The concept of deity work is one that has pervaded religious and magical circles for millennia. However, traditions in deity work vary widely and there are rarely any real restrictions on what deity work really means or has to contain. Today we’re going to talk about a few of the initial steps you might take when beginning deity work for yourself. Please be aware that deity work is not something to go into lightly, nor is it good for beginning practitioners. Use this knowledge in conjunction with other sources to make sure you are well prepared before you begin!
Step 0: Research
Deity work begins with a singular word. Research. How do we know anything about the gods? We read, listen, and learn. Not only that, we deconstruct what we find, separating bias from good information. We use the skill of literary analysis on mythology about the god. There are multiple lenses that remain in use today that we can utilize for this purpose: socio-cultural, psychoanalytical, post-structural, and New Criticism. Whatever approach we use, we can dissect whether or not the source we are using is credible, if the author has internalized biases, if the cultural atmosphere at the time of publication had an affect on the work, and if the work falls under metaphor or allegory rather than anecdotal.
So, you have researched, you feel led to this path, a deity has started to reach out to you, and you feel comfortable starting. Where do you start?
Step 1: Dedicating Space
First, get yourself an object that you can associate with the deity. It doesn’t have to be a specific statue, something expensive, or even something new. Fun fact: my first altar was not to Hephaestus. It was to a deity named Grin’lock S’Vain, a goddrake (dragonic god) of creation. His altar consisted of a plastic dragon statue I found in the trash in my brother’s room, a bunch of plastic gold coins I won from a LARP event, a ton of keys I had collected since I was a kid, and a black cloth with stars on it from a cosplay I never finished. My first altar to Hephaestus had a red candle and a clay anvil I made myself. Altars don’t have to be much. They just have to be personal. Figure out what you and your deity can agree upon and set it aside for working specifically with that deity.
Next, designate a spot for your altar. Cleanse the area and dedicate it and the items to the deity in question. You can dedicate something to a deity in a few different ways. Some do so by speaking a short prayer to the deity to let them know the item is now theirs. Others draw a sigil for the deity and place it under the item in question.
Step 2: Boundaries
Once your altar is set up (and hidden if necessary), your next step is to set up boundaries. These boundaries can include when they are allowed to approach you and what topics they can’t talk to you about. I have boundaries with my deities where they can only give me advice on family issues if I explicitly ask, and that any deity that I do not work with must go through and get permission from my approved deities to come talk to me. Boundaries are important and should be the first step in your work with deities. Having a written list of boundaries really helps, especially if you have trouble remembering your own boundaries.
For more information on boundaries in deity work, check out this post on the topic!
Step 3: Communication
Once you have your boundaries set, then your next step is to begin communication. You can supplement this with readings from professionals (such as the wonderful readers here at H4WW) until you feel confident in your own abilities to interpret. However, it is important to remember that communication with the gods is a two way street. You should cultivate that relationship yourself.
This is a reason why I encourage inexperienced practitioners to hold off on deity work. If you don’t have practice or access to means of divination, then you must rely on meditation or outside sources for information from your gods. That can easily become a crutch. Communication must be cultivated and worked on with the parties involved. It should be a journey you take with your gods, not your gods and a third party with a deck of cards. Having that as an option when things are tough or unclear or you have a moment when you don’t trust yourself is fine. Relying on it, though, opens doors for a lot of misinformation, misunderstanding, and misuse of trust.
Always remember to verify. Vet the gods with questions, verify through outside sources or other tools, cleanse often and consistently and thoroughly. You must remember that your tools are not infallible and just because the entity knows how to spell doesn’t mean it is the god you are trying to talk to. Verify, verify, verify.
The information in this post was originally posted over on Copper’s Patreon. If you want to read the rest of his series on starting deity work, you can get access by pledging as little as $1 a month.