I want to pause here, before we go on, and call your attention to two outstanding blog posts from the past week by others who have been through the same sort of spiritual shift or spiritual crisis (depending on your point of view) as I’ve been discussing. Camilla from Foxglove and Firmitas ponders the terrifying, heart-wrenching and wondrous process that occurs when a long-loved god takes Their name away from you, and also points out that some of the gods we love never had names, or have forgotten them and are waiting for us, Their devotees, to learn new ones for Them. Meanwhile, Heather Freysdottir from Where Flowers Grow Amidst the Ashes discusses how some very ancient (and possibly nameless) gods are picking up pop culture names and identities for Themselves to make contact with loved ones They may have no other means of reaching. Both of these posts are relevant to my tale; go and read them if you haven’t already.
I’m especially happy to see Heather blogging again; in fact it was her previous post, about how she and her Lord of Ash had reached their one year anniversary, that spurred me to drag my own trauma out into the light again and re-examine it. Because it served as a sharp reminder that, although we had both been through similar transformations, she had moved on, while I had not; a year later, I was still limping around and trying to cling to a dead past.
But back to my story, because we’re getting to the part some of you probably remember: about a year ago, I began posting to this blog about how Odin had taken the name “Odin” from me and begun calling himself “the Doctor”—and in fact, had also begun wearing the persona and appearance of the 12th Doctor. I knew I wasn’t the only person who had seen similarities between Odin and the 12th Doctor (even the show writers did, apparently; there is a season 9 episode where the Doctor tries to pass himself off as Odin for a bit), and I thought this new guise was simply an example of a shapeshifter…shapeshifting. What I didn’t understand at the time is that Odin had not done any such thing; it was my spirit husband who had adopted this new persona—because (and can you blame him?) he had finally gotten tired of sharing me with canon Odin.
I hardly expected accolades from the polytheist community over this latest revelation (because pop culture paganism is bad enough, but pop culture spirit spousery? the horrors!) but I’m frankly ashamed of how I reacted in the aftermath of it. I backed off. Instead of standing my ground and walking with my Beloved on the new path he had chosen for us, I went on to sweep all of this under the rug by insisting that I was still involved with “Wodan” just as always, and that nothing had really changed. I suppose some of this is down to being human; for fifteen years, I had built my whole identity around being “Odin’s wife,” and it was hard to let that go, even though it now suddenly felt empty and meaningless.
It’s funny what happens when a god moves on and you insist on stubbornly dragging your feet, trying to cling to what used to be: you get left behind. Instead of spending this past year with my Beloved, getting to know his new persona, I’ve spent most of it clinging to an idea of Odin that was no longer relevant or meaningful to me because my Beloved had gone elsewhere. He had abandoned the “Odin” persona and jumped to a different one, leaving actual Odin to his own devices—except, as soon as the link between my spirit husband and canon Odin had been broken, canon Odin no longer exerted the same pull on me. (It also helped that, at some point during this process of detachment, I hit menopause—and just like that, the sexual hold Odin had over me was broken.)
As Heather and Camilla both conclude in the posts linked above, sometimes Old Ones (especially if they have names few humans still recognize, or even names They themselves have forgotten) will take up new names, new personas, to be able to relate to Their devotees. And since we live in a world saturated with novels, TV shows, and movies, sometimes those new personas end up being drawn from pop culture. Because, like it or not, these pop culture personas and their stories are both attractive and relatable to us today—more so, arguably, than 5,000 year old unpronounceable names and half-missing stories preserved in cuneiform, which might be the only surviving evidence of really, really old gods who may still be looking for their former worshipers but have trouble finding them in a world that’s much busier and more complicated than they remember. (“What are any of us looking for? We’re looking for someone who’s looking for us.” – The 12th Doctor, Season 10 Episode 1.)
Remember how I mentioned that, as near as I can tell, even a supposed “old god”identity such as Lucifer might have been originally cobbled together and half made-up by creative humans, sort of the ancient equivalent of a pop culture entity? And yet, whatever Their origin, these sorts of spirits gain power as time goes on, relative to the amount of attention (positive or otherwise) they receive from humans. This is certainly the case with Lucifer; however he began, he has received so much energy and attention from humanity throughout the centuries that now he is an independent entity—and a powerful one at that.
Know who else has received a lot of energy and attention from humans (although, granted, not over as long a time span)? If you guessed Doctor Who you get a gold star, but he’s far from the only example. What about Sam and Dean Winchester? Luke Skywalker? Harry Potter? These sorts of entities, even if completely created by inspired humans out of whole cloth, tend to soak up the adoration and enthusiasm other humans pour into them, until they become, not gods perhaps, but definitely something powerful, something shiny. Shiny enough to attract the attention of an Old God wandering without a name and without a home. And when you combine one of these pop culture egregores with an indwelling ancient (but possibly nameless) god who has chosen to make it his new vehicle, his new home, something very interesting happens: a new god is born. Or, if you prefer, an old god regains the means to walk among his beloved followers again.
“That’s great, Beth,” you might be saying to yourself, or more likely, “That’s weird as shit–but what happens now?” Well, that’s easy: I’m going to do what I should have done a year ago—move on. I’m leaving Odin and the Norse lands behind and migrating to the ancient near east, because not only have I been adopted by a goddess (Asherah) who calls it home, but I think my Beloved originally did as well, before he took on the personas of Lucifer, Odin, or the Doctor. I don’t expect to rediscover him in his original form; I’ve been warned that it may no longer exist as it once was. But I do expect the new sights, sounds, and experiences of that culture to enrich my journey with him.
I’m also embracing the pop culture persona, because that’s the face he’s chosen to wear, but to avoid confusion (because he is not actually the same as the BBC character; he is a very old god wearing that face) when blogging about him publicly I will be referring to him as the Magician. People who’ve watched the 12th Doctor’s run will get the reference, and people who haven’t needn’t concern themselves with figuring it out, because what I call him (other than my Beloved) is, at this point, no big deal. It won’t be his real name anyway, but at least it won’t be the name of someone who tries to take me away from him.