Communing with the Gods

I’ve seen a lot of confusion on message boards and in blog posts about what communication with the Gods feels like. Or confusion about how it’s possible to talk with the Gods at all, given that They aren’t omnipresent.

There is this highly held taboo in many Heathen circles about talking to the Gods like They are omnipresent, like they are similar in nature to the Christian God. In fact, there is so much negativity towards the very idea of communicating with the Gods in a friendly way is often harshly ridiculed.

Instead, there are recommendations made to offer sacrifices to the Gods on the necessary days in order to placate Them. Heathens, especially, are told to focus on working with the wights and ancestral spirits instead of trying to develop deeper relationships with the Gods. We’re told that the Gods only choose certain people to work with, so there’s no point in trying to pursue a relationship with one of the Gods if it’s just going to be futile.

Working with wights and ancestral spirits is wonderful – I feel like I should work more with the wights and my ancestral spirits more often, but that is a byproduct of being made to feel like I’m somehow doing something wrong by working more with the Gods than with the wights.

No one needs to feel guilty about working with the Gods. No one needs to feel that they aren’t good enough to approach the Gods. Every God has His or Her unique type of worshipers. Loki has the fringe groups. Odin has the leaders. Freyr has the nobles. Tyr has the lawmakers. Ullr has the skiers. Mani has the sensitive. Freyja has the vain. Frigga has the mothers… I could go on forever. For every role you take on, there is a God or Goddess that would be more than happy to meet you.

This idea that the Gods aren’t interested in human affairs is nonsense. Yes, the Gods are busy with Their own challenges. That doesn’t mean They don’t get the messages sent to Them. I mentioned before that the Gods aren’t omnipresent. They can’t occupy the entirety of the universe at once. But Their names are tied to Their wyrd threads, and They receive the prayers we send even when we can’t feel Them.

Perhaps this is a bad analogy, but most people can relate. You know those moments when something really good or something really bad has happened and you can feel it so deeply within your soul that you know exactly what it is and who it has happened to? That’s the type of connection that a prayer said to a God generates automatically.

Now, while there are others out there who would say not to try to talk to the Gods like Christians talk to their God, I am not going to lend my voice to theirs. Because why should it matter if we use the same technique to talk to our Gods that the Christians use to commune with their God? I highly doubt that the Christian God is going to somehow forget that he isn’t Odin, Loki, Freyr, or any other God that doesn’t share His name, so what is there to lose?

Oh, but the Gods can’t hear us if we try to talk to Them like that; they ignore us because they find it offensive. Really? Have you tried it? I talk to the Gods in my head all the time. Do They answer back? Not usually in words, but I do sometimes get impressions and sensations. It’s much easier to send an impression than a verbal message via the threads of wyrd.

I think that Heathens forget that the wyrds of men and the wyrds of Gods can and do intertwine. We are all connected through the web of wyrd, and every person has the ability to sense that web. Every person has the ability to send and receive messages through the threads of that web. If you’ve ever heard the phone ring and known who was on the other side before you saw the caller id, you’ve experienced what it feels like to receive an impression through the threads of wyrd. If anyone has ever told you that they just knew it was you on the other end or that they just knew you were going to arrive, then you have sent messages through the threads of wyrd. The Gods are part of the web of wyrd, and everyone can send and receive messages through the web, including the Gods.

On message boards, I’ve often seen it said that Heathens shouldn’t pray to the Gods because it’s too Christian of a practice. I understand that there is some leftover resentment towards Christianity because the Roman Catholic Church did its best to wipe out all polytheistic communities during the Crusades. But guess what? They failed, and they aren’t trying to wipe us out anymore. Trying to convert us, yes, but their faith requires they do that, and not all denominations of Christianity believe in forced conversions.

There is such an anti-Christian atmosphere in any Pagan circle that it’s no wonder so many Christians end up resenting us. We ostracize them; we demonize their religion the way that they used to demonize ours. And I’m not saying I’m not guilty of that – I view Christianity, for the most part, as a very cult-like faith. I tend to think people who follow Christianity are either ignorant or complacent – sheep in sheep’s clothing. But I don’t think that because of the religion itself – I think that because most of the Christians I have met don’t even try to think for themselves. They just take it as writ that the Bible has all the answers. That is what gets under my skin.

And it gets under my skin in Heathenry, too. There are Heathens who view the lore as the end-all, be-all of the way Heathenry should work. Anything outside the lore is considered taboo, nevermind the fact that the lore we have was written specifically for a Christian audience, so there’s no telling how much of the lore was altered. If you need a book to give you all the answers, then you’re not thinking hard enough.

That’s why I hate it when I see people talking about how Heathens shouldn’t offer prayers to the Gods or even approach the Gods without working deeply with the wights and ancestral spirits. I don’t know what kind of ancestral work others do, but the way I view ancestral work is this: they passed on the legacy of my bloodline to me, and now it is my responsibility to live my life to the best of my ability. I don’t need to consult with my ancestors to figure out how I should live my life – there are some ancestors I’d like to converse with just to learn more about their lives. But nothing should feel like a requirement. 

I found an article earlier about how the eight High Days are often held in the honor of a particular God or Goddess even when the practitioner (in a group or as a solitary practitioner) has no real connection with that deity. The reason that the practitioners hold these rituals are because that’s what’s expected. That’s what is required because those days are holy only to certain deities.

Just to throw this out there – no one is required to honor a deity they aren’t connected to. To me, making an offering to a deity that I’m not connected to personally in order to honor a particular High Day would horrify me because it would strike me as being incredibly rude. I don’t make offerings to Thor because we aren’t close, and He doesn’t want anything from me. I can feel Him around, sometimes, because He is still the protector of all Heathens, and I’m not exempt from His protection just because we barely get along.

That’s another thing – there are going to be Gods that don’t like you, and there are going to be Gods that you don’t like. It took me a long time to accept that one of the Gods I am never going to be able to be anything more than civil with is Thor, since He is considered one of the most important Gods within Heathenry. For a long time, I thought that the lack of His friendship meant that I could never properly be a Heathen because it seemed to me that He was the one God that all Heathens should be able to turn to.

But I don’t fall into any of the categories that most of His worshipers fall into. I’m not a farmer (and I don’t garden); I’m a scholar. I’m not a warrior, I’m a shaman. My strength isn’t borne from physical prowess, but from intellectual prowess. I’m not right for Thor’s path, and His path isn’t right for me. The paths I do walk, however – the paths of Odin, Loki, Freyr, Ullr, Mani, Freyja, Sigyn, Tyr (thus far) – are the right paths for me to walk, and I am the right person to walk them.

So many of us try to conform to the expectations of the mainstream when we don’t have to. We can forge our own paths, and we can use whatever method of communication we want to use in order to commune with the Gods. Sometimes the communication will come in the form of verbal words (that’s the rarest kind), other times it will come in the form of impressions or visualizations or impulses. Those impressions can come during ritual or just during everyday life. The Gods always get our messages, so we should never be afraid to talk to them.

I personally make it a point, when I ask for anything from the Gods, to add the condition, “If you are willing,” to the words said in ritual or prayer. I like it better than using “please,” because “please” seems too much like desperation when used within the context of a prayer. I dislike “please” because it makes me feel like I am annoying the Gods due to the pleading nature of the word. And using the phrase, “If you are willing,” makes it much easier to accept a negative response. Generally, when we say “please” in real life, we don’t expect to hear “no,” in response. That’s another reason I prefer the phrase, “If you are willing.”

Overall, however, the point I am trying to make here is that there is no wrong way to communicate with the Gods. The biggest problem people have with hearing the Gods is questioning whether they are making up the communication or really receiving a message. The only way to resolve that is to understand that the Gods can communicate through your imagination as easily as They can communicate through any other means. Once you stop trying to stop filtering out your imagination, you stop filtering out the Gods. Once you stop filtering out the Gods, you start understanding which messages come from the Gods and which messages come from your psyche trying to trip you up.

So figure out which Gods speak to you the most. Which Gods struck a chord with you when you read Their myths? Whose personality meshed the most with yours? If you don’t know where to start when it comes to approaching a God, pretend to have a conversation with that God. In your head or out loud, it doesn’t matter. If you’re interested enough in developing a real relationship with that God, and the God in question isn’t one of the more antisocial Gods, then chances are good that the deity will eventually get back in touch.

Don’t get me wrong, it won’t happen instantly, even if you already understand what I mean by sending and receiving impressions of intent through the threads of wyrd. Any trained high-level Empath does this type of sending and receiving naturally, so if you’re an Empath, you have to learn how to send messages across planes (which is less difficult than it sounds, thankfully).

For those who don’t feel confident in their sending skills, it might take longer for the message to reach the God you’re trying to contact, but the message will still reach Him or Her. Think of it as writing a letter to someone that you’d really like to meet – or, conversely, write a letter and burn it as an offering to that deity. That’s one of the fastest ways to get a message to the Gods, and we have Loki to thank for that little trick.

To reiterate my main point – there is no wrong way to communicate with the Gods. No matter what type of message you send or the medium you use, the Gods will hear you. Whether or not They respond, well, that is up to Them. If They don’t respond to you, then view the non-response as the message it is: “You aren’t suited to my path, try another.” Try not to view a non-response as a negative occurrence – chances are, the Gods already know who you are, and there is a particular deity’s path that will be a perfect fit for you. Perseverance is the key in communing with the Gods – if you give up on Them, then why should They not give up on you?

 

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Wyrd

Wyrd is a very complex concept, and I’m sure that I can’t do it justice within the space of a single blog post. In a way, it is the concept of fate, but a fate broken into distinct parts. There’s hamingja, or personal fate, and orlog, which is a communal fate, and then there’s wyrd itself – which I would say is the intertwining of personal and communal fate.

Hamingja, in a way, can be thought of as a person’s luck. The hamingja you possess is responsible for the good and bad things that happen in your life – at least to a certain extent. Everyone is born with a different amount of good hamingja and bad hamingja, and it can be thought of as a very complex version of luck.

What I find fascinating about hamingja is that our actions can increase or decrease the amount we have, but we never really know what the state of our hamingja is. When a lot of good things are happening in our lives, it’s a good bet that we are using up our good hamingja. And when bad things are happening, we happen to be drawing from the reserves of our bad hamingja.

While we can increase our hamingja – for better or worse, through our actions – I think there is a finite amount of hamingja, and when we completely deplete our hamingja, that is when death occurs.

Another facet of hamingja that I personally find interesting is that a person can experience negative events, drawing from the reserve of bad hamingja, without ever having done anything immoral. For me, this answers the question of why bad things happen to good people, and vice versa.

I feel that this answers the question of why some people grow up in abusive households and others don’t. I think that those who go through difficult childhoods are drawing from their bad hamingja reserves early on in life, so that they can draw almost solely from their good hamingja pools in later years.

Of course, this is just how I personally believe that haminja operates, but I feel it makes the most sense when viewing time and fate as a circular or spiral pattern rather than as a linear one. If time spirals back in on and around itself, then fate, and the components of fate (like haminja) should work in the same fashion as time.

Now, there is another aspect to wyrd, and that is communal fate, and it is sometimes referred to as orlog. This refers to the way a community’s fate is shared. The best example I can think of is the recent flooding in South Carolina. Each of the communities affected by the flooding were affected by the orlog of the community.

In the same way an individual can increase good and bad hamingja, I believe it is possible for a community to increase good and bad orlog. The actions of a community create the orlog of that community, and each individual of the community is affected by the communal fate when good things happen as well as when bad things happen.

What gets interesting is when hamingja and orlog combine. Orlog creates a shared fate, so everyone in the community experiences the same event, but hamingja is individual, so each person in the community will experience that fateful event in different ways. To use the flooding in South Carolina as an example, those with a strong pool of positive hamingja may have been caught up in the flooding but escaped without any physical harm to themselves or any property damage to speak of. On the other hand, a person pulling from their reserves of negative hamingja may have been severely injured or their property was completely destroyed. In both cases, the two people were experiencing the orlog of the communal event (the flooding), but they experienced the communal event differently due to the difference in their pools of positive and negative hamingja.

As I’m sure is obvious at this point, wyrd and its two main components are extremely abstract and complicated ideas, and this is what I have worked out for myself. Not everyone views orlog and hamingja in this way, of course, but I feel that the way I have chosen to view wyrd has given me a more solid understanding of life.

Now, the entire reason I even brought wyrd up is because of the incident that I experienced yesterday evening. As I was driving a friend home after we had eaten dinner, we were rear-ended. There was no vehicle damage, and no one was injured, and the car accident was caused by the woman being distracted by the crying of her one-year old child.

Within the framework of wyrd, there is a myriad of ways to look at this event. To create a baseline for the event, I will operate on the assumption that the impact itself was caused by negative hamingja and the lack of injury to those involved as well as the lack of vehicular damage was caused by positive hamingja. I will also view the accident as having occurred during the communal event we all know as 5:00 traffic.

The people involved were myself, my friend, the woman who hit me, and her one year old son. The impact itself could have been caused by the negative hamingja of any one of the four of us, even the one-year old boy. I could have been drawing from my negative hamingja, which caused the accident. Or, my friend, who had never been in a car accident before, may have been drawing from his negative hamingja. The woman may have been drawing from hers, or the one-year old may have been drawing from his negative pool.

The same thing could be said for the positive outcome – no bodily injury and no vehicular damage. Any one of the four of us could have been drawing from our positive hamingja in order to negate the negative hamingja that caused the accident to occur. It is in this way that the accident, which may have been an event caused by the communal occurrence of 5:00 traffic, balanced itself out through the hamingja of the four people involved – an intertwining of orlog and hamingja at work.

And this is a large part of the reason I find wyrd so fascinating. It eliminates coincidence from the playing field entirely, so it can be said that whatever is meant to happen will happen, whether we are prepared for those events or not. If we are meant to be involved in a car accident, the accident will occur (rather, I should call it an incident, considering the lack of coincidence I am speaking about). However, the outcome of these events are determined by the interaction of orlog and hamingja, so there is never any way to know for sure whether the overall outcome from an event will be positive or negative.

However, it is because we are able to increase both our individual hamingja and communal orlog through our individual and communal actions that we are able to work as wyrd-shapers, the way Odin and Loki work as wyrd-shapers.

Odin shapes wyrd by being a God of death, as He tends to choose warriors to join Him in Valhalla, and, according to the lore, He does this most often by cutting a person’s life short. In my view of hamingja, essentially what Odin does when He acts in this capacity is drain a person’s pool of hamingja more rapidly than it would drain on its own during the course of that person’s life, and that is the reason it is so dangerous to wear the Valknut and walk His path. It isn’t necessarily the case that He will choose to drain the hamingja pools of those who swear their lives to Him more rapidly, but it is a strong possibility, and it is better to avoid tempting Odin to interfere with your wyrd unless you are sure that is what you want to happen.

For my part, I am sworn to Odin, and I wear the Valknut with the full understanding of what it means to do so. I am aware that it means that Odin could choose to call me to His side sooner than I may be ready to go, but that is His choice. I don’t live my life in the fear that He will do so, however, because that would, first of all, make me a very poor warrior, as warriors need to possess the resiliency to stare death in the face when necessary.

Now, as to Loki’s role in wyrd-working, He is both the god of change and of luck. In a way, He is the wyrd-god, and He helps to shape both hamingja and orlog. There are some theories that connect Loki etymologically to the word luck, and I am inclined to agree with that assessment of His personality, even if others disagree.

But even if you look at Loki as solely the god of change, rather than as the god of both change and luck, it is easy to see the way He influences wyrd. Changes in our lives are caused by events and our reactions to those events, so whether we are drawing from our positive hamingja or our negative hamingja, Loki has a hand in creating those changes.

There are other gods that are involved in the shaping of wyrd, of course, but I’ll leave discussing Them for another time, as this has already become a rather lengthy post.