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.