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Tuesday, March 13, 2018

When Dedication Ends

There's a good amount of discussion out there about honoring deities (or spirits) and about dedication to a deity. What I want to talk about today is something I don't see being discussed much - when dedication ends.

An image of the German Woden

When I began my pagan path I really wasn't aware of the idea of dedicating oneself to a deity, or several even, but over time I not only started to read about the idea but I started to see it in action. I met people who described themselves as a priest or priestess of a specific deity and I saw the way that dedication could impact a person's life. Nonetheless I hadn't felt pulled to that level of focus on any God or group of Gods during my first years as a pagan, although I certainly had my favorites. My spirituality was always a complex thing with different layers of focus between the Gods, the Good Folk, and magical practices and I was fairly happy with what it was.

It wasn't until I began following a Heathen path in the mid-2000's that I felt called to formally dedicate myself to a deity. While I had developed what I would describe as a sense of closeness with several deities when I started practicing Heathenry I very quickly felt pulled to Odin. In what seemed to me the blink of an eye I found myself beset by dreams of a pair of ravens with a one-eyed rider and haunted during the day by his presence. My life took a decidedly weird (wyrd?) turn and within a year I was standing before witnesses making oaths, pledging myself to Odin*.

I don't regret it. For a decade I considered Odin my fulltrui; I learned to read the runes and studied seidhr, I became the gythia of a kindred, connected to the Hidden Folk under new guises. Odin was a driving force in my practice of Heathenry, staying with me as I shifted from a more Norse to a more German approach. He became my muse and my poetry was dedicated to him. Don't get me wrong, it wasn't easy - Odin is a hard one in many ways and even his kinder faces present interesting challenges. But I loved him and I loved being dedicated to him.

Then, after a decade, it ended.

I was pulled into a deeper relationship with the aos sidhe and that shifted things profoundly for me. Before I knew it, and to my utter shock, I found that my connection - my dedication - to Odin was over. I meditated and had an experience of Odin coming to me and telling me I was freed from my oaths to him. I didn't believe it at first but when I went to several people I trusted who were good with divination or channeling they all confirmed it. I paid weregeld for the oath anyway, for the people who had witnessed my oath, and just like that it was over.
I don't think I truly understood why the Norse called such dedication 'fulltrui' until that friendship was gone.  Of course I can still honour Odin - and I do - and of course I can still call on him in ritual. But it isn't the same. It isn't that close, personal feeling, that friendship anymore.

People talk about building dedication and about finding patron deities, but no one talks about when those relationships end, whether that end comes from the deity choosing to break the connection or the person doing so. Its painful, as painful as losing an important human relationship is. When you are dedicated to a deity that deity becomes a part of your life on a regular basis and having that suddenly gone is a shock - it's like losing a friend.

I had to learn that it was alright to grieve that relationship. I had to tell myself it was alright to be sad that things had changed and that I was allowed to be sad that I wasn't formally dedicated to a deity I had spent 10 years of my life closely connected to. And that was hard. Painfully hard. But things change and even in devotional polytheism dedication isn't always for life, even when we go into it planning that it will be. The Gods have agency and independent will and sometimes what they want diverges from what we want. Sometimes what they plan isn't what we plan. And sometimes we grow in a different direction and that growth takes us away from the place that our dedication was rooted in.
And that's okay.

*I also dedicated to Macha around this same time - I found the two were a good balance for each other, and given how challenging Odin could be I am glad I had that balance.


  1. Yes, indeed, it happens - and it's OK. In fact, it seems, you never completely lose touch with them, but you and they have done your bit together and it's time to move on.

  2. Thanks for sharing this. Indeed this a topic that isn't spoken about very much and I can only imagine how difficult and painful it has been to accept the end of your dedication to Odin as 'fulltrui' (lovely word - I hadn't heard it before) has come to an end.

    I've had one relationship end but it wasn't that long or deep. It was when I was just getting into polytheism and really really wanted Brigantia to be my patroness as a goddess of my land and poets' goddess. She led me through fire and poetry to... failure... making possible the opening of a door to someone else. I still have respect for her and honour when I'm out on the Pennine Moors but don't have a regular devotional practice dedicated to her anymore.

    I'd be absolutely gutted and forever lost if I lost my relationship with my patron, Gwyn ap Nudd, who I believe was a presence in my life before I knew who he was and who I hope to continue a relationship with after death...

    Your story teaches of how our paths and relationships can change beyond our expectations. Yet right now I still hold the certainty that my relationship with Gwyn will remain as my only constant.