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Negotiating with Your Gods

Because I live with my folks and Mother’s Day was coming up, my folks asked if I could pray to Odin and ask Him to work with me and pushing back the time for the Nine Day fast.  After I got over my initial shock, I prayed to Odin.  He made two requests:

1) I have space indoors to pray and make offerings and the like.

2) I finish composing a Hávamál-style poem for Him within now and the Nine Days, and make it about as long if not longer than that poem. This is in addition to what I already will be doing with Odin and Loki during these Nine Days.

Negotiating with my Gods, up until a year or so ago, was something I did not even contemplate.  Even then, until lately, I have only sparingly negotiated with my Gods.  It was something previous teachers of mine never broached or actively pushed against.  It was as if the words of the Gods were Divine Mandate and that was it; any negotiating was an insult to Them.  So, when a God or Goddess or even spirit came to call at 3 in the morning, it was “What can I do for you?” not “Can we do this when I’m more awake and able to commit myself to what you want to do?”  Not even allowing myself to negotiate took a lot of autonomy I could have had and gave it over, when perhaps what needed to happen was me standing up for myself.

This has been a lesson long in learning, to value myself enough to say “Hold on, I need time to sleep” or “Can I honor you at a better time?” or “I’m not sure I have the skills to do that.”  It’s one thing to outright refuse a lesson, or a charge.  I’m not about to say I’m going to go back and renegotiate everything I do on a regular basis; what I am doing is embracing a co-creative outlook, one in which the Gods and I actually have dialogue about why things are good to do now, or where or when to do it.  Sometimes I simply won’t get an answer, or an answer I like.  This goes with the territory of being a shaman and priest.  However, the option for negotiation is and in my view, always in some way should be on the table.  Even though it may seem small, having the day to be able to talk and eat with my folks for Mother’s Day is worth having to bang out a poem and do some hard work for my Gods, even if it is harder than if I was just going through it tomorrow.

When I went to ask Odin for a stay in the ordeal, I stood before what is more or less my home altar.  On it is a sacred pipe, a candle, an incense holder, some incense, and herbs.  I packed the pipe, prayed to the Four Dwarves to bless me and blew the mugwort smoke to each of them in an offering.  When I first started combining smoking and praying, I first prayed to the Four Dwarves and then lit the incense.  After a few times of this, I got a tap asking me to share the smoke with all present, including Them.  So, when I smoke in ritual I tend to try to share it with everyone so all are included and honored with it, or restrict it to certain Gods and spirits within the rite who appreciate it.  When I began to pray with Him, at first I was fuzzy.  I took a deep inhale of the pipe, blew it out slowly, and let my eyes relax.  I felt this need for music, so  slapped my iPod onto some meditative music and listened for Him to respond.  I did not need to wait long; He told me what He wanted.  What surprised me about it was how quick and direct He responded.  Negotiating, from what I’ve experienced, is a kind of interaction building that stretches some and while reinforcing other boundaries.  You start to develop a feel for where the person’s limits are, and they need to say nothing.  In negotiating with Odin I used to be afraid He would be terribly angry.  Now, I realize this is something He and other Gods have simply been waiting for me to do, to encounter and confront Them not as equals (after all, They are Gods and we are people for a reason), but as people worthy of respect, each in our own right.

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  1. May 9, 2011 at 4:46 am

    Yep, it is very hard to get… the question is, not refusing but postponing. That’s a deep argument. One has to invoke the right reasons that’s all.

    I’m working my way along those lines.

    • May 9, 2011 at 12:10 pm

      It is an unfolding process, one that in some places I am still unfolding from.

  2. May 24, 2011 at 12:19 am

    And different gods require different forms, and will accept different degrees of negotiation, depending on their natures and your relationship. I have negotiated with Odin and other gods and spirits whom I did not serve. Sometimes I did so on my own behalf, and sometimes on behalf of someone called to their service but not yet in a place to have the conversation on their own. It is always VERY different than how I would do so with my own Lady.

    • May 24, 2011 at 12:50 am

      That is something that I appreciate about the Gods; the relationships we have with them can be individual and can vary depending on the situation, what is being negotiated on, and for what reason. As with you and your Lady, my negotiating with Odin definitely differs from how I treat other Gods and spirits.

      How does yours negotiations differ between your Lady and other Gods, if I may ask?

  3. May 24, 2011 at 1:31 am

    I identify as a god-slave. There is a Northern Tradition term word for this relationship that I have seen used in Galina Krasscova and Raven Kaldera’s writing and in conversations with them, but not being NT I choose not to use it.

    I approach my service to Her much like a good service submissive in a BDSM relationship might. The fact is that while, when push comes to shove, I will do what She wants. Giving good service however, means telling Her when I disagree with a course She’s laid out ,and negotiating with Her when what She asks is enough against my own desires that seeking compromise is in the interest of my being useful to Her in the future. For instance, last year She instructed me that I was to have an urgent, and likely challenging conversation with another of Her people. She wanted it NOW, which would mean a phone call. I explained that while I would of course do as She asked if She insisted, I believed that waiting five weeks until we’d be in the same place and I could have the conversation in person would make it far more likely to go the way She wanted. I could have just done as She asked, but it would have been setting Her goals up for failure, which is passive aggressive crap, not good service.

    My interactions with other deities and spirits are driven by whether They are looking for something from me or I from Them. By example: I have far more ability to negotiate with a deity seeking to engage in spirit possession for the purposes of interacting with one of Their people, than with a deity or spirit I need help from. For instance, in the weeks leading up to an Odin horsing, I was able to ensure that very specific conditions were agreed to in exchange for the loan of my body. While I typically make these sorts of negations directly, am I my Lady’s servant, and if need be can “run to mommy” for help, although I may or may not get it.

    When I am seeking something from a deity or spirit, a lot has to do with whether I, my Clan, or my Lady have coin with them (though I may not “spend” hers without permission). Having done extensive work for a particular deity over several years, all I had to do when asking for help was declare the ledger even. However, if I seek help from one I have no coin with, I may have to make promises or propitiation that must first be cleared with my patron and the speaker of my Clan, as my life, energies, and time are not in the end, mine to spend freely.

    • May 24, 2011 at 1:58 am

      I think that you’ve written a lot about something I just recently figured out about my work with Odin: “I could have just done as She asked, but it would have been setting Her goals up for failure, which is passive aggressive crap, not good service.” I used to do what He asked when He asked, and wondered why things would blow up in my face at times, or seem a lot harder than they needed to. Truth was, if I was honest with myself rather than “Hey, I can do this!” and running into a given situation, I would have given Him better service, and I’m sure, myself less in the way of headaches.

      Your section on the give-and-take in terms of Gods and spirits you go to for help and those who comes to you for help makes sense, both in terms of power dynamics and just straight-up negotiation. You write that “I was able to ensure that very specific conditions were agreed to in exchange for the loan of my body”. That’s something I need to remember better in the future, too. Thank you for giving me a remind of that lesson before I make the same mistake again.

      Thank you for responding so quick and in such detail!

      You mentioned ‘coin’ and ‘ledgers’ in terms of works, favors, promises and the like, which definitely lines up with my experience in working with/being contacted by Gods and spirits who want my help and vice versa. The way you describe having to clear promises and propitiation with your patron and Clan speaker, it sounds like a good way to make sure your energies go to things that will benefit one of, if not all three, of you.

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