Many times when I do readings I get the message to tell someone not to be so hard on themselves; to give themselves time to heal from the wounds that the world has given them. And inevitably, the client (especially my deeply pagan clients) look at me with surprise. They then proceed to tell me that their God is not the type to allow someone to wallow in pity. Instead, they tell me their Gods and Goddesses are the type to push someone to ‘suck it up’ and get on with it.
I fully agree, to an extent. As someone who feels very honored to have a relationship with Odin, I know first hand that there are Gods out there that want us to ‘get on with it’. They want us to accept our shortcomings and grow up.
But that request to ‘grow up’ or ‘get over it’ isn’t the same as giving ourselves time to heal from the deep wounds that the world gives us. And in that aspect, I think that we are missing an important factor in the relationship with our Gods. Although they want us to grow, Gods and Goddesses can also can be compassionate and supportive of us being compassionate for ourselves and for our fellow human beings.
Now before you start getting weirded out by images of Odin sitting around a camp fire holding hands and singing, hear me out.
We know that during early periods of civilization the Gods moved around within pantheons a lot. We know that at times one God usurped another when civilization changed. Gods of the wildlands were replaced or altered to represent the fertile fields and of agriculture. And in time, those Gods were also altered or replaced to represent war and protection from other civilizations thirsting for conquest. I’m not going to get into all the specifics, but they are all there in the history books for anyone to see. And this happened in many different civilizations.
The point that I’m trying to make is that the Gods changed when humanity needed them to. And for thousands of years, humanity was OK with that. In fact, in our current time, we have been known to modify our own practices to mold to our own needs. And even from a reconstructionist pagan standpoint, we see that modification today.
For an example, let’s look at Beltane, the fertility festival celebrated by many pagans around the world. This festival was originally a fertility rite, both for the fields and for fertility of our species. We still see this holiday as a perfect time for couples to do fertility rites to get pregnant, but we recognize that the survival of the species because of lack of fertility is not as serious of an issue today as it was two thousand years ago. We don’t need to utilize that rite to secure survival of our species. In fact, I think we all can agree that there is an overabundance of humans now on the planet.
So what do we do with this fertility rite? Do we stop celebrating it, or do we reframe it to our needs today? What we find is that many pagans do a very good job of reframing it. We still honor and remember those of long ago and why they celebrated Beltane, but instead of fertility for the fields and for our species, pagans might celebrate the rites to work towards the fertility of money, the fertility of ideas that would allow them to further their careers or the fertility of wisdom and aid with the goal of bettering themselves in some way in order to continue to honor the Gods on this plane of existence. And I think we can all agree that the Gods worshiped during the height of Beltane haven’t abandoned us because we modified the rites to more clearly represent what our needs are in this day and age.
I’ve pointed out that we have modified rites to reflect our current culture, and I’ve also pointed out that the Gods have changed based on the needs of the population at the time. Now what does all of this have to do with the Gods having compassion?
One of the biggest needs of the day in my mind is compassion. Open your favorite social media site and I can guarantee you will find something in your feed that is argumentative. You may also find something that will get you frustrated or even angry. It’s a very easy example because it happens on a regular basis. Want another? Drive your daily commute, or just drive anywhere on a highway in fact. We are human, we are going to get angry at the person who just jumped in front of us and slammed on their brakes, or who decided to drive in the faster lane of the road yet is going under the speed limit for some reason.
All of this anger has slowly built up over the years to the point where we are today. For years we have let the anger fester in our minds and souls, causing us finally to lash out at ‘those’ type of people. Those that don’t think like us, those that don’t act like us, or those that believe differently than us. We have become a polarized world that praises ‘sticking it’ to the other person over trying to come up with a compromise.
It didn’t happen overnight. And there are more root causes of the problem than anger, but built up anger is absolutely a part of the problem. We hold anger for ourselves, hold anger for our lot in life, hold anger and jealousy at others for having more, or for getting more assistance than us. The anger bubbles up at our politicians (who may deserve it from time to time) and causes us to lash out at others who disagree. And to battle we go.
For many of us, we feel like we either have limited options. We could either take a side and fight for it, get the heck out of the way of the arguing forces or be run over; a casualty of the environment that has been slowly forming over many years.
Any one of those stances is going to cause anyone to have battle damage. And this isn’t even the worst of the battle damage we carry around.
Our upbringings aren’t always rosy. Our relationships with others can become abusive. Life has its traumas, and we endure each and every one of them, but they don’t leave us exactly how we were prior to the situation. Sometimes the changes are physical; a scar appears where a wound once was. Sometimes the wounds are emotional, and we end up hardening some to those around us. But no matter if the wounds were physical or emotional, there is a spiritual component to the wound as well. Hardened hearts change the outlook on our spirituality. Perhaps we stop caring as much about helping those in need because we are bitter about our own circumstances. Perhaps we end up angry at our Gods for allowing things to be the way they are.
The world is changing, it’s getting more rough edges, and because of it we are hardening more than we realize. I’ve seen even the most compassionate of Shamans make critical comments against another in the current hardened climate. And I know I’ve done it myself numerous times.
Yes, there are times when we must be hard. Perhaps we must defend ourselves from those abusers or from those that would do us ill will. That is important too.
But what do we do with all the pain, anger and battle damage that has struck at our core and dimmed our spirit?
Why not give it to the Gods as an offering of endurance?
Why not ask for their aid to heal properly so that our souls can shine again?
Why not ask for their strength to see situations with compassion in an effort to make the outcome less hardened?
This is different than just ‘getting on with it’. There will be times in everyone’s life that the hardened edge they encounter is small enough that it does little damage. That is when it is perfectly acceptable to hear from our Gods that we must just ‘get on with it’.
But what about when the hurts are so great that they affect our daily lives? What about those who have suffered any form of abuse for any period of time? What about the traumas of life that shake you to the very core? I don’t believe the Gods want to just look at us and say, ‘get on with it’. Sure, we may THINK that is what they want us to do, but perhaps that is how we are conditioned to believe. We’ve had almost 2000 years of a religion that has given us the group mentality that we are scum and not worthy of taking time for ourselves. This religion has told us for years that we are unworthy of healing or compassion, and that we have to grovel and beg for healing and forgiveness.
Christianity has provided us with a group mind and culture that says we are weak and lacking. Advertising agencies have already picked up on this and used it to sell us products to make us feel better. Many people start waking up, and reach to Pagan Gods and Goddesses, (the very ones we think tell us to ‘get over it’) in order to get out of that mindset, and that is fantastic. But are we allowing our personal beliefs to also make us feel better, or make us worse in other places?
At the very least, consider that the Gods and Goddesses that you are willing to fight for, the Divinity that you know will fight by your side, is also a Divinity that would be willing to tend to the wounds that you received from the fight you fought together. That isn’t an unreasonable request, and one that could easily happen on the battlefields of old.
And if you are willing to go that far, also consider that sometimes the wounds that you receive may put you out of the fight for a while, and perhaps your God or Goddess understands that better than you realize. Recognize too that if you could no longer fight, the Gods and Goddesses were compassionate enough to give you a place to go after you passed this plane of existence.
In my own personal journeys with Odin and Loki, I’ve come to realize that they are accepting of me when I am at my best, but they also are accepting of me when I am at my weakest. Loki especially encourages me to look at my areas of weakness and learn to make them strong, and he has shown me that brute strength is not enough to do that. In order to become stronger, you also have to have compassion, you have to have the courage to allow yourself to be weak, and perhaps even show that weakness to others in order to allow them to help you find your strength. Compassion allows us to accept who it is we are without the glamour or lies that we tell ourselves. Compassion allows us to look at the wounds we have received in battle and honestly evaluate them to understand how we need to heal. And compassion is what we need to recognize the true amount of time we need to do that.
If we can expect our Gods and Goddesses to accept our feats of strength as appropriate offerings, why not also allow our feats of courage and compassion to be offerings to them as well? Especially in today’s world, it’s going to take a significantly larger amount of effort to show compassion than to follow the status quo. In those times when compassion is most needed, wouldn’t it be a better offering to show that compassion since it does take so much more effort?
And if you were one of the millions in this world who has emotional, physical and spiritual wounds, don’t you think your Gods would want you to heal as well as you can from those wounds? And in order to heal fully, don’t you think that you have to have compassion for yourself? So why wouldn’t a God or Goddess not have compassion for you? Wouldn’t they be proud of you, because they know you realize that fighting isn’t something that is going to allow you to heal properly?
Perhaps it’s time for us to shift our thinking. Perhaps it’s time we honor our Gods and Goddesses with different offerings; acts of compassion and beauty. Maybe we need to recognize that even though they may not seem like a form of divinity that would react with compassion, perhaps they at least have understanding of the compassion that we need to have for ourselves and each other. And perhaps they already are ready to adapt to that compassion to help de-escalate the polarization of the world.