Terms of Service- A Little Polemic About Being a Godslave

One of the biggest issues that people seem to have with godslavery, over and above the apparent lack of agency, is that to many, it implies the Gods are cruel, capricious, even sociopathic. My own experience of Odin, even at the harshest point of ordeal has been anything but. Yes, He can be merciless. All the Gods can be (read the lore, if you doubt that). But He can also be passionately loving, and He is, most especially when He is asking His people to do that which is most painful. I would caution against casting human mores onto the Gods: They are rarely if ever cruel for cruelty’s sake. What we interpret as harshness may be anything but; it may be the deepest expression of loving kindness on the part of the Deity in question: I know my ordeals were; and I know other godatheow who would say the same.

In other venues, I have written extensively about Ordeal work, and often I talk about the dynamic of submission, particularly the use of pain as a tool in this process. The ongoing argument against godatheow tends to be twinned with a great hostility toward ordeal work (even though not every godslave is an ordeal worker). In both cases, it is the loss of personal agency involved that creates the conflict. The submission to pain as an act of personal empowerment raises many questions not only about the nature of pain but also about the nature of personal agency. A clear distinction must be drawn between “pain as a cause of action,” and “pain as a kind of action.”(1) It is this latter manifestation of pain encompassed by Odin’s story. Here, pain is used not as an externally repressive measure, but as an expression of personal sovereignty.(2) Anthropologist Talal Asad notes that ‘when we say that someone is suffering, we commonly suppose that he or she is not an agent. To suffer…is, so we usually think, to be in a passive state – to be an object, not a subject.”(3) In Odin, however, the reader is presented with the image of a suffering body engaged in an act of power, or, as modern ordeal workers might phrase it: ‘hunting for power.”(4) In such a context, pain loses its emotional charge and becomes a consciously applied tool in a greater process of development. Pain becomes something more than a private experience, or an experience of utter loss of control. It becomes an act of power, one that sets the defining tone for an entire religious tradition. Of course, to those outside of this dynamic, accepting the fact that either godslavery or ordeal can be a holy act means completely re-examining everything we think we know about the Gods.

The Gods are real. They are not manifestations of one’s unconscious. They are not archetypes. They are not imaginary beings. They are real. They have personalities, likes, dislikes, will. Oh boy do They have will! What’s more, They aren’t always nice. Not only can They act in ways that might be interpreted as non-consensual, They often do. Many people, even (perhaps most especially godslaves) struggle terribly with this potential for non-consensuality. This may not be the way it works for everyone, but there are Deities (like Odin) who won’t hesitate a moment to force Their will on those who are lawful prey to Them. Can one back out? Sure. But the price is often much greater and much worse than one is willing to pay. It’s not a matter of “safe, sane, consensual,” or of “risk aware consensual kink,” though I have found that BDSM terminology can be very helpful from a psychological standpoint in coming to comprehend the type of relationship one might find oneself in with one’s Gods. It goes well beyond such neatly defined territory. I believe our ancestors would have understood this well.

At the same time, I think that the question of consensuality is a rather grey area, a keenly balanced knife’s edge upon which the spiritworker walks: I say I’m a godslave because I’m owned and to Him and Him alone do I place myself in thrall, but Odin gave me a chance to run away from it years ago. I chose not to take it. I cannot say He wasn’t fair: He did give me one chance. So how much of the bondage is my own personal agency and consent, and His will? I don’t know. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that so long as I’m not stupid enough to render myself useless to Him, that bond is now irreversible (on my end at least).

Happily, there is slowly starting to be more discussion about the various manifestations of the Deity/servant relationship. Silence Maestas put out a book called ‘Walking the Heartroad” by Asphodel Press that discusses at least half a dozen, if not more variations in the ways that Gods can interact with their servants. It may be that for some of us the godatheow pattern is the most common, but that doesn’t mean it’s the only one. Even within my own relationship with Odin, it’s not *just* that, we relate on a plethora of levels. He is my Master, Teacher, Beloved, my Lord (though at the bottom, deepest level, when all else is stripped away, it is Master/slave). For me, this is incredibly fulfilling. I am closer to Him than I ever thought possible precisely because I was able to accept being bound as His godatheow. I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’m well aware, however that for someone else, being bound in such a fashion might actually hinder and harm them in their spiritual Work. This is why I say: leave it in the hands of the Gods. They know us better than we know ourselves.

I think that prevailing idea that A) the Gods are all sweet and nice and B) that They’d never force us to do anything are two of the most damaging ideas within Paganism. They’re also ideas that I think our ancient forebears would find laughable and quite possibly dangerous and unlucky. There is nothing safe about this work. Nor is there anything safe about the sacred. I think our ancestors understood that far, far better than people do now. But we’re learning, slowly but surely, we’re learning.

Footnotes:

1. Talal, Asad, (2003). Formations of the Secular. California: Stanford University Press, p. 69.
2. Asad, p. 71.
3. Asad, p. 79.
4. Krasskova, currently unpublished article “Ordeal Work, Body Modification, and the Use of Pain in Modern Norse Paganism.” First presented October 4, 2008 at a religious studies conference at Ohio State University.

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  • Rinan

    Sorry Galia. I lived in Algeria N Africa for 3 summers and 3 x-mass vacations. Just can’t see a woman being a slave. You wouldn’t have believed the way I saw women being treated. You won’t read this, yet, in my very, very, new to Asatru thoughts, I hope you get away from Odin. I respect Odin to the hilt, but get away.

  • http://krasskova.weebly.com/blog.html Galina

    You’ve obviously missed the point. I am content with my service. This is my portion. There is nothing greater in one’s life than serving the Gods–however that service may manifest. I would think it a great wrong to ever try to flee. I am content with my place.

    I hope that i never “get away from Odin.” I would curse the very thought.

  • http://krasskova.weebly.com/blog.html Galina

    Rinan, i would also point out that my relationship with Odin is far more complex than any one word can describe. Yes, I am at core a godatheow, but He is also my beloved, my teacher, my companion, my Lord, and a thousand other things. It’s multi-faceted as it should be. In my day to day life, in my interactions with Him i dont’ fixate on any one of those things. I just do what needs to be done.

  • Sorn

    I participate in a heathen group that has monthly discussions on different topics, and I think the concept of godatheow would be a worthwhile one. I’ve been trying to find additional information, particularly in the Eddas, sagas, and early histories, and I’ve been coming up short. Google searches mostly point me to other blog posts you’ve written on the subject. Do translators usually translate it as something different (like the way godhi is often translated as “priest”)?

    If you don’t mind, could you point me towards sources in the literature (or perhaps histories or archaeology or similar) for the idea of godslave? It would be very helpful, and I would appreciate it very much.

    Thanks for your time,

    Sorn

  • http://krasskova.weebly.com/blog.html Galina

    Sorn, the term is a modern one. THere is nothing in the surviving literature on being deity owned. unfortunately, there is precious little about devotional work at all.

    there are some mediterranean analogues but the term itself is something that we have created as part of the contemporary resurgence.

  • Sorn

    I agree that it’s unfortunate that so little has survived to the present day. Thank you for your response.

  • HarleyQuinn

    Thank you for this post. I’ve struggled for the last few years; not only with the type of relationship I feel I must have with Him, but also with the God that has basically told me in no uncertain terms “You’re mine.” I know that I must submit, that my soul and this God demand such a relationship, but there’s a part of me…a selfish, rebellious, rather small minded human part that find it unimaginable this God is ‘the One’ and have fought what feels like the inevitable. I’m curious, how did Odin find you or you find Odin? Weere you comfortable with Him?

  • http://krasskova.weebly.com/blog.html Galina

    @HarleyQuinn, I think that everyone has moments of rebellion and “selfishness.” we’re human and being snapped up by a Deity in this way is a difficult thing sometimes. It is a beautiful and immensely fulfilling thing, but also difficult and at times wrenching. It runs the gamut–like any intimate relationship. Prayer comes in handy, having a good support group or, if you are *very* lucky, a mentor also helps–whatever you can do to be a partner in the process rather than resistant is always good. Odin found me and yes, i was comfortable with Him. I am a creature of extremes in my emotions and that suits Him well, i think. I also had the benefit of having Loki specifically and tangentially other Deities “break me in” so to speak, gently and sometimes not so gently preparing the way for Odin. That was an immense help, to a degree that I only now realize after a couple of decades…

  • Brynhild Tudor

    Hi Sorn, check out this website. http://www.cauldronfarm.com The creator is also owned, although by a different deity. He wrote the Pathwalker’s Guide to the Nine Worlds and other books that hopefully will help you.

  • Brynhild Tudor

    Hi Sorn, check out this website. http://www.cauldronfarm.com The creator is also owned, although by a different deity. He wrote the Pathwalker’s Guide to the Nine Worlds and other books that hopefully will help you.


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