There’s a lot of talk of the sacrifices that spirit-workers must make for their paths. But lest others think that we all are being tortured and denied constantly by our gods and spirits, here’s another perspective. Thista Minai at Gods and Mirrors talks about making Choices, of her own volition, to be true to herself and her potential (emphases mine).
“About a week ago, I was driving home from a ritual I’d helped officiate, and I had a sort of revelation: I can be the priestess I want to be. I’m already on that path; I’m doing it now. I’m proud of what I’ve become, of what I’m becoming. All it takes is a monumental commitment of time and energy. On some level, I’d already known that. The revelation was fully understanding that I’m not going to get to do all the fun mundane things I thought I’d be able to do when I finally finished graduate school. I have a steady job with a predictable schedule and good hours, so how come I still never have time for anything? Because I spend all my time doing spiritual Work, or tending to my sanity so that I can do spiritual Work. The Gods have not forbidden me from taking karate classes, or joining an A Capella group, or performing with a fire spinning troupe. There just isn’t enough time in my life for me to do any of those things and all the work I’d need to do to be the sort of priestess I want to be. I have to choose: I can do those things and be a lesser priestess, or I can give up those things, and do what it takes to be the best priestess I can be. If there were time for me to do both, I don’t think the Gods would object. It’s not about Them denying me things I want, or controlling my life. It’s about me having priorities.“
I think this is an extremely important distinction to make. I’m not saying that some spirit-workers aren’t forced into doing certain things, or denied other things by the gods, or that some gods aren’t strict. But I also get kind of sick sometimes of people who attribute every decision to the gods, as if they have no choice in the matter. When I gave up on trying to learn an instrument, it wasn’t because my gods or spirits had anything to say about it. It was because I realized that, while not conflicting with my Work in any direct way (and complementing it aesthetically, at least), it wasn’t feeding that Work, and my limited time and energy were simply better spent elsewhere. I, personally, wasn’t going to be fulfilled by it, because when it comes down to it, devotional practices and spirit-work are what truly fulfill me, and practicing an instrument each day enough to really learn it would take valuable time away from those things. One might argue that the gods and spirits have modified me in various ways over the years to be the sort of person who is only fulfilled by the Work, and perhaps that’s true, but it is what it is. If I gave this up tomorrow, I’d worry less about being smited than about being miserable and feeling totally empty and pointless.
There are plenty of other vocations that require this level of sacrifice too, and we accept that. You don’t get to be a top-rated brain surgeon by having lots of hobbies and a broad social life while you’re in residency. You work 20 hour shifts and give up eating and sleeping if you have to. Excellence requires a certain single-minded focus. Your work, whatever it is, must become your top priority. Nobody is forcing you to do it, it’s just the way you become the best [blank] that you can be. (On a side note, it is possible, sometimes, to turn otherwise mundane activities that one wants to do into the Work, if one is clever and learns to see everything as an opportunity – sometimes this works in the long run, other times it becomes clear that it’s still not the best use of one’s time.)
When it comes down to it, you have to want this. If the gods have to drag you kicking and screaming to every new task, or force you to give up the things that need to be given up, it’s going to be a lot more unpleasant overall. Whereas, when you know for sure that there is nothing else you’d truly rather do with your life, that all else pales in comparison, the sacrifices you make feel much more meaningful and are easier to bear. You’re just chipping away all the excess marble and revealing the sculpture within.