I got more “hits” on my most recent post regarding the gods within a day than I have of anything else I’ve written over weeks. This is cool, but I realize I’ve got a rather profound responsibility here, if I’m going to go off prattling about what I’ve learned. I’ve begun to learn a little more even since I wrote that post, and have had multiple synchronous things cascade upon me in the space of just a couple of hours, so there’s gonna be plenty more to tell. Before I tell you about this, though, I need to tell you…
About Divine Trauma
I started having dreams last year around specific events and at strange, profound times. I’d wake from them shaking, write them down and then, a little while later, forget about them. Sometimes when I’d close my eyes I’d see them again, mostly when I didn’t want them or didn’t expect them, but for the most part I could ignore them and they interrupted nothing.
But they increased, and I began to feel a strange tension in my life between what I was dreaming and beginning to suspect of the world and what my actual life looked like. A relationship had already begun to wind down, a job had become increasingly untenable (low-level social work for violent alcoholics…most people don’t last a year, by that time I’d been there for 3), and a very long living situation which held joy only inasmuch as I shoved enjoyment down it’s throat. All of these things, though, were not only tolerable but also completely sufficient until I started confronting some of the dreams.
Right before it all came utterly crashing down, I’d written a long entry in my journal regarding a strange, looming sense which ended, “…something is coming. That beckoning call, I…” and then nothing.
Two months later after what I’ve liked to call The Long Winter, I found myself muttering a prayer to a goddess I’d seen in one of my dreams. It was Imbolc, it turns out, and that goddess was Brighid. Neither of these meant much to me at the time, and then suddenly meant everything once I got a profound answer.
The next day I decide I’m gonna study to be a druid, and 7 months later I’m writing this right before I go try to find out what some of these dreams mean (oh…don’t think for a second they’ve stopped).
That winter was the beginning of what I’ve been calling Divine Trauma; that is, strange events full of brilliant meaning which utterly shake up your life, yet, when resolved carefully, suddenly leave you better off than before the trauma began. It is in this way that Divine Trauma is utterly different from normal trauma and worlds away from mental-illness (more on this later)–both of these leave you worse off, seeking healing or sanity, and your ability to live in society go down. The schizophrenic finds themselves soon isolated from others because of their voices, the sufferer of PTSD cannot reconcile the trauma with its later echoes; Divine Trauma leaves you more at peace, more perceptive, more skilled, and more self aware.
But it also fucking sucks, at least while it’s happening.
In some of the monotheistic religions, a mystic or a devotee with visions may enter a cloister or a monastery where they can study and experience their insights away from the chaos and difficulties of daily life and be surrounded by others experiencing something similar We’ve mostly abolished both the monasteries and the concept of their function in our modern and advanced society with the exception, maybe, of the university. So when someone has shamanic or deific visions, sees their ancestors or faeries or land-spirits, they still have to find a way to pay their rent, hold down their job, take care of their children, and have pretty much only the internet, psychic phone-lines, or mental-health professionals to turn to.
The last will medicate or hospitalise you, penultimate will drain your money, and the internet? It’s utterly hit or miss. Try doing a web search such as “Does Apollo exist?” and you get mostly moon-landing conspiracy sites. Then again, similarly, do a search regarding the existence of “true love” or “art” and you’ll get no better.
The lack of available human community for most people, the anti-authoritarian nature of most of “paganism” (we don’t like priests anymore than altar boys do, it would seem), and the apparently complete discontinuity between the older worship of the gods and the current iterations of pagan worship can leave one completely bereft and thinking you’re going mad.
Guess what? You most likely are not crazy.
I can’t fully vouch for you, though. I hope you’ve got some rather good friends (if you’re not, make some…quickly) who will listen to you patiently and not judge. I hope you already experienced some sort of life-altering transformation because you’ve probably already picked up some of the skills you need (if you’re gay, trans, or otherwise a freak you’re gonna have an easier time–if you’re a suburban housewife who likes to watch television, you have my sincere apologies). And seriously, if the voices tell you to hurt yourself or others, or if the car talks back when you yell at? Go see someone, and quick.
I don’t want to make this all sound really scary. It isn’t. Actually, experiencing the gods and magic is absolutely the BEST FUCKING THING EVER. But it’s really, really not easy. You’re gonna lose sleep. You’re gonna start noticing stuff around you that you learned to stop noticing when you were a kid, and it’s gonna be distracting. Your dreams might get really vivid and maybe sometimes your vision, or you’ll start to get senses from things that you didn’t know. And you’re probably gonna start setting money aside for stuff like candles and incense and wine, and maybe grow a garden so you’ve got easier access to something a goddess tells you she would like, and gardens take work.
I’m just some punk wanna-be poet who raised himself and made a decent life for himself before all of this started happening, and now I’m still a punk wanna-be poet who thinks it’d be a nice idea if most other people don’t have to freak the fuck out when gods start appearing. If this helps someone, awesome, and if not–whatever. I like writing.
1. Be really, really nice to yourself. Just like in a break-up, or after a death, or during anything else traumatic, being hard on yourself is really easy to do and also maybe the worst possible thing to do. After I used my first “revealed” sigil, I made myself a cup of hot cocoa, and then another, and then maybe got drunk and passed out because the whole thing was crazy. You maybe don’t need to get drunk, I donno.
2. Be open to new and timely friendships. I started calling the dating site I’d occasionally troll OKDruid, because within an hour of deciding to do this druid thing I met an adorable furry punk druid in another state and we wrote each other reams of emails. And then when he didn’t have time to talk, I met another one, and then I met another and another until I was pretty certain there were no straight or ugly druids in the world (there have been no druid orgies, I must sadly admit). Maybe I could have done this all without them, but no, fuck that. I couldn’t.
3. Consider some sort of guided study. Seriously. I’m relentlessly glad I joined OBOD, primarily because the pace of the lessons is up to you, but they are lessons, and they are written out. There are other groups like this, too, and though I can’t vouch for them, others can and will. You may really like some of the wildly independent, build-your-own tradition orders, but maybe consider doing this later? If you’re new to this stuff, it’s nice to have someone guiding you, especially if they admit up front that you can take what you want and leave the rest. (And as a warning–avoid creepy cults).
4. Don’t be an ass. You’re probably wrong. So am I. I’m wrong all the time, and mostly I’ve only started to be right on the “maybe I’m wrong” thing. Also, avoid people who are asses. If you’re wrong and they are right, they’ll have a pretty good sense of how to guide you out of being wrong. Wise elders are never asses, I’ve noticed.
5. Ask. There are some wicked nice people who are not asses at all, or at least not when you ask them for help. A lot of them have websites and write about this stuff all the time, and maybe they’ve met the same god or goddess or spirit or what have you already and can give you advice on what worked for them. Some of them maybe won’t email you back, so email someone else. Some of ‘em are linked on this blog, and–know what? Go ahead and ask me. I probably have no clue, but maybe I know someone else who might.
6. Consider starting from how other people do it first. If you’re american and anti-authoritarian and all that, it’s kind of your nature to try to build a religion or practice from scratch. Sure. You could do that, but this is a little related to #4, because you may find yourself getting so isolated from other people, being so sure that you’re right, that you start getting into insane arguments with people on the internet which is probably your only access to people who understand. You can totally find your own gods later if you need/want to. This isn’t monotheism, where rejecting one god means you’ve rejected the whole thing.
7. Learn Tarot, or runes, or some other divination method. This has all kinds of benefits, particularly in that most of them will tell you more about yourself at the beginning than they will about the divine, and this is a very good thing. See #8.
8. Learn about yourself. Every religious tradition I’ve seen which leads to some sort of peace for the adherent starts with the same precept: you cannot hear the divine if you don’t know what your own voice(s) sound like. The schizophrenic makes the mistake of believing every uncomfortable voice to be outside themselves. The “mundane” makes the mistake of believing that every thought is their own. Neither are correct, and the only way to tell the difference is by learning to follow that twisted, contorted, complicated wanderings of your own beautiful self. Do you know why you get angry at certain times, or feel lonely at others, or feel afraid of certain things? If not, how will you be able to tell what that strange voice meant when it told you to light candles in a certain order, or to add damiana to the wine you were offering, or don’t evoke certain powers before chanting a certain prayer?
A final thing about Divine Trauma. I think it’s probably brutally necessary. When stuff gets wicked difficult to understand, when you suddenly find yourself about to enter another walking myth or learn the name of a deity whom you’ve felt watching you from the shadows, something seems to break inside of you. Thing is, what’s breaking isn’t you, it’s what’s been keeping you from entering into communication with these vast outer and inner worlds that most people get by without ever bothering to experience. If all you care about is money and television or MMORPG’s, you can get by without ever even noticing, and live a perfectly happy life.
But if you’ve gotten this far, you’ve probably either already heard that same beckoning call I did, or are about to. And if it hasn’t gotten fucking crazy, it’s probably about to.
Congratulations, and, oh dear–good luck.