When it comes to Paganism and Witchcraft there seem to be many different view points on how to interact with Gods and Spirits. For many, they focus on forming relationships and pacts with spirits, others focus on worshiping with devotion at the feet of the Gods. Where do YOU fall? Do you worship or do you make pacts? Or do you worship AND make pacts? I personally fall into both categories and have different relationships with different spirits. I worship my Gods, and make pacts with spirits.
Many of those that have a polytheistic belief often place their focus in devotion and worship to honor the Gods simply because of their love and devotion to them and to kindle a relationship with the deity. Many Witches however often engage in making pacts and bargains with spirits and working with them in a form of magical bartering. Of course there are polytheistic witches like me who follow both; who worship Gods while striking bargains with spirits. It is important to note that these are not hard lines. Some people worship, some make bargains and some do both with a variety of spirits from Gods to house spirits. Even still some spirits are worshiped as Gods and bargains are also struck with them. It’s a little confusing, I know so let’s look at these two practices and how they are used in modern magical practice, spiritual practice, polytheism and in witchcraft.
Worship and devotion
First off, it is important to note that not all spirits are Gods. However, there are many Spirits that ARE Gods and have been worshiped throughout space and time in a devotional manner. Most often very popular spirits such as Pan, Odin, Gaia, Aphrodite are generally considered to be Gods throughout history and in mythology. Though, it is important to note that obscure spirits can be and are also worshiped and are often considered Gods as well. A large portion of our pagan umbrella (insert most paths here) worship Gods. (Except when they don’t) For the sake of this blog and this section I will be talking about spirits that are specifically identified as Gods, later we will discuss other spirits and those that fall under spirit and God.
Worship can be considered a practice of offering devotion, reverence and adoration for the sake of love and honor to a deity. It is service without thought of reciprocity; it is to fall at the feet of something greater than yourself and know you are in a divine and holy presence. I think of this much like one might treat a treasured lover, to lie in infinite joy with divinity, and give over to the ecstasy of spirit. To give adoration for the sake of adoring them and devoting your energy, prayers, and love to something that is divine, beautiful and holy but mostly to give yourself over in love to a greater force than yourself and to unfold in the rapture of infinite joy.
Those that work with Gods in this way often worship from a shrine, temple or sacred space and give votive offerings. Votive offerings are offerings that are given to the God Spirit for the sake of giving a gift and the items are not expected to be received back or used by the practitioner and they are never used as currency for a future task. The items are usually deposited in a sacred place, such as a shrine, temple, or in some cases from antiquity bodies of water. Items range from small carved statues, to food items, flowers, stones or precious items that are given as a sacrifice and a show of devotion to the God.
Why are offerings given? In this case, it is simply for the act of devotion. There is a sacred connection with these Gods; a relationship that is not based on currency or exchange. It is a relationship based on love, adoration and devotion. It’s like giving an expensive gift to a lover simply for the sake of love and appreciation for their existence. Many magical practitioner that choose to work in this way, identify as a Priestess or Priest of that God Spirit. Some choose to devote their entire life to one or more spirits and other take on a spirit marriage. Though that is not always the case and one can worship at the feet of the Gods, simply as a practitioner of worship with no titles or responsibilities. This type of relationship is one way of working with a God.
I want to add that even though the relationship is not based on reciprocity or exchange, there often are exchanges that take place. Often through time, devotion, service and commitment, the God will bestow gifts. These are often in the form of second sight, or help through a troubled time. Because our Gods are invested in us, and will often reward those of good service and that they have formed a relationship with. Though this should not be expected and is not the foundation for this type of relationship with a God.
Bargains and Transactions
God can be worked with in a Devotional way as discussed above, but what about other spirits? There are many spirits in the otherworld; they range from thought forms, house spirits, and Fae to Ancestral spirits, Archangels and Demons. In general one thing that most witches have in common is a connection to the spirit realm. In fact most of Paganism in general is interacting, worshiping, bargaining, or creating ritual for entities in the spirit realm; how we interact with them is what differs.Spirits such as Ancestors and Fae often work with Witches in a more transactional way. They are not considered to be God forms (except when they are) and are often interested in reciprocal relationships. The Fae are a complex and have a variety of spirits that range from the Shining Ones to little house brownies. Brownies enjoy tending a home and cleaning it, they also expect to have cream or other treats left out for them. The pixie will not take your things as long as you give them small trinkets and acknowledge their existence. I have friends that work with particular groups of spirits and has struck a bargain with them. He draws them In return they help him with his artist skills and other things. He is not the only one! I have had Fae and local spirits ask for paintings of them and in return they bestow blessings. We tend ancestor altars and shrines through the year and at Samhain. In return they give us messages from the otherworld and are often our eyes and ears during divination sessions.
These are transactional relationships; I will do for you, if you do for me. The reason for this, I believe may be that we rely on each other to interact in worlds where we are not fully connected to. A physical being is not living in the otherworld and an ancestor (or other spirit) is not living in this mundane world. We can interact with each other to achieve goals in realms we are not permanently affixed to. If I am doing a working for protection and want to call on the aid of the spirit realm, I will call in certain spirits. It is quite rude to ask for a favor and not give anything back or to ask over and over and over for different things and always expect and not give back. This is where favors and transactions take place an exchange that benefits the practitioner and the spirit that is doing the work.
Most practitioners believe that magic has some sort of cost or price. Sayings like the three fold law, paying the coin, and all magic has a price are often thought of dogma that accompany Witches and Magicians. In some cases, paying spirits in the spirit realm can be a form of payment upfront that then the magic can be done without repercussion to the practitioner. Of course there are tricks spirits out there that often raise the price after the transaction is done, or the practitioner doesn’t quite give enough and then things chance, though that is a topic for an entirely different blog. There are also times that a practitioner would not want to take things from the spirits, such as food from the faery realm or open ended gifts. I’ll give you this now, and later you owe me a favor. Steer clear of these types of transactions!
Bargaining and worshiping
Now it starts to get confusing when you are a Witch who also worships a God, and a Polytheist that makes pacts with ancestral spirits because there is no one right way to work with the spirit realm. You can worship Gods and bargain with house spirits. Or you can worship the fae and make bargains with Gods. Some types of spirits are worked with in a reciprocal manner and others are honored and worshiped like Gods and in some cases both! For me this is the case with the Fae realm.
Spirits such as Gwyn ap Nudd and Morgan le Fae are clearly from the Faery realm but can fall under the archetype of Faery King and Queen. In this case, I venerate and honor them in the same way I would a deity, however on occasion I will do work for them in this realm, while they do work for me in the other, or perhaps help me to grow to be a better witch or priestess, depending on how my work as a witch and priestess serves them. Then there are local spirits such as Sulis, who we know was worshiped as a Goddess, however there are many curse tablets that were found in her temple, specifically asking her to deal with those that had wronged them. It is assumed that offerings were given, or that the offerings were devotion; however we will never really know the extent in this case.
The important thing to remember is that it is your path, and that you forge your own relationships with these Gods, Spirits and God Spirits! How you start and honor your relationship is your own business. However I will strongly suggest that you find a way and stick with it. A good example of this type of varied relationship is your best friend. We all have at least ONE really great friend. How you interact with that friend is much different than the way that friends interacts with their lover which is very different than how that person may interact with their children. This is why there are so many variations within our pagan/witch umbrella. We forge our own relationships: they are vast and varied and the Spirit world does the same with us.
*It is really important to note that because paganism and witchcraft are such broad paths that these are general statements and do not apply to all or one path. It is your path, you get to choose how you interact with the spirit world.
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