Archive

Posts Tagged ‘thoughts’

Flaws, Perfections, and the Gods

June 16, 2015 27 comments

Something has been on my mind since reading these two posts, The Bane of Casual Irreverence by Galina Krasskova, and Respecting Flawed Gods by EmberVoices.

I’m not going to be going deep into the details of the posts, because I agree with both of them that the women that Galina writes about in her post were out of line.

I want to explore the ideas of flaws and perfection in our Gods.

The idea of perfection is one I have not found in any of my research of, or journeys with the Gods I worship as a polytheist.  The very assumption of perfection is that there are flaws or defects that can be gotten rid of, and accordingly, that the ridding oneself, or a being rid of these flaws or defects, is perfection.  The Gods I worship cannot possess perfection or be perfect because They do not have flaws, per se.

Does that mean that Odin is not an opportunistic power-hungry God?  Of course not, but then, that is not an imperfection.  That is part of Who He is.  The Gods are Beings whole in and of Themselves.  Thor being disposed to anger is not a flaw, but it is something to be aware of. The same with Odin’s ruthlessness. It’s not a flaw, it’s a part of Him, and  something a worshiper should know about.  Our Gods aren’t perfect, and flaw is too judgmental. I am still trying to find a different word or set of words that gets the notion across.

The idea of perfection does not sit with the my understanding of Gods because the idea of perfection is that there is that next step ‘beyond’, where supposed flaws and blemishes disappear.  Often that idea of perfection leads right into reductionist, monotheist, and/or monist ideas.  Perfection, especially in American society, is often seen as an indivisible One.  This reductionist model of one-as-perfect introduces problems, i.e. The Problem of Evil, which must be grappled with.  If a thing or Being is perfect, then is it good?  If it is not by goodness that we may know perfection, by what measure may we call a thing or Being perfect?  If a thing or Being is perfect, is it not evil?  Why?

Polytheism and animism have no need for such a concept as perfection.  This idea of perfection separates the Gods from us. It kills our ability to relate to Them.  How can I relate to something perfect?  How can I possibly contribute to a relationship with a Being that is perfect?  With a perfect Being, not only would the idea of a relationship make no sense, it would also be meaningless.  I have to be able to relate to a Being to have a relationship with It.

The idea of perfection also separates our sense of Self from us-as-we-are.  The notion that there is some ‘perfect self’ out there potentially divorces us from having to own our shit or do the hard work.  It makes our Selves caricatures, unchanging, remote, and allows cliches to set in, rather than lived experience informing who and what we are.

With the notion of perfection, especially because, as mentioned earlier, the dominant theme of perfection is the indivisible One, the need for a differentiated cosmology would disappear as well.  That is, if a Being is perfect in and of Themselves, there is no need for a description of how They came to be. They are.  I originally wrote ‘if a God/dess is perfect in and of Themselves’, but as I stated above, I do not believe this is the case, and so, the Being in question would have to be other than a God or Goddess.  There can be no origin, nor can there be an end with a perfect Being, because if such a Being is indeed perfect, They are perfect within and without Themselves.  In such an ontology it is questionable if there is anything ‘outside’ of Them, or within Them in the bargain.  If we are within such a Being’s body then the questions surrounding the nature of suffering takes a cruel twist: the assumption of perfection on the part of the Being means, then, that suffering is an indication of being out of step with this perfection, this Being, or worse, that such suffering is in step with such a Being.

We could take such ‘large’, that is, cosmically large Gods, such as Ptah and They would not fall within this purview of Being as described above.  Ptah exists within a cosmology and so far as I have understood, nowhere is He claimed to be perfect.  A creator need not be perfect.  Ptah is looked upon as an architect and a sculptor, and while His work is powerful, beautiful, and impressive, perfection is nothing I have seen evidenced in His creation myths.

If we reject the idea of perfection and the ideas that flow from the concept, then, we must come to our Gods with the understanding that They are not perfect.  If we reject this, then the ideas of omniscience, omnipotence, and omnibenevolence also fall away as things that can be assumed.  If the Gods are indeed Gods and we are going to develop relationships with Them, it is on us to accept Them as They are.  If we cannot bring ourselves to worship a God in the manner They require it is not the God’s fault.

Am I blaming or faulting the polytheist, then?  No, actually.  Polytheism is the worship of many Gods, not all of Them.  Some people simply should not worship certain Gods.  For instance, I enjoy meat far too much to dedicate myself to Gods for whom such a thing is taboo.  That taboo is not a flaw on the Gods’ part.  Indeed, the flaw would be mine were I to attempt to worship Them and not honor that taboo.

In rejecting perfection I do not wish to assume that we then can judge the Gods.  That seems to me to an open invitation to hubris.  Rather, In rejecting perfection I believe it is an open invitation to come to understand our Gods more fully. It is an invitation to interact with Them, to learn from Them, and to understand Them in the capacities that we can.  It is also accepting the imperfections, that there are places where the Gods may be utterly incongruous with our lives.  Loki is often looked at as one of the exemplars of this, a bringer of chaos into one’s life.  I think that asking “Why?” and exploring why a given God, Goddess, Ancestor, or vaettir may be so is a worthwhile endeavor, one that can bring deeper meaning to our lives, and depth of understanding and relations with these Gods.  Rather than avoiding these areas, it may be fruitful to seek Them out, and why aspects of the Gods, Their stories, Their interactions with us rub us so wrong, or are so incongruous, and how we may grow to accept these parts of Them.  If we cannot, it would be equally important to explore why this is.

A God or Goddess asking or demanding for something we are unable to deliver is not a flaw.  That is part and parcel of negotiating with our Gods, if indeed such things can be negotiated.  In my own case, the Gods have asked and demanded things of me I was unable to deliver to impart a lesson, for instance, that I needed to learn to negotiate, or that I needed to learn to ask for help.  In other cases there are taboos that are part and parcel of worshiping a God that one sticks to if the worship is to be undertaken.  Far better to not worship than to do so in violation of taboos.  Far better to not offer at all than to offer a sacrifice that would be offensive to the Gods.

When we dispense with notions of perfection we can come to see our Gods far better for what They are, and Who They are.  Discarding perfection also frees us of the burden of being ‘perfect worshipers’, and frames things as relational rather than static requirements.  It also allows for the Gods to change; if They cannot be frozen in some ‘ideal’ state, neither can Their relationships with us.

Meditation

April 24, 2011 4 comments

I can’t stress enough how valuable I have found meditation.  I have been doing no-mind meditation for the last week or so, as I can, and each time I leave it with a sense of profound peace.  Today I lay in front of my altar, and just breathed deep, letting thoughts pass.  When I finally got up, I thought “I wonder if I got down to no-mind”, and that was when it hit me that I had.  The passage of time seemed to take forever, yet I was only down for about fifty minutes.  The deep breathing put me into a peaceful, passive state, and I found a lot really extraneous or ridiculous thoughts, from wondering if the candle would be okay (it’s a pillar candle about elbow to wrist high) to asking “Am I there yet?”.

As the cacophony died down, I felt myself just slip slowly into silence, felt my breathing slow deeper, felt the world around me contract into darkness.  It seemed like I was there forever just floating, breathing, blood circulating, everything being as it should, and me, just being.  I felt very present in that moment, and yet not.  I was and was not, I was there and I was elsewhere.  That is something like what the Ginnungagap feels like.  Like it is nowhere and everywhere when you experience it…and yet the experience seems to stretch on forever.  I don’t know if my experience of no-mind and the Ginnungagap are the same thing in itself, but the experience of each is profound.  I feel very-much at peace, at ease, and my muscles feel loose.  I feel good, and like I’ve shed some emotional baggage.

Thoughts on My Spirit-Horse Partner and Ehwaz

March 29, 2011 Leave a comment

When I first met my spirit-horse, the one who travels with me through my drum, or who allows me to ride him in spirit, I was intimidated.  I knew that many spiritual traditions had spiritual horses that took them where they needed to go, and that alone made me uneasy.  I didn’t want to ‘gib’ other traditions’ practices.  When Odin introduced us that quickly fell away.  I felt an instant connection to the spirit-horse (he has asked me not to write his name) and he all but swept me onto his back, and away we went.  He made it clear we were to work together as partners, that though I rode him and occasionally directed him, that I had to put my utter trust in him in kind.  It was, at first, quite intimidating.  Over time it has become easier.  Where I once mounted him with worry or low confidence, I now slide on and we go.  Drumming-wise, it only takes a few strums until I am ‘down‘ and we are gone.  It used to take me about fifteen minutes to half an hour to get that far down.  I have only ridden horses on trails in my adult life, so riding through the Worlds at a full gallop took some getting used to.  I can only imagine what the drumming sounded like, as ‘gone’ as I tend to be when that happens.

I’ve read a post by Kenaz Filan, Jalkr TempleKeeper, and Galina Krasskove on Ehwaz and horses today, and that is how I got the push to start this article.  In my own experience,  is the Rune of Fast Travel, a Journey Rune (usually short, though that depends on other Runes that may be around it), speed, virility, and natural grace and power.  My spirit-horse has me use it as a kind of signal, especially if I need to be away from a place quickly.  As a spirit, the Rune seems very horse-like to me, perhaps like a stallion or matriarch of a herd.  It’s a Rune that communicates leadership and confidence as much as it does swiftness, resilience, endurance, and power.

I’d certainly say that my spirit-horse partner has these same qualities, but he has a kind of gentleness or patience about him that I don’t feel as much from the Rune.  I’m thankful for it; he had a timid partner at first, and I’m sure that was frustrating.  I’ve worked with him for almost a year now, and it is amazing to me how far we’ve come in trust, and how many places we’ve gone.  It’s  a powerful partnership, one I’m happy to have.  In his own way, my companion has pushed me to grow.  Before I accepted my work as a shaman, I was very-much a “go-it-alone I need no help” kind of magician; I was very used to just making my own way.  I’ve had to unlearn a lot of that, and see that while I poured on the armor, spiritually speaking, it was a tremendous waste of energy.  If I just trusted my Gods to have my back, or a spiritual friend, I would not have had to be as keyed-up anywhere near as much, and could have focused on the work I needed to.

I wasted a lot of energy watching my butt and doing continuous cleansing work; some of it was needed for the work I did then.  Most of it was because I didn’t ask for Anubis’ help, nor did I ask for a ridealong partner from any of the totem animals I knew, or spirits I worked with.  I didn’t want to inconvenience, but I also did not want to trust that deep.  I liked the working relationship Anubis and I had, as well as the genial brotherhood relationship, but I took care of my own stuff and that was it.  When Anubis eventually pushed me on to work with Odin (I had it in my head I would be working with the Egyptians the rest of my life), I was taken entirely outside of my comfort zones.  I was placed into a magical and spiritual practice where spiritual alliances, such as with my spirit-horse partner, were part of my path and comprised close bonds where trust was paramount.  Where I had once trust my Gods to watch my back for big things, I now entrusted my Gods with the little things.  I once thought my Gods were too big to care about my problems, big or small to me; it turns out most of Them (though some do have that attitude) just wanted me to trust Them enough to let Them into my life.  The same with my spiritual companions.  My spirit-horse companion follows me most anywhere, and my Gods speak with me on a regular basis.  For me, it was allowing that connection to be, whether at first between Odin and myself, or later with my spirit-horse companion and I, that was the challenge.  It was a lot of working through self-doubt, and especially self-esteem issues (i.e. “My Gods have better things to do than listen to me”, or “I don’t want to be an inconvenience to my spirit allies”), something that  has taken dedicated work and opening to the Gods and spirits that I didn’t do four years ago.

In becoming a Northern Tradition shaman, I have realized that, at least in my path and work, this opening is necessary.  Without it the Gods can’t use my body for communicating with people, spirits can’t get their messages across through me, and the magic of the Runes I have come to know, both in knowing them through Hanging on Yggdrasil, and as spiritual beings, would be reduced.  If I were not spiritually open, I would still be seeing the Runes merely as tools.  A large part of my life that I now lead would be shut to me, and my journey as a shaman would have gone nowhere.  That’s what Ehwaz also speaks to me: trust, implacable trust.  If I do not trust my spirit-horse, I could drum for hours and go nowhere.  If I do not trust my Gods, all the prayers in the world will not matter if I give Them nothing to work with.  If I do not trust my friends and family, how can I say I love them?  Inviting spirits and the Gods into my body requires a large deal of trust.  I have to at least trust that Odin, being my patron, will have my back if the spirit or God/dess begins to do something foolish, illegal or immoral.  I have to trust myself, that I can and will go down far enough for the spirit or God/dess to use my body, and trust that my assistants will support me.  I have to trust that when I mount my spirit-horse, that we work together as one, trusting him to carry me where we need to go.  This has taken healing, but it is healing I sorely needed.  So in a way, becoming a shaman and following this path has healed my heart, psyche, and soul.  It has helped to put me into a better place.  Perhaps they were broken so I could come to this path and find that healing.  Either way, I am here.  The growth has been slow, but very-much worth it.

I should have the entry where Odin introduced us up soon.

%d bloggers like this: