Revisiting “Working With”

25 Feb

One of the first posts I had ever written on this blog discussed my thoughts about using the phrase “I work with XYZ deity”. Since then, I have seen many many posts across the entire Internet about the many supposed problems and short comings of using this phrase. Because my horizons have expanded a little since 2012, I thought it might be worthwhile to revisit this topic and freshen it up a bit.

The biggest reasons that I often see people use for why you should never say “I work with my god” is because people are assuming a few things about the relationship:

  1. that you view your deity like a tool that is to be used and then discarded
  2. that you view yourself on the same level as the deity (sometimes labeled as hubris)
  3. that you have no respect for your god

Now I have to admit that I’ve never entirely understood most of these “arguments” against the “I work with XYZ deity” phrase. I feel that many of these arguments have excessive baggage tied to them that shouldn’t necessarily be there. This becomes obvious when you compare the different uses and applications of the phrase “I work with” in a non-religious context. If you’re reading this and you’ve ever held down a job, you’ll likely know what I mean.

Ever run into a coworker outside of the workplace, and tell someone “Oh yeah, that’s XYZ person, I work with them”?

And when you said that, were you being disrespectful to them? Did you consider them a tool or item in that moment? Did you have any baggage or implications at all in that statement beyond “we perform tasks for the same company”?

I would put my money that most of us don’t have any ulterior motive when we are referring to people we work with in our day job. And when the statement is made, usually no one jumps to the conclusions that you were being disrespectful to your coworker.

And why is that? Why is it that we can say “I work with that person, they’re in accounting” and everyone is alright, but if you say “I work with that deity, they have taught me a lot”, it’s somehow suddenly bad?


I know some people would retort “well the gods are above us, so you shouldn’t say that” (see number 2 above), but I really don’t see how them being “above” us negates the use of “I work with them”. To bring back the workplace comparison- in my office there are many people who outrank me. They either have seniority over me, or their position is higher on the food chain than my own. In all of these cases, I would still use “work with” to describe the relationship. I work with my supervisor to complete tasks. I work with our CEO to help determine changes within the company.

And when I say that I’m working with these people, I certainly don’t mean it disrespectfully. Quite the opposite, actually, since my supervisor has more of a direct connection to my livelihood and existence than my gods do. If I started being disrespectful to those who outrank me in the workplace, I’d find myself out of a job, and probably out on the streets. Performing tasks with another person in order to get work done shouldn’t be inherently disrespectful. If it’s not disrespectful when I say it in regards to the person who controls my paycheck, why is it disrespectful when I say it in regards to my deities?

I’m honestly still not entirely sure how working with someone equates that someone to being a tool. I work with a lot of people every day of my life. I work with people I care for and would consider a friend. I work with people I don’t particularly like. I work with people of all stripes, and I don’t view any of them as tools. I view them as people who also happen to work. People who work with me in order to complete their job and get their paycheck. No one (at least in my workplace) is considering anyone else an item, disposable or otherwise. I’m not sure why this seems to translate differently when it is a deity instead of a human being, especially since we happen to work with many people day in and day out who aren’t considered tools that are used and then discarded.

Even though my ideas regarding “working with” gods were not nearly as fleshed out back in 2012, my sentiments behind the phrase still haven’t changed a lot. I may have shifted my ideas about using the term worship in the past 3 years (I no longer equate worship with being a door mat, but it still is not accurate for my relationship with the gods, and so I don’t use it personally), but I still stand behind my original statement that using the phrase “I work with XYZ deity” is perfectly fine. And truth be told, the phrase “I work with this deity” is more accurate in describing my relationship with the gods than stating that I worship or venerate them. Most of my interactions with the gods are centered around doing work. Whether that work is over here or Over There- it’s all work related, and we rarely talk to one another unless there is work to be done.

At the end of the day, no one can dictate to another what their relationship with the gods is like. No one has the authority or right to try and tell other people what their relationships with the divine “should” be like, or how those relationships “should” be labeled. When its all said and done, you and the gods are the only ones who have any room or right to determine what terminology best suits your relationship. And if your gods are okay with the terminology you’re using, then everyone else can shove off in regards to their opinion of the matter.

Mortal-deity relationships can take many many forms, and we should strive to let our terminology reflect the forms that these differing relationships can take. Imagine the diversity we could bring into our community if we quit worrying so much about how people describe their relationship with the gods, and instead focus on what the actual content of the relationship is. The sooner we quit dictating what we feel other people’s relationships “should” be, the sooner we can begin to explore all of the forms these relationships can take, and the better off we’ll be.

Do you ever feel apprehensive about the use of the phrase “I work with XYZ deity”? If so, why? What terminology do you use to describe your relationship with the gods?



Posted by on February 25, 2015 in Kemeticism, Rambles


Tags: , , , , , ,

18 responses to “Revisiting “Working With”

  1. G. B. Marian

    February 25, 2015 at 3:50 pm


    BTW, Magick Without Tears posted a very interesting scale regarding human relationships with Deities that might be worth checking out.

    • G. B. Marian

      February 25, 2015 at 3:52 pm

      Sorry, that’s “Magick From Scratch.” I just got out from work and my brain is pooped.

    • von186

      February 26, 2015 at 7:07 pm

      That scale is very interesting. It’s funny because I really fall into all three categories all at once. Because I have to be difficult like that XDD

  2. Ravew

    February 25, 2015 at 4:15 pm

    I use the term because I learn language by absorbing what I read and hear, “work with” is the most common so it’s easier for me as a non-native speaker and someone with communication disabilities to write, I don’t like the term for myself because it’s not accurate but a simple term is not enough to tell anything about anyone’s practice. I do wish I could start using a new term but that’s still the most common and I can’t think on anything, we are like a family of sorts, we work together too but we also do things not related to work. Maybe one day I will find a term.
    as for anyone else they can use the term they want, doesn’t tell me anything.

    • von186

      February 26, 2015 at 7:05 pm

      I hadn’t even thought about people who speak other languages outside of English, so that’s a really interesting and good point to bring up. I find it hard enough to find good terminology in my native tongue. I can only imagine what it’s like to search for terms in a secondary language.
      Finding good terms is hard. The closest I’ve come is to either say I venerate a deity, or that I am a devotee to the deity. But even that doesn’t entirely describe all of the aspects of our relationships. Words are frustrating like that.

  3. fannyfae

    February 25, 2015 at 8:28 pm

    I have to admit, I used to balk at the work with statement. I find in recent days, after much contemplation and time away I find your assertions absolutely right on the money. I have both worked for and now work with Sekhmet and the other Netjeru. I have no problem with the way you present it at all. I do have a problem with those who *do* use gods as tools & etc. But then usually those kinds of folks more often than not don’t have the dedication and time in as you have, for instance. My change of heart is probably due to starting at square one on basics and working on those and going on to integrate more things that are not specifically Kemetc and really reexamining everything.

    But I do have to say, a this is an excellent post.

    • von186

      February 26, 2015 at 7:04 pm

      I actually find it really interesting to hear about how your views on this have changed :> I’m also iffy about saying you’ve “used” a deity for something. I’d be iffy about saying you “used” a person for something, too. I’m not down for using anyone, though haha. Deity or otherwise.

      • fannyfae

        February 27, 2015 at 6:52 am

        You and I will have to have a nice long chat about that sometime. Since 1995, a lot of things have changed for me. KO gave me a lot, however, I would like to think I have grown and have been less limited / inhibited by what I know in my gut vs. the “official: way We both know Netjer throws curve balls a great deal of the time. There is a huge difference between really having that relationship and working for or with the Gods, vs. those who go through the motions by rote and it is so hollow and lacking any real depth. This insistence that we have to adhere to a certain set of specifics and woe to anyone who strays outside of that. has, IMO, wrought more pain and frustration for so many than is necessary. That kind of b.s. needs to stop and the focus needs to be on developing that personal relationship.

  4. Sarenth

    February 25, 2015 at 10:40 pm

    I had an issue with the term ‘work with’ and especially ‘use’, but after several times of butting heads with a close friend on this thing, I think about it in terms of contracts, employment, and the like. There are some Gods I am sworn to, and others who occasionally show up wanting something done.

    “Mortal-deity relationships can take many many forms, and we should strive to let our terminology reflect the forms that these differing relationships can take. ”

    Well said. I agree. I think that developing the terminology for all of the relationships that can take place, not only between Gods and us, but Ancestors and spirits as well, is needed.

    • von186

      February 26, 2015 at 7:01 pm

      I’ve not met many people who say “use”, luckily. I think that saying you “used” a deity for something would probably make me a little iffy, too. Depending on the context.
      And I wholeheartedly agree about the need for more terminology. I’m still working on finding other terms we can use, and it’s been a very very slow process. :\ Why do words have to be so hard.

  5. firechildk

    February 26, 2015 at 2:06 am

    I don’t see any problem with using the phrase “work with” if that’s what the relationship entails. I don’t think I would be apprehensive about it, since it’s fairly easy to explain that working with people in other contexts is not disrespectful, so why would this be any different? –Although I’m speaking as someone who hasn’t used that phrase, because I don’t do anything that could be considered work.

    I honestly don’t know what to call my relationships with the gods. I mostly just go with “honour” since it’s the closest I can thing of. Sometimes I don’t have a word that means exactly what I want to say, so I just use an approximate.

    • von186

      February 26, 2015 at 6:59 pm

      That makes sense to me. Usually, if I’m not using the “work with” phrase, I use something like “venerate” or “honor”. I say that I am a devotee of XYZ deity. I’m still not very comfortable with using “worship”, though. I don’t think I ever will be.

  6. justme0486

    February 26, 2015 at 12:52 pm

    I use work with personally(I have a blog post up about it) and I got kicked out of an FB group because I said it people got offended because they said I was saying that the Gods are my bosses which isn’t what I mean at all.

    I say work with because I personally believe that I work with them to accomplish goals both things They ask of me and my own plus non Pagan people in my personal life understand this term for the basics of what I do which is really helpful to me.

    • von186

      February 26, 2015 at 6:58 pm

      That’s lame :\ People shouldn’t be kicked out over such things. Sounds like they weren’t very open to different types of relationships. Your reasoning sounds like it lines up very closely to my own. We get things done, we do work together, so I work with them :> Makes sense to me.

  7. justme0486

    February 26, 2015 at 12:55 pm

    Reblogged this on justme0486 and commented:
    This also explains more of what I mean by “work with”


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