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Thread: Filan and Krasskova on Ordeal and God-Slavery

  1. #1
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    Filan and Krasskova on Ordeal and God-Slavery


    Your use of Ordeal rituals raises a lot of hackles. What would you say to your detractors? (That we could publish in a family-friendly blog!)

    Galina: Other than “grow up” and “own your own baggage?” Good question. I would say that when you harass and slander a god-servant for doing the work that the Gods have requested of him (or her), you are essentially spitting in the face of those Gods. Odin endured ordeal. He sought it out for very specific reasons. He is not the only God or Goddess to have done so in the sacred tales. Obviously it has some merit.

    I would also say that not all of us are called to serve or honor the Gods in the same way and that is something that should be respected. Not everyone is or should be an ordeal worker; but some people are and it can be a powerfully transformative and sacred path into Divine service.

    I think ordeal is frightening and triggering to many people and thus people tend to fixate on it. Ordeal is a very small part of what I do for the Gods compared to say counseling, teaching, writing or divination, yet in all the slander that has been spread about me (some of it quite creative, I might add), most of it focuses on ordeal. With this body of practices, we’ve hit upon a nexus of taboos: pain, blood, physicality, sex, mess, loss of control. (I include sex because some practices are also used in the BDSM community and there are ordeal workers who are also part of that community).

    Ordeal teaches a person to transcend one’s boundaries and when we do that, we illustrate in ways that cannot be denied that everyone has those boundaries. Ordeal reminds people that we live in safe little boxes and that the Gods, sometimes non-consensually, can rip those boxes away and demand that we enter into the place of our deepest fear and sometimes, we may have little choice but to comply.

    I’d also add that we’re a very lookist culture and ordeal challenges that too: to an ordeal worker beauty is found in blood, scars, burns, hooks, the lash: marks of submission to our Gods, of ecstatic transformation, of the joy of peeling away our internal blockages until we can let our Gods in. It is the joy of pure service, of challenge well met, of offering well given. There is an integrity in ordeal that the ordeal dancer comes to crave. There is a truth there.

    I think that for many people the body and by extension physicality is still something taboo. There’s still an unconscious divide between the physical and spiritual. Ordeal shatters that divide. It shatters the safe delineation between sacred and profane. It crosses a taboo boundary. Most people that I have met are not comfortable in their own skin, let alone with using that skin as a vehicle to blast oneself open spiritually. Let me explain what I mean a little further:

    As a teen-ager and into my early twenties, I worked as a ballet dancer. I learned to use my body as the primary vehicle of physical and emotional expression with a very high level of skill. I’m at home in my body. I know how far I can push myself. I know the muscles, tendons and ligaments, how they work, how they feel, how pain affects them in ways that people who have not ever studied a physical art may not. I understand that pain is neutral. It can be good or bad depending on what causes it.

    This is a novel idea for many people, that there is good pain and bad pain. The pain of a torn ligament is bad. The pain of muscles that have been well warmed up and pushed to their limits in order to gain strength and flexibility is good. Pain is a nuanced thing. Those who study grueling physical arts like ballet or sports or martial arts learn to engage with this thing called pain in ways dramatically different from the average person – and yes, I do think my training first as a dancer and then a martial artist prepared me for ordeal. Ordeal uses the body: its strengths and weaknesses, it uses one’s own psychology to bring about a desired result. There’s nowhere to hide. It’s raw, an intense vulnerability. That can be terrifying even to witness.

    It’s all too easy for someone who is NOT an ordeal worker to focus overmuch on the pain. It’s not about the pain. Some ordeals aren’t painful physically at all, but they are challenging. Pain is just one of many tools that one can use to get where the Gods need us to go and yes, the whole process can be messy. It usually is, even if ordeal isn’t part of it!

    We as a society don’t much like messy. Spirituality isn’t “supposed” to be messy, right? Well it is whether we do ordeal or not, deeply committed spirituality is a powerfully transformative thing and change is always difficult. It always brings mess, which can be off-putting to the unprepared. There is nothing found in contemporary ordeal work that wasn’t found in cultures and religions the world over for thousands of years. These are ancient practices and they have survived the passage of history because they work.

    The thing for non-ordeal workers to realize is that not everyone can or should do ordeal. If you’re called to it, you’ll know and thanks to the courage of many of my colleagues who persist in sharing their experiences even in the face of harassment, those newly called will know where they can go, who they can contact to get safe and sane advice. I have some articles here on my website for those interested in reading more.

    You identify as a Godslave: this triggers a lot of people. They are terrified at the idea that a God might claim them or force them to do something without their consent. Could you talk a bit about what "Godslave" means and how being a Godslave effects your life?

    It defines my life. Every blessing that I have, and I have been gifted with many, has come to me as a result of my service. You do the work and the Gods will pour blessings in to your hands. At the same time: where I work, what I do, where I live, whether or not I can have any particular partner, sometimes what I eat and drink and wear are all dictated to me. How much sleep I get, and what friends I may have are impacted by Odin’s ownership of me. How I spend my money falls under a powerful taboo too. I am held to an extremely high standard by my Gods. Furthermore, if anyone or anything in my personal life interferes with that relationship, with my service to Him, they do not long remain in my life.

    To be a Godslave means, essentially, exactly what it says: I am the property of a Deity. I have committed myself to this relationship and given up personal agency to a degree that triggers the hell out of many who hear the term. My life revolves around Odin primarily, other Gods secondarily and my service to Them. I did not have a choice as to whether or not Odin would take me up. I did have a choice in how much I fought Him, how much I cooperated with Him, and how useful I made myself. I chose to try to be as useful as possible. He gives me a pretty long leash, as it were but in the end, I am a tool for Him. I do not think that is a bad thing. I believe knowing one’s place is good and natural and allows us to truly shine. There are those called up like this who struggle much more than I with it though (and I want to be clear that not everyone is going to be or needs to be a Godslave. The Gods require different things from different people. I suspect there are as many ways to serve as there are people serving).

    Because this word ‘slave’ is so triggering, I want to point out that my relationship with Odin is more multi-faceted than any one term can encompass. He is my Master, yes, but also Beloved, Husband, Teacher, Boss, Ancestor, and a thousand other things. I don’t fixate on the ‘Godslave’ part of the equation when I interact with Him. I am me, and at any given moment I will be used in whatever capacity is of most use to Him. I’m a priest, shaman, teacher, writer, poet, warrior, godslave, counselor, and probably royal pain in the butt for Him. I am all of these things and more or none of these things should He require. To quote Whitman: “I am vast. I contain multitudes.” Still, I won’t deny that the psychology of ownership can be a struggle at times and many of us find it helpful to have a term that so clearly identifies how we are bound.

    ‘Slave’ is a very loaded term for many good reasons. While in the BDSM community, it is a positive term of self-definition, or a role and job to be taken on with initial consent and under specified contractual terms, outside of that world it summons up images of the triangle trade, or sex trafficking or millennia of human horrors. It speaks to violence, suffering, cruelty, and an enforced lack of personal agency. Human to human that is a horrible thing and nothing in that description reflects the reality of Godslavery.

    Still, we do not have another term that sends quite the same implication of lack of personal agency, of being bound to something bigger and stronger, to forced service. If the word is triggering I blame the paucity of our language. There can be immense fulfillment and joy in Godservice but that does not change the fact that many of us have no initial choice in the matter.

    People don’t like to think that the Gods can affect us nonconsensually. It’s not a very post-Enlightenment, American idea. Free will, comfort, and lack of inconvenience are the virtues of the New Age movement and those things have precious little to do with actual encounters with Gods. Our ancestors would have understood that. I laugh when I see the endless arguments in Heathen forums about whether or not one should go down on one’s knees to one’s Gods. If a Deity truly is there, your knees will bend and it is right and proper that they do so. The Gods are real, not manifestations from our unconscious. They are not caricatures on a page. They are real, independent entities and They are deserving of our respect.

    We each have our portion in life: what we are given in blessings, what we owe in return. It is right and proper to pour out offerings: to the Gods, the ancestors, the land spirits. It is egotism bordering on hubris to think that our personal comfort has anything to do with that. It is also hubris to think we have a right to negotiate and argue over the trappings of service. It is not our place. Much of being a Godslave is about learning one’s place. It allows one immense freedom to function well when you know who is above you and who is below you in the hierarchy. But we as a culture have forgotten how to think this way. We expect our spirituality to be egalitarian. The Gods are not egalitarian.

    I think it’s an incredibly modern conceit that we have the right to set the terms with the Gods. It comes from a remarkable obsession with individualism and egotism and an equally remarkable disrespect for discipline, hierarchy, and chain of command. Frankly, we need to get over ourselves. I believe that Odin forces me to use the term ‘godslave” precisely because that phraseology is so triggering. It says “we can’t control this process.”

    What’s ironic is that we can control an awful lot about being claimed by a God: we can control ourselves, how we act, how we prepare ourselves, how we make ourselves useful, deal with our own baggage, etc. We are not equal to the Gods and They are real, and sometimes, They demand things. To those who for whom religion is a largely theoretical exercise (the majority of people, I’d warrant), that is a terrifying dose of reality.
    kenazfilan @ gmail.com | 917-267-7469
    the new orleans voodoo handbook (forthcoming)

  2. #2
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    Quite the interesting read. I do have a question regarding godslavery, though how relevant it is to your point could be considered up for debate. If one willingly submits to the gods and offers themselves to Them completely, would that be considered a form a godslavery? Or perhaps something else?
    "From Kemet I came, and to Kemet I return" ~ Me, a message I want to make into a tattoo on my back.

  3. #3
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    This brings up another question, would the co creater concept that quantum physics teaches be compatible and can it be used in a more co-oporative application.. IE the great work?

    This would require a shift in perspective as far as our own idea of what God is,
    is God Within or are we all within God, (so to speak)

  4. #4
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    a very good read i enjoyed it. I look forward to the answers from you.
    Christina Sparrow

    previous MW usernames: VioletStarLizard - lil'BuddhistWich - SunflowerWriter



    I am a sparrow, the smallest of songbirds...

  5. #5
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    "God-slave" -- I understand being in that position all too well.


    "Ordeal" -- What the heck are you talking about? You use this term in a way where it sounds as though you mean something specific, which all your readers should understand.

    or·deal (ôr-dl)
    n.
    1. A difficult or painful experience, especially one that severely tests character or endurance. See Synonyms at trial.
    2. A method of trial in which the accused was subjected to physically painful or dangerous tests, the result being regarded as a divine judgment of guilt or innocence.


    link

    Care to enlighten us? (or is it just me?)
    Tobias



    Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its labourers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children.

    -Dwight D Eisenhower

  6. #6
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    You are a talented writer, and that was a very intelligent article.

    It was compelling enough that it made me want to offer my own point of view. I have had a difficult life, as many would see it, but I have been able to learn from a past that contains much suffering. That suffering was very transformative for me. It helped me realize that we have to be ready for pain in our lives, and we are responsible for making the most of it. We cannot simply let pain give way to apathy, as it does for many people. That is why I've spent much of the last decade performing shadow work.

    I believe that ordeal workers are part of a cycle of abuse. I feel it's important to recognize some facets of that abuse.

    Abuse can feel good. From eating too much to exercising too much, from voluntarily inhaling toxins to singing our voices raw, there are thousands of behaviors that are bad for us but which can feel wonderful. Often, these behaviors involve other people. It's very bad when someone makes us a casual victim of abuse, but it is those who take on the mantle of the lover-abuser who commit what are perhaps the most sinister acts. An extreme example might include a father who rapes the daughter who, despite her pain, still craves his affection. She cannot help what she desires, may even feel that something is wrong with her for feeling the way she does. Sometimes the embracing of pain and the acceptance of degradation provide a way to cope with such feelings. Now, as I said, that's the extreme - many people might be more familiar with the teacher who urges you to succeed and then punishes you for it or the mentor who encourages you to formulate your own ideas and then denigrates them. The lover-abuser can take many forms.

    In some cases, our society determines the lover-abuser. American history provides such an examples in the slave-owning system of the ante-bellum south. Slaves lamented their condition even while they defended their masters and competed for their attention. However, the ordeal-worker isn't necessarily born into an abusive situation; they seek out a lover-abuser. Whether or not they are seeking to extend acts of horror after the victimizer has left their lives, the only way for them to accept love (or pleasure that seems like love) is with pain. Many ordeal-workers discuss the revelations that pain can bring, but, just as it can bring knowledge, pain can bring comfort and complacency. Those who've been repeatedly abused may need pain to feel love at all because their neural networks have become wired to accept the neuro-chemicals that accompany both pain and validation at the same time. Others wire themselves in this way for any number of reasons from emptiness to curiosity. The neural thresholds that allow them to accept themselves can become inactive when they aren't stimulated in tandem with the chemicals that accompany humiliation and pain. This causes physical and psychological pain to becomes confused with feelings of love, and, even though we may know on some level that love supports us and builds us up while abuse degrades us and tears us down, we may confuse behaviors that have competing goals.

    There, to my mind, is the rub. In seeing the shadow self, we see precisely who we aren't. That is a wonderful, and terrifying, tool for understanding the self. Pain paints an inverted picture of the love and acceptance that it can never be. Just as we are not our shadows, we are both more and less than our pain. Sometimes, along the path that brings us knowledge through pain, we become someone not ourselves. Occasionally, that not-self wishes to harm us - to abuse us in order to usurp our ability to choose love.

    Indeed, love, not pain, is the emotion that we humans have such a hard time accepting. Pain is easy. It comes to everyone, and everyone has a strong reaction to it. Love is rare. To love, we have to look outside of ourselves and our pain. We have to give up the ego and the body - and the pain or pleasure-pain that they crave. I believe that an acquaintance with pain can show us the way to love, but I don't believe love embraces pain. Neither is wrong, but only one leads to peace and understanding in my humble opinion.

    I come, then, to the heart of my reason for wanting to respond. I, too, have a very close relationship with Odin. You say the gods are not egalitarian, but I think the gods are so egalitarian that we sometimes struggle to endure it. We are not better, neither any worse, than they, and we all work together to co-create the worlds in which we live.

    I'm not saying there is one manifestation of this, or any, deity. I believe in moral relativism. The Odin of my world - a loving Odin who cares deeply for me and who would never presume to make me submit to him any more than I would demand he submit himself to me - is just as valid as the Odin who treats you as an object. He is my brother, my lover, my friend. You have, in your part, made your Odin just as I've made mine. We can share points of view from each other's worlds, but we can't live in each other's worlds. However, just as your article caused me to entertain an alternative view of Odin, I hope my words will inspire you to imagine a different relationship with your god. You are a worthwhile person. If you put yourself on equal footing with the gods, you are not in the wrong, though some gods will try to make you think you aren't worthy of such placement in order to subvert your will. Both you and your god have a profound capacity for compassion and degradation, and you both have a choice about which of these paradigms will bind you together.

    I must, then, say what my Odin would want me to say. Yes, sometimes the pain of drawing forth your eye is worth the knowledge of Mimir's well (although we can also see this as a purely symbolic act meant to teach us that we must disregard the physical world in order to gain the wisdom of the spiritual world). But my Odin would remind you that, after gaining the well's knowledge, he did not continue to seek pain for its own sake. This story is about being wise and bold enough to take an opportunity at great cost, not to seek cost without opportunity. My Odin has taught me that pain will come into my life whether I seek it or not, and he wants me to learn from that pain. But he would never wish me to seek it out. He reminds me of what I already know: that such a desire would be presumptuous, grasping. He tells me that, if I truly value the lessons unavoidable pain has given me, I won't seek to obscure them with useless pain, as if I could heap lesson upon lesson without ever stopping to try and understand them. Pain brings knowledge only; love brings knowledge and understanding. That is one of the lessons Odin taught me when I was recovering from years of abuse. It's a lesson I've endeavored to pass on to others who've experienced abuse and wish to recover from it.

    I hope you understand that, while I disagree, I respect your opinions and your article. I don't feel anyone should try to stop you from engaging in ordeal work, so long as you bring pain only to yourself and to no one else. I would also like to say that I recognize your great talent as a writer. I believe that the arts create a wonderful engine for exploring the lessons of conflict and for helping us understand our own otherness. You are a good writer, but I believe you could be an excellent writer if, instead of merely using your words to justify your pain, you could stop harming yourself and write about the pain you still need to explore. Please know that that wasn't intended as an insult but, rather, as constructive criticism. Thank you for reading and considering my words.

    I know it sounds cheesy, and I'm ok with that. You and I are gods. Just as we are capable of enduring great suffering, we are worthy or pure, untainted love.
    Blessings,
    P. Rex

    My website: http://www.bookofspirals.com
    My blog: http://www.bookofspirals.com/blog
    An ezine I co-founded: http://spiraltree.weebly.com

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by KenazFilan View Post
    To be a Godslave means, essentially, exactly what it says: I am the property of a Deity. I have committed myself to this relationship and given up personal agency to a degree that triggers the hell out of many who hear the term. My life revolves around Odin primarily, other Gods secondarily and my service to Them. I did not have a choice as to whether or not Odin would take me up. I did have a choice in how much I fought Him, how much I cooperated with Him, and how useful I made myself. I chose to try to be as useful as possible. He gives me a pretty long leash, as it were but in the end, I am a tool for Him. I do not think that is a bad thing. I believe knowing one’s place is good and natural and allows us to truly shine. There are those called up like this who struggle much more than I with it though (and I want to be clear that not everyone is going to be or needs to be a Godslave. The Gods require different things from different people. I suspect there are as many ways to serve as there are people serving).

    Because this word ‘slave’ is so triggering, I want to point out that my relationship with Odin is more multi-faceted than any one term can encompass. He is my Master, yes, but also Beloved, Husband, Teacher, Boss, Ancestor, and a thousand other things. I don’t fixate on the ‘Godslave’ part of the equation when I interact with Him. I am me, and at any given moment I will be used in whatever capacity is of most use to Him. I’m a priest, shaman, teacher, writer, poet, warrior, godslave, counselor, and probably royal pain in the butt for Him. I am all of these things and more or none of these things should He require. To quote Whitman: “I am vast. I contain multitudes.” Still, I won’t deny that the psychology of ownership can be a struggle at times and many of us find it helpful to have a term that so clearly identifies how we are bound.

    ‘Slave’ is a very loaded term for many good reasons. While in the BDSM community, it is a positive term of self-definition, or a role and job to be taken on with initial consent and under specified contractual terms, outside of that world it summons up images of the triangle trade, or sex trafficking or millennia of human horrors. It speaks to violence, suffering, cruelty, and an enforced lack of personal agency. Human to human that is a horrible thing and nothing in that description reflects the reality of Godslavery.

    Still, we do not have another term that sends quite the same implication of lack of personal agency, of being bound to something bigger and stronger, to forced service. If the word is triggering I blame the paucity of our language. There can be immense fulfillment and joy in Godservice but that does not change the fact that many of us have no initial choice in the matter.
    This is an amazing discussion.

    As you say, the word "slave" carries connotations in our culture that distort the representation of your actual relationship with the gods.

    In practice, my relationship with my goddess sounds very much like yours. I have often expressed the idea of "consecration" of a person to a deity by comparing it to consecration of tools for ritual use: a setting apart to be used for a specific purpose only -- in the case of a person, for the deity's purposes only, which means therefore not that person's purposes anymore.

    I do not call this slavery or think of it in terms of ownership, because these terms describe depersonalization and objectification of the person, which I believe is antithetical to a love relationship. Rather, I see my relationship with her as an on-going and ever-renewed act of personal surrender. I am free to go back on my commitment, but because of my love for my goddess and the intense bond between us the pain involved in doing so is very great and, in the end, it is not a practical option. It is, indeed, the possibility of discontinuing the relationship that provides the opportunity for spiritual growth; the more deeply I go, the more I am called upon to surrender. If I have no choice, there is no challenge and therefore no growth.

    From your description, however, I strongly suspect that we have the same relationship with our respective deities, but because of our backgrounds we identify and describe it from two different starting points. Practically speaking, yours appears much the same as mine.

    Thanks, Galina, for a lucid and penetrating description of your path.
    Last edited by Tom Terrific; November 9th, 2011 at 10:49 PM.

  8. #8
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    Kenaz,
    As always a very good and informative read. We, in the Lukumi way of life, know exactly what Galina is speaking about. We go through ordeals that get us to the point of initiation and then undergo the ordeal of the week long initiation itself.( Not to mention the year of Iyaworaje) However, we do not call it god-slavery, we view it as something else - but in actuality it is as she states. That is why the newly initiated are called Iyawo. The initiate is the "Bride" of the Orisha and serves him/her. Yes, I can definitely relate!

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