What do you seek from the Divine?

The deities are not cosmic gumball machines, wherein you select the one that has the goodies you’re after and deposit whatever offerings, rituals, spells, or what have you will get said goodies to pop out. No. Not in my experience, at any rate, and I say that as someone who has been immensely blessed by my husband, Odin. (I am now at the point of working only 16 hours per week at my day job and looking at being able to quit soon to be a full time artisan, witch, and writer, thanks to Him—and my amazing customers, who have supported and cheered me on all the way. Not that I haven’t also worked my ass off to get here, and while suffering from a chronic illness too, but I am under no illusions that any amount of work I did would have succeeded without His assistance.)

However, I didn’t marry Odin or devote myself to Him in order to become a successful business person—and that isn’t even on the list of reasons most people would approach Him, actually; He isn’t known for helping people in business, although running a business calls on the same skillset as running a kingdom (strategy, communication, good judgment, patience, insight into people, etc.), and He knows all about that. No, He’s helping me out of love, because this is a goal of mine and thus it’s become a goal of His as well.

But when I first married Him, I didn’t ask Him to help me start a successful business. I didn’t even ask Him for any of the usual things people want from Him: help with the runes, writing, teaching, seidhr, magickal skills, talking to the dead, etc. I didn’t ask Him for anything other than His presence in my life—and then once I had that, I quickly discovered that I also wanted His love, His companionship, His thoughts, His touch, and when He asked me to become His wife, I eagerly accepted. I asked for His presence because I had been feeling Him in and around the perimeters of my life since childhood, and especially since my early twenties, but I hadn’t known who He was. I was in my mid-thirties when I called out to Him, and at an especially low point in my life, feeling as though I had no friends or anyone else I could turn to, either spirit or mortal. I called to Him out of instinct, somehow knowing He would answer, somehow knowing He had been waiting for an invitation to approach more closely. He answered, and it was then that I fell in love with Odin the Person (as opposed to Odin the god of magick, or the Wild Hunt, or the King of Asgard), and knew I wanted to be at His side forever.

And in fact, for a very long time I didn’t ask Him for anything at all, because I didn’t want Him to see me as one of those people who was after a connection with Him for the purpose of furthering their magickal studies, or writing career. I only asked Him for help in my business after years of His pleading with me to take advantage of what He had to offer me , and because I had come to a point of desperation with my chronic illness where I knew I couldn’t go on doing the 9-5 routine (although in my job at the time it was more like 8-7 a lot of days) forever.

So yes, I very adamantly agree that the gods are not gumball machines, and it used to make me angry when I would see people approaching Him with a specific goal in mind, such as learning the runes. I still think kind of goal-seeking is not entirely the best way to go about beginning a relationship with a deity, but it doesn’t make me angry anymore, because it doesn’t upset Him. And the reason it doesn’t upset Him is that He sees these “areas of expertise” that people approach Him for as part of His Job. Just as, if people ask me about Odin I will generally answer if I’m able (and if I have time, and if the question is not a personal one pertaining to my own relationship with Him) because I feel that’s part of my duty to Him, if people ask Him for help with the runes He is usually happy to give it, because they are Mysteries that have been entrusted to Him, Mysteries He singlehandedly brought out of the void into manifest existence, and He really is the best teacher of them. (Not that others cannot teach them as well, but He has a unique relationship with them that give Him certain advantages.) And just as not everyone wants to be best friends with a clerk at Macy’s, for example (even though she is probably a lovely person, and has friends and is possibly married, etc., some people who approach her just want help finding a shirt that doesn’t make them look fat), He accepts that not everyone who approaches Him is going to love or even like Him as a Person; sometimes people approach Him because they know He can get a certain job done for them, and He is okay with that, provided that they are respectful and don’t try to squirm out of whatever He asks for in return. (Because there is always a price, when dealing with any of the Powers. Where They will really have a problem with you is when you try to rationalize yourself out of having to pay the price you’ve agreed to.)

So, with this in mind, I don’t necessarily have a problem anymore with people approaching Odin because He’s the god of the runes, or Bragi because He’s the god of poets, or Idunna for Her gardening skills, or what have you. Where I have a problem is when these deities (or any deities) are treated disrespectfully, which usually happens when people either don’t think they owe anything in return (and what you may owe is between you and the god in question) or refuse to pay it. The line of reasoning that “the gods are not gumball machines” is a sound one, but it’s also a prime example of the pendulum swinging back in the opposite direction, as it tends to do. For example, at one point 10-15 years ago, it was very common for people to have utilitarian attitudes towards the gods, and you would often see books that included laundry lists of deities to call on for various purposes. With the more recent polytheist revival, the pendulum has swung back to the other extreme, with many people asserting that you should never ask anything of the gods other than the right to worship and adore Them. The problem I have with this second attitude is that even if all you’re doing is worshiping and adoring the gods, or asking for Their presence in your life (as I did with Odin), you are still getting something out of that, such as companionship, love, or even just a sense of yourself as a pious person. (Not that I’m saying there’s anything wrong with that, but you’re fooling yourself if you think you’re getting nothing at all.) The gods (at least the gods I deal with) operate on the principle of Gebo, which is that what you give is what you get back. So if you are giving love, adoration, worship, etc., you are going to very likely get Their attention and kindly regard, at the very least. It’s rather disingenuous, in my opinion, to pretend that those aren’t things you’re hoping for, going into the relationship.

So, tl;dr: While I would certainly agree that the gods are not “cosmic gumball machines,” and I in fact married Odin out of love, not because of any good I thought He might do my career (which happened twelve years down the road, at that, and my early years with Him were filled with poverty and struggle, not financial success), in my experience the gods don’t resent having people approach Them for help in Their various areas of expertise, as long as you’re respectful about it and you give Them whatever They’re asking for in return. And if all you’re looking for from the gods is Their kindly attention, or to have Them think well of you as a pious person—well, that still counts as seeking something, just as my seeking Odin’s love and companionship counts.

6 thoughts on “What do you seek from the Divine?

  1. “With the more recent polytheist revival, the pendulum has swung back to the other extreme, with many people asserting that you should never ask anything of the gods other than the right to worship and adore Them. The problem I have with this second attitude is that even if all you’re doing is worshiping and adoring the gods, or asking for Their presence in your life (as I did with Odin), you are still getting something out of that, such as companionship, love, or even just a sense of yourself as a pious person. (Not that I’m saying there’s anything wrong with that, but you’re fooling yourself if you think you’re getting nothing at all.) The gods (at least the gods I deal with) operate on the principle of Gebo, which is that what you give is what you get back. So if you are giving love, adoration, worship, etc., you are going to very likely get Their attention and kindly regard, at the very least. It’s rather ingenuous, in my opinion, to pretend that those aren’t things you’re hoping for, going into the relationship.”
    Exactly. As an LHP-er I think it’s important to be brutally honest with one’s motivations for doing things, no matter how unpleasant, and the truth is that none of us are 100% altruistic nor should we be, and EVERYONE has an agenda. That doesn’t mean that agenda is bad. Companionship and love is not a bad agenda. It’s not even bad to want something from the gods, either. I agree that the pendulum has swung too far in the opposite direction – I think the gods are worthy of adoration for existing but there’s a big difference between offering to, say, Mother Earth for her bounty or Sunna and Mani for doing their jobs (where we’re all still getting something out of it) v. a personal relationship with a god – it makes no sense to favor a god with offerings and prayers if They are not doing anything for you and you get crickets. It is not unreasonable to expect that if you marry a god, They will be there for you and have your back when you need it.
    And yeah, as someone who works with demons, I obviously think there’s a case to be made for “deity of $THING can help you with $THING” and that’s part of their Job, and being compensated for doing said Job is not a bad thing. The entitlement mentality of expecting something for nothing is not good, but neither is the mentality that we can never ask the Powers to help us with anything. (I plan on doing my own post about this subject in the not too distant future because it’s something I’ve struggled with quite a bit.)

  2. You said: “The gods (at least the gods I deal with) operate on the principle of Gebo, which is that what you give is what you get back.”
    I think that it is the sentence in your text that summarizes all…
    I was precisely trying to understand that. In Havamal, it is said that “Better not to ask than to over-pledge, As a gift demands a gift (translation from https://www.ragweedforge.com/havamal.html ) and your words help me to understand, even if …well I have to work on that much more. 🙂

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