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Thursday, March 13, 2014

When The Gods Speak - part 2

"oh you speak to me in riddles
and you speak to me in rhymes"
 - Sarah MacLachlan, "Possession"

  In my last blog I talked about when the Gods speak to us with signs and omens, today I'd like to talk about some other methods, namely dreams, intermediaries, and directly. All of these methods have historical basis to varying degrees and also occur in modern times, but like signs and omens require a level of awareness on our part. No message gets through if we aren't listening.
  Dreams have long been understood as a way for different messages to reach us, not only from Gods but also from different spirits. The tricky thing with dreams is sorting out our own subconscious speaking from things outside us speaking. Learning how to discern one from the other is a slow process, but generally there are a few tips I use to separate out my own head from outside messages. Firstly I look at how I felt in the dream. There is - for me - always a feeling of awe or intensity that comes with this sort of communication in dreams that is absent in a regular dream. I also look at the message itself; if it what I would expect or want to hear I am pretty suspicious of it. The Gods and spirits don't, in my experience, show up to pat us on the back and say atta boy or tell us to do what we really want to do anyway. Of course in fairness most of my experience with dream communication is with Odin and he isn't exactly one to show up just to tell you how good you're doing (again, my experience). Its not that dream communication will always be negative, far from it, but it will always have a purpose and that purpose isn't about feeding our egos but about telling us something that the Power communicating with us feels we need to hear. I also find that dream messages are rarely straightforward; rather they often seem like riddles that have to be puzzled out. They can be highly symbolic, convoluted, or cryptic and usually require reflection to understand. 
  Intermediaries are any thing or other person who communicates a message to you. This can include everything, in my opinion, from casting lots to going to a Seer. An intermediary is the middleman for the message. According to Tacitus the ancient Germans divined the will of the Gods by casting lots, observing the movement of birds, and by watching special sacred horses. In seidhr the seidhrworker can act as an oracle to rely messages by going into a trance state; it may be that Irish practices like imbas forosnai and tarbh feis work along similar lines (although when seeking answers for yourself these may fall more into the direct communication category). In modern terms when we use Ogham or runes for divination to know if an offering was accepted we are using an intermediary to communicate with the Gods. A person can train as a Seer to interpret omens, lots of various sorts, and pass on messages to others as well. The thing to remember is that, just as with dreams, the messages received through intermediaries must be interpreted by you to be understood, and you are dealing with a message that has been relayed twice - once by the God to the intermediary and then again from the intermediary to you. 
   The final method I'd like to discuss here is direct communication. I personally think this method is more likely for people who do a lot of trancework or train for it, but the Gods can speak to anyone they want. This will be different for everyone, including everything from hearing it as a voice to seeing images or words, but is most likely to occur during trance or meditation*. Unlike in dreams you should have more awareness of what is going on, but as in dream communication there should be a sense of Presence, of awe and intensity. Also like with dreams one of the ways I check the validity is whether I'm only hearing what I want to hear. Another way is to check, in the moment, to see if I can influence what is being said. If I can control the message or change what I'm being told then I know I'm just talking to myself. Now, that isn't to say you can't bargain, because you can - if a deity ask something from you that would be difficult or impossible you can make a counter offer or refuse - but if you can directly influence the deity you think you are dealing with to say exactly what you want then its your imagination. 
   Now the difficulties here are deciphering the meaning behind the message and being certain you know who the message is from. Neither of these is necessarily easy, which is why people used to train to be professional Seers. For the modern pagan or heathen without access to a trusted expert opinion discernment is key. Really take time to reflect on the message and what it could mean. Consider possibilities and look at the most logical meanings, and learn to trust your instincts. Secondly don't be afraid to question the source; just because they says they are deity X doesn't mean is deity X. Over time you learn the "feel" of different Gods by experiencing them in ritual and possibly through the various types of communication, but initially don't be afraid to question. Look at whether the deity is acting in a way that aligns with their mythology and whether the message aligns with the deity**. If something shows up wreathed in pink light, cuddling a bunny, with a message of forgiving your enemies and practicing nonviolence and tells you she's the Morrigan, I'd be highly suspicious of it. In the same vein if the deity doesn't give you a name, don't assume it must be a deity you are fond of or really like; sometimes we get messages from very unexpected places. 
   Many pagan religions believe in the importance of reciprocity, and this should include not only offerings and blessings but communication. We speak to them and they do answer, but we have to pay attention and be willing to listen. Our gods are not omnipotent. They cannot make themselves heard if won't hear them. And we are not perfect recievers, we mishear, misunderstand, misinterpret. Learning to communicate with the Gods and spirits is a process that requires effort, discernment, and openness. But its worth the effort. 

*I'm not going to discuss possession work here; that's a whole different category and a topic that deserves its own blog

**this is extremely difficult with Odin due to the scope of his mythology and variety of his by-names and personalities

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