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What I Am Not: Godbothered

April 15, 2011

[If you need context, please see the intro post to this series.]

In the wider Pagan mystical community, some people choose to label themselves as “godbothered”. The common connotation appears to be “sometimes insistent and inconvenient communication from a multiplicity of deities on a routine basis”. (The usage implies an affectionate, tongue-in-cheek sort of irreverence, rather than being a sincere complaint.)

With all due respect to people who like the label, I do not.

At one point, I aspired to be godbothered;  I think many Pagans do. It implies a level of rapport and familiarity with deities that many people long to have in their own lives,  triggering an “I wish I had your problems” sort of response.

I don’t know how many people get what they wish for in this regard, but I did. After an oracular session where a deity I’d never encountered in a pantheon I didn’t work in had expressed interest (through a seidhkona) in having me get to know Her and maybe establish a relationship, I was trying to explain to a friend how much of a shock this was to me. I casually used the word “godbothered” for the first time in reference to myself, and it felt wrong.

There was a lack of graciousness in it, a jarring tone of cynicism, an attitude of presumption feeling put-upon. I came face-to-face with a glimpse of hubris in myself, and felt immediately diminished by my momentary pettiness and self-absorption.

The ability to find some way to connect individually with a divine being, and the existence of divine beings interested in doing so, are extremely profound and precious gifts. Or, not gifts exactly, more like rare treasures offered for trade: the price is paying attention.

“Bother” is a verb that implies a power differential; bluntly, it’s most often applied to behavior of an inferior being towards a superior being.

Why would you offer service or honor to a being you didn’t believe to be at least equal, if not superior in some way?

That having been said, after politely paying attention you don’t necessarily have an obligation to agree with what a deity says, or comply with a given request of Theirs. We have proof that our ancestors often held their relationships with the divine to be open to negotiation, and there’s no reason I am aware of to think the gods’ opinions on the matter have changed substantially.

Whatever agreement eventually comes to pass, I do believe in respecting that there’s a good reason for specific requests being made, even if you can’t see it at the time. If nothing else, exercising imagination in thinking about the whys and wherefores may give some deeper insight into Their perspectives and values.

In the end, I consider myself far more of a “godbotherer” than “godbothered”. I hope over time that I’ve improved my communication skills – and that I continue to do so – but when I started seeking connection I certainly didn’t have very good Otherworldly manners. Since a variety of beings have had the good grace to tolerate my sometime pestering and work with me anyway, I feel I owe them the debt of not describing Their presence in my life as an inconvenience – not even in jest.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. April 15, 2011 8:34 PM

    Really excellent reflections on this term!

    I don’t like the term myself, and though I have used it on occasion when I’ve been particularly busy, it is not the right term–so many people who do use it (or who say they have a patron, or a god-spouse, or they’re god-owned, etc.) often have this rather disingenuous attitude toward others who aren’t in that position that “Wow, I wish I were you, still able to have consent on these matters,” etc. That is ridiculous on every level, in my opinion…

    Every deity that I’ve been lucky enough to have had experiences with, and with whom I’ve had a relationship of however long or short it may have been (or still is), is a blessing and a wonder and a joy; and though what is asked is often unusual (e.g. Glykon’s wish for a certain song recently…!?!), I’ve never completed a vow and thought doing so was useless or unimportant or not enriching in some manner or other. And, that’s not to say that any or all of the cultic activities in which I’ve been involved have only been done for self-betterment, either…

    In any case, excellent discussion! Thank you for continuing this series! :)


  1. A Different Take on God-Bothered « Rock of Eye
  2. This Witch’s Worldview | Middle World Witch

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