[Monday] Theory and Reality

Reading Jenn’s reminiscing post a month ago caused me to reflect on my own experiences in the Otherfaith – as a ‘leader’ or ‘founder’, as a devotee to the Four Gods, as someone who has dedicated my life to this sprouting religion. These experiences went beyond the intense, intimate relationships I developed with the spirits and gods (some which I continue to have, others which have burned to ash) and into interpersonal interaction, tripping along as I tried to speak with other people about the gods.

I kept an iron grip on the faith, for a long time. That grip has only truly loosened this year, my fingers pulled apart by the gods. After all, this was a religion, this was the worship of gods, so it needed to be perfect. I wanted to craft a faith of beauty for them, with each of the pieces perfectly in place. So I held tight, strangling any bursts of inspiration that might come through and shake the faith up. I held myself back, and I held the Otherfaith back from what it could have blossomed into. I was too busy checking the theory of keeping a greenhouse to actually grow anything of substance.

My fear and my perfectionism, my painful grip upon the Otherfaith and what it could be, who could touch or brush against it, was motivated also by a fear of losing these gods. I had shared these gods with others, but I was full of a bone-deep anxiety that I would lose them. They would be contorted or shoved into boxes until I no longer recognized them. I did not want them to be considered mere imaginings or daydreams of mine that others could play with. So I held onto the gods tight. I wrapped them up in restrictions – some necessary, some not. But, at the end of the day, I was most afraid that I would lose sight of the gods. That if they extended their hands in too many other places, to too many people, I might not be able to hold them.

A horrible, childish fear, one that made me dig my heels in and make rules over-complicated, driving away those who could truly serve the faith while drawing those who did not.

The gods eventually did strike into that fear and tear it away, along with other illusions that had been painted in my life. the Laetha ripped my chest open; the Clarene speared me through. Before this piercing, this slicing apart of myself, I had been in agony. I was resisting the dark night that my soul was already undergoing, had been undergoing for months. I felt an unbearable pressure to leave the faith, as though the gods were rejecting me, as though my humanity (my desire to be human) was what turned them away from me. I had failed the people who came to me wanting to learn about these gods. I had failed the gods. I wasn’t deserving of them anymore. I felt, as Jenn describes:

I was freaking out because I didn’t want to leave the Otherfaith, but then I felt like I had to, and it was so painful to have those thoughts because I love these gods.

I didn’t understand where the pressure came from. Honestly, I still don’t*, because when I went to the Four Gods themselves and asked if I was being forced to chose between having a ‘normal’ life and worshiping them, they were appalled. Such a thing didn’t make sense with their relationship to humanity or what they had asked of me before. The chains I had wrapped myself up in were split apart. The chains I had wrapped the Otherfaith in had to split apart.

It took some time, even after that shattering, to adjust to this new way of existing in relation to the gods and to this new direction the faith would be going in. My urge to get as much information out as possible about everything dulled, replaced instead with a calmer contemplative approach. I didn’t need to police others’ ways of understanding the Four Gods. They didn’t need to agree with me.

Eventually, my anxiety toward other people taking the gods out of context faded. It ceased to matter. All I could do, after all, was speak of my own experiences and understanding. I could search for others who wished to reach out to these gods in some way and share their own ideas. It was far less important that those interacting with the Four Gods agree on little details – instead, I cared far more about how they acted toward others, their ethics and their compassion.

The Otherfaith is too new to have our own solid practices. I realized that, when people came to these gods, they would by necessity use their own established practices to interface with the gods. And that stopped being scary. It opened up possibilities.

I was not the ‘creator’ or ‘founder’ of the Otherfaith. I was a devotee, an Other Person. My pettiness and follies still bubble up, as they always will, but I do feel changed. The Otherfaith doesn’t hurt to touch. I am comfortable taking breaks from writing about the gods. I’m comfortable not knowing where this will go. This faith is only four years old, after all.

It’s like Jenn says – I have to follow where my life goes. And I have to let these gods go where they do.

*Perhaps this is dishonest, because I do know where such rhetoric, of the dichotomy between a spirit-touched life and a normal life, stems from, but the thoughts brewing in me were from more than just that rhetoric.

Thank you for reading. ‘of the Other People’ is a site dedicated to the Otherfaith, a modern polytheist religion. You can find more about us here and here. You can contact us here if you have any questions or would like to get involved.

2 thoughts on “[Monday] Theory and Reality

  1. Firstly, I’d just like to say that I think you have done a wonderful job in your position. The work you’ve put into this is amazing and I don’t think I’ve ever really thanked you–so I would like to say thank you, now, for all your efforts.

    We can only make the choices that seem best to us at the time, and while I do agree that being more open & more lax with the religion may be for the best right now, if it had started that way then it may have gone a completely different direction. A religion does need some structure; too much and it will never change, too little and it will become too changed.

    This post was good to read. It settled a few thoughts that had been bouncing around my head, and I’m glad to hear that you’ve come to terms with your own anxieties about the Otherfaith.

    • Thank you.

      I agree we can only make the choices that seem best at the time…and for all I know, I’ll look back at this time years from now and I think of how I messed it all up! Ultimately, I can’t know what the faith would be if I had made different choices ‘back then’, only how the faith is now…which is a freeing thing, I think!

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