We were driving in the dark after a long day of processing, goodbyes, and a blown tire.  The conversation turned to Deity and our relationships therein, God-owned and God-spouse discussing the difficulties of our respective paths, and the joys therein.  She spoke of the love for her husband, disembodied though he may be, the love and bliss is real, the fights and frustrations are real.  I have felt much the same over the years in my relationship with Deity myself.

I am owned.  I am property.  I call myself a God-slave, but it is more God-thing, God-land, a fertile place where possibilities in Her honor can take place.  Things get arranged through me, no daily to do list from a single Boss.  Instead the occasional work light goes off, and I am charged to do my job.  I am not micromanaged.

When I was six or seven years old, mi madre asked me about a drawing I had done.  It was me, about 3 inches tall, holding the hand of a large glowing Bear, almost a foot tall.  What is this piece about honey?  I was scared, and Bear walked me home.  Mi madre gifted the piece back to me a few years back, and it hangs above my computer desk.

By that point I had seen spirits for some time.  Mi madre is a crystal worker, and her mother could name her reincarnations, telling us where she was going next time before she passed away.  When I was a baby pagan, I had it explained that I had The Sight through my matrilineal line- a fair enough assessment I suppose.

At a young age I was told that I would be working for the spirits when I grew up.  It was my choices though that determined who I would work for.  When I was violent and bit a girl on my school bus, Otter walked away.  I remember when Owl flew, when Dog licked me one last time.  By the time I was in my early twenties it was clear that I was meant to be a child of Bear, and Mama came to me.

Mama Bear.  That’s what I call her.  Because I am Hers, and also because I am her child.  I oftentimes have folks assume I mean some human named Bear, the name being so prevalent in parts of my world.  But no.  No, I shake my head, and smile.

I have seen Her blot out the Sun, His moans escaping into Her giant maw.  She is the beast that was feared in the woods by our Neolithic ancestors, cave paintings made in Her honor lest She come hungry in the night.  She is terrible in Her beauty.  Bear and Man have moved side by side for so long.

She is the Great Black Bear.  You know Her in the sky as Ursa Major, the Big Bear.  She is strength and groundedness.  She slumbers when you need to hibernate to let your heart recover from great pain.  She is an opener of doorways, a healer of spirits, a remover of bullshit from life to life the veil from your eyes.  She whispers under her breath in the night with a low growl lest you forget that the darkness is terrible when taken for granted, including your own darkness.  Don’t take yourself for granted, don’t assume it is all light, is one of Her lessons.

As a child when I saw Her, it made sense.  Things make sense when magic is everywhere and we are building rockets to the moon and houses for leprechauns.  When folks ask you every few weeks what you want to be when you grow up, you are given permission to dream big dreams.  My dreams spoke of traveling the world for National Geographic, Sports Illustrated, camera in hand.  My dreams spoke of sitting with old men with tattooed finger nails who chewed betel nut, sung of laying in the woods for weeks at a time for an elusive shot, spoke of sitting in darkness and pouring through images.  I caught Her eye.

Predestination and personal choice are complex intertwined concepts in the eyes of the Gods.  The shards of Deity are not just things made up by Man to understand the universe.  In some cases they started that way and came into their own and grew their own personality, but others were born screaming from the night sky, the Starry Goddess seeing herself in the great mirror of night and masturbating until her flood of desire birthed the stars.  Some were licked out of great salt licks by cosmic cows, others great women were cut in half for the world to be born, others uttered from an old man’s lips who longed to see the light.  They are all true in their own way.

But Gods are real.  They are here and present and now.  Some have been forgotten, others are reborn with a new reality wrapped around them like a Tim Gunn makeover every generation when their holy books are re-translated for a new political vision.  This is a tricky thing for me to sometime explain to lay folk- pagan, monotheist, or otherwise.

In the pagan community there are three major camps of reality concerning the Gods, Spirits, The Honored (and dishonored) Dead, Orisha, Sacred Souls, Fae, and more.  The first states that Gods are Archetypes we are inspired by- that when we say we worship Diana, we are drawn to her strength and independence and want to invoke that energy into our life by inspiring our own inner mind using this visual.  In this camp the Gods are real only insomuch as that we are real and the images in our heads help us- rituals are entirely metaphorical.

The second camp states that the Gods are Overarching Energies.  At the end of the day all love Goddesses all come from THE Love Goddess, and thus working with Aphrodite is just as valid as working with Freya.  The Love Goddess is real, is tangible, but the facets She takes on are not quite as important.  This camp finds it perfectly acceptable to burn an effigy of Venus at their festivals, a Greco-Roman deity who valued the permanence of her sacred images and holy sites, where all statues in her honor could literally look out through her eyes- burning is not an issue because the Goddess understands our intent.

The third camp holds up a banner saying, no, really, the Gods are Real.  Each one has its own personality, its own history, and like any human has a full personality.  That some Gods will push your buttons, some are outright liars, some will smite you for using the wrong name with Them.  That Odin and Zeus are most definitely not the same, and will get upset and even hurt if you say they are one in the same.

Now, obviously there is room for some crossover.  Bear is Real, She has an attitude and a personality, but she is also an Archetype many are inspired by, and She also can be drawn upon by some as the Overarching Energy of doorway opening- and through this guise I have had a path open in my own heart towards Ganesha for example.  But it is important to be clear where we stand when we discuss rituals as humans, oaths as human.  Have I sworn myself to an Archetype, an Energy, or a Real entity.

I can work in metaphor and in concept, but when I say I am owned by Deity, I mean that I am OWNED by DEITY.  I have met Her, have sat at Her feet, have fallen in love with Mama in ways that make my heart sing.  I bitch at Her, and am not just talking at a shard of myself manifested in some strange version of Dissociative Identity Disorder.  She is strange and beautiful and cranky and obtuse at times.  She does not get some concepts or excuses, no matter how much I explain, because She is an old woman while still being in Her prime.  Time, it works different on the other side of the veil.

I have acquired a bear skin and danced in Her flames, bloody flowers erupting on its skin.  I have had Her ink tattood into my neck, a collar and a reminder to listen to Her wisdom and not pass it off as madness.  I have hung on hooks unconscious from a tree and walked through the shadow doing Her work.

This is not a cop-out towards not being able to find a worthy human owner.  Wow I sat with that one for a long time.  No, I have had some really amazing human owners, and that is not it.  The issues I have had with human owners have come up with Bear, because whether I am in relationship with Deity or human, I am still me.  When I spent two years in service to Hera as a consort, I did not get to hide from my issues around dating women and romance with women.  Instead I got to face them head on, with no place to hide.  Even if it might have started as a “oh this might be easier, a relationship with someone who isn’t really Real…” it can get real.  Really friggin’ real.  And then shit needs dealt with.

Marriages to Deity need worked on too.  Loving God requires spending time with Him.  Negotiation, compromise, twitterpation, new relationship energy- this is all part of the dance, with any relationship.  And our relationship to Deity, as pagans, Christians, Asatru, Muslims, Voudon, Feri, Jews- it is a relationship.  Some of us have had Deity in our life like grandmas… we only see her once a year and she still loves us and gives us presents.  Because she is our grandma.  But others of us need to spend some quality time with our Gods, need to get off our asses and work on the relationship instead of just assuming it will all be okay if we ignore it.  How well does that work in our mortal relationships?

We do not have to owned by Gods or married to them or be children of this or that to have a relationship with Deity.  Even if we are Archtypalist Pagans we have the capacity to develop relationship.  Being owned does not make me a special little snowflake- it just has me on my path.  What is yours?

That said, I need to state clearly- Deity listens sometimes.  I was going to say that Deity listens, but to be honest, sometimes they are busy.  Sometimes they listen but need you to tough it out on your own to make you the you you need to be, I certainly have had that happen.  I have been lucky that I have seen enough of the tapestry to get why some of the bad shit happened in my life.  I have had my rapist sit with me and talk about why he did it, about his journey.  But that aside, I need to state clearly- they listen.

Oaths matter.  When we say “I am yours,” they may just take that seriously.  We affect our Wyrd, our energetic bodies, our place in the tapestry, when we make oaths.  I have heard people blink and wonder why they cannot have children, and I ask in return, um, could it have something to do with the fact that you swore your life to a virgin childless warrior goddess?  I hear people make commitments all the time to God- if I pass this test I swear I will go to church.  Scouts honor.  Well, you passed the test, are you going to make good?

Verbal oaths can be binding oaths, even ones said when our dicks were hard.  But we often say stupid shit when we get turned on, huh?  How many folks have I met over the years that agreed to be collared by mortal lovers in the middle of sex.  Um, what did I just agree to?  With honorable owners and masters of the mortal ilk, there is usually space to talk this out when we are sober emotionally- but some folks take it seriously.  You said you were mine!

I have certainly had relationships, both mortal and with Divinity, of the “what did I sign up for” ilk.  Will you be my slave?  Yes.  Okay, hooray, we are done, right?  True happiness accessible with a single lock.  Um, why are we having miscommunications?  What do you mean that is not what you think Slavery looks like?

Do we know the person’s track record, the Gods track record, before we sign over our soul?  Their language framework and expectations on all sides of the relationship?  Is there space for renegotiation?  Or did that spellwork out of the Necronomicon in high school leave you with a brand in your ass on the astral plane?  Does that circumcision mean that Yahweh still has a say over your life? (I know a former Jew who is regrowing his foreskin as a devotional act towards the God he now serves, to erase the marks of past ownership from his skin- it is hard for many Owners to look down on their property and see your last lover’s name on your skin)

Being owned did not get me a big red God Phone.  I do not have the answers to all of reality at my fingertips, even if I have acquired magical and shamanic skills over the years that have let me tap the records from time to time.  Bear did not give me a decoder ring.  And unlike other God-owned, God-spouses, and God-leased that I know, I don’t even have lore to turn to.  When Loki says something, a Lokean can pour through the Eddas.  When a Spirit-worker for Christ is visited with images, there are a bevy of translations to research.  I get grows, shadows, claws in my neck, hoping I read the clouds right, double checking with divination, triple checking the message with outside confirmation and blind message relay.

This is one of the reasons our community needs more than Spirit-Workers, Shamans and God-touched.  We need Lore Keepers.  We need Priests.  We need Gaurdians.  We need Pages.  We need Healers.  We need Diviners.  We need Hearth Magicians.  We need Clergy.  We need Bards.  We need you.

The community needs you.  The people need you.  What you are doing, today.  This too is sacred.  I see too many folks who look at the crazy shenanigans I get up to and consider it some sort of pinnacle.  First off, I have a *lot* of climbing yet to do, you ain’t seen nothing yet.  Second, I am on my path, and you are on your path.  And your path, your path is incredibly valuable.

You who are helping the Gods by doing animal rescue, your work is important.  You who are teaching the next generation of children and helping them heal from abuse, untangling the tapestry for the next generation, your work is important.  You who are doing food service and keeping the rest of us supplied with coffee at stupid am, your work is important.  You who dispose of the trash… you I worship the work of, and your work is sacred.

The work you are doing is sacred.  Sitting at home showing your children that you love them, your work is sacred.  You doing computer programming, your work is sacred.  You building a bridge between communities, your work is sacred.

I see too many folks lift us crazy wild men and women in the woods up as some sort of higher thing.  Thanks, but please, throw some of that adulation and adoration towards the mailperson, the line cook, the dog walker.  Because as sacred people on this planet, everything we do is sacred work.  Can be dedicated work towards whatever it is we are moved by.  You do not have to be a spirit worker to serve deity, to worship deity, or to love them.

And love.  And love.