There is an idea that devotional practitioners are close to the gods. There’s an idea that seekers eventually find. Any look at devotional and mystic poetry across time and place reveals that these ideas are false – or at least, not entirely true.

Where are you going,
Having lit the flames of love?
Without Your sight I enjoy no repose,
Life is suffocating and will not last.

Devotional practitioners – and perhaps polytheists and theists more generally – are keen to the proximity of their deities and spirits. After all, to one measure or another we have shaped our lives to fit the waves driven forward by their emergence into this world. We have taken up the task to become responsive and that involves becoming exceptionally vulnerable.

As that sensitivity grows we lean on Them for protection against a world that would shut down that connection, heap worries on it, layer weighty cares until we block out that proximate sensation – there are more important things to think and feel. At the point of greatest vulnerability, greatest openness to all the sensation and experience They shiningly promise, They leave.

After the sweetness comes the bitter. Does the bitterness of solitude arrive among the even, smooth rhythm of daily attention, reception, and remembrance? Oh no – we are taken to heights immediately before being left with our feet too heavy to shuffle.

How can I heal myself, O my companion?
I may crush cool sandalpaste and apply it,
I may resort to the magic of yantra and mantra,
But that sweet image has entered my heart
And the damage is done.

What went wrong?

Usually nothing.

The Powers recognized in polytheism can be handsy or aloof, attentive or dismissive, intimate or catholic as They choose. A single Power may express many different types of attention. Many of us are not used to this idea, especially when a period of solitude comes after months or years of close proximity.

What went wrong?

Usually nothing.

When it came time to deepen my work with Hela, I rebelled and kept trying to toss everything away. It was too late to undo the changes that had already been initiated and a degree of sensitivity and reception had been surpassed and would not be dampened. Knowing I could not serve without selfless love, I conducted a ritual cycle involving fasting, meditation, and some helpful rose spirits. Requisite level of submission achieved, the love finally flowed like fresh water.

When Loki is home it feels like a hot stove is lit in the corner, radiating a burn constant and familiar. I know I am home because He is home. When He is gone, all that’s left is the sharp chill of an empty furnace. My home’s heart is gone; nothing has changed but everything is different.

One can’t expect to keep the Sky-Strider around forever. That’s not His nature. Thinking to tie Him down with sweet words or promises or extracted vows is ignoring His fundamental tendencies.

Many – perhaps even most – deities are like this to one degree or another. Hela was very hands-off once my initial training was complete. I’ve heard devotees of other Powers talk about how they want the loving closeness, the happy affection, and are a little confused to discover that sometimes their Loved Ones pull back. Some of Them don’t like the mushy stuff. Their company is of a different sort and we each individually have to discover what configuration of emotional closeness, sensate proximity, and energetic sharing is going to constitute any given relationship. But this can change and this is a truth we don’t know about, not because there are people keeping secrets from us but because our reemerging traditions don’t have a lot of lore about this sort of thing. It’s up to us to tell each other the truth.

The truth is that it happens to everyone. Eventually.

I do not know how to meet my Lord.
He came into my courtyard and went,
And I only know that I missed Him.

Lots of people have talked to me about Loki’s absences. That distinct feeling of injured abandonment is more common than any of us might imagine. I remind myself that I am as common as grass, as simple as moonlight, and no more worthy of His company than anyone. Why should I expect anything different?

I don’t – but I’m always surprised to discover that the furnace blew out in the night.



5 thoughts on “Furnace

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