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Devotion 101: More Q&A

 

Today's post is a continuation of my 'devotion 101' series. I am collecting questions from my readers about devotion and polytheism and one by one, week by week, I will answer them here. Today's question comes from Gary who asks: 

 

"I am from the Taoist Way both philosophically and with it's religious side (religious taoism) with its Taoist Immortals and Ancestors.

But be that as it may - my question about devotion to you is concerning trust. I know from your book and your post here your devotion is for Odin. In your cultivation of devotion for him is trust one of the important virtues -, in other words for me devotion implies trust - why do you trust Odin? And why? And for what? 

Devotion for me in my Taoist life is one of trusting the Tao because i connect with its presence and trust its presence - and Taoist Immortals and Ancestors embody that presence. And this is the essence of devotion for me."

 

I find this question perplexing. There is a level of direct experience of a Deity's presence that goes beyond trust. Trust in the way you describe it is a human thing, a human comfort, and in my practice and my relationship with the Gods is largely irrelevant. Do i trust Them? Yes. Always and in everything. I trust Odin to be Odin. I trust Loki to be Loki. I trust Sigyn to be Sigyn, et Al. Whether or not that makes me comfortable is irrelevant. My role, my duty, my job, my place is to serve Them in whatever capacity They define; and I love Them. 

I think that an over-emphasis on trust again places and prioritizes human morality and human comforts above clean service to the Gods and ancestors, at least it would for me.  If I am misreading and you are equating 'trust' with 'belief,' well then I would say it is a choice and the responsibility is on us to make that choice over and over again, every moment of every day. Belief rarely just happens. It's a conscious, ongoing decision. Decide and choose to believe. Choose to trust. 

This isn't too different from the particularities of a human relationship. It's like tending a fire: you have to constantly feed it wood or it will die. What kind of a relationship, what kind of intimacy is possible if the very basic question of trust is challenged again and again and again. Make a decision and nurture it. That's Odinic wisdom. Stay the course. 

I find myself bothered by your comment that 'devotion implies trust." I'm sure you meant exactly what you said but I could see this being taken to level the relationship between a devotee and a Deity, to equalize it when it is not and will not and can not ever be a relationship of equals. My colleague C., when I ran this by her (trying to parse out my thoughts on why it disturbed me so) put it beautifully : "devotion is a service." (She also gave me the fire metaphor above. Thank you, C.). I would add that it' s one we are graced to have the opportunity to offer. 

Perhaps trust is more important to some people than others. I think my relationship with Odin is far, far beyond such quaint humanities as trust. There is Him. There is the work that needs to be done. There is my doing it. All else is utterly irrelevant (and that's me speaking in *very* Odinic headspace).

Essentially when you decide to devote yourself to a God, there is no longer the luxury of questioning, of asking whether or not you should trust. If that's happening constantly then it means that you're not ready, you're not there. You haven't yet stepped into devotion. Once you do, once you go there, it's so far beyond "trust" that the word is rendered meaningless. It's rather like a courtship: at first trust is something one works at and builds but eventually one moves beyond questioning everything one's partner does (at least one should hope to move beyond this). There is a surrender to the flow of things, including the question of "trust." This is something in devotion that is embedded as a given, a constant, in the practice. But, the onus to get over any fixation on 'trust' is on us, not the Gods. The onus to nurture our belief, is on us, not the Gods. The onus to do the necessities of devotion is on us, not Them. That's where the commonality with human relationships ends. There are Gods, Holy Powers, and there are people and we do not stand on the same rung of the cosmic ladder. 

 

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 Galina Krasskova is a Heathen priest, author, and Northern Tradition shaman. She holds a Masters degree in Religious Studies and is currently working toward a PhD in Classics. Galina is the author of several books including “Essays in Modern Heathenry” and “Skalded Apples: A Devotional Anthology to Idunna and Bragi.”
(Photo by Hudson Valley photographer Mary Ann Glass.)

Comments

  • Liza
    Liza Sunday, 25 August 2013

    I don't quite understand Taoist beliefs, even with what is shared, but I want to weigh in here too, because I think, for me,there is emotion tied in with devotion... I don't think trust is irrelevant, but maybe I am reading this wrong.

    I think there is the beginning, when you (me) get your feet wet, develop relationship, and learn past what is written and recorded...as well as what is written. Then there is (can be) love, surrender, rapture, frenzy, fury, fear, and a whole host of emotions and experiences. For me trust comes in with the surrender. Do I trust Odin? Yes. Do I think this means I will be shielded from every scar or bruise? Not remotely (if fact I am sure I'll earn more as a result). I trust that for reasons I don't know, I have a part to play, a job to do. I trust I'll be given, or earn, the tools I need. I trust I will be stripped (consciously or not) of those things that would get in the way of whatever my role is...

    There may be times that there are more feelz involved, and by and large, I believe He'd prefer to have XYZ done joyfully, willingly, out of trust, or love (and I have some thoughts as to that too)... but if they are done screaming, with much complaint and drinking, as long as they are done...that would be more important. *g* not prone to coddling and all...it seems Some have more emotion that plays part than Others, and Odin can, but that isn't always the point.

    In the end I trust, even when I don't feel like it, especially when I don't understand. It isn't blind trust because I've seen too many threads in hindsight to know there is always a plan.

    Not sure if this makes sense to more than just me, or if it just makes everything convoluted...but i do think trust is important, but that's where it starts, not where it ends.

  • Liza
    Liza Sunday, 25 August 2013

    I don't quite understand Taoist beliefs, even with what is shared, but I want to weigh in here too, because I think, for me,there is emotion tied in with devotion... I don't think trust is irrelevant, but maybe I am reading this wrong.

    I think there is the beginning, when you (me) get your feet wet, develop relationship, and learn past what is written and recorded...as well as what is written. Then there is (can be) love, surrender, rapture, frenzy, fury, fear, and a whole host of emotions and experiences. For me trust comes in with the surrender. Do I trust Odin? Yes. Do I think this means I will be shielded from every scar or bruise? Not remotely (if fact I am sure I'll earn more as a result). I trust that for reasons I don't know, I have a part to play, a job to do. I trust I'll be given, or earn, the tools I need. I trust I will be stripped (consciously or not) of those things that would get in the way of whatever my role is...

    There may be times that there are more feelz involved, and by and large, I believe He'd prefer to have XYZ done joyfully, willingly, out of trust, or love (and I have some thoughts as to that too)... but if they are done screaming, with much complaint and drinking, as long as they are done...that would be more important. *g* not prone to coddling and all...it seems Some have more emotion that plays part than Others, and Odin can, but that isn't always the point.

    In the end I trust, even when I don't feel like it, especially when I don't understand. It isn't blind trust because I've seen too many threads in hindsight to know there is always a plan.

    Not sure if this makes sense to more than just me, or if it just makes everything convoluted...but i do think trust is important, but that's where it really starts, not where it ends.

  • Galina Krasskova
    Galina Krasskova Sunday, 25 August 2013

    This is beautiful Liza and thank you. I think it actually answers the question better than I did. Devotion can be a deeply emotionally charged practice but i always worry that focusing too much on the emotional aspect of things will lead to the "i'll only do what i feel like doing" not what is proper, or what the Deity wants. We've all, I'm sure, encountered that type of self-indulgence passing itself off as devotion and it's a real pet peeve of mine, and something I try hard to guard very carefully against in myself.

    I really liked your comment: "Some have more emotion that plays part than Others, and Odin can, but that isn't always the point." This. precisely.

  • Liza
    Liza Sunday, 25 August 2013

    Thanks, I am glad my night time ramblings made sense.

    And Gary, when I reread my comment (that nicely double posted, and I can't delete :p ) I started with I don't understand Taoist belief. Rereading that could be taken as dismissive, and that isn't how I meant it. I mean, I really don't know/understand/never been exposed to (that I am aware of) that belief structure, so I wanted to say that off the bat, because I didn't know how to frame what I was thinking in a way that was more inline with where you are coming from. So, I am sorry if the way I first said that was a it more gruff than I intended.

    When it comes to emotions, I think, if emotions are a strong suit for you, They may want more of that (It is after all energy). maybe not... and not for self gratification sake, but I do think there is a role for emotions to coexist with duty. You just can't have a feel good fest for yourself. :p That said, there may be some tasks also, that if not done with the proper emotion behind also don't suit the bill. I'd wager this has a lot to do with the Deity, the person, and the task, so nothing is especially cut and dry.

    Thinking of trust though, I think that deepens over time too. What I didn't quite trust 10 years ago, I now have more history and understanding. If I don't trust that now, there are likely to be larger bumps in the road. It's all growth (and personal growth, when in terms of developing trust, in a devotional sense, I still think is an energetic offering...). What what is expected of me now, wasn't even on the (my) radar then. It is a continual process of being open, even (and especially) when the thing you would rather do is sit/hide/ignore/pretend that things weren't happening... it is the ability to stay the course, even when you can't see it.

    Ok, so this is all more babbling perhaps, but i have a lot of really significant thoughts (or rather feelings) on this subject that rarely get fleshed into words over action. Thanks for making me think about them, that helps me go deeper too...

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