Fit to Worship

Trigger warning: fatphobia, ableism, mention of disordered eating, suicide

So recently there was a question on TC regarding whether or not we have a religious duty to take care of our bodies.

I refrained answering, and for a while even refrained reading the thread. Threads like that have a tendency to fall into fatphobia, fat-shaming, ableism…it’s pretty gross. And very common, and I wanted nothing to do with it.

But then I got bored, I guess, and I read it, and then I had to respond to someone, because again, the belief that if one is to follow a war goddess one must be ‘fit’ had reared its ugly head. The poster did apologize, for what it’s worth, but I still want to tackle this idea, because I’ve seen it before, and I’m sure I’ll see it again.

The belief that one must be physically fit, whatever that means, to worship or follow or venerate or work with a deity usually associated with war is…lazy thinking, at best. And it comes out of a larger idea in paganism — the idea that as pagans, we should take care of our bodies, because we’re all about immanence instead of transcendence (apparently), and ‘most’ pagan faiths do not concentrate on the afterlife so we’re beholden to treating our bodies well in this life.

I’m all for treating bodies well. It’s one of the ways Morrigan has me work on my sovereignty. 

Wait. You mean...I'm FAT? NO WAY. I HAD NO IDEA.
Wait. You mean…I’m FAT? NO WAY. I HAD NO IDEA.

The problem is, what ‘treating my body well’ means to me is apparently different from what it means to fat-shaming, ableist pagans. They only see what they want to see, and what they want to see is a fat, lazy bitch who sits around eating Cheetos all day and therefore chooses to be obese (yes, because there are so many benefits to being fat, let me tell you, it’s just lovely spending every day fighting against a world that wants me to kill myself because of my size, this is obviously why I chose to be obese). They state this opinion, loudly, because part of thin privilege is believing you must be heard on the issue of obesity — those fatsos obviously don’t realize what bad choices they’re making! You must help them!

This then backs fat bitches like myself into a corner: we feel the need to explain what our lifestyle is really like so that people will stop judging us so much, when really — it’s none of their fucking business.

And then you get people saying “Well if you really worshipped this god or that god, then you wouldn’t be fat,” or “You should be in shape if you want to follow this deity,” or “If you truly believe that your body is a temple, why are you so fat?”

This is even harder to ignore than the general “EWWW OMG FAT PAGANS” bullshit that gets spouted, because now they’re pulling into question our faith, or practice. As if being fat changed how we feel about the gods. As if it changed the work we do for Them. As if it changes anything about our religions.

There is nothing in my religion that states I must be skinny. There is nothing in my faith that says I am unfit to worship the gods so long as I am fat and crippled.

Here’s the thing: the gods will tell me if I am unfit to follow Them. They will let me know. And so far, it’s been a lot of “Hey, can you do this thing for me? Because I said so, that’s why. Hop to it,” from m’Lady the Morrigan. A lot of “BURNING MISSIVE: WRITE NOW” from Brighid (in the form of fiery headaches that become migraines if I don’t write). A lot of “It’s okay, sweetie. Come on, give me a hug” from Manannan.

If I wasn’t worthy, They wouldn’t have come to me. If I was slim, and They left me because I got fat, then They wouldn’t be gods worth worshipping.

The gods do not give a shit what I look like. They do not care that I have a broken back. So long as I can do Their work, They will direct me. So long as I am ready and willing to accept the challenges They give, They will stay. So long as I am faithful to Their causes, They will give me the strength necessary to fight Their battles.

And no, those battles are not all physical. Following a ‘war goddess’ does not mean I actually need to be a martial arts master who can bench press an elephant. (Also, yay, let’s continue to reduce deities down to one characteristic, because obviously They’re one-dimensional. That’s so awesome. We should do it all the time.)

So let’s get back to the original question, shall we? Do I have a religious duty to take care of my body? 

Yes. It’s the only body I have this life, and I need it to do the gods’ work. Therefore, I need to take care of it.

It’s my body. Taking care of it reclaims my sovereignty. 

My body is how I commune with divinity. My body is an expression of divinity. Therefore, I must take care of it.

What does taking care of my body look like? 

Eating enough so I’m not hungry. Avoiding eating behaviors that will make me relapse into my eating disorders. Eating good, healthy food as often as I can. Not punishing myself if I eat Nutella for dinner. Allowing myself to make my own food choices, and not letting other peoples’ behavior, words, or looks of disdain govern what I put into my body.

Finding ways of exercising that don’t hurt my back. Not overdoing it. Working up gradually, instead of letting guilt berate me into killing myself at the gym so I’m unable to do anything else for a week. Going to physio to fix my back. Admitting when I need help, and asking for it. Knowing my limitations.

Taking my Zoloft every day. Keeping my house clean. Showering and bathing. Brushing my hair. Having good sex. Using birth control, because pregnancy would be a really bad idea with my back so bad. Sleeping enough. Concentrating on my breathing. Singing. Swimming. Finding ways to ease my pain. Drinking alcohol in moderation. Not relapsing into smoking again.

Being out in nature. Wearing the right shoes. Wearing clothes that are comfortable, and fit, and that I feel good in, and no I don’t give a fuck if you think fat people shouldn’t wear sweatpants, or leggings under sweaters — I’m going to if I want to.

None of this stuff has anything to do with being slim, or losing weight. Because striving to lose weight does not take care of my body, or my mind. And it’s not necessary to honor my gods. 

Fitness is a process, and it’s more than just physical. So long as I am willing to do The Work, then I am fit to worship. 

Side note: I’ve been AWOL for a little while because I’m working on moving a bunch of my sites to WordPress.org instead of WordPress.com…and there is one hel of a learning curve. For the time being Innocence and Immanence will continue to be on WordPress.com, but you can see the new Maenads of the (R)Evolution site here. Please update your bookmarks accordingly. 

12 Comments


  1. As a person who is overweight and constantly hears shit from her family over her weight and eating habits (mainly because they’re insecure about their own weight and eating habits and think they’re helping me somehow) I greatly enjoyed this post. My weight and self-image is something I work with every day (yay depression and anxiety!) and remembering that my boyfriend, my friends, and my gods love me for exactly who I am is important. Your post is a great reminder of that.

    Reply

    1. I’m glad you found my post helpful. :) It can be really hard dealing with all this crap just on a daily basis, and I get really tired of seeing fatphobic, ableist attitudes in pagandom.

      Reply

      1. it’s shit dealing with ableist attitudes as an asthmatic >.> I had a doctor in high school who I despised because she constantly insisted there was no excuse for me being obese and not exercising. Why? Because her other asthma patients were athletes and the pair of sixteen stair flights between each floor in my school and the constant up and down wasn’t actually exercise. Yeah, still sore over that, especially because my mom does it too >.>

        Reply

  2. You are so inspiriing, Morag. Really. I love this. :)

    Reply

  3. One of the things that peeved me most about that thread (even before the post you mention), and one of the things that peeved me most about Pagandom’s Big Fat Fail (and indeed, a thing that has peeved me since long before that), was how many people’s sense of what “immanence” means – whether they use that word, or simply make reference to the concept (as I think may have been the case in the TC thread) – is undermined by taking as axiomatic that “we… are spiritual beings having a human experience.” (Probably New Age influences, but in fact the originator of the quote was a Jesuit.)

    As in, f’rinstance, that tired old metaphor (and this did come up explicitly in the TC thread) about taking care of your vehicle. Yeah, no. This body is not the car my spirit drives around in; this body is tautologically what my embodied experience depends on; it is effectively me. To treat my embodied self as if its physicality was an imperfect earthly reflection of the Platonic form “human body”, all instances of which require exactly the same Platonic ideal of body care, and all instances of which should be made to conform as closely as possible to that perfect Platonic form… FUCK NO.

    It is what it is, a perfect instance of Sunflower’s body because it is the only instance of Sunflower’s body, and I will love it and care for it – for my self – based on what I have learned from experience (and continue to learn because bodies aren’t static) are my actual, living, embodied, unique, individual needs. And that includes my neurological wiring and my neurochemistry.

    Sunflower

    Reply

    1. … is undermined by taking as axiomatic that “we… are spiritual beings having a human experience.” (Probably New Age influences, but in fact the originator of the quote was a Jesuit.)

      Yeah. And that drives me nuts, because that saying is sort of at the root of my own personal immanence beliefs — but I don’t take it to mean that the spiritual is disconnected from the physical. The whole point of being a spiritual being having a human experience is to have a human experience. In a human body.

      and I hate Wayne Dyer, to whom that quote is most often attributed. Dude is a douchebag. I know, cause I’ve met him.

      Anyway.

      It is what it is, a perfect instance of Sunflower’s body because it is the only instance of Sunflower’s body, and I will love it and care for it – for my self – based on what I have learned from experience (and continue to learn because bodies aren’t static) are my actual, living, embodied, unique, individual needs. And that includes my neurological wiring and my neurochemistry.

      Yes. This.

      I <3 you.

      Reply

  4. “The whole point of being a spiritual being having a human experience is to have a human experience. In a human body. “

    That would be the bit I forgot to include when I was manifesto-ing:-).

    “and I hate Wayne Dyer, to whom that quote is most often attributed.”

    Nope – it’s originally Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. (May I commend to you the superior search functionality of DuckDuckGo? This is an excellent example of why I love it; I get solider results as a rule – though the reason I started using it in the first place is because I don’t care to be followed around on the ‘Net, the better to try to [sell me stuff] [sell my eyes to advertisers], as a certain purportedly-non-evil 800-lb gorilla of a search engine is wont to do.)

    Sunflower

    Reply

    1. Oh, I know whom the quote is originally by. ;) I just really hate that people attribute it to Wayne Dyer all the time and he doesn’t correct them — part of all the newage stench that surrounds it, is what I meant. Sorry! I wasn’t clear.

      I shall take your suggestion of DuckDuckGo and add it to my search engine arsenal. I am finding that that unnameable giant is giving me less expansive results as time goes on — which sometimes is appreciated, because I’m just trying to find something that I’ve been to before, and it leaps up and says “Was THIS what you were looking for?” — but more often annoying, because I can’t find something new.

      Reply


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