Many people in the pagan realm have stated that they have a problem with the phrase “working with gods”. Most of them seem to feel that this is demoting the god to that of a hammer or screwdriver- it is something you pick up to do a job with, and once you’re done, you put the tool back in the tool box. That it turns the gods into tools for us to ‘use’ and simply put away again.
I happen to like the term ‘working with gods’, and I wanted to go into why that is. That way, when you see me use the phrase, you understand what I mean by it.
When I say that I work with Set or Asar, the image that comes to mind is a strong handshake. We are joining together to do work, to create something bigger and better. We are coworkers and peers. Teachers and students- setting out to ‘get some work done’ – together – and to accomplish something. There is no imagery of tools, hammers, nails, etc. It’s just me and them coming together cooperatively to get stuff done.
I know the second most common phrase out there would be worship. I “worship X god”. I don’t particularly care for this phrase, myself. Because worship, in Devo-land, means that you’re a doormat, you are star struck and you follow X entity in whatever it is they say or request. “I worship the ground that she walks on” kind of thing. And while I know that that might not necessarily be the case for all of you, it is the imagery that pops up for me. And because of that, I tend to steer clear of the term ‘worship’. Set is no-nonsense, for sure. But I do have the ability to tell him no (or worse). And for me, worship implies that I couldn’t or wouldn’t ever disagree with what he has in mind. And that just isn’t the case.
I also believe that the phrase ‘working with’ implies that we are on somewhat equal terms (as opposed to the term ‘worship’). Or that there is respect on both sides. We are working in harmony, creating something more, together.
So when you see me use the phrase ‘working with gods’, don’t think of tools, think instead of the picture below: people and deities connected together, and working together to make the world better.
What types of terms do you use to describe your relationship with your god/s? Are there certain terms that you are not comfortable with using?
May 18, 2012 at 8:45 am
“Working with” is fine in my opinion. I think of it in the same sense as working with another person. I might say “I’m working with my music teacher to phrase this piece better.”
I think the “working with” as a tool comes from some of the Hermetic traditions, where you get the sense that people are ordering the gods around. Maybe that sense is better covered by the term “use.” “I use a hammer to nail things together.”
May 18, 2012 at 8:51 am
Well, didn’t they do that before Hermeticism anyway? I mean, I can clearly think of a few things that I’ve read that said that the Joe Blow was going to withhold offerings until X deity did their bidding.
May 18, 2012 at 8:53 am
Kemeticism itself has a form of this. The Egyptians were not above threatening to withhold offerings or services to the gods in order to leverage getting something in return that they wanted.
May 18, 2012 at 8:58 am
I see that more as ‘bargaining’ than ‘using.’ Or pointing out “Hey, if you don’t do anything for anybody, don’t expect to see any goodies.”
That’s a bit different than conjuring them into a circle. I guess it got more extreme when the religious aspects began to drop off, and the magical ones took over entirely.
May 18, 2012 at 8:50 am
Honestly, I think “walking beside X deity” is the one that I prefer the most. It also goes hand-in-hand with the Turnpike analogy I use all the time.
May 18, 2012 at 1:39 pm
I use or have used, depending on nuance and circumstance, work with, honor, worship, venerate, serve, deal with. Um. Probably some others.
May 18, 2012 at 1:40 pm
I like honor and venerate as well. I don’t use them much, but they have a nice ring to them.
Deal with. Heh. I know how that can go some days.
May 18, 2012 at 1:47 pm
Which is of course a riff on the more heathenish “swear by“….
May 19, 2012 at 12:08 pm
I was just thinking about this today! I agree that “work with” isn’t a demeaning or offensive phrase. Like what Helmsinepu said, I was thinking that it’s no different from saying that you are going to work with a coworker or classmate to get something done. It implies togetherness rather than use.
May 19, 2012 at 7:52 pm
I am glad to read someone explain more what this phrasing means. I’ve seen it often and was not certain. I like that the gods can be viewed this way. It makes me reflect on how deeply I’ve been influenced by a Catholic upbringing where god was untouchable. That deity does not have to be that way is refreshing and will take some getting used to. The idea is certainly more pleasing than utter supplication all the time. Also, this idea of an equal footing in some aspects makes me feel so much less guilty about those times when I do voice my frustrations.
May 21, 2012 at 8:12 am
I default to “work with” because it seems more accurate to what I am doing. Of course, I’ve gotten in trouble for using words that work for me when they don’t work for others…
January 2, 2013 at 2:48 pm
I don’t get that worship means that at all. As Mut Netjer, I could say “No.” or “”Not now,” to Sekhmet at any time I wanted to, and did. I have also gotten into Her face and made my own demands. Service or honouring or worship does not equal doormat. It’s a give and take. I am Her daughter, and I absolutely have an inherent right to demand things heka-wise. You aren’t much of a magician if you are grovelling, but sometimes being in awe of a deity and giving them praise, etc. does not mean you have made yourself a patsy for that deity. (I know that I am coming into this thread very late, btw).