On Making Vows to the Gods (protip: don’t)

I was doing a reading not too long ago with someone who was beset on all sides with spiritual problems.  We went through the usual gamut of potential causes for issues like poor health, decreased vitality, constant bad luck, and the like: spiritual obsession or possession by a spirit, being cursed, fucking up against spirits, and the like.  During my investigation, I kept getting the image that this dude is a little spiritually imbalanced in several ways, but also that he ended up crossed rather than cursed.  The distinction here is crucial: being cursed indicates that someone has been actively working magic against you, while being crossed indicates that you’ve messed up and you’re having to pay the penalty for it.  There are lots of ways you can get yourself crossed: taking a bath in a sacred spring, having sex in a graveyard, and generally bringing pollution into a place where pollution is verboten. Generally, if you’ve done something to insult or injure a spirit through negligence or desecration, chances are that they’re going to fight back and punish you for it.  That said, there are other ways you can insult a spirit, some of which can be downright sinister, even if you don’t mean for it to be so.

Well, it so happens that this dude mentioned that, at one point, he had made a vow.  Not just any vow: he had made a vow to Jesus Christ to stop smoking.  No conditions, no leeway, no ways out.  Simply, no more smoking, period.  Dude’s a smoker, and I can understand; the buzz of nicotine is kinda awesome, but it quite quickly becomes addictive, and there are the litanies of health problems associated with smoking.  He mentioned also, however, that he never stopped smoking, and that he’s also had energy problems, especially involving his chest area, like something is just being sucked out of him.  He figured that, even after he made his vow, one little cigarette once in a while wouldn’t hurt.  Sure, he noticed his life getting better once he quit, but after that first cigarette that couldn’t really hurt, his life took another downturn, but didn’t think much of it.

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After doing a few more checks with divination, yeah, it turns out that this was a major cause of his spiritual issues.  Not the one single root cause, but definitely a contributing factor in what was going on with his life.  And, further, that yes, OF COURSE he needs to stop smoking.  I told him off in no uncertain terms that he’s done smoking now forever; he made a vow, he broke his vow, and his life has been getting shittier because of it.  There’s no excuse, no ifs-ands-or-buts here.  He needs to stop smoking pronto cold turkey and completely.  Quitting smoking is a GOOD THING on so many levels for this dude.

Vows and promises made to the gods are sacred, powerful things.  They are one of the last, ultimate, final tools I use in my work with the gods, because once a vow is made, you’re locked into it.  There is no getting out of it unless the one with whom you made a vow has released you from it.  A vow is a contract, and breaching that contract is no bueno.  Breaking a vow is a surefire way to get crossed, if not killed, and there is going to be a penalty exacted on your vow-breaking ass.  You have no excuse when you make a vow and then break it; spirits expect you to be true to your word, especially if you expect them to be true to theirs.  If you show yourself as trustworthy to a spirit, especially a god or God, and you go back and shatter that trust by doing exactly what you said you wouldn’t, or conversely by not doing what you said you would do, they’re going to (at a minimum) cease any blessing or aid they’ll give you.  More likely, they’ll make it a point to show you “yo, you done fucked up”.

Sometimes, vows are more like taboos.  Consider the readings that Santeros get, their ita, that indicates proscribed actions or foodstuffs.  Some people can’t eat red food, or food that has touched open flame; some can’t go into open-air markets; some can’t wear all black; some can’t be in the same room as a particular type of practitioner.  These aren’t necessarily vows, per se, but taboos, sacred prohibitions that will have a cost if they’re done, especially after the saints told you “yo, don’t do this”.  Do them if you want, but don’t be surprised when you eat that grilled steak and you’re the only person at the dinner party who got food poisoning.  If the spirits tell you to act a certain way and if you agree with that, don’t act contrary to what they said.  Sometimes they’re looking out for your own benefit; sometimes they want you to act in a certain way to serve them better.  Listen to them.  Don’t ignore them.  Don’t disrespect them.  Don’t reneg on them.

So, in that light, here’s some tips for you to make good vows:

  • If there is literally any other way to get something accomplished, don’t make vows.
  • Never make vows when on a spiritual, chemical, or emotional high.
  • Only make vows after you have soberly and seriously thought them through and in all possible circumstances.
  • Never get strong-armed or forced into making a vow you don’t want unless you literally have no other recourse open to you.
  • Never make a vow that you can’t keep.
  • Never make a vow that requires the actions or dependencies of other people.
  • Only make vows that require your own actions.
  • If possible, build conditions into the vow: time limits (“for the next lunar month”), conditions (“as long as I am dating so-and-so”), and the like are all totally legit.
  • Never, NEVER, NEVERNEVER, NEVER break a vow once made.  What comes to you later for breaking it is well-deserved and I will have no pity for you.
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About polyphanes
I'm a software developer and Hermetic occultist living near Washington, DC, USA. I claim that I'm youthful, dashing, daring, and other things. I make things and chant stuff, and periodically write about them.

5 Responses to On Making Vows to the Gods (protip: don’t)

  1. DM says:

    Another thing–if you’re in some sort of vision, dream, or trance, and you’re offered something to eat or drink, DON’T. Just don’t. Usually spirits will do this to get you to owe them something.

  2. syrens says:

    Reblogged this on Urban Meliad and commented:
    Don’t make promises you can’t keep. Got it.

  3. Wayfarer says:

    There is of course the old store of Cuchullain who roughly, having vowed never to eat the meat of dog, but also bound by the laws of hospitality that require him to partake of anything offered to him, ended up getting wrecked by the Phantom Queen. It’s a classic tale of being worked into a rock and a hard place situation, and it happened because he took vows. Of course, this isn’t to say he oughtn’t have taken them, but just that we’re responsible for ourselves.

  4. Lizzie Marie says:

    Whoa. How crazy, to me, how something so obvious never even dawned ’til now. Thank you.

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