Sacred Kink 101: On being a Godslave

A BDSM-style collar that buckles in the back. ...
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So, there’s this term — Godslave — for what I am. And a lot of people have problems with that term, and even the concept behind that term, to the point where they use rather hurtful language to describe their problems with that term.

For the record, that hurtful language does actually hurt real people. Like me, and many other Godslaves (though I don’t intend to speak for any one else but myself in this post).

A big part of the squick surrounding the concept of Godslave is because of vast ignorance — which is understandable, seeing as there’s very little info out there on this topic. Many of us involved in Sacred Kink would like to be able to talk about this, but there are problems with that — for one, it’s not always easy to talk about this stuff, and for another, we get a lot of bad, trigger-y reactions from people who are not involved in Sacred Kink and who have never heard the term “Your kink is not my kink and that’s OK”.

It’s fine to be squicked by things, but it’s also nice if you actually know what you’re being squicked by, based on the words of the people who practice it and not assumptions based on ignorance.

This post (and others that will come in the future) is an attempt to show the internet what godslavery is not, what godslavery can be, and what my own personal godslavery is, in the hopes of dispelling some of the ignorance around the topic and opening some minds. So without further ado:

What Godslavery is not:

  • a breaking of will, spirit, or mind.
  • an inability to do anything without the permission of one’s Deity.
  • having every waking second taken up with thoughts of one’s Deity, or ways to please one’s Deity.
  • complete and utter submission to the point of having no thoughts of one’s own, no free will, or no independence (see first point).
  • actions done out of fear of punishment or hope for reward.
  • born out of being forced, coerced, or threatened.
  • have anything to do with the American slave trade, which was aberrant in its behaviour and is not the only yardstick in existence for the word slave. (Slavery has a long and complicated history; associating it only with one chapter in the history of humanity is extremely narrow-minded.)

What Godslavery can be:

  • Godslavery can be sexual.
  • It can also be non-sexual.
  • It can be a marriage (God-spouse — though it is important to note that not all god-spouse relationships are godslave relationships, or even have any d/s elements present in them).
  • It can be for life.
  • It can be a temporary contract (though I’ve never heard of this, I’m not ruling it out, because it’s totally within the realm of possibility).
  • It can be consensual. (This is actually a complicated bit of godslavery, which I’ll get into in a moment. In my experience, consent is not a strong enough word to describe the choice of becoming a godslave.)
  • It can be extremely difficult, painful, dangerous, and crazy-making.
  • It can be extremely joyous, wonderful, ecstatic, and bliss-inducing.
  • It can influence one’s romantic or sex life.
  • It can have absolutely no effect on one’s romantic or sex life.
  • It can grow organically — and probably does most of the time.
  • It can be dynamic.
  • It can have compromises, or sacrifices — things you give up — just like every other relationship.
  • It can be active (certain tasks one must fulfill on a regular basis).
  • It can be passive (an aspect of the relationship that just is, without conditions to be met).
  • It can switch between active and passive.
  • It can include ordeal work.
  • It can include knock-down, drag-em-out fights with one’s Deity.
  • It can be mystic.
  • It can include an exclusive relationship with one deity.
  • It can be polytheistic.

There are a lot of other things that Godslavery can be, but I think this list should give you a pretty good idea of the diversity behind this word and the people who use it.

What my Godslavery is to me:

Not as epic as many people make godslavery sound (usually when they don’t know much about it). I live my life the way I want to live it. It helps that the way I want to live my life is generally aligned to the way my Ladies want me to live it. So, even if I weren’t technically a godslave, my whole life would be dedicated to my Ladies — being a godslave just means I’m held to a higher standard of behaviour than if I weren’t.

My relationship with Morrigan is dynamic. When I first posted about this stuff, I talked about wearing a collar at all times for Morrigan. Well, that’s changed: the collar is now used to suspend a candle holder from the ceiling. She’s okay with this. An understanding has been reached that I don’t need to wear a collar at all times because I’m already Hers, and the mark is superfluous. (Mind you, I do plan on getting a permanent mark for Her at some point — whether it’s a scar or a tattoo, I’m not sure, and I don’t know where or when, but it will most likely happen.)

My relationship with Brighid I don’t actually call godslavery, but it is related to it and to my relationship with Morrigan. The best way I’ve found of putting it is this: I am Morrigan’s weapon, Her tool, and Brighid is the One who forges me and makes me strong.

Sometimes, in the line of duty, I get broken — this is not the “slave breaking” that some people talk about with great relish in the BDSM community, nor a breaking of my spirit. Morrigan isn’t interested in breaking my spirit, because a tool with a broken spirit is useless. No, when I say I get broken, I mean I’m not functional for a while. The work that Morrigan has me do is hard work — it pushes all my buttons, trips all my triggers. When I’m damaged like that, Brighid takes me and fixes me, heals me, so I can get back into the fight.

There is a reason She is Smith along with Healer. (Bard is connected to Healing in a different, but just as important, way.)

Most importantly, my godslavery is a choice. It’s a choice I make every day. Consent is, as I said, not a strong enough word here — yes, I gave my consent, I wanted to belong to Morrigan. That’s not in question. Where it gets complicated is the fact that I knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that not consenting would break my heart.

People may call that coercion, but it’s really not — it didn’t involve Morrigan telling me that if I didn’t consent I’d regret it. More — it’s knowing that the choice you are making will be incredibly hard and will require many sacrifices on your part, but that it will also fill out your life in a way that nothing else will, and not making the choice may deprive you of incredible joy and love. There are actually a lot of choices that are like that, but people don’t bring up the issue of consent when talking about them.

There is an incredible freedom in giving myself completely to Morrigan. I know She’s always going to be there. It’s a two-way street. Most relationships are. By consenting to be Her slave, I am entering into a contract. This contract states that She must take care of me — and She does. She and Brighid work closely together, and I know that I wouldn’t have been able to accept the contract with Morrigan had not Brighid claimed me a few months prior. While I’m not a slave to Brighid, I am devoted to Her as Her priestess, and my relationship with Her is not separate from my relationship with Morrigan; they intertwine, different aspects playing into one another.

Another aspect of the freedom my relationship with Morrigan gives me is that it makes me courageous in my romantic relationships. I know She’s never going to leave, and I’ve already committed myself completely to Her — so taking the step of, say, engagement or marriage with my partner is not so daunting or terrifying.

That, I think, is a fairly good overview on what my godslavery is, and a good start for a 101 post. When I get into the 201 posts, I’ll talk a bit more in depth about my relationship with Morrigan and what it entails.

A final note: on the kneejerk reaction to the word “slave” caused by instant association with the American slave trade

I understand that a lot of North Americans will have an instant reaction to the term godslave because of the American slave trade. This is fine, and valid, and I don’t mean to discount your reaction if, indeed, that is the one you have.

However. It is a kneejerk reaction, and it can lead to some very ugly statements. So I would like to clarify some things regarding the American slave trade and the word slave itself.

  • Slavery is a very, very, very old concept, and the word slave is not a simple one — it has many different connotations and denotations, different roots, and a large family of related words attached to it.
  • Use of the word slave to describe relationships within a sacred BDSM context or a non-sacred BDSM context does not “belittle” the experiences of slaves in the American slave trade or other slave trades: if it did, then so would the use of the word slave to refer to a printer, the word ciao, the word robot, the word maiden, the word concierge, and a whole host of other words that have their roots in the various words for slave.

Obviously, I can’t hope to eradicate the squick people might feel when reading about godslavery. I wouldn’t want to, either — people are entitled to their squicks. However, I am hoping that my posts help to dispel some of the ignorance around the topic, so that people know what is squicking them. Please remember that I only speak to my own experience as a godslave, and that other godslaves will have different things to say. Most of us (but not all) will agree, however, that our wills and spirits are not broken, we are not mindless automatons, and that we still have free will (as nebulous a concept as that is).

If you have questions about this post and/or godslavery, I encourage you to respectfully ask them in the comments section of this post.

29 Comments


  1. Katje, your relationship with the Morrigan and Brighid is remarkably similar to mine with Neb.y and Sekhmet. When I am broken, Sekhmet heals me and sends me right back into the fray. Thank you so much for posting this!

    Reply

    1. You’re welcome. :) And I’m glad to hear that others have similar relationships to mine; it makes it feel more…real? I guess?

      Not sure if that makes sense. I’ve been up for too long. >.<

      Reply

  2. It might be a bit out of the scope of this (I get really annoyed by people who want everything covered in one blogpost), but I’d like to see a note that not all godspouses are slaves – or even have a D/s-type power exchange relationship with their partner deity. (Either a parenthetical note in the “Can be” list, or a footnote, would be great.)

    I wouldn’t be concerned except that a certain person who is not you, and who has a very high profile as an authority on such things, has a reprehensible tendency to universalize her own experiences. (That kind of thing is a common problem not only in Pagandom but in Kinkdom – I cite that article as an example because, even when trying, and mostly succeeding very well, to address the problem, it perpetuates it [see point 5, in which “when whole sub-communities or social networks are created around this paradigm” is cited as an “additional problem” particular to the paradigm of kink referred to in that point, as if creation of subcommunities either doesn’t happen, or isn’t similarly problematic, in context of other kink paradigms. /OT)

    IMO, you’ve done a good job being clear that your experiences don’t constitute The Way To Do It.

    On the coerciveness, or otherwise, of heartbreak – I agree. I could write reams about choices I’ve made (not even things initiated by someone else to which I’ve consented, but things I’ve initiated) knowing very well that the choice I was making would break my heart, but also that it was the right choice nevertheless. Sure, there are people who would be coerced via their desire to avoid heartbreak at any cost – but I don’t see tM choosing those people for this sort of relationship in the first place (YMMV with other deity-type people); she’s got, IME, a particular dislike of coercion (and other related stuff – and that, too, is a topic in itself).

    Sunflower

    Reply

    1. On the God-spouse note — you’re absolutely correct, and I’ll add that right now. I wasn’t hoping that this would even begin to be everything on the subject, and I plan on writing a series on the entire thing — there’s just So Much To Cover that one post would be impossible. But yes, that note definitely needed to be added — and this is why I’m glad I can count on feedback from you and others who are part of this vast field. Peer review is very helpful. :)

      The article you’ve cited is really helpful to me for solidifying some thoughts that have been bouncing around in my brain for a while. Specifically, exactly why the thing that happened a year ago messed with me so much and exactly what kind of kinkster I am. Aside from that, yes — I’ve seen all those assumptions in my experience in the kink community, and, honestly, that and the incident I’ve mentioned have made me step very far away from Kinkdom in the past year.

      I’ve been through periods of wanting to avoid heartbreak at any cost. I’ve experienced a lot of it, and when it’s still fresh I tend to be a bit jumpy. But no, generally speaking I’m not a person who avoids the hard stuff at all costs. I don’t think tM would want me if I was.

      I think Her particular dislike of coercion is directly tied with Her sovereignty-goddess status — coercing someone is to deny that person’s self-sovereignty. Most of the work She has me do is directly connected to my self-sovereignty issues — both in cases where I gave up my sovereignty willingly in an effort to…destroy myself, probably, as well as to forget who I was, and in cases where I was coerced or forced out of my own sovereignty. (When I say sovereignty in reference to myself, I’m referring specifically to sexual agency. It can mean many different things for different people, but for me it’s been that — up until now. That may change.)

      Oh, hey — there’s my next post. When I have some time to dig deep, cause that one is going to hurt. “Sit at a typewriter and open a vein….”

      Reply

      1. “I wasn’t hoping that this would even begin to be everything on the subject, and I plan on writing a series on the entire thing — there’s just So Much To Cover that one post would be impossible.”

        And there will always be people who take a post in isolation, and discredit it for lacking the stuff it was never meant to be about anyway. You can’t prevent that altogether, but for minimizing it, I’ve been coming to think well of the “copious internal links” method, Maymay-style (d’you know Maymay?) – those who are arguing in good faith will either click the links and read the related material on the other side of it, or stick to what’s actually in the post at hand (not always automatically, they may need prompting).

        “The article you’ve cited is really helpful to me for solidifying some thoughts that have been bouncing around in my brain for a while. Specifically, exactly why the thing that happened a year ago messed with me so much and exactly what kind of kinkster I am. Aside from that, yes — I’ve seen all those assumptions in my experience in the kink community, and, honestly, that and the incident I’ve mentioned have made me step very far away from Kinkdom in the past year. “

        All those assumptions and probably a metric fuckton more ::sigh::. One of my big “things” at the moment, as I’ve mentioned elsewhere is the ways in which The Scene Tee Em is screwed up – it’s not a new Thing for me; I’ve been moving in and out of the fringes of Kinkdom, never fully involved, for just those reasons for 17+ years (and indeed already knew to be wary of them before I was ever directly involved, though I have no recollection of how), but I tended to parse it as “bad fit” between me and the communities in question (YKINMYBYKIOK, even if it looks to me like there might be problems that transcend the question of kinkiness). But of late there’s been a good bit of blogtalk about how it’s a non-ideal fit for all but a few people. See also, most of Maymay‘s posts (see above – if you don’t already know him, you really should). And plenty more.

        “I’ve been through periods of wanting to avoid heartbreak at any cost. I’ve experienced a lot of it, and when it’s still fresh I tend to be a bit jumpy. But no, generally speaking I’m not a person who avoids the hard stuff at all costs. I don’t think tM would want me if I was.”

        Likewise – though generally, when I’m in “avoid at all costs” mode, it’s when that’s best accomplished by not getting entangled in the first place, and that’s usually a point when it really is wisest to pull back and concentrate on healing rather than go leaping into things.

        “I think Her particular dislike of coercion is directly tied with Her sovereignty-goddess status — coercing someone is to deny that person’s self-sovereignty.”

        Lightbulb! And here I’ve been thinking that I’d mostly focused on her other associations, and paying attention to the sovereignty part was a new thing… but no, it’s always been there, the fabric that holds all the sex and war and death stuff together. (Heck, it’s in my conception of what it means to be a Warrior, and that predates my awareness of her as a patron by many years – and there I come back to the Charge; she has been with me from the beginning, and is what is attained at the end of desire. [My Wiccish streak may seem slender these days, but it’s always there.])

        Sunflower

        Reply

        1. You can’t prevent that altogether, but for minimizing it, I’ve been coming to think well of the “copious internal links” method, Maymay-style (d’you know Maymay?) – those who are arguing in good faith will either click the links and read the related material on the other side of it, or stick to what’s actually in the post at hand (not always automatically, they may need prompting).

          Maymay sounds familiar; I’ve probably read him from time to time. At any rate I will now, so.

          I do try to link to things in my posts, but…I find that it actually interferes with my writing of posts. The posts with links in them tend to be shorter and not as well-written as the posts without; the process of putting in the links disrupts my writing flow. And if I try and wait until I’m done with the article, I forget to put the links in and just publish. Something I need to work on, at any rate.

          One of my big “things” at the moment, as I’ve mentioned elsewhere is the ways in which The Scene Tee Em is screwed up – it’s not a new Thing for me; I’ve been moving in and out of the fringes of Kinkdom, never fully involved, for just those reasons for 17+ years (and indeed already knew to be wary of them before I was ever directly involved, though I have no recollection of how), but I tended to parse it as “bad fit” between me and the communities in question (YKINMYBYKIOK, even if it looks to me like there might be problems that transcend the question of kinkiness).

          I’ve had a blog post brewing in my brain for about 2 years now about problems with the scene, from the view of a submissive woman — one of the main things being that submissive women are treated like subhuman women, and that most women are assumed to be submissive before introductions have even been made. Now, that may just be a problem local to me, but it’s still a problem.

          I’ve had trouble with the post, however, because of my shifting identity within the scene. Now that I’ve discovered that I’m not actually submissive, and never have been, there’s a huge tangled web of assumptions and beliefs about myself to get through before I can even hope to start deconstructing the scene.

          Anyway, I look forward to whatever you post about ways in which The Scene (TM) is messed up; I have no doubt that you’d do it a lot better than I could, at this point, and your writing always hits bone directly. (Compliment, that, by the way.)

          Likewise – though generally, when I’m in “avoid at all costs” mode, it’s when that’s best accomplished by not getting entangled in the first place, and that’s usually a point when it really is wisest to pull back and concentrate on healing rather than go leaping into things.

          Exactly. The time to regroup before going into battle again. I’m not much use as a weapon if I’m irretrievably broken. ;)

          Lightbulb! And here I’ve been thinking that I’d mostly focused on her other associations, and paying attention to the sovereignty part was a new thing… but no, it’s always been there, the fabric that holds all the sex and war and death stuff together. (Heck, it’s in my conception of what it means to be a Warrior, and that predates my awareness of her as a patron by many years – and there I come back to the Charge; she has been with me from the beginning, and is what is attained at the end of desire. [My Wiccish streak may seem slender these days, but it’s always there.])

          [Bolding mine] Oh, hello, another lightbulb for me!

          Yeah, my realization of my own sovereignty is tied directly to my becoming a Warrior, which is tied directly to my sexual agency, which is tied to the wars I fight, which is tied to my priestess-ing of death, which is tied to my becoming a warrior…. Et cetera, and on and on. And all of these things are tied directly to my involvement with Brighid and Manannan, and my work as a healer and as…I’m not sure what the word is for what I do for Manannan. Haven’t fully worked that part out yet. The Three work as an interesting triad for me, in my personal practice — The Smith, the Deep One, and the Phantom are their bigger forms, as I see them; the Smith being a version of the Lady of the Stars.

          There’s a quote in my novel about how even though healers might be there to fix the body and spirit, they were always, inexorably, priestesses of Muerta (the Goddess of Death in my world; I know, I’m super original). That’s part of the Brighid-Morrigan connection, too (for me, at least).

          Reply

          1. Heh – it looks like you have something of the same “can’t quite get away from the Wiccish bits” thing? Or maybe it has to do with Feri influence on that thing commonly called Eclectic Wicca, but more properly (because of all the non-Wiccan influences, of which Feri via Starhawk is a major one) Eclectic neoPagan religious Witchcraft? (I don’t know if the Charge has any widespread Feri use, but certainly there is/has been some – if Victor and Cora didn’t magpie the Charge as a whole, they definitely magpied fromit.)

            Since one of the main focuses of the Broken Kink Scene convos thus far has been the devaluation of male submission, and, dismayingly, quite a few folks have assumed that, because submissive women are more welcome, they’re more valued (um, yeah – if The Scene Tee Em is a picnic, submissive men are ants, and submissive women are fried chicken… and dominant women, perhaps, can be compared to the accoutrements, more valued if they match some Platonic ideal as those expensive wicker-and-checked-gingham picnic kits do), I’m definitely going to have quite a bit to say about the way that submissive women aren’t valued, just devalued in a different way.

            But my own main focus will be on how poorly the kinksters who don’t fit the D/s model are served – not just decoupling s/m from d/s (but that too), not just acknowledging switches (but that, too), but just how much stuff doesn’t map onto, or doesn’t require being mapped onto, a top/bottom model at all. F’ex, the common assumption that exhibitionism is inherently linked to submission – WTF??? Kink != BDSM.

            And nouns. Too many nouns, people being shoved into “a dom” or “a sub”, when it’d be more functional to talk in verbs, about the acts of dominating/topping or submitting/bottoming (or whatever else one is doing!).

            Oh, and I’m going to get very snarky about “power exchange”, and people who use it as if the only possible power exchange is “sub gives their power to the dom, in exchange for getting to give up their power!” I don’t mind the phrase “power exchange” in and of itself, but I deeply dislike the way that “exchange” is often used to position power as a commodity, and even more deeply dislike the way it mirrors the commodification model of (“vanilla”) relationships. And then I’ll get even more feminist about it – downright second-wave and radical! – and rant about how, if kinksters are really interested in exploring and understanding power, they need to consider power-with and power-within, as well as power-over. (‘Course, I’m peeved that one doesn’t often see discussions in feminist spaces about power-with and power-within anymore, either.)

            And I probably need to stop doing all this in your blog comments, and figure out where/how best to do it that won’t put gaping holes in my (or rather, my partner’s) identity firewall, while still having it more accessible than if I posted in The Walled Garden of KInk.

            Sunflower

            Reply

            1. Postscript: I wanted to find a link to something I read once by Thomas about the commodity model (since I can’t find anything at all close, I’m guessing it was his essay for the book Yes Means Yes, or an early version of it, and is no longer available online); instead, I found him making reference to it in this post at the YMY blog, which (while initially drawing an analogy between diet culture and rape culture that’s in itself worth bookmarking the post for) goes on to say some things that are really pertinent to my “picnic” analogy.

              Everything really is connected.

              Sunflower

              Reply

            2. Heh – it looks like you have something of the same “can’t quite get away from the Wiccish bits” thing? Or maybe it has to do with Feri influence on that thing commonly called Eclectic Wicca, but more properly (because of all the non-Wiccan influences, of which Feri via Starhawk is a major one) Eclectic neoPagan religious Witchcraft? (I don’t know if the Charge has any widespread Feri use, but certainly there is/has been some – if Victor and Cora didn’t magpie the Charge as a whole, they definitely magpied fromit.)

              A little of column A, little of column B…there are some things, like the Charge, or parts of the entire Rede poem, that stick with me out of sheer stubbornness. Perhaps. The Feri and Reclaiming influence definitely help them stick to me. I don’t really talk about them that much, however, because then the conversation turns into “Aha! You really are a Wiccan!” which I just don’t ever want to deal with.

              To the rest of your comment…yes, yes, and yes. I’ve been thinking more about the devaluation of male submission, and how I first encountered it when a friend of mine and I met IRL and he told me he was a sub and the sorts of reactions his being submissive and male provoked. I was utterly gobsmacked that anyone would devalue male subs, but that was early, early, early in my Kink experience, and I soon learned that, oh, not only male subs, but female subs, and female doms, are all devalued. And I’m not even getting into how we non-binary folks are treated.

              Yeah, anyway. I look forward to seeing your eventual post about it. :)

              Reply

            3. ‘And then I’ll get even more feminist about it – downright second-wave and radical! – and rant about how, if kinksters are really interested in exploring and understanding power, they need to consider power-with and power-within, as well as power-over. (‘Course, I’m peeved that one doesn’t often see discussions in feminist spaces about power-with and power-within anymore, either.)’

              I found (via, unsurprisingly, trackbacks on the YMY Domism post) a kinky feminist (and also pagan) blogger who examines power all the damn timeMs Syren. Also unsurprisingly, there I am deconstructing the narratives/assumptions of the Scene in her comments section, too, thus reinforcing the point of my final paragraph.

              Sunflower

              Reply

  3. This was an excellent post, and the first time I have ever encountered the term or concept of godslave. I am actually quite fascinated by it.
    I am in the process of reconnecting with my spirituality, and that includes rediscovering my relationship with Morrigan.

    I actually want to ask you a huge favour. And I would completely understand if you didn’t feel like it.

    I am working on a book about Morrigan. Loosely based on the legends that mention Her, my own personal experiences with Her, and lots of cultural research and other peoples’ experiences with Her.
    The book is going to be written from Her perspective, from the beginning of the Tuatha, to modern times.
    I would absolutely love it if you would consider emailing me anything and everything you feel like telling me about your relationship with and experiences with Morrigan. And if you felt like rambling about the godslave aspect as well, I would be delighted to read that.
    I am living in a tent currently while building a cabin with my husband. I check my email about once a week right now, whenever we come into town to get showers and do laundry and such. My email is lokyra@gmail.com.
    So as I said, I would completely understand if you had no interest in this. But I hope you do.

    Reply

    1. I’d be happy to help you out.

      I’ll send you an email by Sunday; I’m very busy but this will be on my priorities list. :)

      Reply

      1. Woot! I’m excited to read the email.
        I appreciate you taking the time to do this. Having other perspectives of Morrighan and the concepts I’m working with will help keep my muse healthy and my words flowing.

        Reply

        1. Email has been sent!

          Sorry it’s a little late; NaNoWriMo has been eating my time up.

          Reply

          1. Just sent the reply. I am failing at NaNo with us building the cabin and living outside. But at least I’ll have a really good start on my book!

            Reply

  4. Thanks for this post. I’ve seen the word “godslave” floating around the Pagan blogosphere for a while, but haven’t heard much about it in detail.

    I do have a question, though. You say that associating godslavery with the American slave trade is a knee jerk reaction and that the history and etymology of the word “slavery” is complex. I would really like to hear a detailed exploration of the word “slavery” and its complexity, and how its historical use(s) are reflected in the theological concept of “godslavery” among modern Pagans.

    Frankly, I still find myself skeptical. Slavery may be found in many diverse cultural and historical contexts, but it seems to me that the expression of slavery in all of those contexts was still a fundamental debasement and dehumanization of the slave. Other disenfranchised groups throughout history have been compared to slaves in order to justify their unethical treatment. For instance, in his Politics Aristotle compares women to slaves to support his philosophical view that it is right and natural for men to rule over and subjugate women because women (supposedly) do not have the same capacity for reason and intelligence as men. This, Aristotle argues, is why we would be wrong to say that “all slavery is a violation of nature” – for, to him, the slavery of those who are inferior (such as women) is entirely natural.

    I suppose this would be an example of a more complex view of slavery than “all slavery is wrong” – but it is one that I find unconvincing, since it relies on the assumption that certain individuals are naturally and inherently inferior to others. Can we say that someone who is “inherently inferior” is even capable of “consent” as we usually mean it? If we assume that certain individuals are fundamentally incapable of reason, don’t we thereby rob them of a capacity for consent? Isn’t this really the very heart of the meaning of the word “slavery” in almost any context?

    I’m interested to hear your take on this – in particular in regards to your relationship with the Morrigan as a goddess of sovereignty who, it would seem to me, would be fundamentally opposed to such a concept of slavery (either willing or not). I’d also love to hear your thoughts on why and how modern Pagans can adopt the concept of spiritual “slavery” without accepting its usual connotations of inferiority and lack of consent? Do you have any actual examples from history where slavery is not founded on these principles? I hope you address this issue in one of your future posts. I look forward to reading them.

    Reply

    1. I would really like to hear a detailed exploration of the word “slavery” and its complexity, and how its historical use(s) are reflected in the theological concept of “godslavery” among modern Pagans.

      I have limited time and energy at the moment, but one example regarding the complexity of the term “godslavery” can be found in Burkert’s Greek Religion, pg. 45: “These slaves of the god, and also slaves of the priestess, are no ordinary bondsmen. They are always mentioned by name, they have their own land, and therefore are treated legally more like freemen.”

      Whether or not the same thing is meant by godslave as modern pagans use the term today, I can’t say – but it does show that not all uses of the word slave have roots in being dehumanizing or debasing.

      Re: Morrigan, Her sovereignty aspects, and my godslavery, I do have some answers for you…but not today, and not in a comment. I can’t say when I’ll have a post up, but I’ll try and do it as soon as possible.

      Reply

      1. Thanks for the response. Like I said, I definitely don’t expect a full exploration in a comment thread, but I hope it’s something you have a chance to explore in more depth later. I don’t mean to be stubborn, but I have to admit that I’m still skeptical.

        The quote you use, for instance… I hopped on over to Google Books and read the entire section in order to understand the context. And what it sounds like to me is that these “godslaves” were slaves that, because they were associated with a particular temple or god, were given special privileges above and beyond what ordinary slaves might expect. The very fact that it is their association with a temple or god that elevates them to a legal status “more like freemen” suggests that, again, they are assumed to be inherently inferior or unequal in their natural state and can only attain to those privileges through sacred association. In the same way, in Catholicism for centuries women who did not want to marry could become nuns and take a vow of celibacy, thus winning for themselves at least a certain degree of control over their sexual lives. But that’s hardly comparable to a society in which women are considered truly equal to men and their right to express their sexuality is entirely under their own control, whether or not they have special status within that society’s religion.

        In both cases, the larger cultural assumptions about the natural inferiority of certain people are overridden or over-looked because of their association with a particular deity. But those cultural assumptions about the inferiority of slaves are still built into the concept of “slaves of a god” – so it’s not really a counter example to my point at all. In fact, later in that same book, Burkert writes:

        “There is no obedience to god, just as there are scarcely any divine commands; there is no divine court which sits in judgement over men. And only rarely is the god invoked with the title Lord, despota, the word a slave uses to his owner.” (p. 189)

        This lends even more strength to the interpretation that a “slave of a god” was merely a slave associated with a particular temple or deity, and not a description of a person’s individual relationship with that god. It also suggests that a freeman, having a choice, would not choose to become a “godslave” – and that it was generally expected that the gods themselves did not expect that kind of obedience (Burkert goes into this at some length in that paragraph on p. 189 that I quoted from above).

        Now, I know you said that this may have little to do with how modern Pagans use the term “godslave” – and it seems to have next to nothing to do with how you use the term for your own practice. But it still leaves me wondering. Since you say that we shouldn’t dismiss the word “slavery” as a negative one because its history is complex, I guess what I’d really be interested in knowing is what aspect of its complex history and meaning is particularly relevant to you as a description for your practice and relationship with deity. There are many different religions that talk about deep commitment and intimacy with one’s god or gods, and those relationships are often described in terms that transgress acceptable social boundaries. In Islam, which forbids the drinking of alcohol and has roots in the machismo culture of the desert tribes, Sufi mystics like Rumi describe their intimacy with Allah in terms of homoeroticism and divine intoxication. In Judaism, the Song of Songs is another example of that intimacy described in an erotic way. Hinduism has its concept of bhakti, devotion, and Christianity its “Law of Love.” So I guess my question is…. why slavery? What is it about slavery – as opposed to other metaphors or archetypes – that seems like the best fit and description for your practice? If Burkert’s description of “godslavery” doesn’t resonate, what is a description that does? Is it because of the socially transgressive nature of the term, or is the term itself somehow descriptive of the relationship you’re describing?

        Reply

        1. I guess what I’d really be interested in knowing is what aspect of its complex history and meaning is particularly relevant to you as a description for your practice and relationship with deity.

          I have an answer for you, and it relates to the concept of serfdom, which is considered synonymous with slavery in many respects.

          However, it’ll have to wait for a post, and it may not be until next week. Just responding to let you know I’m not ignoring your comment; I just don’t have the forks to tackle that post at the moment.

          Reply






  5. Hi Morag. My name is Helen. I worship both Morrighan and Brigid. I feel a special kinship to the Morrighan and would like to learn more about godslavery in general. Where would be a good place to meet like minded people and maybe some links for more information? Thanks Helen

    Reply

    1. Hi Helen!

      Currently the main group of people I chat with about this stuff are in a private group on the forum “The Cauldron.” It’s an invite-only group, and you’d have to be a member of the forum for a while, probably, before being able to join — mainly we try to keep it a safe space, which means membership is pretty strict.

      TC is a great place in general, though, and we’ve had a few discussions on the main board about godslavery and kink in paganism. It is a discussion and debate focused board and the rules are strict, which keeps it a consistently awesome place to talk to other pagans and have lightbulbs lobbed in your direction. ;) I recommend checking it out: http://www.ecauldron.com/forum/

      There’s also Fetlife, which is basically Myspace for kinky people. I have various problems with Fetlife (both the site itself and some of the people on it) but there are other kinky pagans on there, and I know there are people who are godslaves and/or godspouses.

      I don’t personally really talk that much with people on Fet about it, and I have noticed that Fet is one of the places where people have kneejerk reactions against godslavery — then again, those kneejerk reactions are pretty common. However, here are a few groups that may be of some help to you — I haven’t participated in the first two groups so I can’t vouch as to how much you’ll get out of them. I haven’t participated in the third group, either, but it is Raven Kaldera’s group so it’s probably pretty safe. You will need a Fetlife account to see these groups – it’s free and you don’t have to upload a picture or use your real name.

      Pagan Kinksters: https://fetlife.com/groups/109/about

      BDSM and Spirituality: The Spiritual Side Of Leather: https://fetlife.com/groups/1029/about

      Raven Kaldera’s Own: https://fetlife.com/groups/50632/about

      Also, some resources on sacred kink in general (I haven’t read all of these, but they come recommended by other kinky pagans):

      Dark Moon Rising: Pagan BDSM and the Ordeal Path, by Raven Kaldera http://www.amazon.ca/Dark-Moon-Rising-Pagan-Ordeal/dp/1847288928

      Sacred Kink: The Eightfold Paths of BDSM and Beyond, by Lee Harrington http://www.amazon.com/Sacred-Kink-Eightfold-Paths-Beyond/dp/055721176X

      God Sex (an article on the possible mechanics of a sexual relationship with deity) http://sexgodsrockstars.wordpress.com/2012/07/20/god-sex/

      Spirit of Desire: Personal Explorations of Sacred Kink, edited by Lee Harrington http://www.lulu.com/shop/lee-harrington/spirit-of-desire-personal-explorations-of-sacred-kink/paperback/product-14330643.html

      Finally, a collection of links that may help you further:

      Gangleri’s Grove: http://krasskova.weebly.com/

      Raven Kaldera’s site: http://www.ravenkaldera.org/

      Pagan BDSM: http://www.paganbdsm.org/

      Alfred Press: http://www.alfredpress.com/

      Asphodel Press: http://www.asphodelpress.com/

      Passion and Soul (Lee Harrington’s site): http://passionandsoul.com/

      I hope these resources help you out! If you want, you can also email me with specific questions: morag (dot) spinner (at) gmail (dot) com. As well, I have a few more posts on my own brand of godslavery: just look around under the godslavery tag. :)

      -Morag

      Reply



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