The pagan world's newest love is lecturing about the “proper way” to honor gods. By far my favorite read so far was “Our Gods are not Vending Machines.” It's a pretty good read about someone disagreeing with someone else's choice to go to a God they don't have a relationship with for help with a problem. I ended up totally sympathizing with the author's frustration at a person who was constantly complaining about a problem, but then decided to take 3 years of complaints in a desperate long shot to the Gods.
The initial frustration is where we parted ways though. The author continued down a path arguing that proper worship requires that we have deep and personal committed relationships with Gods and assumed the person's problem was not being committed to her Goddess.
So to express my disagreement with that idea I'm going to tell a few stories and replace some names with other names.
- The Morrigan – Mary
- Apollo – Al
- Thor – Tom
- God – Popular Person
Mary, Al, and Tom are all Popular Persons. They have a lot of power and lots of people know about them. They have different relationship with different people.
Jerry and Tom
Jerry has heard about Popular People, but stories aren't very consistent. Today's a hard day though. Jerry's afraid because he received a threat from a local gang that they were going to fuck him up. He's heard that Tom doesn't much like assholes screwing with people though so he calls Tom up. “Tom? It's Jerry. You don't know me, but there's this situation happening. I'm wondering if you might help?”
Luckily for Jerry the story was true. Tom hears about the situation and because Jerry asked Tom decided to follow his core nature... not because he's being paid and not because he knows Jerry, but because Tom is a protector who cares about common people. He gets involved.
Sally, Al and Mary
Sally has been in a committed relationship with Al for years. Sally has lots of stories of times she did nice things for Al and Al did nice things for Sally. She really loves him. Unfortunately Sally wants revenge against someone who is going to get away with raping her sister. She thinks about going to Al, but it's not really who Al is. Al isn't known for being a mean destroyer. Sally doesn't feel that asking Al for help getting revenge is a good idea, but she's heard this story of a popular person named Mary who is ALL about the revenge.
Sally studies Mary a bit and then calls Mary up. “Mary, I've got this problem, and I think you are the right person to help with this. I hear you like gifts of X (she did her research right?). If I give you this would you please help me?”
What's my point in all this? Many of us have different kinds of relationships with the same Gods. I have Gods who are drinking and smoking buddies. I have gods who I have a dedicated worship cycle of. I have gods who I've done business with. I have gods who the ONLY time I hear from is when our purposes align.
Both gods and people are willing to have different relationships with people for lots of different reasons. Because they don't have physical bodies, gods do have different motivations from us. Those motivations tend to be: expressing their core nature, receiving praise/energy, experiencing the pleasures of a body, helping those they love, hurting those they dislike.
Notice how I keep using the word tend? That's because each God is differently motivated by different drives... AND the god expresses differently in different people and cultures. Gods most commonly express through the filters of human consciousness. When people are hateful pricks, the Gods tend to express that way too. When people are pacifist hippies the gods express closer to that.
The Gods are bigger than us. That means that not only are they capable of expressing everything we are capable of expressing, but they are even bigger than that too. Most advanced priestwork is about trying to connect a community to an expression of a God which will bless it. This is about adjusting the consciousness of the community and people within to be able to accept the God.
I know communities who are entirely marketplace based. Everything is: I give you this and you give me that. AND IT WORKS. They find expressions of the Gods willing to work in that context and it works for everyone. One of the most common offerings tend to be "body time" where the God joins the person inside the body (possession) and enjoys food, drink, dancing, sex and sleep. When this happens the God often stretches the consciousness of the person. This helps them grow or heal as a side effect of the God's presence.
I know other communities who are all about a drama cycle of personal relationships with extreme demands from both Humans and Gods. Their communities are filled with intense stories of how both sides met each others' requests. Frankly seeing how much fun interaction happens from this a part of me wishes I was more willing to play those drama games because those are some awesome miracles!
I know other communities who are entirely about intensely worshiping their gods and who don't have any solid expectations from them. For them the relationship is about connecting with the divine, feeling the power and learning from the wisdom. Those communities tend to believe it's a human's job to fix their problems and that a God who was well loved and connected with might intercede when they felt like it, but it was entirely up to the God.
Finally, I know of cultures who believe the Gods are expressions of reality itself. Their names for their Gods tends to literally mean “spirits of nature”. Relationships tend to be half-anthropomorphic and half direct praise of the power of the nature they are recognizing a spirit of. There tends to be a belief that the worship is about recognizing the connection with the Spirit of Nature and learning how to understand and/or influence the spirit of nature to bless the person's life.
So there. You have heard multiple examples of different ways to worship Gods. ALL OF THESE WAYS WORK. The next time someone tells you that their way is the right way come back here and read other ways too.
Your relationship with Gods is your own. How you choose to work with them is going to be influenced by your culture, your situation and your choices. Now that you know you HAVE choices you will likely mix and match different relationship styles with different Gods. The same way that you have friends, lovers, clients and employers, associates and family... all at the same time.