It makes us feel special, and “feeling special” can be intoxicating, exhilarating, incredibly seductive.

This relationship trope is something of a cliché, both because it’s been done to death in popular fiction and because it’s often cited as one of the reasons why “nice guys” can’t find suitable romantic partners2. It’s old and tired, but somehow it persists, to the point where some folks actually enact it in their own relationship lives. They find themselves chasing a “bad” boy, girl, or other, or they find themselves stepping into the “bad” role in order to get the kinds of attention they crave.

Now, take this cliché and project it into the realm of the numinous.

Bad news bears, right?

As I said, I’m not interested in kink-shaming or relationship-shaming, but if you wouldn’t let a romantic partner treat you a certain way, I’d certainly look askance at a god treating you similarly. I promise you, any relationship dynamic that looks skeevy, unhealthy, and sketchy as hell between two humans isn’t going to look any better between a human and a superhuman entity.

Take care of yourselves, dear ones, until next time. ♥


  1. Other than the Asatru Folk Assembly and their ilk, because seriously, fuck those people.
  2. Any inherent unsuitability on the part of these self-identified “nice guys” is entirely overlooked, of course.
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  • Maria Noah

    I agree. 1000%. Very proud of your work here

    Having been abused in relationships all over the place, I now do not allow ANY being into my life if they insist on my being in awe or fear of them.

    Spiritually, I now have Friends other humans would consider gods. But they tell me they hate being treated like they’re scary. They ARE scary. But They assure me no being isn’t under the correct conditions. They came to me, yes. But I wasn’t chosen. I chose to work with them after an inquiry was made of me. I am an equal partner.

    If your relationship (in any plane of reality) fits the cycle of violence (link here in case you want to know .. btw, it always starts with the abuser throwing glamor/charm at you in the Honeymoon Phase. http://www.thefyi.org/cycle-domestic-violence-infographic/ )
    Get safe.

    You ALWAYS have a choice. Giving up your own power because someone else is bigger, stronger, scarier, you fear dire consequences from them – trust me.

    I’ve left 2 abusive human husbands & one nasty ‘god.’ Own your power. Make your choice. Establish right relation with yourself and with everything else. It won’t be easy or safe. Reality never is.

    But it will be so much better once you learn who you are and your full reality. (I’m 25 years out from my hell – you can do this.) Love and support to all my siblings struggling through.

    Thank you for your hard work, Micha Magdalene. You are amazing!

    • https://www.patheos.com/blogs/mishamagdalene Misha Magdalene

      You’re entirely too kind, but thank you. ^_^ I’m glad you’re in a healthier, happier place!

      • Maria Noah

        Misha! I remembered a principle I live by. And which my Spirit Friends live by.

        Right Relation. It can be called Balance, though there are shades of meaning most North Americans miss.

        Getting to Right Relation means doing right by yourself. And also by every other living being (and ‘inanimate’ being) in the multiverse. This gets painful and monumentally sacrificial at times. But it is not abuse.

        Reminds me of a workout at the gym. There’s the pain of becoming healthy and balanced. And then there’s the pain of breaking a bone.

        We learn what to do and what not to do (and Who to trust and Who not to) when we pay attention to Right Relation.

        Honor those who deserve it. Those who don’t will throw a fit about us being traitors. But humans are no one’s rightful slave. Period.

        It’s cool to disagree with me. I won’t be replying to (or reading) comments from anyone but Misha. Simply because I meant this as private for the author, anyway.

  • https://twitter.com/TheImperialCult The Imperial Cult

    Falsely claiming to be chosen by a god is suicidally foolish. It’s also foolish to expect a god to grant you material gain on a planet where most of the mortals have chosen to commit treason against the gods.

  • Contra Indicator

    The gods aren’t always nice, but they are still gods. If there are devotees for a god and it seems to demand grueling sacrifice that we personally would not countenance, that’s still between that devotee and their deity. I would never castrate myself for a god, but some gods call for that from devotees. I would not abstain from eating to the point of death, but some gods seem to call for that from their devotees. I don’t think that I would drink or drug myself into a life of financial ruin, frenzy and insanity, but some gods call for that.

    Is that concept really that difficult? Or is it only difficult because we imagine that the gods are always benign in their demands, or are always concerned about our personal well being? We’re talking about devotion after all, a level that is somewhat unique. Maybe a word of caution, but can we simply say that this is a toxic narrative and delegitimize it? I don’t think that we can. Not if we think that the gods are real.

    • https://www.patheos.com/blogs/mishamagdalene Misha Magdalene

      I don’t argue, here or elsewhere, that there aren’t gods who call for such things. In fact, I’ve made a point of explicitly stating that some gods ask for things that most folks won’t be interested in giving them, such as self-annihilation or self-mutilation. I’ve also said, quite explicitly, that we have the ability to say no. Not without consequence, perhaps, but that’s one of the hazards of involving oneself with gods.

      And yes, I can simply say that what I’ve described is a toxic narrative. You’re free to disagree with me, of course, but be sure you’re disagreeing with what I actually wrote. Suggesting that it’s a toxic narrative is hardly tantamount to questioning the reality of the gods.

    • https://www.patheos.com/blogs/mishamagdalene Misha Magdalene

      As for the gods not being nice, my most recent post may speak to your concerns: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/mishamagdalene/2017/12/notallgods/