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.
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.