Getting bitch-slapped by the gods. If that's happened to you, you'll know whence I speak. If you haven't and are a heathen, chances are you won't. And count yourself lucky. It's a most disturbing set of circumstances that cause you to go stumbling into heathenry without much of a guidepost.
Let me explain.
You have Tyr and Thor to thank (or curse) for me being a constant pain in your backside. You see, being an agnostic/near atheist was pretty much my calling until that pair made a plan and pretty much grabbed me. Tyr decided I was worth meddling with, so between the both of them, I got dragged into heathenry. Another author talks about it, and I highly recommend the reading, but I figure I'll give my own take on it.
When a God Grabs You by the Scruff of the NeckOddly enough, having a god grab you by the scruff of the neck is actually not that unusual in heathenry. I say this from personal experience, and experience that I hear from others. Most of us (I can't say all...) are relatively sane human beings who have more or less normal lives, and many of us weren't looking in the direction we got thrown into. That being said, we're left in a state of flux. Meeting a deity of any sort is an amazing experience. I would even go so far as to say it is life changing. Some of us -- myself, included -- get the message in a form that we can accept. Others get the Monty Python and the Holy Grail treatment.
The first thing that usually happens when we have that kind of experience is that we think we've lost our minds. I can't speak for any of you, but I figure that I'm more or less sane. More or less. I believe in science and the scientific method, and I'm pretty convinced that the Christian god does not exist. I don't believe in magic, but I do think there may be some weird quantum stuff going on that we can't explain. I question whether the gods exist, but they remind me enough that they're around. I'm probably the one of the few heathens who is cynical about ghosts and wights. I won't rule out the possibility, having seen animal ghosts, and having had some weird wight-type issues, but I'd say it's safer to say that if you tell me about the wights and ghosts, I'll be open-minded, but I weigh it heavily with cynicism.
When Tyr claimed me, I was stunned. I'm not exactly the most perfect when it comes to accepting rules. If fact, you might just find me a bit of a rebel. But who knows what the gods think when they look at someone? If you've had the experience of a god laying claim, you're likely to feel confused and out of your element. Hels bells, you may not even know Asatru and heathenism well and have stumbled onto this blog. My first recommendation before you claim it's this god or that goddess is to try to sort out who bitch-slapped you. For this, you may need to talk to someone who has experience with this. Normally a gythia (priestess) or godhi (priest).
Note: a lot of people claim they're a gythia or godhi without a shred of evidence, so get recommendations before talking to one. There are plenty of Asatru groups online -- I like American Asatru Association, but you can talk to other groups.
When I got the wake up call, I recognized the god immediately as the saint I had dreamed about in the past. And I got it. I recognized Tyr. Tyr has a feeling that a gythia I know was able to confirm. She was also able to confirm aspects of the god. So, there I was, still feeling in shock, knowing that I had a god I had to deal with.
Now, not all wake up calls are done positively, nor are the gods involved. I know of one instance with another person where Loki was impersonated. I won't go through the details, but suffice to say, it was not pretty. I suspect that there are a number of issues still with that spirit, but seeing as I am not a gythia, nor do I have the ability to meddle, I'm just an observer.
That being said, if a god claims you, he or she is unlikely to have you do something against the law or against your principles and morals. If he or she does, then either it is not that god (mental illness, or maybe a malevolent spirit), or it's a god you don't want to associate with. Let me explain using the Abraham and Isaac story.
Some Gods You Don't WantI use the story of Abraham and Isaac to explain why you don't want a god that requires you to act
against your principles. If you've been raised Christian or Jewish, chances are you know the story. For those who don't, here's the story: Yahweh allows Abraham's wife to become pregnant after she hadn't had any children. She gives birth to Isaac. Some time later while Isaac is a youngster, Yahweh decides it's time to test out Abraham's loyalty by telling Abraham he wants Isaac as a burnt offering. Abraham complies right up until Yahweh sends an angel to intervene and tell Abraham not to kill his son. Well, okay then. Talk about mindfuck.
I bring up this story because it's important to understand the implications. It is a lesson to the Israelites that show that their god doesn't want human sacrifice, just complete obedience. The fact that Yahweh is supposedly all knowing and all powerful doesn't seem to matter here. Basically, its a cruel god getting his rocks off at the expense of some old guy and his son. While I think of the stories as a metaphor, and not actually happening, the story shows what kind of blind obedience one can have with gods if you're not too careful. Any god who insists on "testing" you in this fashion is probably not a god you want.
What Now?At this point, you're probably wondering what you should do now that a god or goddess has claimed you. I would suggest getting to know that deity better, and seeing where they are aligned with you and your abilities and principles. Read what you can about them. Talk to the right folks who can help you and who are sympathetic to your experience. Those who have experienced the gods can help you through the range of emotions you're dealing with. If you think talking to a psychologist helps, then go ahead. He or she may think your crazy, or may help you sort out those feelings and get more in touch with the god. You won't know until you try.
There are enough of us who have had experiences with our gods who can help you. And once you start feeling comfortable again, perhaps the next experience may not be as traumatic.