Loss of Faith

So many times I’ve heard people pull away from Christianity due to a resentment in YHWH, or because they feel betrayed. When I first began questioning Catholicism, I had the same sort of sentiments—how could a perfect, loving god allow such cruelty and violence? How could they sit and watch, while so much suffering is going on in the world?

What I find interesting is that most pagans don’t follow suit when faced with similar predicaments. If a prayer goes unheard, they don’t (for the most part) lose faith and stop worshipping their gods.

I can’t speak for all pagans on why this appears to be so, but I can say from my own experiences why I find it easier to forgive my patron for watching from the sidelines as I struggle, moreso than the god I was taught to trust all throughout my childhood.

“Let go and let god” seems to be a popular phrase amongst those of the Christian faith, and my own family likes to use a similar sentiment. This was the core tenant of my catholic upbringing—to literally surrender my destiny and place my trust in god.

Now, this god was asking for a shit-ton of trust and blind faith—but I couldn’t place my faith in a god who wasn’t fixing what I saw as being wrong with the world. Instead, he was allowing such injustices and inhumanities as murder and rape to happen, turning a blind eye those that were suffering.

But its not like Lucifer was stopping these things from happening as well. He doesn’t cause hurt and suffering, despite what many say, but neither does he rid the world of them. How does that make him any different, any more worthy of honor and respect?

Lucifer doesn’t claim to be perfect. He doesn’t ask for blind faith, and he certainly doesn’t want me to go running to him with every problem I may have. The way I see it, YHWH wants humanity to turn to him and ask to be saved, but Lucifer…he wants humanity to save itself.

“It is the greatest of tragedies that brings out the best in mankind. It is the utmost adversity under which humanity flourishes best” (paraphrased from here)

This is the reason I am able to forgive Lucifer for watching as I struggle to keep my head above water, for leaving prayers unanswered, for watching as humanity inflicts cruelties upon itself.

But I’m curious to hear what others have to say concerning this particular phenomenon, of losing faith in god/god(s) when their help is needed the most.

Just read a post in which someone wrote a letter to the devil…

…complaining about how he makes them doubt and question all the gifts/blessings given to them by their god.

I fail to see how this is a problem.

That’s what Lucifer does—he drives personal growth by making you question everything. It’s your choice whether you use that doubt as hindrance or inspiration. So what if he brings up those uncomfortable questions regarding your loyalty or devotion to your god? He does it to his own devotees, too. And more often than not, those questions either lead to a renewed, more stable faith or one more suitable to your beliefs. Although he may not agree with the actions or mindset of your god, that doesn’t mean the doubts he plants are there to sever that connection—whether you want to be a devotee of that god is your choice and yours alone, which is ultimately the point he’s usually trying to get across in these situations. Unfortunately, a lot of times it seems that many are unable to see it as an independent choice, whether due to how they were brought up or taught to believe, or because of the concepts of sin and salvation that bind through guilt.

In short, healthy doses of skepticism, doubt, and uncertainty aren’t bad things—stop seeing them as personal attacks against yourself and your faith and use them instead to your advantage.

/end rant

Forms of Devotionals

I’ve been doing some thinking lately, regarding a topic I briefly mentioned in my last post—spontaneous devotionals vs. ritualized, consistent devotionals.

At the start of my relationship with my patron, spontaneous devotionals were the only sort I did. Doing devotional work because I had to was unthinkable—I felt as though forcing myself to honor my god meant my work would lose all its sincerity and become a menial task.

I’ve often heard people relate forming patron relationships with deities like dating, and it seems like a pretty accurate metaphor. There’s the honeymoon phase, where everything you do is with your patron in mind, every breath you take becomes a whisper of love and thanks. Then you slowly start to peel away the romanticized view of your patron and relationship, and realize that like any relationship, this will take work from both ends.

The ‘honeymoon’ phase of my patronage lasted quite a while—two or three years, I would say. Within those years, I didn’t have to strain to hear or feel my patron—I knew he was there. It was like stepping outside and being aware of everything—the warmth of sunlight hitting your bare skin, the breeze playing with your hair, the smell of rain. I didn’t have to go looking for our connection, it was just always there.

This sensitivity to my patron made it easier to connect with him, and to break out into spontaneous devotional multiple times a day. It was something that came as naturally as breathing.

But now that I’m past that phase, now that I don’t sense him as easily anymore, I realize that I’ve been relying on him to instigate my devotionals. I was in need of constant reminders of his presence to acknowledge him, however easy it might have been.

Now I can go days, weeks even, without having that awareness of his presence. It’s getting harder and harder to be sincere in my work, and occasionally I forget why I do it. When I doubt myself or when I doubt Him, it’s a struggle to sing like I used to, or even just bask in his warmth. I know he’s still here, but it shouldn’t be his sole responsibility to tap into our connection. For so long, I relied on him to be the spark of inspiration necessary for my devotionals, that I forgot my role in our relationship. I can just as easily reach out to him, instead of waiting for him to reach out to me—I just refused to, be it because of my lack of faith, or my skepticism, or my lingering doubts.

And that, I see now, is where daily or ritualized devotionals come into play. While it may not be as heartfelt as spontaneous devotionals, it too serves its own purpose—and in my case, that purpose is to remind me of my patronage.

It is to remind me of the work I’ve done, the obstacles I’ve overcome, the experiences I’ve had, and the love I’ve felt. It’s a reminder of how far I’ve come, both as a person, and as a devotee.

And, I think He appreciates this just as much as spontaneous devotionals, if not more. With spontaneous devotionals, they’re usually always in the form of praise, honor, and thanks-giving. Because he sees us as equals, this doesn’t always jive well with him. I think he tolerates it because it is what I grew up with, and is all I’ve ever known in terms of how to honor one’s god. That being said, he has broken me out habits that he sees as totally unacceptable, such as kneeling while praying.  Even thanking him too often or for little things has gotten me scolded before, so I’ve learned to restrain myself.

Like I said, it requires work from both ends of the relationship.

I hear people talk about how they have multiple patrons/work with multiple deities…

And I cringe.

Personally, I think it’s hard enough just being devoted to one. I can’t even imagine what I would do if I had multiple patrons…have a meltdown, probably. Maybe it’s just because my devotion to Lucifer is so overwhelming, but my work with Sarasvati has reached a standstill. I feel like I’ve disappointed her, in my unwillingness to divide my attention equally between the two.

Barring the financial and time constrictions that don’t allow me to honor her fully and properly, as in puja rituals, I can’t find it within myself to connect with her as deeply as I do Lucifer. And while that was more or less expected (neither she nor I showed any interest in developing a patron relationship with one another), I find my devotionals to her becoming less and less sincere, and almost reaching the point where they are chores.

I’m grateful that the deities I’ve worked with thus far (Lucifer and Sarasvati), have been so patient and gentle with me (well…to a point). If I had been called instead by a more, er…forceful deity, like Odin or the Morrigan, I honestly don’t know what I would have done. I probably would have been too cowed to do anything other than accept.

At least Lucifer gave me the option—one which I accepted far too quickly, looking back on it now. When I was barely getting into paganism, I was way too eager to form a patron relationship. I thought it would be so cool to work with a deity, and have them be integrated into my life. Knowing what I know now…well, I’m rather conflicted as to whether I would warn or urge my younger self concerning my patronage.

Six months was not a sufficient amount of time to base a decision like this off of. Yes, I trusted Lucifer by the time I accepted his offer, and I knew that our patronage would be a long-term relationship, but I didn’t realize the weight of such an oath. Not that I regret my decision, no. I just think I should have read all the fine print, so to speak.

A note to those looking into using dance as a devotional activity

As someone who does this regularly, I didn’t realize how intense an offering this could be until today. Usually, I devote my dancing to Sarasvati. I’ll acknowledge her during stretches, offering up the energy and strength and pain that will be raised during practice. Every tensed muscle, every breathe of air, I offer to her.
But today, my devotional took a life of its own.
I had had an awful day—I was feeling worn down and depressed, and I just wanted dance to be an outlet. I began class as usual, acknowledging Sarasvati, but out of nowhere, Lucifer butted in.
Today’s dance was not an offering. It was a release.
I danced my pain and frustration. I danced his sorrow and heartache. I danced our fall from grace, our grief, our hope.
It was all I could do to keep from breaking down in the middle of class, but it was worth it. It was cathartic, and everything I needed.

Difficult Questions

I think the hardest thing about being one of Lucifer’s own is the fact that he encourages doubt and skepticism, he encourages challenging one’s own beliefs.
Its hard enough having my own subconscious nag at me about whether or not I’m making him up, but also having him watch my inner turmoil and asking even more difficult questions?
I guess that’s why it took me so long to get rid of the agnostic title. Deep down, at the core of my beliefs, I think I’ll always be agnostic—always toeing the line between faith and doubt. For the most part, I’ve learned to accept that, and simply choose to believe despite my uncertainty.
But then, he starts asking me even more difficult questions—questions I don’t want to think about, questions that have the ability to destroy the system of belief that I have built for myself.
Questions that can tear apart my relationship with him.
And so I’m forced to face up to these fears and doubts, forced to question his intentions, and forced to ask myself why I do his Work.
I’m forced to question my devotion to him.
I’m waiting for the day where these questions will not strengthen my faith, but bring it crumbling down.
And I think he is too.
But for now, I accept this skepticism and doubt as another part of my Work, another tool for personal and spiritual growth.

Another Side of Lucifer

Frequently I see devotees of darkly aspected deities try to convert them into something they’re not. Most often this occurs with goddesses such as the Morrigan, Hekate, and Kali. They are painted over as being only love and light, with their true natures hidden away as though they are something to be ashamed or afraid of.

My own patron is equal parts light and dark. I realize that I tend to focus on his Lightbearer and Morningstar aspects, but this is because that is the side of him that I am most familiar with. There are, however, other sides to him that I have had to come to terms with—ones which aren’t the most pleasant.

Lucifer led a rebellion. This doesn’t mean he stood on the sidelines and watched, he actively participated in a war. He took lives. He caused death and suffering. He butchered those who he had once considered brothers, family.

There’s a quote from the movie The Prophecy I tend to refer back to whenever I am faced with this reality: “Did you ever notice how in the Bible, when ever God needed to punish someone, or make an example, or whenever God needed a killing, he sent an angel? Did you ever wonder what a creature like that must be like? A whole existence spent praising your God, but always with one wing dipped in blood. Would you ever really want to see an angel?”

Even before his rebellion, Lucifer had blood on his hands.

I once asked him if he was sorry he murdered his brothers. If he was sorry he caused such strife and grief.

His response? It needed to be done. His rebellion wasn’t pleasant at all, but it was necessary. He was sorry it reached the point where he had to kill, but there was no other way.

I often speak of the joy he has brought me, the passion for life he has stirred within me. But it hasn’t come without a price. Those same hard truths have affected me—I have had to leave and hurt those I love the most, those that were holding me back, for my independence. Not only have others been hurt, but myself as well—I have had those dear to me forcefully ripped from my life, because that relationship was stunting my personal growth—I was using them as a crutch, a lifeline, when I was perfectly able to stand on my own two feet.

His warrior aspect, the shadow cast by his Light, the part of him with blood on his hands and guilty of slaughter, is still Him. But this isn’t an aspect of his which was in the past, and never to resurface. He never stopped leading the rebellion, even after his fall. There are still necessary, painful truths that need to be dealt with.

It isn’t something to be tucked away or whispered about in hushed voices, I won’t even shy away from sharing this, despite the knowledge that this information will likely be a step backward for my Work. I know that many will equate this with the same darkness that is attributed to the Christian ‘Devil’.

So why do I try so fervently to separate the two? Because darkness is not the same as evil. He doesn’t enjoy causing pain, he doesn’t rejoice in the suffering of others. Similarly, the Morrigan, Hekate, and Kali don’t cause pain and destruction for suffering’s sake, but so that they can build anew and strengthen what were once weak foundations. So what if they’re not benevolent, motherly deities? Sometimes you don’t need a mother to kiss your hurts, you just need someone to rip away the bandaid so that you can heal properly.