I’ve really been enjoying the posts inspired by the first My Polytheism post, and so:
In brief: I treat gods (and other spirits) like I treat human people (or would like to), except I can be more honest with Them.
My polytheism is very heavily focused on just one god. My daily routine is interspersed with things for or directed towards Him, and He is very interested in pretty much every part of my life, including a lot of things that fall into the “mundane minutia, why do You even . . . ?!” category, but uh. It’s been like that for 4+ years, I like it, He seems to be getting something out of it (entertainment, sometimes, for sure), so there it is.
There are many Others I keep altars for, but a couple of years ago, I got repeated, clear “stop that” instructions about my then-weekly altar-tending practice. So I did. It felt weird and wrong, but the message was pretty clear. It still feels kind of weird and wrong – after all, isn’t tending altars and making regular offerings one of Things you are “supposed to” do if you’re a polytheist?? However, I’m not going to try and force things on people when They’ve indicated They don’t want those things, so for two years now, I’ve just had this kinda awkward relationship with all these altars. I like having them here, and happily, the various gods and Others have (mostly) indicated I ought to keep Their altars here. But instead of doing regular altar-focused work, or even the occasional seasonal-appropriate ritual, apparently I’m just supposed to . . . talk to Them if They drop in. *quiet introvert teeth-clenching*
I don’t keep the Loki-oriented daily practices 100% on schedule; some weekend mornings I skip a morning routine, and some evening routines happen earlier than usual, or slightly differently. Some nights He tells me to skip it and go straight to bed (. . . it takes like 3 minutes normally). He’s never complained when I’ve decided to skip some/all of the “usual” routine, and I suspect He prefers things to be less than 100% organized, both because Loki, and because if I get too caught up in things having to be 100% ALL THE TIME I get a little anxious and stressy, and He cares about my well-being. (Then there is the part of me that wonders if this is all part of some super god-level secret plan to teach me a Lesson, which I have yet to clue in to . . .)
I don’t have a travel altar. I used to at least bring a candle with me, especially when I stayed with my parents, but He’s been discouraging that, too. I like my routine enough that I don’t like NOT having it at my folks’ place, but it makes travel in other places much simpler – and I still talk to Him as much, and some portions of my daily routine that are oriented towards Him (hair braiding, sharing food), I don’t need an altar to do.
I’ve tried to get a clear answer from Him about how He actually feels about the daily stuff, especially the evening portion – should I quit it? Does He like it or simply feel ambivalent about X or Y aspects of it? Most times I’ve gotten a sort of smug “What do you think?” kind of response back (not helpful!! but not a surprising non-answer either) but then once He said that really, it was the relationship that counts. Which. Yes. I mean obviously? Anyway.
That is generally the feeling I’ve gotten over the last couple years from the Others, too. The “how about you don’t do that ritual, just get the runes out, no don’t put the offering on My altar, leave it in the kitchen” from one goddess; the “meh” response about setting up an altar for a new one; the removal of an altar for a god Who keeps showing up anyway . . .
With Loki and Mr. Lynx-ears, having pretty casual interactions has seemed appropriate, since there is a lot of intimacy in those relationships that doesn’t exist in most of my other deity relationships (and I think it would create problems in the relationships if I tried to put formality in there, except for very specific ritual purposes), but it has felt odd when Powers I don’t talk to often have been disinterested in offerings when They’ve shown up to tell me things. Oh well; that’s how it is.
Another thing that isn’t really part of how I relate to the gods is this “ritual purity” or “miasma” concept I keep seeing people talk about.
I’ve been instructed to bathe and cleanse before doing some specific rituals (all of which have turned out to be one-time rituals), but otherwise, I’ve had no instructions about there being a need to do that, or anything else, before regular interaction with Powers.
I incorporate an energy-cleansing method into my regular bathing routine, which I believe Loki clued me in to do – but He’s never indicated that it’s anything to do with Him; if I’m overdue for a shower and/or energy scrubdown, He won’t tell me to go do that before approaching Him, nor has any other Power. Maybe that means my regular routine is more than enough for Their preferences. Or maybe it has nothing to do with Them, and Loki taught me this so I’d know how to reduce the chances I’ll feel like crap from doing energy work, divination, and talking to Them; He’s taught me other ways to rebalance myself after doing energy work, too. At any rate, it isn’t something I spend a lot of time worrying about. If I can tell I’ve done something energetically heavy, then I will do what I need to in order to sort myself out, and that’s that (more or less; sometimes I opt for lesser methods of cleansing over the full shower experience, and decide to risk some level of energy “hangover”).
I greatly value having divine input into my decision-making process, especially for big things, but I’ve generally taken the approach with gods (and other “big” spirits) that They are mature adults Who know that it’s important to communicate Their preferences proactively, and not just wait until They are asked for Their opinion. So for example, I’m not going to ask if They want me to take up altar-tending again. They know where I live, They’ve proven They can tell me things about altars, if They want change there, They’ll tell me. (And how many times would I have to ask before They’d say, very bluntly: STOP. ASKING. WE TOLD YOU. … Been there done that with other topics. Don’t see a good reason to risk annoying Anyone. Waste of everyone’s time.)
Sometimes I definitely want to ask Them before I take an action, but for plenty of things, I take the approach that if They think something I’m doing/planning is a bad idea, then it’s on Them to tell me; I’m not going to ask permission for everything. Also, Loki has instilled in me nervousness about asking too much, ’cause if I do that, well, He’ll give me advice, but I probably won’t be happy with the results. (Also, sometimes? The runes start giving answers that sound like fortune cookies. #how you know it’s time to stop asking questions) I still ask Loki lots of questions about life minutia, because my inner introvert monologue has largely been turned into running chatter directed at Him, and because, hey, Husband, You want that job, You get the “Uuuugh so . . . dinner . . . what do You think? Chicken or . . . ?” questions along with the fancy rings and etc. (And He told me once that He wanted me to share “everything” with Him. … I’ll take that opening and run with it, thankYouverymuch, that has superb comedic potential.) Very entertaining for everyone involved (but when He feels like it, He does give good cooking advice). More seriously, though, I get a lot of support from feeling His subtle presence in a lot of the day-to-day, and I need that, and He’s informed me on more than one occasion that taking care of my needs is part of what He’s all about, so.
There are a lot of other spirits in my life who I know do not have the same experience/ability to “see” things that I assume the gods and other Powers have, so I adjust my communication and behavior appropriately. But with all the spirits, I actively try to find out if there’s something they need or want other than my attention/communication. A lot of times, that seems to be the “only” thing they’re after (I put that word in quotes because I think it is wrong to devalue the energy of focusing on someone else, listening to them, and responding appropriately).
I do believe the gods, and many other Powers, are bigger and smarter and wiser than I am, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to just obey Them without question. I kneel in front of Loki’s altar; I kneel most of the time if I’m approaching a Power, and there have been some Whose presence required full prostration (but only the first few times I went before Them). But I will also tell Them if something They tell me gives me qualms. I don’t think there’s any point in trying to hide my feelings from Powers, and I’d rather have it out there so I can better understand what They’re trying to tell me, instead of just saying “okay” and then . . . possibly not understand what the fuck I’m even “supposed to” do.
With some of Them, I will argue, or push back against what They say/suggest I should do, but mostly that’s Loki, because He encourages it, and He’s most likely to tell me things I should be skeptical of, and it’s, um, my natural behavior when I’m comfortable with someone anyway and I’m not fucking going to squish myself into unnatural shapes for any Power who wants this kind of intimate relationship. He’s also intentionally pushed my boundaries a lot; several of the other gods have, too. If I don’t push back at those times, I’m not learning the right lessons, and I very much want to learn these lessons, as much as they’ve been fucking awful at times. It has usually been very obvious when They are testing various boundaries, so it’s usually been clear when pushing back is definitely the right thing to do, and it’s been enormously healing, to be able to push back or resist in various ways and know it is safe to do so.
I’ve never been worried that asking Powers questions, or expressing skepticism about what They’re saying, would end up with getting harsh treatment just for asking. (I told someone recently I once went and asked all of Them if I could change how often I dusted altars, and this person seemed surprised I even asked. … At the time I figured what was the worst that might happen? They’d say “LOL no, keep doing what you’re doing.”) If I’m going to take advice from Someone who knows some stuff, I want to understand as much as possible what’s going on, and that means questioning Them and expressing doubts or discomforts until either I understand what’s going on, know how to best take action, and have my discomforts addressed OR it becomes clear that They were aiming at some different kind of understanding or breakthrough on my part.
Basically, I treat Them the way I’d like to treat human beings I interact with, but I trust the gods to be far, far less likely to have unpleasant knee-jerk reactions to my communication style, even if I’m too emotional to be on my best (i.e., most stoic or controlled) behavior. I expect Them to be better than humans at dealing with human bullshit, and to (hopefully) know that, for the most part, I’m trying to understand and collaborate, and that telling Them what’s going with me emotionally is an important part of the process. It’s very freeing, and a relief, to not have to bottle myself up the way I have to in a lot of human interactions, even if on some level I always do expect some kind of repercussion for “questioning authority.”
There’s probably plenty more I could say about “my polytheism,” because ecology! and what about other spirits that aren’t “gods”? and stuff? but I already feel self-conscious about how long this is and I kind of want to just publish something rather than take another month and end up with 10,000 words.