Mutual Choice in Human-Deity Relationships

Lately, I have been consuming a lot of written material on individual’s relationships with Pagan deities. In that process, I have found people who list off the gods who demand their servitude. Some individuals speak about their Work with a deity or various deities as if they do not have a choice in the matter, as if they were chosen by the god, without having been consulted. From what I gather in my reading, many of the individuals have genuine and beautiful relationships with various divinities and they do important Work that honors their gods. This fact seems a little counterintuitive to me given the emphasis that some people place on having been commanded into a deity’s employ.

I have an issue with the idea that the person was chosen by the god and therefore did not have an equal choice in the process themselves. From my perspective, if it is a positive, constructive, reciprocal relationship then it is likely in accord with the person’s True Will which means yes, that person did in fact choose to follow that deity wherever they might lead…that the person in effect chose the deity right back. That choice may not have been immediately conscious, but it was indeed a choice from my perspective. The relationship was mutually constructed.

But, then again, the notion of being hand-selected by a god is more appealing than having it be a mutually developed transaction in which the human has a choice, a will to exercise. There’s a mystique around being chosen, but no such mystique accompanies sitting at the negotiating table with a god and sorting out the details of a mutual service contract.

I know that for me, if my True Will were being compromised by a god, I would be upset and I would resist! I do not mean that I would whisper “Oh no, I couldn’t possibly” while following glittery eyed toward the next task. No, I mean fighting for my freedom from oppression. Honestly, I value my choice, even my choice to make (colossal) mistakes and to miss (life-changing) opportunities. I value being able to choose a god and to have that god choose me in return, and vice versa. That is the gift of being in a healthy, functional relationship with another being. That is the gift of a will that is truly free. When I choose a god and a god chooses me, we exist in exalted union, no one overshadowed by the other but both together. I should say, from my perspective the order of choice here is really unimportant because when choice is understood as a right and as mutually exercised, the question of order (who chose who first and with what degree of fanfare) is fruitless because one partner’s choice would be meaningless without the other’s.

My relationship with Hekate fits this bill. We each of us chose the other. We negotiated slowly and in unspoken ways regarding the terms of our relationship, built over time. When she made herself known to me, I chose not to ignore her. I followed up, extended myself, asked questions, and drew nearer to her. That was my choice. I am sure she could have found another tree to bark up if I was not willing! And there’s the rub; when choice is mutual, the union is not accompanied by some shiny mystique; it just is. It is a relationship, one that both human and deity must be open to and work together to create, recreate, and maintain. In that case, human and deity are in mutual service to one another and there is give and take in that relationship; there is reciprocity. From that perspective, suddenly everyone is chosen and choosing. In that case, choice and free will as well as the idea of being chosen, belong to all beings involved, not just the gods and definitely not just a few.

Of course, the flipside of this issue is that I have never encountered a deity that felt the need to dominate me. The gods are indeed powerful; I am definitely not trying to deny that, but they need not bother with overcoming my will if it is not what I truly want. Depending on what the gods want done, I’m no snowflake so the one’s that want to get a certain thing done probably have some idea of which mortals are willing to do it. But again, that brings me right back to choice. On some level, the gods choose us AND we choose them.

I think the reason that I have this perspective at this time is because I do not view each of the gods as omnipotent or omnipresent. To my understanding, they are “simply” beings with a lot more bang than the vast majority of other beings have and like most folk in the Worlds I feel they understand that it is easier to work with the willing than to dominate those who are unwilling. Given that all of my deity relationships are pretty reciprocal and negotiated, I welcome other perspectives from folks who are pretty sure that they have no choice in the matter, especially those who were snatched by a deity, are not even sure they like the deity or what the deity has them doing, but are compelled because of the deity’s clearly superior power. Although my perspective has formed from my own experience, I acknowledge the plethora of other experiences out there! Honestly, I am sure that all of these issues are very complex and so complicated that there is no “real deal”, no one way of seeing the issue. I could imagine this, like other aspects of a relationship, being on a bit of a case by case, relationship by relationship basis.

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2 thoughts on “Mutual Choice in Human-Deity Relationships

  1. It’s kind of weird, I just had a conversation like this with one of my friends. She wanted to know how I got started with paganism and what I believed, and a few of her other pagan friends had told her that the gods chose them, not the other way around. She asked which was true for me, and I was sort of thrown by the question. I’d never really thought of it that way before, and it just made sense to me that both would be true.

    There are some cases where a god definitely seems to be trying to get my attention, but there are also times when I reach out to them and it takes awhile to get a response. And then there are occasions where coincidences start to line up and it feels almost like I didn’t really have a choice, I was destined to find a certain god or practice or whatever. But I don’t think even that is necessarily the god forcing me, the god might not even be aware of it. I think that fate might be something bigger than all of us, that some things are “meant” to happen or correspondences bring certain beings and events together.

    • Sanil, I love your idea that fate is even bigger than the gods themselves. I know in Norse and Greek mythology, the gods (and mortals) can sway and influence fate but certain happenings cannot be foreseen, avoided, or altered. Your interpretation makes sense in conjunction with my view of the gods. They are “bigger and badder” beings but they are not omnipresent or omnipotent so some rules they can change, some they can bend, but still others they themselves are subject to without exception. I’d imagine that keeps them (and us) pretty busy trying to ride the waves of fate.

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