Following Gods

Unusually, I’ve struggled the last couple of weeks to find something I wanted to write about for this post. At times I feel so heavily weighted with grief, fear, and despair about our world (and I mean our to include all people, all species, all life on this lovely, feverish planet suspended in the cool bed of space) and the apparent lack of sane, unified values and problem solving, it’s all I can do to keep putting one foot in front of the other. I’m sustained by my communities on Substack and in real life, my garden, and the simplicity of whatever moment of Now I inhabit. At this moment Now is the smell of chicken crisping in the air fryer, the cool, damp air of a July 4th morning in central Maine coming in open windows, the weight of my laptop on my lap, the feel of its keys under my fingers, and the sleeping cats. It’s a day off. I relish it.

Photo by NASA on Unsplash

I don’t want to write about the state of the world. I have nothing to add to the conversation that feels effective or positive. I’m one of the silent millions, maintaining faith and courage as best I can for my own sake as well as the sake of those around me.

Earlier in the week I received a post from Dr. Sharon Blackie titled ‘Following the Wrong Gods Home’ that caught my imagination and gave me a different perspective.

Through the fog of sadness and fear a clear question rang in my mind: what would Baba Yaga do? And another: what gods am I following, and are they taking me home? And then, I can choose which gods to follow.

Sometimes I forget that.

Just like that, I was back in my power. I jotted down some quick notes and went off to work, feeling better.

Dr. Blackie didn’t mean this question in the formal religious sense, but in the metaphorical sense. Much of what is happening in the world now has to do with the gods people create, worship and follow. Not only real people but gods like money, status, technology, and power. To them we build temples, make blood offerings and human sacrifices. We worship them with our belief and our lives and place them above the law, feeding them with power, and they are rapacious.

No wonder Justice is blindfolded. I’m in complete sympathy. We should give her ear plugs, too.

Photo by Peter Hershey on Unsplash

I think a lot about gods and goddesses. I research their stories and cultures, explore their symbols, sculptures and depictions. I write about them, dream about them, and work with various card decks referencing them. I think about our consistent human propensity to reach for something larger than ourselves, something wiser, stronger, more powerful. We seek some sense of meaning, hope there is reason for all this chaos, that one day we will come back home to ourselves and our family of all human beings on Planet Earth.

Of all the gods and goddesses I’ve made friends with, I love Baba Yaga the best. I’ve written about her before on this blog. She’s Slavic, a hag goddess associated with witches (of course).

I don’t think of myself as a feminist, but the Baba is, for me, the perfect embodiment of female wholeness. She is not obedient or submissive. She is not attached to a man. She carries no shame, no guilt. She’s wild, primal, and powerful. She has feelings and expresses them. She lives proudly in her (conventionally) hideous body. (I’m sure she doesn’t shave, trim, deodorize, make up, color her hair, do her nails or dress appropriately for her age.) She cannot be silenced. She is wise and ancient beyond wisdom and years. She does not suffer fools. She pleases only herself.

A long time ago, in an audio production narrated by Clarissa Pinkola Estes, she said women were made for times like these. I haven’t thought about that in years, but the morning I read Dr. Blackie’s post I remembered it, and I stood a little taller as I made breakfast.

By Carmine Leo

Women, after all, know how to live in a desert. We know how to live underground. Like water, we learn how to go around obstacles and wear away stone. Women endure. We wait. We bide our time and survive. Individuals may be burned, or killed, or silenced, but collective female wisdom lives on in stories, skills and crafts, recipes, traditions and ritual. Women, as vessels of life, understand death. We know how to let die what must, even if it’s ourselves. We know endings are always beginnings.

These are not times for too-sweet maidens and princes on white horses. These are times for survival, clear seeing, hard choices, courage, cunning, and strength. These are times in which we must remember how to be responsible for our own safety, reproductive health and autonomy, and education. We don’t need permission. We don’t need approval. We don’t need men to take care of us. We’ve never needed those things; it’s time to recall and reclaim that truth and teach our younger sisters and daughters how to be wild and true.

We can always make choices. I have already left Ozymandias lying in the desert behind me. I will not follow fear and despair; they cannot take me home. I will not comply with repression and oppression, neither my own or that of others. I will not be silenced. I will resist. I will persist. I will face whatever comes with my head up. I will go around, or under, or over whatever or whoever attempts to control me.

I will choose which gods to follow home.


  • Which gods have you followed in your life? Did they take you home?
  • Have you chosen the gods you follow, or were they thrust upon you?
  • What sacrifices and offerings have your gods demanded of you?

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