Around Yule, an entry (linked below) went up and a link was posted onto Tumblr. This spurred a lot of commentary, most of it being in line with one another’s viewpoints. Obviously, not everyone felt the same way but it was a good dialogue. There was just so much information and input from various quarters – Kemetic, witches, Asatru, Hellenic, etc – that it was really something I enjoyed reading all the responses to. I mean, it’s pretty hard to get everyone to either agree on anything when you come from such opposing backgrounds or at least are able to have a good conversation about things that don’t turn into Snarkville or out-and-out name-calling. So, while I didn’t really add my two-cents to the post on Tumblr, I thought I would go ahead and start talking about it since, you know, I’m a loquacious motherfucker and need my opinion heard all around the world.
I’ve noticed a trend in certain circles where people tend to abhor the use of the word “worship” when it comes to what they do with their deities. I legitimately don’t understand this except in my own experience, of which I’ll get into in a bit. The thing is that I’ve been pondering the feelings in the pagan and polytheist communities where people shy from this word. In looking up the meaning behind the word, I don’t get a very clear picture to this conundrum either. I’ve looked to this whole thing on the basis of my own workings with the Christian hemisphere though and I often wonder if the disuse of the word in pagan and polytheistic circles stems from what we used to do when we were Christians (or those of us who used to be anyway). In other instances, where we have atheists coming into paganism, the dissociation of the word is almost a foregone conclusion: a holdover from previously held atheistic beliefs, perhaps. But those of us who come from a Christian, Jewish, or Muslim background used to use this word when we would work with that particular deity/deities, so what gives?
I honestly don’t know. I cannot comment. I know that I tended to think of the word, itself, in a negative light as an atheist. It felt like it was a type of oppression, perhaps, forced upon the “small folk” from some unknown, unseen deity from upon high. But, why else could people from other religions, like Christianity, want to keep away from just such a word? Why is it such a hotbed that can cause such angry, vitriolic sputum when discussed? People escape from it by using terms like “working with,” “walking beside,” “honoring,” and “devotion.” Each of these words has a general connotation where some sort of respect is being aimed at the deities in question; so why can’t we just call it worship and leave it that way?
Well, fortunately, each path is intrinsically unique to the practitioner in question. So, you know, what works for me isn’t going to work for Devo or Helms or anyone else I work with, talk to, or know of.
Now, I’ve also linked below to someone else’s, earlier, foray into this very topic. And on that entry, I did comment. I’m going to reproduce my original comment here so that people can see how much I’ve changed opinions over the months since Devo made that post in May. I said, Honestly, I think “walking beside X deity” is the one that I prefer the most. It also goes hand-in-hand with the Turnpike analogy I use all the time. Well, wow. I walk beside my deities… or I used to. But, the thing is that things change and opinions change. And I’ve had a lot of new experiences since then that have put what I’m about to go into in perspective. So, before anyone lambasts me for changing my mind, let’s just remember that when it comes to this religious path, working in absolutes is a sure-fire way to get called a “fluff bunny” or “flaky.”
The thing is that over the months that I’ve been looking into all of this and thinking about what exactly my relationship happens to be, I realized something about my ‘walking beside’ approach. It caused a lot of fucking problems for me when it came to my path. It made me seem like I was an equal in the eyes of the gods and I don’t think this is particularly true. I’m not some lesser being, either, but I’m not exactly on par with them. I don’t have the same know-how, age, or wisdom behind my actions. When I work with my heka and when I perform magic, things could easily screw up along the way. And while the same could be said for the gods, they’ve done these songs and dances longer than I have, so they have knowledge that I do not. They can easily find a way to bypass any loopholes or mistakes in the whole experience where I do not.
So, while Devo remarks often that we are as divine as any of the gods, and I agree with this, I think we’re also smaller beings. I’m as divine as my gods because the same deity made them as made me, with a little different ingredients perhaps. And that makes me a smaller being because the ingredients were different and so, maybe, the amount of divinity in me isn’t nearly as large as that which went into the creating of the gods. Of course, everyone else’ mileage may vary on this and everyone else has their own two-cents to put in. That’s just my thoughts on it. But the point I’m trying to get at is that when I was so busy ‘walking beside’ my gods, I was having issues with our relationships because I was as awesome as they!
Except, I’m not.
The gods have made mistakes – anyone recall Sekhmet trying to destroy the entire planet because she was drunk on bloodlust? But they’ve also had many more years to learn from those mistakes. I haven’t been around nearly as long. And while walking beside a deity is possible in different realms, it isn’t always something we are able to do. I think this is why my relationship with Hetharu went downhill so quickly. She came in to teach me to respect my sexual nature, which I have done nothing but deny, deny, deny. I walked beside her on that path and every time she tried to teach me, I shut her down, plugging my ears with my fingers and said, “I KNOW ALL THIS ALREADY.” And while I did, technically, know what she wanted to tell me, I didn’t know how to put it into practice. So, really, what I should have been doing was walking slightly behind as opposed to beside.
One of the things that really helped me to get all of this in order was when Papa Legba entered my life. When it comes to working with the lwa, there is nothing more than ‘service’ that can be used to describe the relationships inherent therein. I provide support and aid; I provide the activities, accommodations, maintenance, and energy necessary for the lwa to manifest in my life. When you start working with the lwa, one of the things you really get hammered home is how much they require everything you do for them on a daily basis. This is why when Papa Legba and I got into a fight over what he was or was not doing on my behalf, and when I said I would stop giving him his offerings, he freaked out. There could have been other reasons for this, of course, but a large part is that these lwa cannot manifest in our lives without these services that we, as servants, provide. And it was the working with Papa Legba, the Ghede, and Carrefour that made me realize where I stood in regard to my varying relationships with my OTHERS™.
I am in service to Papa Legba and the Ghede.
With Hekate entering my life, things took another kind of shift in what was going on. I’ve always felt that my relationships with my Kemetic deities were concrete and beyond anything I may or may not do in this realm. However, with Hekate, she came into my life with a specific purpose in mind that I offered to her. In exchange for aiding me with what I requested, I pay homage to her in my home. I give her offerings. I have a little space for her set up as both a shrine to her and a working altar for magical endeavors. I think because I am very intent on the outcome of the shadow work that we are doing together, this makes my relationship with her more along the lines of a friendship. I do tend to view her on more equal terms than I have with any of my other gods, including those moments when I was busy ‘walking beside’ Hetharu and Sekhmet. (You’d be surprised some of the jokes she tells when we’re traveling the astral together.) But, I’m still very aware that this is a being that could come in and mess up my day if she so desired.
I honor Hekate.
My relationships with my Kemetic deities change on a very regular basis. I cannot even begin to quantify them all in words. Words to me and in some cases, specifically Sekhmet, fail when I try to explain how it is for us. In regards to Hetharu, while I was so busy being ‘equal’ to her and failing what she wanted of me, she has moved to a household deity. I honor her and I give her service in varying little ways on a daily basis. But, I do not worship her. With Aset, I work with her in regards to magical endeavors and in some cases, we work together on projects in the astral realm. Aside from this, I honor her with baking as often as I am able to bake something worthwhile. I do not worship her.
But, Sekhmet… In this, I have to use the word worship. I cannot convey, properly, anything else that we do together or the relationship that we have without using this ‘dirty word.’ I worship her in her totality, from a being that could destroy me to a being who could heal me to a being who has shaped my life in mysterious ways. She is as much a part of me as I am a part of her, if you understand what I am trying to say. And the only way I can even remotely begin to convey how grateful for her in my life is to worship her.
- W Is For Worship by Dw3t-Hthr.
- Working With Gods by Devo.