Doing the Work: Relating to Deities and Ancestors

When I talk about deities, the verb you’ll hear most often is “work”. I don’t worship. I’m not pious, I’m not even particularly good at respectful a lot of the time. The deities I have long-term relationships understand the way I work; if we didn’t get on, I wouldn’t be able to have long-term relationships with them.

I work with them. That’s really the only way I can universally describe my relationships with deities. I give them offerings, they return the favor. I run errands sometimes, do things that don’t make sense to me when I get the push to do them. I go to them for advice, sometimes, or just company in Kuan Yin’s case. I call one Dad and another Mom. I don’t stand on formality.

It took me a long time to acknowledge that and come to terms with it. People talk about reverence. In the Catholic church, well you can imagine how well they took my informality. My impiety, even. And a lot of pagans seem to feel similarly. I’ve gotten some complaints and some askance looks for my opinions about the divine. I’ve never been smited before, though.

Actually, the way I work with deities is not dissimilar to the way I work with ancestors. I give them gifts and they give gifts in return. I have a broad definition of ancestors: It includes my grandparents who have passed over, as well as other family members, but it also includes spiritual ancestors. Those who helped birth my creativity and my self-concept are just as much my forebears as those who share my blood. If you hang around, you’ll occasionally see me celebrate them on my blog – Jim Henson, Walt Disney, poets, activists. Those who made the art that shaped me.

I’ll tell you when I get to the discussion on magic that I believe in what works. That’s the same as my opinion on deities, actually. I work with the gods who work with me, and for the most part I do what they ask of me. It’s pretty straightfoward.

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