Falconry & Devotion

I’m in the middle of reading Birdology by naturalist Sy Montgomery, an engrossing book which devotes each chapter to a different type of bird and the fundamental avian quality it demonstrates. The chapter on hawks and falconry particularly emphasized how alien birds are from our perspective, how different their experience of the world, their reactions and priorities.

It also reminded me a lot of the gods.

One falconer tells the author: “They may show you a certain companionship. They can become comfortable with you….It’s a beautiful partnership. But if you break their laws, you’ll pay….If you want love out of this, you’re too needy. Don’t be a falconer.”

This is something I’ve encountered in polytheism – people seeking out gods and hoping, even expecting, to receive an all-encompassing, unconditional love from Them (perhaps confusing our gods with the more familiar one of their childhood, Jesus). That might be something a few gods offer but it’s not an inherent part of the deal for most, and may not be possible at all with some – if birds are so radically different from mammals, how much more so entities that are not even embodied or mortal!

Nor is it, generally, a good position from which to approach the gods, in regards to either building a successful and meaningful relationship with Them, or for our own personal development. As Montgomery writes, “For a human to love without expecting love in return is hugely liberating. To leave the self out of love is like escaping the grip of gravity. It is to grow wings. It opens up the sky.”

There are some gods I love – have loved for decades, even – and have never had a single personal, direct experience with. I don’t know if I’m on Their radar at all. I don’t need to be. It’s enough just to know Them even a little bit, and to honor Them. I don’t ask Them for anything, typically. Maybe I just keep an image of Them somewhere, make an offering now and then, read Their stories, and appreciate Their existence. That’s all it needs to be.

Even with the gods I do have more developed reciprocal relationships with, who might even, in Their own way (and I will never truly understand the ways of gods, or how They see us or what They get out of it), love me, I still strive to feel and express my love for Them without strings, without ego. Not only because it is, to me, the right way to engage with the divine (again from the book: “They don’t serve us. We serve them….You train a hawk to accept you as her servant.”). But also because there is a beautiful freedom in giving love to something just because it is, in your eyes, worthy. It is a small antidote to the “me me me” focus built in to our culture. No demand for validation, or even being noticed. Just devotion, for the sake of the beloved Other.

~ by Dver on June 9, 2021.

2 Responses to “Falconry & Devotion”

  1. […] has a brilliant post about the nature of devotional relationships here. I have found the same rubric holds with the elemental powers too. Fire, for instance, will always […]

  2. […] I again refer readers to Dver’s marvelous piece here. […]

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