I belong to a God and a path that are both known for being rather demanding.
Understatement of the year. If I had a dollar for every time I’ve been warned off of both by people who don’t realize I’m a long-time practitioner, I’d be honoring my Gods and Spirits in a much snazzier temple. (You hear that up there? Much. Snazzier.)
Woden and spirit work have a lot of things in common, but in this context, the one that stands out is that both are known for taking all that you will offer willingly…and perhaps quite a bit that you didn’t plan on.
They’re wrong about that. Both my Patron and the spirit work path will take all that you are.
A lot of people hear that and find it frightening, off-putting, even crazy. Why would anyone want that? Why would we ever put such abstract concerns above our physical existence? Why would we ourselves become the offering at our altars? But I contend that there is no spiritual path worth walking that will not ultimately demand the same of every traveler. To give all that you are.
In my years on this journey, I’ve learned that what we have to offer up the most is what we want to give least. Not what we value most or fear losing most. Not some kind of cosmic game where our loves are taken from us or we are deceived. No, what we have to offer up the most is our darkness, our broken places, our secret hurts. Time and time again we are called on to offer up our wounds.
Woden–the name He came under when He first came to me, though of course He has hundreds more–has always been overwhelming in every respect. Meeting Him was an experience the intensity of which can only be described as “falling in love”, although ultimately that’s merely a limited metaphor. It seems that whatever there is in this world or any branch of the Tree, He is always More. That quality of being More is inherent to Him, whether More is more exciting, more loving, more beautiful, more awe-inspiring, more creative, more magical, more furious, more terrifying. What that has always meant to me as a devotee is the ultimate in honesty–for what can He not see?–and the ultimate in acceptance. No matter how dark my secrets are, how much darker are His? No matter how terrifying the things I fear most, how much more terrifying is He? The things that shock the neighbors or make them call you a freak are a good mead hall story to Him. Woden is many things, but fussy is not one of them.
The intensity of these qualities, this relentless More, scares many away from working with Him. For me, it is comfort and safety and permission to be who I am. I can hunger for life in its fullness knowing that He inspires me. Learn more. See more. Experience more. Give more of yourself. Leave nothing behind. Don’t leave this life without having lived. These and more are His lessons.
The lessons of the spirit work path coincide with this constant growth. But after you have developed into all that you can attain at this time, it then asks that you give all of that in service to the tribe that has chosen you. Then you must grow again, and give again. Spirit workers are few and tribes in need are many. Or, as one of my mentors likes to say, life is short and the Work is so long. Make no mistake, spirit work is a lifetime’s calling. Maybe even the calling of more than one lifetime. And this calling needs all that you are because you are the unique individual being called, with all of your experiences and strengths and skills. And with all of your shortcomings and lessons to be learned and growth to be done.
The world needs all that you are. The Gods ask for nothing less. Offer up the wound.