Tag Archives: boundaries

Manifestations: Accountability and Consent

[Although I have been working on a version of this article for a few weeks, my finishing it has entirely to do with Thenea’s very thoughtful post from yesterday.]

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In recent years there have been a couple of good discussions about differing manifestations of Gods, and how They can manifest to each of Their devotees in varying ways and degrees.  There is some speculation that each of us who works with a Deity gets their very own version of that Deity.  I sort of agree with this, not in the sense that I believe there are, say, ten-thousand different Apollons, each acting and responding under the same name, but rather that for each manifestation of Him, He puts only the parts of Himself in that are of spiritual relevance to the devotee(s) that particular manifestation is working with.

For instance, if we were to think of Apollon as a non-anthropomorphic bubble, filled with the various aspects of His personality, He might looks something like this:

Non-Anthropomorphic Apollon

Imagine each colored circle within being a different part of Him.  Now, imagine that He has three manifestations, each taking a little of what is in the original, into Themselves.  It might look something like this:

Non-Anthropomorphic Apollon x 3

Each is Apollon.  Each is carrying around a different set of aspects, causing variation within the ways that He manifests for the different groups or individuals He works with.  In this diagram, at least one of those aspects is shared among all three manifestations, while all other aspects are unique to the manifestation in which they occur.  These are all Apollon, but They are not the same.  Depending on what aspects work best for groups or individuals, Gods can choose to tailor Their manifestations to suit the end goal of the work.  But it isn’t just the Gods tailoring these experiences. They will often play off of our expectations, coming to us in the ways that are most promoted by our Polytheist culture, and also by the overculture.

In our current very patriarchal (American) society, this causes a lot of grief, as many of the Gods see this and recognize it from antiquity.  They are already used to working within this framework, and so what They may think as a very normal and reasonable approach to gathering devotees, may not actually be the correct approach for this time in human history, although each case should be taken on its individual merits.  For someone like me, a darker manifestation might be needed, at least in the beginning, as a starting point for learning and spiritual growth.

Let us now imagine that this dark manifestation behaves in ways that are familiar to us, from what remains of the Lore.  If Apollon is responding to the prevailing societal view, it shouldn’t be surprising.

This Apollon is haughty and controlling, and He does pretty much whatever He can get away with.  He demands, He threatens, and He punishes without mercy.  But what happens when we outgrow this dark manifestation– when we see our worth as being more than what this darkness is expressing to us?  I believe that is when we ought to look past the darkness and into ourselves.

We can often find aspects of our Gods within us, if we dare to look.  Also, if we take the time to learn about the others aspects and integrate them into our lives through offering and conversation, we can alter the make-up of our personal manifestations of Deity.  As with all relationships, this way works best when we acknowledge that the Deity is more than what has been revealed to us, and when we accept that our interactions with the Deity can, and often will, change.

To put it simply, we are just as responsible for how the Gods manifest to us as They are.  Once we can accept our role, and our agency, we may begin to see vast changes in how our relationships with Them are expressed.  But part of accepting our agency is learning what our boundaries are.  What and where are the lines which should not be crossed?  How do we respond when a Deity approaches that line?  How do we respond when a Deity crosses that line? These are questions that need answers, for us an individuals, as well as for groups of people working with the same Deity.  And if a God does cross that line, how do we reign Them in according to our values?

I’m pretty big on contracts which detail to exacting degrees, just what is acceptable and what is not, behaviorally speaking, both for the God(s) and for mortals.  You have the right, as a free agent in the worlds, to guard and protect yourself from all harm, even and especially that coming from a God or Goddess.  You do not have to be a doormat.  You do not have to say yes. I believe that the Gods are People.  Larger People than we are, but still People, with all the virtues and vices that entails.  But while these vices may exist within Them, like us, They have the agency to choose whether or not They will express them, or if They will instead learn, grow and move past those negative tendencies.

We must hold Gods accountable for Their behavior, and They must hold Themselves accountable, as well.  If a Deity is unwilling to address these issues when and wherever they arise, then that is a fine time to reconsider working with that Deity.  They do not get to treat you however They want. Respect is a reciprocal exchange, not an endless stream poured out from one “lower” individual to a “higher” one.  Humans are not lowly creatures. The Gods know this, and have known it for far longer than we have.  But They are quite limited in the sense that They can not interact with us outside of the scope of our expectations.  Only when we expect to be treated respectfully, at all times, will They begin to acknowledge this cultural shift.

We need to take command of our cultural expectations.  Overall, this will be a difficult task, especially if our main focus continues to be the dismantling of the patriarchal overculture.  Which, by the way, I’m not saying we should stop doing, but, if we can narrow our focus onto our Polytheist culture, whether it exists within a closed group, or on the world wide web, we can begin those first steps toward a culture of informed consent, at least when dealing with each other, and our Gods.

Boundaries vs. Limitations

I have talked a little about boundaries before, and how it is important for us to maintain them, for our health and sanity.  And it is important.  But, there are times when those boundaries, which we create to sustain ourselves, become more of a hindrance than a help.  If it helps you to cultivate your own dominance, strength and/or Sovereignty, then the boundary is serving you, as it should.  If, instead, it is keeping you in a neat little box of unending comfort, then you are serving it.  And in that case, it is no longer a healthy boundary, but has become a stifling limitation.

I have actually been thinking a lot about my boundaries, as building and maintaining them has been a central theme in my Work for, and with, Apollon. Being too open, never saying “no”, and always taking on the responsibilities of others (who should be quite capable of managing their own affairs) was quite possibly the first thing I was Told to change.  And indeed, I get that lecture a lot more often than I’d like to admit, publicly. For me, saying “no” (and sticking to it) is challenging.  It is uncomfortable.  It is necessary.  But it can also be taken too far.

For instance, the divination that I’ve recently begun offering as a part of my service and training…  I was Instructed to start doing so way back in October of 2011.  But, did I listen?  Nope.  I said “no”.  It was “too scary”.  I had just started the blog and was afraid of the responsibility inherent in the task, as well as the reactions from random strangers.  All meaningless excuses, of course, but still I refused, using that little word hardly uttered throughout most of my life.  I thought that serving the spirits of the Land would be enough, that focusing any attention upon human affairs would disrupt my life and practice, and I ended up shoving myself into a box because of it.  I used flimsy excuses to cage myself within my own hard-fought boundaries, and was in the end, limited by them.

I also lived in an extremely rural area, which made it that much easier to sequester myself within the boundary of my own Land, to not care as much about what was happening outside of my small corner of the world.  And you know what?  The Land knew it.  I had become a hermit, which was never really supposed to be my role.  And that is when the dreams started.

New Lands awaited me in these dreams.  New Lands, with new spirits to befriend, and from whom I could learn, if I tended the relationships properly.  It was all very puzzling, because on one hand, it hadn’t occurred to me that I might actually leave, one day.  But, on the other hand, I had never really thought that I would live there for the rest of my life.

Where I am now is just as lush and beautiful and filled with spirits as the place I left.  The main difference, is that there are people here.  The Land brims with the synchronized energy of human, animal, and spirit.  It is a totally new ballgame for me, one which pushes against my boundaries and stretches the level of my comfort beyond anything I’ve experienced in a very long time.  We have to be pushed outside of our own comfort zones on a regular basis.  That is something that I had to learn, that I am learning, even now.

This was not, of course, the only reason for my move.  Mundane necessities, such as working to earn money for food and bills, are much more easily done here, and indeed, they too push me in ways that I don’t always like.  But it’s worth it.

I am a mother and wife, in addition to being a bride/possession of Apollon.  I was mother and wife before I acknowledged my Prince’s claim, and thus, I am allowed to fulfill those duties in addition to those required by my Lord.  Perhaps the pushing of my boundaries looks a bit more mundane than that of the average spirit-spouse, but one thing I’ve come to learn about the way Apollon works, is that He will use any, and all, life situations as teaching moments.  I have had a lot of those lately, as well as having been utilized much more frequently by my Lord for the fulfillment of various tasks.  And trust me, it is not all sunshine and roses.

So, yes.  I think we all should do what is best for ourselves, as dictated by our gods, and our own individual interests.  However, to become so dependent upon one’s boundaries can be very limiting, and even detrimental to our spiritual development.  In a nutshell: Walk your Path, but don’t forget to go off-roading every once in a while.

Defining and Maintaining Boundaries

I hear a lot of Pagans talk about dismantling the boundaries in their lives and in themselves, as if that were the most important aspect of the spiritual journey. And that may be true, for them.  But, not all of us are so ready to break down every wall that separates us from the unknown.  In fact, not all of us are in need of that type of dismantling.  Sometimes, boundaries are there for a reason, and we would do well to learn how to care for them properly, for our physical, mental and emotional well-being.

Maybe it’s my personality type, but I have a very bad habit of allowing myself to be viewed and treated as somewhat of a doormat.  It comes from not having a very well defined sense of self as a youngster.

I have always served others.  Since I was a child, I have been cleaning up after my loved ones in so many ways, whether it be housekeeping, or conflict resolution.  The primary reason I get out of bed in the morning seems to be attending to the needs of others, whether they be my family or the spirits and deities. Which is wonderful, as I get a great deal of satisfaction from my role as caretaker, but I can also become quite overwhelmed by the desires and demands of other beings. This is where having a well defined boundary of individuality comes into play.

A person has to be able to say to themselves (truthfully), what is acceptable and what is not acceptable, for them.  For instance, when I was working a lot with Dionysos, I felt incredibly free to cast off old ideas and to adopt new practices at will.  But, as the inner-work delved deeper into who I really was, I found that what I had originally assumed would be one of the first things to be discarded (Witchcraft) was actually where the line had been drawn.

I was not supposed to reject my Craft training.  Even though it had been (and still has been) ages upon ages since I last cast a spell (I’m not counting the warding spells on my property here), I still identify as a witch.  Why? Because the wall whose bricks collectively form my Craft knowledge was never broken down, never discarded or abandoned.

There are other types of boundaries that we should care for, also.  Such as our interpersonal boundaries.  These are the boundaries that I have the most trouble maintaining, since I have a tendency (vehemently supported by my in-laws, and what I perceive to be Texan culture) to view myself as merely an extension of the two people who matter most to me.  My husband and our daughter.

In this line of thinking, my time is no longer mine, but becomes the tool of my husband, used to delegate household responsibilities, and to generally dictate the state of affairs, at all times.  In this view, if I am not working (cleaning, cooking, serving), I’m not being productive.  It’s very much what I imagine being a robot would be like.  Which, brings me back to the boundary that separates self from other.

So, how does one not become entangled within a net of authoritarian control, or control of any lesser degree?  First and foremost, by being honest with oneself about what it is that you want/need, in your own life.  Speaking these truths aloud can be a very positive way of affirming our desires.  And, of course, speaking truthfully to ones gods should be obvious.  Who better to assist us in our mindful shaping of self, than those beings who continually shape our realities?  They don’t want us to be the slaves of other humans. They (usually, and from my observation) want us to be open and viable receptacles for their Power.  And one can not be an effective vessel for the divine if one is constantly being filled by the energy (desires and expectations) of our fellow homosapiens.

When I realized this, it became much more urgent that I learn how to keep myself, and my goals, separate from the people around me.  Our goals may overlap, certainly, but I no longer believe my place is to be an eternal cheer-leader for someone else.  We can help each other succeed.  There is no reason for life to be so one-sided.

The last type of boundary that I wish to discuss are those physical boundaries that enclose our sacred spaces, which for me (and for the purposes of this discussion) is the property line separating my land from my neighbors’.  This is important to me, as an aspect of Queenship, as I must regularly update the warding spells around my property.  Why do I do this? Because if I do not, then the constant “prayer for salvation” (cursing) coming out of the local Baptist, Christ and Catholic churches would be a royal nuisance.

We Pagans and Polytheists do need to ward ourselves from that kind of magic (and it is magic), whether it is meant maliciously or not, because it can wreak havoc in our lives.  In my case, it was a malicious prayer assault aimed at “turning me away from the Devil”, and it caused a terrible depression to fall onto our home.  Which is what prompted me to come up with the simple warding spell that has successfully blocked all of their negative intent since the day it was originally placed.

I can not stress the importance of correctly maintaining our own individual boundaries enough.  When we allow others to walk all over us, what does that say to the gods, to our gods, who so generously volunteer their time and Power to teach us humans how to become self-sufficient?  If we are not going to take their lessons and incorporate them into our lives, then we aren’t really listening to them, are we?  And if we aren’t listening, why would any god want us as vessels, or priests, or for anything else?  And for that matter, why would we even care?

Define your boundaries.  Know them, maintain them, and they will in turn maintain you.