There’s a new dating reality show on Amazon where six young singles, looking for love, are taken to a lush resort setting. The premise of the show is that most people have met “the One” before the age of 25–but they may not have realized it at the time. And so, one by one, people from their past come through a misty “portal” so that they can explore these relationships and see if any of them are “the one that got away.” The singles go on dates with their “arrivals” (who are put up in a nearby “guest house,”), explore their feelings for them, and either keep on seeing them or send them back through the “portal” to see who else might come through. They spend a lot of the show sorting through confusion as they try to work out who they are really vibing with, who would fit into their lives, and who is best able to meet their wants and needs.
At the beginning of this year, I decided I was going to spend it “dating the gods” to try and figure out who wants to work with me and who I want to work with, who fits best into my life, and who might not be the best choice for me at this time. Of course, this entire process goes both ways, just as with the singles on the show–and I’ve spent most of it just as confused as they were.
Poseidon was the first god to come through the “portal” for me, back in January. As we approach the end of the “season,” it’s still working out, and he’s definitely a keeper. Poseidon doesn’t have a great reputation among many pagans, with all the jealousy, territorialism, temper tantrums, and rapes that plague his myths. He has faced enormous obstacles, though: as the firstborn son of Rhea and Kronos, he nonetheless had to yield pride of place to his brother Zeus, who was the sibling to escape being devoured by their murderous father, and thus the one to rescue the others. Like water, the element he rules, Poseidon is volatile by nature–as a result of which, he has spent most of his long existence learning to master those tendencies in himself, and that effort has borne fruit. As we would say today, he has “done the work.” In stark contrast to the way he is portrayed in classical myth, the Poseidon you’ll meet now is very self-controlled, very Zen, very compassionate towards those who have their own personal struggles to overcome, and is arguably one of the best deities to work with if, like me, you have anger issues, dark places, and sharp edges. (In addition to being neurodivergent from the get-go.) He has all of those things too, and can show you how to live with them without destroying yourself or others, how to navigate the raging storms of life and murky depths as well as the sparkling blue waters and gentle tides. Although he was not my first choice of gods, he is proving to be the best god for me.
I still have a strong bond with Odin, and always will. But, true to his nature, Odin comes and goes through the “portal” as he pleases. I can’t send him away, and I can’t make him stay here. And that’s just who he is. I’ve spent most of my years with him fighting that, and it’s been the cause of much drama and misery between us. So now, he is welcome when he’s here, and when he isn’t–well, someone else usually is. At the same time, I know he is a heavy-hitter who will be at my back if and when I need him to be.
I’m confident these two are going to be more or less permanent (or at least, in Odin’s case, recurring) fixtures in my life, but this past year or so I’ve become fixated on the idea of working closely with a goddess as well. I don’t have a great track record with goddesses in general; I don’t seem to click with them on more than a surface level, so they come and go. I think part of my difficulty in accepting and embracing them has to do with internalized misogyny–which is a good part of why I’m determined to make it work this time.
The Virgin Mary came into my life last year when my daughter was expecting, and for a while praying the rosary gave me some relief from the anxiety I had over her pregnancy and delivery. Never having been Christian, I didn’t pray it in the “proper” fashion; I didn’t focus on the Mysteries. Instead, my approach was very transactional: “I’m offering this rosary for my daughter’s safe delivery, and the health of my grandson.” And it very possibly worked, since although there were some complications everything ended up going well (in a southern state with a very high record of maternal mortality–especially for Black women, which my daughter is). I developed, and still hold, quite a lot of affection for Mary (and a whole lot of gratitude), and was very tempted to dedicate to her. But although she is an ally I will not hesitate to call on again if the need arises, I ended up deciding that the road she seems to lead to (Jesus, Catholicism, etc.) is one I don’t especially want to go down. (Buuuut…the jury is still out on this, because I’m not at all sure she isn’t the very same person as–or at least, a syncretic version of–the goddess I have decided to re-explore a relationship with. About which, more in a minute.) As with Odin, I don’t have the power to send Mary back through “the portal.” Work with her actively or not, she’s going to more or less come and go as she pleases.
When he first arrived, Poseidon brought Aphrodite with him, and although I am in awe of her (there is so much more to her than most people think!), she has stayed mostly on the periphery. Her main lesson to me has been about accepting my own innate worth as something independent of the way I look or of what I am contributing to those around me. I exist, therefore I am worthy; everything else is icing on the cake. Freyja has brought a similar message (and I suspect these two goddesses are also more or less syncretic, or even one and the same…which, if you know Freyja, will give you some idea of the depth and complexity of Aphrodite).
Hekate has come through a few times, but I don’t want to deal with the expectations I fear she might have of me. (I feel like it would be too much like working with Odin, only starting from the beginning without the hard-won understanding and familiarity I now share with him.)
I’ve wished Asherah would come through, but then again, her presence in my life (as the Hebrew goddess, the rejected Queen of Heaven of my mother’s ancestral faith) would open up an entirely different can of worms I’m not sure I want to deal with. I’m not any more interested in being swallowed up by Judaism than I am by Christianity. And I feel like at this stage of my life, it’s much too late to make that kind of hard right turn. (Also, Asherah too overlaps with Mary. It feels a bit like, after the Jews tossed her out, she was picked up by the Egyptians, and later on by the Church.)
I’ve recently become fascinated by Circe (and am in the process of gobbling up, like so much buttered popcorn, the bestselling novel by Madeline Miller), but I think that in my own practice she may end up being a folk saint to honor and learn from (alongside people like Anne Boleyn, Elizabeth Woodville, and Cleopatra) rather than a patron goddess per se.
The confusion and frustration I’ve been dealing with, let me show you it. There are many goddesses I could work with, but are any of them right for me? And do any of them even care? I don’t want one of them to condescend to work with me because one of the gods I work with thinks I’m cool and asks them to humor me. (Also, this may sound weird, but I seem to have decided that I don’t want to pick a goddess from either the Norse or Greek pantheons, because I feel that would tip the balance of power in my life too much towards either Poseidon or Odin. I know, weird. It must be my Libra cusp coming through.)
Going back to the premise of the reality show we started with, there are only two deities who I met before the age of 25 but maybe didn’t give the relationship the time and attention they deserved. One of those was Lucifer. Whose place in my life has yet to become clear, but who is always lurking somewhere in my consciousness, even though I’m not working with him currently in any kind of tangible way. When I glance in his direction, his smile says our story is not over yet.
The other was Isis.
Isis has been around me since childhood, to the point where even my mother remarked that I must have “walked the desert” with her in a previous existence. The Mistress of Magic and Great Mother of ancient Egypt, her worship later spread throughout the Greco-Roman world. In fact, because the cult of Isis was one of young Christianity’s biggest competitors in the Roman empire, a lot of Isis’ names and attributes ended up being passed on to Mary in an effort to get more pagans to convert. Before Odin stormed into my life, she was my longest running spiritual relationship (since I had known her even longer than Lucifer). The first mythology I became familiar with in my life was the Greek; the second was the Egyptian. In elementary school, I was incorporating hieroglyphs into school art projects. I was Cleopatra for Halloween. I was always reading some dorky grown-up book about the ancient Egyptians. I was always begging my parents to take me back to the University of PA museum, with its mummies and Egyptian artifacts. My mother took me to Washington DC to try to get tickets to the King Tut exhibit at the Smithsonian, and when we couldn’t get in, she made sure I got to see it at the Met in New York a few months later. I was sure I wanted to be an Egyptologist when I grew up.
This obsession continued into my teens and twenties. As soon as I began to identify as a pagan and witch, I felt sure that Isis would be my lifelong patron goddess. And then, in my thirties, Odin happened.
But now, she has come through the portal, almost hesitantly, as if unsure of her welcome. And it has me thinking. Before I was a Norse-flavored pagan, I would have considered myself mostly an Egyptian-flavored one. During the months with Poseidon, the Olympian gods have begun to feel more and more like family (much as the Norse gods have for the past two decades). But the Egyptian gods also felt that way for me, at one point in my life. Maybe the time has come to start my journey with Isis again. Maybe, for me, she really is “the one that got away.”