Disclaimer: I’m name dropping because I like to pretend I’m cool and have friends. The other night, Mortellus and I took a deep dive into the topic of two-way communication with the gods. We follow very different paths (though there’s quite a few crossroads along the way), but we both get pings and pokes from deity. There’s a common theme cropping up in discussion among pagans and heathens centers around something called a “god-phone”: is it real? Are people delusional or just looking for attention? Why haven’t I gotten any calls?
People often express dismay and frustration at the lack of “hearing” or experiencing the gods directly and they ask whether or not this means they should give up on heathenry or paganism. Short answer: no. Long answer: keep reading.
Setting Up a Strong Signal
I experience more than my fair share of direct communication, but it hasn’t always been that way. I know what it’s like to make offerings and pray and wait for a sign or a word or some inkling of being noticed by the powers that be. I understand the frustration at wondering if you’re a “good” heathen, if you’re doing things right, if there’s a reason you’re being ignored by the gods. I’ve been heathen for most of my 38-year-long life (minus the four year span as a teen when I gave Catholicism a go because I was feeling rebellious) but I didn’t actually start devoting energy into the gifting cycle until I was 18. In the first 16ish years of active practice, I rarely received communication from the gods, and when I did, it was pretty much only in meditative trance state when I was actively seeking guidance for major choices.
What I write about — the chatter with Loki and Sigyn, being more aware and more connected to their presence and commentary — is pretty recent. It’s only been happening for a few years, and it started with Loki’s proposition when he broke through my thick skull after a 3 hour long blót. It happens because my practice has evolved into being the absolute center of everything in my life. That’s a choice I’ve made, and an inevitable choice given my genuine desire to become a nun when I dabbled with Catholicism. A life devoted to service and building an all-encompassing relationship with god/s has been one of my deepest desires since I was 14 years old.
It’s taken a literal lifetime of hard work and intense devotion to develop the kind of relationship I have with my God Squad and to have open lines of communication. There’s perhaps a bit of natural openness to the spiritual realm, too: when I was a child, I picked up on different energy patterns and signatures, as it were (and was alarmed when I converted to Christianity and those energies vanished as if I’d been dropped into a vacuum). Those energies returned when I began actively working with the gods, and in time I was able to differentiate between them. Took a while, but I learned how to tell who’s around, who’s paying attention, or who’s simply passing by and nodding “hello” as they wander about.
Am I a head case? Probably. Am I special or chosen because my god-phone’s in working order? Abso-freaking-lutely not. I’m pretty normal, I just put in a lot of work and devote a lot of time and energy to the gods (and that time and energy are luxuries I’m lucky to have – not many people want to dance on the line of monastic life). Same with Mortellus – she has devoted decades to her spiritual work, and the lines of communication have only started flowing back to her in the last several years. Sometimes you get a resounding response after your first ritual, sometimes it takes years. If the path inspires you, keep at it, and don’t worry about not having the same results as the other travelers around you.
The Calls Aren’t Constant
That said, even with years and years of active practice and building relationships, oathing myself as closely bound to one twerp in particular and dedicating my energy and deeds to him, I’m not constantly in his presence or being bombarded with running commentary from any of them (and thank the gods for that!). A great response I’ve seen to people feeling inadequate due to the lack of direct communication bears remembering: what people post and share online in social forums and blogs tend to be the “highlight reel” of daily life. When something interesting or exciting happens, you want to talk about it and share it. That presents a skewed perspective about what it’s like to follow a religious or spiritual path.
I’m guilty of it myself – I’ve written so much about feeling Loki and Sigyn on a regular basis, have shared snippets of what they’ve “said” and what they’ve conveyed. But they’re not constant presences. Regular, yes, noticable, yes. Round the clock every day? Hel no. They’re not stalkers, and I can’t even stand being around myself all the time! I just share the interesting encounters and tidbits because they’re better material than all of the times I spend hours looking at memes and perusing Reddit. And definitely more enjoyable to write about than the mind-numbing mundane nonsense I encounter at work.
Don’t Just Stare at the Phone: Keep Busy!
Not having any mystical experiences or direct dialogue from on high doesn’t make you any less of a heathen than those who do have two-way communication. It doesn’t make you any less valid or any less worthy, it doesn’t mean the gods are ignoring you. You’re not doing anything wrong. You’re just having different experiences, and that’s okay. What matters most is exploring and adopting philosophies and world views that resonate with you, and you honor gods and goddesses that inspire you. Heathenry is more than deities: it’s about community, and caring for the people and the world around you. And the more involved you get with your community and help others, the more you grow as a spiritual being, and the stronger your bonds with the gods.
While I usually mean “other heathens” when I talk about community, it doesn’t exclude the larger community in which I live and work. My community also consists of coworkers and the patrons at work, other funeral directors and clergy of all stripes and faiths, people I smile at and chat with when out and about doing errands, my Christian and atheist and everything-in-between friends. Community is the world you live in. And living heathen in a diverse community is still service to the gods and ancestors: hospitality, integrity, fighting hatred and destructive ideologies, helping others, building bonds of frith to strengthen the abilities of everyone as a whole. These things matter, and this is what it’s all about.
“Phones” Aren’t the Only Form of Communication
Remember, not everyone who has direct communication from the gods will have the same kind of interaction. Remember those fascinating articles about how some people have internal monologues while others think in shapes and associations? As someone whose thoughts are narrated, it makes sense that I end up “hearing” them by way of distinct thoughts in a different “voice” that isn’t mine. I never “see” any of the gods unless I’ve reached a certain point in meditative trance (save the one time I slipped into trance without consciously doing so), and even then they’re not solid in appearance but rather tend to have shifting features. I’m not a visual thinker, but maybe you are. So you might not “hear” them, but they’ll speak to you in symbols and images and associations.
Others have direct communication by way of omens, animal sightings, dreams, a bizarre series of coincidences. The gods may make themselves known in a random rush of euphoria, or an overwhelming sense of awe and wonder at something, or an unexpected emotional gut punch upon hearing a certain song lyric or riff.
Mortellus also pointed out that sometimes people are getting communication from the gods, but either don’t trust the message or don’t trust their inner voice. It’s easy to feel delusional, and discernment is crucial. We (and other spiritual people I know) don’t attribute every random whim or emotion to the divine– we analyze the Hel out of it, seek outside advice, turn to divination, and sometimes just scream at the universe. Eventually you learn to differentiate between wishful thinking and actual spiritual influence, but it’s always helpful to have people to help you hash through the weirdness.
Don’t Be Discouraged from Being a Better You
Yes, I have regular interactions with Loki and Sigyn. I have occasional interactions with Freyja and Odhinn, and rare moments with other gods and goddesses. Sometimes I seek them out when I do my daily devotions and/or offerings. Sometimes they’re popping by out of curiosity about what’s going on around me. It’s not all day every day, and it’s usually just impressions of their mood or curiosity/nosiness rather than verbal commentary.
I’ve always paid attention to the energies around me, which is a significant part of why Christianity was such a failed experiment for me – I hated feeling cut off from wherever those energies came from, and I felt like a fool talking into the void when I’d pray. When I reverted back to my father’s beliefs and my grandfather’s faith, that feeling of connectedness came rushing back, and I was so relieved to be able to feel again that I started the work of active practice and offerings and working with and for the gods. And I assure you, it’s hard work. It requires considerable time and effort, and I have to devote a significant amount of my own energy into it. After experiencing a few years feeling “cut off,” I was (and remain) determined to never again feel like I exist in a vacuum.
I’m 38 years old. All but roughly 4 of those years have been spent as some flavor of Norse heathen. And it’s only been in the last 3 years that I’ve had regular, distinct communication from the gods outside of meditative trance work. It’s a relationship that takes time and dedication. It’s a relationship I’ve given my whole self to, to the point of being the closest thing heathens have to nuns. It’s an all day, every day conscious devotion, by choice. It’s hard work, consistent work, and demanding work, but it’s worth it to me. The payoff is, in addition to being a stronger, better, more capable and confident member of my communities (heathen and mundane), is being very attuned to the deities with whom I’ve worked the most and the longest.
Again: everyone experiences the gods differently. It can take a long time and a lot of devoted effort to “hear” or notice the presence of the gods in your life. So you read a blog or a forum thread about someone’s mystical experience and wonder why you’ve never had that kind of contact with the divine? Maybe you’re not at that point in your spiritual development yet, or maybe the way the gods reach out to you is a vastly different method – you’re waiting for a phone call while they’ve been trying to send carrier pigeons (carrier corvids?). It doesn’t make you any less valid or worthy or heathen just because you haven’t experienced the same. Don’t give up on yourself or your path if heathenry provides a worldview that moves you to become a better version of yourself.
Just because you don’t notice the gods in the mundane world doesn’t mean they don’t notice you. They see you. They’re watching you grow. And they’re glad for the good you do and offer. If you want to hear them, then listen and give it time. Be patient, these things don’t often happen overnight. Keep building the relationships, because you get back what you put in. There’s a reason “a gift for a gift” is such a cliche statement in our religion. Put in the time, dedicate your energy, and pay attention. Eventually you’ll notice how much you’ve grown as a person, how integral you are to your community, and then you’ll absolutely recognize the influence of the gods in your life.
Most importantly, don’t get yourself down. Take care of yourself. And always remember your worth and value to the community, to the ancestors, and to the gods.