There are plenty of ways to bring the Gods into our everyday life. When my son and I wait for the bus we say a morning prayer. It’s short, simple, and direct: we thank Sunna for the Sun’s light that it provides for the new day, and sometimes our warmth and/or the growth of our food, and Daeg for a new day.
First we face the East.
This is the prayer:
“Hail Sunna, Goddess of the Sun.
Hail Daeg, God of the Day.
Thank you for a new day.
Thank you for a fresh start.
Thank you, Sunna, for the warmth of the Sun.
Thank you, Daeg, for the promise of a new beginning.
Hail Sunna! Hail Daeg!
Blessed be, and ves ðu heil!”
Then we salute with our hands pressed together at our forehead, and then bowing, with our hands over our hearts and/or solar plexus. That’s it. Well, we might play or tease each other, but it is a good way to get our day started. Even if we both had a rotten morning we tend to feel a bit better if not refreshed. He goes off to school with a prayer on his lips and primed for a good day. I get to see my son off on the bus, and wave to him as he leaves, going to the same school I once did. The blessings of the Gods are many, and the joy of seeing him off smiling is one I treasure.
I am trying to have respectful dialogue on something I have intense feelings rooted in my religion, beliefs, and understanding of my Gods, Ancestors, and spirits. I understand that for those who engage in Pop Culture Paganism their feelings are probably similar if not the same towards their own Gods. I am trying to open up dialogue about something that I nearly destroyed all bridges with my family over and have dedicated my life to.
Part of my reluctance to engage is recognizing from talking with people near me, as one put it, that “You are too engrossed in your worldview to see another’s”. And you know what? That is a valid point, and one I raise to Christians when they deny the whole existence of my Gods.
I also ask ‘does my engagement actually engender frith?’ I am unsure if my writing did anything beyond preach to a choir and alienate others. I felt a compulsion to write it, out of frustration and anger at what I found to be something that I felt was insulting to my Gods, Ancestors, spirits, and I. I have issues with definitions of Paganism already, and this was one more thing that I feel that takes away from that understanding.
My point in my articles is not that Pop Culture Paganism is evil, but I admit in several places where I have weighed in that I cannot understand it. It does not make sense to me. I don’t mind that people use statuary as stand ins for Loki, or they derive benefit from using iconography and such from another medium. I recognize that my approval probably means nothing to people engaged in religious devotion to Gods I don’t worship. I happen to use Dryad Designs’ depictions of my Gods (Odin and Freya thus far, and I’m on the lookout for Frigga) because they click with me. If Loki-as-Joker works for you, I’m fine with that. What I do not understand is the worship /of/ Joker. Or Batman.
In the article I wrote I expressed that I could not conceive of worshiping Batman or developing a devotional relationship with him, and then go on to compare and contrast it to heiti. I ask the question: “Which Batman?” among others. Which comic do I take as an understanding of Batman? How do I verify this is indeed Batman the spirit, as opposed to a spirit wearing Batman’s face? I assume that similar methods if not the same methods I would use to check if the spirit that answered my call to Odin is Odin Himself or someone wearing His guise. However, I don’t know because it is not something I have done.
I have had revelatory experiences in my car listening to the radio. Does that mean that the artist whose song I have listened to is a prophet of this or that God, Goddess, Ancestor, or spirit? No, my Gods, Ancestors, and/or spirits used a medium to communicate with me.
In the post I recently wrote I cited my Great-Grandfather’s journey here from Holland to America at the open of WWI when the fear was that there would be an invasion. He came to a country where he had some relatives, but he could not speak the language well. He made his life here success by success and mistake by mistake. I do not understand the process that puts his life story, one of my heroes, alongside Batman’s. I attended my Great-Grandfather’s funeral and heard his life story several times over the course of my life. I saw his ship records; he has a concrete place in this world, in my Ancestors’ House, and in my life for the little amount of time I knew him in life. He sang to me songs in broken Dutch and English, and gave me a harmonica to remember him by. Batman does not and has not done these things for me. How could he?
I use Batman here because I really like this character, especially from the 90s animated series voiced by Kevin Conroy, the Dark Knight Trilogy, and the Arkham Batman games. Have I been inspired by Batman? Sure. He was a part of my early childhood and helped form it with his stories, just as Spider-Man did. I spent a good deal of time watching both with my Dad and it helped to form dialogue between us on religion, revenge, the use of power, the poor, mental health and mental health care, the difference between reality and fiction, and so many other things. I suppose where I come to the difference, beyond ‘my Great-Grandfather lived’, is that Batman never came to me in a vision, or when I thought “Man, I could really use Batman right now.” The Gods did. When I was a Catholic, Yahweh, Jesus Christ, and the Virgin Mary, as well as St. Francis de Assisi did.
A worthy point Sannion brought up is if indeed these are spirits unto themselves, then what if they would actively deny our worship, or worse, be insulted by it? I.e. Batman, I am fairly sure given my experience of Batman through the comics, movies, games, etc. would balk at being worshiped and would not answer. Perhaps that is me just lore-thumping with a comic book instead of an Edda. How does one enter into such a religious cultus and culture and keep a sense of discernment and sense of sanctity for Gods I consider to be more real than comic book ones that are worshiped?
So the challenge could be one where I would say “Okay, I don’t believe on whit of this, but I’m willing to entertain the notion, so here we go: I’ll buy a Batman action figure or print a picture and put it aside from my Gods and give it worship as I might my Gods. It won’t go on my God altar, but I’m willing to entertain this notion.”
Then I think about it, and what that worship means to me, to my Gods, Ancestors, and spirits, and I cannot do it. I can’t go that far, and I admit that. At the risk of insulting you, and your own religious path, I don’t look at it as a negative, because I see such a thing as debasing my religion, of saying to my Gods “you are like this fictitious being to me”. It insults me, and from my perspective, and my religious training and beliefs it insults my Gods to do so.
I’m all for people worshiping whatever Gods they want to, and at the end of the day, I recognize that my voice means relatively little in the course of whether or not someone will call me wrong for worshiping Loki the way I do when they take their inspiration of worship from Marvel. They still may feel the need to say it, even if I don’t respond to it, or they may strike a dialogue with me and explain why they find the Marvel Loki more spiritually fulfilling than the Loki I know.
I think that part of the importance of my engaging with Pagans who engage Pop Culture as a source for their Gods, is to say that “I do not believe this, but I am willing at least to hear it. I won’t shout you down, but I will probably not accept it.” People may well come to me tomorrow asking for help, or I may be called upon to engage with them by my Gods, and rather than close myself off wholly to them, I think that the middling ground of “I respect your right to have your religious experiences, but I do not look at them as I will my own. If you can handle that we can continue.” If their response is “If my Gods are not welcome/respected as I respect Them I cannot treat with you” I can respect that in the larger sense; I have the exact same response to places where Loki is forbidden. I cannot go there, and cannot ask you to either.
If your devotion to your religion and/or your Gods is that deep, let me give a heartfelt hurrah for you. I can at least nod and say “I respect your right to worship who and what you wish. I don’t understand it, I may not accept it as valid for my religion, practices, beliefs, etc. but that, ultimately, is between you and the Gods.” Hell, if your religious devotion is deep you’re doing better than a lot of so-called religious people, Pagan and not. Where I would have harsh words is if, as I have seen insisted on Tumblr, that Marvel’s Loki is the real one, and any of us who go “Wait, our understanding of Loki is based in the myths and legends and our experiences of Him through that lens” are told we are wrong. My Gods are not revealed to me in fiction. While my understanding may, in some cases be informed by fiction, i.e. I still ‘see’ Thor with blond hair rather than red as is depicted in the myths, I do not believe They should not be placed in the same category as fiction or fictitious beings. I cannot treat Batman, or any other superhero with the same religious reverence as my Gods, my Ancestors, or the spirits with whom I work.
This post was inspired by this one on Patheos by Sunweaver.
The comic book heroes I read about and watch are not worthy of worship.
If I need help I cannot call on Batman to lend me aid any more than I can call upon Wolverine to lend me strength in battle. Could a spirit become invested with that power? I could see where a spirit would be happy to piggy-back on the following certain characters in fiction get, such as those above. But it would not be Batman or Wolverine in any meaningful sense.
Batman, with all of his iterations, may have a core story, but many are so spaced apart that calling on ‘the spirit of Batman’ is chaotic. Do you get the early 1940s Batman? Adam West’s? Kevin Conroy’s? Or perhaps one of exclusively toy line Batmans that float around after a new movie, with only the costume and some items to go with it?
This is nothing like heiti. In calling upon Odin, or perhaps upon Him via one of His heiti I am calling to a particular part of Him that was known, and that corresponds to Him in some concrete way. As Runatyr I get a very different aspect of Odin, but unlike the Batman example I give above, Runatyr is still Odin, not reimagined, or, as in the case of Batman 52, rebooted, but simply focused upon in a different way. Rather than focusing upon His qualities and Being as a God of inspiration, for instance, in praying to and calling upon Him as Runatyr I am desiring a connection to the Runemeister, to the God of Runes. I cannot confuse this with another spirit; it is utterly Odin’s name, likeness, and Being in conjunction with this heiti. There is no ‘alternate universe’ so to speak, ala Universe 52, where Runatyr is the essence of Odin and not His heiti.
Okay, well, we’re talking about heroes and superheroes. So what about Egil Skallagrimsson or Olvir of Egg or, more close to home, those of our Disir or Väter who we know as our recent Dead? Batman is as worthy of veneration and worship as my Great-Grandfather? Batman, while I find him a really cool comic character and many of his qualities good to emulate, is not and was not a flesh and blood person. The story of the Dark Knight movies, while fun to watch and in many cases a good meditation on justice, desperation and a good deal of other themes, is not the story of how my Great-Grandfather sailed into America with few possessions and laid down new roots here with the few family members already settled here. Batman, while a human-like story, is not a human story. Likewise, my Great-Grandfather’s story is neither allegory nor metaphor, but history and the lore of my family. I can visit his grave; I attended his funeral. I may tell his story as a metaphor or allegory, especially if I find the telling the story may help another, but Great-Grandfather’s story is his life retold, not a reimagined character. He embodies the story, even as I tell it, even if I miss details, or intentionally focus on others. When I tell Great-Grandfather’s story, it is not some New 52 Great-Grandfather, but he as he has come to me in understanding from my family, from my interactions with him, and my understanding of his story, its places in my life and how it can touch others.
Our heroes are real. These people, our Pagan and Heathen heroes and martyrs are real. They lived. Their stories reach out to us, many lives ending in supreme amounts of pain in devotion to their Gods. These, these are people, Holy People worthy of worship and remembrance . I can raise a horn to these People, write a paean to Them, hail them as Ancestors. These are people I can look to for greatness, for devotion, as exemplars.
This is continuing the thoughts I have been thinking about the religious implications of sustainability and Peak Oil, prompted by Archdruid John Michael Greer’s blog The Archdruid Report.
Americans live in a time and place where sustainability is a catchword more often used by politicians and companies to describe an endeavor whose return on investment places them in a comfortable area. It is, for almost all of us, no longer a part of our daily lives. It is, for those of us who dream of living better within this world, a word that expresses a goal. This word does not describe so much an end point as it does a way of life that we are, by small measures and great, willing to work to build ourselves toward.
Sustainability is the concept of living within the world rather than upon it, to work closer in concert with one’s surroundings, and in better concert with what Earth can provide us without destroying the environment, habitat, that we live within. What this does not mean is we give up on technology. Even the Amish, who are often pointed at as premier Luddites, have had to grow with the times. Many drive cars, operate modern technology, and otherwise live lives in which modern technology plays a good part. What it does mean is we are much more judicious about what technology we employ, what it does for us, and, weighing every piece of technology by what its impact is on the environment, which includes not only the ground, trees, natural resources, animals, insects, etc. but us as well.
The question of ‘can we live in sustainability?’ is not a hard one to answer. If, by this question you mean ‘can we live in sustainability and still consume as we do?’ the question is a big, hard, fucking NO. Not with statistics like us consuming 25% or better of the World’s goods when we are 5% of its population. Not when we are willing to trash our wild places for another gulp of oil that we’re sucking off the pipeline like Hexus at the end of Ferngully, desperate to keep the consumption monster growing. This is not even addressing the basic human rights issue of Native Americans’ lands being under threat by projects like the Keystone XL Pipeline. This is not even addressing the four to six new ecological disasters unleashed in places like Arkansas with pipelines that have failed.
The key problem that I see with any question of national sustainability is that our nationwide systems are anything but, especially since our economic model is predicated on a model of exponential growth. Until this model is discarded there is little hope that exponential growth will stop. After all, if you had a spigot of money with which to fill a bucket every day, and you knew there was no end to the flow, what would keep you from filling the bucket? It is not as if the idea even exists in your mind that you might actually, as a person who hits the end of their well, run out of money. Unfortunately, this is the state of the economy, with the Dow Jones having just posted another record day. Many of those who helped engender the 2008 economic crisis have made out like bandits and have no reason to stop supporting the system that produces a continual cash flow that they can freely tap into. To anyone aside from the top earners the crisis is still going on, with roads and bridges going without needed repairs, and other basic infrastructure beginning to crumble.
So how can we think of sustainability when all the systems we may have relied upon are starting to teeter, if not collapse, be sold off, or otherwise compromised? It is, in short, the only way forward if we wish to live.
I follow Archdruid John Michael Greer’s fabulous blog, and this, among other related topics, is something he has tackled in far more detail and far greater scope than I could ever hope to. His posts are very well written and I highly encourage you to check them out. As Mr. Greer puts it: “one of the central tasks before Americans today, as our nation’s imperial age stumbles blindly toward its end, is that of reinventing America: that is, of finding new ideals that can provide a sense of collective purpose and meaning in an age of deindustrialization and of economic and technological decline. “
There is an end point to all growth. Sustainability’s challenge to us Americans is for us to bow our head to that end point, and especially to stop our consumption well short of it for our survival, and continued livelihood. Sustainability is more than ‘living simply’, it is living with respect to the limits of this World to provide for us, and within respect of what our needs are, and tamping down on excessive wants. How can we do that when we live in apartments? Suburbs?
Given that the nation has yet to actually address the economic mess it is in, let alone the unsustainable fuel consumption we have, it seems to me that working locally is the best option. As much as possible we have to diversify our neighborhoods. That sounds nice, but what it means is work. It means that wherever possible we grow our own food and produce our own goods. It may mean taking care of a community garden so that we do not have to shuck out hundreds just to eat healthy food. It means pushing landlords to get solar panels on the roofs, or to make those roofs able to support food growing. It means turning our balconies and similar places into miniature gardens if we are able. Apartment, suburb, or a place with plenty of land, the motto is consume less, grow more. There are so many solutions that I could not possibly name them all, and your own situation may provide unique ones.
What this all means is answering the question of “Where is the Ground?” Where is it? Where is the ground by which future growth is possible? What is future growth in a world where exponential growth is unsustainable? Where is the ground of new life for our communities? Where is the ground for where we can grow our communities in sustainability? Where is the ground where we can grow enough food to sustain our communities without relying heavily (if at all) on imports to feed us? Where is the ground we can find to develop our communities into better places to live for ourselves and generations to come?
How do we abandon the outdated models of life and living so that we may, once we have found it, embrace the ground on which we are to build the future?
While each person must find their own solution, here are a few of my thoughts on the matter:
- Each of us must find a way to live in better concert with our local ecosystems.
- Each of us must consume less, grow more, and reuse everything to its capacity.
- What we consume must have some kind of long-term use.
- Land, both the sustainable preservation of and growth on arable land, and the preservation of wild places must be at the top of the priority list. No viable environment, and it will not matter what kind of future we try to make.
- Our communities need to bring its fundamental functions back down to a local level wherever possible.
- Our communities must support its local workers.
- Our communities must, in every way possible, learn to live with LESS: Less Energy Stimulation Stuff.
None of this is easy, but that said, neither is waiting for Peak Oil to take full effect and you, as well as your neighbors, loved ones, friends, and so on, are left scrambling with no real plan to tackle the challenge at hand. Far better to get through the theories and on to practical application while there is still some time left. There is also the thought of ‘do not let the perfect become the enemy of the good’. Do I do all of the above? No. I do not own the land I live on, nor do I have a lot of control as to what comes into or out of the home, but I do what I can, where I can. Even raising awareness of Peak Oil is doing something, though the hard work, as mentioned earlier, will still need to get done sooner or later.
For those who do not know what Peak Oil is, a quick summary:
Peak Oil is a term that means that we have hit the peak of oil production which can meet global demand for it. Simply put, a peak occurs when demand outstrips production. There are plenty of online resources, some of which are here: The Oil Drum and Peak Oil, among a great many others. For a great, ongoing discussion of the implication of Peak Oil and his own exploration of the religious implications of Peak Oil, among a great many other topics, Archdruid John Michael Greer’s The Archdruid Report is one of the best I have seen.
Rather than discuss the science and charts and such, since I have, compared to others, a limited layman’s understanding of Peak Oil, I wanted to dive right into what Peak Oil can mean for us as Pagans.
What are the religious implications of Peak Oil?
Gebo is Foremost
Gebo means gift for a gift, and for a long time the West has been able to, by and large, ignore its share of Gebo to nature and the poor.
If Western society has a chief ill it is that it seeks something for nothing. Capitalism’s strength is predicated upon infinite exponential growth when, realistically speaking, this is not possible. There are hard limits to growth, whether it is the forest providing timber, the mine providing gold, or the computer number-crunching. All things have their limit, and without respect to that, disaster is inevitable because all future hopes and plans hinge on a single method of interacting with the world. So, my understanding is that the first implication of Peak Oil is that Gebo must come before all else.
Naudhiz is the Measure of All Things
Naudhiz translates to need or distress. In this, I am primarily thinking of need, and the maxim “What does it do? How well does it do it?” becoming the measure by which all things will be measured. Do I need this electronic device? Can I break it down or build it up into something more useful? Will this get in the way of me being productive? If it breaks down, what can I do with it? Can I repair it? Do I need it or a replacement if I cannot repair it?
Naudhiz is the rubbing together of two sticks to make fire. It is the necessary work needing to be done to survive, if not begin to thrive. It is the laundry getting done, the garden planted, the animals fed, etc. Whatever work is needing to be done so things progress. Getting busted down this hard to basics is not something a lot of people in America are used to, though with half of America officially in poverty that is quickly changing. What can I truly live without? What am I willing to do to make it? Hard questions that more are asking, and many more yet need to ask. Once we know Gebo it is easier to measure what must be done. It is far better to voluntarily start the process of asking these questions when you may have abundance than to wait until you must get answers on the fly. Naudhiz is a good measure to budget by once Gebo is known. In knowing the limits of what is asked, and what you can deliver via Gebo, you can best know what you need, and from there, determine how to meet that need in exploring Naudhiz.
While this is part of Gebo it also deserves direct mention. Right relationship is the idea that there is a way we should interact with and within the world. It means not dumping chemicals on your lawn just so it looks green. It means not ripping up every bit of habitat around us for more parking structures or development space for single-story, large, wasteful, polluting businesses. Right relationship implies that we not only understand the aforementioned limits of our society, its reach, or the environmental impact we have, but respecting that limits and staying well within them. It means remediation of wild places and a radically different way of life. In respecting that we have stretched much of our environment to its breaking point, local, as well as State and national ways of doing things will need to change. Each person’s situation will be different, but one way we can reduce rampant consumption and its many branching effects is conservation. Conserve electricity, water, food, everything your life depends on that you need can, past a certain point, be conserved. Even if you yourself do not garden, conserving food where possible and composting it where it is not, or handing it to a neighbor or friend, will make much better use of food and landfill space.
More than anything else we need to reduce our rampant consumption here in the West, especially America. We consume 25% of the world’s resources with only 5% of its overall population. This equation needs to change if we are to live in right relationship with the world around us.
Looking to Our Ancestors
Modern society provides very little actual grounding for living. Unless you are taking classes in school with practical application, such as a Home Economics course, or if you are in a homeschooling situation where people are preparing you for the real world, modern society has more or less thrown up its collective hands in teaching or instilling much in terms of practical lessons. Most Americans do not know how to grow food, much less how to make fire. Repairing things is almost entirely a lost art; rather, we are encouraged to buy the new thing. Repair shops used to be a nationwide phenomena. If something broke, you fixed it. Without throwing on rosy-colored glasses or romanticizing the past, either recent Americana or further back, there were a good number of practical skills a person, or someone close to you, might know that make sense for us to retain into a world beyond Peak Oil.
What does this have to do with Ancestors? Everything. Our Ancestors at some point or another had to live off the land. The occupation for 90% of Americans, at one point, was farming. In a post Peak Oil time, while we may not get back to that 90%, we are going to need to devote more of our energy to it. This will mean regaining skills we have not used, or wholesale reskilling ourselves to the task at hand. My grandfather collects old farm tools. Seeing these I can see the Ancestors’ hands on them, and how these tools are ancestors themselves to the electrical and gas-powered machines we have today. Far better we learn to use these older machines, and start demand for them now, than having to completely reinvent the wheel and/or play catch-up.
This can be a form of working with, if not worshiping our Ancestors in a very direct way. Everyone has Ancestors who were farmers. They tilled the soil, they knew how hard it can be to grow things. Does everything they did work for us? No, certainly not. My German Ancestors worked different soil, but many of the lessons translate well. The point is, is that by and large farming itself has not grown by leaps and bounds in terms of its basic ingredients or complexity. It is merely the scale that has become so huge, so complex. Our Ancestors hold many of the keys to future prosperity, whether we find that in how we raise our crops, our houses, or our communities. Will everything our Ancestors did be right for our age? No, but the collective wisdom They hold is worth at the least considering, if not employing in our lives.
Using a hand-cranked masher, I made pear sauce last year and sealed them in mason jars. No sugar added, just three large, sealed mason jars full of pears that will keep for a good long while. This is something my parents and grandparents have done most of their lives, something that was not passed down to me until I demanded to be taught it. Will it keep me alive through a harsh winter? Well, no, not just on canned pears, but it, and similar skills will, even if the post Peak Oil future is a generation or so down the road, save me a lot of money. Think of how much we spend on canned goods, frozen goods. Growing it yourself is a savings of a large chunk of money, especially if you can do it well. Money does grow on trees because food is real wealth you can put in your mouth.
What does this have to do with religion? Religion is a framework through which we understand our place in the Worlds. Industriousness, what we do with ourselves on a regular basis, is an important part of that. We have, in our Pagan traditions, Gods of the hearth, the home, and certain crafts. When I clean I dedicate that work to Frigga and Frau Holle. When I till the Earth or plant, I dedicate that Work to Jörð, Freyr, and Gerda, depending on where I am planting and what I am planting. I speak with the landvaettir as well as Jörð, Freyr, and Gerda prior to planting, when setting up the space, when working within the space, and when harvesting. I hail Nidhogg and Hel when I take out the compost.
The point of a religious life is that the Work of that life does not stop at the temple, church, or shrine. It is enlivened by the Work done in the temple, church, or shrine, and extends into every area in which one lives and breathes and works. The world is full of holiness if we would recognize it. So when you put yourself to work, whether at a computer, a field, someone’s home, or the living room, it is a time that the Gods, Ancestors, and spirits can be honored, praised, and involved in your life. In this way, I see Pagan religion not so much practiced as it is lived, and industriousness is one key way in which we can connect to the Gods, Ancestors, and spirits.
I mentioned something in the last section that I want to dig into a bit more: Money does grow on trees because food is real wealth you can put in your mouth. Most ancient societies judged the wealth of a person by how much stuff they had. In the Germanic and Norse case, it was cattle and grains. They, rather than currency, were markers of wealth because if you had lots of cows and/or grain you had lots of land, people to work that land, raise those animals, etc. Food and land equaled wealth. What is often remarked upon as wealth, calculated in numbers that most human minds reel at fathoming, is basically numbers in a computer. I cannot eat the ones and zeroes any more than I can the paper they are now represented by. It is not what I would call ‘real’ wealth.
Peak Oil destroys the concept of fiat currency, which is the economic regime we currently live under in most of the world, because the US dollar is predicated on growth and is not backed by anything. It is essentially a thoughtform which we have agreed upon, saying that ‘the full faith and credit of the US Federal Reserve is so good it can be used to pay debts’. It is, in essence, a massive act of faith that keeps the economy chugging along, and all it would take is something like Peak Oil, or people switching en masse over to the Euro to destroy a good deal of its so-called wealth.
Cows, meanwhile, do not lose inherent value because the dollar tanks, the Euro rises, or the whole global economic system comes crashing around our heads. The cow will still eat grass, chew cud, produce milk, and be a viable meat source. The grain in the field will still grow, be able to be produced into bread and countless other things, regardless of how commodities pricing is. Both still have inherent value not propped up by a largely fabricated economic system. When a fiat currency’s users no longer have faith in it the currency has no value period, and it never had inherent value, beyond perhaps being able to be smelted in the case of coins, or burned in the case of fiber-based paper currency. The ones and zeroes in a machine have no lasting impact upon us or use for us when the system collapses; it does not produce more money, does not regenerate, and has no connection to real wealth once the glamour is broken. It is telling that the Germanic/Norse God Freyr is a God of agriculture and of wealth.
There are several warnings about wealth and greed in ancient Pagan religion, but using the Hávamál as an example, it is more concerned with wealth in terms of coins and gold, in other words currency wealth, in these warnings, and often reminds the reader/listener that this wealth is transitory at best, and fickle. Meanwhile true wealth stays with one long-term and is found in friendship and good company. It is that understanding of wealth that is key. To not only understanding what is more important in terms of material wealth, but what is true wealth, and what will truly help in the long term. One may stock food for some eventuality, but once that store is gone, what use is it if there is no one to lean on, no food to grow? You starve. As Freyr is the God of both agriculture and wealth, I see one of His lessons is that if one establishes a good relationship with the land they live on, one may truly be said to be wealthy.
So where is wealth to be found? In good friends, in hard work, and in doing well by others. In working with the land and living beings, and doing right by both. In other words, by living in Gebo and right relationship with others and the world around you, meeting you and your family’s/community’s/etc. needs, and in being industrious.
The religious implication of crafting could be an entire post on its own. The first Goddess that comes to my mind is Frigga, the spinner, the weaver, the homemaker, Who spins Wyrd. Wow. Just think about that for a moment: one of the Asynjur is the one who spins the primal stuff of potential into what was, what is, and what will will be. It is said She knows all Wyrd but will not speak of it. That is power. In a legend Her favored army beat Her husband’s army, Who is a renowned God of battle, cunning, and skill. Our Goddesses of crafting, of homemaking, and the hearth are neither to be underestimated, nor belittled. They are powerful, holy, and glorious in Their own rights.
We underestimate craftswomen and craftsmen to our own detriment. We buy inferior, polluting products from countries who allow their workers to burn when the factory is on fire. Our food comes to us out of season on the backs of millions of underpaid and exploited farmers from other countries while our own crops rot in the field because large-scale agriculture relies on illegal workers. Many of the arts that would produce these goods closer to home are becoming more and more scarce despite our wealth of able-bodied workers. If Peak Oil is to be navigated effectively crafting will need to come back into its own, and the way to make this transition easier and far less haphazard is to support it now, both in terms of the current generation and those coming up in it. This support needs to be as much from the ground up as possible, including spinners as well as clothing makers, those who harvest clay to those who shape with it.
In short, in supporting crafting the supply chain needs, as much as is possible, to be returned back to the local level and scaled to the local level’s needs to start with. Sure, we can grow bigger, perhaps this town has an excessive amount of sheep and supplies wool to its neighbors, and they have cows and supply butter, yogurt and milk to theirs. Still, Peak Oil’s biggest challenge is to stop consuming like there’s no tomorrow and rework our methods of producing back down to local, but scale-able design.
The religious implication here is that in supporting this from the ground up, and reworking our supply chain in such a way, even if our neighbors do not worship the Gods we do we can still bring our religious values in line, particularly in the belief that this world is holy, as is the work we do, and so can the things we support. In this case we instill that in our everyday life by supporting change, by building up our neighbors so we may all thrive. We make this change part of an unfolding of our religious values, especially suited to an age where acting in Gebo and right relationship are not just niceties but keys to survival.
Peak Oil as a Whole
Peak Oil is a direct challenge to many of the ideas that we as Americans have gotten used to: that we can spend our way to a better future, that conservation is no longer a needed thing, that consumption is growing the economy, that we can spend what we have like we will have it tomorrow, and that there can be growth without limits. It directly attacks American exceptionalism, hegemony, empire, and our place in the world. Peak Oil is our society hitting the limits on our ability to tap the resources we need for our modern lifestyle. Peak Oil’s coming does not mean we have to all go into a neo-primitive lifestyle, although that is, to my mind, a viable option for some. What it does mean is that Gebo, right relationship, meeting our needs on a consistent basis, looking to our Ancestors, supporting our crafters, and engaging in industriousness at all levels will be necessary.
To religion Peak Oil is a direct challenge: do your instructions, traditions, orthodoxy, orthopraxy, etc. aid the survival or hasten the destruction of human life and well-being, now and in the future? Do your religious views, institutions, etc. provide comfort, direction, purpose, and empowerment to living in a way that is geared towards LESS (Less Energy, Stuff, and Stimulation) while providing hope for the future? Do your religious leaders provide focal points for community building, or are they needlessly divisive and disruptive to cohabitation and cooperation in age where both are key to survival? Does religious instruction raise children equipped to handle the world as it is, or is it looking forever backward or forward at some mythic Golden Age, trapped in worlds to come that will not arrive?
There are many more questions, and they will be answered by each person as much as each priest, by each religious institution as by each religious community. Yet they are worth pondering, as surely as it is how we, as Pagans, as fellow citizens in this country, will navigate the near future.
I invite anyone who wants to engage in this dialogue to comment here, to reblog, and start more conversations on this topic.
I have received another question, this one from Valiel Elantári:
I wonder if you would be open to publicly explain your path : how do you define “shaman” ? how did “it” “happen” to you ? How did you realise you were one, when did you decided to use the word?
I define shaman as an intercessor between humanity and the Worlds of the Gods, Ancestors, and spirits. Given that the Northern Tradition has no appropriate word, the word shaman is the best I have that quickly, and as accurately as possible, sums up what I do. Shamanism is not a religion; it is something that is done and lived. It is not picked up for a weekend, it is a calling that one is bound to for the course of one’s life. I did not come to using the word lightly, and fought against using it for a long while.
I worked with Anubis for about three years before I came to Odin. During this time I was involved in doing quite a bit of ceremonial magic, and was very happy with the neat, detailed rituals I practiced. My Work was going well, when one day Anubis came to me when I was worshiping at His altar. He told me it was time for me to work with Odin, and to pick up the threads of the rest of my Work. Anubis did not give me very many directions, only that I would be following Odin primarily now, and that while I would still have Work by Him, our relationship was now firmly on the backburner, especially compared to the demands He knew Odin would make of me and my time.
Odin gave a simple introduction and told me it was time I followed Him, to do the Work of becoming His priest. He told me that I had taken long enough and had Work to catch up on. So I began to research what I could of Odin. I read digital copies of the Eddas when and where I could, and looked at what resources I had about me. It was not long after that initial contact, and a month or so of research, that He told me I was to be a shaman.
I balked at the idea. I couldn’t be a shaman. Yet, whenever I went to pray or to give offerings, there He was, at some point demanding that I start getting serious about following the path. I had only started officially worshiping Him but a month before; how could He call me to shamanism so soon? Yet, He did. I could not ignore it.
Eventually I was worn down by Odin, but I asked and pleaded for a word other than shaman. I knew it was not from my culture, but borrowed from the Evenks and had found its way into common use. Still, it was the one word I had that described what Odin was setting before me, what I was to become. At His insistence, and after much worry, doubt, and second-guessing, I finally bowed to His wish. I now use it to describe my path, my Work, and myself. Shortly after accepting this path I began to find Raven Kaldera’s books that had started coming out on Northern Tradition shamanism. Things began to click very well for me alongside Odin’s lessons with what I found in the pages of Raven’s books.
In the beginning Odin’s instruction for me was a lot about learning to work with the landvaettir and beginning to work with my Ancestors. A lot of it was low-key, small rituals, much of it rolling off my tongue before a small altar in my dorm room. It was establishing a small, but regular practice of prayer and offerings. Since then my practice has expanded, but it grew from the roots of working with the Gods, Ancestors, and spirits.