Happily Heathen: The Positives and Negatives of Dedicating to a Deity

Happily Heathen: The Positives and Negatives of Dedicating to a Deity October 9, 2015

As my name implies, I am dedicated to the Vanic Goddess Freya and consider myself Her daughter. My spiritual path has always been guided by a desire for a direct, personal relationship with deity (not unlike that of the Christian or Sufi mystics), so my relationship with Freya is as close as, if not closer than, my relationships with my family members and my partner.

a painting of freya and freyer ridinga chariot pulled by cats and a boar respectively
Freya and Freyr / Igor Ozhiganov

However, my relationship with Her is also closer than my relationship with Her brother Freyr, to whom I’m also dedicated. My relationship with Him is much newer and less intense, and fills a different role in my spiritual life. There are a wide range of levels of devotion and types of devotion among devotional polytheists. (I would argue that this kind of relationship, by default, has to be one of our most idiosyncratic of practices.) Just like relationships between humans, relationships between humans and deities–even devotional or dedicated relationships–can vary greatly. Just as you can be involved in a many different friendships for a variety of reasons, so can people be devoted with the Gods in many different ways. The experiences and opinions I share here are really only reflective of me and my relationship with Freya, who has been my primary Goddess.

When I first started working for her, I was full of zeal and love for Her and I couldn’t really figure out why everyone did not want to honor Her and devote themselves to Her. (Laine deLaney of The Lady’s Quill wrote a lovely description of Her here.) Now that I have a solid devotional relationship with Her and have been working for Her for a couple of years, however, my rosy cloud has passed. I have to admit that there in fact some negatives to being dedicated to a deity, even a beautiful, amazing, lovely deity like Freya. However, as John Beckett says, deities are not “safe,” and being a polytheist means in many ways that you have to see all of a deity, not just the nice bits. (I have a whole list of pros and cons for working for a Goddess of Love and Beauty, but that’ll have to be another post.)

a china tea cup on a saucer
Peterhof service 03” by Andrey KorzunOwn work

Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0
via Wikimedia Commons.

Working for any deity is tough work, though, if you truly turn your heart and your life over to that deity. You will run into a lot of unexpected challenges, and trials. (As Sufi mystic Hafiz, says in one of my favorite poems, “Tired of Speaking Sweetly”: “Love wants to reach out and manhandle us, / Break all our teacup talk of God.” The Gods are not safe; they are not cute; and, in my experience, they are not subtle.

But let’s start with some of the positives.

  • I get up close and personal contact with an entity who is bigger than me and who loves me pretty much unconditionally.
  • She sends me the most amazing love. It fills me up and heals me, inspires me and comforts me. (It’s lovely, and honestly I hadn’t really expected anything like it when I started working with Her.)
  • She brings a lot of blessings into my life. For example, my current work-from-home job literally dropped out of the blue a few years ago exactly when I needed it. It offered me enough money and flexibility that I was able to get out in the world and do a heck of a lot more than I could have if I were stuck holding down a 9-5 job in an office somewhere. (Granted, I had to work my ass off for over a year to be able to do the job that I’m doing, but still.) Who can plan that kind of timing?
  • I get to be part of Her plan and do Her work in the world. Mostly this involves sharing my knowledge and experiences of Her with others and acting as a channel for those who do not connect with Her is such a direct way. I also do a lot of reassuring people that they are beautiful, valuable, and loved, and inspiring them to love themselves. And knowing that I’m part of Something Bigger, that I’m part of something that I believe is doing good in the world—is awesome. Literally.

Then, there are a few negatives–

  • One of the biggest negatives is that I don’t get to turn off my connection to Her (or Them). Not completely, anyway. I never get to fully unplug. (Sometimes, I just want to eat Cheetos and watch mindless comedies for hours on end. Is that so much to ask?)
  • My particular goddess deals in passion and extreme emotions; often when I’m doing any of her work, I end up handling people who are going through some pretty tough emotional healing work. Sometimes, I’m just not in the mood for all of the intense emotions She brings up in myself and others.
a woman pulling her shirt off while laying in bed
Undressing while in bed” by c. kennedy garrett
originally posted to Flickr as tired words.
Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.
  • Relatedly, doing Her work can be very draining and time-consuming. I’m on-call, essentially; if I’m in the area, I get tapped to help with whenever drama is going on (God-initiated or human-initiated) or deliver necessary messages or whatever. This is on top of work, a social life, hobbies, and any priestessing activities that I actually have planned on any given day.
a black telephone
Fuld-modell-frankfurt” by Christos VittoratosOwn work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.
a hooded crow
Corvus albus -Hamerton Zoo, Cambridgeshire, England -two-8a” by Neil McIntosh from Cambridge, United Kingdom  Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.
  • Not unrelatedly, I get to be a point person for the newly godsbothered. Ares randomly appear in your dream? The Morrigan caw-caw-cawing in the background at you constantly? I may not have any idea why this is happening, either, but as someone who is dedicated to one deity, people often expect me to know what the rest of the deities are doing. Honestly, I really don’t. (Especially if it’s a deity from a non-Norse pantheon.)
  • There’s little to no monetary recompense for any of the priestess work I do on Her behalf. (Gas, food, meals–for non-paid work, it really adds up.)
  • God drama happens more often than you’d think.

However, the hardest thing I’ve had to deal with in our relationship is that, despite my history and my devotion to her Her (I even have a dedication contract!), sometimes She can pull back so far that I can’t connect with Her at all, and nothing I do can force that connection to come back. And boy howdy, it really hurts when She does this.

A devotional relationship with a deity is not something to be pursued lightly or without much thought. Even if a deity is seems really cool and He or She is sending you a ton of signals, think carefully before you start building a devotional relationship with Them. Also, think long and hard about what kind of deity you’d want to devote yourself to, assuming you have the choice; people who work with a “war goddess” will probably have different struggles than those who work for a “love goddess” or a “goddess of magic”. (Or not, depending on the Goddess.) You may also end up connecting to a different facet of a given deity than other people do. Finally, the Gods themselves, well–They may decide to have a completely different relationship with you than what you had planned. Such are the risks you take when you decide to devote yourself to a God or Goddess. There are a lot of challenges…

But, there can be a lot of blessings in there, too.

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