Gods & Authority

The Gate to Ceridwen's Lake
This is a gate. There is no fence.


There are some interesting reactions to my recent piece on Worlding. I won’t quote them here–they can be found pretty easily otherwise. I’m apparently the new John Halstead, and there’s even some fun accusations of racism thrown in.  But suffice to say, many of them assert impiety, an ability to understand the true nature of things because of my Marxism, and a stubborn refusal to submit to the sovereignty of the gods.

I think they might just be now noticing I’m an anarchist.

Thing is, these discussions are hardly about gods at all, but about Authority.

As was pointed out to me by a dear druid friend:

if your relationship to a god is one where you ‘must’ do something for them or else, or you must do so because a priest told you that is what you must do, you are confusing a god with the government, Capitalism, or your parents.

It’s from Authority that you learn ‘obedience,’ not from the gods. And there have been plenty of parents, and plenty of governments, and plenty of rich people who have claimed they have Authority because of the gods.

And also, plenty of priests.

Perhaps there are indeed gods telling people to listen to their priests, telling people that the only true way to be in relationship to them is through the prescriptions and doctrines set out by their chosen ones.  But it seems to me this is precisely the process by which the belief of a people becomes channeled into power for a handful of the ‘Elect.’  And woe betide the heretic or the witch who dare approach the divine by any other gate but the one they guard.

Enclosure can happen for meaning, too.  In fact, that’s always been the trick of Authority; convince people they have no other access to meaning except through their prescribed doctrines, just as Capital convinces us we have no access to exchange except through property and the market or the State convinces us we’ll die without it.

Isn’t this really what the witch has always been so hated, though? The witch asserts that we need nothing to approach the Other, and that there is nothing we can truly offer anyone except our being.

As a friend pointed out the other day:

“Some want to be possessed by a god. Some want to possess a god.”

And I added, “and both are much easier than self-possession.”


3 thoughts on “Gods & Authority

  1. In my experience, even a witch knows you don’t approach the Other empty-handed. Yes, we give of ourselves – give and give and give. But it’s not all done intangibly, just like what we get in return isn’t only intangible.

    I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m certainly not asserting we should bow our heads to priests who tell us what to do – priests are often useful but not actually necessary in polytheism or animism. Anyone can learn to listen to the gods. But if your gods never ask anything from you that is difficult or surprising or challenging (and that might sometimes include asking you to submit to Their will above your own now and then), you are probably confusing a god for your own mind.

    1. I completely agree with you, actually, though the statement that priests are useful but not necessary is becoming a bit of a heresy lately. 😦

      And yes, the gods ask some awfully hard stuff from us. I’m not sure they’ve necessarily ever asked me to submit to anything; however, there’s a similar process. That Newgrange thing that happened two years ago? The one I didn’t put my name in for? That’d be a good example. Not ‘submit to my will’ but ‘hey–we think you should go to Newgrange for midwinter solstice, there’s something we want you to do there, yeah this will fuck up your life for a bit and make you really poor and you’ll lose a relationship, but hey! What do you think?”

      One -could- say that I submitted to their will there. I think, though, it was a bit more like being convinced their idea was a good one. Sometimes the gods I know feel like overeager friends who totally want to show you something awesome even though they know you don’t really want to get out of bed.

  2. “there’s something we want you to do there, yeah this will fuck up your life for a bit and make you really poor and you’ll lose a relationship, but hey! What do you think?”

    Hmm, I’d be negotiating the terms of the transaction…first. If Judgment & Wisdom are qualities the gods imbue us with, how often must they face-palm when we scamper off with some half-baked idea?

    I stepped in something icky when I read “The Hero’s Journey”. Joseph Campbell had been a kind of priest, eh?

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