Breaking Up (With Gods) Is Hard To Do

Do you know the difference between education and experience? Education is when you read the fine print; experience is what you get when you don’t.” — Pete Seeger

Proof is in the pudding. By your deeds are you known. There are a lot of old sayings relating to the value of experience, which is a harsh value: a value born of last ditch necessity. I’m afraid that I tend to learn by experience. Whatever brains I possess either aren’t enough to keep me from doing something stupid, or they get a chuckle out of seeing my pitfalls.

Courtesy Jasoneppink via Flickr CC

Getting into bad relationships is something everyone does at some point in their life. Maybe your guru was abusive, your boyfriend immature or your best friend took advantage of you. Our relationships with the Gods aren’t terribly different from our relationships with other humans. There are Gods I worship who are family and with whom I share a deep, comfortable relationship of reciprocity. My relationships with these Gods form a stable base of spiritual support, guidance and identity for me. I am Hephaistos’ daughter, Baba Yaga and Selu are my beloved grandmothers, and Manannaan mac Lir is an uncle whose visits are cloaked in mystery and wonder.

Yet, these Gods recognize I sometimes need more. “Papa ‘Phaistos” knows there are things in my soul he cannot speak to and has been helping me find a Goddess to work with for mutual benefit. That has been an interesting journey that would take up another post on “dating Goddesses.” Sometimes other Gods reach out to me and I speak to my Gods to see if the relationship is beneficial. This is what this story is about.

Years ago Odin came sniffing around. I considered this relationship, reading up on him and the Norse traditions, and just felt uneasy about it. He’s been out there on the periphery ever since. Back in December I could feel him pushing to work with me again, I sought advice and wisdom, and although most of that advice was cautionary I decided to give him a chance. We began to tentatively work together. I gave him a certain amount a space, included him in my devotions and watched to see where things would go.

Now, with April Fools’ around the corner, I find I’m in a relationship that is harmful. I feel silly and ashamed, like a woman who knows better yet goes back to the husband who beats her. I don’t think Odin is bad or evil, and I know many people who have an amazing relationship with him. Yet together we are not a good mix. I should not have given him a foothold in my life. When Hephaistos gave me a “go ahead and touch the fire if you must” response I should have known not to engage with Odin. When a blacksmith gives you permission to put your hand in a forge you should really take some time to wonder at your request!

It finally got to a point where Hephaistos had to point out to me where my life isn’t working, why it isn’t working and make me confront the chaos in my life. If you invite Odin to your hall Loki, his oath-brother, is two steps behind him. For some folks that’s cool. That’s how they live, like a Dane dancing on the oars of his longboat. Not me, I need stability and groundedness and all those unsexy characteristics of less dramatic Gods. I worship and hold close to my heart the only Olympian with a “day job” whose advice is generally to just get over it and get things done. So it’s time to part ways with Odin.

Upon deciding to end the tentative relationship with Odin I already felt lighter, with greater hope and possibility. Once Hephaistos saw why I thought working with Odin would be beneficial he was able to help me find the aid I need in a much calmer and more effective way. Hephaistos, like many Gods, can’t read minds. I hadn’t told him what I was concerned about, and communication is important in every relationship.

Relationships with the Gods are two-way streets. It’s true that when Hephaistos and I, or the Horned One and I, are at cross-purposes, then it’s I who bend. Yet that doesn’t deny my True Will. I don’t have to work with a God if I feel it’s wrong. Gods don’t have to work with me just because I think they’re groovy. Sure, sometimes you have to “date” a Deity to figure that out, and sometimes one of you have to break up a bad situation. I’ve been broken up with (Artemis) and now it’s time for me to give the bad news (Odin), but regardless of the situation, Immortal or human, breaking up is hard to do…

And the lesson from this? Listen to your intuition, listen to your Gods and be willing to acknowledge when something isn’t working. Not every trial is a test of spiritual fortitude, sometimes it hurts because it just ain’t right to begin with!

About Star Foster

Polytheistic Wiccan initiated into the Ravenwood tradition, she has many opinions. Some of them are actually useful.

  • Catpriestess

    I read a fantastic book about Brynhild and Odin and Odin states that he is not a “kind” god but one who imparts wisdom to his “children.” And wisdom always comes with a price. You so wonderfully illustrated that we need to be conscious about who the deities we work with are. And yeah, I’d definitely be interested in the “dating” Goddesses. I’ve worked with Aphrodite for many years, but now she’s just too wild and untamed for me. I’ll aways revere her, but we’ve “broken up” too.

    • http://www.patheos.com/ Star Foster

      I didn’t mean so much Goddesses of love as I meant speed-dating the Goddesses. My work with Hephaistos has led me to work with Kharis, and she’s surprisingly a really good fit for me. I have tons of respect for her and her work, even when some of her “goddessyness” unnerves me.

  • Anonymous

    I read a fantastic book about Brynhild and Odin and Odin states that he is not a “kind” god but one who imparts wisdom to his “children.” And wisdom always comes with a price. You so wonderfully illustrated that we need to be conscious about who the deities we work with are. And yeah, I’d definitely be interested in the “dating” Goddesses. I’ve worked with Aphrodite for many years, but now she’s just too wild and untamed for me. I’ll aways revere her, but we’ve “broken up” too.

    • http://www.patheos.com Star Foster

      I didn’t mean so much Goddesses of love as I meant speed-dating the Goddesses. My work with Hephaistos has led me to work with Kharis, and she’s surprisingly a really good fit for me. I have tons of respect for her and her work, even when some of her “goddessyness” unnerves me.

  • Janet M.

    This is a very helpful article. Thank you.

    One of the other aspects of this kind of relationship is that sometimes a deity withdraws from me in order to make room for other energy in my life. I haven’t made a mistake and he or she isn’t angry at me, it’s just time for me to move my focus elsewhere. This has been particularly true in my work with Ereshkigal. After spending a great deal of time in the underworld, I needed to ascend again for my own health. She is still there, still in relationship with me, but we don’t work together as closely or as often.

  • Janet M.

    This is a very helpful article. Thank you.

    One of the other aspects of this kind of relationship is that sometimes a deity withdraws from me in order to make room for other energy in my life. I haven’t made a mistake and he or she isn’t angry at me, it’s just time for me to move my focus elsewhere. This has been particularly true in my work with Ereshkigal. After spending a great deal of time in the underworld, I needed to ascend again for my own health. She is still there, still in relationship with me, but we don’t work together as closely or as often.

  • http://johnfranc.blogspot.com/ John Beckett

    Those of us who grew up in a monotheistic religion can sometimes forget (intuitively if not intellectually) that the gods and goddesses aren’t perfect. Sometimes they call people who turn out to be a bad match with them. Sometimes they call people who aren’t ready for them.

    And, as with interpersonal relationships, sometimes we misread our own desires as a call from a deity.

    In any case, if a relationship isn’t working after a reasonable trial, it’s time to move on… though that doesn’t mean it’s easy. My condolences on the breakup.

  • http://johnfranc.blogspot.com/ John Beckett

    Those of us who grew up in a monotheistic religion can sometimes forget (intuitively if not intellectually) that the gods and goddesses aren’t perfect. Sometimes they call people who turn out to be a bad match with them. Sometimes they call people who aren’t ready for them.

    And, as with interpersonal relationships, sometimes we misread our own desires as a call from a deity.

    In any case, if a relationship isn’t working after a reasonable trial, it’s time to move on… though that doesn’t mean it’s easy. My condolences on the breakup.

  • Devin Hanna

    I’m in the same place. I find it hard to break with Apollo in favor of Asklepios. I think he misses me since I am such a devoted follower.

  • Devin Hanna

    I’m in the same place. I find it hard to break with Apollo in favor of Asklepios. I think he misses me since I am such a devoted follower.

  • Galina Krasskova

    You’re fortunate that your wyrd allowed you the luxury of teh choice.

  • Galina Krasskova

    You’re fortunate that your wyrd allowed you the luxury of teh choice.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_K5GAIWNKWCTL4NPB7JBQKYUUD4 Brenda D

    This is an excellent article. I had similar interactions with Odin myself. He likes to collect the smartest and best He can. This sometimes leads to Him sniffing around the ones who aren’t His in case He can manage to get them to choose Him anyway. This is His nature. May as well complain about a cat dropping a dead mouse on the stoop. And in the end, my lesson was identical. Just because He could teach me something doesn’t mean He was supposed to. Gods are like that.

    PS – Your uncle is my patron. Those visits you describe are awfully familiar. *grins*

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_K5GAIWNKWCTL4NPB7JBQKYUUD4 Brenda D

    This is an excellent article. I had similar interactions with Odin myself. He likes to collect the smartest and best He can. This sometimes leads to Him sniffing around the ones who aren’t His in case He can manage to get them to choose Him anyway. This is His nature. May as well complain about a cat dropping a dead mouse on the stoop. And in the end, my lesson was identical. Just because He could teach me something doesn’t mean He was supposed to. Gods are like that.

    PS – Your uncle is my patron. Those visits you describe are awfully familiar. *grins*

  • P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

    Thank you for sharing this, Star! This is a very good set of reflections for everyone working with deities to keep in mind…We always have choices.

    Incidentally, what is the sign pictured above supposed to depict? I’ve lived in countries that have signs like that, and I’m still confused…?!?

    • Galina Krasskova

      P. We don’t always have choices……as any shaman or godslave will tell you, but I”m very glad that most people do.

      Odin will indeed sniff around those who aren’t HIs to see what He can get. He…collects the gifted and talented. LOL. If one is not bound or claimed by Him, no harm in backing away before debt is incurred.

      • P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

        I’ve discussed this issue at great length on my blog, Galina. I know that some god-slaves and shamanic practitioners feel that’s the case, but I don’t think that’s universally true with all of them, or it isn’t true in every circumstance all the time with some of them.

        (I further think that there’s a huge degree of fuzziness when it comes to the terminology of “patrons,” “god-slaves,” “god-spouses,” and any number of other possible deity-human relationships, which are often getting treated as being the same thing when they’re not.)

        • Galina Krasskova

          of course it’s not *universally* true. I didn’t say that every single shaman or god-servant was owned, or that they were never able to make a single choice for themselves. There are few universals. But you said in your initial post that everyone has free choice and that’s not true. Not everyone has the choice to turn a God or Goddess down. I’ve discussed this at great length to, on my blog and elsewhere and being owned by Odin, i think i have some direct knowledge and 20 years of experience with the concept, thank you very much.

          I do agree, we need more understanding and exploration of the various relationships taht exist. I think there’s not only a regretable tendency to lump them together, but an expectation that everyone is going to be the same, or follow the same pattern, etc.

          I was responding specifically to your comment that everyone has a choice. That is simply not always true.

          • Galina Krasskova

            I meant to include this example in my response above: If i am told (through discernment by Odin) that…(and i’m making this situation up) I need to regularly honor the spirit of the local mountain (I live at the base of a rather large mountain), I have more or less complete freedom as to when, how, and how often I do so. I may negotiate with that spirit to find out what it wants (in fact, i surely would do so), but when I do this and how much time i give it is up to me. The command, the lack of freedom if you will, lies in the fact that I have to do this. The particulars are mine to work out. There’s a great deal of give and take and partnership involved.

            If we’re talking about what i have for breakfast, or whether i’m going to watch a Criminal MInds episode…those things are irrelevant and completely within my control. Why would the gods care (unless i’m using these things to, in some way, avoid my other obligations?

            I hope that makes a bit mroe sense. ..especially since i’m writing this in between bouts of translation homework. lol

  • P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

    Thank you for sharing this, Star! This is a very good set of reflections for everyone working with deities to keep in mind…We always have choices.

    Incidentally, what is the sign pictured above supposed to depict? I’ve lived in countries that have signs like that, and I’m still confused…?!?

    • Galina Krasskova

      P. We don’t always have choices……as any shaman or godslave will tell you, but I”m very glad that most people do.

      Odin will indeed sniff around those who aren’t HIs to see what He can get. He…collects the gifted and talented. LOL. If one is not bound or claimed by Him, no harm in backing away before debt is incurred.

      • P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

        I’ve discussed this issue at great length on my blog, Galina. I know that some god-slaves and shamanic practitioners feel that’s the case, but I don’t think that’s universally true with all of them, or it isn’t true in every circumstance all the time with some of them.

        (I further think that there’s a huge degree of fuzziness when it comes to the terminology of “patrons,” “god-slaves,” “god-spouses,” and any number of other possible deity-human relationships, which are often getting treated as being the same thing when they’re not.)

        • Galina Krasskova

          of course it’s not *universally* true. I didn’t say that every single shaman or god-servant was owned, or that they were never able to make a single choice for themselves. There are few universals. But you said in your initial post that everyone has free choice and that’s not true. Not everyone has the choice to turn a God or Goddess down. I’ve discussed this at great length to, on my blog and elsewhere and being owned by Odin, i think i have some direct knowledge and 20 years of experience with the concept, thank you very much.

          I do agree, we need more understanding and exploration of the various relationships taht exist. I think there’s not only a regretable tendency to lump them together, but an expectation that everyone is going to be the same, or follow the same pattern, etc.

          I was responding specifically to your comment that everyone has a choice. That is simply not always true.

          • Galina Krasskova

            I meant to include this example in my response above: If i am told (through discernment by Odin) that…(and i’m making this situation up) I need to regularly honor the spirit of the local mountain (I live at the base of a rather large mountain), I have more or less complete freedom as to when, how, and how often I do so. I may negotiate with that spirit to find out what it wants (in fact, i surely would do so), but when I do this and how much time i give it is up to me. The command, the lack of freedom if you will, lies in the fact that I have to do this. The particulars are mine to work out. There’s a great deal of give and take and partnership involved.

            If we’re talking about what i have for breakfast, or whether i’m going to watch a Criminal MInds episode…those things are irrelevant and completely within my control. Why would the gods care (unless i’m using these things to, in some way, avoid my other obligations?

            I hope that makes a bit mroe sense. ..especially since i’m writing this in between bouts of translation homework. lol

  • http://sarenth.wordpress.com/ Sarenth

    Although I didn’t “break up” with Anubis, it rocked my world when He told me “We’re done working really close for now, maybe even for a long while. You’re going to work with Odin.” Anubis was my patron at the time, and I thought He would be the rest of my life. Odin has taken His place in that regard, and it was something that took me some time to move through. I was intimidated, and very-much a fish out of water. I had a lot of ground to make up; I had not been listening to Odin’s calls for years since He first called to me.

    I know He can be difficult to deal with at times, and I am glad you’ve learned what He needed to teach you. Perhaps sometime down the road He will come and show you another side to teach you with. I am glad, regardless, that you are in a better place.

  • http://sarenth.wordpress.com/ sarenth

    Although I didn’t “break up” with Anubis, it rocked my world when He told me “We’re done working really close for now, maybe even for a long while. You’re going to work with Odin.” Anubis was my patron at the time, and I thought He would be the rest of my life. Odin has taken His place in that regard, and it was something that took me some time to move through. I was intimidated, and very-much a fish out of water. I had a lot of ground to make up; I had not been listening to Odin’s calls for years since He first called to me.

    I know He can be difficult to deal with at times, and I am glad you’ve learned what He needed to teach you. Perhaps sometime down the road He will come and show you another side to teach you with. I am glad, regardless, that you are in a better place.

  • Galina Krasskova

    btw, Star, i love the Seeger quote. That’s sooooo how Odin teaches…..

  • Galina Krasskova

    btw, Star, i love the Seeger quote. That’s sooooo how Odin teaches…..

  • Illiezeulette

    I wish you had gone into a little more detail about *how* exactly you break up with Gods (ritual? interactive meditation? astral projection?), but maybe that’s too personal to share, and I respect that. I’m so glad you brought this topic up… I’ve had to move on past Shiva, and I felt really awkward during that transition. I feel better knowing that other people have gone through similar moments.

  • Illiezeulette

    I wish you had gone into a little more detail about *how* exactly you break up with Gods (ritual? interactive meditation? astral projection?), but maybe that’s too personal to share, and I respect that. I’m so glad you brought this topic up… I’ve had to move on past Shiva, and I felt really awkward during that transition. I feel better knowing that other people have gone through similar moments.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_UADALMDNYYU5CCNCAHQQIU665U happydog

    I think this is very interesting and I appreciate your writing it. I have never experienced a “breakup” per se, but over time my spiritual path has evolved away from some things and towards others.

    Some years ago I was redirected by Isis, who I had been working with for a while, to Kali when Kali came calling on me. I was completely mystified as to why, but I learned that Kali was going to teach me some things that I definitely needed to know about, which ended up with Kali guiding me toward the Feri tradition, where she is revered.

    Nowadays I feel a great affinity for Thelema and have become fascinated by it. If you had told me when I started out that one day I would be seriously considering a ceremonial magick tradition I would have laughed at you.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_UADALMDNYYU5CCNCAHQQIU665U happydog

    I think this is very interesting and I appreciate your writing it. I have never experienced a “breakup” per se, but over time my spiritual path has evolved away from some things and towards others.

    Some years ago I was redirected by Isis, who I had been working with for a while, to Kali when Kali came calling on me. I was completely mystified as to why, but I learned that Kali was going to teach me some things that I definitely needed to know about, which ended up with Kali guiding me toward the Feri tradition, where she is revered.

    Nowadays I feel a great affinity for Thelema and have become fascinated by it. If you had told me when I started out that one day I would be seriously considering a ceremonial magick tradition I would have laughed at you.

  • Kathy_Nance

    Thanks for this post. I’ve had Odin lurking around the edges for years, but working with Him just hasn’t felt right. Yet, I have a developing relationship with Freya that has been very fruitful. She fits in well with Inanna and Aphrodite.

    Diana Paxson had an interesting take on Odin and his “recruiting;” basically that with the material world in peril, Odin senses chaos on a Gotterdammerung-inducing level. And that yes, He does want all hands on deck including the best and brightest to prevent this. I try not to catastrophize, but it’s hard not to agree that she may be on to something there.

    The comments about the Gods not being “perfect” are interesting to me as well. It depends on how we define “perfect.” I remember being told over and over during my Christian upbringing that our God was perfect. And yet, he seemed to sponsor a lot of cruelty in the Old Testament. The “perfection” of Jehovah/Yahweh was not to be questioned, or this perfect, understanding, loving deity would send us to a place of eternal torment.

    It reminded me this morning, as I thought about it, of the translation of the old cuneiform story of Inanna’s Descent to the underworld. As she is divested of each symbol of her power, she is told not to question because the ways of the Underworld are “perfect.” Perfect seems to mean simply “beyond your understanding, and not to be questioned.” It also means a surrender of Inanna’s physical, mental and Divine power to another, which renders her vulnerable and mortal.

    There is an element of blind trust when we’re working with Deity or beings that exist on a different plane–but that’s why it’s important to choose our spiritual partners carefully. And also to have the discernment to know when experiences that seem negative are part of the lesson, or are signs that it’s time to break up.

    Good things to think about. Thanks for bringing it up, Star. I’m sure you’ll bounce back and be ready to date another Deity eventually. And I’m sure Odin will be just fine, too. I imagine he’s whistling down the the path with flowers for someone else already.

  • Kathy_Nance

    Thanks for this post. I’ve had Odin lurking around the edges for years, but working with Him just hasn’t felt right. Yet, I have a developing relationship with Freya that has been very fruitful. She fits in well with Inanna and Aphrodite.

    Diana Paxson had an interesting take on Odin and his “recruiting;” basically that with the material world in peril, Odin senses chaos on a Gotterdammerung-inducing level. And that yes, He does want all hands on deck including the best and brightest to prevent this. I try not to catastrophize, but it’s hard not to agree that she may be on to something there.

    The comments about the Gods not being “perfect” are interesting to me as well. It depends on how we define “perfect.” I remember being told over and over during my Christian upbringing that our God was perfect. And yet, he seemed to sponsor a lot of cruelty in the Old Testament. The “perfection” of Jehovah/Yahweh was not to be questioned, or this perfect, understanding, loving deity would send us to a place of eternal torment.

    It reminded me this morning, as I thought about it, of the translation of the old cuneiform story of Inanna’s Descent to the underworld. As she is divested of each symbol of her power, she is told not to question because the ways of the Underworld are “perfect.” Perfect seems to mean simply “beyond your understanding, and not to be questioned.” It also means a surrender of Inanna’s physical, mental and Divine power to another, which renders her vulnerable and mortal.

    There is an element of blind trust when we’re working with Deity or beings that exist on a different plane–but that’s why it’s important to choose our spiritual partners carefully. And also to have the discernment to know when experiences that seem negative are part of the lesson, or are signs that it’s time to break up.

    Good things to think about. Thanks for bringing it up, Star. I’m sure you’ll bounce back and be ready to date another Deity eventually. And I’m sure Odin will be just fine, too. I imagine he’s whistling down the the path with flowers for someone else already.

  • joyful_storm

    It’s hard to be cut off, and it’s hard to follow through on the need to cut off. Deities can be so compelling that even when our better sense tells us it’s not a healthy attraction we can sometimes find it hard to break free.

    I believe the end of my tentative work with Odin was that the Being that told me to go learn runes essentially interceding and saying “No, not to that degree.” *yank* Um, oops. I got an amused “Can’t blame Me for trying” vibe and that was about the end of it. (Aside from feeling a bit of an idiot, but that’s all on me to sort out.)

  • joyful_storm

    It’s hard to be cut off, and it’s hard to follow through on the need to cut off. Deities can be so compelling that even when our better sense tells us it’s not a healthy attraction we can sometimes find it hard to break free.

    I believe the end of my tentative work with Odin was that the Being that told me to go learn runes essentially interceding and saying “No, not to that degree.” *yank* Um, oops. I got an amused “Can’t blame Me for trying” vibe and that was about the end of it. (Aside from feeling a bit of an idiot, but that’s all on me to sort out.)

  • Amanda

    IMO, this is one of the big perks of polytheism. Monotheists just have their one god. If you don’t get along with that one god, you’re damned. It’s either Jesus (or Allah, or YHWH) or nobody. But for polytheists, if one god isn’t working out, we can always try more.

    I have wondered if some gods are more inclined to collect people than others, even if they end up “handing them off” to another god later on. It seems to me that Odin and Anubis do this a lot, just from what I’ve heard/read from other pagans.

    Odin collected me. I was a Wiccan before, but he decided I should be a heathen instead. Thankfully he’s not especially posessive of me, and has “introduced” me to various other deities to add to my spiritual family. (Though I still consider Odin to be a father figure for me.)

    Also, I kind of disagree with Galina Krasskova on this. I think we do always have a choice, though it may be that if we choose to leave a deity, we may regret it later on. But saying we don’t have any choice at all sounds too Abrahamic to me. Though I guess with THAT deity, we supposedly can choose to BURN IN HELL FOR ALL ETERNITY if we don’t worship him. I would hope that our gods are better than that.

  • Amanda

    IMO, this is one of the big perks of polytheism. Monotheists just have their one god. If you don’t get along with that one god, you’re damned. It’s either Jesus (or Allah, or YHWH) or nobody. But for polytheists, if one god isn’t working out, we can always try more.

    I have wondered if some gods are more inclined to collect people than others, even if they end up “handing them off” to another god later on. It seems to me that Odin and Anubis do this a lot, just from what I’ve heard/read from other pagans.

    Odin collected me. I was a Wiccan before, but he decided I should be a heathen instead. Thankfully he’s not especially posessive of me, and has “introduced” me to various other deities to add to my spiritual family. (Though I still consider Odin to be a father figure for me.)

    Also, I kind of disagree with Galina Krasskova on this. I think we do always have a choice, though it may be that if we choose to leave a deity, we may regret it later on. But saying we don’t have any choice at all sounds too Abrahamic to me. Though I guess with THAT deity, we supposedly can choose to BURN IN HELL FOR ALL ETERNITY if we don’t worship him. I would hope that our gods are better than that.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=548327754 A’ashem Muti

    I broke up with the Jesus-god.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=548327754 A’ashem Muti

    I broke up with the Jesus-god.

  • http://profiles.google.com/chris.highland Chris Highland

    I like the way you think! Deity Divorce can take years of recovery. My narrative is Life After Faith.

  • http://profiles.google.com/chris.highland Chris Highland

    I like the way you think! Deity Divorce can take years of recovery. My narrative is Life After Faith.


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