18 December 2012

Dealing with deities

Just yesterday I was talking to a Pagan friend of mine who has a real problem with Ha’Shem and Jesus, for the usual reasons.

My own Pagan perspective having been born not of a rejection of unhappy early experiences at the hands of Abrahamic believers, but rather having snuck up on my original atheistic positivism, I get along rather better with those guys. Indeed, though I honor Hermes as my patron deity, I honor Ha’Shem as my tribal deity.

Ha’Shem, of course, has a bad reputation for Not Playing Well With Others, and comes by it honestly. Maybe you've heard Exodus 20:2-3 before, where he kicks off his Top Ten list?

:םידבע תיבמ םירצמ ץראמ ךיתאצוה רשא ךיהלא הוהי יכנא

:ינפ-לע םירחא םיהלא ךל היהי-אל
I am Ha’Shem, your god, who brought you out of the Narrow Place, the house of slavery.

Have no other gods before me.

I make no attempt at obeying Mosaic Law, but this is Ha’Shem’s #1 injunction, so I obey it in Pagan spirit by saying that though I have many other gods, I put them beside or behind Ha’Shem but never before him.

My offer to him has long been ...

Either you are on the bus or you are off the bus. I'd like to bring you with me, but if you're not going to play nice with the others then I'm going to have a lot less time for you.
... and I said this cheerfully and firmly for years. He has taken the lesson, and has a place on my altar. He has joined me for rituals where he was not the only god I honored.

That conversation with my friend had me thinking I need to write something long on that subject, and then I saw that today Morpheus Ravenna has written a long post, Votum Solvit, to much the same point. She says it much better than I was going to.

There seems to be a belief out there that because the Gods are mighty and powerful, we can’t or shouldn’t attempt to negotiate with them. That when we have something to ask of them we are supplicants, and must accept whatever unknown thing may be asked of us later in the relationship. This view has been articulated a couple of times recently by one of the bloggers I read, Druid John Beckett. But I’m not picking on John; I’ve seen this expressed elsewhere and frequently, which is why I’m addressing it today. In particular with regard to the Morrigan, the perception seems to be that She’s a scary, powerful, terrible Goddess and so it is unwise to negotiate: the advice is to ask, and ask nicely, and hope She doesn’t demand anything too painful in return.

I respect John, but I’m here to offer another view. I am here to tell you that you can, and you should, negotiate with the Morrigan. It’s absolutely because She’s as powerful and as demanding as She is, that you should be 100% on your toes about cutting a deal with Her. Yes, She must be approached with respect. Yes, if She wants something from you, She’ll have it one way or another. That’s exactly why you MUST negotiate for terms that are safe for you and support your needs.

Ha’Shem has a well-known awesome and terrible aspect. But not any more so than the Morrigan, no?


eric katz said...

Ironically, the God of our fathers is known for being open to negotiation.

Jonathan Korman said...

Indeed. But you have to be a careful negotiator. Job screwed that one up ....