Boundary Gods, or The story of my life

“Magic isn’t something you do, Little Fly. Magic is something you make. Now get to it.”

Not long after I got my rite of parent divination done in September 2007 and I started to adjust to knowing the Jackal Who’d been around since I was a kid was not the jackal I thought He was*, I found my thoughts going in directions I had never expected it to. There was a particular deity whose name I could not get out of my head. From a culture in which I’d never had much interest before.

In particular, it was a song which looped through my head for weeks.

I could not stop hearing this song on my mental jukebox. Listening to the CD did not help either. One day I broke down and did the most basic research I could do while also working at my job. One small portion at the end of the article hit me like a brick and so much settled into place.

Regarding the nature of her cult, it has been remarked, “she is more at home on the fringes than in the center of Greek polytheism. Intrinsically ambivalent and polymorphous, she straddles conventional boundaries and eludes definition.”

Boundaries. Like Wepwawet. Like Odin in many ways. Like Papa Legba and Ellegua, one who I adored and another who had shown up in an Ifa reading many years ago.

My spiritual life is dominated by boundary gods.

They turn up everywhere I look. Even now, as I am reading Radiant Days by Elizabeth Hand, there’s a boundary figure. Someone who may as well be invisible, can bridge space and time, and hands out magical keys. The quotes at the beginning and end of this entry are from the book. I won’t say anything more about this figure and just encourage you to read the book, because it is brilliant and Elizabeth Hand knows how to weave fiction.

So what is a boundary god? In my worldview, boundary gods have these qualities:

They occupy liminal spaces, guard doorways, are over transitions.

The physical boundary is one they love. That in-between place. That time between major stages of life and the uncertainty they bring to the person. Initiations are a BIG area which They govern.
They are openers of the way. Which isn’t just about opening. A gem my yoga teacher shared in class one day concerned Ganesha, Who is known as Remover of Obstacles. Not only is He the Remover of Obstacles, but He also IS the Obstacle. In this case, He is the obstacle of all that would have sought to distract us from our yoga practice.
It reminds me of a prayer/heka my brother Nakht wrote years ago:
“Wepwawet, opener of the ways, bless your comings and goings.
Open the way for me and those I love,
and close the way to those who would seek to do me harm.
Wepwawet, opened of the ways, bless your comings and goings.”

They have trickster qualities without being all out tricksters

For me this is a big distinction. I know Eshu gets classified as a trickster but I see Him as much more than that. Tricksters are not as liminal, They reside on that “other side.” Don’t get me wrong though, because I have experienced that trickster side as part of a big lesson, when one day in shrine Dad opened up the floodgates of my memory to remind me of every deceit and bend of truth I used in my life. It’s not a BAD thing, mind. Sometimes we need to be tricky and sneaky. Life is rarely straightforward.

They are magicians

Does this need explaining? All those transitions, all that exploring, all that curiosity, and all that knowledge and power, it adds up to a LOT of magic as one’s disposal. They may not be the most “book smart” of the Gods, but They know things, and can make things happen.

“Magic isn’t something you have, or find. It isn’t something that happens to you, or something you do. Magic is something you make. And if you don’t make something and leave it behind, it’s not just that it’s gone. You’re gone.” (Again, from Radiant Days)

Who do I consider to be boundary gods? In my life, there’s Wepwawet, Odin, Hekate, Hermes (Who pops in periodically for a year now), Papa Legba, and Ganesha thanks to my yoga practice. There are others of course. Most polytheistic traditions are likely to have such a figure. I am still just learning the lessons They have to bring and I hope to find more people who are exploring Their mysteries. The list I presented, as with all attempts to define deities, is scant. What else have you learned about Them?

This post is a part of the Pagan Blog Project.

*though through the joys of Kemetic worldview and polyvalent logic, He is, in a beautiful, mind-bending way.

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5 comments on “Boundary Gods, or The story of my life

  1. I think of pretty much all the deities you listed as, first and foremost, psychopomps–though, whether that is a function of their status as boundary-gods, or is an adjunct to it, or if being boundary-gods is a characteristic of all psychopomps, etc., is a huge and open question.

    Antinous is such a deity as well, to various extents–although, in some ways, being he’s as super-syncretistic as he is, he’s also not just a psychopomp for humans and human souls, he’s also a theopomp, as it were…!?!

    Plutarch, in On Isis and Osiris, pretty much states that Anubis (I know: not the same as Wepwawet, but sharing some characteristics with him, and very likely from Plutarch’s viewpint, he may have been talking about W. rather than A.) and Hekate are the same, which I find intriguing…not as a theological syncretism, but as an example of how their roles are pretty much equivalent.

  2. Sufenas, what is amusing to me is that I thought my “common theme” was more along the psychopomps and death. Somehow as I get older I am less attuned to that final transition. It’s a weird sort of spiritual growing up I guess.

    With Anubis and Hekate I can kinda see that, but I don’t get much of Her death side when I do interact with Her. (Not as much as I should but I am still working on it.) I also find it interesting which gods get compared when you look at what the Greek and Roman writers interpreted.

    Also, is there anything Antinous CAN’T do? 🙂

  3. Is there anything Antinous can’t do? I have a few thoughts on that: mainly, war deity. Yes, Antinous the Liberator is fine fighting in the trenches for human rights, etc., but that’s different than going “I’m gonna kill those mother fuckers!” and just lashing out with weapons of mass destruction, etc.

    I’m sure there’s other things he might not be able to do either…but, apart from silly examples that probably wouldn’t actually be off-limits to him (e.g. the god of mowing lawns…why not? The god of cleaning hotel rooms…why not?), I can’t think of any major things that would be completely and totally off-limits to him. Hmm…

  4. Pingback: Antinous Theopompos « Aedicula Antinoi: A Small Shrine of Antinous

  5. Who do I consider to be boundary gods? In my life, there’s Wepwawet, Odin, Hekate, Hermes (Who pops in periodically for a year now), Papa Legba, and Ganesha thanks to my yoga practice. There are others of course. Most polytheistic traditions are likely to have such a figure. I am still just learning the lessons They have to bring and I hope to find more people who are exploring Their mysteries. The list I presented, as with all attempts to define deities, is scant. What else have you learned about Them?

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