To worship a being means to deeply respect and revere that being. That basic definition is powerful and meaningful for me personally because by that definition I worship all beings – deities, humans, animals, plants, rocks, you name it. However, when most people use the term worship, it is understood to mean that one not only respects and reveres a being but also submits to and defers to that being. That understanding of worship centers hierarchy and the logics of domination in my opinion, which is not really my bag.
I honor the “Powers That Be”, I praise them, I edify their holy names, but I do not worship them in the sense that they are better than or more important or more holy. The worlds gain nothing by asserting the worth of one class of beings over another. Do the gods have power and influence beyond my own? Hell yes they do. So much so that it scares me sometimes. But there are human folk who fit this description to a degree too. Honestly, President Obama has more power and influence than lots of people, but he’s not worshiped. I think that’s because his worth is obviously equal to other people’s. In my view my worth and every other person’s worth is equal to the worth of the gods, pandas, slugs, herb plants, river rocks, and the host of other beings in our universe. The gods have great worth and so do I. The gods have great value and so do I. I appreciate the gods influence in the worlds and their power to effect change, but they are not better than anyone or anything, and neither am I.
I prefer ecological models of relationship to hierarchical ones. Hierarchies obscure the ways that we are utterly interdependent and interconnected. We are side by side, not one above or below the other. If any one group of beings is removed from the ecology, the entire system shifts for all beings involved.
Honoring a deity takes strength of spirit. Worship is what we are often encouraged to do in relation to “higher” powers. From my experience of worship it easily gives way to obligation and bondage. The soul caliber required to choose a deity and be chosen by them and to continually choose one another and the Work that you both value for it’s impact on the world shapes many aspects of my spiritual journey and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
I have come to believe that power, value, and worth are really best figured horizontally rather than vertically, ecologically rather than hierarchically.
I have updated my Wayfaring Woman column at The Agora on Patheos.com. Check out my latest post, Honoring Hekate in the Rite of Her Sacred Fires!