There are many reasons to swerve a typical marriage. Like the catering: mounds of expensive food maneuvered by waiters who really can’t enjoy themselves and the electroshock therapy you call ABBA. Or the balls of it: asking friends to watch how bloody lovely you are with that one in a million, which statistically leaves 7,700 other weddings you could be having. Maybe you’re a career person, a misanthrope or a heroin addict. Signing a contract isn’t sexy. The ring looks stupid. Your father left your mother at the altar, and she’s worn her veil ever since and it’s covered in pasta sauce. Chapel music gives you the shits. Whatever. Secular marriage is diminishing and we all know this. Everyone must follow their heart, even if it leads to a priest dressed as Elvis, or soon enough, a Korean superhero from a screen grab. It might be the urge for no ceremony at all - no expectation that you’ll stick around, another kind of commitment.
But for some of us, the problem isn’t marriage – it’s what we’re marrying. Humans can suck. We’ll forget an anniversary or eat our half of a pizza while you’re in the bathroom. We invented Keane. There are limits to our loveableness. The grave calls daily. We’ll steal your bed covers pretending we’re half awake, then deny it ever happened.
Maybe you’d be better off as a godspouse. That is, seeking romance with a god.
On the internet, in the crumbs of Tumblr and Heathenist discussion boards, there are conversations taking place about marrying a deity, many of them deadly serious.
“No, I do not like the godspouse trend,” reads the byline of one of the first blogs you’ll see from The Mad Muse, a patron of Loki. “How old are you all?” he writes. “How long have you known this god? Have you really confirmed through multiple venues that this is the god you’re dealing with?” Lokeans tend to be suspicious. Tom Hiddleston made their man fit and goofy, ramming a spear up Marvel nice boys, bouncing through acres of bankable IP. The Muse states that “Loki and Hiddles are objectively two separate entities,” that you shouldn’t expect him to manifest as an aqualine actor in a breastplate. “Loki is a shapeshifting, multi-faceted, thousand-year-old pile of writhing snakes,” we are reminded. Cool. My ex was like that.
Now, why shouldn’t they be serious? Paganism isn’t a joke. Neither is the resurgence of ancient Norse beliefs, which in 2015 erected Iceland’s first Nordic temple since the Viking age and has been growing heartily in Denmark. Ásatrú, or Nordic Paganism, contains plenty of local chapters across Scandinavia. The Washington Post asked a high priest about it, and the guy said he didn’t literally believe in frost giant battles or squirrels the size of Brazil. “We see the stories as poetic metaphors,” he implored, “and a manifestation of the forces of nature and human psychology.”
Godspouses go hard though. They believe they’re wedding the real deal: earth-shaking immortals who, for one reason or another, have chosen them for companionship. This is not the same as a patronal relationship, the sense of feeling close to one god, an expression of how you think and act colouring the sludge of conscious potential. Neo-Pagans call them a fulltrui, the deity with whom you ally and embody. You can honour your fulltrui in several ways. Perhaps they receive a special day of praise once a month. Or you can declare an oath, with or without a coven, stating fiercer intentions. In Icelandic, many take fulltrui to mean “trusted friend” or “fully trusted one,” although I’ve seen translations to “representative agent,” which sounds more clinical.
It’s a common ancient practice: select your champion in the god realm, make them feel wanted, turn up at their exhibition events with their catchphrase on a placard. The Greeks gave cities to their idols (Athens for Athena, Olympia for Zeus) where you’d find temples with refreshments alongside tributes from the harvest, trading and military victories. The Romans sacrificed sheep to Jupiter and built pantheons for worshipping several gods in an afternoon. Devoting oneself took self-awareness. You were called to reflect an innate character, like supporting Dustin Poirier because he doesn’t knock old men off stools.
But if you’re a godspouse, that connection is intense, domestic and even sexual. It appears to work like this: you’re going about your life, and you have a dream in astral HD. A god – with whom you’ve barely flirted till now – pays a visit. They make their intentions clear. YouTuber Zio Zeta describes her courtship with Anubis, of the Kemetic religion, as an out-of-body experience, “sitting cross-legged, hovering slightly like a foot off the floor [...] the experience ended with a kiss.” She began to believe he wanted something long term. Hades wasn’t happy, sending a fairy to woo her over. Like a celestial Hollyoaks, a triangle developed. “Anubis intervened and said, ‘No, she’s mine.’ [...] Hades is still there and he confronts me from time to time.” Zio called off the wedding and her Hades tattoo, an IRL symbol of bondage.
Dreams aren’t the end of it. You can see signs, omens and freaky pets as a come-on. Your behaviour can change to fall in line with the hungering god. Bramble Vitch, a blogger, claims that, “Loki has always manifested himself through hard decisions that force me to think differently. He’s also manifested through my inner child [...] He uses my cats to disrupt moments of having a stick up my ass.” Other spouses talk of coincidences in music, art and cooking. Voices may interrupt your brain with expressions you’d never use. Someone has made a sponge cake for their god. Others ask ancestors about them. Tumblr page Heavenly Wings & Heart reveals that one spouse tapped into their past lives and discovered they had two children with Hermes centuries ago. That’s the god with winged sandals, who’s probably itching to bugger off like a suave milkman.
How do you have kids with a god? Well, it can get physical. A Wordpress piece on god sex does the dirty digging. It says there are four kinds of intimate liaisons: masturbation with intent, spiritual canoodling, surrogacy and possession. The first channels orgasmic energy towards your god. “Most have toys dedicated to specific deities,” we are told. “This may help the devotee differentiate god sex from just rubbing one out.” The second, rather, prepares an abstract bedroom or glade in another world, where your lo-fi trip hop playlist pulses gently in the ether.
The last pair of options, however, require a human. You sleep with someone after gaining their godly consent. Touch is material; the act is sacred. According to the author, “This can be done with a person you are in a pre-existing relationship with, as long as you remember to also fuck outside this practice.” He doesn’t recommend getting kinky with someone who acts as a vessel and remembers little. “The devotee may see me as a living representative of their deity,” he explains, “rather than Del-the-guy-who-watches-a-lot-of-reality-TV-and-eats-a-lot-of-bacon.” In the headlong variety of consummation, there’s a danger of confusing bad sex with a good god, or waking up to a lover painting a beard on you, whispering, “Odin, rise . . .”
Logically, that person may give you children, who at the time and nature of their conception, may be a demigod. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that’s a lot of pressure. What if they aren’t good at football? How are they meant to feel about togas in November?
At least a few godspouses confine their progeny to the spiritual plane, but again, there are complications. Tumblr user Peter Vidani points out that “‘doing the do’ is not necessary.” Instead, you can pool energy (that timeworn, unspecified noun) into the creation of a god baby. The child may change form as it matures. Peter, another Lokean, suggests you ask Loki about the birthing process, because “God knows he’s done this enough times to give you a straight answer.” He also says he has a “house filled with people to help raise my children” in the immortal land, so if he never goes back, that’s fine. Deadbeat dads, listen up - godspouses don’t pay alimony.
Yet none of this is too absurd if you believe that love can be carved like a pie. Because the average god has surely taken thousands of spouses by now, and continues to do so. They have committed themselves in heart, mind and soul to a huge number of ex wives and husbands. How do they conceive the value of a relationship that will end before they can blink? Does the disappointment fester? If they keep chasing the same follower through time, is that stalking, manipulation? How do you call off a relationship with a god? It better be mutual.
As regular, biological marriage keeps shrinking in our cultural mainframe, we might also ask whether an array of deities - the grand, the nasty, the kind, the deceptive – is in fact much closer to human nature than an omniscient thumb in the sky. We could look to the underlying assumption of godspousing, that agents of creation are as susceptible to date night as we are, and find an endearing sort of harmony there. You can’t tell love what it should be. It exists outside of reality. And godspouses are at the very least in love with a part of themselves, which sure beats hatred.
The Ancient Greek writer Philostratus The Elder described a painting of Aphrodite’s followers, a choir of them, with the leader frowning at a singer who’s off-key. Yet the rest are radiant, “and by slightly moving their upturned hands they show that she has come from the sea, and their smile is an imitation of the sea’s calm.” More of us could afford to look at someone like that, whether or not they’re cast in marble.