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On April 28, 2014, I was reading reading a novel in bed. My eyes closed and my Kindle slipped from my hand onto the pillow. Instead of drifting off to sleep, I drifted into hypnogogia, that dreamy state in which I am awake and aware but can't move and can see images as if I were dreaming.
Loki appeared, and I expressed anxiety that he and the other gods would stop talking to me when I was done writing the book they were inspiring me to write....
(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.
"How did you know Odin wanted to marry you?" is a question I get quite a lot. Often it's asked because people are trying to figure out what a particular god they're involved with wants from them; other times it's simple curiosity--which is understandable, even these days when every other blog I look at seems to have a godspouse behind it. (I sometimes fool myself into thinking that means there are a lot of us, but in actuality we are still a rarity within the whole pagan demographic. What it really means, perhaps, is that I need to branch out and read a more diverse selection of blogs. )
I was 35 years old. My daughter was a teenager and I was in a marriage that was okay at times but felt emotionally abusive at times too. I had been more or less a Wiccanesque pagan since the age of thirteen, but hadn't really had close relationships with any particular gods, except that for my entire life, for as long as I could remember, I'd had the sense that someone was watching over me, that some unseen Person was walking along with me and shaping my path and my life's experiences. I first encountered Him consciously at the age of eight when I met the Wild Hunter—the ancient, raw, savage Power that I discovered hiding behind the mask of Santa Claus that Christmas—and from that moment I knew He was there and had always been there with me.
I'm sick (the normal cold/flu type of sickness everyone gets, in addition to my chronic stuff) so I'm not sure what a good idea it is for me to expect coherent writing of myself, but this topic keeps coming up and every time it does I have the urge to pick at it a little, because it touches on some underlying issues of my own. So, since it's Hunt season and thus the ideal time of year for cleaning out dark corners and hunting down internal demons (as well as external ones), here we go.
If you haven't already read this, as well as the post my partner, Jolene Dawe, wrote in response to it here, go do so now--I'll wait. The original article is, by and large, a fairly well-reasoned exploration of the divisiveness among Lokeans as a “community” (if you could apply that term to such a diverse group-within-a-group), and for the most part I have no quibbles with it. For one thing, I'm not a Lokean, and for another, I too have witnessed the issues the author writes about and I don't disagree with many of his/her (forgive me, I'm not sure which) conclusions. However, the section of the post dealing with the Lokean sister-wife culture made me squirm for two reasons: 1) as has happened in previous posts by other people, here is yet another non-godspouse telling godspouses what their proper conduct as well as their work in the world “ought” to be, and 2) the assumption that being a godspouse is about “work,” per se, in the first place.
Summer has reached full boil here in Eugene, with temperatures climbing into the mid to high nineties—and it's only July 2nd! Our animals are miserable in the heat, and my partner and myself only slightly less so. I know you east coast denizens out there are rolling your eyes at me, and I do understand; I am from Pennsylvania originally and I realize that one month of sweltering, killing sun beats eights months of stagnant humidity. But the heat kicks some of my health issues into high gear (while somewhat alleviating others, and then in the cool weather this situation reverses itself; I can't win!) so while I am not intending for any of my blogs to be on strike this month, the heat has me feeling somewhat more introspective and less verbal than usual.
That said, I'm very pleased that the first installment of my “Baby Heathen/Odinist” series has garnered so much positive attention, and I will be continuing the series very soon--never fear—but in the meantime I wanted to share an anecdote. This blog is called Threads for a reason: because although many of the posts seem to wander off in their own direction they are all part of the central fabric that forms my life, and the other day I was struck by how cohesive that weaving is, even when I am occasionally tempted to think otherwise.
(As readers of my Wytch of the North blog know, Queen Anne Boleyn is the most prominent member of a group of spirits I refer to as "The Queens"--since they literally are the spirits of dead queens--whom I have adopted as my Disir, and who have adopted me in turn and are kind enough to favor me with Their advice and support. I may cover the story of how Anne first came into my life in another post, but for now I would like to share the below thoughts that were inspired by my Work with Her. Probably this is more or less common knowledge, but for those who may not know, Anne Boleyn was beheaded by her husband, Henry VIII of England, on May 19th 1536, on false charges of adultery and incest. Thus, I have set aside May 19th each year as Queen Anne's Day, which I observe by processing to our local Owen Memorial Rose Garden here in Eugene, where I leave gifts and offer prayers for her, and then at home I prepare a Tudor-era inspired feast in her honor. This year, I will also be presenting prayers and poetry submitted as gifts for her by my readers. Anne's death was a great tragedy, but as I commented recently on my blog, I think it's important to remember how she lived--boldly, with style and aplomb--and not just how she died.)
This week, in my search for Anne Boleyn-themed viewing material that I had not yet seen, I ended up borrowing (from our amazing local library) a BBC production of Philippa Gregory's The Other Boleyn Girl. (Which is also available on YouTube here.) Many of you are doubtless familiar with the Hollywood adaptation of this story, featuring Natalie Portman. (I watched this again recently too, and to my surprise found that the theatrical release doesn't actually make a whole lot of sense if you aren't already familiar with the novel; this must be due to bad editing and too many deleted scenes, as the plotline--which was fine in the book--just does not hang together well.) I have to admit, although I love Philippa Gregory, especially her books about the queens involved in the Wars of the Roses (aka "the Cousins' War"), I am not a fan of The Other Boleyn Girl. Gregory does seem to have a distinctly pro-Catholic bias in her novels, and when writing about the Reformation, that bias translates into an anti-Anne bias. In The Other Boleyn Girl, Mary is the good girl who compromises her purity for the sake of her family's ambition, then ends up falling in love with the king despite herself, only to be foisted from his bed by the heartless Anne, who coldly connives her way to the throne and stops just short of committing incest with her own brother in a last-ditch effort to conceive the male child that would have saved her life. (Gregory's treatment of Anne's daughter, Elizabeth the great Protestant Queen, in later books is not terribly flattering either.) In historical reality, on the other hand, Mary was more of a good-time girl than a "good" girl (the King of France, one of her many conquests prior to Henry, referred to her as his "English mare,") and Anne was very likely a virgin at the time of her marriage, although on the topic of whether or not she actually loved Henry there are as many opinions as there are writers to offer them. (The Lady herself says that she did, and does, which makes her story all the more tragic.)