DPM 13: Just Keep Swimming

I am going through the Devotional Polytheist Meme questions from Galina Krasskova’s blog, together with my lover Lon Sarver, over the course of several months.

We encourage our friends to follow along, and welcome links to other people’s answers, as well as your thoughts on our answers, in our comments.

13. Have you ever found it difficult to uphold your end of a bargain with the divinities?

The short answer is “yes”. Sometimes I just lose focus, but I’ll pick it up when I remember. If I’m really falling down, it’s because something hurts deeply. Overall I’m harder on myself about it than the Powers usually are, as long as I don’t actually quit.

The long answer is, as always, more complex.

Sometimes I have difficulty following through on my intentions, or Their instructions, which aren’t per se bargains. When that happens, it’s usually because I lost momentum. The instructions weren’t clear enough, or the things I needed to follow through took longer to collect than I was able to maintain in active focus and whatever it was fell by the wayside until something brought it back up again. I try not to beat myself up about these too much, because the Powers have as often used this trick of my mind to deliberately pull things off my to-do list and put them back up later, and it’s not always obvious which things are me losing focus and which things are Them re-arranging priorities. I refuse to do divination for everyday decisions, so I try to save my worries for the big things.

Still, I never did figure out that bottle spell Papa Ghede suggested, and in retrospect I may well have been paying for that mistake all along, since I gather it was supposed to be for my protection. And I’m still slowly working on a poem for Mimir that He seems content to let take as long as it takes, as long as I don’t actually forget that it’s on the plate.

Obviously I try very hard to fulfill my obligations, including my end of any bargains struck with the Powers, or with humans, for that matter. I try to be forthright and self-aware about my limitations, and to not make promises I can not keep. As a result, I rarely make actual bargains at all. I don’t consider requests coupled with offers coming FROM the Powers a bargain until I actually commit to them. I generally try to compose my own requests coupled with offers in such a way that it’s clear I don’t expect Them to give me anything until after I’ve managed my end to at least some degree. Payment up front, you might say. I’d rather not end up in more debt than I can handle, you see.

I’ve been told repeatedly by various Powers on various mediums and through various methods of divination and meditation that I give Them far, far more than I ever ask of Them and They’d actually strongly prefer I please ask Them for what I need MORE often please. The thing is, aside from specific, targeted, finite tasks, I generally don’t relate to the Powers in a transactional manner. These are relationships, to me. I give what I give out of love. I ask for what I ask out of need. We exchange in joy in the moment. It largely works because it’s organic and fluid. Mine is a path of heart and intuition, not discipline and structure. Not that they’re mutually exclusive, I suppose, but in my case that’s just how it works.

Still, yes, there are times I do have obligations, whether formal or otherwise, and certainly relationships, that I find it difficult to uphold.

I often forget to pay respects to Odin where my schooling is involved, because I’m very avoidant of both school-related issues and of Odin-related issues, so as a pair it tends to get shelved very quickly. The local corvids are fond of reminding me when They can, but that only works when physical visits to a campus are involved.

The hardest, though, is maintaining the relationships I developed specifically through the American Magic Umbanda House now that I am no longer a member of the House. While I was in the house, I took a major initiation binding me to my Papa Ghede, and a minor initiation binding me to Ayida Wedo.** Those initiations usually entail many more obligations than I was asked by the Powers to take on, but the few obligations I DID take on were based on the assumption that the shape of my practice would stay largely the same as it was in the House. That turns out to be pretty well impossible without a House. So I’m having to deconstruct and rebuild my personal practice in these relationships. I can’t do that alone, so I’m having to figure out what I CAN do alone, and what I still need to do that requires help from other humans, and which humans I can ask for help.

It’s complex, slow, confusing, and painful, so I tend to want to put it off indefinitely. PantheaCon, with the annual very public Pomba Gira devotional, forces me to confront these issues within myself once again, so I can only put it off for so long.

That doesn’t only apply to those obligations. It applies to all of the relationships I formed specifically via AMUH. But I have no formal obligations to any other Powers, so it’s both less complicated, and far more ambiguous as to what is needed where the Orixa and any other Powers are concerned. Upholding my relationship with the Ancestors and land spirits is not an issue, though, as those were already common threads between the different traditions anyway.

But I find I am still so hurt about some of the things that happened as I was stepping back from the House, and in how I was ultimately removed from the House, that it’s hard for me to connect with some of those Powers without all that pain flooding back. The Powers Themselves have gone out of Their way to be clear that none of those harms were ever intended, nor directed at me by Them. Some have actually even apologized, taking responsibility for the bad behavior of specific human individuals (who in some cases have also apologized). Others have apologized for my being hurt as collateral damage from actions They DID intend, but that came out differently than They intended.

Intellectually I accept that, and recognize that this is my challenge to overcome. Emotionally I still feel rather lost and confused. My Papa has expressed distress more FOR me than TO me, and has emphasized repeatedly that while He won’t allow me to ignore Him, He has tremendous patience for my stumbling, and mostly just wants me to be happy and connected with Him. Ayida Wedo mostly emotes anyway, so it’s harder to get anything like language from Her, but my sense there has been similar – sort things out with my Papa first, and then sort things out with Her. As long as I don’t give up, or disavow Her, She’s not mad, just… waiting. Actively waiting. Pointedly waiting, but patiently.

So there’s that.


Lon’s answer: He Doesn’t Ask Much. Just Everything.

** Requisite ADT disclaimer: I’m well aware Umbanda is not the traditional setting for working with the Loa, although Umbanda is, by nature, a very diverse set of practices. I do not consider myself any kind of authority on the topic of serving the Loa. People who work with the Loa in more traditional settings have verified that my relationships are real, if unorthodox. There are reasons we had to do it this way that I’m not going to get into here, because my non-Heathen practices are not the focus of this journal.

About EmberVoices

Ember Cooke has been a member of Hrafnar and Seidhjallr for more than a decade, where she trained to be a Seidhkona, Galdrakona, and Gythia. She founded the Vanic Conspiracy and made ordination vows to the Vanir and her congregation in the summer of 2013. She has contributed to several publications on Heathen and Northern Pagan subjects and regularly presents rituals and workshops at festivals. Her personal practice is more diverse, as the Vanir have lead her into cross-training and service for the wider Pagan community. This has including medium and servitor training in American Umbanda, clergy training with the Fellowship of the Spiral Path, and jail ministry for local counties. She holds a BA with honors in Religious Studies from Santa Clara University. Ember has lived all her life in the south San Francisco Bay Area, and is intimately bound to the valley of her birth.
This entry was posted in Ancestors, Personal, Polytheistic Theology, Praxis and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to DPM 13: Just Keep Swimming

  1. Pingback: Asking for help | Fire's WP blog

  2. Pingback: He Doesn’t Ask Much. Just Everything. | Drinking From the Cup of Life

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