Thursday, January 28, 2016

Working with Dark Deities: Or Harm Ye None, and Other Lies I’ve Been Told

Working with Dark Deities:

Or Harm Ye None, and Other Lies I’ve Been Told

  Firstly I will say that the concept of Dark Gods is a modern one.  Yes I use the term, because it’s the best descriptions I have at the moment for the gods that challenge us, force us to transform, and sometimes seriously fuck up our lives for our own good.  Trust me as painful as having some things in our lives torn down is, sometime it really is for our own good.  Because it’s human nature to hold onto things for too long.  To cling to the things we know even if they are poisonous to our very being.  For the most part we don’t like change.  And the unknown terrifies us, because there are no guarantees.  And there are no guarantees when we meet dark and dangerous gods, who we will be at the end of our journey through the dark.

   There are pitfalls and challenges to working with any deity, and there seems to be a consistent pattern to the challenges many of us run into when working with dark gods.  And I think some of these arise because of how we are taught to approach the gods and how we have been taught to view change.

   Quite a lot of people find Paganism out of a desire to create real and meaningful change in their lives.  The idea of casting spells, connecting to a powerful deity and reshaping our lives into something better than it is can be a tantalizing thought.  If I do just the right spell, say just the right chant I can land the job of my dreams, find love, have a happy and content life.  Magick can do that. The Gods can do that.  But like any genie worth his salt, they will remind you that wishing for things and more importantly manifesting them isn't as simple as you’d like them to be. What we want is the Emril Lasgase approach to magick.  BAM, and you got instant change!  But it doesn’t work that way.  There is always, always a price.  And we don’t like the idea of magick or working with the Gods having a price.  But trust me it does.  Real magick, real devotion and dedication to deity, has a cost.  And its completely worth paying.   

   When I am asked about my work with the Morrigan one of the questions I am often asked is how exactly to go about causing life changing transformation in one’s life……without causing any harm.  The answer is simple, and completely not what the person wants to hear, it’s impossible.  Because Harm None doesn’t work.  When we are “baby Pagans” we buy into the idea that transformation can be as easy as burning a candle and calling on the right kind of God that we find off a list of correspondences on the internet.  Change is a beautiful pain free process, like a caterpillar changing into a beautiful butterfly.  Love and light.  Harm ye none. These are all the lies those new to Paganism are fed, and the old hats fall victim too.  So for the record, change sucks.  It hurts.  It’s painful.  And worst of all there are no guarantees where you will end up when you start down the path of true change, spiritual or otherwise, in your life. 

     In Paganism at large we get caught up in the idea of Harm Ye None, in the idea that to be a Witch you have to work in a Love and Light paradigm.  But it doesn’t work, it isn't realistic.  And not subscribing to these ideas doesn’t make you immoral or a bad person.  There are many words I use to describe myself.  Pagan: I’m a polytheist and see the Gods as very real beings with personalities and individual likes and dislikes. Priestess: I am dedicated to the Morrigan and my devotion to Her influences and drives much of my work and spiritual practice.  And I am a Witch, but I don’t buy into Harm Ye None.  Don’t get me wrong it’s a pretty thought.  But just by living breathing we effect the rest of the world, sometimes in a good creative way and sometimes in a destructive way.  Whether you ate steak last night or the vegetarian special you destroyed something to fuel your continued existence. The nature that Pagans worship is brutal and deadly at times.  Lions eat zebras, and I have no problem as seeing his brutal truth as being balanced and having a kind of beauty.  Nothing comes for free, especially in magick.  And when we get caught up in the idea that we can do magick without cost, create change without cost, we are either left wondering why our magick didn’t work or why our world is suddenly turning into a world of shit.  By “cost” I mean deep and powerful magick, or deep and powerful transformation, requires work.  You don’t have to offer grand sacrifice or your first born child to the Gods, but the things you want to bring into your life may cost you some tears and some honest soul searching.  Doing the work is a kind of offering to the Gods.  Morgan Daimler puts it quite succinctly:

  “There is risk with all powerful magic, and the bigger and more bad-ass the better the chance that someone’s gonna get hurt during the process, and that means the person doing it and that means the people effected by it.  When you’re trying to shift years worth of entropy and BS out of your life you’re going to bleed in the process and your going to spill blood as well.  Some healing cant begin without first opening wounds, and some freedom cant be gained without first cutting away that which holds us back, even if it means cutting out a part of ourselves we don’t want to let go of.  You cant uproot a tree and replant it without breaking the roots and letting the sap run, after all.  If you seek to do such a thing without harm you have failed before you’ve begun.”

   Dark deities will help you through the process of change, they will give you exactly what you asked for but at the same time they expect you to earn it.  They will sit there tapping their feet , arms folded over, until you get the point.  And that requires a certain amount of trust in the deity.  Many people who experience this will chalk it up to the deity being spiteful or dangerous.  But they are there to help you work through your darkest fears, your biggest challenges.  They are like drill sergeants preparing you for war, for the hard realities of life.  They are on your side, but they wont do the work for you.  Ultimately I trust the Morrigan.  Sometimes I don’t know were She is leading me, I may face the challenge willingly or go kicking and screaming, but there is trust between us.  Because there is a long standing, deep relationship there.

  Another aspect to the challenges many of us have with dark deities, and really working with any deity, is that we don’t really treat them as if they are real.  And If we don’t treat them as real, there is no way for us to build that Trust with them or a deep meaningful relationship.  Witchcraft as a craft /practice/magickal system when you really boil it down to the nuts and bolts is excellent at teaching us a magickal system, correspondences, and how to do ritual.  But to some extent the Gods are an after thought.  Put ten Pagans in a room and there is a pretty good chances every one of them will know how to cast a circle, call the quarters and do ritual basics, whether or not its there particular tradition or flavor of Paganism.  How we approach the Gods and relate to them tend to be where we divert in thought and practice from one another.  For myself after I started practicing Witchcraft the Gods just kind of stepped in and took over, my devotion has always been a vital part of my spirituality.  But not everyone has that experiences, and for many the gods are sock puppets.  They aren't always treated with the proper respect in ritual, and sadly in some rituals I’ve been a part of I don’t really think the person invoking them expects the Gods to actually show up. And when they do it can get quite interesting.

   At one festival I attended there was a ritual that call on the Baron Samedi.  As part of the ritual drama his hat was knocked off (let me just say a bad idea right there) and at the end of the ritual there were no offerings given or any kind of thanks.  Later that night, myself and several other people had odd things happen to them.  Someone or something knocked on our cabin door in the middle of the night.  When we opened it, no one was there, and there was really no where for anyone to hide.  And it kept happening several times.  A friend thought she saw the Baron walking through the woods near her camp, and others felt a sense of unease. As Edward Rickey would say:

 “We must deal with them as real, if we expect them to treat us and our needs as real. Reciprocity, bitches" 

No matter what we think the Gods are or aren't they are real beings with personalities, likes and dislikes, and a sense of humor.  At least that has been my experience.  The Baron I doubt cared if everyone there though he was real or no.  They called him, so he showed up and started kicking up some dirt because proper respect and protocols were not upheld. 

   I think this is true with other deities.  We call of the dark gods and forget to treat them as real beings, who can really do things.  And we feel stuck or unprepared when things actually start to happen.  Building respect and trust with a deity is a long process.  Its like any other relationship we have, it builds over time and needs to be fed to flourish.  I do see a shift in Paganism where we are becoming more centered on the Gods.  There are more events focuses specifically on deity, and more people speaking about their devotion.  And I hope that continues.

   Working and building a devotion to dark deities can be a rewarding process, and an utterly life changing one.  If you feel called to dark and dangerous gods, don’t be afraid to embrace the path, challenge what you think you know, and how you practice.  Follow the gods into the dark and be transformed.  You may cry and scream and rage along the way, but you’ll never feel more alive and your life will transform for the better.