Dedicating to a God or Goddess - What does Dedication mean?

by J. S. Pereira

     We are a very young community, both in terms of our collective history, and in actual age of many of our members. We are forced to find new ways of doing things related to our religion almost every day, and we have few guidelines to go by.

     Yes, I realize we have historical accounts from before Christianity, we have some modern inspired literature, we have written some rituals and some essays as part of contemporary Asatru. But we have no real role models for the task that we face every day of living, thinking, and being Asatru. This would be difficult enough in a community where all of us were aware of the modern history of Asatru, and could freely interact with one another, and had life experience to draw upon, but Asatruars are often extremely isolated, and information doesn't have a chance to be freely shared between people.

     One of the activities that we are in the process of reinventing is being dedicated to a Deity. By dedication, what I am referring to is partially an especially intimate relationship between a person and a particular Deity, and partially a pledge of a person to a particular Deity whether implied or explicit. This type of close bond with a specific God or Goddess is different from the implied bond that exists between all the Norse Deities and those who follow them. When referring to dedication, I include both the more formal relationship where someone has entered into a godhi/gythia role, and the less formal role where someone may be very close to a particular God or Goddess, as well as permutations in between.

(Incidentally, I wish to note that I do not view the godhi/gythia role as being superior (or vice versa) to the non-godhi/gythia. In a religious community, it is natural that people will vary in terms of how active a role they wish or are able to take.)

     Often it is mentioned that "so-and-so" is dedicated to Odin, or this person is a "Tyrian" without much explanation as to what this really means. I don't think this is accidental, the bond between us and the Gods is extremely intimate, and awkward to put into words in the way that most intimate bonds are. However, being told this isn't especially useful for people who want to learn more about close relationships with Deity, or people who are curious as to whether their own experiences with Deity are mirrored in those of others. With this in mind, I will attempt to explore the nature of close bonds between us and those of Asgard, and try to convey something of my own experiences, and the experiences of others.

     What does dedication mean? What I think bears mentioning at this point is the wide variations in relationships between us and the Gods. Not every Deity who you are on good terms with is going to be the Deity you end up dedicating to, anymore than every individual you talk to is someone you're going to end up being friends with.

     Even in friendship, there are close friends, friendly acquaintances, drinking buddies, and romantic relationships. I have found in my own experience that having a patron Deity is closet to having an on-going love affair in terms of intimacy and immediacy (my perception in this regard is no doubt somewhat colored by the fact that my particular Goddess is Freya). However, there are other Deities that I'm on good terms with, and I certainly do not feel barred from them in any way. Some Deities I am not on close terms with, but this seems to be more a matter that we don't "click" rather than that I am somehow forbidden to be in contact with them.

     Interestingly, I've found that a relationship with one Deity will often open up a relationship with another. This seems to occur primarily with Deities that traditionally have some sort of bond with one another. I would compare it to being introduced to someone by a mutual friend. The person you have just been introduced to will look upon you with a friendlier eye because you share a friend in common than they would if they had just met you on the street.

     Occasionally, I've seen discussions as to whether of not one can be dedicated to more than one Deity at the same time. I would be inclined to say no in general. Just because you feel close to more than one God or Goddess or find that different Gods and Goddesses speak to different aspects of yourself does not in itself constitute dedication. I would however, make some exceptions to this. I have spoken to people who impressed me as being intelligent and together, and who also claimed two patron Deities. It would also not seem too surprising if someone was dedicated to a pair of Deities who closely resemble each other. In summation, I would temper my general "no" with an acknowledgment of exceptions.

     Dedicating to a particular Deity is not something to be taken lightly. It means the willingness to live by that Deity's rules, enjoy their blessings, and accept the hardships that may follow because of this choice. One does not break an oath to the Gods because it becomes inconvenient. Not can one reap all of the benefits of following a particular God or Goddess, and balk at the consequences. In saying this, I hasten to add that I don't believe that the Gods are "out to get you". not do I believe they are deliberately stingy with their blessings. But one has to deal with the Gods with the integrity that one would like to be dealt with. One can't say that on Monday, one is dedicated to Tyr, and therefore able to reap the blessings of the law, and on Tuesday, dedicated to Odin and able to reap the blessings of being a law onto oneself.

     To be fair, I have seen very few Asatruars using this type of muddle-headed thinking, but the potential for abuse is there, and should be mentioned. Another potential pitfall I see is what could be best described as using the Gods as an excuse to get away with bad behavior. Excuses made in the name of Deity have a long and ugly history, and it is very easy to imagine an unscrupulous or lazy individual justifying all sorts of horrific behavior in the name of their God and Goddess.

     Perhaps more dangerous is someone who is quite sincere and obviously not consciously trying to delude anyone, but who is convinced that a particular course of action is smiled upon by the Gods. There is also the case of someone convinced of divine guidance who decides that their particular insight into a particular God or Goddess, whether or not it fits in with what is historically known, whether or not it even fits in with how other modern-day Asatruars perceive a particular God or Goddess is a better, truer version of things, and anyone who doesn't agree must be wrong-headed and uninspired.

     While I certainly believe that humans can be divinely inspired, and can converse with the Gods, when what the Gods are supposedly saying fits in a little too neatly with your own or someone else's personal desires (or fears), don't be too quick to take what is said at face value. This seldom happens in my own experience with Gods any more than it does in more mundane relationships.

     In writing all this, I am concerned that I may be inadvertently giving the impression that we should all walk around distrusting everything that is said to us, and distrusting our own intuitions. I think that would be a mistake. However, it is very important to keep in mind that it is always possible to be incorrect in our perceptions of Asgard and its inhabitants, in much the same way that we can be incorrect in our perceptions of what occurs in Midgard. Don't become so paranoid that you automatically reject all guidance that comes via a Deity, but do be aware that your own viewpoint can easily color such guidance.

     On a more cheerful note, being bonded with a particular Deity is a rich and rewarding experience. One of the wonders of polytheism is the view that there are many right ways of living, many right outlooks, and generally, a multiplicity of view is encouraged over one right way for everyone. My experience has personally been (and from what I've seen of other people, this appears fairly common) that a very personal relationship with a specific Deity helps to shape and define your experiences as you go about day-to-day life, and provide a touchstone when faced with difficulty. Such a relationship is similar to having an old friend, whose advice you can draw upon when in need, or more commonly, gives you the input you need to process the experiences of day-to-day life, and suggests directions to go in.

     How does one know if it's appropriate to dedicate to a Deity? I have heard some people express anxiety because they do not have a special relationship with any particular Deity. While it is not advisable to frantically look for a patron because all the Asatruars you know have one, such a search fueled by a genuine desire to grow in a relationship with the Gods can prove very productive and satisfying for the individual.

     The key is that this search must be driven by a wish to grow closer to Asgard, not a wish to "fit in" with others. If you feel the need to search for a patron, examine your own emotions honestly, and determine as best you are able what is the source of this need, and if you can say truthfully that you wish to have a patron or a closer relationship to the Gods for your own sake, then I recommend that you begin your search.

     As a brief background, having read some of the older Asatru magazines dating from the 1980s, and talking to people who have been Asatru since the beginning of the modern revival, I am left with the distinct impression that dedicating to, or having a patron Deity was not nearly as common twenty or ten years ago as it is today. I note this to emphasize to those of you out there with no patron, you are in good company. Many of the people who were present right from the start, and who have contributed a great deal to our community have never felt the need to have a patron. Don't force yourself into this sort of bond if it doesn't seem appropriate for you.

     Having mentioned this, it should also be said that historically, it seemed to be fairly common for old-time Heathens to have a close relationship with a particular God or Goddess. Many modern Asatruars seem to feel the need, sooner or later. So, if you are drawn to have a patron, there is good precedent, both modern and ancient for your wish.

     How does one begin looking for a patron? Some souls are drawn (in some cases "yanked" might be a better way of putting it) so immediately to a particular God or Goddess, that there's never a question. Other folks ponder, puzzle and can't decide. If you're one of the latter, here's a few things you might find helpful.

     One Kinsman of mine became convinced that his patron was one of two Gods, either Thor or Odin. He simply asked one person dedicated to Odin, and one person dedicated to Thor to ask the Gods on his behalf if either one of those Deities were interested in him. As a result of this, he became convinced that his Deity was indeed Thor--lightning having struck a tree in his yard the morning after he made the request.

     Granted, this doesn't work if you don't know someone already involved with the Deity you're interested in, but if you do, this could certainly be a productive course of action for you. A variation on this might be to do a divination (or have a friend do one) to see who your patron might be, or to suggest a course of action whereby you could find a patron. Naturally, aforementioned caveats about not being too quick to believe what fits in too neatly with your own (or someone else's) hopes and fears apply here.

     One method comes direct from conventional Western Esoteric studies, however, it is easily applicable for an Asatruar. Immerse yourself in the myths, and the modern lore and visualized the scenes and the Gods as vividly as possible. If you put sincere effort into this over a period of time, you will find yourself especially attracted to certain myths, and certain Gods and Goddesses. Maybe it will be one of the Deities about whom a lot of lore survives, like Odin. Or perhaps it will be one of the more elusive figures about whom only fragments of lore survive.

     When you feel yourself "leaning" in a particular direction, follow up on it. Hold a blot, set up a shrine, do a more intense meditation on the Deity who seems to draw and pull you. Think about what aspect of life that Deity rules, and how that connects with what you do and how you behave in your day-to-day life.

     The last suggestion is going to sound extremely simple, and it is. However, the impact is all out of proportion to how really easy it is to do. Set up an appropriate shrine to a Deity who you think may be someone you want to draw closer to (by shrine, I refer to any spot set aside in your household for the exclusive purpose of honoring a particular Deity.)

     This need not be very elaborate, a small shelf holding a symbol of the God or Goddess being honored is quite acceptable. But setting aside a small corner like this has a tremendous impact, both esoterically and mundanely. On the esoteric level, you are extending an invitation to the God or Goddess being so honored, creating a bond between the two of you. On a more mundane level, presuming that your shrine is going to be in a reasonably visible part of your house, you will see it on a daily basis, creating an increased awareness in yourself of the Deity you are trying to get in touch with. Naturally, simple tending of the shrine (cleaning it occasionally, lighting a stick of incense), and standing in front of it when you have a beer and raising your glass in a simple toast will heighten the impact of the shrine on both levels.

     In conclusion, I wish to note that all of these activities can be done with little variation even for Deities for whom you simply wish to know more about or understand better. Or to draw closer to a God or Goddess you already are sure is your patron. And if these suggestions do not result in a definite bond of dedication, you will have been enriched by contact with, and a closer relationship with members of Asgard.

This Article Written and Donated by --
J.S. Pereira, Contact for Raven Kindred South
P.O. Box 41015; Bethesda, MD 20824

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