18 May 2009

Godaþegn and Godatheow

Editor's Note: This essay was later chosen for inclusion as part of Gods' Mouths.

In my first post on Boundaries I talked about the emotional boundaries between individuals. My second post on Boundaries went into more detail about the boundary between you and the person delivering a divine message to you, and how to receive that divine message.

In a future installment--still being written--I am going to get into a much more controversial area, and talk about the boundaries between you and the gods themselves, but before we get into that I want to touch on the topic of terminology and "god slaves."

One of the larger--and more uncomfortable--areas of discussion right now among Spirit Workers is the nature of our relationships with the gods. Some of the terms that get used, such as "god slave," carry a great deal of baggage with them. Many of the more prominent members and authors of our community claim the title godatheow (godslave).

I will go into significantly more depth on this topic later, but for the moment I would like to talk about impressions. One of my concerns is that newbies will get the wrong idea and believe that godatheow is somehow a "higher" form of relationship with the gods or a natural state that spirit workers tend to migrate to as they become more advanced. They may also conclude that these individuals have become "closer" to the gods than they can get without going through the same process.

While the current group of authors and godatheow generally disavow this, it doesn't help that so many of our highly visible members are godatheow, and many of them interact with one another enough that it can give both them and others a skewed impression of our community, leading Galina Krasskova to say in her essay Terms of Service:

I am a godatheow, a godslave. Most of the spiritworkers and shamans that I know are also godslaves - outright owned by their Deities. It goes with the territory.

While later on she states that One does not need to be a godslave to serve -- I want to make that abundantly clear -- no more than one needs to be a priest, or healer, or ordeal worker to serve and be of use to their Gods one still walks away--in general--with the feeling that if you are a Spirit Worker in the Northern Tradition and not a godatheow then, on some level, UR DOIN IT WRONG.

My teacher has over 20 years of experience and is in the service of Freyja. While I am working on three years in my Spirit Work training, I have around 11 years work as an occultist and have been service of Odin for over 4 years. Most of the members of my group have similar--or more--experience in a variety of different occult communities. I have friends who have undergone a full shamanic initiation, others who are shamanic practitioners of varying degrees of "immersion," and many who are members of initiatory magical traditions. Very few of these individuals--spirit workers, shamans, and occultists--could be referred to as godatheow. Not that there is a problem with being a godatheow, but I have to believe that it is fully possible to serve the gods--even as a spirit worker--without being a full slave to those deities.

In short, I would like to challenge the assumption that it goes with the territory, and say that there are a growing number of us that are not god slaves--are for one reason or another not suited or required to be god slaves--but are still dedicated, Northern Tradition spirit workers. I also want to emphasize that I am approaching this with an attitude of this also rather than this instead.

The Vanic-oriented practitioner Nicanthiel commented on this as well, stating that:

As such, there has been a lot of talk in spiritworker circles, especially those connected to Cauldron Farm, of god-slavery as the default spiritworker paradigm; the assumption seems to be, either you are completely en-thralled by your Boss(es), or you're not really a spiritworker.

I challenge that assumption, because not everyone is suited for slavery, and indeed, not every God wants a slave, Frey being the most obvious example. Are people called by such Gods, or lack the nature required for full slavery to be denied the right to serve their Gods? Even Odin doesn’t always want slaves; sometimes, all He wants is just a warrior, or just a magician, or just a tool.

Nicanthiel presents the term godaþegn/godathegn as an alternative, where "þegn" would be a noble servant of a higher noble. Raven Kaldera summarizes this term nicely and gives it his stamp of approval, saying that a godaþegn would be someone who had a strong (perhaps oathbound) bond with their deity, but had full agency except in some limited areas, and could leave if worst came to worst. I feel that this accurately encompasses my path as a spirit worker, it correlates with my own UPG of my relationship with Odin, and am going to start using it in my own practice.

I firmly believe that one does not need to be a godatheow to serve the gods, even as a devoted spirit worker or shamanic practitioner, and that a god may find one person well suited to be a godatheow, and find a completely different use for another individual that doesn't require that kind of relationship. These paths are mostly just different, and come with their own risks and characteristics, and some come with their own unique safety considerations. Like with relationships: Internal Enslavement isn't "higher" than Total Power Exchange isn't higher than M/s isn't higher than D/s isn't higher than vanilla and polyamory is not higher than monogamy or vice versa: they are different models and suitable to different people, to negotiate with each other. This will be dealt with in a lot more detain in some of my future essays on boundaries.

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