The Tech Support Metaphor for Archetypes

Here’s how I (a former tech) imagine it working: being a god that fits an archetype could be seen as something similar to working tech support. Lots of people call in wanting help, and they frequently don’t care that your name is Katherine or Tanisha or Amir. They’re calling Tech Support Lady/Guy, and that’s literally all you are to them.

So it is with people who call out for the Love Goddess or the Trickster or the Great Mother. They’re calling the divine tech support line, and they’re hoping to reach someone with the right specialization. And so if they’re calling on, say, the Trickster, sometimes they’ll get Loki, and sometimes they’ll get Coyote, and sometimes they’ll get Anansi. And if they call in enough, like with real tech support, the person will get some case notes on their spiritual “file” that may direct them to one person in particular, or away from one person. “Transfer directly to Odin,” or “Isis isn’t accepting this person’s calls; get someone else to do it.” (Sadly, we never got to do that second one in real tech support. Being a god has its perks.)

So someone can call on the Love Goddess and get Aphrodite one day, and Inanna the next. It doesn’t mean They’re the same goddess, but because They both fit that archetype, They’re both open to receiving those calls, and neither of Them had a strong enough relationship with the person in question to call dibs. That might change as time passes and the person keeps calling on Them.

To continue this metaphor, when I was Tech Support Lady, I’d do my job to the best of my ability unless a caller was actively being a dick to me. Even the exceptionally clueless ones would be carefully and gently helped as much as possible, and I’d frequently go above and beyond what I was “supposed” to be doing if I liked a caller and knew I could help them out. But once I was off the call, I was D-O-N-E. If they didn’t call back, I didn’t worry about their internet problems; I just got on with my job. But for my friends and relatives? Assuming we’re on good terms, and they’re not only calling me when something’s broken but are actually someone I enjoy spending time with, I will move heaven and earth. Hours spent troubleshooting their modems? Sure. Talking to other techs for them and cutting through the corporate-mandated bullshit? Absolutely. Checking in days or weeks later to make sure everything’s still working? Of course. Because to those people, I’m not Tech Support Lady. I’m Jaqui. They like Jaqui, and so Jaqui likes them.

Likewise, if you want your relationship with your gods to be more than “person I help out and get offerings from,” it helps to look beyond the archetype, to get to know all the ways that (for instance) Hela is not Hades is not Ereshkigal. The more you approach Them as individuals, as real and living beings who you want to be part of your life, the more They’ll rain blessings on you, even when you don’t ask, because that’s what They do for people They like.

Unsafe Ancestors

There’s something I’ve noticed in discussions of ancestor veneration, and it keeps coming up: the idea that your ancestors automatically have your best interests at heart, that if you call to them and they show up, then they must be there to help. Ancestors are the best possible protection, right? So just invite them on in and nothing bad will happen ever!

Yeah, that’s bullshit.

Now, don’t get me wrong: I have seen mentions of what to do when it comes to dealing with abusive ancestors in your practice, from ancestor elevations to simply choosing not to honor that particular ancestor. But sometimes it’s the relatives you didn’t know in life that can cause the most trouble.

Case in point: a particular relative of mine, who at the very least is big on the sexual shame, and who I’m 95% certain was actually a child molester.

Of course, I didn’t put the story of a long-dead relative who was accused of molesting a child decades ago (not that anyone in the family believed the girl in question, despite the clear indicators that someone was molesting her) together with the picture my grandmother had helpfully donated when I asked for photos of deceased relatives until after weeks of intrusive thoughts, of suicidal urges, of filthy whore and dirty and disgusting showing up in my internal monologue, of increasingly disturbing images in my head when I masturbated.

Suicidal urges are a regular part of my struggle with depression, and while sexual shame was rare in the extreme for me, it wasn’t entirely unheard of, either. It was easy to write it off as my messed-up brain chemistry at work, at first. Eventually, though, it was obvious it wasn’t just a mood swing, or a new and exciting development in my depression — something not-me was causing it.

It took some time to figure out where the new and uncharacteristic sex-aversion was coming from, but when I did, I took his photo off the altar, told him to leave me alone, and tried to go on with my life. And lo and behold, the constant sense of sexual shame went away.

After that, I pulled away from ancestor work for a while, because it had been driven home quite thoroughly that not all the ancestors who show up will be warm and fuzzy ones. I’d read about people who had some badass Disir working to keep their ancestral house in order and make sure only safe people showed up, but I had no idea how to get in touch with them without opening myself up for more dead people who didn’t wish me well.

So while I was talking to Jack about the ancestor issue a while back, I suddenly realized the obvious: the Northern Tradition has not one but two goddesses Who are concerned with ancestors in a big way. Why didn’t I ask one of Them for help?

Feeling rather silly, I decided to talk to Hyndla and ask Her to put me in touch with safe ancestors. I said a little prayer, went and lit a candle at Her online shrine, and then went about my business…

…Only to have very vivid dreams in which my family was looking out for me, financially, with my great-aunt making a special appearance.

Now, I didn’t venerate my great-aunt for a long time, because of some old and ugly family drama better suited to a telenovela than this blog. But there she was in my dream, making sure I was safe and cared for. I started to think that it might be time to mend that bridge, and then two different family members mentioned in the following week that Tía Elena had, upon learning that my mother was no longer married to Stepfather #1, called her lawyer to have her will changed… only to die before the lawyer could get back to her.

No, really, when I say my family history is the stuff of telenovelas, I’m not kidding.

That was indication enough that it was time to add Tía Elena’s picture to the ancestor shrine, and these days I have a sense of her presence (and of my Disir) on a regular basis. Also, I’m no longer afraid of sketchy dead people showing up in my bedroom, which is always a plus.

Sometimes our ancestors don’t like us, not through any fault of ours, but because they were terrible people, and being dead hasn’t improved them any. Not everyone gains grace and enlightenment in their own personal hereafter. Some just remain awful. And while working to get our ancestors to a better place is a worthy pursuit, it’s not something that everyone can or should do right off the bat. Sometimes, we just need to find the safe people, the ones we can trust, before we can even think of engaging with the unsafe ones.

At this point, my strongest advice to anyone thinking of beginning ancestor veneration would be to first find the god/dess most concerned with ancestry in whatever pantheon you’re currently working with, and petition Them for aid in contacting the ancestors who will help and keep you safe. The scattershot “Hey, here’s a bunch of dead people I’m related to! I’ll just give them all offerings and see who’s helpful!” approach has gone incredibly badly for me, and I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone under any circumstances. Start with the people you knew and loved in life, and then get some divine help before you go any further.

(I had to stop and ask myself at this point why asking Hela had never occurred to me, when it’s Her altar that also serves as my ancestor harrow. I have a strong aversion to the thought of asking Her, though… maybe because I see Her as concerned with all the dead, and asking Her to sort through Her charges and send some of them my way based on x criteria seems disrespectful. Surely She has better things to do. I might ask Her for help in reaching one specific person, but She is not Google for dead people.)

Hail Hyndla! Lady of the Bloodlines, I offer you all gratitude and praise. Hail!

Sunna and Mani

I feel like a bad Northern Tradition person, because it’s Memorial Day, and it really makes more sense for me to be writing about the Einherjar today. As it is, I’ll likely be pouring out a libation for the dead warriors in my family later on, but this is what wanted to be written, so I’m going with it, rambling and incoherent as it is.

I had thought, coming from an eclectic Neopagan practice that had its roots in Wicca, that it would be strange, shifting from a view of the sun as male and the moon as female to the Norse view, which is the other way around. After all, being female, I was supposed to be in tune with the obviously feminine lunar cycles, through my very own menstrual cycle.

I could admire the idea of sun and moon as female and male, respectively. After all, the menstrual connection aside, there was something annoying in the idea that the sun — the warm, projective source of life and symbol of intellect — was inherently male, and the moon, cold, receptive, and tied up with the murky depths of the subconscious, was inherently female, fit only to take the masculine sunlight and reflect it back at us, and fuck about with our watery feminine natures. And as much as I love the tarot, don’t even get me started on the symbolism behind the Sun and Moon cards and the gender associations I keep seeing there. Just don’t. I may start to froth at the mouth.

This isn’t to say that I think these associations are wrong, mind you. I’m not going to argue with all the sun gods and moon goddesses out there about their existence. I try not to be that stupid, really. And obviously, those associations work for a lot of people, and are powerful, important things. Diana is an awesome lunar goddess, for one, and a wonderful, empowering being for women to work with. But I really dislike the idea that certain archetypes belong inherently to one specific gender. The sun is male because masculinity means x, and the moon is female because femininity means y (though, when it comes to chromosomes, perhaps it should be the other way ’round?), and of course this is the natural order of things, blah blah blah, excuse me while I bash my head against the nearest wall.

Just because I don’t wear my own rather ambiguous and shifty gender stuff on my sleeve these days, it doesn’t mean the overwhelming gender dysphoria of my late teens early twenties was just a phase I outgrew. I’ve become a lot more comfortable in my own skin, but I still have days when I’m more Jacque (or Jack) then Jacqueline, though I’ll still answer to Jaqui, either way — and yes, dropping the c is deliberate, because that’s how it looks right to me. On those days I tend to stare blankly when people use female pronouns for me, and then remember that, oh yeah, I have boobs.

So yes, I can get touchy about gender associations, and how lunar energy and the presence of a uterus seem to go hand in hand in modern Neopagan practice, as well as what seems like every fantasy novel ever. (Really, you guys? Really?)

All the same, I was somewhat wary of the switch, especially given the menstrual associations. Queer as I am, did I really want a male deity in charge of my female reproductive cycles? Was that even more heteronormative than the inverse? Would it just be vaguely uncomfortable, dealing with that shift in perspective? It’s one thing to say that a certain symbol set is limiting, another thing entirely to actually switch one’s worldview around.

And yes, these seem like awfully silly and irrational things to worry about. Typing this out, I’m laughing at myself. But gender issues are a big part of my spirituality, and that’s not changing in the forseeable future.

Of course, the thing about gods is that, no matter what symbolism you choose to hang on Them, it doesn’t change the fact of Their existence. Moon goddesses are still there, no matter what we think Their existence may say about us, and some of them are quite happily subverting what we tend to think of as traditional ‘feminine’ lunar associations. The same goes for sun gods. And yes, this applies to moon gods and sun goddesses as well.

So I decided to start actively looking for Sunna and Mani when sitting outside, instead of dicking around with theory and my own gender issues. My personal practice tends to rock the UPG, and since there’s not a whole lot about either of Them in the lore, the sensible thing to do was go out and see what happened.

It was easiest to get a fix on Mani — I tend to be nocturnal, despite (or perhaps because of!) seasonal depression on my part. Daylight is safe and happy-making, so I want to curl up and sleep in the warmth and safety and contentment. And, seeing as how I’m a hermit by nature and not living alone for the first time in years, nighttime is good for being alone and destressing, without having to worry about unexpected people getting their energy all over my space. But I digress.

Mani was surprising. I sat outside, staring at the moon, remembering the childhood ‘man in the moon’ references. Seeing a face in the moon was easy enough, but as part of my Wiccan teenage years (before Silver Ravenwolf ever wrote trendy books about being a Teen Witch), I’d trained myself to see a woman’s face instead of a man’s. Consciously shifting my perception back to a male face there was difficult, but it seemed as good a place to start as any. I sat and watched the moon, feeling my way around the twist in perception, and just as the pattern of craters on the moon’s surface resolved itself into a male face, He was there. Or rather, He’d always been there, and I just hadn’t known how to look for Him.

For all that I’d tried to tap into the vast well of feminine lunar energy, the actual sense of Presence when I tried to do so always seemed rather remote to me. “Okay, yeah. Here’s some energy. Now run along and play.” Mani was completely different — He was very strongly present for me. I don’t remember if words were said; unlike Loki, He didn’t seem particularly chatty. He was just there with me, while I sat out on the front porch. He was… lovely, in the sense that appeals to the emotions as well as the eye. Quiet, too — I almost want to say ‘shy’, but that tends to be linked with social awkwardness, and it very much wasn’t that. The impression I got was of someone who doesn’t share much of Himself on short acquaintance. He was there, and He was friendly, in His quiet way, with a remarkably soothing presence, and that was enough.

I very much wanted to hug Him.

…Yeah, so much for “BOYGAWDTHINGEH MESSIN WIF MAH UTERUS? DO NOT WANT!” I feel silly now, and not just because I rendered that in lolcat.*

Of course, I’ve only scratched the surface where Mani’s concerned, and I know it, but the anxiety is entirely gone.

Sunna, on the other hand, was a different experience. Not the drawn-out sense of presence I got with Mani, but then, here in Texas, She tends to come on rather strong, and I overheat easily, so long periods outside during the day aren’t very good for me. Also, staring at the sun is generally considered a bad idea, so I couldn’t quite do what I did for Mani.

With Her, especially given my need for sunlight to keep from going into a rather nasty depressive cycle, it was more an impression of warm hands on my shoulders, and a strong feeling of, “Look, it’s not so bad. See? …If you need to sleep, by all means, but if you just need a little boost, here. Now you can go out and do things.” Not to say She spoke to me in those words, but that’s the best translation I can give for the way She felt. She was warm and friendly, but in a very indiscriminate way. My time spent tuning into Mani’s particular energy felt a lot more personal. Even so, She had that same sense of solidity to Her that Mani did; she clicked with me very strongly.

For all that I’m not completely cut off from other pantheons — it’s a big universe and there are a lot of different beings in it; it’s silly to expect me to only have to deal with one pantheon’s worth — the deeper I get into this, the more I seem to have a ‘reserved for:’ sticker on my perceptions. There really is a tangible clicking sensation, and the Northern Tradition gods and wights come across more strongly, while the others are… still there, but more distant. That’s Sunna up there for me, not Helios, for all that I could probably reach Helios if I tried. But unless there’s a specific reason for me to need to deal with Him, if I just reach for ‘solar energy’, it’s Sunna that’s on the other end.

It’s very reassuring, in a way; I know where I fit, and who I need to be learning from, and that’s a kind of spiritual security I haven’t had since my days as a wee Catholic.

Some people would find it strange that I’d get this sort of security from Loki showing up in my life, but it really does seem natural for me, and I can’t thank Him enough for this. It’s more than a bit frightening at times, but I’m so very, very grateful, all the same.

* Yes, I enjoy cat macros far too much. This leads to things like the nagging desire to translate the Poetic Edda into lolcat, as is being done with the Bible.