Threads: Musings of a Wodenic Cunning Woman
A twisting (and sometimes twisted) exploration of devotion, seership, hearth witchery, and spirit work.
In a recent reading I did for a client regarding a problematic spirit relationship, one of the potential solutions that came up for dealing with her situation was to appeal to her ancestors and the gods of her bloodline for assistance. Since she had questions about this, I’m thinking other people out there might, too.
Yes, I know the topic of ancestor work can be a controversial one in the pagan community, because so many of us have deceased family members we wouldn’t call on if it was the last option open to us. For example, if your late Uncle Mort was a child molester, chances are you don’t really want to be inviting him into your home. Also, as many of us are first generation pagans in monotheistic families, we might feel alienated by some of our immediate ancestors, feeling that they can’t possibly share very much with us and unsure why they would want to help with our relationships with pagan deities, demons, spirits, or what have you.
But we all have bloodlines that go back more than just the few generations we might know about. Whether you know it or not, whether you can trace it objectively or not, you have a bloodline that reaches back into the pagan past, into the depths of antiquity. Depending on what country your ancestors came from, what ethnicity you are, you have ancestors who worshiped Odin, or Cerridwen, or Isis, or Ogun. Some of our ancestors, granted, return to the “primordial soup” that provides a source for new souls at the birth of children. Of those who qualify as Mighty Dead—those who managed to distinguish themselves in life in some way—some may be reborn as themselves (with their individual spirit intact), in a new body; some may choose to dwell in the spirit realms and join groups of spirits such as the Wild Hunt. But every bloodline has one or two who qualify to be ranked among the Mighty Dead and who choose to remain attached to their own blood lineage, to watch over their descendants. These are the people to turn to when you get yourself into a sticky situation with a god, demon, or other entity who you seem to be stuck in an abusive relationship with (assuming you have tried to work things out directly with that entity and it has failed, or it isn’t possible or advisable to deal directly with them for whatever reason).
I’ve been meaning to write this post for two or three weeks now, but unfortunately, the letter “C” came up in the posting prompts around the same time as my doctor changed my pain maintenance meds, which put me in withdrawal for two weeks. In that state, I ranged between low-grade fevers with chills, periods of complete exhaustion, and extreme mood swings, and while making stuff was okay, writing an actual content post was probably ill-advised, if even possible.
I wonder what my doctor would say if she knew that it was a Norse god who had mandated the change. My memory and critical thinking skills had been getting progressively worse over the past several years while taking Gabapentin, during the past year especially. I had become incredibly accident prone; I concussed myself pretty badly once, and overdosed the dog on his heart pills twice, but it wasn’t until I forgot that Pyrex gets hot in the microwave and ended up with first degree burns over a good portion of my right hand that Odin finally said “Enough, I want you OFF of that already, before you do irreparable damage to yourself.” My new doctor had already been saying that she didn’t know how I was even walking around with the dosage my old doctor had put me on. Going down from three pills a day to one came with pain and withdrawal as a trade-off, which a low-dose Prozac in the morning has helped to counter, and two weeks later I’m finally starting to feel better—more like myself, actually, than I have in years. (There is still some fibro fog, but the Gabapentin was making it much, much worse than it needed to be.)
So, last week I skipped my Pagan Experience post. Partly because I was in full production mode over at FiberWytch (still am, in fact), which tends to make me feel overwhelmed; as I still work at an outside job part time, and I have invisible illnesses, multitasking can be a challenge. I also have a tendency to become nonverbal when working full steam ahead on crafting projects. But if I’m going to be honest, a bigger reason I skipped it was that my reaction on reading the prompt was more or less “meh.” Because as a godspouse and spirit worker, I’m a spirit-centered pagan, not an earth-centered one. Or so I told myself.
Well then. A day or two later (while I was in the shower, as it happens), Odin set me straight on this notion. “Not earth-centered, is it? What about the Making? What about all of the plant oils and herbs you work with? Those plant spirits have a home, you know, and it isn’t out in the ether somewhere.”
(February Week 1 prompt for The Pagan Experience - Humanity)
What is your contribution to the collective space of humanity? How does your spiritual path support this definition and contributions?
Hi, I'm Beth, and I'm a godspouse! I live in the (urban) wilds of Oregon with another godpouse, in what can best be described as a DIY nunnery situation; we both work outside the home, and I work on my business AT home in addition to that. (As I am disabled, I'm trying very hard to morph my business into being my primary, or even only, job.) But other than that, we lead a semi-secluded, more-or-less monastic lifestyle with our respective gods and a houseful of animals (both living and dead).
Now, you can sneer at the “godspouse phenomenon” all you want—and plenty of people do—but it's not a fad, or at the very least not a new one; it's been going on for at least the twelve years I've been married to Odin. And although I am an old-timer at this particular gig, I think there were a handful of people doing it even before me. So, what is a “godpouse”? Basically, it is one the most common terms used to describe a person who self-identifies as the mortal consort of a god. (There are also spirit spouses—people married to spirits who may lack “official deity” status.)
One of the first things the skeptical ask when they learn that I'm a godspouse is “Why would the gods even want human spouses? They already have divine ones, don't they?” Yes, They do, and we are not a replacement for Them. But the notion that a god would not want a human woman for a wife when He already has a goddess-wife makes the assumption that the gods see humanity in the same way we do—as inherently lesser than They are—and I don't think that's true. Yes, without question They are bigger, and They have more power—and, of course, there's that fringe benefit of not being mortal. (Although, some of the gods do manage to die even despite this; witness Balder, as one example.) But my experiences and interactions with Odin, as well as His teachings, have led me to see all of u/Us—humans, gods, spirits, ancestors, and other races of beings such as Alfar, Duergar, Jotnar, etc.--simply as spirits in different stages of our own personal journeys towards self-actualization (or, towards our own personal “Great Work,” if you prefer). Clearly, some of us are further along in that journey than others; Odin, for example, is much further along than I am, but He recognizes in me a kindred spirit who, rather than being inherently inferior to Him, simply has different challenges to deal with in this current phase of my existence. It has become something of a cliché to say “I am not a body that has a spirit, but a spirit that has a body”--however, that's more or less it, in a nutshell. In my own philosophy (which—with a nod to my friend Nornoriel Lokason—is decidedly a Left Handed one), some of us began our soul's journeys with incarnations as beings other-than-human (as giants or elves, for example, or even as what we would now call “gods”), and some of us will end them as other-than-human.
Not so long ago, at the height of December’s retail busy season—which also happened to be the height of Wild Hunt season—I had a dream. Okay, let’s call it what it was: a nightmare. In it, I was asleep in our bedroom and thought I heard Jo talking in her sleep from her own bed. Then I realized it was actually my mother—who used to talk in her sleep a fair amount and who has been dead for twenty years (although that detail didn’t occur to me in the dream). I called out something about trying to sleep, but she kept talking.
And then I realized that it wasn’t my mother speaking at all; the voice was harder, unfamiliar, while still female. I realized she was telling a story, in a somewhat sing-song voice, a horrible story that I was certain I didn’t want to hear the end of. (No, I don’t remember what the story was—although in retrospect, I have my suspicions, of which I won’t speak.) As she neared the end of it, she rose from her bed and approached mine, not asleep at all. I wanted to move or scream but was utterly paralyzed. I tried to call for help—from Odin, from the Hunt—but no help appeared. The woman—a farm wife in dress and apron–smiled down at me with her hard face and glittering, hard eyes, smiling into my eyes as she spoke the final words of the story. And then she reached into my mouth and down my throat and into my chest—just rammed her entire hand and arm in.
I awoke. I rose and went to my shrine, lit a candle, not wanting to go back to sleep. I’m not sure I slept any more that night at all. I had an ache in the general area of my heart chakra for the next several days.
Only the next day did I being to realize who the dream-woman had been. The clues were simple: 1) she had been menacing, but had not actually harmed me (although she had done something—something that was Allowed, apparently; 2) neither Odin nor the Hunt had volunteered any help; thus, no matter how scary she had been, she didn’t actually intend any harm to me; 3) the warding Odin has placed on me and our house—which is quite thorough—did not keep her away, and 4) in the dream, I had at first identified her with my mother, then realized that was almost correct, but not quite. I struggled with what my intuition was telling me for hours before sheepishly asking Odin if I was right. He confirmed that I was.
My dream visitor was none other than my mother-in-law, the Queen Mother of Asgard: Bestla. And the next night when I saw Her in the Hunt, She flashed Her dream disguise at me briefly before transforming back into Her usual glamorous self, and winked.
(For Week 3 for The Pagan Experience community blogging project, the theme is Deity and the Divine.)
For newer readers to my blog (and because I tend to forget to make occasional reintroductions like this one), hi, I’m Beth, and I’m a hard polytheist. What this means for me is that the gods have firm, distinct edges to Them, just like mortal people do, and they are no less individuals than mortal people are. Very occasionally these distinct edges may overlap, but as a rule, in my own doxa and practice, syncretism is not a thing that happens.
I’ve also begun in the past year to self-identify as a Witch (the Traditional or Sabbatic type, not Wiccan) more so than Heathen (I realize that the two need not be mutually exclusive), but more about that in another post. Regardless of what category I fall into, I am a mortal wife of Odin (for more than twelve years now); I married Him back before “godspousery” was even a word, before there were very many pagan blogs at all, let alone “godspouse” ones, and He is the center of my practice and my life. (He does overlap nicely with the “Man in Black” figure of British Traditional Witchcraft–but again, more on that later.)
I live with a mortal wife of Poseidon (Jo), who is my life partner (though not in a romantic way) and sister; she and I support each other in living a monastic lifestyle in which our gods are the focus of our lives. We both have outside jobs, though mine is only part-time due to the fact that my chronic pain issues (fibromyalgia and arthritis, among other things) limit the amount of time I am able to spend sitting and working at a desk. I also run a currently part-time business offering my own handcrafted magickal items (ritual cords, candles, bath soaks, prayer beads, and soon soap, oils and incense), which I hope to grow into a full-time business. We are both writers, and are currently collaborating on a book about sacred marriage/godspousery.
But enough about me; back to my gods. As everyone who has worked with Norse deities no doubt knows, They tend to travel in packs, and if you have one around, there are usually others hiding in the woodwork, waiting to emerge. My own experience is no exception, and so here is a (fairly) brief rundown of the deities who make up my personal pantheon.