Monday, December 16, 2013

I Think a God Called. Now What?

Recently, I checked Facebook and ran across this question, which I’ve edited here for brevity and privacy:

“Is it possible that a God calls you to reinstate something? Is this a possibility? Perhaps I was hallucinating?” The individual also included that s/he has been an atheist. I shall tackle this matter here briefly. I know that even though there is only one person asking this where I can see it, there are dozens more who wonder about the same matter but haven’t asked it aloud yet. (If this is you: you there! Start asking aloud! It is desperately difficult for a person to answer your question if that question only stays in your mind and isn’t translated into written or spoken words.)

“Yes, Virginia, there...are gods”. There are lots and lots of gods, and they do call you into their service. Many times they will call you into their service whether you are aware you’re hearing them or not. If you have become aware of them, that is a blessing and you can begin to use that connection to communicate with them further and embark upon the Work. So, yes, this is a “possibility”.  Sure, hallucinations are also a possibility, but I don’t think that’s what you’re asking here. I think what you’re really saying is “I’ve had this experience and I do not have a context for it. Where do I find context and please tell me how do I discern from real communication with the deities, casual self-mental chatter, or if I’m having a clinical problem.”

I am no doctor, so I cannot answer the question of clinical psychological delusions; if you think that this is going on, seek qualified care, and better yet try to find a professional who is open to polytheistic religion. However, I can help something in the matter of discerning divine communication from everyday healthy mental chatter. It can be a deeply shattering experience when the gods contact us. It can shake us to the foundations which make us question even our own identities. When a person does not believe in gods prior to the experience, and when a person has no context for such an experience, the feeling can extend from shattering to pulverizing. So what do you do if this happens?

Search for a context. If you feel the god was Egyptian, look to Egyptian religion. If you feel the goddess was Greek, look to Greek religion, and so on. If you have no idea from what context the deity is from, ask someone, or go with a hunch. They worst you could be is wrong, and if you’re wrong, you can always correct that later. Search for polytheists. Although it hurts, suck up your pride a little and ask. We were all new to this once. If you’ve been looking for context in one place and think it isn’t the right context, ask for someone to refer you elsewhere. We’re a chatty lot, and we give our all in service to our deities—we love to help you do the same and most of us often bend over backwards to help.

But be patient; sometimes it takes us a while to get to things. I know it feels urgent, and in some respects it is. Sitting with uncertainty is an unsettling feeling and it increases the sense of urgency. Take a deep breath and try to go into that uncertainty, acknowledge it, sit with it a while, and know that it will resolve...and often lead to even better questions. The harder you push against that uncertainty, the worse it feels; in contrast, the more you breathe into it and acknowledge it, and see it as an opportunity, the more you have to gain from it. By seeking and asking for a context, you can begin to have some sort of structure or framework, a language, a basis to work with. With context, experiences have a deeper meaning with less trauma. Context provides a greater sense of stability in dealing with things that before were outside your typical frame of reference, and aids you in interacting with the deities.

Next, test the message and test the connection. Begin this process by making an offering to the deity. Talk with the deity; approach the deity with respect. Tell the deity that you need some kind of proof that you heard correctly and that these are her/his words you're hearing and not your own. When I pray, I let the deities know that I honor them so deeply that I do not want to confuse their words for my own; they are usually quite helpful in this regard. Ask the deity to help you to know when s/he’s presenting proof to you and/or ask the deity to tell you what that proof will be.

I have found in my work that most deities are willing to do this. As for exactly how to do this, this is the moment when you rely on context. If the deity is Greek, look to Greek religion to provide ideas for what to offer, how to make offerings, and what prayers to make. This is why context is so useful.  If you can’t seem to find any context, if you can’t seem to find any help, if you can’t seem to find any way to address the deities who have called you, a)ask around even more—aloud, in public or private forums, to people, and b) you can try this:

Find something to represent the deity in question: picture from the internet, a symbol, a rock, a book, a cup, a doll, whatever. Set the image up on a table. Pour wine, vodka, good fruit juice, olive oil, milk, beer, kefir, perfume, or another fine beverage or liquid in a bowl or cup before the image. (Unless the deity in question has a history of wanting something like kool-aid or soda pop, you may want to avoid these.) If you’ve not been able to find out what liquid would be appropriate, go with your gut feeling. Bow down, prostrate yourself before the deity’s image, and pray. If you’re in this situation, the best prayer you can make is the one that is honest—there’s no formula here, no magic words, no formulaic incantation. 

Do not consume the liquid that you pour for the deity. Wait a cycle of a full day and night, then pour the liquid into the earth outside. Yes. Pour it into the earth. It is not "wasteful"--it was given to a deity and the deity consumed the essence of the liquid. By pouring it out, you are completing the process of sending it on to the deity. By drinking it instead, you may have interrupted this process (again, it can depend on context). 

I hope this helps. Best wishes and guidance to you and your growing relationships with the deities.


  1. Yes, I am one of those people who need to read this! I printed it out to refer to as I learn about the Canaanite deities. I've put water, wine and beer in a cup. But how does one do libations with oil? Or a liquid with a solid food (like wheat flour)? Do they all mix together in the same bowl? Are there other *improper* ways I don't know about? (I have totally sipped wine/partook of the food a few times when I was starting. I come from a Catholic background, so I was using the usual mode: bless then eat it!)

    Thank you for what you do. May the gods strengthen your napsh'u and your well-being.

    1. Hello, Shiftingspectrums. With the Canaanite deities, it is best to use a bowl rather than a cup if you intend to pour the offerings out. There's certain symbolism with an overturned cup that you will want to avoid. You can indeed mix flour and oil in a bowl--put the flour in the bowl and pour the olive oil on top, then pour out the contents of the bowl outside later. You can treat just olive oil in the same way and pour it out outside, or you can even burn it in an olive oil lamp--also an acceptable mode of offering since you are giving the deities the oil, and the light that comes from the oil. Of course, you can always make a lovely meal, serve up a portion to the deities on a separate plate, then serve yourself a portion of the feast on a different plate. Eating the offerings is not always improper but it is something advanced and comes with some *very big caveats*, which is why I do not suggest a layperson to do it.

      Thank you for your kind words, and I hope the above is helpful. Further questions? Please feel free to ask.

      Yishlam le-ka, may the deities bless you with wellbeing and wholeness.

  2. This is a wonderful post, simple and clear advice for where to start when approached by a new or unfamiliar deity.I wish I could have read this 20 years ago when the gods first came calling and I didn't know what to do, panicked and hid, then spent the next 10 years painstakingly figuring it out. ..

    1. Hi, Bari. Working with deities is always a challenge, even if you've had a working relationship with them for over a decade. I think it's supposed to be this way...after all, that's what brings about growth and change. But you know this. ;) I've had a few interactions that have made me want to run and hide, so I grok. I put on my lipstick and dive in anyway even if I'm kicking the whole time...until I realize that in kicking, I was actually swimming and I needn't be so frantic about it.

  3. Dear Tess Dawson,

    I recently read this article and found it very useful and informative especially in my own practice. Later, during the debate that seemed to be sparked by this article, I made my own attempt to begin calmer discussion between parties, speaking in particular in defense of this article. That post can be found here:

    As a result of that endeavor and reaching out to several individuals, several things were brought to my attention that called into question if in fact I had given a clear summery of the issue at hand, or if I had given an incomplete one, being unaware of several facts of the original case.

    I have not yet seen anyone ask you about these issues so I wish to do so myself. If would please read and respond to my most recent post here: I would be very grateful.

    Thank you very much for your time,

    James Grimswolf

    1. Hi James, it's good to hear from you. You say in your post, "It also somewhat implies that the speaker somehow has gleaned from clues gained in discourse as to the inner mental workings of the recipient, that the speaker somehow knows the difference between what the recipient actually experiences and only imagines."

      Water is wet. When we touch water, we know what "wet" feels like, we know what water feels like. Other people can touch water and know what wet and water feel like.

      If a person has only ever worn gloves all of her life and tries to touch water, she will have an experience of water and an experience of wet, but it will not be the same understanding. Though water and wet are indeed real for her, she has yet to experience them with the depth and clarity that being gloveless can provide.

      All of us right now trying to live as polytheists, have gloves on. Some of us have managed through doing inner work to have thinner rubber gloves than others, and thus the experience of wet and water will be closer to the "real thing," but until we can figure out how to be without the gloves, it will not be the real thing...yet.

      If someone wears thick insulating rubber gloves and tries to pass off their experience of water and wet as a perfectly valid experience...they're right. Their experience is perfectly valid given the situation, and is entirely real--no less real than that of any other person. their experience more or less accurate than a person who has managed to wear thinner gloves, given that both people are wearing gloves?

  4. Going by my understanding of your metaphor, that water is the Gods, and the thickness of the gloves is varying abilities in mysticism, neither experience is more or less accurate, as neither is touching the water to begin with. Also in this manner, neither being aware yet that not wearing the gloves is possible, neither has knowledge of who's gloves are thicker and who's are thinner. Nor even a real measure to be able to tell if you are a person wearing gloves or not.

    Which in a sense supports the original point I was attempting to make in that longer discussion: We have no measure by which we can prove our own experiences any more or less valid than any other, and to state that "So-and-so must not believe that the Gods are real" as I have seen done in a number of places and variations including recent posts of your own, implies that the speaker has irrefutable knowledge of both the validity of their own experience, and the invalidity of the experiences of the target of the statement. Were we discussing if a certain physical event could be replicated and validating that principle through scientific method, such an argument would be entirely possible. But as we are discussing experiences that are so private and personal as to take place on the field of one's heart, mind and soul, it is not and likely never will be. All of which are issues that I'll be speaking on, at length, either this morning or by tomorrow evening.

    1. The thickness of the gloves has more to do with a filter that we are all born with, an internal obstacle and personal adversary we must overcome in beginning to understand the deities. In external matters, it can show up (sometimes but not always and not limited to) difficulty in understanding the plurality of the deities and the deities themselves.

      Some experiences, and some who have experiences, are more or less accurate...but this still takes place through this filter and this filter can color the experience. And it is possible to know that one has the gloves on: self-awareness is a matter (not the only matter) of key importance in these efforts. Those with greater self-awareness can begin to compensate for the gloves, can begin to thin the gloves, and hopefully can begin to shuck off the gloves and aid others in doing similarly.

      Some folks can perceive the deities through this filter with greater acuity...but we all still have gloves on until we learn to take them off. It is possible for some to indeed know or begin to understand whose gloves are thicker and whose aren't.

      To suggest that everyone is on an equal playing field in this matter is rather like saying that we can all play the piano: some people have musical ability and some people have abilities which lie in a completely different vein. Most people could indeed learn piano if given adequate time and lessons, but there are always going to be some who have a natural inclination toward music, and some who are better at building, painting, or dancing, and so on. Just because a person plays piano well, doesn't necessarily mean that he or she is a virtuoso in building or painting or dancing. We all have different gifts and this is the beauty of diversity.