This one is more personal than sex.
And while I’m great at theorizing sexuality and discussing sex in the abstract, I never do very well when the conversation turns real. I don’t want to know the intimate details—the, um, ins-and-outs—of my friends’ romantic lives any more than I like to talk about mine. I’m not prudential, mind you. I’m fairly game for accepting anything—except that I don’t like talking about it.
And if you consider how I feel about talking about actual magical operations, I think you’ll see that this is a full-on personality trait. I will do many things; but when it comes to constraining the importance of those things to the limitations of language, I find that I am uncomfortable. It seems to me that speaking a thing diminishes it, disempowers the act, caps its potency, and imprisons it forever in a Derridian horizon of nominalism. To blog about such things seems to make “words on a page,” a formerly empowering phrase for me as a writer, turn into what Hamlet calls merely, “Words, words words.”
Thus, it goes against my grain to tell you what I am about to tell you.
So be gentle.
I’ve had one of those run-ins—finally with a Norse deity—that is hard to put into words. I’ve told you about the times Hestia and Megaera paid brief visits. But they weren’t claiming me; they were bringing me advice, comfort, instructions, whatever.
I’ve never been “dedicated” to a particular deity. I’ve had affinities to be sure, mostly Celtic and mostly dark aspects like The Morrígan and Ceridwin; though I have been lit up by the fire of Brigid from time to time and the combative spark of Scáthach. No one has ever asked for more than a dance or two, and that was just fine with me since I couldn’t imagine being “godatheow,” a godslave. (Psst, you’ll wanna check out that footnote, it has a g-jillion links.) *I* obviously never chose a deity to which I “belonged,” that felt a little pompous or assumptive or something.
The Norse gods never bothered with me much. I liked the ethics and the lexicon and the culture of the Northfolk, but the pantheon just felt (as it should) like elder-kin. The lore always seemed (as it should) like literature. I am not saying that I never felt their presence, but they were more like onlookers—guests who stopped by to have a beer but not stick around too long. Admittedly, I kept them at an arm’s length. Loki scared the shit out of me and Odin just seemed like a pushy, domineering sort.
Odin on Sleipnir by spanielf on DeviantArt
Over the years, Odin would poke his head in and say, “Hello. Wanna go for a ride?”
I always declined.
Recently quite vehemently.
It was September of 2012 when I finally decided that I would formally align myself with a deity. I’m not sure how the other kids are doing it, but I did it this way. I was alone for the weekend and I had just gotten re-comfortable with my old practice of spirit-journeying. I had gotten to where I could drop back into a trance like I could in my 20s and early 30s. Just like riding a bike. And just as exhausting when one is older and not in great shape. After what felt like an eternity of asking questions and opening doors and walking and walking and walking and talking to odd inhabitants, I was tired enough to throw my astral hands in the air and say the equivalent of, “Come and get me!” It felt almost like an offer to the highest bidder. I regretted it almost immediately: “That was a bad idea.”
Of course, I had a couple of scrubs come by and low-ball me; I expected this. But I don’t go home with deities that live in their mama’s basements.
Yeah, it felt kinda like being picked up in a bar.
I almost took this one offer but there was a weird little hitch that made me look at the fine print a little better before saying, “I’m sure you are very sweet, but no thanks.”
After that, things started happening, changing, improving, amplifying, and doing so pretty rapid-fire. I found myself asking, “Who do I thank for this? And who do I thank for this? And who left this present?” and generally shouting, “Thanks,” to the broader universe hoping my benefactor would hear me.
I knew I had settled on being a Heathen. I knew I was bound to engage with a Celtic/Anglo deity. But I kinda thought there might be a lesser-god/dess that would be a little less insistent than The Alfather. Yeah, yeah, I am a control freak. Who of us isn’t? And anyway, I don’t believe that going to the ultimate deity is the only way to go. I know lots of folks who have great relationships with deities that are not Zeus, Quetzalcoatl, Baal, Lugh, or their female counterparts. I thought a creatrix like Cailleach or Fairy Fand would suit me just fine.
Then, as you likely read, over the winter, Freyja came along and started making it fairly obvious to me that she was taking up housekeeping. I thought this was a little bigger than I expected but it seemed fine and dandy to me. I could handle a shapeshifting Vanic-fio-Asa-Goddess with cats, falcons, boars, and herons who just happens to be Queen of the Psychopomps.
Then Odin came back along—a little more strident than ever—and suggested that he had claim on me simply because I had agreed to Frejya’s terms a few months earlier.
“No.” I said. “And it’s not that I don’t like you. I really think you are groovy, but you see, you’re just not my type. You’re too aggressive. If you want to talk from time to time, that’s cool. But you have to stop leaning on me.” That’s how it felt—like he was always leaning on my like a possessive and dominant dog. “If you don’t stay on your side of my comfort zone, you will turn me off entirely and send me running to some more-passive wine-drinking Apollonian.”
He laughed his tell-tale laugh, made a polite acquiescence that somehow still insinuated, “But, I’ll be back,” and let me be.
For about two-and-a-half months.
In the meantime, I decided that I would go ahead and make a formal dedication to Freyja. Not a “godatheow” relationship but a reciprocal, “I-recognize-what-you-have-been-doing-for-me-so-thanks-let’s-wear-each-other’s-class-rings,” kind of dedication.
It was nice. Just nice enough to be fine. Good. Fine. Nice.
And then yesterday.
I don’t even know how to tell you this without sounding schizophrenic. But I assume that if you are reading this blog, you have a modicum of knowledge about such encounters and will not seek me out to have me committed.
Odin approached me for the third (serious) time.
This showed up.
Last week when the kindred met to do that stav workshop, my Journey-buddy and I were making comments about “finding spirit animals” or fylgia. He mentioned that one might see “normal animals” three times in remarkable circumstances but that fantastic animals (should that be your animal) tended to appear everywhere all the time—on t-shirts, on TV, in dreams, etc. Last week I started seeing hanged men and gallows everywhere. It unnerved me. I wasn’t sure what to make of it until yesterday.
Yesterday when Odin poked his head in and said, “It’s time.”
This time, he . . . um, made me an offer I couldn’t refuse. I don’t mean to say he was going to put a horse’s head in my silk sheets or my brains on a band contract, but that he made an offer so tempting that I couldn’t refuse it. Not a carte blanche offer either, of course. This is a Norse deity who plays by the rules of Gebo. But a fair, good, solid, damned-attractive offer. And in the end, I get to keep my soul—such as it is—thank you very much.
We made a bit of a compromise, and I was even given the A-OK to tell y’all about it—most of it.
I have to give an ordeal. No bloodletting, piercings, or body-hanging or anything of that sort, but not totally painless either—only because I am so indulgent. My detox period has been moved up. I normally detox for a week in April or May. I start on a nine-day near-fast on Monday: “No bread did they give me nor drink from a horn.” And there are other physical and non-physical sacrifices to which I am obliged. A little sleep deprivation, a little caffeine withdrawal, a little abstinence—alcohol and sex.
This showed up.
The ordeal of Odin is usually commemorated in August. Guess what? I detox every six months. After striking the deal it occurred to me—Guess what’s six months from now? August. And the fact that it’s Lent and we are talking about self-sacrificing gods making an exchange for Gnosis, hanging on trees, and transfigured resurrection, yeah. All that occurred to me too. After the fact.
I have to journey in each of the nine worlds and collect eighteen “things.” I guess I’ll know what this is when I get there. (This struck me as “random.” Then it occurred to me, duh: 9×2=18. I’m slow.)
Yes, I get something in return—I was given this information from Odin in his Oski aspect. And then as Svipal gave way to Gagnrath, he warned me that I wouldn’t get my return in *my* order, but in his. This could be a Witch’s Duh moment–but I don’t think so. And once it’s all over and our accounts are settled—then I will be asked for my hand in, um, theowdom—we’ll go with theowdom. Obviously, it would be a shame on me forever if I decline.
To be clear–I don’t see this arrangement as “ownership” or “slavery.” Others may (I’ve read that they do.) This is not the tenor in which it was presented to me. To minister is already to serve–“theow” means is related to “thew” or “bodily discipline”–I’ll talk about that later too. After all, in the RCC, the Pope is called The Servant of Servants. (Go ahead, sing the Nirvana song. I’ll wait.) There is a physical discipline to journey work. We must commit to this loyally if we want success, no?
I wanted to talk about Ordeals and trees and Judas Iscariot but that will have to wait, I suppose. I also somehow thought I’d have time and space to cover “horsing” and such but that will have to wait too.
For now, let me just share with you a bit of the conversation I had with Odin. Keep in mind that prior to yesterday, I didn’t know that humans replicated Odin’s ordeal. I had no idea that folks were doing this sort of thing. It wasn’t until after this conversation that I thought to look any of this up. I have a ton of stuff to share this upcoming week. In the last 48 hours, I have had information and revelation dumped in my lap like an aetheric piñata has burst just above me. I may be a little too overwhelmed to make much else of it.
E: “I’ve told you, you’re too pushy. I don’t want to be owned by a man. You know that simply just doesn’t fit my worldview.”
O: “Ah, but you are missing the point. Men are the war-lords—women rule the hearth and hamlet. You are in charge of all else—I am the defender, the warrior.”
I feel like I’m trying to make a photo essay at fill in the language gaps–like John Berger’s Ways of Seeing–but with trees.
E: “But a ‘slave’? Naw.”
O: “Read the Hávamál: ‘I know that I hung on a windy tree, nine long nights, wounded with a spear, dedicated to Odin, myself to myself, on that tree which no man knows from where it’s roots run.’ See?”
I was beginning to see. In a weird apocalypses unlike any of those I’ve had with other beings. It transcends words.
E: “So, what’s in it for you?”
That’s the part I don’t have any words for. I had this instantaneous understanding of things I couldn’t have imagined even existed.
O: “See. That’s how it works.”
E: “I can totally live with that.”
O: “See you a week from Wednesday.”
–Oh, I have to share some insights about Wednesdays too.
Until then, waes hael!
 Doing is another thing altogether. I’m married to a dedicatedly monogamous man + I am loyal to my vows to him = transitive property: I am dedicatedly monogamous.
 There is a lot of controversy about this term and practice. It seems the Norse gods are very hip on “collecting” godatheow and Odin has more than his fair share of folks out there discussing the matter. Here’s a good one. This one gives food-for-thought. In a search this morning, I found my friend Aubs (SatSekhem) at this forum. I haven’t had a chance to catch up with you recently, lady, how goes it with Sekhmet? Here’s a thread with a broad range of ideas.
 This was also the around time I decided to call myself “Völva” instead of “Witch” and to use the term “Seiðr” instead of “Ceremonial Magic.” I haven’t gotten around to telling you just how I think I might maybe feel about the word “Shaman,” so let’s just say that this was when I *formally* re-made “spirit-walking,” “journeying,” and “pathworking” a part of my regular practice/life.
 My relationship with the gods is best explained in terms of dating, it seems. Married by 20, I have little experience with either.
 From what I’m learning, it takes a lot of folks three times.
 And I had just finished reading Needful Things, so I was in a wary state of mind. It was *that* good.
 One of the biggest controversies is that godatheow are conflated with BDSM. Not all servants are Ordealists. Not all Ordeals involve BDSM. If you are an adult, read this (and all of her ordeal posts, really).
 He was shifting aspects like a character from A Scanner Darkly.
 If you follow me here—you follow. If you don’t understand this part, it’s not for you to understand.