Another post by Anya Kless has called my attention to the following: (1) Fun Facts For the Deity-Owned by Laura Patsouris, Patheos, January 26, 2011, and (2) God-Owned: Humans as Pets by P. Sufenas Virius Lupus, January 26, 2011.
I can relate to the experience of being “God-owned,” although I’ve tended to use different terminology to describe it.
As Laura Patsouris puts it:
Recently I have run into lots of people who have recently been claimed by a Patron Deity. Sometimes they have been the ones to initiate the contact, but more frequently the Deity in question has swooped in out of the blue to claim ownership. When this occurs it can be intense, disorienting and a bit scary, especially if the Deity in question is from a different tradition or pantheon than the person in question expected. This is something I’m quite familiar with, since I was scooped up by a Norse God after primarily practicing Afro-Caribbean religion for most of my life. Even when the Deity is from the expected tradition and pantheon, suddenly being God-Owned always comes with a big paradigm shift.
Let me take a moment to say that not everyone who is pagan will be scooped up by a Deity. For whatever reason, some folks can work quite well as free agents and will be given the latitude to do so and others will get claimed. Bottom line is; if it is your fate to serve a Deity, whether you consent consciously or not, you cannot outrun Wyrd. I know this concept is controversial; that a God or Goddess can pop in and lay a claim on whom They choose without the express consent of the human involved.
That’s how I became a theistic Satanist. Back in 1991 C.E. I had a sudden, very unexpected, very disorienting series of intense spiritual experiences involving Satan. For several years before that, I had been a Wicca-influenced Goddess-oriented eclectic Pagan, and I had bought into a lot of the usual neo-Pagan attitudes toward Satanists.
My experiences led me to feel, almost immediately, that “Satan chose me, not vice versa,” and that I was in some sense “owned” by Satan. But I was, and usually still am, shy about using such terminology in public.
So, instead of talking about being “chosen by Satan,” I came up with a concept I call “spiritual orientation,” analogous to sexual orientation. Just as different people are sexually drawn to different genders, so too different people are spiritually drawn to different gods. In both cases it is not a conscious choice by the person involved and may even go against one’s conscious beliefs and attitudes.
An important difference between sexual orientation and spiritual orientation is that most people know their sexual orientation from an early age, whereas the age at which a person is forcibly awakened to one’s spiritual orientation, if any, is probably much more variable. Yet it seems to me that “spiritual orientation” may be another way of expressing the concept of “God-ownership,” in a way that’s reasonably accurate but less likely to ruffle feathers (and less likely to sound, to the uninitiated, like just plain crazy talk) than speaking of oneself as “owned” or “chosen” by one’s deity.
Mystics through the ages have used sexual metaphors to describe spiritual experience. As far as I know, I’m the first person to add a sexual orientation analogy to that set of metaphors. I like it better than the rape analogy. Of course, neither analogy is a precise description.
The rape analogy comes up in P. Sufenas Virius Lupus’s objections to the concept of “God-ownership”:
Yes, a good deal of what Laura talks about in terms of the benefits of being in a relationship with the gods is true, in my experience. However, couching it in terms of some random god swooping in and “claiming” someone without their consent is, to put it very bluntly, divine rape apologetics, and the worst sort of slippery slope, as far as I’m concerned. I heard a very wise woman say a few years ago, “Religion is like love-–you can’t force it. Forcing it is rape.” And that should apply on all sides of the equation, with all agents in a relationship, and in every aspect of a religion or religious phenomenon. One would never put up with a human acting as a rapist, so why should one do so with the gods? (“Because they’re more powerful than us and we have no choice” is a complete and utterly steaming bullshit answer, incidentally, in my opinion–-living under a totalitarian tyranny of that sort on a divine level is not living! It’s exactly what exists in certain exclusivist fundamentalist creedal monotheistic religions, but has no place in paganism, in my opinion.) Yes, there is a long heritage of describing certain types of divine/human relationships with this terminology of rape-–but, that comes most often in Christian contexts (that’s what “mystical rapture” really means). That doesn’t mean it’s right or positive or to be glorified above all else, or should be emulated within paganism.
Problem with the rape metaphor: If you believe that the Gods are immanent as well as transcendant, then your God is a part of you already (as well as existing outside yourself). Likewise your natural inclination toward a particular God is a part of you already, too, even if that inclination hasn’t yet been acknowledged or awakened.
Back in 1991, the experiences that led me to become a theistic Satanist were totally unexpected and felt very disorienting on some levels, but on other levels felt like coming home, like I was finally acknowledging hitherto unacknowledged parts of myself. As I described it at the time, it was as if I had been wearing a suffocating veil all my life and finally figured out how to take it off.
So, even though my experiences happened without my conscious consent, they weren’t at all like rape. In my opinion, a rape metaphor would be appropriate only if one feels like one has been invaded by something utterly foreign.
In a comment below Laura Patsouris’s post, Wendi Wilkerson wrote:
I’m not completely convinced that Gods swoop in and lay claim without our consent; maybe without our express conscious consent, but not without our soul’s consent. I do believe that when they appear in this fashion, it’s because even if we are deaf to our own longing, our souls cried out for the kind of growth and fulfillment than only such a difficult and intense relationship with Them can provide.
I don’t yet know enough about “God-owned” Pagans and Heathens to know whether any of them have experienced anything truly rape-like. As far as I can tell so far, the Pagans who talk about “God-ownership” seem to be primarily from Reconstructionist-based paths (e.g. Northern tradition) rather than Wicca-based paths. And I get the impression that Pagans on Reconstructionist-derived paths are less likely than Pagans on Wicca-derived paths to insist that their Gods are immanent. So perhaps the idea of divine “rape” might be at least conceivable in a Reconstructionist-based context. But so far my feeling is that, even for Reconstructionist-derived Pagans, the experience of becoming “God-owned” is likely to have more in common with an initially-reluctant acknowledgement of one’s sexual orientation than with rape. Even Raven Kaldera, who identifies as a “full-out god-slave,” says, in a comment below P. Sufenas Virius Lupus’s post:
The goddess who owns me has been there since the beginning, since my youngest days. She did eventually tighten her grip and enslave me in a way that was certainly without my consent at the time.
I would appreciate comments by any “Deity-owned” Pagans who happen to read this.