Involving Deities In Your Spell-Work: Yes, It Can Be Done Respectfully

Once, apropos of nothing, while meditating with Hermes, he let loose with the following rant:

“It’s not like I don’t want to help. I do. I’m helpful. I like being helpful. And I get that I’m useful, too! I’ve got commerce and diplomacy and language and invention and the afterlife — and who wouldn’t want to call on me? But could people like, ASK before either touching my balls or yanking on my intimate divine bits?”

And it’s true. I have seen countless spell books that “use” deities as symbols in spells, or which “use” the names and symbols belonging to a deity to empower a working.

Here is what it is to be a Polytheist: we view deities as sovereign individuals. If you buy into consent culture, then it logically follows that a deity’s consent, or lack thereof, is important.

Some people have, as a solution to this, completely rejected all magic. This is not the solution I favor. Sometimes, people get stuck. They get in trouble. They need a job, or a miracle cure, and sometimes, prayer isn’t quite enough.

Some have, rather understandably, simply switched to doing spell work which only calls on their own power. I also do not favor this solution. Humans are foolish and do very silly things with magical power if left completely to their own devices.

If done respectfully and consensually, I believe that involving a deity with your spell work can be of great benefit to both the magician and the community. We, as humans, are always closer to human problems than deities are. Deities always have a bit of a bird’s eye view and a lot of wisdom. By our powers combined, we can do a lot more than either party can do separately.

Getting Consent 

The first thing to do is to call the deity, offer them hospitality, and propose your working to them.

Offering hospitality might involve offering food, or drink, or just incense, depending upon your space and what is possible for you. Olympians particularly like the smoke of their offerings, and so, as unromantic as it might sound, pouring wine into a frying pan and letting the steam rise up is sufficient.

I make a statement of intent, or an invitation.

Something like, “Hey, my friend is sick and I was going to do some healing magic to help them. What do you say, Asklepios, you down?”

Then, I do some manner of oracle to get an answer. This could be in the form of a divination or omen. If the answer is yes, I go ahead ands plain out a working which calls upon the deity.

If the answer is no, and this is very important, I respect that no, and I do not do a working with that deity for that purpose.

Following Through and Respecting Yes

If the deity agrees to help you with a working, respect that yes. Once they’ve agreed to help, you should follow through with the working. They have likely agreed to help because they think the working is noble and a good idea.

As to outsiders, even if you might not work with deities in this way, respect that the deity has decided to help another with their working. Suggesting that the deity didn’t really mean yes, even if they sent an omen, or even if they answered yes in an oracle, is disrespecting a deity and their right to say “yes” even as calling on their power without asking is disrespecting their right to say “no.”

Showing Respect and Gratitude 

It is very important to respect their presence in the room when you call them. Do whatever you would do if you were to call them in the spirit of worship. For Olympians, make sure the space has been purified. Say hymns. Make offerings.

Then, go ahead with your working.

Afterwards, make sure that you thank the deity for their presence, and give them some manner or gift to show appreciation. Occasionally, they may contact you in dreams between the time you ask and the time that you do the working, or even after the working, and ask for a specific favor from you.

If what they ask for isn’t something you can comfortably do, say no, but let them know that you appreciate their help, and are open to running a different sort of errand for them.

1 Comment

  1. This makes sense. I don’t usually do the asking *before* the working, but the idea that Their participation is optional, that They can say no, is built into the working, and the working I do is framed accordingly.

    “Dear [Deity], I am doing this working for that reason, and ask that you please do this thing. If you do this thing, I will do that other thing for you. I will take the thing being done as evidence that you do, indeed want that other thing done.” Or, alternately, the entire working IS the negotiation of which you speak. “Hey, [Deity]! Have some hospitality! I would like to negotiate with you for this thing! If you are willing to do this thing, let us discuss what is required of me in return!”

    I find both work pretty well, but which way I do it depends as much or more on how easy I find it to hear direct replies, and of course, the understood personality of the deity in question.

    I guess sometimes people really do just invoke the gods in their spellwork without acknowledging the autonomy of the gods, don’t they? It’s weird how much our underlying assumptions shape their actions without our even noticing.


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