Paganism is exciting when it’s new. There are gods! A whole bunch! Gods you can talk to! Sometimes they talk back and leave you cryptic notes!
And then you get used to it. Discernment gets better. You realize there is vastly less godphone going on than you thought–if you even have godphone, because sometimes your brain is giving you a helping hand by reinterpreting a very potent urge to do the thing. Your brain is supposed to pattern-match and fill in the blanks. You’re experiencing a feature, not a bug.
It is tempting (as I have regrettably done) to try and get more attention. Be it through harder work, expanding your skillset or just straight up pleading. After all, your gods love you, right?
Well, yeah. But not the way we love them. They’re bigger than us, and given the fact that we don’t interact with them like other beings, I imagine they keep a certain distance. Even in a framework where the gods are everywhere, and in everything, we don’t often get to carry a conversation with them like we do with humans. They function differently. And I think this distance is maintained out of love and respect for their willing servants.
Getting close, really close, to a deity is kind of (extremely) terrifying. They’re big compared to us. Not physically, per se. I don’t know how one can measure that by any acceptable metric. But it stands to reason among spiritual types that any entity that can tweak circumstances in your favor, when you can’t, must be more powerful than you. I can remember what I consider the first time I properly met Loki, where I said “prove it” and suddenly realized I could not breathe. I cried uncle and stopped trying to be sassy. I was not harmed, but I was definitely spooked.
I mention this because, while ecstatic experiences definitely give you a high better than drugs, they have an equal and opposite comedown. That drop will happen no matter what you do, and the further you prolong the inevitable, the worse it will get. It’s a balance thing. Balance isn’t constantly remaining in one state, it’s the fluctuation necessary to maintain the average. And you can soften where you fall through taking the steps to prepare for those experiences, but the fall itself is non-negotiable.
It sucks, but we’re physical creatures and tightly bound by the laws of physics. Managing an abnormal experience, which religious experiences are, sucks up our energy. That energy comes from the matter in our bodies and we suffer when it disturbs our equilibrium. Again, gods don’t function the way we do.
Sometimes our gods will wound us. Sometimes it’s discipline. Sometimes it’s by accident. Sometimes, for the very unlucky, it’s cruelty. But our gods will wound us if we get close enough. So will our community members, for all of the same reasons.
I’m sure it’s exciting to have the attention (from god and human alike) and subsequent community prestige that being able to claim these kinds of experiences brings. But I think it’s important for people to understand that this doesn’t inherently make something worthwhile. There is a lot of pageantry, braggadocio and just plain bullshit in the online pagan community. (Case in point, ain’t them some sparkly five-dollar words?) And because humans are social creatures, and social approval is such a vital part of our survival, we are going to feel terrible if we don’t measure up. We’re going to feel compelled to try and keep up with the neighbors. It’s a compulsion better not followed.
Because if your paganism doesn’t serve your higher powers, who is it actually for?
Quick housekeeping note: As of today, the blog is switching to a fortnightly schedule. In other words, posts will be every other Thursday until further notice.