Consent & Boundaries in the Godspouse Community

Over the last few years in discussions with individuals and smaller groups of godspouses, I’ve noticed the repetition of the more experienced and public godspouses* stepping away from larger groups or backing away from being public about the nature of their relationships.  If you talk to the people stepping back, a lot of times that is due to the fact that they tend to deal with a lot of overshare from others.  I am perhaps lucky, because I’m over here working with a completely different type of situation and for the most part the larger Apollonian community in the past has been very, very good about leaving out the more private details of marital relations.  There was a generally agreed-upon rule that it wasn’t a topic to be discussed in forums or groups, and it was a close knit community specifically because that trust was there.  We weren’t going to talk about sex, and that is because we cared as much about the feelings of those we consider dear friends as we do our Spouses.

I am bringing this up, because I feel like someone needs to.  I’ve seen far too many godspouses express regret going public about their experiences due to overshare.  And it’s not something we should be ignoring.  When we don’t respect the boundaries of those who are willing to be open and share their experiences with us, especially those who may be newer to spousal situations, we run the risk of causing those who actually have a lot to teach us about religious and spiritual practice to stop sharing.

I haven’t been public that long, and yet every once in a while an email shows up with a long explanation from a complete stranger about what is happening in their beds at night almost immediately after “Dear Ms Laurentine.”

Y’all, that’s not okay.  In a population stressing consent culture, in a population that regularly has a higher number of people comfortable with polyamory, we should know better than to be launching into intimate and personal stories without asking if it’s okay to talk about it with a person first.  Even if they’re your friend, especially if they’re your friend, you should be asking, “Hey, can I talk to you about this?” or “I have a question about how to (XYZ).  Would you mind talking to me about it?”

And if they say no then leave them the Hel alone.

You should ask every time if it’s okay, even if you’ve talked about it a million times before with the person.  Why?

Because public godspouses are allowed to be human, which means they’re allowed to have bad days.  They’re allowed to be jealous.  They’re allowed to not like another spouse of their Spouse.  They don’t owe you anything for free, and while what they’re writing may help you, they may not be blogging with the express purpose of helping you figure out your own relationship with the Powers.  That may just be a perk that comes with writing about their personal experiences, which they may be doing for completely different reasons than helping others out.  I love helping people, but I also gain a lot of insight into my own experiences by writing.  A lot of what I write is never seen by anyone, but I post things that I hope may help others in some way when it comes to what I post about being a godspouse.  I was one for many years before I was ever asked to come out about it, and it was actually kind of terrifying to do so.  Not just because I was worried about what others would think and say, but because I didn’t want to be driven to burn-out by people demanding more information that I was comfortable sharing.

I’d seen it happen to others before I ever went public.

We need to remember that not everyone in our community is polyamorous, which if you think about it has to be really, really hard on those who are monogamous when they run into another spouse of their Spouse (or worse, get an email asking how to start a romantic relationship with Them).  It isn’t our job to try to make the monogamous person accept the situation.  It isn’t anyone’s job to try to force someone to work through their jealousy.  In fact, as a willingly monogamous poly person, I would say that it’s our job to approach the situation with empathy, since hopefully we realize how hard it can be to confront our own jealousy.  Some people aren’t ready to.  Some people will never do it or won’t be able  to turn that off.  And you know what?  That’s okay.  Really.  In fact, I would go so far as to say that it’s absolutely none of our business.

Just because they’re married to your Spouse that doesn’t mean you’re suddenly best friends who can tell each other everything in graphic detail.  Even if you are best friends, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t ask before launching into intimate discussions if the person is up to it first.

Always. Ask.  First.

Not just “How do I sex God X up?”  Especially if you’ve never actually talked to the person before.  Not just “(insert paragraph on sexy times with God X),” because that is literally the godspouse equivalent of an unsolicited dick pic.

Consent.  We talk about its importance in rituals and relationships, and yet we don’t stop to practice it in day-to-day encounters with our fellow coreligionists.

You may know a ton about the life of someone due to reading their blog.  You may feel like you know them almost as well as you know yourself.  You may share a Spouse.  Stop and think before you write that long, steamy email that borders on erotica.  Just because you feel like you know this complete stranger doesn’t mean you aren’t a complete stranger to them.

Always ask if they’re willing to talk first.  If you have sex questions, state that you have sex questions instead of just generic questions.  And accept without any hard feelings if people don’t want to talk to you about it… Truth be told, we all have lives and every email we answer may eat up a lot of time with absolutely nothing in return but good feelings. (This sounds horrible, but there have been points where if I’d answered all my emails I would have lost my entire day.)

And if you’re in a group situation like forums or a Facebook group?  This should go without saying, but I’m going to say it anyway…  This is one of those places where content warning goes a long, long way.  Sex positivity only works when it’s also consenting and respectful of boundaries.

Let’s work on that together, shall we?  I probably have some area where I need to work on it, too.  Respect of boundaries and consent are the building blocks to making the environment a place where we can all grow and learn from each other.  They are the only way we will be able to learn from the experiences of those who have come before us, and it’s our responsibility as a part of this community to do whatever we can to make sure we don’t make the space an unhealthy one by ignoring the boundaries of others.

*I use the term godspouse, but this goes for any group or individual that involves a deeper intimate relationship with the Gods and Powers.

Let’s Talk About How Others Talk about Godspouses!

(If you subscribe to my blog for disability stuff, you may want to cover your eyes and continue on or unfollow the blog.  My woo may be more than you can handle, and I’m okay with that.)

I started to write a whole essay on the sexuality and respectability policing that happens in others’ publicly stated views about godspouses and the sexual component that some have (either much like the sexual nature of other religion’s mystics’ written experiences or actual sexual acts), but in the end I just keep thinking Meh about justifying my personal experiences that I willingly share with others. So I’ve shortened it to a few statements…

1. If you don’t believe that the Gods exist as individuals, that’s really all you have to say. In fact, please, leave it at that. We’re talking about 2 very different belief systems, so you don’t need to carry on to explain that you don’t believe in godspouses… Because, let me be really clear here, whether you believe in my religious, spiritual, and magical practices or not doesn’t invalidate that I exist and self-identify as a godspouse, nor does it invalidate my religious and spiritual path of 20+ years.  People tend to go on to attack the people and not the practice, because let’s be honest, they don’t actually know anything about the practice.
2. Commentary on godspouses being mentally ill needs to stop. You are being ableist, and while I, myself, have a few mental illnesses lurking in my shadows, it has very little to do with my personal relationship with the Gods. In fact, the God who I’m married to has been an integral part of the path towards mental equilibrium. Belief in the Gods and their ability to be in your life isn’t a sign of mental illness. It’s a sign of religiosity, or, at the very least, faith in the Gods to be an active, participating part of the cosmos. Unless you are a licensed professional and have studied mystical experiences heavily, I’m going to say you have absolutely no right to deem what is and isn’t mental illness in another person when it comes to religious experience.
3. Commentary on godspouses being lonely (typically women) or lacking something in their lives needs to stop. I have a mortal spouse. I have a child. I have family. I have friends. The only thing I’m lacking is the peace of existing in a world where people on the internet don’t give their opinions of things they aren’t educated on… Which is 99.9% of the time godspousery, and 80% of the time psychology that isn’t of the pop variety or 101 levels.
4. Since rarely are male godspouses ever attacked on the internet and usually it involves sex toys being invoked, I’m going to calmly assume that those bringing it up have some Puritanical mores looming around that they may not be aware of at best and at worst may be misogynists who are offended by the idea of people having sex without a mortal penis involved. If godspouses are masturbating and invoking the Spirits and Gods, then so the fuck what? For a group of people who regularly deal with fertility cults, phallus worship, and myths that talk about all kinds of sex (including but not limited to bestiality and incest), Pagans seem to really get caught up in the worry that we’re all masturbating with or without a God present.
5. The most impious thing I can think of is a mortal trying to tell me what the Gods do and do not want from me, sex included. Stop railing against the perceived threat of godspouses wanting authority over your experiences by announcing that you are the authority of all things Gods-related. Not only is it impious, but it’s hypocritical.

Sex happens. Sex with Gods sometimes happens for those that believe that the Gods are real and not just archetypes* and sometimes even for those that don’t. Whether that aligns with your personal beliefs is neither here nor there, and as offensive as you may find it to be, I assure you that my private personal practice has absolutely nothing to do with you.  In fact, I would go so far as to say it has no effect on you as well.

*Oh my Gods, I never thought I’d actually say that, and I’m so annoyed that I am having to say it. But there it is. My Polytheism is getting hard just thinking about it.  You’re welcome for that mental image.

A Polytheistic Dark Night of the Soul

In my soul I feel just that terrible pain of loss of God not wanting me — of God not being God — of God not existing. – from Saint Teresa of Calcutta’s journal, 1959

I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m in period of what the Christian mystics refer to as the dark night of the soul. For a monotheist, this turns into a period of what appears to be at the very least atheist leanings, as expressed in the quote above from St Teresa of Calcutta (Love her or leave her). For a polytheist mystic, I guess this is taking on a little bit of a weird turn I didn’t see coming…

I believe in the Gods without a doubt. I even believe in Apollon.

This is where it takes a turn and perhaps get a little weird…

While I believe in Apollon, I’m not exactly sure the God I honor and have been married to for years is Apollon. Seven years later and after a vow renewal, I find myself going “I don’t know who You are.”

This has been playing out for months now. Save for 1 or 2 posts, it’s been playing out almost silently except to a few close, patient friends that I’m entirely too thankful for.

Am I married or divorced from this God? Who is He?

Is this God Apollon? Yes/no.

Is this God Odin? Yes/no.

Is this God Freyr? Yes/no.

Is this God Dionysos? Yes/no.

Dis? Yes/no.

Soranus? Yes/no…

This God isn’t an archtype, but He is all of these Gods and none of Them at the same time… That’s what He tells me.

This isn’t a case of an awkward attempt at syncretism. This is a God coming forth to step out of the shadows, which has left me feeling all too raw and wobbly. Who the fuck am I to think a God is talking to me? Who the fuck am I to think some newborn/forgotten God is messing with my brain?

Am I sure I’m not simply unstable?

This, my friends, is decidedly a dark night of the soul. I never thought I’d find myself doubting my faith in my own beliefs, nor did I think that it would play out as a space of doubting every part of myself at the same time. This is deeper than an existential crisis. This darkness is something that I feel down to my bones, and I find myself too choked by the grim reality of it all to put into perfect words. This alone frustrates me. I’m never for a lack of written word.

I’m not alone with this God. I know there are others out there who are experiencing Him, who have even experienced this change and shift.  I know, because of the delightful moments of getting personal gnosis confirmed.  This space where one God ends and Another begins, I’m not the only one who has experienced it. But is He a God I know? Or am I off in the recesses of my own mind working through some liminality issue that I wasn’t completely aware I had?  Perhaps looking for synchronicity of experience and finding it simply because I’m looking for it.

It’s been a strange, painful experience. One of the first lessons this God taught me, as Apollon, was to stop doubting myself. Stop doubting His voice. Just say what it was He was telling me, and slowly over the course of a year I discovered that He was using me as a bit of a mouth piece.

This was a decade ago. This was when I started to listen to the information I was getting constantly, because if I didn’t I was in danger of stepping into the void and never coming back if I didn’t get it under control. A marriage of 7 years was had, and I don’t believe it’s over…

But it was with Apollon.  Despite what everyone keeps telling me, I’m not sure this God wants to be called Apollon anymore.  Not by me, at least.  I’m no longer married to Apollon.

Which seems to not only be throwing people off when I say this, but it seems like my own discernment and judgment of the situation is wrong.  Do I trust myself, which is what He taught me to do?  Or do I listen to literally everyone else I’ve talked to about this?

I say “Apollon left me.”

I hear from others, who I trust hear Him, say, “He would never leave you, and He wants you to understand that.”

And the words that keep falling into my mind, like leaves from a tree, say, “When the Romans took Apollo’s hand, He swallowed a dozen Gods as he moved through the known world. He became Them. They became Him. But that is never truly the case.”

Syncretism is something a lot of people are talking about these days… And here I am, over in my corner, feeling as if I’m on the brink of un-syncretizing Apollon.

He told me a few years ago to go north. Now He tells me to carve Him from the side of the rocks.

Now I’m slowly getting comfortable with the thought that perhaps this is Something new and different to us. I’ve said for years that He is wanting me to build a new tradition for him, a new cult. I glean images and symbols. I find a way to explain something. I doubt. I distrust. I feel like my insides are filled with glass, and I can’t tell if it’s Truth or not.

That’s hard to understand if you’ve not been there. I hear, over and over again, that I should stop worrying about who He is…

As He whispers in my ear Find me. Create me. Birth me, my bride.

Three evenings ago, on the front of a cold spring rain, He returned into my world in the form I’ve known as Apollon. At first it was a mere hint as I was cooking dinner. I felt the vibration in my lumbar spine that I usually feel when He’s trying to get my attention, a place aligned with the solar plexus (or I’ve been told the Gaster in Plato’s work, though I’ve yet to dig into this). As I cleaned up, He started to talk to me. By bedtime, mid-conversation with a friend online, I had to stop to meditate. I wrote a lot of stuff down that He wanted me to understand and spent some time sitting with the visions I was getting.

I’d been so happy, so relieved He was home that I found myself crying. But His return only brought me more questions and no answers…

I’m admittedly terrified of what stands before me. Not the God, but the implications of what I believe my future holds if I’m on the right track. The weight. The responsibility. It was all there before, but for some reason it was easier when He was Apollon. Safer, somehow…

So I have sent out questions to others who are God-touched. Am I on the right path? Can they untangle what I can only describe as a God-knot?

And underneath it all is this alienation, both from Him and others, who both understand and don’t understand at the same time.

This place is ambiguous and uncomfortable, liminal and immense.

My God is ambiguous and uncomfortable, liminal and immense.

I feel moved to talk about it here if only for the hope that someday this journey will help someone else thrown onto this path.

Welcome home, my Love, welcome home… Whoever You are.  Welcome home.  I’m angry, but I’m sure we’ll get through this eventually together.  (I hope.)

Vow Renewal Shrine

DSC01117You will note no image of Apollon at this time.  I have yet to find anything or create anything that I find worthy of Him.  The woes of being an artist in love.  I bought Him an orchid.  It’s the closest thing I could find to His perfection.

 

A Renewal of Vows

DSC01109[1]
A new turibulum (incense burner) for the occasion.
August 7th is coming quickly now.  Time slipped by as it tends to do in my world.  But August 7th is an important date in my own religious calender…

It’s the anniversary of my vows to Apollon.  He and I have been together in this relationship we have for 8 years now…  8 years?  Has it really been that long?

This year, though, I was told it was time to renew our vows.

I have, admittedly, been avoiding thinking of my actual vows.  It’s not that I am avoiding this situation, but it’s just that even after all this time I sometimes feel the immensity and weight of having Him be part of my life at this level.  How did this come about?  When did this start?

I’m not sure I really have answers to those questions.

And what do I want out of it?  That’s what He wants to know with this…  All of this time, we’ve been working on what He wants for us and me.  Now He wants to know what I want of Him…

That’s not an easy question to answer.  Me, who regularly doesn’t know exactly what she wants of her life on a very basic level anyway.  I prefer to dream and plan before blindly feeling my way through the actual execution of that.

I can’t do that this time.

This isn’t to say I’m not excited and happy.  This is a joyous occasion!

But just like a mortal marriage, it’s a contract that isn’t to be entered into lightly.

The shrine is slowly being prepared.  I was given the gift of resin incense and a beautiful turibulum (burner) today by my mother.

So here we go.  Countdown to the 7th.

There will be pictures to come, I’m sure.