Happy (late) Monday.
Recently, Thenea on Magick from Scratch has posted about consent within polytheism. The first post is here while the second, on how to form consent-focused communities, is here. As the Otherfaith emphasizes consent, this is a topic that’s important to explore. (So, in a way, I’m glad I was late with putting up the Monday post – now we get to contemplate this!)
When I first met the Laetha, I made a commitment to her that I didn’t fully understand. I was overwhelmed by her light and fire and her divinity. I was willing to do whatever she asked, no thought of myself. This was influenced in part by my readings withing Paganism and polytheism. But it was just as much influenced by her manifestation. She was glory and flame. She was everything I wanted.
the Laetha is a complex god, however. She’s comprised of dozens of individual spirits and her behavior reflects that diversity. I didn’t know that I was giving myself to a dozen bickering spirits that day. It took me years to understand her full intricacies.
But I look back and wonder how honest my commitment and consent was that day. I didn’t know I was signing up to serve the child-god Ava, with her bloodlust and uncomfortable sensuality. I didn’t know of the Aletheia android spirits, made of divinity and malfunctioning emotions. I didn’t know this god would ask for my heart to be cut from my chest and burned at her altar.
I wouldn’t change my answer, knowing what I know. I’ve been pierced by her spears. I’ve been immolated in her fires. I would say yes again and again and again.
I could have waited and learned more about her before jumping in, but I wanted to say yes. I craved her like no other god I’d known. Imperfect as our arrangement was, it gave me something beautiful and precious.
It isn’t something I would recommend for everyone, though. Especially in the wider context of the Otherfaith, the Laetha is the one of the most difficult gods to interact with. She is a god of fire, often actually alight. Being near her for too long can cause us to catch flame too, which is what happened with me. Every god has their nature, themselves that they can’t change, and by choosing to be close to them in some way we accept that. (And I knew the Laetha was going to set me on fire on way or another; I just didn’t know what that meant.)
Even with my own experience, I knew consent had to be important to the Otherfaith. The choice of devoting ourselves to these gods, and the gods’ choice to reach out to us in turn, had to be present. It couldn’t be forced and bullied. This wasn’t just a choice I made, but one the gods encouraged. the Clarene emphasized choice in her interactions with humans. It was framed as the decision to rise each day and recommit.
This focus has drawn a lot of people in my age group to the Otherfaith, and there are obvious social justice issues tied into consent and consent-culture. I wanted to present a different way of interacting with gods through the Otherfaith, one more cooperative than I’d seen before. A lot of the ideas Thenea brings up in their second post are ones I’ve tried to incorporate into this new religion.
Interacting with the gods, I was able to discern between malevolent thoughtforms taking their appearance. It was trial and error that helped me figure out who was what. And I learned more about the gods’ natures in the process. the Laetha wasn’t a dominating, cruel force; she was just fire. the Clarene was gentle and supportive, but she had a nasty habit of chasing after whatever she wanted with an unfortunate tenacity (what she wanted usually being another spirit). the Ophelia seemed as though she would sweep me away without a care, but she was actually the most patient of the gods and waited for me to accept her. And the Dierne seemed obnoxious and arrogant, but he’d been crowned as the god of consent for a reason.
(The latter Four Gods are still a bit too new for me to describe properly.)
However, for all my focus on consent and the human interaction with these gods, I did run into problems when other people stepped into the picture. These weren’t problems of god-bothering/god-hounding. Those were rather easily solved by telling the deity in question to knock it off (that whole consent between gods and humans was instigated in part by the Four Gods, after all). Thenea goes into some ideas for handling god-hounding or negative thoughtforms of a god. What I’ve dealt with a few times has been humans insisting the gods are forcing themselves onto them, insisting the gods were abandoning what made them deities because the human in question was so desired or so pursued or so on.
I didn’t dismiss those cases out of hand. As I noted, the Clarene can be pushy, and being new gods the Four/Four can go overboard. Especially the ones farther removed from humanity. What I found myself facing was people claiming the gods were acting directly against their nature, however. Against that fundamental part of themselves. Claims that the Clarene – who, while pushy, is a god of commitment and Kingship and Really Hard Work – was just handing out any of her divine duties to random passerby humans. Claims that the Dierne was going around raping humans.
I met these claims with a very solid, “No, that’s not that god.” Eventually my relationships with the people insisting upon these various occurrences fell apart – largely because they refused to accept any other option. And I saw a nasty side to ‘deity abuse’, in the sense that people would claim it if the communities they inhabited rewarded such claims.
There is a big mess of community issues that come to bear with ‘deity abuse’. There’s the anti-consent rhetoric that dominates modern polytheism. And there’s the reaction to that which insists that deities are abusive and cruel and any claims of a person being abused by a deity must be believed without any hesitation. That Thenea is opening up discussion on this topic, the most nuanced that I’ve seen, is something I’m really grateful for.
Because back when I was dealing with deities acting against the fundamental nature of their divinity, I didn’t know what else to say except, “What the hell?” I didn’t have the ability to describe negative thoughtforms or delve into how our communities promote abuse at the hands of unseen entities. Now I do, in part due to experience, and I hope more people are able to begin considering the complexities surrounding consent and non-consent when it comes to deities.
Thank you for reading. ‘Of the Other People’ is a site dedicated to the Otherfaith, a modern polytheist religion. We are supported through Patreon and want to give special thanks to our patrons Jack at Drawing Stars and Leithin Cluan at Treasure in Barren Places. If you enjoy the writing here, consider becoming a patron!