Any sentence that begins with “The gods want – ” should be immediately followed with a personal pronoun.
Sentences written this way make sense. “The gods want me to – ” is pretty easy to understand. Which gods? The ones personally relevant. What do they want? Something that one is personally involved with or potentially could be. To wit:
The gods want me to clean the altars.
The gods want me to try a new artistic medium.
The gods want me to work on that poetry anthology.
The gods want me to finish that degree.
The gods want me to explore different religious communities.
The gods want me to bake them some cookies.
Sentences that begin with “The gods want -” and are followed with collective pronouns, other-than-personal pronouns, or statements that don’t further clarify the precise group being spoken to don’t make sense. For instance:
The gods want us to take action.
The gods want us to do something about this problem.
The gods want them to go away.
The gods want you to pay more attention.
The gods want reclaimed wood flooring.
The gods want improved infrastructure.
The gods want something better.
We – and by we I mean me and possibly you, too – scoff at preachers who claim that their god wants them to buy a jet, or build a mansion, or get that second divorce. We regard with disdain religious leaders who say their god wants everyone to pray for sinners, to protest marriage equality, to hold back access to health care. We might even feel a little superior that our gods happen to want more enlightened, compassionate things – just like us.
When someone says that “the gods” want enhanced cohesion in community, more cooperative efforts in our group worship, improved communication among the greater body of believers, a dissolving of boundaries, a clarification of boundaries, community building fit to last the ages, infrastructure able to provide for believers for generations, etc. etc. etc. I have a lot of questions, not the most important of which are “Which gods exactly? What gods have expressed a desire for these things? Have you polled all of Them? Are you sure you have?”
I ask these questions not just to be contrary – although that might be a small part of my motivation, because I can be an incorrigible asshole – but because there are a GREAT MANY gods and I have difficulty believing that someone has gotten their collective opinion on any given topic.
If we (we meaning me and possibly you, too) are talking about what makes polytheist faith traditions distinct from each other, and from non-polytheist faith traditions, and if we’re actively seeking to clarify the words and phrases we use to describe our religious experiences, expressions, goals, and desires, then we cannot afford to be lazy about Who we choose to implicate in our wanting.
Because really, I have a hard time believing that, say, Brighid wants the same thing as, say, Loki. Or that Artemis wants the same thing as Loki. Or that Susano-O wants to the same thing as Loki.
No really, just think about it.
How ridiculous is to claim that “the gods” want something? How ridiculous is it to claim that “the gods” want the same thing as you do?
If the Powers you love and honor have expressed a desire applicable to your life, your actions, your trajectory in life I have no room to say They don’t. I sincerely hope that the desires you follow Them in wanting don’t hurt anyone and if it does I might try to reason with you on a moral basis, but I have no ground to stand on when it comes to interpreting what *your* gods want for *you*.
If you have come to a place where *you* want something – be it improved community structures, more coherent theology, community service resources, or whatever – then that’s great. No, really. It totally is. I happen to want many of these things, too. I would encourage you (and myself!) not to mistake these personal desires and ambitions and visions for something that “the gods” want.
I would encourage this for many, many, *many* reasons, not the least of which is Loki.
Because when we (meaning me and possibly you, too) are talking about the glowing divinity of the High Ones, about the fundamental benevolent nature of divinities, about the way They all want us to work together to create a stable community that will last the ages and provide structure and instruction and inspiration for generations to come – one question always comes to mind: What about Loki?
I love Loki. You might have noticed. I love Loki lots n lots. I might joke that what Loki wants begins with coffee and ends with a blow job but in my experience Loki wants lots of other things, too. Some of those things I’m not personally all that interested in. For instance, Loki has this interesting art project involving dead men’s toenails and the end of the world, to which I just say, “Ehhh – you do you.”
Although Loki’s aspects as worldbreaker and ship’s captain are not terribly prominent at this point in my life, I’d be stupid to ignore them. Anyone trying to make blanket statements on behalf of what “the gods” want would also be stupid to ignore them.
See, “the gods” includes Loki. “The gods” includes a Power often antithetical to structure, human and divine. So maybe you make statements about how “the gods except Loki” want lasting structure, hardwood flooring, etc. etc. but if you have one exception you’re going to have others. And when that happens you might as well just fess up to having your personal ambition in line with what a handful of divinities that you know personally also happen to want.
We CAN work together, our beloved Powers and us. We CAN want the same things. We CAN choose to align our efforts to the same end. Often, we should do these things – with the Powers closest to us.
It’s OK to have personal desires and ambitions. We should feel motivated to make improvements that benefit us personally and collectively, that further compassion and the alleviation of suffering and cooperative efforts that benefit the greatest number of beings. We can and should ask Powers to assist with these efforts – those Powers who we have spent time getting to know, who have a reputation for caring about these things, who have expressed similar desires. They can ask us for help with their goals, too. But clarity in wanting is important. It might even be essential.
Again: Clarity in wanting is important. It might even be essential. Sometimes my divination clients will ask me “What does Power X want?” Sometimes I can help, but as often as not that’s the wrong question to ask. A better question is “What do I want?”. Only then can a healthy ego-sense develop and vital personal strength and self-knowledge be cultivated.
It’s what Loki would want. 😉