Do the gods need us?
I have heard many opinions on this question, most fall to either extreme. There are many people who believe that the gods require sacrifice and worship, that it sustains them in some way. There are also many people who believe the opposite, that they do not need us at all. But what I would like to argue for is something in-between – our worship enriches the gods and affords to them the ability to act as gods on our behalf and on behalf of others.
When we sacrifice, we are passing some of our mægen (ON: magn, megin, megn), essentially our strength and power. That mægen goes to the gods in the form of whatever we sacrifice, be it votive or physical. We lose some of our might and strength by giving it up, and that strength passes to the gods. The thought then being that the gods share again with us in a reciprocal relationship of gifting. This shows that sacrifice is actually important, the gods do receive something from sacrifice. Yet I would argue that the continued existence of the gods despite humanity taking a great hiatus from their worship shows that they do not strictly need to receive sacrifice and prayer like some form of sustenance. Instead, I would argue that the gods are enriched by sacrifice and prayer.
Is a god not unlike a king? We treat them, or I hope we treat them with deference and respect as one would a king. But a king does not, strictly speaking, need to have subjects. A king could survive without subjects just fine as they are not necessary for life. Having subjects who pay taxes and tithe to the king however enriches the king and makes the king’s life far easier. The king in return provides his subjects with protection. Having subjects means that the king can act as a king; because is a king truly a king without subjects? Or are they merely a man making their own way in the world at that point? Without the taxes and tithes, could the king afford to protect the people?
I believe that gods are much the same. We sacrifice to the gods and gift to them and enrich them. In return, they guide and guard us as we go about our lives and they bless us in many capacities. It is my belief that they bless us in ways we cannot always see or know because their sight and vision is more far reaching. But I also do not believe they can do everything or protect from everything. In that way they are much like a king, doing what they can when they can, given the resources on hand. Gods do not, strictly speaking, need to have worshipers, but worshipers enrich the gods. Having worshipers means the god can act as a god; because is a god truly a god without worshipers? Or are they merely one of the many great entities inhabiting the spiritual world at that point? So instead, just as the king is a king because he acts as a king on behalf of his subjects, is not a god a god because they act as a god on behalf of their worshipers?
But this means that our sacrifices have meaning and importance; not to the survival or existence of our deities as they continued to exist perfectly fine without our recognition, but instead to enrich them and allow them the strength to act as a god to us and to others. Our mægen, our strength, becomes their mægen which they can then pass to us and to others as they see the needs arise. This is of course a topic with no definite answer, but perhaps this thought will be one which could add to the discourse on the subjects of why we sacrifice and whether or not the gods need us.