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20 December, 2012

W is for Worship

A pet peeve: pagans who appear to be afraid of the word "worship".

It's really a thing.  "Oh, I don't worship gods.  I work with them!"  "I honor them!"  "I am devoted to...."

But never worship.

All of those acts of religious devotion directed towards a deity? Not worship.  Somehow.

Showing reverence and adoration?  Nope, not worship either.

It's a weird thing to me.  All of this activity that is on a literal level worship is defensively declared to not actually be recognition of the worthiness of the gods to be honored.  And I know it's a connotational thing for some people, the whole history of experience in religion that was big on self-abasement and all, but self-abasement is still a different thing than worship.

I think sometimes it's something more insidious, though, kind of a Buddy Christ phenomenon.  Working with gods, being a kind of professional colleague, it feels like being more important than worship, which recognises and differentiates between categories in a kind of rank-acknowledging way.  And that rank thing, it's touchy, isn't it?

And sometimes there actually is stuff about meeting the gods as a comparative equal, individual to individual, but I do tend to think that that needs to come with respecting the existence of differences.  A god is still out there manifesting on a much more cosmic level than I manifest, so if the standard of equality is "two manifesting beings", well, we've got that, but it remains a difference of kind.  And if worship requires a difference of kind, well, it's there.

I light my candles, I burn my incense, and you know - if you're out there lighting candles and burning incense to me you're a bit confused, and probably have a bit of category error going on.  Different categories, different types of attention paid.

It's a thing.


Anonymous said...

I'm gonna go ahead and disagree about the category error part because there are traditions in which the difference can be made, not born; many of the figures worshipped in Chinese traditional religion are historical figures who were deified due to their acts, or by attaining enlightenment (sometimes after death). I keep a shrine to Guan Gong. He was a person. He is also a bodhisattva, and a mountain, and an advisor to many throughout history. He was a history student too.

I do think that 'worship' is mostly a connotational issue, or at least, a matter of defining healthier relationships with gods than many of us were taught were expected to occur when the word 'worship' was invoked. I would also put it down to that blindsiding element of being godbothered as a pagan; 'worship' sounds almost too deliberate for the situation some of us found ourselves in, but there's the rub of your previous post; at what point DOES one acknowledge worship as a deliberate process?

Ngl, I often use 'follow' or 'revere' myself partly due to not feeling diligent enough for my activities to constitute 'worship'.

Dw3t-Hthr said...

Well, yes, various forms of ancestor worship and the process of apotheosis exist, but the right-nowness is a bit sketchy to me. I am not an ancestor, nor am I an ascended power, and in the unlikely case I am recognised as a boddhisatva later that is not the case now, and thus my sense of etiquette suggests that doing such things now is inappropriate.

(Likewise, any system in which there is a specific living person receiving worship-type veneration I have a certain wariness of, though there is an edge case in which the person is not the true target of the worship but rather the principle or entity that they represent.)