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.

~ by Dver on February 19, 2013.

27 Responses to “Choice”

  1. Sacrifices made willingly are always more powerful than the ones dragged from a person’s grip, after all🙂

  2. There has been much discord within my group lately…over how much people want to commit to the group and how committed some ARE. this came to my inbox like a message from the Goddesses themselves. Thank you so much for posting this timely (for me) piece.

  3. so much more comes from service that is willingly given. I’m not saying the Gods don’t compel–They do–but I think on both sides of the equation, it’s always best when the spirit worker chooses to do the work well. Because I don’t think it’s enough just to do it because one has to; I think that for work to have value and worth it must be a conscious choice on the spirit worker’s part to do it well, to seek excellence always.

    of course i also think we’re fighting an uphill battle with a generation that doesn’t really comprehend excellence–a generation of children given a prize for showing up, not for exceeding expectations but c’est la vie.

    great article, Dver. I shared it on my fb.

    • I think you’re right, there’s not much emphasis on excellence in this culture, it’s all about everyone being exactly the same, which of course they aren’t. Hence all the people you get thinking that they should be able to be a [fill in the blank] without doing any of the work or making any of the sacrifices.

      • Or, they think — and i’ve seen this a lot—that if they follow the same Deity, they absolutely must serve and honor Him or Her as person X does. I’ve seen people struggle needlessly because rather than allow their own devotional relationships to evolve naturally, organically, individually, they tried to cram it into the mold of another spirit worker or devotee….i think that’s a hold over from monotheism though, the idea that there’s only one acceptable way of doing things.

        • There are ways in which it is harmful to have access to so many people’s lives and paths (but superficial access, only what they choose to share) via the internet. There is so much undue comparison going on. I am very glad that I established the basics of my spirit-work life, in the very early days, without anyone to compare myself with but the shamans and mystics of antiquity. It was lonely and terrifying, but it led to something more authentic and in line with my spirits’ wishes than it would have if I’d had all these blogs to read.

          • i know….i’ve found there to be a much higher rate of attrition ironically when there is so much more assistance and teachers and knowledge easily available….something ot ponder there. At the same time, I know for me, Odin demands i write and there’ s a huge didactic function involved because at some point, as a community we need to stop reinventing the wheel and move forward. there is so much more we could be doing. i feel like half of what i do is teach people to lay a foundation that, were they not so entrenched in the monotheistic filter, were they rooted in a sense of being part of an indigenous, ancestral tradition, were they rooted deeply in the polytheistic mindset would already be there. I know i won’t live to see it, but I hope that at some point, we can stop teaching and reteaching the fundamentals and move onto deeper, more intense work…because I hope that at some point, we’ll have a polytheistic culture , even if only in intergenerational miniature, that will provide that organically.

            • Oh, I agree, some of us still need to be sharing what we do and what we’ve learned and everything, because there are many positive effects from that too. I’ve often felt like stopping blogging, but I keep having the nagging feeling that it’s the only way at this point for me to still be able to help other people on their paths (since I will likely never be a teacher or mentor in person). I do hope that someday we can establish enough of a baseline mentality that people don’t need to spend so much time just getting past those obstacles.

              • it really highlights not only how ill equipped the average person is to engage with a teacher–something I’ve also found to be pandemic, but also how brain washed we are to follow blindly the authority of the written word….i do think that comes into it too. Instead of using blogs and books as a guide, there’s this push, coming from generations of monotheistic culture which invested the word with tremendous authority, to blindly follow wherever a book or blog might lead.

                • I also think the proliferation of labels lately is harmful. People get way too caught up in the idea of being a [X] rather than starting with a foundation of spiritual relationships and practices, and then later (if even necessary) figuring out what to call it. I see some people change their self-descriptors frequently, based on whatever trend is going on, but neglect their actual practice. Or miss things they should be doing because those things don’t fit in with whatever image they have of themselves (and worse, what image they want to project, regardless of its truth).

                  • Oh Gods, Dver, i’ve seen this a lot and it’s death to any integrity in one’s spirituality. It’s no way to love a God. It’s no way to do the work. The Gods will define for you, YOU don’t have to do it and if They’re not doing it, leave it be. there’s enough to focus on at any given time than the binding of words. and….i know i’m preaching to the choir here. lol. It’s just that this, this more htan almost anything else saddens me so tremendously. this is what i see doing so much harm.

  4. This reminds me of something that Bast said to me once: Purity is priority. Meaning not just that it’s a priority to be pure, but that purity comes about by setting priorities.

  5. *THIS*. I recently felt extremely burdened and burnt out. After taking a few days to reflect, I realized it wasn’t my “calling” or any related activities that were burdening me, it was the demands and expectations of others that was doing it. Somehow we get so wrapped up in what we THINK we should be doing, we don’t focus on the things that we KNOW we should be doing. Once I relaxed and “listened” I felt much more centered. It’s funny, I was just working on a blog post that says a lot of what you just said here. Guess I’m not the only one.

    • Yeah, I think it happens to everyone who is genuinely trying to follow the path the gods have laid out for them. Everyone falters now and then, or gets distracted, or confuses unimportant stuff for the Work. You just have to keep listening and focusing.

  6. I don’t want a doctor treating me if they work twenty hour shifts and don’t sleep or eat. More likely to end making mistakes and fucking my body up. Pointless being a tool of the spirits, if you end up breaking from no self care. Broken tools are useless

    • I never advocated a lack of self care. But sometimes it is necessary, and appropriate, to push oneself to one’s limits. Sometimes, a spirit-worker *does* need to be broken (like a shaman needs to be reduced to bones and built back up again). Those usually aren’t the times they are dealing with clients, anyway, so the doctor analogy there doesn’t really apply. And my point had nothing to do with how safe that regime is for a doctor-in-training’s patients, but rather that such level of sacrifice (to be *willing* to do that regime, regardless of the consequences to oneself) is often required for greatness.

  7. […] out last week.)  And so, a post by Thista Minai, and a commentary post on the same subject by Dver, both caught my attention today.  Both women are on paths differing a lot and a little […]

  8. There are times I think about the ways I have chosen to implement my Work in the world, and I can see shadows of lives that I might have had. If I’d thrown myself completely into divine service, if I’d done this rather than that, if if if if. Some of those lives are more impressive in some ways, but I can’t say I’d like them any better than what I have.

    Simultaneously, there are times when I feel I’ve had no choices, and perhaps that’s true in one sense: that in order to be true as I am and whole as I have understood myself, there have only been so many ways to go, because some roads are betrayals of somethng … my self, my gods, my family, something.

  9. […] conversation I’ve been having with Galina Krasskova in the comments section of my “Choice” post inspired me to expand on some of these thoughts here (well, that and waking up at 3am to write down […]

  10. I really appreciated this post. Granted, my own practice comes across as primal and extremely brutal with rough edges. But there is an undeniable give and take relationship here, and I keep going because, well, while I didn’t ask for this vocation – I love it. I live it, even if silently, through tragedy, through the good times and ill times. I do not have ‘religion,’ I have ‘life,’ ‘reality.’ I do feel very fortunate to live out in the boonies, because there aren’t any practitioners to personally talk to – it’s just me and Them. I get some online, but not being the popular kid in the class also has it’s own freedoms.

    Your blog has a gorgeous way of humbling me, and making me think. Thanks for having the blog in the first place🙂.

    • However, there are times I scream at the night sky in rage, shake my fists swearing at the altar, and in general ask ‘WTF,’ to Those I work with. It ain’t all violins and choirs no, but neither is life itself. One cannot understand another, if one has not been hurt no?

  11. […] reminds us that we must constantly make the choice to war against ourselves if we are to become […]

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