Why You Might Want to Do Deity Work
Before I even say anything about the how to let’s start talking about the why. Why would you want to do deity work? This is a totally legit question, especially in a culture where deity work is not what most people are involved with. But maybe that is exactly the reason why you want to do it. You could be looking for something out of the ordinary. Perhaps you are looking for something that will help you feel closer to your ancestral bloodline. It could even be sheer curiosity driving you to find out how their faith looked and felt.
Those who go into deity work to learn more about their bloodline and the past, typically take a more deconstructionist approach and any attested source materials are very important to them. They often look for the equivalent of a Bible for their own faith. The problem is that for many Old Paths, there are very few attested written sources.
You might also feel like reaching out to a deity because you need a hand with something you are working with and you want an inner planes teacher to guide you. Or you could have been contacted by a deity directly. This could happen either in your dreams, during meditation, or seemingly out of the blue while totally awake. Granted, it is quite rare to be contacted directly by a deity. However, it’s perhaps not as rare as we might think. People are often reluctant to divulge such encounters out of fear of ridicule.
Finally, you could just happen to be reading/hearing about a deity and feel a pull or ping from within, sensing a connection. That’s not strange or out of the ordinary. Words and stories have that power!
My First ‘Ping’ from a Deity
At the tender age of 8, I felt the first ‘ping’ from a deity. It was from none other than Persephone. I had fallen in love with the Greek Myths during the long summer holiday I spent at my grandparents’ that year. There was a daily radio show for children that my younger sister and I used to listen to. The myths were perfectly dramatised (to my 8-year-old mind) and I was swept away into the world of Greek Gods and heroes.
Though the ping was strong enough to evoke all sorts of emotional responses within me, I didn’t start worshipping Persephone and she didn’t appear to me outside the radio show. But Persephone stayed with me, in my heart. I believe my encounter with her was responsible for much of my creativity well into my teens. My encounter with Persephone at such an early age also made it easy to learn about archetypes and symbology later on. In some ways, she became my inner planes teacher through pure inspiration rather than verbal communication.
My Encounter with Nephthys
One of the first deities I started working with more than ten years ago was Nephthys. She appeared out of the blue while I was sitting on my bed. I might have been in a light trance since I was meditating. All of a sudden, I hear a peal of beautiful, bell-like ringing laughter to my left.
I ask this woman who she is (the voice was quite clearly female) and she answers what to my Swedish ears sounds like ‘Neftis.’ I had never heard that name before so had to Google it to learn more. Before she left me there in my bedroom, she did tell me that she was a helper and a midwife.
What was quite peculiar about Nephthys showing up was that I had never really had a strong pull toward Kemetic religion or anything Egyptian. Hence my ignorance about who she was, though I had of course heard about Isis, her more famous sister.
But as soon as I realised who she was, it made sense why she had shown up in my life. I had recently lost a baby to T18. Knowing that Spirit was looking out for me through this beautiful Goddess helped me immensely at the time.
Searching for My Roots
In the autumn of last year, I started feeling a strong pull to work with my ancestral spirits. This felt important in terms of healing my root chakra. The connection to the ancestral realm can really help us feel that we belong. As soon as the connection is made, a tremendous source of comfort and guidance becomes available to us. We feel more supported and grounded.
This in turn led me to start researching the faith and beliefs of my Norse Ancestors. At Samhain, I dedicated the year ahead to learning as much as I possibly could under the tutelage of Odin. At this point, I’m working actively with both Odin and Freyja. The other Norse deities remain schtum for now. Working with a deity is ideal when you want to take an integrated path and dive deep into the faith you are researching.
The reason for this is that so much source material is missing for most Old Paths. And what has been handed down to us has often been tainted by Christian writers, seeking to put their own spin on the old myths and sagas. Working directly with deities can help us fill in the gaps as well as go deeper, beyond the often bastardised stories handed down to us.
With or Without Magick
Another important point to make before we dive into the ‘how to’ is to say that you do not have to involve deity work in your magic(k)al practice. Nor do you have to practice magic/magick just because you work with deities. You could work with them exclusively as inner planes teachers. Or you could just simply worship them and bask in their presence.
The Mystery of the Gods
What we have to understand is that the gods are mysteries greater than we can comprehend. I mean, how could we when we can’t comprehend the mystery of our own soul and spirit? We don’t have to know what the gods are to work with them. People who think they have the gods pinned down through an intellectual understanding often have only begun to scratch the surface. What’s worse is that they sometimes become dogmatic and seek to get others to follow their theology and ritual practice.
One of the best Gods to work with to avoid falling into the trap of dogma is Odin. His trickster nature won’t let you! Just when you think you know him, he reveals yet another facet of his being. He also gets you to do a lot of work to get the results you want. And during each step of that journey, he makes sure you go a bit deeper. This is one of the many reasons why I have fallen so head over heels in love with Odin. When I wrote this article about Odin only a couple of months ago, I didn’t know half of what I know now about him today, and I quite happily admit that I have not reached any great depths yet… but I can’t wait to keep diving deeper!
UPG vs Attested Sources
While some shun Unverifiable Personal Gnosis (UPG), we have to realise that this is pretty much all we have. When you walk a path of faith, you can’t rely on scientific methods. What becomes communal property, in the end, is just UPG that many people have experienced and agreed upon.
Some of your UPGs will be shared property and there is usually great delight in finding this out. Some of it you will find after the fact in attested sources and some of it will be through talking to people on a similar path.
UPG that can be verified through online research after the fact, such as my experience with Nephthys, should (at least in your own mind) be filed away as verified. Keep a journal of all your encounters, signs, and communications!
How to Begin with Deity Work
So now that we have cleared up some common conundrums about the why as well as how to choose which deity to work with (as well as how they might choose you), let’s jump into how to actually begin doing it. To start with, keep it simple. Keep your heart reverent as if you are approaching a great mystery. Because that is what you are doing.
Essentially, the deities are our star ancestors as well as future more evolved versions of ourselves. But they are also so much more. Allow yourself to be an absolute beginner. Stay humble and be prepared to do actual WORK.
Research and Asking for a Sign
First of all, you should learn as much as possible about your chosen deity (or the deity that chose you) through reading about them. You can also learn from YouTube videos etc but please be aware that a lot of what is presented online is of poor quality. However, there are wonderful YouTube resources by Historians, Linguists, and Archeologists out there too. I also find that personal accounts of experiences with deities can be valuable–especially when they give me that, ‘OMG, me too!’ feeling.
If you have chosen to ask with a deity but you are not sure if they want to work with you, you can ask them for a sign. Typically, the sign will relate to the myths and symbology around them. So for Odin, you could expect a sign of crows or ravens and for Freyja, a falcon or cats etc. The sign needs to be something out of the ordinary. So seeing your neighbour’s cat cross the street won’t count, whereas seeing two cats on a forest path where you have never seen one before would count.
If no sign is forthcoming after you asked for one, simply turn to another deity. Not all gods and goddesses will want to work with you but if you are sincere, one will most likely ‘ping’ you.
Setting Up an Altar
Doing deity work is greatly facilitated by setting up an altar. You do not need one but it helps give you a focal point for a daily practice. This will also become a space where you can begin building energy that makes making contact easier and easier with time. I start each day by lighting a candle and greeting Freyja. It is a very simple practice that only takes a minute but it helps me stay connected to her energy throughout the day.
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Don’t worry if you don’t have a lot of stuff on your altar when you first start out and don’t allow anybody else to dictate what to put on your altar. Allow your intuition to guide you. More stuff can actually mean more clutter and, as we all know, clutter can make it difficult to focus. If you live in a home environment where setting up an altar could get you into trouble, try finding a place outdoors that calls to you. You could even ask a tree to act as the altar/focal point for your chosen deity.
Your main altarpiece on an altar dedicated to working with a deity should be some kind of representation of that deity. It doesn’t have to be a statue if you don’t have the money to fork out on one. For instance, for Odin, I currently use a hag stone I found on the beach in the shape of an eye.
Giving Offerings and Feast Days
You can use your altar to leave offerings. This is something our Pagan ancestors did because they knew that deity work involves a reciprocal give-and-take relationship. You will need to research what offerings your chosen deity might like. However, if little or nothing is known about this, you can ask them directly. It is also possible that they just want what you would offer any cherished guest in your home.
Almost all known deities have a station in the Wheel of the Year that was used by our Pagan ancestors to honour them. In later times, these feast days were often overlaid with Christian equivalents to quickly kill off as many Pagan practices as possible. However, many of the Christian feast days are still just very thinly veiled Pagan Holydays. Celebrating the known feast days in honour of your chosen deity can help you feel connected to your ancestors as well as your deities.
Allow Your Practice to Evolve Organically
It is totally up to you if wish to say prayers from a book or use your own informal words when you approach your deity at the altar or in prayer/meditation. What matters more is that you learn to listen. Without listening, you are not likely to progress much.
Interestingly, the practice of just talking at your deity is something Yeshua points out as non-productive in the New Testament when he says, “And praying, do not use vain repetitions like the pagans, for they think that in their many words they will be heard.”
Please understand that not all pagans prayed like this. In all forms of religion, you have an exoteric version and an esoteric version. That’s not to say there is anything wrong with the exoteric version but it is merely the starting point.
So to allow your practice to grow, make sure to meditate daily and learn to connect with your deity through journeying or trance work. My first proper connection with Odin, for instance, came during a shamanic journey.
When you realise how very real the deities are and how much they are willing to help us when we turn to them with respect, love, and reverence, it may be tempting to seek out more of them to work with. However, deity work takes a lot of time and energy if you wish to do it properly. This is why I sincerely recommend sticking to one or two deities.
Ideally, these deities should be from the same Pantheon, to begin with. Not because they are necessarily jealous and don’t get along (that’s a very human projection on entities that have evolved beyond jealousy) but because keeping your own energy focused in the same ballpark will help you stay grounded so that you can get more actual work done.
Again, I’m not going to shy away from the point that deity work is actual WORK. You have to be willing to do it but you also have to make sure you don’t burn yourself out doing it.
The Devoted Heart
Every single one of us is different and we each have unique gifts. Some of us are more likely to be inclined to actual worship of the deities. A worship practice demands a devoted heart. So allow yourself to fall in love with your deity. Nurture the warm feelings that you have for them by fanning the flames with impromptu poetry, singing or dancing in their honour. If you can gather with other devotees, then by all means do so. Group worship is extremely powerful and will allow you to embody more of the grace of your chosen God or Goddess.
The Atheist Approach
In stark contrast to the worshipful devotee, we have atheists/agnostics who sometimes also choose to work with deities for their magickal workings. They tend to view the deities as energy currents that they can tap. Atheists also sometimes do group workings where they invoke deities because they know that they can generate more power for their desired outcome that way.
It’s All About Relationship
If it’s true what they say that you turn into the average of your five closest friends, why wouldn’t you want at least one of them to be a God or a Goddess? In the end, deity work is all about establishing a loving relationship and allowing that relationship to nurture and shape your life.