And no, I’m not referring to an alternate name for the goddess Brigid, here, but to something entirely different.
For those who may be finding this blog for the first time (perhaps by way of the Pagan Blog Project website), or who have been reading me for a while but are still fairly new to this idea, the practice of taking sacred marriage vows to a god (or in some cases, a goddess) is a small but very present phenomenon in paganism whose adherents have been growing more and more vocal in recent years. Usually it is something that occurs among pagans who have a shamanic flavor to their practice, and who have some degree of skill with trance journeying and/or with speaking to spirits either directly or through intermediary methods such as the runes, the taking of omens, dream work, spirit boards, automatic writing, etc., and who sometimes also have some talent in channeling or spirit possession. These skills (in addition to many others) fall under the larger umbrella term “spirit work,” and while they are arguably not strictly necessary in maintaining a spirit marriage (it might be possible to do this in a strictly devotional manner, as a type of pagan equivalent to a Christian nun), they do make it a lot easier to uphold your end of such a relationship.
“Godspousery” is a term you may see applied to the god-marriage phenomenon, with the human partners in such relationships popularly referred to as “godspouses.” I think it is important to note, at this point, that I am coming at this from the stance of a hard polytheist. In other words, in my own experiences and belief, the gods are as real and as individual as you or I or George from across the street, so that when I talk about being married to Odin I am not speaking in airy metaphysical or figurative/symbolic terms, but am talking about a real marriage in which I interact with this god in the same manner that I would interact with a human husband (with a few differences imposed by lack of physicality and His possession of abilities that a mortal man would obviously lack). However, I cannot speak for other godspouses, and it may well be that some of those who have embraced this path see it in a more figurative way, or are a softer flavor of polytheist than myself.
In a recent post, I discussed a few points that had come up in response to an online controversy about the apparent increase in the numbers of people claiming this role for themselves, and I have posted elsewhere in the past about my own god-marriage, including a fairly detailed account of how it came about, nearly ten years ago now. I became the bride of Odin–the Germanic/Scandinavian god of poetry, madness and death–in the early winter of the year 2002, seduced by His words, wisdom and guile (and no less by His form, which in my vision and trance experiences was quite spectacular) and having very little idea what such an entanglement meant, or what it would lead to.
I will be writing more on this relationship, as well as on Odin Himself, in the weeks ahead, but for the purposes of this essay I wanted to delve briefly into what I feel a godspouse is, and what he/she–at least in my own experience– is most emphatically not. This is important for me to set down in writing for my own reference, as an emerging theme for me this year is to acknowledge that which I am not so that I can more fully embrace and engage with what I am, and get on with my own Work.
I submit to you that:
1. A godspouse is a bridge between the human and non-human, mortal and non-mortal worlds. This is virtually a no-brainer, as in order to even participate in this type of intimate relationship with a spirit one must be capable of existing in and interacting with two worlds at once, at least some of the time and to some extent. This role of bridge is, for me, a crucial aspect of being Odin’s bride, since part of what I do for Him is to provide a doorway through which He can access and act in this physical world directly and without any extra effort on His part. You might also see this as being a type of agent or ambassador for the god in question.
2. In marital terms, a godspouse is a helpmeet, much as a mortal spouse might (ideally) be. The medieval term for this function, as it applied to mortal wives, was “supplementarity.” I don’t do Odin’s work for Him (I wouldn’t be capable, by any means!), but I am familiar with His agenda and His modes of working in the world, and I make myself available to aid in that work when He calls on me. Such aid can include being available to other seekers or devotees (I have rearranged my schedule on many occasions to speak with or do work for Odin’s people who needed input from someone with a clear line of communication to Him), supporting causes the god cares about, or speaking on the god’s behalf–in addition to many other things.
3. However, the above does NOT mean that a godspouse is THE spokesperson for that god, or the only person with a direct line of communication to Him, or entitled to make pronouncements on the god’s behalf that affect the lives of other worshippers–especially, in case of the latter, when such pronouncements have not been invited or solicited; this is presumptuous, intrusive, and just plain rude! Godspouses, like anyone else who falls into a priestlike role, benefit from a big dose of humility; we need to keep in mind that we are not personally the be-all and end-all when it comes to a particular god, and avoid letting our prejudices get in the way of doing our work. For example, I may detest person A who is passionately devoted to Odin, but that does not necessarily mean my Husband is not fond of them and/or does not find them useful, and attempting to interpose myself between Odin and person A on the basis of my dislike would be wrong, and could lead to a stern (and well-deserved) talking-to.
5. Similarly, a godspouse–although ideally very conversant with her god’s myths, lore, symbolism, and historical and modern modes of worship–is not necessarily THE expert on that god, and may not even be much of a scholar or have much liking for academic texts on the subject of her Beloved deity, and this is okay. The ability to write a doctoral dissertation on her Husband is not a requirement, and there is no entrance exam one must pass in order to be engaged in such a relationship.
6. Like any agent or ambassador, a godspouse should ideally be an example of good behavior. This does not mean becoming the spitting image of Miss Manners, but it does mean striving for politeness, compassion, helpfulness, graciousness, and in general the comportment befitting a royal consort–since as the human consort of a god or goddess, this is basically what a godspouse is. If human kings and queens were/are ideally bound by a sense of noblesse oblige, the same also applies to godspouses, in spades.
7. A godspouse’s role may vary, in terms of spirit work, though as I’ve mentioned most of us would define ourselves as spirit workers as one type or another. We can be priests or priestesses, shamans, witches, healers, ordeal masters, diviners, or any number of other things. In my own case, although I provide oracular trance services for the public in addition to serving as a Door or Gate for a group of spirits who serve Odin, a good deal of my own practice is focused simply on being a wife and a homemaker for Him–about which I will go into more detail in future posts.
8. However, any additional spirit work assignments are usually conditional on a godspouse’s ability to keep in mind at all times that our priority is the marital relationship. Should that falter or need extra attention, we are often asked to drop any extra work, which the god usually regards as secondary in importance, until the relationship is once again considered to be on solid ground. The reason for this is simple: the relationship IS our ground, our foundation, the basis for everything else we do. On several occasions in our marriage, Odin has scaled back my spirit work activities until our home life was stable enough for me to begin to reach outward to others again.
And that’s enough for now. Hopefully this will serve as a good basic introduction to the topic for those who may be unfamiliar with the whole concept (please note that I haven’t even touched on the possible historical bases for this practice; that’s a whole ‘nother can of worms!) and will explore it further in some of my future posts in this project.