Jumping Off a Cliff and Into the Arms of a Deity

There’s a recent-ish article that Galina Krasskova wrote on piety that quickly became a lively conversation on the subject. Hopefully she won’t mind if I quote a section here:

It seems more and more — and I am not the only one to have noticed this–that far too many Heathens (and this may hold true for Pagans too, but in this article I’m focusing on Heathenry) go out of their way to make their rituals as secular as possible. Oh, the Gods are a nice *idea* I suppose, but the reality of actual ongoing veneration and right relationship something quite different, and something most Heathens would, i suspect, rather avoid. All too often the religious side of Heathen rituals seems little more than play acting, something to be gotten through as quickly as possible (and with as little unnecessary emotion as possible please) so folks can get down to what’s really important: socializing. I do hope you read my sarcasm into this last statement, because it was there. Believe me, it was there. I think Heathenry as a whole is embarrassed by its Gods, by the actual realities of devotion so there is a concerted attempt to root it out of the religion, as if by distancing themselves from belief and active veneration, from anything approaching piety, the rest of the world -the monotheistic influenced, post modern world—might take them seriously. Devotion after all is so déclassé and having so many Gods is messy. Hear the sarcasm again?

The original article is here.

I’ve complained about this before in a past post. Based on my own experiences, it definitely does seem as if there is a concentrated effort by certain segments of the Heathen population to push more devotional or mystical practices to the side in favour of being macho warriors, as in all those annoying Facebook memes that keep showing up in my news feed. To the point where one document described a whole slew of practices (including seidr) as “gravy”–something used as a dip but not as part of a main course. (Unless you happen to be eating a poutine, delicious, artery-clogging poutine).

The thing is, I can’t say I blame them for having an aversion to the woo, because, between you and me, deities are fucking scary.

Think of it this way, ancestors were once human. They might have lived hundreds of years ago, but they’re still human. They know what it’s like to need sleep and go to the bathroom regularly. My adopted ancestors know what it’s like to be crammed like sardines into a boat that took them from Ireland to Canada (I’m just a bit too wide to fit in the space they would have occupied).

With some exceptions, deities aren’t human, and they don’t necessarily “get” human things. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that all deities subscribe to “Blue and Orange” morality (as TV Tropes labels it) but I would say that at least some of the time, certain deities come very close. My point is that at least ancestors operate on similar wavelengths, deities, though, deities are Other with a capital ‘o’.

And that is fucking scary.

Or, to look at it another way, it’s like someone’s telling you to jump off a cliff, and you aren’t really sure if you trust this someone, and if you do jump, well, there’s a chance that you could fall into a pit full of spiders, or a pile of mattresses, and you have no idea which one it is because you’ve been blindfolded. Or, Hel, for all I know it’s neither of those things, and you could land in a big pile of Jell-O, because why the fuck not?

If you’re wondering where I would be in this scenario. I’m the one who refuses to jump without first watching a hundred other people jump first, because I feel more confident when I watch other people do things before I try them.

And that’s scary, that’s really scary.

Unless, you know, you happen to really like spiders. My brother likes tarantulas, he thinks they’re cute. Anyways, that’s not the point, the point is that some people will go “CHAERG!” and hurl themselves off the cliff, but others might be a bit more comfortable with level ground, and still others might decide that they really don’t trust the person at the bottom, because that asshole sent the last three people into a spider pit, and they want to hang out with someone who isn’t as mercurial.

My point is that there are folks who naturally feel as if they would be better off going to their ancestors for things, What I really don’t get, though, is this tendency to bash people who have direct experiences with deities. It’s fine if you don’t like cliff-jumping (this is assuming that someone doesn’t come along and throw you off the cliff) but pissing on someone else’s experiences because they don’t perfectly match your own is just….kind of silly.

Anyways, so I guess what I’m saying is that I understand this desire to play it “safe” or as safe as possible, and not bother deities so much. Sometimes I wonder why some people even bother acknowledging deities in the first place, but who am I to talk? When I think about it, I don’t mind the radio silence with the occasional nudge.

Because well, deities = fucking scary.


4 thoughts on “Jumping Off a Cliff and Into the Arms of a Deity

  1. Apollo stood on the high cliff

    ‘Come to the edge…’ he said
    ‘It’s too high…’ they said

    ‘Come to the edge…’ he said
    ‘We’ll fall…’ they said

    ‘Come to the edge…’ he said

    And they did…

    And he pushed them…

    And they flew.”

    Christopher Logue – 1961

  2. A few of the comments on Galina’s article were an odd mix of laughable and depressing. Thank the Gods for Sannion, though. I don’t think I could’ve made it through the comments section if not for his sarcasm.

    I have a feeling that detractors were upset that Galina was the one breaking the ice. If it had been Stinson or McNallen to say the same thing, I’m sure those guys would be getting written equivalents of “thank you” blowjobs from the same detractors. Because it’d be their guy(s) then, and it’s perfectly correct and justified when their dude(s) say it — doesn’t matter what the message is. You get the drill.

    I can also vouch the Gods being effing scary. All Gods have the potential to be. Even ones so seemingly benign as Banebdjedet (try talking to Someone Who is the embodiment of the Limitless Void AND the “eternity” of Creation. It’s a mindfuck and a half). Hell, I’m sure Bragi could whoop asses or send people careening into spider-pits if He really wanted to, too. Not just “big Gods” like Apollon, Marduk, Ishtar, Set, and Odin. They’re just more well-known than others for throwing people under buses from time to time.

    I can understand not wanting to get mindfucked. I can appreciate their trepidation when it comes to embarking upon working relationships with various deities. It’s a sticky business, and you’re arguably in it for life once you’ve planted a foot firmly upon that road. It’s a major commitment, and not one that everyone is prepared to, nor necessarily capable of, making.

    That having been said, secularizing religious events is just . . . it totally defeats the purpose. Either have an informal get-together, or have a formal religious event. I absolutely agree with Galina when it comes to the Gods being the sole focus of a religious event. Practically every other day of our lives is for our own cares and conveniences, but holy days marked by ritual? Those are the Gods’ days. Those are the Gods’ events. Or the ancestors’, depending. And they don’t have to be joyless occasions; they’re celebrations!

    Heathens in particular have a lot of getting over themselves to do. It’s not at all exclusive to Heathenry, but few Polytheist religions seem to be nearly so far up Shit Creek as Heathenry is.

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