Over the last couple generations our society has become obsessed with non-commitment. Businesses offer money-back guarantees and easy returns, even without a receipt in many cases. Don’t like your pet? Bring them to a pet shelter. Your church pushing your comfort level too much? Don’t worry, just change to another church, or even religion. No harm, no foul. We are sold on the idea of infinite choices, with the safety of being able to back out of nearly every decision we make.
The problem is this leads to a society that is unable to commit to anything serious, so everything becomes trivial and amusing. More and more couples are deciding to not have children, simply because they don’t want to commit their next score to raising them. Many couples are choosing to not even marry because they are afraid of the lifetime commitment to their partner. More people are afraid to take risk, since there is a point at which you are committed to the risky decision, regardless of the consequences.
I am a firm believer in commitment. I believe in marriage for life, regardless of the circumstances. Only the Gods can break a marriage bond, regardless of what lawyers may say. I believe in committing to children, whether they are your birth children or not, as they are gifts from the Gods. I believe in committing to a spiritual path and religion, especially when it becomes uncomfortable. Commitment is what strengthens the soul and gives it substance.
Commitment is part of the Great Mystery. By nature, you never really know what you’re committing to when you are at the point of making that all-changing decision. You can’t go back later and say, “I didn’t know that would happen!” or “I had no idea this is what I was getting myself into!” The Gods don’t care what you thought you were getting into. You were mistaken in your understanding, but that does not negate the commitment, nor the obligation.
In any solid religion or spiritual path, there is always a requirement to commit to that path, an initiation. Many Pagans see initiation as simply a membership card, like a fraternity or sorority hazing rite. It is what you get when you’ve been with the group for a year and a day. It means you are a full member, at least until you decide to quit showing up because you’ve come to dislike one of the other members. Or when a spirit attracts you to a different group. This is not initiation, not really.
True initiations are life-changing commitments. That is the test of initiation. Are you going to commit to that path for the rest of your current life (and possibly future lifetimes as well)? Everyone has initiations, and either passes them or fails them. If they fail, they are sometimes offered second chances, sometimes not. For example, when you are born, you are committing to the new lifetime. When you get married, you are committing to that marriage bond (though the bond might not be exclusive, depending on the nature of you and your spouse’s mutual commitment). When you have sex with someone, you are committing to a shared bond that will last the rest of your life (and possibly a child). When you offer yourself in service to a God, you are committing to focusing your life on furthering Their influence in the world.
All of this is scary, for you may end up with consequences that are completely not what you want. That is ok; everyone gets scared. That can be a healthy fear if you push yourself to explore it. Sometimes this is a warning to not start down that path. But you need to not let it stop you from making the commitments that are in accordance with your Will and your Great Work. If you let it stop you from that, your life will be wasted in triviality and at the end, you will have accomplished nothing of value.
If the commitment you’re being asked to make is in accordance with your Will, you must make that commitment, especially when you don’t know what will happen as a result. This is how the Gods help you along. You have heard that there is no such thing as a free lunch. Everything comes with a price. Gifts from the Gods also come with a price. That price is commitment to follow through completely to the end. Use the gift They provided to its fullest and not waste it on hedging your risk.
The biggest question you should have when confronted with a question of commitment is this: “Is it in accordance with my Will?” When you know the answer to that question, the choice of commitment is obvious, though it may not comfortable. If it is in accordance with your Will, you must commit and you must commit fully to the endeavor. Otherwise, you should not do it at all. Do not “try it out.”
Since the question of whether to make a commitment relies on knowing your True Will, you need to have that known. If you have not achieved that yet, then you need to discover it and commit to it. Here is an article on Discovering Your Will to get you started.
Let’s begin with a scripture reading from Hesiod:
Work! Work, and then Hunger will not be your companion,
while fair-wreathed and sublime Demeter
will favor you and fill your barn with her blessings.
Hunger and the idling man are bosom friends.
Both gods and mortals resent the lazy man,
a man no more ambitious than the stingless drones
that feed on the bees’ labor in wasteful sloth.
Let there be order and measure in your own work
until your barns are filled with the season’s harvest.
Riches and flocks of sheep go to those who work.
If you work, you will be dearer to immortals
and mortals; they both loathe the indolent.
No shame in work, but plenty of it in sloth.
If your work brings you wealth, you will be envied by the slothful,
because glory and excellence follow riches.
Whatever your lot, nothing will be as good as work,
if you take my advice and turn your foolish mind
away from the possessions of your fellow men
to labor in the service of what is your own.
Shame of the useless kind attends the poor,
and shame can either harm or profit men;
shame brings poverty while boldness leads to riches
–not stolen wealth, god-given is much better.
— Works and Days, 299-319 (tr. Apostolos N. Athanassakis)
There is a fear and a resistance to work in our society, including inside the Pagan community. Many believe that if they think positive thoughts, good things will just come to them on the power of their thoughts alone. Good things will come because you deserve it. Just think and grow rich.
Hesiod firmly stood in the “The Gods Help Those Who Help Themselves” camp. He even explicitly said this, when he said, “If you work, you will be dearer to immortals/and mortals; they both loathe the indolent.” This goes against the common belief today that poverty is a disease that is inflicted upon you by external forces, such as the Gods, completely out of your control. It is thought of as being similar to catching the flu or some other malaise. As a result, most people fall into the “Society Will Take Care of Me” camp, as they lack the faith to believe that the “Gods Will Provide.” Now, many people think of themselves as not being the recipient of social care, but they believe that if bad times come to them, society should take care of them. Note, when they say “society,” they mean “government.”
The problem with this thought is that there must be a way to pay for this care that “society” provides. It has to be directly provided by someone. If “society” is providing for your health care, then there needs to be a doctor or nurse in the room with you providing this care. This person needs to be paid to provide for their livelihood. Who pays for this? Today, the government generally does if you don’t have your own health insurance. In the near future in the US, the government will be paying, even if you have your own health insurance, through the new subsidies. But from where does the government get the money to do this? It generally comes from the “rich.” This is a particularly popular thought today, as most want to make the rich pay even more to the government, so it can in-turn be given to the poor to provide for them. Hesiod discusses this in the aforementioned passage. He said, “If your work brings you wealth, you will be envied by the slothful,/because glory and excellence follow riches.”
So does that mean that we are all to be selfish and ignore those who are in need, and deserve aid? What are we to do with our wealth? How should we be helped when we fall upon hard times ourselves, if not through “society” (i.e. the government)?
Hesiod addresses this too:
In proportion to your means, offer the gods sacrifices
that are pure and unblemished, and burn choice thighs for them.
At other times seek their favor with burnings and libations
when you go to sleep and when the holy light looms on the horizon
Invite your friends to dinner and leave your enemies out
and remember that neighbors come first.
If misfortune strikes your house, neighbors will come
in their bedclothes; kinsmen will dress up.
Neighbors should measure well, and you must give back
no less than you take, and even more if you can,
that you may find enough when you are in need again.
— Works and Days, 336-350 (tr. Apostolos N. Athanassakis)
Through this, Hesiod says that we should work to help ourselves and gather wealth so we may not starve, but we also need to help others as well. This is voluntary charity; directly giving aid and succor to your neighbors in need instead of assuming that “society” will do this for you. If you give to those who are in need, and offer regular sacrifices to the Gods, then they will help you in your times of need.
Let’s relate this back to the three camps I mentioned at the beginning. Through Hesiod’s wisdom, we learn that all three actually combine into one cohesive thought, if we think about them through his words.
- The Gods Will Provide as They Will. Hesiod says to change this idea, as we know we can influence this through regular offerings and sacrifices. Offer the first, choice, portion of each meal to the Gods. Offer some milk or alcohol daily. Offer the burning of candles or incense regularly. All of these things are from the wealth you received through your work and Their grace.
- Society Will Take Care of Me. Hesiod says to change this thought to “My Neighbors and Friends Will Take Care of Me, as I Offer Care to Them.” Your neighbors and friends know you best and will be there for you when you are in need, provided you offer them aid as well. Giving, not just money but time and other resources too, is a much more loving, personal and reliable way to help others in need than relying on the government coercing others to do it for you. The goodwill you generate will pay you back later when you’re in need and your friends and neighbors help you out as you did them.
- The Gods Help Those Who Help Themselves. This is Hesiod’s main point in Works and Days. You need to work hard for what you want, save for what you may need later in hard times, offer some to the Gods in thanks, and offer as you can to others in need.
These are the things we can all work on improving in our lives today and everyday. Work hard to build up your own wealth so you will not later hunger. Give to others who deserve your help and are in need of it. If you don’t have enough, work hard to get more. If you do have enough, work hard to give more to others. And regardless of whether you feel you have enough or not, give tangible sacrifice to the Gods.
Over the years, I’ve struggled with the ideas of destiny and fate and their relationship to will. If you have free will, and the moral obligation to follow on your free will as I believe, then how could your fate be predetermined? How could you have a destiny set out for you? The two seemed very much at odds with each other.
I’ve been rather quiet on my blog lately, as I was going through an initiation that taught me about destiny. I spoke with Demeter at one point, and she gave a key that I can share with you
Basically, destiny is a thread of one’s existence. It is a primary theme that keeps appearing across your lifetimes, through multiple reincarnations. It is normally tightly related to your Great Work, unless you go through the process of changing your Great Work. Changing your destiny is much more difficult than changing your Great Work, and it is best if the two are aligned and you are aware of both.
I’ll use myself and my wife, Solongo, as examples. My destiny is that of the Father. Her destiny is that of the Mother. As a result, we are blessed with five children, and the Gods say that we will be blessed with more. They did not say we would be blessed with more if we choose to create them biologically. If we didn’t give birth to more children, they would come under our roof in other ways. Maybe they would come through the foster care system or adoption. Or they could come by being friends with our biological children, and simply stay for extended times. They might come as neighborhood children who visit often. We naturally attract children wherever we go, to the point that occasionally, when we leave an area, there are more children coming with us than we brought. Parenting is our destiny, and when we look back to past lifetimes, we see lots of children of many forms in them.
If we resisted this destiny and worked to avoid children in our home, it would cause a lot of discord in our lives. They would still be drawn to us, and we would be generating a lot of negative energy in pushing them away. Since both my wife and I are destined to be the Mother and Father, we would definitely experience birth control failure if we used it too much, for example.
I didn’t need to know that raising children was my destiny to start living in accordance with it. It was something that always attracted me. Since I was young, I felt and dreamed about having many children. When I met my wife we talked about wanting to have children, even before we knew it would be with each other. When we got married, we knew we wanted five children, to the point of taking an oath with the Gods to have five children for Them.
When our fifth child was born, we thought we needed to stop having them. We fulfilled our promise to the Gods, and our Humanist society puts incredible pressure to not have more children. We were told by people all around us what a burden it would be if we weren’t “responsible” and stopped having them. They cost so much money, we were told, and they wouldn’t get enough individual attention.
We struggled with deciding on the type of birth control to use after our fifth. We felt that it should be a long-term form since we weren’t planning to have any more kids. But we had negative feelings about surgical birth control. My wife was adamant about not getting a tubal ligation. I was uncomfortable with getting a vasectomy, and she was against it as well. We ended up deciding on the Mirena IUD. Long-term, few minor side effects, and reversible if we changed our minds (which we were sure we would not do).
The problem is that after about a year and a half of having the IUD, Solongo had problems with chronic low energy, back pain, irregular periods, bladder sensitivity issues, heart palpitations, and other ailments. After doing some research and reading about other women’s experiences, she found this was not uncommon with IUDs, though it is not talked about in the medical literature. The more we read, the more we found women whose experience with their IUD was more problematic than what the available official literature implied. I didn’t care for it either, since I didn’t think it felt good to get poked by the plastic strings when we had sex. We decided it needed to be removed so she wouldn’t continue to suffer. Her body’s rejection of the IUD, along with the opening of our hearts and listening to our intuition, led us to learning our destiny.
We talked about what type of birth control to use instead of an IUD and spent a lot of time and energy worrying about it. One night, Demeter came to me and showed me a home full of children. I learned that no matter what we do, we will have more children in our home, possibly until we are very old. They included our children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, and even some foster children. We decided to open our hearts to our destiny, more than we previously did, now that we knew what it was. As a result, we decided to not use any birth control anymore and simply let the Gods decide how many children we would be blessed with.
It was very liberating and joyful, as it lifted a big weight from our shoulders. Raising children is not easy or always fun, but we’ve learned how it is more important to follow one’s destiny than it is to have fun. Life is more meaningful that way, and we both agree that meaning in life is much more important than amusement and ease.
I find it strange, and somewhat sad in a way, that because of our brood and our belief that children are blessings from the Gods to be welcomed with open arms and hearts, we are in many ways closer in line with fundamentalist Christians than we would like to think. We find that we relate more to “quiverful” and Mormon families than most Pagans, except for the fact that our theological beliefs are extremely Pagan, and quite incompatible with fundamentalist Christianity.
Demeter said that our destiny is to have and raise children. When She said this, it shed a great light on our Great Works and gave them depth and dimension that was not previously apparent. Solongo and I gave Her our word that we would welcome all of Her blessings into our home, and raise them to know the Gods. Because we believe in everyone having their own will, we could not promise that our children would worship our Gods on their own or follow Them, because that is not something we can (or should) control. But we can promise that they would know the Gods.
As our family has grown and developed, I’ve seen the beauty and camaraderie between large Pagan families that we’ve met. Now that we’ve learned to embrace our destiny of being a Pagan portal for children, a new dimension is added. My belief is that the Pagan community will grow and strengthen significantly through other families with similar beliefs, who openly welcome and embrace all children the Gods bless them with, regardless of whether the blessings arrive through giving birth, adopting, fostering, or any other means. Children are the future of any religion or movement, and if it does not have children and raise them to know its Gods and beliefs, then it will die as the believers move on to the Underworld.
I understand that different people have different destinies, which are revealed to them in different ways. I pray that you learn about yours, if you haven’t already. If you do know your destiny, I pray the Gods give you the strength to keep your heart and your mind open to allow it to flow through you, as you act in accordance with your True Will, toward the completion of your Great Work.
So mote it be.
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