As a baby Pagan I was warned about darker Gods. Hecate, the Morrigan, Loki, and others were Gods that I was cautioned never to reach out to or connect to; they were dangerous and in the minds of those who were teaching me religion and spirituality were supposed to be safe. That attitude is understandable for people coming from the perspective of religions that embrace the concept of absolute good and evil. It’s also understandable in that we do not generally desire the things that they are best known for: chaos, war, death, violence, darkness, fire, the deadlands, witchcraft, poison… these are not things that people generally want in their lives.
The fact is though that these things are real, and present, and unavoidable in life. We all wish for peace and ease and security but these are things that we cannot happen all the time. There is only so much that the gods of peace and plenty can do in times of the opposite: they can bolster and protect you and ward you, and if you have a tie to them they will do their best. They harsher aspects of life are ones that they are not as familiar navigating, nor are they ones in their respective bailiwicks.
I primarily honor the Vanir, who are Gods that are known for being beings of peace and plenty. Even so, they fight, as they did against the Aesir, as at least Freyr will at Ragnarok. I am constantly reminding others of Freyja’s more warlike sides; anger, rage, and bloodlust are passions, the cat, the boar, the falcon are Her animals. At the same time I’ve found myself reaching out to others more recently, even going beyond the pantheons that I am most familiar with. I questioned my reasons over and over, and the answers kept being obvious: they know this terrain better than we do.
Here are some categories of Gods that may be helpful when times are dark, as they are for many of us now:
“When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.” – Hunter S. Thompson
Chaos. Illusion. Madness. Trickery. Luck. These are things that we associate with the Tricksters. Tricksters invert reality, point out our flaws, render kings low and make beggers into queens. They comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable, regardless of previous alliances and associations they have made. They mislead and confuse to draw out a greater revelation.
Who would understand propoganda better than Loki or Odin? Who can find ways to game – or break – the system the way that Hermes or Thoth? These are Gods that ride the waves of chaos and undertainty, that fly on the winds of change. Make good with them and they can help you dance when the ground is shaking and help you find the treasures revealed in the aftermath. They know opportunity and disaster and if they like you will help to guide you towards the one and away from the other.
(Courtesy of Pixabay)
The United States has been at war longer than any of the children of my friends have been alive. As international conflicts become more tense and as violence and hostility rises within our own countries, we need the asssitance of those who know how to swim those waters. No sane person wants war or battle, but few people manage to avoid it entirely in their lives. There are also times to mobilize and prepare communities for conflict, and Gods who oversee battle can help with that.
Many of the Norse Gods know war. The All Father, Thor, Tyr, Freyja, Hlin, and others have roles and tales tied to combat and conflict, often with an eye to protecting their own. The Roman Mars was not just a war God but a defender of the fields and the city and what value civilization has to offer. The Morrigan called to me recently, despite being a Heathen, and it was only I accepted Her invitation to work with Her that I understood why Her help would be so valuable; she loves battle and war but also prophesies peace and gives victory to those who She favors.
(Courtesy of Pixabay)
I’ve heard Hel, the Goddess who keeps the realm of the dead, referred to as the “Queen of the Unbroken Promise”. Gods who oversee the transition out of life are unpopular in a culture where we try to avoid or confront death, but they bring peace and understanding to those that seek them when they are confronted by it. Psychopomps help to guide the souls of those who are lost or staying to long due to untimely ends. Gods of the deadlands care for our Ancestors after they pass and provide us with comfort regarding them and assurance of continuity of existence.
Every tradition has death gods. Even beyond those individual Gods, many paths have different takes on what may happen beyond death, putting some deaths into the hands of Gods you would not expect. A fairly common modern Polytheist belief involves being taken to the halls of the Gods you were well devoted to. Gods of tribes and ancestors qualify here as well; if they watch over your ancestors then they are likely to have an interest in you.
(Courtesy of Pixabay)
Most pantheons have deities that specialize in the kind of magic that makes people uncomfortable – illusions and mental manipulation, curses, calling on unpleasant spirits and other taboo or unsavory things. Witchcraft, the magic of the oppressed, the marginalized, the lost, the unwholesome, Those From Outside The Firelight. Even in cases when magic is a tool all of the Gods work with, there are those who are more adept with it, and who use it to fight against evil Why do people pick those tools up? Because those are the tools that they have available, when others have been taken out of their hands. Because they’re practical and get things done that need being done. Because when your back is in a corner, you use whatever you have available.
Sometimes the Gods that wield this sort of magic are still powerful or sovereign figures in their pantheons and mythology, as with Odin, the Morrigan, and Isis. Sometimes they are the outcast or the foreigner, as with Gullveig and Hecate (one of the Titans). Regardless of their position in their respective societies and heirarchies when they use these tools it tends to be against the established order, as with Isis cursing Ra or Gullveig sneaking among the Aesir and teaching them witchcraft. When the current order is toxic and you cannot stand for it these Gods are often there to support you and teach you the things you need to know to break your shackles, defend yourselves, or fetter your foes.
(Courtesy of Pixabay)
I’ve seen many folks being called to Gods who fit one or in some cases all of these categories lately. It would take willful ignorance for anyone to say that this is not their time. They may have sway over things that we fear, but again, we fear those things because we do not control them.
If the crows or ravens start calling to you, or a laughing wolf haunts your dreams, or you meet a black dog at the crossroads, consider your options. When times are dark, dark gods come calling, and sometimes their support is what we need. We fear the things that are out of our hands precisely because they are out of our hands; ask for help from the Gods that hold sway over these things. I can’t promise that everything will be all right, but finding the help that you need when you need it can only make things better.