In my previous post I spoke of how I love to read posts by other people that make me go, “No I can’t do that!” But I never explained why I like those posts so much. The answer is simple, and maybe a little complex at the same time.
I like to read about the things others do or want to do, that I can’t do, because it makes me face up to myself. It makes me think about the depths of my devotion within my religion. And I think these are important things for us to think about.
If we are going to be religious and worship Gods who may just ask things of us, we should be willing to look deep into ourselves and see our own limits. How far would we go? What are the lines we will not or cannot cross? When do we need to say “No!” to Them, for our own sakes? And when are we just being wilful or silly about it?
This questioning and searching of ourselves isn’t about judgement, it isn’t about comparison – none of that, “they’re a better Pagan/Polytheist than I am” silliness. It isn’t about seeing if you are truly devoted (though that is important of course), this is about being honest with yourself, being honest with the Gods and also keeping yourself safe.
Question the Gods
Some of the things we might be asked to do, and have limits for, might be very simple and seem not dangerous at all. One of the posts that prompted this one here was by PSVL a couple months ago (yes, this post has been on the burner for that long) – in that post PSVL was discussing, among other things, whether they should be asking seemingly silly questions of the Gods. Things like, what colour underwear should I/shouldn’t I wear?
Doesn’t seem important right? I agree, and yet I can also see that there could be times where it might matter. We need to remember who and what the Gods are and what They can do. For example, some can see the future. So what if a deity could see what your day holds and They can see that if you wear red underwear some creep will catch a glimpse and become dangerously obsessed with you in that moment. Leading to an atrocity happening to you later that day.
Would you pay attention then? I would. But I have to admit, when it comes to something like the colour of my underwear, it would need to be that good a reason They are making demands like that. Because, “I like blue better” just isn’t good enough for me.
So, in my opinion, reasons matter and it’s important to ask questions. I personally am one of those, “Many Gods, no masters” polytheists, that’s who I am and I won’t pretend otherwise. So yes, I will question what is asked of me, because I still claim final authority over myself – even if I turn out to be wrong. Others don’t question, and that is fine. But sometimes it might be worth questioning. Yourself, and the ones asking things of you.
Question YourselfIn that previous post of mine I spoke of Galinas aspiration regarding prayer for hours a day.
“I read that and imagined myself doing that and… immediately felt exhausted. I couldn’t do it. Not that, no way. It’s too much.
For me. Because I know myself. I am able to recognise, usually, what my limits are – my strengths and weaknesses. I can imagine myself doing what Galina wants to do, I can imagine how amazing her goal is and I can recognise that if I were to try it – it wouldn’t be so amazing, because I would be doing it. It would not be amazing because I know, at some point, I would feel more obligated and less awed by it. It would begin to feel like a chore, that I might come to hate. For me, that level of devotion would be bad. I could wish otherwise – but I know the truth of myself.”
This is a good reason to question yourself, and indeed your own motives. One could look at the idea of praying or doing other devotional activities for hours each day and think, that’s how a real polytheist/Pagan does it. I must do it too! One could think that and thus try to do it and then end up exactly where I said I would end up. In a position of hating your religion and by extension, the Gods you are trying so hard to please.
Recognising this sort of limit is very important. If you can’t see your limits in this area, you risk losing everything. Question yourself, find your limits, find your lines.
The Gods Aren’t Always Nice
The Abrahamic God does not have the monopoly on cruelty. The Gods, They can be nice and helpful especially if you are so to Them – but They don’t often have our best interests at heart for our own sakes. They have Their own agenda. We can see this in mythology and lore. Zeus thinks Prometheus is playing a trick on us, with that Ox sacrifice. Zeus takes fire from us, gives Pandora to us.
They don’t always love us.
And that means They have, They do, They will ask things of us that are not in our best interest but are in fact in Their best interests. If you are okay with providing that sort of devotion, more power to you. But I suspect a large majority of us just aren’t. Why? Because we are egocentric humans. And that’s okay too. We each have our roles to play.
But you need to know which side you fall down on – are you doing Their will for Them, or Their will for you? If it’s for you, then you know your line – cutting off your own tongue, probably off the table until after Kali has granted your wishes.
So how far would you go for the Gods?
Would you wear Their preferred coloured underwear?
Would you pray for hours every day?
Would you cut off your tongue?
Would you kill for Them? Die for Them?
Personally, it’s a mixture. I do things for Their sakes and for my own. If They demand something of me, it doesn’t necessarily need to be in my best interest, but it cannot be to my detriment. So I question, I question Them and I question myself. And then I make my choice. But I know one thing for sure.
My tongue stays right where it is.