I get bothered by gods, well, fairly frequently I suppose. I don’t personally see it as such myself, but that’s what happens when you live in the thick of it. However from an outsider’s perspective looking in on the vague posts I make, it could seem as though my entire life is a giant way station for some new god to appear and go, “hey, hi. I’m here,” or something like that.
I can definitely say that things used to work that way; they don’t anymore. It seemed like once a month or so, some deity was jumping off the train with some baggage and a sign that said, “Satsekhem: look at me!” At first, I tried to accommodate and wound up in that deity collecting phase that drove me up a flipping wall. I would take one look at whoever the new deity was, roll my eyes as theatrically as you please and just mutter, “jfc, not another one of you,” and begrudgingly wound up attempting to do the thing.
But I began to realize that this was partially my fault. I hadn’t set clear boundaries for these gods so when they showed up and without those crystal clear boundaries, I found myself constantly out of my element. I had yet another new god that I had to deal with and learn about and figure out why the hell they were hanging around. It caused a large amount of stress and a long series of headaches that left me floundering.
That is absolutely no way to live a life or attempt to be a devotee. While not everything may turn out badly for both the god and the devotee in question, I can assure everyone that it doesn’t exactly leave the best taste in your mouth. It leaves you feeling bogged down and just generally irritable with the whole kit-n-caboodle. I wound up realizing that if I was going to appear as a sort of beacon into the night that gods would home in on, I needed to be clear with myself and with those gods coming in on the midnight train.
Daring to set boundaries is about having the courage to love ourselves, even when we risk disappointing others. – Brene Brown
Boundaries can be difficult to set up for yourself. There are a lot of various aspects that you must take into consideration when formulating them. While you may be thinking about how this will benefit you, something we need to keep in mind are the current relationships we have with our gods and what their particular plans for those relationships may entail. There is also the messy business of promises, agreements, contracts, and oaths that may need to be considered before setting a boundary.
In my case, the only promises I had made before setting up the boundaries was to Sekhmet and they had no relation in allowing new gods to stay or not. But this isn’t always the case. Some devotee-deity partnerships include being loaned out to other gods, being sent to other gods for specific reasons, or various other items that may lead to developing relationships with new gods.
The best way to figure out if both you and your existing deities will be okay with these boundaries would be to focus on the primary concern for creating a boundary: why am I setting up this boundary in the first place?
This might sound like one of those “no duh” questions, but asking yourself why you feel you need to do something will open up avenues of thought that you may not have considered. Just deciding that you want to make some space for yourself isn’t going to give you the ability to delve deeply into the matter at hand and determine the best design for you when it comes to the limits you’re setting.
On the other hand, this will aid in presenting the idea to the gods you currently have relationships with. It’s a give and take situation when discussing the possibility of a boundary with your gods and compromise may be a word used often when formulating a game plan.
When I broached the subject matter with my gods, they were all very supportive but there were certain stipulations that needed to be taken into account. While at that particular moment, I was flustered and flummoxed, they let me know that they may need to parcel me out elsewhere on occasion and they would let me know when that was the case. Since I felt that was fair, I told them I would do the thing if it occurred though I wouldn’t necessarily do it with grace or humility.
As I sat around determining what would work best for me, I kept focusing on the idea that my best interests were the heart of the matter. And they were; they are. I was setting up the boundary specifically because I was flustered by this seeming revolving door of deities and needed some peace. If you constantly have an influx, it’s damn hard to do the research you need to do to figure out what’s happening or determine why.
However, there are a million reasons that may come up for yourself when you ask yourself why this is so important now when it may not have been important before. When those reasons begin piling up and after all parties agree to a sort of informal agreement, it gets easier for you to determine the next stage of the process, how closed off do I need to be? Should I limit myself to no new gods? Or should I limit myself to a specific pantheon?
Going back to the gods with what we think would work best for ourselves is also important. I had tentatively put in the idea that I needed no new gods, but I was told that wouldn’t slide. New gods were coming whether I liked it or not; I just had to limit the influx to a number I could handle.
When new gods from outlying pantheons show up, it can be difficult to not just complete the research you may need but to also network with devotees of said deities. While not everyone will take the time and delve into the research with a level of detail as others, I do need to do both research and networking if a deity not-of-my-frame-of-reference shows up. And it can be both tiring and confusing to delve into arenas that often wind up looking an awful lot like gibberish.
From a Kemetic perspective, I know where the source material is and what to pick up if someone just jumped off the train. If a god from another pantheon shows up, I may know where to look generally for information but the question that begs is whether or not it’s worth learning about.
When it came right down to it, knowing as I do regarding resources for various other polytheistic traditions, I figured it was wiser to limit myself from the outset: Kemetic gods were a maybe, depending on situation and the feedback I received from my existing relationships, but gods from other pantheons were a no-go. This left me feeling a little more secure as the months passed; I had a general system in place and it worked.
This isn’t to say that gods from other pantheons stopped showing up. Oh, of course not. This clearly defined border only meant that I had to be firm when they annoyed me, which is why I wrote this entry about saying no. Just because you’ve set a limitation for yourself doesn’t mean that the gods will necessarily respect it or be aware of it.
Setting this boundary benefited me in the long run and also my relationships with my gods. I was able to spend more time on the things they wanted and when new deities appeared, I was better able to handle researching them, networking with existing devotees, and figure out what was going on, if I chose to look into the deity.
The strongest and most effective force in guaranteeing the long-term maintenance of power is not violence in all the forms deployed by the dominant to control the dominated, but consent in all the forms in which the dominated acquiesce in their own domination. – Robert Frost
Just as having your gods put their stamp of approval on boundaries you’re setting for yourself, so too must we put our stamp of approval on a new relationship that we are considering entering into.
Consent is one of those things that can cause pagan drama for days. Some people believe that our ability to say yes or no to a god is immaterial; others believe that ability is a necessity. I am a big proponent of consent, however I have to admit that it doesn’t always look quite like what we would expect it to.
In my experience, gods need some forms of affirmation to begin developing a relationship. A hearty yes is going to be the least ambiguous confirmation however, it seems to be the least common given. Gods have been known to get your approval through shady dealings and may even bug you until, in a fit of pique, you give in. This kind of goes back to the boundary question above: how well defined and high is the boundary?
I’ve noticed that while begrudging cooperation will work in a pinch, willing cooperation will make the experience easier on all parties involved. But again, this isn’t a black and white area; as with all the gods, it’s shades of gray. The point I’m trying to convey is that, out of all of it, while the form of consent may not resemble what we would prefer, some form of it appears to be needed to get the ball rolling.
A recurring theme I’ve picked up on is when people mention that X or Y deity is about, sometimes the advice given neglects to keep in mind that our consent is something that’s required. Often I will see something along the lines of, “you may as well just do it because it’s not like you have a choice.” I grow concerned when I see this out there; it seems to be neglecting the very reality that consent needs to be given in such situations no matter who the deity is or the reason they may or may not be hanging around.
So, let me state this emphatically: no matter what deity is poking around or why they are poking around, you always have the ability and right to say no. It doesn’t mean they won’t keep pestering you. It doesn’t mean that no will automatically filter through and they fly off to bother some other unsuspecting possible future devotee. This only means that you have the right to say no and that you do not have to give in, no matter what you may see floating around the Internet under the guise of advice.
Over the years, my default position for new deities has been to say no. Obviously, this isn’t always the case but it’s pretty much my fall back in any given situation unless directed otherwise by the deities I have relationships with. And even when directed to look into X deity, I always have the choice to tell them that I won’t do it or that now is not a good time.
As an example, Sekhmet pinged me a few months ago and requested I look into Tutu. I was able to do a cursory look but had to admit that, while I found the information available interesting, I did not have the necessary time to look deeper. She let it go and while she does check in to see how I’m doing, she knows that my focus elsewhere is important. In same vein, both Hetheru and Heru-Wer have asked me to look deeper into Ihy than I have and while I would like to, again now is not the time.
They respect my choice and I appreciate the carte blanche they have given me regarding these requests.
On the flip side of this, Sekhmet had mentioned that a certain Hellenic party guy would be beneficial for me some time back. Since I knew enough about him to be weary and because of the boundaries I had set, I was able to tell her that I wasn’t interested and she understood where I was coming from. It took a bit longer than that for that deity to buzz off, but he eventually went on his way.
It’s not always simple. Sometimes a deity is around for a reason and you have to weigh the pros and cons about entering into a relationship with them. When Loki arrived for me, I spent a good few weeks going through the benefits as well as the possible negatives before making a decision always with the knowledge that saying no could make things worse for me. Snap decisions are all well and good now and again, however sometimes more information is needed in order to make the best determination for yourself.
It’s not always easy. Sometimes a deity is persistent and refuses to take no for an answer. That doesn’t reflect on you; it reflects on them.
But at the end of the day, it’s your decision one way or the other. And you don’t have to enter into the relationship no matter who is poking around or why. So long as you have enough information to make a decision – why they’re around, what would happen if you do and do not enter a relationship, etc. – it’s entirely up to you.
- Gods, Boundaries, and Consent
- The Nuances of Non-Physical Relationships
- A Good Horse
- Breaking the Narrative
- Consent for Spirit Walkers
- Setting Boundaries with Your Deity