Terms of Service- A Little Polemic About Being a Godslave

Terms of Service- A Little Polemic About Being a Godslave July 21, 2010

I am a godatheow –  a godslave. Many of the spiritworkers and shamans that I know are also godslaves, in other words, outright owned by their Deities. It rather goes with the territory and I have found it to be one of the dominant paradigms of service in contemporary Heathenry and Paganism (though not the only paradigm. I suspect there are as many types of service as there are people serving). Lately, I’ve been asked over and over exactly what I mean when I say I am god-owned. To me and others in my position, that term is really quite clear. It means exactly what it says: I belong, like property to a Deity, in my case Odin.

For me, this is not a bad thing. I was given more than one chance to refuse though it would have been to my eternal shame had I done so. Instead, I have committed myself to this and I am content with this status quo. Yet at the same time, it is technically non-consensual, and now, if I ever decided I wanted to leave this relationship, I would not be permitted to do so. Within the bounds of this relationship I have a significant freedom, but I am not free in the way one unbound might be. My place is to serve. With my warrior/military mindset, this is fine. It’s not a problem for me overmuch and for that, I am grateful. I am also deeply in love with Odin and He has poured thousands of blessings into my hands, more than I can ever count. I can hardly complain. Of course, it has its challenges, it has its agonizing moments, and it certainly has its sacrifices but it also brings with it immense joy. That being said, this sacrifice of personal agency inherent in being god-owned, the very non-consensuality of the process is extremely controversial, even amongst spiritworkers. It is an uncomfortable reality, most especially for Pagans and Heathens, both of whom place great weight on the concept of individualism and egalitarianism. More and more I’ve been hearing a number of disgruntled people complaining and arguing about the validity of such service, usually because of the mistaken belief that it casts their Deity of choice in an unfriendly, unpleasant light.

“Slave” is a loaded term and certainly I can understand why the use of such a word sets off alarms. For me, and for those like me however, in the poverty of our language, we have no other term that accurately defines the passionate service that we give to our God or Goddess. Ownership by any other term is still ownership after all. I suppose that it is much easier for those coming out of a kink or BDSM community to find a measure of peace with the term, given that the protocols and parameters of service are given a measure of respect in that space. That is part of the problem, you know, with the term ‘god slave:” we don’t respect service. (Think about it. Think about how we treat service personnel in our mundane lives from the girl behind the drug store counter, to the waitress or waiter at lunch, to the maid who cleans your room. These people are anonymous, poorly paid, and often poorly treated. Would you want your son or daughter to grow up to work in a ‘service industry’? Probably not and I’d ask that you think about the reasons for that). Service can be a very beautiful thing, a sacred thing, a holy thing. It provides an opportunity to open ourselves as deeply as possible (an ongoing process if ever there was one) to the Gods that we love and adore. Yes, it is about the willing sacrifice of personal agency, but there is much joy and satisfaction to be found in that sacrifice.

Before going any farther, I’d like to take a moment to point out that there are a lot of different ways that we can serve the Gods. Not everyone is going to become a god-slave. Not every one should become a godslave. One does not need to be a godslave to serve — I want to make that abundantly clear – no more than one needs to be a priest, or healer, or ordeal worker to serve and be of use to their Gods. If you’re meant to be owned in this way, you’ll know. The Deity in question will make it abundantly clear often over your own ongoing objections. If you’re not claimed in such a way, well, that’s fine and dandy. Being god-claimed does not mean that one is morally any better than someone not god-owned. It’s not a matter of worth. It’s a matter of being wired in a way, for whatever reason, that renders this type of service valuable and possible.

Since, for spiritworkers and shamans, being God-owned is the most common paradigm, and certainly the most controversial one, and it begs exploration if only for the sake of those who find themselves being claimed and who have no clue how to cope with it. That should not be taken in any way to devalue other types of service. To say that every spirit worker must be a slave to their Gods is like saying every devotee must be a spirit worker. Such a thing simply isn’t true. What I have said in the past, and will say again here is that I believe the God or Goddess in question should define the terms of the relationship. It is up to the Deity to decide the nature of the relationship with Their chosen and what an individual Deity needs may vary greatly from one person to another. I would urge would-be spiritworkers to guard against assumptions and preconceptions. The Gods will show you and guide on into what They need you to know. Often what is forbidden to one of us will be required of another…even when the two in question are owned by the same Deity. One might say that there are absolutely no absolutes in this work.

That may be the hardest thing about Pagan Reconstruction to understand. We’ve been patterned by 2000 years of Christianity to have one view of God, who is unchanging forever and ever amen. The idea that our God could ask such radically different things from us is a little alien to our world-view (though ironically not alien to early Christianity). We’re learning as our faiths grow and learning can be difficult thing. This is, I believe, a very important point. I belong to Odin. Odin may have taken me as a godatheow. That doesn’t mean that He wants every single person who serves Him to be a god-slave. We really need to stop trying to fit everyone into the same bloody little box in this work. The Gods will let us know how They want us to serve. There is a wonderful quote by Rumi, that I am endlessly quoting: “Let the Beauty we love, be what we do. There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.” Godslavery is one of them.

Continued —>

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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.

  • 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.

  • 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, 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?

  • @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.