This is part of our basics series, seeking to educate newcomers on the Otherfaith and our gods.
Laity, Clergy, Mystic
The Other People consist of three ‘groups’ of devotees: laity, clergy, & mystics. Each of these groups helps sustain the faith, and each is necessary for the Otherfaith to truly flourish as a new religious tradition.
Laity would, ideally, make up the bulk of the People. These People would attend ceremonies hosted by the clergy and observe the holy days with their group. They would not be expected, in an ideal situation, to know how the perform the ceremonies, unless they wished to learn that. The faith may be their main religion, or it may be a secondary or tertiary religious practice.
Clergy would know the stories and holy days of the faith. They would be able to hold the proper ceremonies at the proper times. They would provide spiritual counseling to the laity and mystics, as well as religious education and outreach. The Otherfaith would be their focus for as long as they were the People’s clergy (but priesthood would not be a lifetime commitment).
Mystics are those who journey to the land of the gods, bring new myths to the People, find new spirits, and are competent in spiritual skills. These would be trance, soul healing, blessings, cleansings, and possession. The Otherfaith would be the main religion of all mystics.
We will explore each of these groups in depth later. For now –
The gods speak to anyone in these groups. They do not limit their voices to the mystics or clergy.
The divisions above have more to do with what is appropriate for an individual to do, both dedication, work, and time wise, not on whom the gods like best. The laity are just as able to say, “The gods told me…” as the mystics are. As part of our ‘checks and balances’, it is vital that the laity speak up when the mystics claim something fishy (and vice versa).
But – can the gods speak to those outside the faith?
Yes! That is how they get new followers, sometimes. The gods speak to whomever they will, not just a special few.
However, the People do ask that those contacted by the Four Gods make an effort to contribute to the Otherfaith in some way. We are a new sprouting faith, so we need as many voices as we can get! It is also okay to tell the Four Gods that you would rather not worship them or pursue a relationship with them. Just because you are being reached out to does not mean you must accept.
Voices of the Gods
That said, we need to understand how the gods talk to us. If we expect them to materialize in front of us and hand down great wisdom, we may miss them actually speaking to us – in subtler ways.
The gods talk to many voices, and hearing them can take a lifetime. And while the gods can talk to anyone, not everyone can hear them. It is okay if you don’t receive messages from the gods. You can still be devoted to them.
The gods speak to us with signs, dreams, visions, voices, divination, and intuition. Discernment is a huge part of divine communication, but let’s try to keep this post manageable.
The flight of birds, snow on the ground, a sudden storm, a song on the radio – those can all be signs from the gods and spirits. When we pray for a message from them, we need to be open to the mundane.
A sudden breeze can be a divine sign, and with a god called the Star-Wind (Dierne), it may very well be.
Most often, being in the city, signs I am given are cars, out of place birds, animals (lizards, snakes, etc.), city smells, snippets of conversation, and actual signs (like stop signs).
Even if you are not receiving signs, you can use the material world around you as a reminder of the deities. Their symbols surround our lives, and they can take forms we would not expect.
Dreams & Visions
The Four Gods and their spirits often communicate to us through dreams. It was through dreams that the Clarene revealed herself, in full regalia, to me. They give us symbols in dreams, show themselves (as the Clarene did to me), come crashing into our lives, or just give us comfort. Some dreams are unbidden; other times, we can pray for them.
We can also receive waking visions, or visions during tiredness or ‘altered’ states. These can be like unexpected daydreams or whirling trains of thought. The gods may, again, give us symbols or scenes they think are important. These can be vivid or vague and brief.
Sometimes, an unexpected voice can pop up in your heads – a god’s! Through discernment, some people learn to hear the voice of the gods speaking to them quite well. This usually takes a long time to develop for consistent use (and a sudden, perfect ‘ear’ for this should be met with some skepticism and a trip to a doctor, just in case), but some people only hear the voice of their gods once or twice in their lives. It is often described as a mental voice that feels as if it originates externally. However, everyone experiences it a bit differently, and people will describe it in ways fitting their experience.
Methods such as Tarot, oracle cards, runes, etc. have been used to hear and communicate with the gods for a long time. In the Otherfaith, we prefer card divination. These allow the gods to speak to us through the symbols on the cards and can sometimes be clearer than waiting for a mundane sign. They can also allow us to ask questions and receive answers right now, with less ‘wait time’.
One way many people hear the gods is through feeling. “I felt that he wanted this…” or, “I felt like she would like this…” A sudden idea of what a god wants, or having some tension lifted from your chest – that can be the gods. Feeling is important. Perhaps you are swept up in joy or sorrow. Impressions you get can be their voices, their hands. Don’t just brush that off. Explore it, figure out what it means.
In the Otherfaith, we do have oracles, or those who speak as the gods when possessed by them, which is another method of communication – but one which should not currently be relied on. It is important, too, to double-check, both to keep human influences in check and to make sure you’re hearing the gods ‘correctly’.
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.