I will start this by stating – I am NOT a godspouse. This article is actually in response to something I read in a casual forum mostly dedicated to helping beginners who are almost entirely monotheistic navigate the world of buying metaphysical items and solutions.
One of the services I discovered being sold was a ritual done by a practitioner other than the purchaser, which would essentially marry the client to an immortal/deity of their choice. Though I am not a godspouse, I know several people who are, and I feel that a frank discussion about the pros and cons of Godspousery is important, especially given the treatment that Spouses experience in the wider pagan community.
I understand that it is not a generally accepted practice. Most pagans do not believe in divine marriage, or if they do, they do not approve of it. That doesn’t mean that if you’re not a pagan, you get a pass on treating something so sacred so cavalierly.
So. Let’s discuss terminology to start off with, shall we?
Marriage: 1. the legally or formally recognized union of two people as partners in a personal relationship (historically and in some jurisdictions specifically a union between a man and a woman). 2. a combination or mixture of two or more elements.
Wikipedia defines marriage as:
“a socially or ritually recognized union between spouses that establishes rights and obligations between the spouses married to each other, between the spouses and any resulting biological or adopted children of theirs, and between spouses and their affinity (in-laws and other family through marriage). The definition of marriage varies according to different cultures, but it is principally an institution in which interpersonal relationships, usually sexual, are acknowledged or sanctioned. In some cultures, marriage is recommended or considered to be compulsory before pursuing any sexual activity. When defined broadly, marriage is considered a cultural universal.”
In other words, Marriage is a Social Contract.
So what is Hieros Gamos? Well, it’s literally Spiritual Marriage.
Hieros gamos or Hierogamy (Greek ἱερὸς γάμος, ἱερογαμία “holy marriage”) is a sexual ritual that plays out a marriage between a god and a goddess, especially when enacted in a symbolic ritual where human participants represent the deities.
The notion of hieros gamos does not presuppose actual performance in ritual, but is also used in purely symbolic or mythological context, notably in alchemy and hence in Jungian psychology.
And what about the word Hermaphrodite?
Hermaphroditus, the two-sexed child of Aphrodite and Hermes (Venus and Mercury) had long been a symbol of androgyny or effeminacy, and was portrayed in Greco-Roman art as a female figure with male genitals.
Theophrastus’s account also suggests a link between Hermaphroditus and the institution of marriage. The reference to the fourth day of the month is telling: this is the luckiest day to have a wedding. Hermaphroditus’s association with marriage seems to have been that, by embodying both masculine and feminine qualities, he symbolized the coming together of men and women in sacred union. Another factor linking Hermaphroditus to weddings was his parents’ role in protecting and blessing brides.
Hermaphroditus’s name is derived from those of his parents Hermes and Aphrodite. All three of these gods figure largely among erotic and fertility figures, and all possess distinctly sexual overtones. Sometimes, Hermaphroditus is referred to as Aphroditus. The phallic god Priapus was the son of Hermes by some accounts and the youthful god of desire Eros of Ares and Aphrodite.
OK. Now that you have the basic definitions, let’s talk details.
First of all, you need to understand that Godspousery is a pact, a contract, with a divine immortal, and no one should make such promises lightly. Case in point – the reason I’m writing this article in the first place: the person discussing their purchase of a marriage to their chosen divinity was not prepared for the fallout that occurred when they didn’t behave as a husband ought to behave towards a goddess.
Divine Marriage, the formal commitment to a deity to have a relationship with that deity that is as deeply intimate as a couple’s relationship would be, is not a new concept. As you’ve seen by the definitions, it’s at least as old as ancient Greco-Roman culture, and probably quite a bit older. There is mention in the bible of Solomon’s marriage to God, and the famous Persion poet Rumi was also married to God. Several well-known Catholic saints are acknowledge Godspouses. Krishna married 16,000 wives. Even to this day in western culture, women marry their god, wear wedding rings, and seclude their bodies from human men for the rest of their lives – though we don’t talk about it, because most people think Catholic nuns are a little odd in our modern world.
Marriages to divine beings can be sexual marriages or chaste marriages. There are people who have both a human husband or wife, and a divine one, and there are people who are required to be monogamous with their God. They can be plural marriages – it is possible (though probably not recommended) to be married to more than one deity. Gods also don’t seem to be particular about the sex or sexual orientation of their human spouses, despite the mythological evidence of their specific sexuality and relationships with other deities of their pantheon. These marriages can be for a set length of time, or they can be for the life of the human involved.
The deity who is part of the marriage is usually the one that proposes the union. This is generally because they wish to formalize a relationship with their chosen priest or priestess – and while being a Spouse is NOT the same as being a Priest/ess, it has a lot of the same requirements for dedication, time, energy and resources.
It is VERY important, when entering into such a pact, that you know your Intended’s mythos, and that you also are aware of Their expectations about your conduct. Negotiation is very important – you need to know what you are required to give, and you need to say what you are WILLING to give. You also need to express what you wish to receive, beyond the spiritual benefits of a union with a divine expression of archetypal power. When you enter into a contract with a deity, whether it is one of godspouse, patronage, or even a simple bargain for a one-time need, it is important to remember that you are not a slave, not a servant. You are requesting or responding to a request for partnership – it’s not meant to be one-sided, so it’s vital that you be willing to express your needs being met as a part of the contract. If your experience DOES end up being one-sided, understand that your deity is giving you an object lesson on the consequences of not speaking up for yourself.
Why would a deity wish to enter into a contract with a human being? Well, it’s simple – Gods have no physicality. They are capable of seeing the whole of potentiality laid out, and yet, without you, they cannot act as they see fit to mold the world into a better image. You have one power that they do not, nor will ever have. YOU ARE THEIR HANDS. Do not forget how vital you are, and that you have power that they need – the power to act in the physical world.
A Sacred Marriage ALWAYS has rules attached – this is a contract, remember – and the deity will wish for specific behaviors attached to the title of Spouse. Some of these demands could be considered quite harsh – and there are consequences for breaking your word in a contract. Here are some possible questions you will need to have answered – every contract, every relationship is different, but I offer these generalities as a starting point. Are there specific times you are required to contact them and make yourself available? If there are requirements for set times of contact, what happens if you are ill, or if some life circumstance requires you to be away from your god? Is there a requirement for either spiritual or physical distance from others? Can you marry or have sex with other humans? Are there dress requirements? (Seriously, I know some Wives who are asked to cover their hair for their Gods – this is an important question to ask.) Are you required to make a pilgrimage to Their sacred sites? Are you required to live a certain way, or in a certain place? Are you required to take a vow of silence? When you contact them or they contact you, what types of jobs might you be required to do for them and for yourself? What will you receive in return for this work? What will the deity share with you, teach you, as you move forward in your relationship with them? What will the consequences of failing to meet your obligations in this relationship be?
Marriage with a deity, like marriage with a physical partner, is an agreement to go on a journey with each other, to share experiences, to act for the benefit of each other. If you decide to marry an immortal, whether it is for a set period of time, or for life, remember that you are agreeing to the journey, and to the sharing and blending. You are agreeing to becoming One with a God/dess – They the head, and you the hands. This is a sacred honor, and an important one. Do not take it lightly.
Step gloriously down the path, loves, in beautiful light and shadows.