My Gods Cannot Come First
When exploring a new path as a Polytheist or a Pagan, it is only responsible to do vigorous research on the deities and powers that will potentially receive your devotion. The powers themselves come with endless stories to give us not only the full flavor of their personalities, but implied guidelines to go by. Many people are pulled into various paths because they are called by deities to work with them in ways that will promote wisdom and an overall enriched life from that point forward. While the powers of any particular way of life or religion may have been the beacon of light that leads you to the practice in the first place, hopefully it becomes the ethics taught in their stories of triumph and defeat that keep you there. Hopefully you have found self-fulfilling purpose through your interactions with your chosen powers, or a reason to join and contribute to a community.
My gods welcomed me to learn from them. One thing that working directly with the gods has given me is the understanding that I need to make hard boundaries with them. The gods are older and wiser than us, they can see a bigger picture of where the universe has been and where it is going, and therefore have divine agendas based on their experience. Often times, practitioners are called by deities to do their will. In the times that I have unquestioningly put my gods first, I have been used up. Sometimes the gods forget we are fragile humans who have not explored the extent of our own boundaries yet (and press us to do so).
Depending on the powers you work with, some are gentler than others. In my case, I work with Heathen gods such as Odin and Loki, and neither of them ask anything easy. These gods come with a long list of warnings and side effects by long time practitioners for a reason.
So, in my practice, me and my community come first- my gods do not come first. The gods may pop up in a dream, or I may hear them loudly when I am being recruited for a task, and when that happens I take the time to do some serious negotiation. I do not make split decisions, I take my time.
One of the greatest tasks asked of me by the gods has been to help mend and protect the reputation of Heathenry, and I agreed to that honorable cause. Therefore, I have to be involved with politics. I know of many who would rather dig their own grave than be involved with the politics of their path. Being a Heathen of interracial heritage, I really don’t get much of a choice. If I had not learned why race should not be a determining factor in my compatibility with Heathenry, then the racism, discrimination, and hate from others would have scared me away long ago.
I have had to justify my right to practice more times than I feel comfortable with (just once was more than anyone should feel comfortable with). But my involvement in politics is not just an endless task bestowed upon me by the gods, and it is not just a fight for my personal rights to practice. My accomplishments and contributions are making my chosen path safer for all marginalized folks every day, and it is helping to tarnish the existing reputation Heathenry has in the US of being racist and bigoted, so that those who have the privilege to put their gods first, can do so in safe(r) spaces.
Again, the problem I find with putting the gods first is they might accidentally (or not accidentally) take advantage of you. But, you have the right to do so if you feel that is a productive use of your time. Just understand that if that is a choice you have, that very choice is a privilege that not all Polytheists and Pagans have. By no means am I saying that work with the gods is unnecessary, or even secondary to my practice, nor am I implying that it should be in anyone else’s.
Even the many I have spoken to who are likewise involved with their religions politics probably wouldn’t say their politics come “first.” Their own needs and communities come first, and the needs of communities and the individuals within them are often political needs. My community comes first, and the individuals within it are screaming for change, praying for safety for themselves and their marginalized loved ones.
Politics take the front seat in my practice, they do not take up the whole of my practice, but the absence of politics in my practice would make it incomplete and less safe than it already is. Take the time to engage in conversations with the people involved with inclusive politics in your path and actually ask them why they do their work, and thank them. Help when you can. Be aware. Do not say politics have no place in religion or your practice because that is selfish, and understand why that might be the forefront of any practitioners focus.
Sophia Fate-Changer Martinez
With a thirst for justice, I am committed to exploring conversations no Sone wants to have in order to make the world a slightly-more-than-tolerable place to exist. I consider myself an actively outspoken Heathen Hedgewitch, a mixture of which tends to have otherworldly side-effects. I enjoy long walks in my cavernous dream realm, from which I often wake suddenly with mixed emotions about the reality of society. Lastly, and I hope not least, I am a member of Golden Gate Kindred in the Bay Area, and an administrator for Heathens United Against Racism (HUAR).
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