I read Sat’s post Loss of Faith: Polytheism Edition [link] in the cross-post on tumblr, thought ‘Mood’, and reblogged it over there under #shadow work. And then, it wormed its way into the mental category of ‘do not ignore’.
Because, well, some of what I wrote about The Burning and all of the [multiple, overlapping] Leaving(s) sound like it didn’t really have much of an effect on me. Some of it started somewhere in 2015, some of it didn’t kick into high gear until 2016 (Senior year/Graduation), and it wasn’t until the past few years that some components of the Leaving actually sunk in emotionally.
I suspect it might’ve been easier to talk about if I had gotten angry – a proper swearing and venting entry in a Gdoc that I could pour out of my system, even if no one else saw it – but I didn’t. I went numb, I shuffled the updates into a mental queue and left them there, and I was hit with a nostalgic sadness sometimes, way after midnight. I was incredibly embarrassed, and it was an anger-tinged shame more so than a good anger to clean out the emotional system. (Who exactly wants to admit to feeling gullible once the trick is revealed in the end?)
It was the diversity of intensity of interaction and different types of devotional relationships that kept me from feeling like I “qualified” to talk about feeling abandoned. Person 1 had been around casually for years, while Person 2 had just barely dropped by and been put into lockdown so I never built a relationship, f’ex. Neither really felt like They were ‘here’ enough to have actually abandoned me, but the sheer collective weight of all these less intense examples were a noticeable loss.
What did I do? Threw some content into some of Their tags over on tumblr, transferred sideblog content before officially deleting them, completely abandoned some tags, scheduled out final posts for Some, felt awkwardly alone struggling to interact with the devotees of Others (who appeared far happier and much closer with Them), felt stifled by a few of Their gag orders (until a recent anonymous spectrosexuality survey allowed a brief loosening, which led to sadness, regret, shame, and crying). I mostly just ignored certain feelings until enough time passed that I probably wasn’t going to ‘act irrationally’ while interacting with anyone else.
This isn’t exactly new news, but there’s a bit of a bias towards introductions and 101 material on some parts of pagan/polytheist tumblr. New people come in with – to borrow from polyam phrasing – NRE, or new relationship energy. Some people (as they’re allowed to do on their own blogs) focus on the happy parts: I think So-and-so helped me with this, here’s a picture of my altar and/or shrine for when I did my Oathing to Whoever, a heartfelt prayer overflowing with gratitude, and so much love whether spirit consorts, godspouses, etc or not. (It’s just so overwhelmingly positive.)
It felt like I was somehow doing something wrong because I needed to say goodbye to People instead of hello. It felt uncomfortable (like I was a killjoy) to interact with devotees who expressed a deep sense of loving-care with some of the People Who had hurt me. It felt like I had somehow fucked up the basics of interacting with a Deity when so many were Leaving. It felt a bit lonely when I was being given instructions to dismantle shrines, rehome objects, get rid of prayers, etc. when other people were trying to set them up.
I had heard vague rumors about some people experiencing abusive behavior from a Deity, but I was honestly blindsided by the boundary-crossing I experienced. (It didn’t look like an Earth-to-Astral crossover that was easily recognizable, and it manifested in ways that I wasn’t prepared for due to my lack of a ‘godradio’). If I hadn’t had other People Who were willing to step in, enforce changed wards, and do the heavy lifting of keeping the People involved away initially, I might’ve been SOL entirely on my own.
That this was in the midst of The Burning and Leaving didn’t exactly help because I lost some of the more intensive, closer devotional relationships I had been hoping would survive all the Leaving. But, once you feel like you can’t trust Someone or the divination They’re using to communicate with, it’s also surprisingly easy to let go. (And yet, we circle back around to Their other [current] devotees, and there’s not an easy way to handle the weird post-relationship feelings. Because Deities aren’t like human exes and ending a devotional relationship isn’t quite like a breakup.)
While importing sideblogs to WP before the 2018 Tumblr Purge went into effect, I made a note in one of my ‘personal venting docs’ in Dec 2018 while going through old sideblogs and old WP content:
In trying to find a silver lining: Rather than rushing to post about something, I did learn to wait and make sure it was still applicable, even if it does mean there were gaps in activity [on WP] and information that I don’t know what to do with after Someone had Left. I feel foolish for letting outside influence bleed into what I was doing, but I’ve learned how to double check that something actually applies to me with better accuracy.
Condensed venting: The thing that almost hurts is that I got a lot out of what now looks murky in hindsight – either Someone struggled with correcting my perception of Their Face, or for Reasons, They wanted to encourage me along a certain path for a while but had no intentions of delivering on that path in this lifetime.
It’s one thing for a pantheon to not be interested, or for me to not have the devotional clearance to interact with Someone, but it’s another thing to feel like I uselessly poured my time, attention, and devotion (some may say, love) into interaction and a relationship.
Honestly, I don’t have a nice and tidy conclusion for this. Instead of ‘once bitten, twice shy’, I feel like I’m several times bitten and now commitment avoidant. At one point in time, I very much wanted to feel like there was something coming from my People (affection, love, something more than bare tolerance???), but I’m a bit afraid I’ve lost the ability to recognize that.
Like, They wanted a Tool with few emotional connections, and now They’ve made one. What a coincidence that this aligns with some of Them wanting me to not rely on ‘the fickleness of love’ for being the initiation for offerings, service, devotion, what have you. Duty, honor, and a sense of wanting to keep your word have all made appearances while trying to interpret divination about this. (Since there are multiple People still around, it’s not an across the board thing. Some aren’t quite in the ‘love is fickle, let’s nix that’ camp.)
I don’t particularly have a grand solution for the community and ‘I can’t avoid interacting with fellow human devotees’ aspect either. I was always much more of an observer, who occasionally liked posts, than an active member of any online space. The main thing was that I just felt more of a drive to share original content and actually talk about myself, I guess. I suppose I can ease back into that, as a starting point.