As of late there's been a growing tendency within the Online Heathen Community that in essence attempts to shut down prayers made to the gods. People are told that they shouldn't go to a god they don't have a standing relationship with, that it's like asking a complete stranger for things. I've even seen devotionals and offerings treated with this manner of scorn.
I think this is quite negative, and ignores a great many things that are central to Heathenry. Recently I received two requests that made me think about this more in-depth, so I will use them as example first.
My morning began with a text message, asking if I could cover a 5-hour shift that very day, not an hour after getting this text. A bribe of $10 was even offered. Later I got a call from another coworker, asking if I could cover a 3-hour shift two days from now. Now, to be frank, I don't really like either coworker. The first is manipulative and abusive towards other coworkers, and has not given anyone good reason to like her. The second coworker is a pain, whines often, but doesn't rock the boat too much.
Coworker A annoys me far more, and I didn't see much in her offer for me; $10, yes, but also having to shake off the effects of NyQuil, get myself sorted for the day, and rush in to work on time. Coworker B's offer was much more accommodating, so that's the one that I took.
A second example that comes to mind is the way in which we treat musicians. They're often seen as gods among men; listening to their music is tantamount to worship, and we all entertain flights of fancy with what we would do should we meet them. Some bands are much more down-to-earth, sharing drinks with their fans after the show and mingling among us. (I've met Heidevolk in this manner). Others reply eagerly on social media - I've had replies by Troll Bends Fir (and even Felicia Day) in this manner - yet they still remain above us as icons of our fandom or musical taste. Interactions are fleeting, formal while fun, but certainly not scarce.
Some bands are detached to a degree, but very appreciative of their fanbase. The Russian band Arkona doesn't often meet with fans, doesn't speak the languages of many of their fans, but still manage to appreciate fan art, gifts, and recognize fans who win contests (I've received several of these sort of acknowledgements from them.) On the negative end, there are also bands - like Tyr - who don't much care for their fanbase, and even stoop so low as to mock them in interviews and their song material.
So how does this relate to the gods?
Far from never daring to bother a god because "we don't have a relationship", we ought to go out on that limb. In Heathenry, our deeds speak and our gods are not often known to be vengeful or spiteful. As the example given with several bands, if you make enough noise and make things that they enjoy and appreciate, the gods will extend a hand to you. Even if you're found to be annoying, if your offer is good enough and convenient enough, help may very well be given to you.
Our gods are not detached, judgmental beings. They move among us, and some - like Odin - quite enjoy taking part in human affairs. Gods like Thor, who even if he's not present for a "concert" still puts out thunderstorms for us to enjoy and worship him through. We all have relationships with the gods by our very calling of faith, and we all have the opportunity and the will to push that relationship past simply listening to CD's and going to concerts, and to start getting Instagram likes or autographs (to use the metaphor).
The best way to do that, though, is through effort. Make things for the gods, give offerings to the gods; live a life that is honorable, reputable, and interesting to get the attention of not only your community but the gods themselves. Build yourself to be someone they wouldn't mind helping here and there, knowing that your actions in their name will also bring them honor.
When it comes to this advice that has been floating around regarding whether or not to 'cold call' on particular deities has more to do with the likelyhood of getting success from the attempt rather than any bespoke idea of whether or not someone is in the right or not to try.
Generally speaking, while a person can indeed call on any deity at any time to ask for presence or help, that request is by and large more likely to be successful if you already have a working relationship with that deity. So it is more of a suggestion than a rule to first try to form that relationship and connection before one goes asking for things. After all, friends who have a measure of respect for you are far more likely to help you out than a stranger is. Sure, the stranger might help, might even be happy to. But chances are still much improved by getting to know a person first.
I find it most helpful to point new people into this sort of way of thinking. First, taking the time to learn about and form a relationship with the deities a person wants to involve in their life shows a measure of respect and value towards their assistance, and it shows a level of dedication towards a person following their path as a legitimate effort rather than an exercise of whimsy or a search for a 'quick fix' to some current problem. The idea is to draw out a level of genuine intent from the burgeoning practitioner.
Even setting aside the idea of deities and relationships, a person also wants to develop a sense of personal authority and confidence to draw from when working magic. And a good measure of that comes from having a measure of experience or study to back up the magic, and to lend a logical understanding and connection between will, intent, and manifestation. And again while it is not an absolute requirement to have 'x' years of study in 'y' subjects before one can be determined as qualified to work magic... every little bit helps improve your chances of being successful and in feeling a genuine sense of conenction to your actions.
...And also in being safe. Bad things happen when a person practices something while looking down their nose at it. magic is not a thing for casual whimsy. Taking the time to learn also demonstrates a willingness to take what you are doing seriously, and that little bit of foundational discipline alone goes a long ways in helping people avoid many potential pitfalls.
I guess what I am trying to say is that anyone can dive into the pool and swim. Wisdom just advises to learn where the rocks might be first so that initial plunge isn't entirely dependent on luck.
I have been working with a deity for 8 months now. If anyone wants to start with a deity that is patient and loves to teach I suggest Lucifer. Don't let what you may of heard along your way scare you. And no.. Just because you talk to any deity doesn't mean you have to make a contract. Just be respectful and its nice to research what ever deity you evokes favorite incense and candle color.
@emalfkcrad: Depending on your path, probably a better suggestion for threads geared towards Satanism, Roman Paganism, or General forums. My essay was more towards a Heathen (Norse) prespective.
@Spirit76, let me quote what I said to a similar thought: "To me that more speaks towards knowing the god that one is working with, in which case advice should be knowledge rather than avoidance. Thor's not going to grant virility, Odin would tell you to study rather than give a good grade, etc. But asking Thor for protection, or Odin for wisdom? That's what they do ... People can always try to win favor of the gods. The worst thing that'll happen is they don't get it."
The way I see it, asking gods for various things (properly) is more akin to calling the police for a robbery or trusting your auto insurance agent to manage your coverage. You're relying on the professions or duties of strangers. You might make friends with some of them, but what you need them for is what they do. I make offerings to Thor for protection of my home because that's one of his many duties in defence of Midgard; as I see it, I don't need to try and work towards that goal by starting small with relationship building.
This is a really great thread. The very core of the belief system. Please allow me to add my opinion...
We work with our Gods on a daily basis. We start our day with honoring them and thanking them for all we are and all we have. Most important is that we strive to adhere to the Nine Noble Virtues. One of which is Industriousness and self reliance. The All Father teaches us that a gift begets a gift and a favor a favor. The way I have been taught to understand this is to ask the Gods for guidance and to consult the Runes for direction. Requesting direct intervention from the Gods is akin to asking for a direct favor, only to be used in times of the most of dire circumstances. Asking for inspiration and guidance and making good choices from the signs we receive honors our dieties and creates that standing relationship that we all seek. Asking for intervention puts one in a situation where the price one pays for the favor might be more than one can afford to pay. In short, it is probably better to ask for help solving an issue through inspiration than to ask for a solution from divine intervention. Either way, we still are bound to give thanks for sucess and thanks for being corrected if we are refused.
Just a thought.... Perhaps others see things differently.