When I first began practicing with a group (I had been practicing on my own for quite a while before I felt comfortable doing it with others), I had a high priestess that claimed that there wasn’t a deity she couldn’t talk to, that she heard them as clearly as if she were talking to a person, and that her “god-phone” allowed her to be in constant contact with Them and ask Them all manner of questions. This same high priestess had a mini-meltdown when I told her I wanted to worship Asherah, and insisted I pick a goddess out of a personality quiz book she had. If the goddess wasn’t in that book, she claimed, there was no way I could gather enough information to worship Her “properly”, and she insinuated Asherah probably wasn’t a goddess at all if she’d never heard of Her.
There are lots of red flags, looking back, but I’ll never forget how a “god-phone”, what some of us call a direct line to the Powers That Be, was something only available to that high priestess when it was convenient for her, but never to be mentioned if there was a need for actual information/divination. The gods existed, it seemed, to call out the people around the high priestess for their “bad behavior”, to assure her that she was above reproach, and to bully other practitioners into participating in something that ticked off an awful lot of boxes in the The Advanced Bonewits’ Cult Danger Evaluation Frame.
A blog post over on The Trickster’s Path brought up similar complaints about god-phones, which brought up some rather negative memories of my time in the Memphis Pagan scene (not all of them were bad, but gods…there are some real horror stories in there) and the doubt I had to contend with for a few years after it.
It’s taken me a few years, but what I’ve come away with is this: no deity is going to be on hand constantly to stroke an ego. The gods are GODS, not pals to consult regarding your next hair color, whether you’re the fairest of them all, or how many gifts your congregants need to give to you in order to achieve a higher rank. They’re not anxious spies who will conspiratorially whisper when someone is reconnecting with a former covenmate “behind your back”. Almost always, they will welcome serious attempts to know and connect with Them more than They will you filling out a quiz and picking who to be your “patron/ess” by choosing one of three goddesses whose personality is most like yours.
When the gods DO communicate with you, it will often be because things have gotten so horrible in your life that the deities close to you take pity and offer help, or a deity wants you to perform a task for them. Both are tense times, and rarely does the deity speak directly to the mortal/s involved. Recall the story of Odysseus: he went through an ORDEAL, but Athena spoke to him through disguises and nudges. If Odysseus didn’t sit down for nightly chats with the goddess who favored him, don’t be alarmed if you’re not, either…and maybe be suspicious of the folks who are claiming they do.
Ask yourself this, always: Who is this benefiting? If it’s benefiting the god, err on the side of caution and go along with it. If it’s benefiting the person claiming to be a “god-phone”, regard it as a red flag. Seek out other people to practice with before you sink years into a toxic experience. Go forth and build your own relationships with the deities (you don’t need an intermediary unless things have gone TERRIBLY. WRONG.). Keep compassion, piety, and justice in your heart and mind, and those gods-given gifts should steer you right more often than “god-phones”.
[Ashley Nicole Hunter sits on the board of directors for Bibliotheca Alexandrina and has been published in a few reputable (and otherwise) publications.]